Archive | October 2019

Braganini Reserve Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine

My cousin and I visited St. Julian Winery last year when I was visiting Michigan.  I had tasted a few wines of theirs before, but had never visited their tasting room.  That changed last September!  I loved one of their sparkling wines, and opened it a few days ago to celebrate – Saturday?

The Braganini Reserve Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine is non-vintage, and I found it impossible to decipher the Braganini on the label.  That was my only gripe though.  St. Julian’s tasting notes describe it as, “light golden, butter cream yellow in color. Lively, lemony acidity gives the spicy citrus and Bartlett pear flavors excellent structure and complexity. Crisp in texture, with shades of toast weaving through the lemon zest and honey suckle flavors with a refreshing Honeycrisp apple finish.”

I wish I had more of this wine!  It was delicious!


Book Review: All the Single Ladies

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, by Rebecca Traister

This is a book of non-fiction.  And a good one at that.

Traister, through an analysis of research studies, vital records and interviews with women around the United States, wrote a book that examines the costs and benefits of singlehood.

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation

Throughout history, it has been notoriously difficult to be a single woman.  With laws and patriarchal rules that prohibited women from owning property, limited inheriting, forced women into arranged marriages, made it difficult for women to get custody of children in a divorce, required women to quit their jobs if they married, prohibited voting and any amount of other nonsense, it was tough for a woman to choose to not marry.  Only relatively recently have women been able to make a different choice.

Traister explores several issues surrounding women’s marital status – both the pros and the cons:

  • the social stigma of being unmarried
  • the pain that women face if they are unable to find a suitable partner with whom to have children
  • the “mommy penalty,” which affects women’s careers and salaries after they have children
  • the impact of loneliness
  • government programs that are designed to encourage women to marry, instead of fixing the underlying problems of why they aren’t
  • the fact that women are perceived to be more loyal to their careers if they remain unmarried
  • that fact that women’s socio-economic status is closely tied to marriage
  • the rich friendships that single women can develop when they are not devoting time to a spouse

She tells the stories of some of the incredible unmarried women in history, who used their free time to advance women’s causes, such as suffrage, contraception and equal rights, as well as those to rose in the ranks to positions of power.  She tells the stories of a few incredible women who decided to ultimately get married too.

Traister doesn’t advocate for singlehood or married life, and instead simply advocates for women to have the choice, free from the hassle of absurd public policies that limit that choice.  While at times the book is a bit repetitive, and it is a slow read due to its focus on research and historical facts, it was an interesting deep dive into the institution of marriage for women and what leads some to follow a different path.

As a single woman, one who has a terrible experience with marriage, and who did not get the opportunity to choose to have children, this book resonated with me.  At times, being single has been a source of deep despair for me.  However, being single has also given me some incredible flexibility, to buy a home, advance my career, travel and plan for an early retirement, all on my own.  It is a double-edged sword, and one for which I am now incredibly grateful.


4 stars.

Circus Trip 2018: Newfields

Day 25, Thursday, August 9, 2018

Indianapolis, Indiana

After I toured Oldfields, I was ready for a bit of a break – luckily, the grounds at Newfields has a little outdoor café with a limited menu.  I stopped there for a bit and had a glass of white wine, some water and the charcuterie plate.  It was a nice respite on the hot, sunny day – because all that walking around in the sun wears you out!

After my light lunch, I went inside to check out the main museum building; it is incredible too.  There are four floors of exhibits, spanning a number of different artistic styles.  I have written before about the fact that I prefer traditional art to modern art, so I visited the traditional art exhibits.  There was so much to see!

I had no idea that the LOVE sculptures were originally an Indianapolis thing – they have caught on and moved to other cities around the U.S. and the world, but the original one is in Indy.  It was fun to see!

Let me just say that although I love visiting art museums, I rarely have the patience to record who painted or created what…  It makes it better if it is a mystery right?  I did capture some of the artists of these works, so enjoy!


Those Ears Though!

While looking for photos for another blog post, I stumbled upon a few photos that I had forgotten about.  They were taken from Jeff’s back porch in Siskyou County, California, the morning that I drove home after we visited Lassen National Park in July.  I was sad about having to head home, and we sat outside for a little while drinking coffee in the morning sun before I had to get on the road.  This guy has clearly been through some hard times, judging by that tear in his ear, but he was such a treat to see!  My first wild Jackrabbit photos!

Mimosa Me Crazy 5K

April 13 and 14, 2019, Everett, Snohomish and Seattle, Washington

Katy and I met our other friend Katie at her house after the Tulip Festival – the next morning we were going to do the Mimosa 5K down in north Seattle.  We wanted a bit of girl time the evening before, so we headed over to Snohomish to try out a haunted historic tavern called the Oxford Saloon.  The Oxford was originally built in the 1890s as a dry goods store and then became a saloon in 1910.  There are also rumors that the upstairs rooms were home to a brothel.  At least two people are known to have died in the Oxford, one was a police officer named Henry, who history says was a bouncer at the Oxford during his off time.  He was stabbed while trying to break up a fight.

The other was supposedly a prostitute named Amelia, who was found curled up in the closet of her room, dead.  It is not known if she committed suicide or was murdered.  Ghost hunters have investigated the Oxford; you can read about it here.  Henry, Amelia and Kathleen (or Katherine), the woman who ran the brothel, are all believed to haunt this historic saloon, whispering to patrons, touching people on the shoulder and moving through the saloon, especially in the basement and in the upstairs rooms. We didn’t see any ghosts, but our server told us that strange occurrences are common late at night after things shut down.  Maybe next time!


The next morning, we got up early and braved the cold for a non-competitive fun-run around Green Lake in Seattle.  I jogged a little bit but wasn’t that concerned with getting to the finish line fast.  It was fun to enjoy the mimosas and medal at the end though!  I’m a sucker for a race medal!  There was also some good live music and several great costumes.  We all had a good time and were able to stop off at one of my favorite restaurants in Everett, the New Mexicans, for brunch and a mimosa afterward!


I always love spending some time with my friends.

2019 Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

April 13, 2019, Skagit Valley, Washington

The Skagit Valley, just south of my home is one of the most productive agricultural areas in Washington.  Specifically, for flowers.  Even more specifically, for tulips and daffodils.  Every spring, the tulip fields are awash in color as the beautiful flowers peek out through the soil.  Every fall, these same fields are dug up, so the bulbs and their associated baby bulbs can be sorted; the bulbs large enough to flower are sold to people around the world who want beautiful tulips in their gardens.  The rest are replanted to grow bigger!

There are two main growers in the Skagit Valley who have beautiful display gardens.  In the spring, when the flowers are blooming, they charge an admission fee to see the gardens.  They are gorgeous!  Roozengaarde plants about a million bulbs each fall to create their display gardens, and each year the displays are different.  Yes, you read that correctly – a million bulbs!  In addition to the tulips, there are daffodils, narcissus, muscari and hyacinth.

Katy and I went down to see the gardens before continuing on to our other friend’s house further south.  The weather was dark, rainy, freezing and windy, but we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying the bright pop of color!  You can see in some of the photos just how windy it was.  The gardens are planted to create patterns; stripes and waves, and there are always a few surprise features.  This year it was the Seahawks football team logo!  Enjoy the tour!

After our visit, we stopped at the Porterhouse Pub for a bite to eat.  I had the salmon fish and chips and a cider, which were both absolutely delicious!

Book Review: The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian woman.  She was middle-aged and unmarried, living with her father and sister Betsie and running a clock and watch shop when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands during World War II.

The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom

Of course, the Nazis soon began arresting and deporting the Jews to the concentration camps.  Ten Boom and her family couldn’t stand by and watch their neighbors be rounded up and taken away family by family, so they began sheltering Jews in the home.  Gradually, as things became more desperate and more dangerous, the ten Boom family connected with the Dutch Resistance, participating in acquiring counterfeit food ration cards and having a false wall built in their home to hide the Jews staying there.

Eventually, they were ratted out and ten Boom, her father and her older sister were arrested, detained and sent first to a prison, where her father died.  Corrie and her sister were eventually sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.  You already know how conditions were in a concentration camp, and it was no different for Corrie and her sister. They leaned heavily on their faith, setting up evening prayer services and Bible readings in order to make it through.  As Corrie allowed herself to hate the Nazi guards, her sister taught her forgiveness, even of the monsters who imprisoned them.

I was surprised that I had never heard of this book, even though it was published in 1971, before I was born.  It tells an important story of the regular people throughout Europe who did what they could to fight the Nazis.  The story is timeless now, but still needs to be heard.  People need to understand what happened, or history will repeat.

4 stars.

Circus Trip 2018: Oldfields (Lilly House)

Day 25, Thursday, August 9, 2018

Indianapolis, Indiana

Oldfields was built between 1909 and 1913 on what was then the country outside of Indianapolis.

Oldfields is representative of the Country Place Era that was prevalent between 1885 and 1939; a reaction to increasing industrialization and urbanization around the United States during that time period.  It was built in the French Chateau style of an old country estate, providing the family an escape to the country when life in the city had a tendency to be dirty and stifling, especially in the summer.  While it was originally designed and built for the Hugh McKennan Landon family by his brother-in-law, architect Lewis Ketcham Davis, the 26 acre estate was purchased by Josiah K. Lilly, Jr. in 1932.

After the Lilly family donated Oldfields to the Art Association of Indianapolis they used Oldfields as exhibit space for several years, before putting the home on display as a historic house.  The first floor has eight rooms decorated in the 1930s country house style, and there are a few exhibits upstairs.  Your admission to Newfields includes a self-guided tour of the Oldfields Mansion.  It is beautiful and worth seeing!  I enjoyed wandering from room to room, checking out the period furnishing and the 1930s styling of the home.  Again, though, the whimsical plastic elephants were not really my taste.

If you are at Newfields, be sure to check this home out!

Note: Newfields refers to Oldfields as Lilly House and Gardens, but I am choosing to call it by its original given name.  I’m wild like that.


Book Review: Furious Hours

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, by Casey Cep

This is hands down one of the best books I have read in a while.  I checked it out from the library’s online audio book selections because it was available, without knowing anything about it.  Was it non-fiction?  Fiction?  Did Harper Lee sue someone over book rights?  Was she sued?  I was intrigued in my ignorance.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

As it turns out, you get two fascinating non-fiction stories for the price of one.  Enter the Reverend Willie Maxwell.  A smooth talking, well dressed man, who supervised a lumber crew by day and preached by night.  And who had a thing for insurance.

As it turned out, over a period of two years, six people close to the Reverend died (five were family members), most in “car accidents.”  Except they didn’t look like your typical accident; the vehicle in each situation was not damaged enough for investigators to believe the accident would have killed someone.  Six people: two of Maxwell’s wives, his second wife’s first husband, his brother, his nephew and his adopted daughter.  And oh, isn’t it interesting that there happened to be multiple insurance policies on each person, purchased by the Reverend, with Maxwell listed as the beneficiary?

The Maxwell case took an unexpected turn, and Harper Lee decided to take a trip to Alexander City, Alabama to research the case and write a book, her first since To Kill a Mockingbird.  Lee had helped her close childhood friend Truman Capote research his best-selling novel, In Cold Blood, and Lee thought that this would be her ticket to her own true crime book.

In addition to the story of the Reverend Maxwell, Cep also chronicles the life of Harper Lee, from her childhood in Alabama, her process of writing and publishing To Kill a Mockingbird, and her struggles after the book immediately became one of the most influential books in history.  Lee was not fond of the fame the book brought her, and began to live as a near recluse, turning down almost all requests for interviews and appearances.

Lee also struggled with profound grief; she had always had a complicated relationship with her mother who died young after struggling for years with mental illness.  She was much more affected when her brother died suddenly shortly after at the age of 30.  He had been her anchor and the sibling she was closest to.  Her father, whom she deeply admired, died after a long, slow decline – even though she was older, his death was hard for her to cope with as well.

Lee’s life was often messy, with decades spent trying to create the next novel to follow Mockingbird.  She developed close friendships with her agents and editors and outlived them all.  She struggled with alcoholism.  She had her ups and downs with Capote, eventually losing touch with him entirely.  She had a love/hate relationship with New York; loving its bustle and culture and the anonymity it afforded her but feeling the pull of small town Alabama.  Her one constant was her family.

The book is candid about Lee’s life, neither idolizing nor maligning her for the way that she lived after Mockingbird came out.  Cep simply tries to tell it like it was.  Cep’s writing fully develops the characters in a way that few authors do, and that is difficult when you are trying to accurately portray real people.  I listened on audiobook and couldn’t wait for my drive so I could start back up where I left off.  Brilliant.

5 stars.

Women I Admire

“The women I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong and they handled it. They handled it a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.” Elizabeth Gilbert

I have to admit, most of my shit has been working out right now (I say while knocking on every single piece of wood I can find anywhere nearby).  I’m happy.  I’m (mostly) healthy – just dealing with the usual pitfalls of being a woman in her 40s.

I never knew how true the saying is – youth is wasted on the young!  Here I want to go and explore and adventure and run races and hike mountains and stay up late reading!  But the reality means I have to pace myself – while kids just want to play video games and wander around saying, “I’m bored!”  If I knew back then what I know now, I am sure I would never have let myself be bored.

Work is challenging at times but good, and I’m content with where I’m at in life.  Of course, I would like to be retired, but that’s a subject for another time.  I miss dad, but the raw ache has subsided for me.

My mom has been living her shit show lately though and she’s been handling it.  It’s been 8 months since dad died, and a roller coaster of all the minutiae of what you have to do when someone dies.  Finances, investments and tax professionals are very few people’s idea of a good time.  Add to that mice in the crawl space, then yellow jackets in the crawl space, and handling all the house stuff that dad used to do.

My uncles have been here a few times and have been wonderful with knocking out a honey-do list of chores.  It has been a godsend for both my mom and me.  But mom is the real superhero.  She just keeps tackling the things that need to be done.  One thing at a time.  One day at a time.  Over and over until the pendulum finally swings back towards the easier times in life.

I know she misses my dad terribly.  I know she feels cheated out of years with him – it’s a reasonable feeling, she was.  She got the short end of the stick.  It isn’t fair, and it sucks.  And there isn’t anything anyone can do to change it.

My mom instilled in me the sense of getting back up when you get knocked down.  She famously told me, “you can do anything for 90 days,” during my divorce.  It ended up taking a year and a half because my ex was being so difficult, but I’m not holding that against her.  As it turns out, you can do some things for a year and a half too, if you need to.  Some days are harder than others, but you just keep doing what needs to be done and maintaining the upward trajectory.

So here’s hoping that the pendulum keeps swinging back towards good.  I love you mom.