Ten Beautiful Things

Nature makes this easy, but I thought a writing prompt like this would inspire some joy on a Sunday morning. Feel free to share yours! #10BeautifulThings

Gorgeous Gourds!
Morning Dew! Photo by guest photographer Katherine Slovak
Naps! Licorice is an expert when it comes to naps.
Lunch Fresh From The Garden
Flowers From a Friend
Cows! Photo by guest photographer Katherine Slovak
Moonlight on the Beach! Photo taken in Bethany Beach, DE
The Change of Seasons. Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn.
The Elusive Ghost Crab! Photo by guest photographer Katherine Slovak

My daughter, Katherine, takes excellent photos so I borrowed a few of hers for this post. Here is the guest photographer in action...

Have a blessed Sunday all!

Saturday Night Red Wine – 2017 Tentation De Dalem – Fronsac

Tentation De Dalem French Grand Vin De Bordeaux

We found this wine at Total Wine priced at around $19.99.

I recommend allowing the wine to breathe. The color is black as night. The nose is heavy with oak. It tastes of dark cherry, rich plum, and a walk in the woods on an Autumn evening. It’s as dry as the desert, so have a glass of water handy.

This wine tasting took me back to the week my husband and I spent touring vineyards in the French countryside on our honeymoon many moons ago. French wine is always an adventurous pleasure!

Back Label copy

Dinner was steak cooked medium rare, steamed green beans with garden herbs and olive oil and garlic smashed red bliss with sour cream, light cream and butter.

Happy weekend all!

Nesting Box 101

How to Create a Cozy Birthing Space for your Pregnant Cat!

Your “Queen” is showing signs she is ready to give birth, so what do you do? If this is your first experience with feline pregnancy, there is no need to be worried, because your momma cat knows exactly what to do! For all other questions your Veterinarian can coach you through the stages and the signs of your cat’s pregnancy so that you will be ready for the special day. However, a very important item to provide for your cat is a Queening or Nesting Box where she will feel safe and secure while birthing her kittens.  

A few years ago, my family fostered a pregnant stray cat named, Sweetie, who had been abandoned in the middle of winter when her family moved away. Neighbors who had been feeding Sweetie, suspected that she was pregnant, and called HART (Homeless Animals Rescue Team) https://hart90.org/ in northern Virginia, where my daughter and I were volunteers. As you can well imagine it can be very difficult to find foster families for pregnant cats because once the kittens are born they need to remain with their mother and foster family until they reach an adoptable age. You quickly go from foster cat parent of one to foster cat parent of 4, 6 or even more. I agreed to take Sweetie home before taking any time to think about the level of commitment required. Although I had many years of experience as a cat parent, I had no experience whatsoever with cat pregnancy.   

The volunteer Veterinarian answered all of my many questions about the impending birth. Since Sweetie was a stray, he could not be certain how far along she was in her pregnancy, but he said it could be any moment or a few weeks away. He took an x-ray of her belly so that we could get an idea of how many kittens to expect and to see if all were still doing fine. I was so relieved Sweetie had been found in time and was not going to have her kittens outdoors in the freezing cold. The Vet assured me that aside from rare complications, Sweetie would be able to handle the entire process on her own without human intervention. We simply needed to supply her with a safe environment, and to make sure that she had plenty of food and water. She definitely had a healthy appetite!

We have a cat of our own, a female named Licorice, and the Veterinarian recommended keeping the two cats separated for the entire time we were fostering Sweetie. This was the safest situation for both cats, and later would ensure the safety of the kittens. We set up our finished basement as Sweetie’s home and divided our time between the two cats in our family. Licorice was not thrilled with the situation, but we made sure to give her lots of love and attention. 

As her time approached, Sweetie began searching for that extra special place to have her kittens. I noticed she had been spending more and time hiding under the couch and I was not too keen on the idea of the kittens being born under my couch on my brand new carpet. Sweetie seemed to like this location though because it was dark and sheltered and tucked away. My main concern was for Sweetie’s safety and the safety of her new kittens. I thought there was real possibility she might burrow up inside of the couch and make her nest there. In speaking with some of the other volunteers at HART I learned that if I offered Sweetie a Nesting Box, she would likely opt to use it, and my couch, carpet and the kittens could be saved!

I did a little research and found out it was easy enough to build a Nesting Box. The box needed to be large enough to accommodate Sweetie and her soon-to-be arrivals, but also cozy and secure. She needed to have easy access to her food and water and the box needed to be warm and inviting.

Here’s how I did it!

  1. I started with a medium sized packing box, 22” wide, 15” tall and 16” deep.
  2. Then I proceeded to make some adjustments using packing tape and scissors. Box size may vary depending on the size of your cat. Sweetie was a small to medium sized cat, even with her bulging belly.
  3. I lay the box on its wider side and removed the two side and top closing flaps.
  4. I removed the top piece of the box so that it had a base, and two sides. It was a good sturdy foundation.  
  5. Using the discarded cardboard, I added a peaked roof, so that it looked a little like a small cardboard house. This was strictly for aesthetics and not at all necessary.
  6. I used the additional cardboard pieces to make an extension from the base with low sides that Sweetie could easily step over but so that the kittens would not roll out.
  7. I was careful to make sure none of the tape had any exposed sticky sides where small furry beings could get stuck.   
  8. The base of the box was lined with multiple sheets of newspaper and puppy pads. Then, I lay a soft towel over the top of the pads.
  9. I draped a second towel over the opening leaving a large enough hole that Sweetie could go in and out as desired.

The Nesting Box was a comfy, dark and I hoped an appealing space for our mother-to-be. Sweetie observed my activity with interest and seemed to approve.

Then we waited. And we waited. And, we waited a little bit longer.

Sweetie continued to hide under the couch and in various other places around the basement. I panicked some and considered abandoning the Nesting Box, but decided to leave the box alone and be patient. One day, Sweetie circled the Nesting Box a few times, peered inside. Then miraculously, she went in and lay down. Over the next few days, she visited the box fairly regularly, and sometimes she even napped inside. 

 When the big day finally came, Sweetie went into the Nesting Box and remained inside. One by one, the kittens arrived! Sweetie carefully cleaned each one as they emerged, first one, then two, and then three. We grew a little concerned, because based on the X-Ray we were expecting four or maybe five kittens in total. We began to worry that Sweetie was having complications or not all of her kittens had survived. After another hour went by, the last kitten was born!

Sweetie was a calico, so it was great fun to see the variety of colorful offspring she had. The first born was a dark orange, tabby male with short hair. The second was a “buff” lighter orange, tabby male with short hair. And the third was a black, grey, and white, female tabby with medium hair. The last, but not the least, was a solid grey female with short hair.

We didn’t rush to naming all of the kittens right away because we wanted to see what their personalities were like, and go from there. The exception to this was our tiniest, little grey, who took her time joining the rest in celebrating their birthday. We named her Sprout before we even knew her gender. 

After the births, Sweetie remained in the box with her kittens for around the clock nursing. After the birth the Nesting Box was still surprisingly neat. The Vet was right! Sweetie took care of everything, even the housekeeping. I waited about a week, so as not to disturb Sweetie and her kittens. Then, one day when she left the Nesting Box to go to her food dish and the kittens rooted around blindly searching for her, I carefully rolled up the old towel and some of the paper I had used to line the box and replaced it with a clean paper and towels.    

As the kittens grew, we expanded the nest to become a secure playground for our new arrivals. We added more and more cardboard pieces to the nest until it became a cat compound. This allowed Sweetie to leave the box and take “Mommies time out” breaks from her kittens. After a few weeks, once the kittens were box trained, there was no containing them. They were literally climbing the curtains and the stairs. We dismantled the nest and opted for cozy cat beds, and a kitten proof room. 

It was great fun and an amazing learning experience for my family to see the kittens Sprout, Princess, Hobbs, and Lance born and grow to the adoptable age of 6-8 weeks.

Princess was our dainty girl, and very prim and proper in her play compared to her three siblings. Hobbs, the first born, was always the ring leader of the group and first to climb out of the nest and lead the charge. Lance was named by my friend who adopted both Hobbs and Lance. And Sprout made up for her smaller size with her tenacity of spirit.

We have been fortunate to be able to see Lance and Hobbs grow up. Princess and Sprout were also adopted as pair by a nice couple. Sweetie was adopted as well a few weeks later. Although it was hard to part with them, we are so pleased they all found forever homes.

If you decide to build a Nesting Box for your expectant feline, I am sure she will be extremely grateful for the effort. It is a simple craft that reaps big rewards.    

Sources:

https://hart90.org/

Robert Mondavi Private Selection 100% Chardonnay

I like to taste a wine before reading the back label, preferring not to be influenced. I’m considering total blind tastings – even having a friend pick the wine, cover the label, and pour going forward to see if I can determine whats what in a wine.

I was intrigued by this claim of 100% Chardonnay and the Robert Mondavi brand is a favorite of mine.

What I tasted was oak, vanilla, apple, lemon and honey back with a clean finish and slight sense of carbonation.

While some chards are fine for drinking on their own, this one is better paired with food to bring out the flavor. It’s a heavy, sturdy wine so it stands up well to aged cheeses or chicken or pasta dishes with rich white sauces.

Here’s what they say about it on the back label…

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve tried it!

Ten Buttery Chardonnays for Under $10

Great buttery Chardonnay is such a popular subject that I have been working diligently to bring you a new Top Ten list with a fresh challenge: ten buttery chardonnays for under $10!!!

Does price really dictate quality and taste? Heck no! You don’t have to break the bank to drink good wine. Although challenging, you can find quality chards for under $20, $15 and even under $10!

A quick note on price, if you shop for wine at the major supermarket chains, the prices are sometimes as much as $5 higher per bottle than at designated wine outlets like Total Wine, or Costco, but with a member card, sale price discounts, and the 6 bottle discount most supermarkets offer, you can pay much less, you just may just need to buy more wine! I also find great prices and good selection at World Market, Aldi and Trader Joe’s.

There are some amazing, highly drinkable chards of the buttery, creamy variety with some other flavors that make my palate sing like oak, caramel, pear, almond, vanilla, baked apple, pineapple and honeysuckle. If all of these sound heavenly to you, read on my friends.

IMG_20171026_163948144_HDR

Sadly, butter has become a trend, and with any trend, you have posers trying to sell you something that their product is not! Shameful! So first I want to address what’s in a name and in a label? Just like a book cover, the wine label and well written back label copy tell us in a snapshot everything about the wine we are about to purchase, it is the second most important piece of the puzzle. Still, I cannot tell you how many lost souls I have witnessed, and often rescued, adrift in the wine aisle!

Labels matter and they only have precious seconds to impress! If you are currently aimlessly wandering the aisles of your favorite wine store, my goal is to help you find some great weekend wines minus the pain!

As always, I had to taste some frogs to compile this list. Nothing is more disappointing than bringing home a wine with high hopes of greatness, only to find that the taste does not even begin to measure up to the name and label narrative. One that I found not as buttery as promised was Butter Knife.

Here are a few that do measure up on the butter scale!

Ménage a Trios from California, is liquid gold indeed. I have to say the name is a tad off-putting, and in the past I had hesitated to purchase it because I am a respectable wine drinker! Still, the wine is really good, and if this gimmicky thing that the marketers have going on works for them, great. However, they may want to consider a sister wine under a classier label for an uptick in sales and broader wine audience. Label aside, I give this one three butter sticks!!! It is sooo buttery!

Ménage a Trois Chardonnay
Toasted Head Chardonnay
Cloud Break Chardonnay

I first discovered Cloud Break at Aldi, but have since seen it on the shelves of other stores like Total Wine.

Bend Chardonnay

I selected Bend simply based on the label. I wanted to be on this windy road on a gorgeous autumn day in a convertible with someone special! I imagined a picnic basket in the back seat filled with gourmet cheese, a French baguette, and of course chilled buttery chard! The best label award goes to…Bend!

Cupcake Butterkissed Chardonnay

The Cupcake brand is pure marketing genius! I especially love that they added Butterkissed for an extra burst of butter for all butter lovers!

This wine label crosses over into what I call life style wine that sells a story with the 3 A’s: “Anytime, Anyplace, Anyone”.

Proverb Chardonnay

With such a sophisticated label, you can bring Proverb Chardonnay to your next gathering and impress for less.

Dark Horse Buttery Chardonnay
14 Hands Chardonnay
Gnarly Head Chardonnay

Big, grand applause for all of these wines and their fabulous labels! However, I just realized most of my picks are from California, ugh! I shall try to invent a list from around the globe or at least find more from some other states like Washington, Oregon, or Virginia next time! Until then…sip, relax and enjoy!

Please share your thoughts and favorites too! As always thanks for reading and keep drinking great wine!

Janine’s Gift

Janine Richardson was an ordinary woman. She was so ordinary in fact that she was certain this was how people described her if they ever stopped to give her a second thought. Janine wore her mousy brown hair in a short bob, in the same style she had worn for as long as she could remember. She was painfully thin, some would even say ‘skinny’, which she grew to learn was not exactly a compliment. Her face was narrow, her coloring pale. If Janine spent more than fifteen minutes in the open sunlight, she would suffer a horrendous sunburn, then peel, but never, ever tan. Her hazel eyes were unremarkable, hidden behind large, round, tortoise shell glasses. Her mouth was neither pouty, nor full and when she smiled, although her teeth were perfectly straight, they appeared too small due to an excess of gum tissue. It was a defect she had always wanted to have corrected, but had never gotten around to doing. As a result of her childish grin, Janine rarely smiled. When she did smile, her mouth formed a controlled, thin-lipped line that curved up ever so slightly at the corners.

Janine was never popular in high school save a few close friends, a trend which continued into her adult life. Primarily the issue was her apparent invisibility. Her personal style of dress was comfortable, in part due to a lack of fashion sense and her predilection for discount clothing stores. Naturally shy, she was not a stellar conversationalist, or story teller at social events. When Janine passed by, men did not turn their heads to look at her and rarely held doors for her. Other women did not seek her out for friendship, and were not generally envious of her with one small exception: Janine was blessed with an extremely high metabolism. She could eat whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, without ever gaining a single ounce. This unique quality led to her adoration and appreciation of foods from around the globe.     

Janine met her husband, Carl McGraff, during their senior year of high school. Carl was one of only two boys who had ever expressed even a vague interest in Janine. She and Carl dated for several months. Janine was unreservedly smitten with Carl and he was passively indifferent to her. During the summer after high school, Janine discovered that she was pregnant. They decided to keep the baby and were married in a small, private ceremony. Carl put off college and went to work for a local Real Estate Agency. On the eve of their marriage, he confessed that he had planned to break up with Janine on the very night that she had told him about the baby. Consequently, her walk down the aisle felt to her more like a death march.

When their daughter, Hope, was born Janine’s life was renewed; she found her purpose in motherhood and was fine with being a housewife. Shortly after Hope’s birth, Carl took up residence in the spare bedroom and there were no further additions to their small family. Still, Carl was enamored of baby Hope. Unlike Janine, Hope was extraordinary. She was blessed with the best mix of Carl and Janine’s gene pool: Carl’s blond hair and ice blue eyes, and Janine’s slight build. Before she even learned her first words, Hope began making lyrical sounds and repeating them. By the time she was four years old she began singing and as she grew, she lit up a room with her mere presence. Hope both resembled and sang like an angel.

Carl and Janine were good parents and the business of their marriage was a success. They owned a small, comfortable cape-cod style home in Portsmouth, Rhode Island with a tidy fenced-in yard. In their savings and retirement accounts, they had an appropriate amount of money. Their garage housed two well-maintained, late model vehicles, one sedan, one SUV. Respected in their small community, they helped neighbors in need, and went to church every Sunday.  

Over the years, Carl had become a Real Estate Broker and by the time Hope was in middle school he owned his own agency. He worked every weekend, partly out of necessity, and partly by choice. He and Janine had few ‘couple friends’, as the other couples in town sensed something was amiss in Carl and Janine’s relationship and distanced themselves, as if a bad marriage might be contagious. The women in town gossiped about or pitied Janine. Did Janine know? They wondered. She must! They assumed. 

Carl had his Monday night bowling league and his Thursday night pool league. He had his friends from high school who had elected to never leave their home town but instead worked as plumbers, electricians, and fire fighters. He knew all of the other small business owners, and the local politicians. Carl was a town institution and an affable guy.

Janine joined the PTA and kept busy by volunteering, first at Hope’s elementary school, then at her middle school, and finally at her high school. She took Hope to her soccer practices, her dance classes, her piano, and voice lessons. She baked for the school bake sales, assisted with the school fund raisers, and chaperoned the field trips. She was a member of the neighborhood book club and on occasion she went out for lunch or dinner with a few of the other mothers where they talked about family and how their children were doing in school.

For fun Janine obsessively watched the food network. Utterly enthralled, she practiced her cooking skills along with the shows. Mealtime was an adventure in the McGraff household. Even Carl raved about her cooking! Often, Janine brought her creative cuisine to Carl’s office for his staff to enjoy. She had always thought working for Carl would make perfect sense, keeping the books, or answering the phones, but he insisted that it would ruin their relationship. Oddly she never felt as at ease at the agency as she thought she should. The female Realtors rarely made direct eye contact with her and always seemed to be in a hurry, on their way to some extremely important showing.

Gourmet Cheese Plate

When Hope began High School, Janine accepted a part-time office position working for a general practioner in their small town. Dr. Sullivan was wonderful to work with and Janine thrived in her position and eventually became the Office Manager. Dr. Sullivan was an old school practitioner; he liked paper files and still made house calls for some of his elderly patients. When he retired and sold the practice four years later, the new young doctor opted to hire his own staff rendering Janine unemployed.

When the time came, Hope was accepted to multiple Universities but was offered a partial scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. The school was an excellent fit for Hope and was close enough for her to come home whenever she wished, which Janine assumed would be often. Carl insisted they could not afford the tuition unless Janine found a new position. With her limited computer skills, the only job Janine could find was as a receptionist for the law firm Stuart, Craig and Glenn, PLC in Providence. Although Janine was not thrilled about commuting to the city, for Hope she was willing to make any sacrifice. The lawyers of the firm, Bob Stuart, Steve Craig and Alan Glenn were all very professional and driven. Janine thought it unusual that all three men had two first names and it brought back a bad memory. Her freshman year in high school, a boy in her class with two first names, Jason Logan, incessantly teased her and coined the knick name, “Skinny Jinny” which had followed her through all four years.

On her first day at the firm, Janine was both nervous and excited. Attorney Glenn accidentally referred to her as Jean. Janine tried to correct him at the time, but he interrupted her and ever since has identified her as Jean. Janine’s one and only friend in the firm, Amy Brown, the Human Resources Assistant, often told Janine she should set him straight. Janine just never saw the point, except that there were times when Attorney Glenn became annoyed that Janine did not answer when he asked for things. It made for an awkward situation. 

While the other office girls, the paralegals and administrative assistants went to lunch together every day from 12-1pm, Janine was never asked to join. She had to cover the phones at all times. The firm believed having a “live” receptionist set them apart from the other firms, and gave them a personal touch. Janine’s lunch break was from 11:00am-12:00pm when call volume was the lowest, yet she was still expected to answer if the phone rang.

On a daily basis Amy joined Janine at the front desk in the event that Janine was chewing when a call came in and she needed Amy to answer on her behalf. Janine had never had a friend quite like Amy. Amy lived for gossip and always had the latest scoop on their co-workers. Janine silently believed that when Amy shared these stories it was horribly unethical, but lunch was the highlight of her otherwise dull day. Janine brought her culinary delights to share as a way to thank Amy for her midday companionship. Over Taiwanese noodles, or sweet and spicy tofu, or lobster tacos with tangy lime sauce, Amy dished the dirt.

Seasonal Vegetables with Hummus and Bruchetta

Apparently Attorney Glenn was sleeping with one of the paralegals. His wife was suing him for divorce and it was very ugly. Attorney Stuart was suffering with some type of horrendous cancer and had been seeking treatment for some time. There was serious concern over the future welfare of the firm if anything happened to him because he brought in all of the largest clients. For Janine, the firm’s daily soap opera was infinitely more exciting than her lackluster life, rendered even more so now that Hope was away at school and rarely found time to come home.

Janine missed Hope terribly! She and Carl went to see every musical theatre production at the Conservatory, even if Hope only had a small role to play. It was one of the few things they did together as a couple. By her senior year at the Conservatory, there were only starring roles for Hope, and Janine realized that their little town of Portsmouth would never be big enough to hold her shining star. She began to panic at the thought of Hope never returning home. Their quaint little house already felt enormous as result of Janine’s loneliness.

One day on a whim Janine asked Amy how she thought that Mrs. Glenn had discovered the affair. Amy said it was probably in the usual way, by reading her husband’s text messages, or reviewing the credit card statements. She added that any woman would have to be blind not to see what was happening, but then some women were that way, or they simply chose to look the other way. Then, Amy began raving about the butter chicken Janine had brought for lunch and insisted Janine had a gift, and she should open a restaurant. Janine rolled her eyes and thought: sure a thirty-nine year receptionist opens a restaurant. I bet that happens every day! Amy went on to come up with names for Janine’s imaginary restaurant: Janine’s Creative Cuisine, or Just Janine’s.   

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Cafe Au Lait Ice Cream

Even though it was silly, Janine allowed herself to fantasize about restaurant ownership. Some days she did not even hear the phone at the reception desk until the fifth or sixth ring startled her back to reality. During slow periods at work, she conducted online searches for commercial real estate for lease and cooking classes. Having a secret wish, made her feel powerful, alive.

After bowling one evening while Carl showered in hall bathroom, Janine heard his cell phone pinging and chiming with messages. She put down the book that she was reading, climbed out of bed and walked into the guest room where Carl’s phone rested on the nightstand. Carl never left his phone lying around. He constantly kept it with him because as he said, in his line of work he could not afford to miss an important client call or message. Janine, who had always respected Carl’s privacy in the past, uncharacteristically flipped through his text messages.

She scrolled through texts from his friends and some work related messages. Then she paused when she saw several messages from Ashley Peterson an agent who worked in Carl’s office. In stunned silence, Janine read the messages and stared in disbelief at photos of the blond-haired, green-eyed, curvy agent. Past encounters with Ashley flashed through Janine’s mind. Ashley had always been pleasant but dismissive at the same time about the food Janine brought or about Janine’s attire: “Well doesn’t that look delicious! If you eat carbs, I mean!” And, “oh, what and interesting blouse!” Janine felt her stomach sicken and her face redden when she read one of Ashley’s recent texts: Miss you already! Have fun going home to your frumpy little wife! In the photos, Ashley was posing in a provocative way, in an extremely revealing outfit.

Janine felt something snap inside of her like an elastic band that had been wound too tight for far too long.

When she no longer heard the water running in the shower, Janine carefully put Carl’s phone back in the exact same location where she had found it. She tiptoed to her room, switched off the lamp, and quickly and quietly dressed in her pajamas before she slipped under the floral quilt of her bed. Once she heard Carl close his bedroom door, she wept silently until her pillowcase was damp with tears and permitted the darkness to hug and envelope her until she slept.

The following week Janine asked Amy if she knew who Mrs. Glenn had hired as her divorce lawyer. Amy answered without inquiry. Amy was her best friend, but Janine knew she was little more than a sounding board for Amy. As Amy prattled on, Janine rarely got in a single word. So while she had planned to tell Amy so many things, like that she had made an appointment for laser gums contouring, somehow she never had the chance. Instead she took a sick day one Friday, underwent the painful procedure, recovered over the weekend, practiced smiling for the next week, and waited for anyone to notice. It took Amy three days and Carl a solid week. The power of invisibility, Janine thought, was that no one even noticed when you were gone.

Her new contact lenses initiated a more expedient response from both Amy and Carl, but Attorney Glenn had asked her if she had changed her hairstyle. No, Janine thought, but it’s long overdue! Being able to see without feeling like she was looking out a thick window had literally opened her eyes to a world of possibilities and her brand new smile gave her just a hint of confidence. 

Johnson and Wales University was conveniently located nearby the law firm, so Janine enrolled in evening cooking classes. After class, when she went home to her empty house, she was too tired to dwell on the fact or too busy with homework. Janine excelled in her classes. One added benefit was that everyone wore chef’s clothing, so there were no wardrobe concerns. She felt like she fit in for the first time in her life.  

Hope’s college graduation marked the last McGraff family celebration. Following the ceremony, they dined in downtown Boston bistro with some of Hope’s friends and their families. It was a spectacular day! Hope could not get over Janine’s transformation and kept saying so. The next day, brimming with pride, Janine and Carl helped Hope pack for her move to New York City where she planned to pursue her dream of performing in musical theatre. They all said tearful goodbyes and Carl and Janine promised to come see every production without fail.

Fourth of July weekend while Carl was attending a real estate convention in Las Vegas, Janine packed her belongings, and assisted by a team of movers, moved into a one bedroom apartment in Providence, close to both work and school. She had never lived in a city before and was excited about the very idea of it and enthusiastic about dining in the wide array of restaurants downtown. She planned to celebrate her 40th Birthday in August with some of her friends from school and with Amy, of course, at a new up and coming restaurant called Out of the Blue.

When Carl returned home, he would find the divorce papers on his nightstand with a pen and a stamped, return address envelope. After all, it was common courtesy, Janine thought, to let Carl know her new address.  

Clos du Bois Lightly Bubbled Chardonnay- butter with phizzazz!

If you have not tried it yet, get some Clos du Bois Lightly Bubbled Chardonnay today because the Clos wine folks have struck gold with this combination of what they already had right in their chard- a reliable, affordable, buttery winner – now with a splash of pizzazz! They added just a hint of bubbles and well, my darlings, you need this in your wine cabinet before everyone else becomes wise to it! This fizzy fun is a must have for entertaining, as an aperitif, or serve to guests at your next Sunday Bruch!

Clos du Bois Lightly Bubbled Chardonnay

Armageddon? If you fear this is the end of days, use your GIFTS and PRAY!

We were promised unity and transparency. We may be united on one thing; it’s crystal clear that something is tragically amiss. Do you feel it? A murky despair hangs like a toxic fog over our country.

I hear people ask, “What can we do?”

It’s not a shrug your shoulders, we give up, what can we do? My gut says Americans want to do something, to be proactive, do something to stop the madness, because there is nothing worse than feeling helpless.

We are far from helpless and there are many things we can do.

I have long believed that each and every one of us is given a gift at birth, a gift from God. You may be one of the lucky ones who have more than one. The onus is on us to figure out what our talents are and how to use them for the betterment of mankind. Likely, these proficiencies are skills at which each one of us naturally excels. Sure, we may study or work to improve our ability, but to some extent we have always simply had a knack for something like singing, painting, writing, fundraising, teaching, or any ability that makes us unique. It takes some people a lifetime to figure this out. Here’s a hint: ask yourself, what’s the one thing that when you’re not doing it, you’re completely miserable? What is something positive that you are compelled to do?

For me that compulsion is writing. In my youth, and before blogging, self-publishing, and social media, I filled notebooks with words, poems, stories, and incomplete novels. Then, in my twenties and thirties, I filed away the notebooks, in favor of my laptop, often writing stories that I never even shared.

When I started this blog a few years ago, it didn’t really have a focus at first, probably because I didn’t have a focus. Over time, I discovered I liked to write about wine, politics, writing, art and nature. But of all of these, people most like to read my posts about wine and writing.

Then, in I wandered away from the blog and discovered Twitter. A few years ago, I thought Twitter was amazing! I could post a photo of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC and people in Japan could see and like it. I found other writers. I found people passionate about politics. I stopped really writing and started tweeting instead. I thought I was connecting with the world, how exciting!

In 2016 I wanted to do something for my preferred candidate in the Presidential election. I had used Twitter advertising to promote my book, so I ran a pro-voting twitter campaign using my own tweets. There was nothing nefarious in any of the tweets, snarky yes and attempts to be witty, maybe. The campaign was wildly successful in likes, retweets, and follows. Twitter blocked some of tweets and put them under review. I inquired and received some vague answer.

Not long after the campaign, Twitter deleted all of my advertising analytics, even for the ads I had run for my book. They sent me a letter stating that I had Russian followers. So what? I have followers all over the world, I thought, and a Russian sounding surname. I inquired about the missing ad data. After all, I had paid for those ads; surely what they were doing was illegal. The representative said the ad data only stays up for a limited period of time. I said, “That’s funny because I was always able to go back and review ads from previous years before”. Something didn’t feel right. I didn’t quit Twitter at that time, but I stopped tweeting. That love affair was over.

Just before the 2020 Presidential Election, I started Tweeting again, my political outlet. At one point last fall I had tweeted something about the election and someone tweeted back something nasty. Before I knew it, I was in a tweet battle with a total stranger. It went on for hours. Then, she started tweeting scripture at me. I tweeted scripture back. It went on. Finally, I was just exhausted and I wrote, “Agree to disagree. We both read the same book.” And it stopped. I think at that moment we both realized how foolish we were, and that in a sense, we were both actually on the same side.

I didn’t like who I had become on Twitter, so I closed my account. Prior to this, I had quit Facebook for the same reason and had not missed it at all. Some friends and family members were angry that I had left Facebook, but I was more at peace. It had lost all meaning to me. After my mother passed, I started a family group chat, and a year later we are still using it to share family related events and news. My circle has gotten smaller, but it is more meaningful. I kept this blog because for me it is where it all began and the place where I felt I had made the most genuine connections. I still want to connect with the world, only on my terms.

I think it’s OK to lose your way as long as you can come to your senses and still find your way back.

Lately, I have felt a strong sense that we are all being called, compelled to action if you will, to use our gifts for the sake of and for the good of our fellow man, right now.

As a result of my “tweet battle”, I don’t believe we are all divided. I deduce there is a purposeful wedge being driven between us and that all too often we seek salvation in human form, when the great unifier is faith in a higher purpose, and in a higher power.

As a nation, and as a world, we have spent the last year fighting against an invisible enemy, a virus. We are all exhausted, our souls are depleted and they need to be replenished.

We have been told, “Don’t wear a mask! You must wear a mask! Wear two masks!” And we have been muzzled.

We have lost loved ones; we have watched our children struggle and fail at home school and fight to participate in their chosen sports. Suicide, poverty, drug addiction, and alcoholism are on the rise.

We have been told that we can’t see our friends, our family members, our co-workers, and we can’t worship together.

Right now, tens of thousands of migrants are flooding our southern border illegally aided by human traffickers. We know very little about these migrants, except that they desperately want to flee their own countries and for that we can’t blame them, but at the same time we are ill-equipped to help them, especially now. In addition, they may be COVID super spreaders, and are being allowed to disband across our country. How does this fit with every restriction we have faced over the course of the last year? Why are our leaders allowing this to happen? Is it for votes? Is it to keep spreading the COVID virus and to keep us under control longer?

Our leaders are patting themselves on the back for the new $1.9 Trillion dollar COVID-19 relief package they just unveiled. Did they bother to ask themselves the one question that every one of us asks before buying something as simple as a kitchen appliance? “Can we afford this right now?” You should read what’s in this bill. This article offers a good explanation, and you can decide for yourself: https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-reliefbill2021-covid19-idUSL1N2LA2NF

Maybe a simpler and less expensive solution to our current angst would be for our leaders to close the border, to dispense the vaccines, to allow our small businesses to open and therefore have a fighting chance of survival, and to send our kids back to school. We are America. Most of us don’t really want a handout and $1,400 might pay the mortgage for a month and then what? What I hear people saying is: “we want to be able to earn an honest living and we want our country back”.

Like many of you, I have spent a fair bit of time ruminating over recent political events. For a few months, I chose to disconnect, to not engage, to not write about it, to close down my social media accounts, to not react, and to just take some time to think and to question.

I saw events with my own eyes that made me question the election outcome. Tens of thousands of people supported one candidate, and only a handful supported the other, but the other guy won? Balderdash! Isn’t that a great word?

I questioned why the Supreme Court dismissed court cases challenging the election results and refused to even consider looking into the possibility of voter fraud. Plus, there was the double insult of potential voting impropriety on the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage. What a slap in the face. Shouldn’t voting integrity be of supreme importance to the highest court? Will our vote ever count again? Did it ever count? Don’t we deserve to know?

When one party seeks power at any cost and as a result the other party is made to feel completely powerless, something is terribly wrong.

Make no mistake, a battle is raging.

So you ask again, “what can we do? How can we take back our power?”

We can use our gifts and no joke, we can pray.

A few years ago, while I was researching my novel and certain that I was experiencing a spiritual crisis, I went to speak with a priest. After a long discussion, he told me the best thing that I could do about my predicament was pray.

At the time, I recall I laughed a little. Was it nerves or embarrassment maybe.

He said, “That’s Satan, he’ll always try to stop you from praying.”

“Just pray, that’s it?” I said, “It sounds too simple”.

“There is nothing more powerful, “he said, “than prayer.”

Of course he was right. I didn’t really get it at the time.

I’ve never thought of myself so much as religious, but I’m definitely spiritual. Religious to me was always about being devout, never missing mass, and being able to quote scripture without looking it up. But I’m glad that I took some time this year to reflect and to pray. I’m thankful that I did not give in to negativity and derision and that I did not write out of anger. Loving your enemies takes courage. I’m still working on this. https://www.biblehub.com/matthew/5-44.htm

Like Janice Morrison, the character in my book, I consider myself a Catholic in progress. Janice is far from a saint. She curses like a sailor and sins like the rest of us. She’s in the midst of a battle, good versus evil, both figuratively and literally.

Through prayer, we are allowed to share our burdens. Afterward, I feel physically and spiritually lighter.

So now I pray for the Supreme Court to find courage. I fear that some heinous force holds their tongues, and prevents them from doing their jobs, especially Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett. It could be simply my own fears. But if there is something holding them back, I pray that it will be revealed and that any known threat be vanquished.

I pray for the unborn and for those suffering from religious persecution around the world. https://www.persecution.org/2021/03/05/new-report-highlights-severe-lack-religious-freedom-china/

I pray for the members of the press to open their eyes, their ears, their hearts, and their minds and to tell the truth, not their version or their superior’s version of the truth, and for selective censorship to be cancelled.

I pray for Joe Biden and his family, that he is not afflicted with dementia. Over the past five years, I lived the horror of this disease. My mother lost her struggle with this disease last year just as our nation succumbed to this pandemic. I’m all too familiar with the vacant stares, the lost words, and the stolen memories. I witnessed it in her and in the other residents of her nursing care facility. Dementia is a nightmare from which one can never wake.

I pray that the members of the current administration running the country behind the scenes have the best interest of our great nation and its security at heart and that those in power truly grasp the weight of this heavy burden.

I pray for America to be free again someday soon, for the National Guard in DC to go home to their families, and for faith to be restored in our Nations Capitol. I believe our government does not need protection from its own citizens, but rather from thoughts and ideas that become policies and laws to the detriment of our United States.

I pray that the mighty Constitution of the United States of America can withstand the vicious assault on its Amendments, especially the First, the Second, the Fourteenth, the Nineteenth, and the Twenty-Sixth. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Constitution-of-the-United-States-of-America/Amendments-to-the-U-S-Constitution

Above all, I pray for our children and for the future we will leave to them, with fear, fealty, and faith. I am thankful to still feel compelled to write. With this outlet, and with these prayers, comes some levity.

Pray I’m brave enough to press publish.