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A little over a month ago, Jason and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary. WOW. Where does the time go? To celebrate, we opened a bottle of wine that we have been carting along with us all those years. It was.....interesting.
Just after we were engaged, we traveled to the Bay Area to visit Jason's mom and step-dad. We all took a couple of trips over to wine country during our visit, visiting several wineries. After a long day of tasting, we ended up at the lovely Trefethen Winery. Upon telling the man in the tasting room that we were newly engaged, he handed Jason a bottle of 1989 Cab and instructed him to open it on our 20th anniversary. After leaving that winery, that bottle of wine began quite the journey.
We left the bottle, along with a few others, in my parents basement for the three years we were in Germany. Picking it up on our return, we carted it with us through the years to Missouri, and then on to North Carolina, California, Kansas, New York, and back to North Carolina. Along the way, that poor bottle of wine was subjected to some pretty radical temperature fluctuations; hot summer days and nights, along with sub-freezing days and nights, in the car as we moved from place to place throughout the seasons. There were times that it sat still for years at a time, but it was jostled around enough to off-set any positive cellaring.
Would you guess that twenty years of sojourning about isn't good for wine? Our first clue was the cork crumbling to bits as we attempted to extract it. Then, the actual smell of the wine accosted our senses. I wasn't ready to give up hope. The third clue though came as we poured the wine into the glass. Anticipating a lovely dark red, what we got was instead a brown swill. I am typically never scared to taste a wine. I was kind of afraid of this one. I had some flashbacks to when I taste tested blk. water, aka black water for my Water Sciences class.
Suffice it to say the wine was bad. As bad as wine goes. The one sip was enough, and the rest of the bottle was used as fertilizer. But at least the wine had a good story, and we will never forget that, lovely...errr ONCE lovely bottle of 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Oh my....this post has been languishing in my draft box for AGES. I was having major blog technical problems, and just had to walk away for a bit. which turned into walking away for MONTHS. So....finally I will publish this! I even had photos, but my laptop seems to have eaten them? Considering how tech savvy I am, this is really no surprise.
I may come from Latte Land (Seattle), and I do love my coffee (French press only, please don't speak of this blasphemous Keurig thing in my presence), but come afternoon-time, and I have a thing for tea. Not so much DRINKING tea, as much as BUYING tea. I started to think that maybe I was missing something, because I really like the IDEA of tea. I read a lot of books that take place in England, and have a few British friends, and their devout seriousness about tea runs pretty parallel to a Seattlelites wacko-ness (pain in the ass-ness?) for coffee.
Recently, our local British pub had a How to Brew the Perfect Cuppa event. The owner even flew one of his Brit friends over for the event, to teach us all properly. Sign me up! Here is what she taught us.
Remember....these are not MY rules, they are Englands. Any errors belong to them, and you can log your complaints with the Queen.
First, you must decide which tea you want. This is where the tea problem comes in. I have lots. For my every-day tea I tend to go with PG tips.
The flavor is pretty great, the bags are easy to contend with. I also still like Twinnings, even though one of my very dear tea-purist (she's a total tea snob! it's a term of endearment) friends refers to them as vacuum dust-bags. ha!
I rarely use loose-leaf teas. The tiny bits that get into my finished cup, ugh...i just hate that. My tea press does a fairly decent job of filtering them out, but oh...before you get to that point there is all the measuring and maths, and....So the tea press spends a great deal of time sitting in the cabinet, thinking about what it did.
Ok. Time to get to brewing. Oh wait. the sugar. and the milk. For the sugar, i like turbinado sugar, OR if you are lucky enough to have an amazing friend stationed in Germany who understands you, you get special German caramel sugars!
You add your sugar to your chosen mug, and then add milk. And it HAS to be milk. According to Miss British Tea Lady, no self-respecting tea drinker she knows would EVER EVER use cream, or half and half. Those are pretty much her words, verbatim. I wouldn't cross her. She was pretty adamant about it. She bore a striking resemblance to that cat-loving scary Professor in Harry Potter, so unless you want your arm all carved up with your wand, don't put any freaking half and half in your tea, ok?
OK. Now that we have that all settled, we can move on to our teapot.
If using loose-leaf, I will use the tea-press, but we already know how I feel about all of that, so I really prefer to use my Brown Betty. This is where Miss British Tea Lady got super rule-y. You must prep your teapot for the brewing process to occur correctly. OH...and also, you MUST brew your tea IN A POT. For all of you fools (she didn't say fools, but I could tell she wanted to) who brew your tea in a CUP....you are doing it wrong. It needs a pot in order to ensure proper circulation. Who knew?
So...as soon as the water gets CLOSE to boiling, pour it into your teapot, and let it sit.
Put water back on stove to come to a full boil. As soon as the water reaches a full rolling boil, dump prep water out of the teapot, throw your tea into the pot, and fill it with the boiling water. Set timer according to whatever tea you are brewing. Evidently all tea has a magical brew period, and if you go over it your tea is gonna punish you with bitterness and spite. Maybe not spite, but bitterness for sure. For the PG Tips, I stick to 4 mins. Brew tea. Remove tea bags.
By now the milk and sugar have melded into one, and when you pour your hot tea into the mug, you've no need to mix them together with a spoon.
Now sit back and relax with your perfect cuppa. Or maybe this post has completely turned you off of tea for life, and it all just sounds like WAY too much trouble.
I hope you were not looking for anything deep and inspirational here, because let's be honest....that is just not who I am. Running, for me, is all about the recovery chocolate milk. I really love chocolate milk, and I felt like a needed a legit excuse to drink it on a daily basis. Well, maybe not DAILY. Because c'mon....I'm not dragging it out there daily and running. Doing the daily walkies with the dogs, yes. Run, no. No way. Chocolate milk is not THAT good.
I do want to look better in my clothes though, sleep with less back pain, watch my stories with less back pain and all that. Luckily I am still ABLE to run, so I do. Or, I do what I like to call "wog". It's falls somewhere between a walk and a jog. My wog, please quit trying to correct wog to wig spellcheck, is more like a slow stroll for Jason, so he does not usually join me on my wogs. He has threatened to though, you know...to coach me. That will be great, and I cannot wait for that to happen. I'll keep you all posted.
Odi is my running companion. Fred stays home and naps. He is done with the running, and is content with his walkies at this juncture in his life. That little athlete has earned all the couch time he wants.
This is why Odi runs:
Cookie recovery. Odi also really wants my choco milk, but hasn't quite figured out the whole straw-thing, so I don't feel that bad about not sharing.
And I am so glad that these particular cookies are gluten-free, because dammit...if there is ONE thing Odi stresses about, it is unnecessary gluten in his diet. No wheat-belly on the Odi.
In addition to the walkies and wogs, I have started doing yoga. My friend and I signed up for a 6-week Introduction to Yoga series at one of the local studies. I love it!!!! I figured the yoga would definitely help with the back pain, and my instructor is very good about quelling anyones desire to completely spaz out and force themselves into an injury-inducing pose. We all know that person, right? One of those persons suggested that after I learn these poses in class, I should come home and show him how to do them. No, that will not be happening.
We also learned that people that are more stiff and inflexible are LEAST likely to get injured in yoga. YAY! It feels SO good to finally be winning at something, you know? The people that are super fluid and loosey goosey are more injury-prone with yoga. So you totally know the next time I see a super-fluid Deadhead just Noodlin' on down the street, I will be thinking "pffft, heh...he would get SO tore up in my yoga class."
My favorite part of yoga is the end, when we lay flat on our backs in corpse pose, and then our instructor comes around and lays an ice cold lavender pack on our foreheads and then, ya'll...she RUBS our FEET. Seriously. This woman is AMAZING. I mean, anyone who will willingly touch a persons FOOT is just kind of on a level above most people, you know??? I barely like to touch my own feet.
We enjoyed our picnic with the little beggars. Its amazing how my dogs, the very definition of civil disobedience, become little attentive almost-angels when food is present. You would think this makes us happy because hey, at least food makes them behave, but really...it just makes you want to eat as fast as possible and clear out the food because nothing makes you lose your appetite faster than a dog with drool puddling EVERYWHERE. And then there is Fred, actively nudging your arm in his attempts to make you drop said food. So yeah, the picnic part was GREAT.
The views were amazing. There was a storm off in the distance that of course I did not take a photo of, since I was completely entranced by it.
We walked up to the little lookout area. As I was staring off into the abyss, I gazed down and spied Odi perched outside the fence, at the edge of the cliff. Jason was "watching" him. I have a pretty healthy fear of heights, and was rendered speechless, and limbless at this point. I did manage to gasp out an "Odi", and gained control of my limbs long enough to smack Jason and he grabbed back onto the leash and pulled Odi back in. Fun times. The above photo captures us perfectly. Odi is kinda behaving due to the sheer exhaustion of his near-death experience, and Fred is beyond bored with all of us, and cannot bare to look at the camera and feign interest.
Of course, this photo was obviously taken shortly after arrival, as Odi is not yet panting, and Fred is an active participant in taking in the view, and actually looks like he might be enjoying himself. We cherish those little moments, they change on a dime and Fred has a very vocal way of alerting all to his displeasure.
So....Pilot Mountain. If you are ever in the area...check it out!
Awhile back we took off for a few days and headed over to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We rented a little cabin with the most amazing views. Jason had only had his fancy dancy camera for about 6 months at that point, so he spent the majority of the trip messing around with it. He swears he took this photo...but nope. That one is all me and my iPhone skillz baby. Don't the dogs look super zen and contemplative? I think they are just exhausted from running up and down the hills, and Fred's multiple (unintentional) barrel rolls off the deck. OMG.
After a day of sight-seeing and traveling up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway, this place and its great deck was the perfect place to unwind, drink a little vino and just chill. The kitchen was fully stocked with all the tools necessary to whip up a meal. We brought plenty of breakfast food with us. When we travel to places like this (with kitchens) we tend to bring German breakfast stuff...brotchens, german lunch meats, cheeses, mustard, hard boiled eggs, cucumbers, radish, etc. It is one of our favorite breakfasts, and always reminds us of the little pensions we stayed in while we lived in Germany.
We had a lot of fun shopping and dining in Blowing Rock. There is a fantastic yarn shop, Unwound, tucked into a little courtyard. Somehow during this particular trip I missed the shop, but we were back up in the area a few weeks ago and i found it...along with some great Noro yarn that i plan on using for some fun one-skein cowls.
In the photo, Fred is asking if he can haz ice cream. Anyone who has been to Blowing Rock will now that it comes from Kilwins. That shop is a MUST if you are in the area, and you just kinda even LIKE ice cream. YUM.
We were lucky enough (mustve been a week day?) to score a table for brunch at The Village Cafe. Oh wow. pan sautéed trout. So good! I had scarfed it down before i got a photo of it. I never remember to take my food photos when they first put the food in front of me, and i hate to take photos of half-eaten food. You know those ones you see on Yelp? They look more like an autopsy than anything food related half the time.
After sight-seeing and touristing, it was time to head back to the cabin and relax. Shortly after I took this photo, Jason had coaxed unsuspecting, trusty little Odi up into the hammock with him. And then shortly after that I heard the unmistakable sound of knees, elbows and heads colliding with wood, and they were both lying in a heap underneath the hammock. Real smooth Kenneth. Odi wasn't hurt. I wasn't real concerned with Jason at that point, but I assume he is fine. Odi thinks twice now when approaching a hammock. Kinda. He got awfully close to me in the hammock on our most recent mountain adventure.
All in all, this cabin...called Hawk's View and located outside of Spruce Pine and near the Penland School (you can find it on VRBO) was absolutely perfect for us. We plan on heading back to the mountains for fall colors in the coming months, and had tried to book again, but sadly they are only accepting week-long bookings at the moment. I love it up in the mountains, but I am not sure I could do an entire week at this point. Pretty great deal though if you are attending Penland, and are there for an extended period. I wish I had taken more interior shots (maybe Jason did?) that shows the awesome handmade ceramic sinks, and quirky fun artwork throughout the cabin. None of the kitschy "this is a cabin...see, we have cute bear-moose-deer stuff!" cabin decor a lot of the rentals specialize in.
All loaded up and ready to go!
The most beautiful package arrived in the mail a couple of weeks
ago. From the outer packaging i could not discern who had sent it,
but I saw that it came from Napa, and this REALLY excited me.
I eagerly ripped the package open, and inside was the most beautifully wrapped box, with gorgeous red ribbon imprinted with Trefethen Family Vineyards. Inside the box were nestled two beautiful Stolzle (how do i put the umlaut over the "o"?) wine glasses.
The glasses were sent to us from the Trefethen Family Vineyards Wine Club, as a Thank You for being members, and supporting them as they continue to repair their beautiful, historical winery, which sustained significant damage in last years Napa earthquake. I was honestly floored by their generosity.
Jason and I joined Trefethens wine club 20 years ago, and their wine has been a constant in our lives ever since. If you are at our house for a significant meal or momentous occasion, you have probably shared a bottle of "Tref" with us. I do not think there is a better wine in the WORLD. There is certainly not a better WINERY in the world! I'm no wine expert, but I have been a lot of places and to a lot of wineries, but I stand behind my declaration!
This March, we will be opening a bottle of Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon for our 20th wedding anniversary. During that 1995 visit, upon hearing that we were newly engaged, the man in the wine tasting room (I regret i cannot remember his name!) gave us a bottle of 1989 Cab, and told us to open it on our 20th anniversary. I'm pretty proud of the fact that we have been able to hold on to that bottle through countless moves all across the country, and even an overseas stint. Disclaimer though....the bottle didn't move to Europe with us, it sat in my parents basement with a few other bottles of wine. It even survived my sister begging my parents to open it one night, when they had no other wine in the house to drink with dinner. THE HORROR!!! Thanks for not giving in Mom and Dad!!
Thanks so much Trefethen! You only made us love you a little bit more. And if you are not familiar with their wines, do yourself a favor and check them out! And if you are ever in Napa, be sure to swing by their winery and give them a little love. They are worthy of it!
Like a majority of people, I grew up with a mother that canned regularly. Peaches, pears, applesauce, pickles, jams, etc. If you could can it, my Mom canned it. I thought nothing of having THE BEST peaches, pears, pickles, jams and applesauce all year long, and we never had to buy them in the store. We just went into the basement and grabbed a jar. And we never seemed to be in short supply. We would get low once the next summer rolled around, but come August the supply was replenished.
Canning meant a HOT, STEAMY kitchen though. Growing up in Seattle, we did not have air conditioning. SO, when Mom canned, we RAN. Yeah, my sister and I kinda sucked a little bit. As a result, I never learned how to can. What a shame. For the past several years I have been yearning to learn how to do this most basic kitchen skill that my Mom was so good at. Of course, just like the knitting that i never bothered to learn from her....the minute I decide that i want to learn it, Mom is thousands of miles away. Luckily, there are people willing to teach me things!
Enter my dear friend Mandy! Mandy cans anything and everything, and lucky for me, she was more than happy to show me her skills. This past Monday we did Strawberry Pepper Jelly. YUM!! We used strawberries that Mandy had frozen earlier in the season, jalapeños and serrano peppers.
If you have never canned before, it can be pretty intimidating. I have made freezer jam a couple of times, simply because you do not need to worry about sealing things properly, and scary things like botulism. You just pop the jam in the freezer, and thaw it when you are ready to eat it. I was SO thankful that Mandy walked me through all the steps. Had i tried this on my own, just reading from a cookbook, I probably would have freaked myself out and dumped the whole batch. Things pop and hiss a little when you lower them into the hot water bath to seal. The fact that they do not seal IMMEDIATELY would have baffled me, and triggered my botulism phobia. That's a good thing to have a phobia about though, right? Survival and all....
In the past, i have only eaten pepper jelly on crackers with cheddar. Mandy introduced me to using cream cheese. YUM! We are also thinking that it will be fantastic in Brie Baked in Pastry, too! Hurry and get here Fall Football Season! I need snack food pig out opportunities!
By the way, my Mom was super excited that I finally learned to can, and has already put in an order for some of my jelly.