Gratitude Project, Week 3 ~

Well, this week has brought more lessons and reminders of what is important and what matters less, day to day I get to live with what matters most. My 12 year old is very important; he is the baby, my last child at home and I must admit I am very resistant to him growing up.  He makes me laugh and smile more than any other person on this planet and he still loves his mom and wants to hang out with me.  He still wants me to come say good night to him and tuck him in at night, shhhhh don’t tell anyone.  This I absolutely treasure right now.  My older kids that I love and adore, have grown up and moved out to live their lives and I miss them daily but I know this is a normal part of life.  I try to give them the space to live their lives without being “that mother” who smothers and doesn’t let go well.  But I am beyond grateful to have this amazingly positive, funny, sweet, engaging boy that still thinks his mom is awesome and wants to hang out.  We had a mother/son day date planned last weekend and we decided to go to a movie since the forecast showed rain.  We had a great time, no drama, no annoyances, just fun and smiles and a little rain that we very much need in CA.  Then we went to get some food because every 12 year old eats hourly and whatever isn’t nailed down.  He makes me remember what matters, what is so amazing throughout each day.  I am beyond grateful that I had a child almost 11 years after my first because now I have somone very special that gets me all to himself.  He asked me for years to have a baby sister or brother and because someone has to be last, I gave him a puppy instead.  Emmy our sweet little Chiweenie that is the perfect sibling for him.  They are best friends and as close to siblings as he can possibly get… she waits for him when he gets home by the door, is his shadow when he moves around the house, sits with him while he plays his computer games and sleeps on his bed every night.  How very blessed are we to have this amazing sweet little pup join our family and steal our hearts.

I recently was reminded of having a MySpace account that I had forgotten about because after all it is all about Facebook now, right?  So I managed somehow to remember my log-in information and found an amazing array of photos from years ago that I had forgotten about.  Days of younger times and the fondness I feel about some of these, words cannot describe.  Back when the kids were younger, Brady in some was 4 or 5.  Amazing how a photo can instantly take you back, feeling as if you were there in that moment.

Adorable Brady Brady And Jordan Hero Brady and Mama Xmas Baby pic Brady Devyn TBT Devyn tree Emmy Little Baby Pup Old Tristan Brady Sweet Brady Face Paint

As time passes, the years have added up behind us instead of in front of us, looking back and reflecting always brings perspective.  I find that I don’t have regrets persay but rather missing moments in time that cannot be re-lived again.  Photos don’t do enough but they do help transport one back in time.  I find myself looking ahead thinking about all that is yet to come on this journey called life and look forward to more birthdays, more Mother’s Day’s with my children, becoming a grandmother, watching my youngest son learn to drive, to learn to date then graduate from high school.  I also find that talking to my parents more about their childhood memories, our childhood memories has become more important.  I want to capture everything like it is a video camera that can play it all back.

I have so much to be grateful for and feel so tremendously blessed.

Gratitude Abundance!  My mantra for 2014!

Project of Gratitude ~ Week 2 ~ Clean Slate

Well, one week has flown past already in this new year!  For me, today makes my 10th day of no flour, no sugar and no alcohol.  This year is a year of focus and goals towards health, happiness and keeping it positive.  Feeling this great after only 10 days is awesome.  I am so excited for the weeks and months ahead but definitely don’t want time to go too fast!  I will blink and it will be Christmas again.  So in an effort to enjoy the moment, live in the moment and take in everything around me, my mantra is “A Clean Slate”.  This can happen at any point in time, when you wake up in the morning, when you go to bed at night…. after a moment when you feel like you made the biggest mistake, you can always start over.  So my day begins with a prayer of gratitude, I think about all that I have in my life and all of my blessings and I say thank you.  I don’t want to ever forget what matters most to me and it isn’t the stuff I own, the house I live in or the job I do everyday.  It is the people in my life and the moments I experience and share with them everyday.  I can choose to embrace even the negative moments as lessons and experiences that help make me who I am…. or I can brush them aside and not learn.  I would much rather take a lesson, learn it and strive to not have to re-learn it.  Now obviously I am going to need to revisit many lessons because I am imperfect and somewhat stubborn at times.

On my to-do for this weekend, I get to spend an entire day with my favorite 12 year old on the planet; my youngest son Brady!  A day filled with fun, laughter, lightheartedness and just a joyous good time.  Lunch at his favorite place followed by a very non-typical movie for me and then a hike with our little pup Emmy!

Everyone has the opportunity for a clean slate.  Take a look at the inventory you are taking, glance in the mirror and stop judging others.  Look inside yourself and decide what you want for your life, the vision of what you see ahead and then make it happen!  2014, the year of vision, dreams, goals and wiping the slate clean!

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52 Weeks ~ Project ~ Week 1

Week 1 ~ January 2, 2014 ~ 52 WeeksProject
Well, here goes. My weekly blog post for 2014. The theme is there is no theme. Whatever I feel like posting, whatever suits my current mood, it could be recipes, photos of things I see during my week, food that I try in the kitchen, family experiences, pay it forward experiences, positive quotes, daily inspiration, whatever floats my boat.

Today, week one is a look ahead.  During this first week of 2014, my focus is not on resolutions, but rather decisions, goals and priorities. To focus on balance and retaining the positive outlook that has gone missing at times.  My main goal is to focus on being healthy and changing habits that need to be improved upon or modified. This is not just physical in the foods I consume or the exercise I participate in daily but rather about the choices I make mentally and emotionally.  I will focus on the positives despite the negatives that can try to interfere with my mood and my day.  I know this will be an ongoing process but one step forward, two back and then five forward.  To help motivate this process, I am starting off the year by participating in a fast.  This is one that will involve giving up flour, sugar and alcohol.  I have done this before and fully expect to feel like a million dollars.

Now regarding the exercise portion, receiving my awesome new treadmill for Christmas, daily exercise will no longer be an item I don’t accomplish on my daily checklist. So goal one is to spend at least an hour a day on the treadmill while reading and starting January 1st, I will be doing a cleansing fast.  This will be removing all flour/sugar and alcohol from my daily diet.  I have done this before and once I get past the first 10 days, it is awesome.  I feel amazing and sleep better, feel better and move better than any other time.  So this is my 2014 journey, moving forward, positively, focused on the good in life, removing the negative one piece at a time…. day one, health and positive focus.

Week one, gorgeous California weather, time with my favorite 12 year old and taking each moment in with a smile will be the focus this week.  Time to reflect and look ahead.  Here’s to an amazing year of lessons, gifts, memories, tests, and love along the way!  Hope your year ahead is all you make it as well!

A Thanksgiving Holiday

This is by far my favorite holiday because it is truly just about being grateful, showing and expressing our gratitude, spending the day with loved ones and family and counting our blessings. A day that we should experience much more often than once and I strive to demonstrate throughout the year. Plus it is an awesome excuse to try out new recipes and experience great new wines.  My holiday will be spent at our home, hosting about 12 people all family and loved ones watching football, the Thanksgiving Parade in New York City and watching the kids and dogs play.  I am grateful moreso this year than I have been in years past to have such an amazing partner to share the day with, my best friend Mark Buckley.  It took us half our lifetime to find each other but it was truly worth the wait.  I am also spending the day with my new bonus daughter Alicia and her parents, our family is continuing to expand and grow.  My son, Jordan’s wedding this summer was an amazing experience and one of the most special days in my life.  I am blessed to have all 3 of my children together for this holiday as well as my parents.  My other half’s children will also be joining us so I am super excited about preparing the feast for all to enjoy.

My recipes are ready, the bubbly is chilling, the turkey is thawing, the ingredients are spilling out of the cabinets and all of my items on the check list are ready to start going through later today.  This means last minute shopping, ironing of linens, china to wipe down, crystal to buff, silver to polish and oh so much cleaning!  But I love every second.  Hosting a holiday party at our home is very special to me having a home big enough to accomodate everyone quite comfortably.  Years past, that wasn’t always the case and it could get rather cozy.

A few items on the menu include my new Buffalo Chicken Ranch Dip with a delicious fresh baguette, Bacon Wrapped Brussels with Pineapple, Spiced Meatballs and a lovely Fig and Blue Cheese Bruschetta.  This doesn’t even touch dinner yet either.  The family reciope for my stuffing has been passed down and it is my favorite part of the meal on Thanksgiving.  Then of course there are the rolls and pies ….. my kitchen will become a flurry of smells, aromas and flavors.

Decorating the table will include harvest items, seasonal colors, candles, a gratitude tree, a menu and place cards for each of the wonderful people seated at my table.  I cannot wait to post a follow up with pictures that have captured the experience and memoris of this wonderful holiday from our family to yours!

What are you grateful for and how will you be celebrating?

Gratefulness Project – Day 5

So in an effort to stay balanced with my family life and time but keep on task for my gratitude project, I didn’t write a blog post for day 3 or 4. But for day 5, my gratitude is so deep that I want to make sure to promote it via my blog. Today’s gratitude is for family and all that defines what family is to me. Now today’s definition of family can be varied and all over the map.  My family is part traditional and part not.  But at the end of the day, the definition of family is what our hearts say it is….. and I adore mine.  I am blessed to have 3 amazing kids, 2 of which have grown up into really unique and special adults and have lives of their own now.  My baby, is now 12 and still at home but growing up so fast it makes me wince at times.  My parents are very involved in our lives and I would be lost without my mother’s help over the years with my children.  See the non-traditional part of my family is I have been a single parent more than not…. so without her help I would be, well… screwed.  It really does take a village.

Now, halfway through my lifetime, I was fortunate enough to find my best friend and partner in life and he is everything I didn’t find before.  Don’t get me wrong, we have our issues, battles, scars and arguments but at the end of the day, we battle through to that much stronger and better place.

Now my oldest son has married and our family continues to grow and my “bonus daughter” is awesome and special to have join our clan.  And with that comes her family too!  So our little family group is expanding all that much more…. which I am so grateful for… more love for everyone to share with these amazing young adults.  Someday, later than sooner, there will be the little pitter patter of grandbabies crawling around and that will be another amazing welcome addition to our family!  So my gratefulness continues to abound for those in my heart, my life and my world.  I cannot possibly name you all but you know who you are…. and you all mean the world to me.  #Gratitude #Family #Love #Special #Treasures

Fairbanks Family Photo       Kids and Bride and GroomBride Groom and MomsWatson Loveland FairbanksMark and Me

Grateful – Day 2

Waking up early on a Saturday is more than likely not your first choice but for me, waking up early to get to the gym to beat the crowds and get my workout done is worth the early wake up call. I woke up an hour before my alarm was set and realized I had extra time for me so made coffee and enjoying a little quiet time before the rest of the house woke up was awesome. Then off to the gym for a great workout and at 9 a.m. my day is still full of options… for this, I am grateful. What is your gratitude today?

 

Gratitude Project – Day 1

Who needs to start a new resolution on New Year’s Day? I am one that doesn’t believe in resolutions anyway…. I prefer to focus on the positives and changes that need to be made everyday. So with that said, my birthday just passed and I am another year older…. hopefully a bit wiser too. But as always, I took stock of my life, myself, my qualtities, my tendencies and my choices and realized that I still have much more work to do.  So, now it begins; a gratitude project.  Focused on the blessings in my life, finding the good always in a world that doesn’t focus on the positives and taking a moment each day to say thank you for these blessings.  Picking one per day will be the goal…. and I am sure this will be a moving target :)

Today’s blessing is being alive and enjoying this gorgeous season of Fall.  It is truly my favorite time of year and perhaps that is because I am a November baby or because my first two children are also born in autumn… or maybe it is because it isn’t too hot or too cold yet.  Either way, I wake up each day and look out my backdoor and see a literal layer of leaves in my backyard and patio.  Now most would see that as a lot of work to clear it all but me, I see it as the changing of seasons and I love it!  Although I admit I am grateful to not have a lush lawn at the moment that requires raking or blowing on a daily basis.  And that is my gratitude for today.

 

Imported to Napa ~ Round One

I have the privilege of living and working in the Napa Valley and in wine no less.  The company I work for is amazing and finally, I am the happiest I have ever been professionally.  Quintessential Wines is a family owned business, Importer/Distributor/Wholesaler with offices in New York and the main office located here in Napa.  Our sales team spans the entire United States but I have the honor of working with our team in CA covering our home state.  Our portfolio is diverse and yes I am biased but truly the wines are amazing.  We have approximately 250+ wines from 12 different countries as well as a few domestically produced labels.  Now with this diverse catalog of wines to choose from, my palate is always exposed to new wines and of the ones I have tasted so far, I already have a few favorites.  Although I am quite certain this list will change and grow.  I am sharing just a few of my favorite wines and since it is summer, these are more appropriate for the hot temperatures outside.   

To start things off, let’s have Rose’.  My favorite that I have tried so far is the 2012 Vallado Rosado from Portugal.  This wine is a classic example of my type of Rose’.  It has a nice minerality, is crisp and dry with a slight smokiness and hints of delicious red berries.  I shared this with my family on Mother’s Day and it was definitely enjoyed by all.   Being a post brunch treat and instantly created a handful of new fans, the bottle was empty quickly.  Spanish Table Wines features this as one of their favorites and I will be quite sad when Quintessential sells out this vintage.

BetterValladoRosado

Moving on to grapefruit in a glass and my favorite Sauvignon Blanc (thus far) the 2011 Terrapura Sauvignon Blanc is just that, crisp, fresh, tons of citrus and grapefruit on the nose, palate and finish and is just  a truly delightful wine.  I could drink this wine daily which is not a good idea for my waistline so it is one I don’t keep in the house but if I have a craving, I happen to know where I can pick one up …. such a treat!  It pairs nicely with salmon, pasta, salad or is perfect all by itself on a warm summer night.

Better Terrapura Sauv Blanc

Now, anyone that knows me knows I typically start with Bubbly but why do Bubbles have to be kept in any particular order.  So moving on to another yummy addition to the Quintessential Family; the Bianchi Extra Brut Sparkling from Argentina.  This is a sparkling wine that is golden in color with a steady consistent stream of bubbles that has a nose full of tropical fruit yet a nutty aroma.  The nuttiness is also picked up on the finish and lingers for some time.  It is a truly special find that I am lucky enough to have tried and shared with friends who loved it and are life long fans now.  And these are folks that drink mostly French Champagne so cheers to y’all and drink up!

Bianchi Extra Brut

 

Dinner With Grace & Friends

Dinner with Grace and Marie, Hosted by yours truly, accompanied by Mark Buckley and Robert Dupuy ~ Friends, food and wine!  What Napa is all about…..

Living in the gorgeous Napa Valley, having friends over and celebrating life is just one of the many enjoyments we share at our home. Last week was no stranger to this when we hosted Grace Hoffman aka @cellarmistress and her lovely friend Marie Baillargeon. Now Napa Valley Premiere weekend is not one of the faint of heart so graciously they fit us into their busy schedule and I was given the perfect excuse to splurge on few wines to share and spend some quality time in my kitchen (which any of you that know me, is my favorite place to be).

Now my day job is a really awesome gig and one which I love whole heartedly, how many people get to say that about their full time job? The treat of working for an importer with a portfolio of over 250 wines is just another perk. So when I developed my menu for “Dinner with Grace”, I looked through our catalog of wines and made a few choices that sounded amazing and definitely worth sharing. I chilled the wines, purchased the items I needed at the grocery store and settled into the kitchen to create what I hoped would be the perfect meal.

Now getting into the creative flow, requires what else? A little bubbly to celebrate the moment or in my case, just because…. So, before the guests arrived, we opened the Gustave Lorentz Cremant d’ Alsace Brut while preparing the appetizers. Yes, just because….

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The appetizer I chose was my “Bacon Wrapped Pineapple Brussel Sprouts with a Honey Soy Sauce Glaze”. Not to toot my own horn but these were absolutely perfect! A little carmalized, a hint of spice and sweetness and literally melted in your mouth, one to do over for certain.

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Now the guests have arrived and the appetizers are on the table so of course, wine must be opened. I started with the 2008 Gustave Lorentz Riesling Reserve which met with rave reviews and paired perfectly with the sprouts. This wine is delightful with aromas of mangoes and papayas and a slight touch of cinnamon followed by a tropical, floral finish and slight minerality. It is quite delicious.

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Next we moved on to the salad and dinner which we chose to eat on the back patio. Yes, it is February in Napa and we are eating outside. Another treat for our out of town guest from chilly Iowa. My salad is one that my friends and family request whenever they are having dinner so of course, I had to create my “everything but the kitchen sink”

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The next bottle of wine I featured was the lovely Simonsig Chenin Blanc from South Africa which is also quite lovely. Starting with a vibrant straw color and aromas of pineapple and pears, this has a crisp yet silky finish that paired perfectly with the salad I created.

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My featured entrée was one of my favorites to make and a recipe inspired from a local restaurant from my hometown of Calistoga. I have played with the creation of my own dish over the years to enhance, replicate and add my personal touch to try to give it my own special touch and flare. Bosko’s, a lovely little Italian bistro is my favorite spot when visiting home and their Piacere’ dish is my favorite on the menu. It is a shrimp scampi dish with some heat and kick to it and of course a rich cream sauce so this is not an everyday dish, one for the special occasion given the effect it could have on your waistline. But for a treat, it was the perfect dish for our guests.

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Dessert was a little less creative taking a spice cake, whipped cream and shaved chocolate with vanilla bean ice cream and diving in with a spoon, fork, shovel or whatever utensil is handy. Grace brought wines to contribute to the evening and she was gracious enough to bring the Garnet Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir from Monterey County is a newly designed label. This wine is young but is showing so nicely it will develop quite well over time and the winemaker, Allison Crowe, is a wonderful friend and always happy to enjoy her lovely vino!

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All in all, this was a delightful evening, perfectly paired with good friends, delicious wines and yummy food. What more can one ask for in this life?

Until next time…. Cheers!

Napa Valley Dinner Underground Harvest Dinner

What do you get when you have a secret location, a winemaker, a chef and hosts that coordinate the entire event? You have the Napa Valley Dinner Undergound, a “Pop-Up Dinner” business that is in its second year and was originally created by Food & Wine Visionary Mark Buckley.  Now I get to help manage these events working as his fiance and partner.  So our last dinner was to be quite honest in 2011 so it has been a while but what a way to come back.

September 28, 2012, 8 guests driven to a secret location, hosted by NVDU, Alison Crowe winemaker of Garnet Vineyards and part of the family owned Suscol Ranch where the event took place and of course, last but not least, our chef for the evening, Hardcore Farm to Face, Chef John Lyle.  We started the night with Domaine Carneros Sparkling Brut and Brut Rose on the deck overlooking the vineyards just as the sun was setting.  The ambiance felt like Carneros as the breeze came through the canyon and put a chill of fall in the air.  The guests all chatted and asked Alison questions about the farm, how she began her journey into wine and just got comfortable.  Meanwhile in the kitchen, Chef John was working hard to get the first course of appetizers out and they were quite lovely.

Canapes using local figs from mine and Mark’s very own back yard harvest.

The table is set and the harvest colors are working perfectly for this crisp fall evening.

Alison Garnet’s amazing wines are open and ready to pour.

The guests enjoying the view at sunset before dinner begins.

Chef John Lyle working his magic in the kitchen.

Yet another delicious plate from our amazing chef.

Chef John Lyle spoke about each dish and where the ingredients were sourced while the guests listened and enjoyed each course.

Winemaker Alison Crowe spoke about each wine while the guests paired it with each course.  How many dinners do you attend that offer this special treat?

The after math from a almost perfect evening and another successful Dinner Underground event hosted by Mark Buckley and yours truly.  Hoping to have another event very soon!  Cheers!