OkieWineGirl

A Wine Drinker Rambling about Wine

Month: March 2016

Running: Have a Mid-life Crisis and You Get a Medal

A little over two months ago, while wearing rosé colored glasses and toasting the new year’s fresh possibilities, I signed up for a half marathon. I’m a runner. I run.  I love the exhilarating feeling you get from running. However, the longest distance these legs have ever run is around 8 miles. I told myself I was content with charity fun runs and 5Ks and Pub Runs with Harp at the finish line. I would joke about getting a 0.0 sticker for the van in defiance of all the 13.1 stickers that had seemingly appeared overnight on every car in town. Half-marathons, heck, marathons were for ‘serious’ runners. I just run for fun.  So it must have been in a moment of mid-life crisis as I pondered the fact I’ll be mid-forty this Spring that got me to think about earning one of those bumper stickers.  I talked with my hubby about the training commitment and found a race that was far enough out I could still prepare for in time. I know myself well enough that if I say I want to do something, I have to act quickly or it doesn’t get done so in a moment of madness, I signed up.

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The first few weeks were a breeze until I started upping my mileage. Then it happened. An old injury resurfaced, landing me in the chiropractor with a “recovery plan” and appointments 3x a week. What had  I been thinking? I berated myself for being so stupid. Memories of my Dad’s own ‘mid-life’ crisis added to the guilt I felt when I told hubs how much the doctor bill would be. I had promised myself that when I hit forty, I wouldn’t throw myself into every wind-surfing, racquetball game, hiking 14,000 ft. mountains, scuba diving Blue Hole adventures like my Dad had to the expense of family. I love my dad and we have a great relationship now but there’s still residual resentment of his old hobbies. The race was starting to cost more than just time and the entry fee.  Then I hit a wall three weeks from race day. My beloved past time was now a chore I despised. All the joy had been sucked out and my attitude plummeted. Fear, anxiety and doubt crept in. What the heck was I doing?  What if I tanked half way through the race and couldn’t finish?  Was hubby resenting me for taking every weekend with a long run? How had I succumbed to the dreaded mid-life crisis? Was this a mid-life crisis? Why hadn’t I prayed about this before I signed up? Life sucked. The last three weeks were hard and I wanted to quit but the cost and my husband keep me going.

The day before the race, I broke the cardinal rule of racing and purchased a new jacket and running pants to run in. It was like I was mentally trying to set myself up for failure. Race day arrived and my husband who has been my constant coach and cheerleader, made all of our kids get up and go with us. He confessed he’d laid on a guilt trip telling them this was really important and they needed to be there for me.

The race started in front of the Bricktown ballpark in downtown so Hubby dropped me off near the entrance with the promise to meet at Mickey Mantle’s statue. A friend was running with me, too, so we planned on meeting at the same spot. The morning was brisk and dark. As I made my way to Mantle, ladies in shiny blue and pink tutus jogged past on warm up runs. Others in matching team t-shirts stretched and chatted. The lines to the Ballpark bathrooms started to snake past the concession stands. Upbeat music filled the morning air. Our group gathered by Mantle where we took a few quick pictures, laughed at some of the fun outfits, and then it was time to go to the corral. My friend and I strategized on how close to the front we should go. Everyone around me was strapping on earbuds and priming watches. This was it. I was about to run 13 miles.  And then the bullhorn sounded and we were cautiously moving in mass through the gate. I was a bundle of nervous energy and quickly left my friend behind powered by all the pent-up emotions of getting to this moment.

The first few miles, we moved carefully through the darkened streets pointing out potholes and other potential dangers to each other. Ladies energetically chatted with excitement. Birds started to sing and on we ran, into the Paseo Art district, with it’s art galleries and patio cafes. Neon signs lit the way past hip eateries and artwork decorating the sidewalks. Mile 3 came and there on the corner stood my personal cheering section, Hubby and the kids, shouting encouragements. Their voices and whoops echoed loudly off the darkened buildings and that’s when it happened. I could feel a smile begin to grow on my face and I’m sure those around me probably thought I was crazy.  We ran on into the manicured neighborhoods. Here were areas of the downtown Oklahoma City I rarely venture into and it was lovely. I thought of all the challenges of the past weeks and how I would have missed out on so much if I’d quit. Suddenly, a bright yellow shirt leap into the midst of the runners up ahead. Race crasher?? Turns out, it was someone’s husband giving them their pace time. His words of encouragement drifted back as he stopped at the race official and I got a bit emotional as I shot up a prayer of thanks to God for my own loving and supportive husband.

The sun began to peak at the top of the first hill silhouetting a church steeple in hues of pink, yellow, blue and lavender. As I passed mile 5, my mind wondered and I tried to keep positive as our group pushed up the hill. I know half the battle of finishing a challenge is mental. I focused on my husband at the finish line and how his eyes light up and he does this little fist pump thing when his excited. I knew he would be there, excited for me. Around mile 6, I’d  started running beside a girl in pink Reebok calve socks. We trekked together for the next 6 miles until the bridge leading to the finish line. As I crested the top the lavender Go Girl awning came into view. I couldn’t believe it! I was going to make it. Well, as long as I didn’t trip on the way down. At the bottom, I could hear an announcer calling runner’s names as they came to the finish and giving congratulations. Oh my goodness! Personal shout outs? Awesome. Sure enough as I entered the last few feet, he said my name and my arms involuntarily shoot up in victory.  I’d just run the farthest in my entire life and survived! Actually, I more than survived, I’d finished!

I did learn a few things in those long, sometimes painful weeks leading up race day. I learned that challenges are painful and that’s OK because after enduring it, success is sweet. Also, God makes us a lot tougher than we think we are and we wouldn’t know it without the experience. I learned that even when progress seems to be slow or going backwards, it’s still being made. I learned that you climb over the wall by letting a friend help you and to be thankful for them. I learned I need the support system God has given me and I couldn’t have done it alone. I’m naturally independent and think I have to do things alone or they don’t count. Yes, I’m prideful. This was a dose of humility and in a way a much needed reality-check. I couldn’t have done it without my husband pushing me to keep going, telling me to forget about the expense and that I’d succeed. He said it wasn’t a mid-life crisis and to stop griping and run. The feeling I got from seeing my cheering family as I came across the  finish makes my heart want to burst. I’m getting emotional writing about it. I’m so thankful for them.

My husband predicted during one of my training melt-downs that I’d love racing and do it again. I adamantly swore against it. I have to learn to quit swearing. On Easter afternoon while we sat enjoying the warm weather and sipping the last of the Domaine Carneros sparkling wine, my hubby brought up racing again. Nah, I said. He mentioned I was already in condition for it. Good point. And that’s when it happened. I signed up for the Oklahoma City Memorial half-marathon. Yeah, I’ve caught the race bug just like he said. He knows me. Besides, I’m already conditioned and they give really great medals! Now I’ve gotta run.

 

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Indulging my Cookbook Craving on Spring Break

Cheap Reads

Eat!

Spring Break was last week and so I had some time to indulge in a few favorite pastimes. During any given holiday, I love to check out as many interesting and colorful cookbooks I can physically carry out of our public library without injuring myself.  I love to read cookbooks. Really good ones contain so much more than a recipe. There’s little stories about the author or cooking tips or back stories on the origin of the dish. I’ve found I’ve picked up a lot of history by reading cookbooks. There has even been crumbs of gossip from the underbelly of the culinary world fit for the pages of the NY Post!

These are a few I had the luck of perusing this Spring Break.  I try to pick out a wide selection from traditional to global to eclectic or bizarre.

So here’s what I stuck my nose into:

bountiful - recipes inspired by our garden

bountiful – recipes inspired by our garden

bountiful – recipes inspired by our garden by todd porter and diane cu

I’m always looking for inventive ways with vegetables. My family ratted me out about the grated squash in the lasagna and pureed mushrooms in the meatloaf. Besides, they are old enough to start expanding their organic palates! bountiful is by todd and diane of White On Rice Couple blog. The book is full of beautiful photos and easy to read recipes. They cover veggies to vine fruits with a touch of Vietnamese flair.  I enjoyed reading their story and advice on planting a garden.

 

Saveur - The New Classics Cookbook

Saveur – The New Classics Cookbook

 

Saveur – The New Classics Cookbook 

The chicken on the cover got me. This is full of classics like Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork to international dishes like Pão De Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread), Injera (Ethiopian Flatbread) and Moroccan Fish with Cumin Seeds. The best part are the collection of quotes scattered throughout and tidy side stories with bits of history.  Here are a few tasty tidbits:

“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” – Mark Twain    Hummm …..

Wise advice: “Fish, to taste right, must swim three times – in water, in butter, and in wine.” – Polish Proverb 

 

 

Bon Appetempt - A Coming of Age Story

Bon Appetempt – A Coming of Age Story

Bon Appétempt – A Coming of Age Story (with recipes) by Amelia Morris

Really delightful read about Amelia’s struggle to work her way into doing what she loves for a living which is write. As a stress reliever she begins to learn to cook and starts the blog Bon Appétempt. She blogs her culinary attempts at cooking the glossy food magazine recipes and posts her edible delicious failures.  Amelia’s book is interesting and friendly.

 

 

Heart & Soul in the Kitchen - Jacques Pepin

Heart & Soul in the Kitchen – Jacques Pepin

Heart & Soul in The Kitchen – Jacque Pépin

I loved reading Jacques Pépin’s newest cookbook. He is so inviting and easy-going. Plus the book is filled from  cover to cover with his original watercolor paintings and artwork. Jacques shares stories about becoming a chef and meeting Julia Child for the first time and cooking at, as he describes, robust James Beard’s apartment when they were all broke and unknown. He shares he loves wine you can drink with a friend and how he gave away a $7000 1959 rare Burgundy because he couldn’t find an occasion to open it. Obviously, no one told him about ‘Open That Bottle Night’. Can you image popping that cork and passing it around with the line, “Oh it’s just a little something I had in the cellar.”

Seriously, I wish he was my grandfather. I’ll try to remain content by living vicariously through his cookbook.

 

A Natural History of Wine

A Natural History of Wine

A Natural History of Wine

I wanted to expand my wine knowledge. This tome is by Ian Tattersall ( a curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History) and his friend, Rob DeSalle (also a curator of entomology at the Sackler Institute) Basically knowledgeable wine drinking eggheads. They go all sciencey and I readily admit to skimming portions of the book when it started to go over my head. I learned about grafting vine trunks, regions of the tongue and chemically what happens when you get drunk.  History at it’s finest.

 

 

Ok, you know I can’t end without including at least one bottle of wine. Besides, all the reading made me thirsty, so we ( hubs, my beloved and faithful drinking partner) opened a few bottles. This jazzy crooner was a suggestion from my little brother. I’d say he can pick’em.

A girl went back to Napoli because she missed the scenery . . .

A girl went back to Napoli because she missed the scenery . . .

 

 Hey Mambo 2013 Sultry Red California from The Other Guys. Easy to drink and nice to dance to.  There were some berries, low tannins and spice with a little vanilla on the finish.

 

If anyone has a favorite cookbook, I’d love to hear about it so please share! And happy spring!

Laird Syrah and ‘Open That Bottle Night’

February is gone but not the memories!

Many thanks to several diligent wine bloggers for getting the word out about ‘Open That Bottle Night‘. The Hubs and I opened a bottle we’d been saving from a special trip to celebrate in the spirit of OTBN. Two genius, genius wine writers inaugurated the event over a decade ago in order to give wine drinkers the nudge to open that one bottle they’d  been saving before it turned into wine vinegar. So on the last Saturday of February, wine drinkers all over the world break into their cellars and open a beloved bottle from a special occasion. For me, OTBN will officially replace February’s other holiday that turns even seasoned lovers into angst riddled, glassy-eyed card readers in the crowded aisles of Walgreens.

“Created in 2000 by ‘Tastings’ columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, ‘Open That Bottle Night’ is an annual occasion that aims to motivate people to reconnect with each other over a bottle, and create good memories with friends and family.” – WSJ.com

 

All I had to do was mention ‘Open That Bottle Night” to my hubby and he was half way to the wine closet before I finished speaking. He had a particular bottle in mind. A bottle perfect for a romantic and intimate affair wrapped in lovely memories. So what did we open, you ask?
The bottle came from a winery who only uses around 2% of their total grape harvest to make wine. However, they’re a heavy hitter in the grape growing industry with the other 98% used by some of Napa Valley’s most prestigious winemakers. Who is this farming Dynamo of the wine world? Laird Family Estate.

Our bottle was Laird Syrah 2012 Suscol Ranch.

Bing Cherries, Blackberries, Low tannins and acidty

Look at those Bing Cherries & Blackberries

Honestly, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to actually pull the cork. The plan had been to hold on to it for more than just a year! Unfortunately, when it comes to saving, we have to take extreme and drastic measures to insure whatever it is we want to save, actually gets saved. Our wine cellar is in the closet and not the safety deposit box down at the bank so the temptation was too great. Once the deed was done and the dark violet wine was poured, we had a wonderful evening of reliving our trip. We went back and forth, oft times interrupting each other or finishing the other’s thoughts while reminiscing about our favorite parts of the afternoon at Laird.

There was the small patio we sat on for the tasting with a clear, unobstructed view of vines, bustling Highway 29 and beyond. How we pressed our faces against the crush pad windows to get a peek inside. The hurried team of triathletes whose van stopped at the vineyard entrance to drop off one runner and pick up another. We got to watch each subsequent team race around like Nascar pit crews changing mates and gear. Free entertainment. And then our tasting room host, Clarke, who was excited the 49ers had just drafted former Sooner Blake Bell. It became a football fan’s paradise with the trifecta of college football talk, sunshine and wine. Plus, Clarke was a native Napa Valleyan or is it –ite? Anyway, once we’d realized we were all in the Blake Bell Fan Club, Clarke was a wealth of information on diner dives, shipping stores, local cheap eats, and of course, Laird.

Taken by Hubby from his lounge chair

Taken by Hubby from his lounge chair

The funny thing is Laird wasn’t even on our original winery line-up.

My husband, either through clairvoyance or by talking with a guy  at the dry cleaner who knew a guy, who knew a guy, somehow found out about Laird Family Estate. It got stuck in his brain until at the end of our wine-tasting trip, he pestered me to go by and at least ‘have a look around’.  As we pulled through the entrance and drove down the long driveway, a large greenish pyramid surrounded by fields of grapevines rose to meet us. Perched high on a hill, it reminded me of a temple. A wine temple, perhaps? The parking lot was bustling with exactly one car. This delighted my crowd-phobic husband who’d already endured large herds of the general public through the course of our Napa tour. He grew calm buoyed by the prospect of having the place to ourselves. Personally, I thought they were closed even though Hubs had just spoken to them on the phone. And then I thought the place must not be very good. Once again I’d blundered into forming the wrong assumptions. If only I’d taken to heart the fictional detective Nero Wolfe’s admonition, “Never judge a situation until you understand it.”  As penance, I’m calling Laird and have them ship me a case of their most expensive wine. Oh wait. This is a “No Wine Club” shipping zone. Oh well, maybe the thought will count!

bravoyourcity.com

bravoyourcity.com

californiawineryadvisor.com

californiawineryadvisor.com

 

As we entered the light and airy tasting room, Clarke, our tasting host, was waiting for us and the rest is a lovely memory of a relaxing afternoon spent drinking wine, conversing about our two favorite topics (wine & football) and basking on the patio in the warm Spring sunshine. Three cheers for the creators of OBTN!
If you happen to find yourself in Napa, here’s a few tasty tidbits to entice you to turn off highway 29 onto a long vine lined driveway. You’ll see a wine sanctuary perched above you known as Laird Family Estate. Park and climb, climb, climb up the stone stairs to the top. When you’ve caught your breath from the ten thousand stairs, holler for Clarke and grab a chair facing the road. I promise, it’ll be almost as relaxing as getting a massage.

Those Tasty Tidbits:
• In 1970, owner Ken Laird yearned to go back to his family’s farming roots and purchased 70 acres of orchard land in Napa. Knowing zero about viticulture, he looked up wineries in the phone book and wound up with Robert Mondovi as his grape/wine mentor.
• Laird offers crush pad services and wine making assistance for small lot and entrepreneurial winemakers. So if you feel the urge to crush some grapes, they’ll happily help you.
• Rancho Suscol was part of a Mexican land grant to General Vallejo in 1843, and later populated by the Patwin tribe. The region is cool and influenced by the San Pablo Bay. These conditions help create mature flavors and balance in the Syrah. – (Lairdfamilyestate.com)
• Our Laird Syrah 2012 was 100% Suscol Ranch vineyard, 100% Syrah, Winemaking Style: 60% new French oak, 17 months, Alcohol: 14.8%
– technical courtesy of Lairdfamilyestate.com

If you’re interested in those fabulously ingenious creators of ‘Open That Bottle Night’ or want to  know how to throw a OTBN party yourself, then click on these:

http://guides.wsj.com/wine/entertaining-and-celebrating-with-wine/open-that-bottle-night/

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB116976188871688189
Otherwise, open a bottle! Even a new one, invite your friends and make some memories!
~ Allison

The Winds of Modern Change are Blowing

 

vancitybuzz.com

pic by vancitybuzz.com

Just like the strong Spring wind currently rattling the windows, change is blowing in or rather brewing.  This change has been talked about, proposed, and argued over for a long time.

Come November, Oklahoman’s will possibly be given the chance to amend the constitution and take steps toward modernizing our liquor laws. Two legislative bills, SJR68 and SB383, have been proposed to allow grocery and convenience store to sell stronger beer, eliminating 3.2 beer, and  wine. Locally-owned liquor stores will be allowed to sell refrigerated beer as well as accessories associated with alcohol.  Sounds pretty amazing, right? Oklahoma is attempting to clear away some crazy  liquor laws. However, with any change there are always bumps along the way.

I fully support the modernization of our liquor laws but I’m torn between the two groups proposals:  one are the legislators behind the bill pushing to modernize and eliminate archaic laws and the other is the  Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma (RLAO) representing our local wine shop.
The RLAO wants to modernize the laws, too, for it would be in their best interest. But they feel the law favors large out-of-state retail conglomerates such as Walmart, QuikTrip,  etc. who will put locally owned wine shops out of business. The Oklahoma Retail Liquor Association (RLAO) filed paperwork with the Oklahoma Secretary of State to put a question on the ballot in November to allow full-strength beer in grocery stores and convenience stores, but virtually eliminate grocery stores’ ability to obtain wine licenses. In addition, wine would not be sold in convenience stores under their proposal.

Here’s RLAO’s State Question #785:

“Our petition is pro-consumer, pro-public safety and pro-small business. Highlights include:
* Cold, strong beer sold in every outlet that currently sells any strength of beer, including grocery and convenience stores.
* Grocery store wine licenses to allow both locally-owned and chain grocery stores to sell wine.
* Oklahoma breweries could distribute their products directly to Oklahoma retail package stores.
* Oklahoma breweries could serve and sell their product at their own facilities, regardless of ABV.
* Liquor stores could hold tastings inside their store.
* Retail package stores could sell any and all items sold in a grocery store with some restriction.
* Licensing fees from those businesses who choose to sell alcohol would go directly into state agencies whose primary purpose it is to reduce the number of alcohol-related injuries and deaths in Oklahoma.
* There must be at least 2500 feet between two outlets selling spirits or wine; existing stores grandfathered in.

It also allows the people of Oklahoma, through their legislators, to set the days and hours of operation for retail package stores but only specifically prohibits the sale of spirits on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. We wrote this State Question taking into account consumer demand for convenience along with consumer concern for safety. We feel it is a good balance and that Oklahomans will be more likely than not to vote in favor of it at the ballot box this November.”

Are wine-tastings coming to my local liquor store? (I hope!) Will large grocery conglomerates put my beloved wine shop out of business? Will wine and beer cost more? Can Senators who’ve written the bill and the RLAO find a commonsense compromise? Will Oklahoma move into the 21st  century?

So what do you think? Should Oklahoma open the door wide with full-on enthusiasm and let everyone have a license to sell? Or should limitations be put in place with only those currently selling 3.2 beer able to sell full-strength but nothing else? Honestly, they both sound reasonable but what’s the best way to step into the modern age?

Well stay tuned! Like this current election year we find ourselves living in, it should be one wild ride. The legal jargon alone is enough to give me a headache, however, I’m determined to hang in there and see if we take the steps necessary to modernize.  (I’m applying for my Costco membership right after I post this. JUST KIDDING! We don’t even have a Costco. But we might someday . . . )

Well, happy Wine Wednesday and three cheers to change!

 

 

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