Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Let's Play Cards!

Seems as though whenever I get art time these days, it's for cards. I'm restocking my inventory at Creative Wellness, a wellness center here that offers massage therapy and other services -- and has a nice little shop.

They wanted some get well cards...

...Birth cards...

...and some general ones.

Those that don't go there will go into my winter sale.

So, these are just a few. More to come as I hope to get some creative time over the holiday! Or, maybe -- if it's nice and sunny -- I'll just spend it on the beach!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cork Poppers Enjoy Amalfi Coast Wines!

"In vino veritas." ("There is truth in wine.")
Pliny the Elder

(The photo above is not Pliny the Elder.)

Pliny the Elder was killed while observing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Prior to his death, he also would have noticed that some of the land of the Amalfi Coast was destroyed. It is an area that produces some, but not a lot, of wines. In fact, there were few enough that our wine guide, Dick, also included some wines from Sicily in our tasting.

Those we tasted ran the gamut from one that all liked to some that were -- well, not bad, but overpriced by comparison to some other excellent offerings.

Wines have been grown in this region since Greek times, but of low quality, Dick explained, adding that one wine expert said you could count the fine winemakers of the are on one finger!

Our first wine was from one of the Amalfi Coast wineries. It was a Terra di Briganti Falanghina Sannio 2009, a white wine from Campania, Italy.

I liked this quite well for a white and wrote "very pleasing" on my notes. At $12.59 it as our least expensive wine of the day.

In the white category, Rick favored the LeTerre del Gattopardo Vespro Grillo/Chardonnay 2009 IGT. I learned that IGT is the fourth and last in the classification of wines, less qualities than the initials VDT, DOC and DOCG (saving the best for last.)

Rick said "I could drink this one all day long," which might be an exaggeration, being the red-wine drinker he is! But it was quite nice. I enjoyed that it was feremented first in stainless steel barrels before moving into oak. I'm not big on oak and you could tell it didn't start there.

This was one of our wines from Sicily. It was $15.39.

Then back to Terra di Briganti for an Agliancio Sannio 2007, a red, again from Campania.

This wine is certified organic and a deep red. It was very fragrant and had extremely smooth tanins. Dick said this is one to open several hours before drinking. It was rustic with predominately tart cherries when first opened and he also recommended filtering it.

At $14.69, it was one we all liked.

The next wine, from a different vineyard but from the Terra di Briganti company, was Aglianco Sannio Martumme 2007 DOC Sannio and Taburno.

It was very dark with a nice finish and again, should be decanted and filetered many hours before. Rick liked this better than the first red. At $21.99, we probably won't be picking any up at the store.

Our fifth wine was Grifalco Aglianico Del Vulture 2007 DOC. It was very dry and Mike mentioned that the flavor didn't mellow out with drinking.

"It sticks to your tongue," Anne said, and Meredith agreed, adding "It's like sandpaper." (Pity -- it was such a pretty bottle -- and there is a lesson in that!)

It was the first time -- in all of our tasting -- that Barb put it in the dump bucket, and she likes everything! At $19.99, we all agreed to give this a pass.

Finally, another Sicilian wine, La Terre del Gattopardo Notte, Nero D'Avola 2009, IGT.

This had a wonderful finish was was a uniform favorite and it was my favorite of the day. (That said, we are always cautioned to beware of the last wine of the day -- the palate is desensitized by then.) It was $15.79.

As I said, I'll probably be giving most of these a pass, when there are so many tasty wines between $8 and $12. But of course it's always delicious and fun!

After the tasting, Roger took us "up the river" (the Grand River, that is) on a short boat cruise.

It was a perfect summer day, neither too hot nor too cold, sunny -- but not "too."

We noted some lovely wildlife. At first we thought these deer were statues.

Then we saw the doe move her tail.

Altogether there were about 10 or 11 of them, male and female, one rather determined to get into the house through the back door. It was lovely and tranquil.

We also spotted Harry the Heron's distant cousin (Harvey? Maybe!)

Our cruise ended back at the house where we enjoyed our always-wonderful dinner (Barb said it was becoming Gourmet Club!).

Meredith made place cards with photos reflecting various parts of our region and it was quite perfect!

Then it was time for yet another birthday celebration! And this time, Dick got to share in it and Rick a tad belatedly!

Good friends, good wine, good cake. It was a wonderful re-entry after vacation.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tony Packo's

We're working backwards now. If you read my vacation posts, I said we'd get back to Cleveland. That was the first leg of our trip and it started with a visit to Tony Packo's in Toledo for lunch -- this was the original.

Chili dogs are their specialty, as are some Hungarian dishes. You order from the cafeteria line.

By the time you get to the end, you have a full plate with sides including the most fabulous pickles I've ever had. (And yes, I bought some in the gift shop!)

Tony Packo was a factory worker, the son of Hungarian immigrants who lived in Toledo. In 1932, smack in the early years of the Great Depression, he and his wife got a $100 loan and opened a sandwich and ice cream shop, having learned the restaurant business from his brother. The location was on Consaul Street, in a Hungarian neighborhood.

Hot dogs were his game and Hungarian hot dogs were his specialty -- a specialty he invented himself. And people loved it! In fact, they soon expanded the size of their shop and shortly after moved to their current site at Front and Consaul streets. The restaurant is still run by the Packo family.

The restaurant came to the attention to those in my generation through a little TV show called "MASH." Corporal Klinger, the wacky medical can-do guy of the 4077th, was played by native Toledoan Jamie Farr.

In the episide, he was interviewed by a "newsman" and added his own ad libs into the reply. Screenwriters loved it and included the show in several episodes, including the most-watched final episode.

You enter, order from a long counter, looking at the menu printed on the wall, get your food...

...and then find your seat.

Along the way, you can take a look at fun things on the wall, like a portrait of the MASH cast or the "signed" hot dog buns that are framed in the wall.

The first signature was from summer stock player Burt Reynolds, a star on tour. Now there are several frames with many signed buns.

Check out the menu for items like Paprika Dumplings with Gravy, Hot German Potato Salad, wonderful strudels, cabbage combos, and of course, the celebrated hot dogs.

Then make a stop at the gift shop. You'll find the usual t-shirts, mugs and other souvenir items, but you'll also want to buy the four-star pickles (offered as a side dish on the menu) spicy and loaded with garlic, or the hungarian noodles. They also offer a sweet version of the pickles and I wish I'd bought both!

If, like me, you enjoy neighborhoods that seem little changed since the 1930s, take a walk around a couple of blocks near the restaurant.

You'll see some beautiful old churches (services in English and Hungarian)...

...cleverly named shops...

...original buildings...

...and houses that were smack out of a Frank Capra movie. And, if you're really lucky, you'll see an orange cat that much resembles The Marmelade Gypsy!

If you're in the Toledo area, give the original Tony Packo's a try. Yes, there are chain locations and the food is good. But this is the real thing!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

31,536,000 Seconds

They all add up. Every second counts.

This past week, I hit the 31,536,000 second mark in my lifetime.

It's been a rough summer here. Some of you know a little more on that than others. The Reader's Digest version is that between fun times at the lake and a terrific vacation in the Carolinas, my world went a little haywire.

In addition to managing my health issues and concern about Gyppy (who is doing well, by the way), I returned from vacation and one week later, 10 of my colleagues, friends and partners in broadcasting were laid off. Budget. Had to be done. It could have been any of us. And the thing is, we all get that. Except that is little comfort.

Good grief, they are more stoic than I am. The Survivor's Guilt has worn me down. But then, knowing something was imminent was equally anxiety-producing. Without going into more detail, my heart aches for each and every one of them, but in particular those who have families requiring medical attention, kids in college, or are simply of an age where finding a new job is hard.

(In fact, may I recommend an outstanding post by Dr. Kathy McCoy on retirement and rehiring when you've hit the boomer years.)

What mask do you wear?

Happy Girl? Miss We'll Get Through It?

After this week, I just want to turn my head, look away, so I can't see the pain and they can't see it reflected in me.

Amidst all this, I turned 60. Now, the logical part of me does not see this as old. I know the most extraordinary 60-and-70-and-80-something people in the world. They inspire me. Sixty may not be the new 40, but it isn't a death sentence.

Yet, I've been having a really hard time with this one. Maybe it was the lead-in, with the extreme stress and the litany of deep concerns. But I'm sure it's in part because you realize that if you make a continuum of years, even if you expect a long life (and I have bad genes in that pool), the marker clearly shows more space on one end than the other. Lop off a few years for the slow-down -- well, it means there is a lot of living to cram into that space.

My cousins started the ball rolling with an early celebration in Cleveland, where we stopped on the way to SC.

Cousin Mark's girlfriend Jaime made an incredible cake, Duff-worthy!

The entire family was there and they serenaded me to a series of birthday songs, "Happy Birthday," "Jolly Good Fellow," "The Gang's All Here" and "Roll Out the Barrell" -- my first time ever for the birthday songs live!

There was food, presents, fun -- but most of all, lots of love. And spending time with the cousins who are more like a brother and sisters to me.

As we spoke about my birthday in the weeks leading up to it, Rick said, "What do you want? A party?" I said, "No. I'm too tired and can't handle one. Just a quiet dinner. Let's go see 'The Help.'"

So, he set a table on the patio on a warm summer night, and we had the best wine ever! A 2006 Morgaux Grand Cru Classe, Cafe Tertre, delicious red. (Highly recommended!).

We had a delicious dinner and then, about dessert time, I noticed that a huge group of my friends had gathered. (They're sneaky devils -- I didn't even hear them come in!)

Surprised? You bet! Happy -- yes. By then, I was so happy, I was glad to share this day.

Somehow, Rick managed to pull in friends from so many of my walks of life. If they were in his address book, he found them! He did such a good job, but most of all, I was touched by his kindness and thoughtfulness.

We won't talk about the days after when I got awfully sick! Because even as I was laying in bed with chills, I thought, "I am the luckiest person in the world."

I am beginning to make my way around the Blog World, catching up with you. I've found it interesting that so many posts seem to be relevant to what I've been experiencing emotionally these days, and I've found great strength. Thank you. Thank you so very, very much.

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