Sunflowers at sunset

(Enjoying the wine, the weather, and the evening.)

We had a lovely weekend here in the Bogs.  I hope your weekend was lovely too.  Sunday’s get-together with friends was nice.  Good food, good beers to sample, good weather, and great company.  Can’t ask for more than that.

The sunflowers were looking especially pretty yesterday at sunset.  I couldn’t resist hauling out the camera even though I keep telling myself that I should not take any more photos until I upload all of the Colorado pics.

I sat on the ground for a little while and did nothing more than admire them in the glow cast by the setting sun.  Then I decided to lie on the ground and look at them from that perspective.  The grass was pretty comfortable, and I had to resist the urge to close my eyes and take a little  nap.

Eventually the flowers spoke to me with light and color so I took a few photos.  Really, just a few.  It was apparently my day to practice restraint as I resisted the next urge which was to take a few dozen or so pictures.  Or it could have been my day to practice patience, waiting and watching rather than snapping away in the hopes that I might get one or two good shots.  I would like to practice the waiting and watching method more often.  I suspect it would improve my photography skills.


(Chocolate covered, custard-filled paczki.   Photo © 2009 by Robin)

Yesterday was Paczki Day, also known as Fat Tuesday.  If you celebrated by eating a paczki, you know one of the reasons why it’s called Fat Tuesday.

M and I look forward to this one day of the year when we can pig out on paczki.  Paczki are a lot like donuts only better (and, no doubt, unhealthier due to all the fat).  I’ve noticed (and I could be wrong about this) that paczki show up in our local grocery stores sometime around the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.

(Raspberry filled paczki.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

For those that don’t know, paczki are Polish donuts.  The traditional reason behind making paczki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs, and fruit in the house before Lent.

I’m not a religious person, but I’m going to steal the idea of giving something up for Lent this year.  I’ve decided to give up potato chips.  For some reason I can’t figure out, I’ve been on a potato chip kick.  Normally I do not eat potato chips all that often.  Lately they’ve become almost a standard part of my diet.  It’ll do me good to give them up for a while, especially since I’m working so hard to make some big lifestyle changes.

Twenty-five days ago I signed up at MapMyFitness for two 30-day challenges:

  • Go 100 miles in 30 Days
  • Quit Drinking Alcohol for 30 Days

Since beginning these challenges, I have walked 80.12 miles and burned 8,930 calories.  I’m also sleeping and feeling better without the alcohol.

With all the studies that have come out regarding alcohol, it’s hard to know which way to go.  Today’s big news story is that even moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to cancers in women.  It wasn’t all that long ago that red wine was being touted as heart healthy.  So, what’s a girl to do?

I don’t know.  I do know that I’ve been working hard to improve my health, and one thing I can do to help is to take a vacation from alcohol.  I don’t need the extra calories, that’s for sure, especially if I want to indulge in things like paczki every now and then.

(For those who want more info on alcohol and heart health, the American Heart Association has some guidelines here.  But even they aren’t sure so I guess it’s a matter of balancing things out to fit your lifestyle, your health, and your history.)

We’re having warm and sunny weather here in the Bogs today.   By warm I mean the high today is going to be around 46°F.  I’m going out for a walk in a little while.  The snow is melting quickly this morning.  It’s going to be a muddy walk.

A Prairie Home Companion

Mary, a friend, had VIP tickets to last night’s live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion from the Blossom Music Center. Lucky me, she invited me to go with her.

I’m very familiar with both A Prairie Home Companion (APHC) and the Blossom Music Center. M and I are regular listeners of APHC, and we spend quite a few summer evenings picnicking on the lawn at Blossom before the Cleveland Orchestra plays their concerts.

Blossom is a lovely venue in Cuyahoga Falls, surrounded by woods, and located within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park where there is some lovely hiking year round. Usually when we attend an event at Blossom we have to park quite a distance away from where the concerts take place. That can be attributed to our poor timing (we tend to leave too late and so end up in the outer parking lots). The walk in takes about 15-20 minutes and it’s a good way to add exercise to your day.

Last night, however, Mary had a VIP parking pass and we were treated to parking practically next to the gate.

(VIP Gate at Blossom. June 21, 2008.)

We were able to bypass the walk, the main ticket booths, and the main entrance. Star treatment.

The main feature at Blossom is, of course, the pavilion where the concerts are held. It fits into the landscape quite nicely.

(The pavilion at Blossom. June 21, 2008.)

Mary and I sat on the lawn under a nice, shady tree to have our picnic dinner before the concert. It was hot and a little humid with thunderstorms looming in our future. We were there pretty early and, as you can see from the photo above, not many other people had arrived yet.

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Last night’s wine

(Last night’s wine.  Photo by Robin.  2007)

Winemaker’s notes:

Here is a mouthful of refreshing fruit flavors – citrus, nectarines and white peaches – with an aromatic hint of lemongrass. A blending component of 6% Sauvignon Musqué adds floral components and rounds the wine’s texture.

Murphy-Goode 2003 Fume Blanc is an appealing and popular aperitif. The wine’s succulent fruit and good acidity complement fresh oysters, spinach frittata and pizza with young goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Try a glass with a bowl of garlicky steamed clams or mussels.

That’s a good description of the wine we had last night. We had it with potato-encrusted cod, sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic, and some lovely, very crispy, french fries.

I’m a big fan of Fume/Sauvignon Blancs. Some, of course, are better than others. This one wasn’t as good as my all-time favorite (a Grgich Hills Fume Blanc), but it wasn’t as expensive either.

All in all, I thought it was a very good wine that went well with our meal. Can’t ask for much more than that.


(Last night’s wine. Photo by Robin. 2007)

I jumped on the wagon for a little while as part of the Healthy Living Project (my efforts to exercise and lose weight). But last night we had pasta for dinner and M likes to have wine with his pasta. So do I.

Wine, to me, is almost like a food, a part of the meal. When I drink for fun and giggles, it isn’t wine I choose. Perhaps I take wine a little seriously and that’s why it’s not a fun drink for me. Or maybe it’s that wine pairs so well with food, as if it were born to do so (and very likely it was). I know there are beer-food matches as well, and they’re often quite good, but wine (in my opinion) belongs with food.

I’m not a wine snob by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I know very little about wine. We did some wine tasting with a friend while in the San Francisco area (in Napa) last year. I learned a lot, which is what taught me that I know very little about wine.

There is a Total Wine & More store not too far from Sabbaticalville. The place is amazing. A warehouse of wine, wine, and more. The wine selections are so big and varied that it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. They have free wine tastings on the weekends (perhaps during the week as well, but we usually go on the weekends so I’m not sure). Our first time in the store there was a free vodka tasting. I thought vodka was vodka was vodka, but found that’s not true when you’re tasting the expensive stuff.

Am I digressing again? Oh yes, I am.

We’ve been having a hard time keeping track of the wines we’ve tried since we learned a little about wine last year. (No, it’s not because we’re drinking so much of it that we’re blacking out.) I decided blogging to keep track of what we’re doing in life would also come in handy for keeping track of the wines we’ve tried.

So, I bring you our first (blogged about) wine and the description from the bottle:

Anakena, a Pinot Noir from Chile (Single Vineyard, D.O. Rapel Valley)

Cherry red in colour with elegant aromas, ripe strawberry and wild cherry flavours. A subtle touch of oak enhances this soft and delicate Pinot Noir. Delicious with red and white meats, seafood, salmon and pasta.

A little trivia about Pinot Noir: Pinot noir is, of course, a type of red grape (vitis vinifera), but the name also refers to the wines made with this grape. Production of wines made with pinot noir grapes date back over two thousand years. Apparently it’s not an easy grape to grow or make into a wine.

Side note: I’m always astounded by the fact that someone thought to take something like the grape and turn it into wine. It’s like coffee, which I find even more astounding because someone saw the bean, picked the bean, thought to roast the bean, grind the bean, and then run hot water over it or through the grinds or whatever it is they first did to come up with the first cup of coffee. I suppose wine was easier in that the grapes probably did the fermenting on their own and someone said “Ah ha!” and then decided to make a science of the whole business.

All digressions aside, the wine was tasty and went well with our dinner (bow tie pasta with portobello mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes, and angel hair pasta with broccoli and roasted red peppers; both lovely dishes purchased at La Cucina, a little Italian booth at the farmers market we frequently shop at). It was a nice, dry wine, the strawberry flavor coming through first, followed by the wild cherry that sort of lingered on the tongue.

I can’t remember the cost of the wine, but I do know it would’ve been under $15.00 (because we’re cheap… I mean thrifty).