Sunday, February 28, 2016

My New Romance

I have a new romance.

Statues at Absolute Gallery, Lansing, MI

Think small. Very sharp. unless you are looking for a more painterly effect. Able to see great distances clearly. Equally able to creatively interpret any subject in a variety of ways.

I have a new camera!

The object of my affection is a Canon SX170 that fits into my pocket or purse, has a 30x zoom and more effects than I can count!

I've been playing with its effects and rather delighted with the one pictured above that takes several different creative views of a subject with one snap -- color, black and white, tinted, even a water color effect. (I'm still trying to find that one as a specifically selected option!)

The zoom is fabulous. The view below shows us about 30 feet from that back wall. High on the wall, on the right. A bit to the left of that large white poster are are some hats with price tags.

Anyone want to buy a hat?


How about checking on the speaker's facial features?


OK -- Silly pix (and probably a bit shaky given the full zoom and handheld) but hey, it's a new camera! Do you realize how this could come in handy? Why, when I tried it out at Best Buy I was at least a half block from some boxes on a shelf and when photographed, I could read the contents! I see many sneaky applications for this!


I thought I'd really try putting it to work with my favorite subject.


She's not a particularly willing model, but she'll do in a pinch! OK, I confess, she'll more than do!

And the selfies aren't bad, either!

Can't wait till Harry the Heron returns from his winter in the South!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Brief Winter Reprieve at the Ditch

So, earlier this week I decided to check out the ditch. It couldn't have been a nicer day. The sun was out and so were the ducks!

I've never seen so many -- they were even on the large pond, which isn't a spot they normally hang out. When I moved onto the smaller ponds, they were there, too. And so were people!

I had a wonderful chat with this blind gentleman who was identifying the mallards by their calls.

And of course there were runners and dogs...

And beautiful views. You rarely see it like this in February.

Most of the time it is a little more white -- like my neighbor's yard the following day!

The snow hadn't even stopped when I took this photo...

...or when my neighbor Frank was blowing out the driveway.

If anyone is happy about this it's Ms. Lizzie -- she's loving the feeding frenzy!

Me? I'll put myself in the "I wish we were back earlier in the week" camp!

PS -- Since I wrote this draft, we got 12" on snow in that storm, so says the weather guy and it's supposed to all melt over the next week! Weirdest winter ever -- El Nino, thank you!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Cork Poppers Go Northern Italian

With Valentine's Day on the calendar for February 14, Cork Poppers managed to do the red-and-white theme nicely on Valentine's Eve as we celebrated the holiday with a love of wines from Northern Italy!

This is a long one because we had eight great wines and lots to say about each of them. It may have been the best tasting we ever had but if you don't enjoy wine or our weird comments, you can skip down to the flourless chocolate cake recipe at the bottom! I should also mention (and will again!) that we aren't total lushes. The tasting wine is split to 12 people for each bottle. Just saying!

Rick pulled together an early glimpse of the region, learning that the most respected and elegant wines of Italy are in the Northwest corner, near France, in the region of Piemonte (Piedmont), including the Barolo wines, gathering the highest DOCG rating. They tend to be the most expensive (which may be why we didn't have any of those!). Lesser priced wines produced in the area from the same grape, including the Barbaresco and Gattinara wines, tend to be more reasonably priced.

Decanting -- Rick and Mike take care of the reds!
First order of business, decanting the reds -- decanting is always wise, letting the wine breathe. Even a so-so wine can improve with a little decanting. Well, maybe not college kid wine...

After loading up our plates with cheese, bread and crackers (from Pat, Jan and Rick), we were ready to taste. For white wine fans, the Pinot Grigios are popular and we were lucky to start our tasting with two of them. With Italian Pinot Grigio wines, it's best to drink those produced within the past two or three years. Both our offerings fit this category.

Clayton offered the Ruffino Lumira Pinot Grigio 2014 Delle Venezie IGT. It was tart and acidic and as he said, would be "great on the boat!" Cheryl noted it "tingles on your tongue for a long time" and Rick observed that it had structure to it. Cheryl, our resident white wine drinker was the first to go for seconds, adding that she liked it a lot.

Price: $12 about a year or two ago.

Dick was up next with Alois Lageder's Pinot Grigio 2014. We found it had a totally different finish and Dick observed it wasn't as spicy as the first. Rick noted it was "mellow" and "not a wine to watch football with." He also called it sophisticated. I liked that one a lot as well, perhaps slightly better than the first but both were very good and comparatively priced ($12).

We were up next with the first red of the day, E Solo 2013 Barbara Provincia di Pavia IGT. Everyone seemed to really like this (including Rick, who praised me on my selection!). Clayton called it "yummy," and that was an apt description. "This really says 'come and get me' and I really want to go and get it," someone commented. It comes from Lombardy's westernmost province bordering Piedmont and is an area not famous for its wines. I think our group would disagree, especially at $12.

Rick liked the wine I picked -- and so did I!

Mike was next with 2012 Luchessa Lia Barbaresco DOCT 2012. This one had an odd rusty/pinky/maroon sort of color when poured, more like a Pinot Noir than a full red. Barb noted "it's odd." We agreed it had smoky and spicy tones. I found it a bit more bitter. Other comments included "upfront" and "swallow and it stays with you for awhile."

There was some good discussion on this one. Barb and Mike preferred the E Solo, while Dick preferred this one. It was at this time that we came up with what we call the PSR -- Price to Satisfaction Ratio. This one cost $20. Compared to the earlier one at $12, the first had a better PSR ratio. For those of us with limited wine budgets, this is a decent measure.

Mike and Barb
Our fifth wine was from Bob -- a Corteforte Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Classico Superiore by Podere Bertarole. This comes from the Northeastern area of Italy near Verona and we all found it pretty tasty! Dick called it "the best red so far" while Barb was trying to decide between that and the E Solo. It was a very good wine but at $16-$24 online, but for me the PSR was high. (Bob bought it at a boutique grocery and realized after purchase he had paid too much for it -- $34. Always price check!)

Jan was next with Mignanego Barbera d'Asti DOCG 2011. Rick said it was his favorite to date with a "corner to corner structure"and Dick took back his assessment of the previous wine as best of the day and declared that this one was his favorite. Apparently 2011 was a very good year for this region ("no wonder it is so good!" said Dick!). Being lighter bodied, it is best enjoyed a few degrees cooler than the heavier reds.

Jan paid $13 for this (most found this a very good PSR!) and purchased it out of town. At least two members of our group were ready to send her with money to buy a case of it. I wouldn't mind her picking up a few bottles of this for me, too!

Pat was next with La Fiera 2014 Montepulciano dÁbruzzo. The label, with its carousel reflects the region of Bruzzi, originating in a medieval court and later replicated.

We gave this an "off the charts!" PSR. It might be my favorite -- Dick again changed his mind on the "best" and declared: "THIS is the best. BEST!" (The declaration of each wine being the best tends to be Barb's domain, a point that was not lost on Anne, who turned to Barb and said, "He's turned into YOU!")

And why did we love this one so much? Well, apart from being delicious, that PSR rating was based on it being $9.99 and for a $10 bottle of wine to be that good, was a real treat. It would be a great one to include in Coq au Vin or Boeuf Bourgenogne when you have to dump the better part of a bottle of wine in the stew and you want it to be good -- but not that pricey!

Dick and Anne. Dick saved the best for last!

But Dick saved the best for last with a Valpolicella Ripasso 2013 Superiore DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta)  by Marchesi Biscardo. As someone said when they first sipped, "This is not ten dollars!" Other comments included, Ï see whales going by. I see whales and fishes." "This is very good, and I don't think it's because it's the twentieth bottle!" (It wasn't -- only the eighth -- and we have pretty small sips when dividing up a bottle of wine between 12 people, lest you think we are all wild and crazy drunken folk. I feel compelled to remind you of that.)

I wrote "This is my personal favorite -- it is to die for,"and Bob summed it up with "This is DOCGEFG!"

 This brings up the question -- why did we save this for last? We should be drinking it out of crystal glasses -- especially when we learned it was $30. Definitely a special occasion wine. I'd call the Price to Satisfaction ration pretty equal. Expensive but fabulous.

It's a good thing we follow these tastings with dinner and hosts Dick and Cheryl served up a magnificent pork roast with a wonderful berry sauce. Barb had provided a sweet potato casserole and corn souffle, Anne a vintage salad. I know there were other things but I forgot to photograph them!

Fortunately Cheryl photographed my flourless sugarless chocolate cake. Here's the basic recipe -- one pound of chocolate (bittersweet or semi-sweet -- I mix half and half), two sticks of butter (melt together over simmering water), eight eggs beaten about five minutes and 1/4 c. coffee, poured into chocolate after melting and off the stove. Fold eggs into chocolate 1/3 at a time till streaks are gone. Put in a springform pan (greased) with tin foil wrapped around the outside and place in a roaster. Put pan in a boiling water bath, halfway up the side of the pan and bake at 325. Easy and fabulous!

All in all, a four-star Cork Poppers and some of the best wines we've tasted. It was also a day filled with love and fun, and what's not to love about that? (And thanks to Cheryl for some of the photos!)

This post is linked to "Talk of the Town" and "Thoughts of Home on Thursday" -- where you can check links for decorating, creativity, entertaining and more ideas!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

For My Valentine

It started many moons ago. Rick and I have celebrated twenty Valentine's Days together but I think the first poetry book I made for him was a year or two after it all started. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift but I ran out of time -- and in time found it a better gift for the holiday of love anyway!

I will make a book of some sort -- and they have varied from pop-up books (that nearly killed me) to one with watercolor illustrations, photo books, envelope accordion books, journals that were already made and I filled to journals I made myself.

Each included poetry related to our year and this year was no exception.

This year's book used journal pages made in a workshop taught by Kari McKnight Holbrook that never quite got sewn together. (This was a good thing because I could add or subtract to fit the content!).


The books were 140# watercolor paper with fluid acrylics and stamps, cut into thirds and halves. If anyone really cares how that was done, I can explain better in an email!

I wrote till I ran out of creative thoughts and then started putting it together, printing the poetry and photos on vellum and gluing them down.

Then I did a few line markings and drawings in Pitt pen, just to add a little more interest.

After sewing it up, I did the cover, which included some raised blue metallic tape, a Margaret Furlong heart and a title from my label machine, along with some beads.

It wasn't a surprise. At this point in the game, it's a highly anticipated event!

But he liked it!

I guess I'll be doing this again next year!

(Oh, and for those who mentioned it before, Rick did make me the loveliest valentine at my card making party! A genuine treasure!)

(This post is linked to Jemma's Thoughts of Home on Thursday. Visit for decorating, recipe and craft posts!)

NOTE: I have just realized that my feedburner subscriptions have not been arriving for blogger blogs so if I've not been visiting that may be the reason. I've tried to figure out how to fix this -- to no avail. Are you able to receive mine if you subscribe by email? Just curious! Trying now to add those of you without google friend blog feeds into bloglovin'. Just a head's up.

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