Thursday, October 29, 2009


As a reminder for all days, good or bad, I have a clipping from a magazine on my fridge that reads as such: “Do not hope for a better past”. And I try, every day, to remember that. And along with the past that we cannot control, I also try to remind myself not to hope for a better “whatever it is we cannot control now ” anymore. But that second self- imposed reminder seems to elude me. Every day …And I keep wishing. And hoping. And dreaming …

But as the song goes … I or maybe the world seem(s) to be “out of aces”, lately, and I am left with the dreaming.

I wish for a day when work is easier and more fulfilling. When people make sense, finally, in the office building, and their demands are not just swayed by a falling economy and a shrinking industry. Or by their own frustrations that they cannot make a difference in a decaying world.

I wish for a day when I can actually get myself to believe that it will be better for us, newspapers, banks, textile industries, real estate people, etc. I wish for a day when benefits are given where they’re due and as they’re promised, not snatched away. A day with health insurance for all, and without nickling and diming everything we touch …

A day where work is more than a job and a means to pay the bills. A day where it’s not an insult to your intelligence nor personality to work for someone.

A day when more is more. And less is less! And they don’t cross each other.

I wish for a day where people won’t complain about the cost of daycare, rising gas prices and utilities bills. I dream for that day to come back where people used to go to Europe in the summer as the “cheaper alternative”.

I dream of a time where we were not thinking of the small, family-owned diner in the corner as “pricey”. A time when McDonalds was just plain cheap, not just “cheap if you ordered from the dollar menu”.

I dream of a time when people are actually looking forward to Christmas, when Christmas is indeed the brightest light of the calendar year, and not some other obligation that comes with another year of debt.

I wish for a time when they made movies like Gone with the Wind and Love Story. When they actually made art, and not filled up two hours (or more) with people simply moving across the screen looking pretty and waiting for the millions (of dollars) to drop while uttering lame lines.

I dream back of a time where I got a paper card for my birthday and a letter from my best friend – not a text. Nor an email. I wish we lived again in the age (you remember that??) where people wrote in full sentences, with full, dictionary searchable words, and not just acronyms and abbreviations!

I dream back of the time when we all read. And listened. And not just watched.

I wonder back of the time when cars only went 50 miles an hour. And the speed limit was 20 miles an hour in downtown.

A time when people didn’t drop like flies because of heart attacks! Nor cancers … When people ate tomatoes grown in their back yards, as a mainstream. And really knew how to make orchids re-bloom.

I wish for a day when people go out in the park to look at changing leaves, and someone doesn’t come out to

ask “why”.

After all, The Phillies are in the World Series two consecutive years in a row, so why is all this other stuff so unbelievable?? Just joking …

I wish for a time when people wrote truly timeless lyrics like the ones below, that inspired and moved you to your core, that opened the listener’s eyes to a life lesson and made them shiver with simplicity - not so much uncomplicated eloquence these days indeed, in our music.

As June Carter used to say, to paraphrase: lyrics that mattered:

“You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.”

(Kenny Roger’s The Gambler )

But, alas, I am a dreamer! And on and on my mind goes …

Although it would do me a great deal of good to stop dreaming for a better … uncontrollable present.

I wish for a life with more meaning. Just as much as purpose. For everyone.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Apple Strudel

If you’re supposed to have a green thumb for being a good gardener, then I think I have two of those. But if you’re supposed to have … oh, let’s say … a white thumb for being a good baker, I have two black ones!

I can cook till the cows come home. I think. I am not as good as my dad, of course, or mom, not as good as an Iron Chef, on TV, but let’s just say it’ll be tough for anyone to starve at my place! But I cannot bake. I even tried those cans of dough where everything comes prepared, and all you have to do is follow directions about the heat and the time in the oven, and I cannot even bake those! I either burn everything (most common) or everything is raw, if it involves dough.

It seems like the Good Fairies forgot to put that in my mix upon my conception . That is very strange, too, because everyone in my family is a cook and a baker. Mom makes pies and cakes every weekend. My sister makes her own crème brule and her own birthday cakes, too. My mom’s mother made everything: Easter and Christmas pound cake, with walnuts and cocoa, the best apple pies and apple strudel that I have had in my life, the best puff pastries ever! Not me. I cannot bake to save my life. I waste ingredients! I should be restrained when I attempt it. It’s a disaster …

But every once in a while, maybe once a year, I become brave and attempt baking. This weekend’s been cold and dreary and I had some leftover apples in my fridge, from my nephew who would not eat them. I do not eat apples. But I love apple-made stuff. Go figure!

So, I bought some puff pastry dough, and thinking of my grandma and asking her for guidance, I threw the apples in the food processor, mixed some vanilla extract and sugar in with some lemon juice, and make this paste … Filled the dough with the paste, smeared everything with melted low fat butter and put that in the oven.

Of course, the directions failed me again: 350 degrees for 30 minutes rendered my strudel raw. So, I watched it like a hawk for the next 15 more minutes, and it turned out beautiful! Now, I am waiting for the cool down so that I can slice it … My grandma used to use confectioner’s sugar on top of it, but you know me and sweets: we don’t mix. So, I will just eat it as is, with coffee in the morning …

I cannot wait! It looks like there is nothing but pure delicious flakiness and freshness in there!

Flaky perfection! Yum! (if I say so myself)

I am just shocked that it looks done and it’s not burnt. Not even the bottom! It smells delicious in here. Today is the day when I should show my house for selling. Anyone would buy it smelling like this! It smells like Christmas, like home, like happy memories.

This is definitely a first success! I have never made anything edible with dough! I think my grandma’s spirit visited this weekend, on her birthday, and took care of my oven!

Happy birthday, grandma, and … thank you!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Convert, a Common Passion, a Great Find

To my best friend, my travel buddy, my love and my partner … Thank you for the journey. Always.

It’s not the first time when you hear I love wine. I love drinking it, smelling it, I love watching grapes grow, and learning about all wines. I grew up where people make their own wines like you make your own pies – it’s just routine.

My boyfriend, Aa., can take it or leave it, for the most part. Whereas I passionately drive long distances in search of the next sweet wine, he is comfortable with what he knows he likes, and that’s not much, I’d say, judgingly.

Saturday was being forecasted as rainy and gray and no good. So, it was not open to much outdoors gaming, and I planned a visit to a winery or two instead. It was a risky endeavor, since as I told you, his passion is not wine. To be cooped up in a car driving to get tipsy on wine tasting is definitely not his idea of passing the time. But … I ran across the perfect compromise (thank you, Google!).

I googled “NC wineries map” and I came up with a couple of wineries that are not too far from Greensboro – and as any wine drinker knows, that’s not too hard to find.

This way, I found one winery I knew he would absolutely flip for! It’s Autumn Creek Vineyards , in Mayodan.

Autumn Creek Vineyards tasting room

Both Aa. and I are log cabin people. We love wood, the smell of it, the fibers, and structures, we would inhale it, if it were possible. Autumn Creek was the most amazing “a-ha” moment of the year for me, when I saw their website: not only is their tasting room built in a log cabin, but they have several cabins for rent on their property. And we both have been looking for log cabins for rent around here, lately.

They all looked well built and the surroundings looked pristine: woodsy, wild, untouched, and just beautiful!

The place is even more amazing experienced first hand. It’s hidden, and there are no highway signs, but they do a great job with the website: good directions, and inviting pictures, to call your name. Once you know the address and you tell your GPS, it is not hard to find, but don’t expect to just roam about the countryside and run into it. It’s tucked away! As the wine “coach” said “if you get lost in these parts, you might could find it”.

The place is really, really an oasis of beauty and simpleness. These people didn’t skimp on anything when they came up with this cabins-in-the-woods-and-wine idea! Everything is well done and well made. Real wood, real bark, real stone, real fixtures. The inside is a mixture of rustic and comfort. Solid wood walls shelter the stainless steel appliances and leather couches.

The buildings complement the surroundings, and not violate them: the woods, and the pastures, the old tobacco barns and the dirt roads, the red Carolina clay. The wine has the North Carolina Muscadine presence through it, full of flavor and body, but it will appeal to dryer palates, as well. The people working there were friendly and knowledgeable, not pushy, but welcoming and helpful. And honest.

Aa. is typically harder to impress than me, but he was taken by the easiness and uncomplicated beauty of it all, as well. We visited a couple of the cabins, and kept making plans for our future home. I was floored when he bought two, not one, of the Mayo River White Muscadine bottles. And I giggled inside when he picked a sweeter rather than a dryer wine. This shall be a good match, after all.

I had brought him up there nervously, hoping he won’t hate it, but his enthusiasm about the way the place was built and managed, as well as about the wine was surprising and welcome.

Later in the day, we took a countryside ride, towards another winery of the Yadkin ValleyShelton Vineyards. I loved their Riesling ever since I ordered it at Printworks Bistro in Greensboro, so I have wanted to visit them ever since. Turns out that their Riesling is their best selling wine. Shelton, by contrast, is a big business affair, with a wine store and three distinct wine bars for tastings. We took a winery tour and did the sweet wine tasting (of course!), and walked about the property that had a craft show and a bluegrass concert on the menu that day, also. In other words: a perfect North Carolina day, clouds and drops of rain and what not …

The way the whole (wine) world should function: keep the reds and the whites separate, folks!

Shelton Vineyards tasting bars

It turns out an impromptu planned day trip is not ever wasted arrangement. We came back with wine, pictures, memories, plans for the future, and ideas on how that future will be built. Literally. Not bad for a rainy, fall day, after all.

PS: Thank you, Aa., for your always good eye in shooting some of these pictures.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Long Short Week

I have needed and craved a vacation for some time now, and when I do finally get it, it’s never enough. Never enough to do everything I want, never enough to spend plenty of time with people I love, never enough to rest.

This week, I have spent some time anywhere between the Ocean and the trails of North Carolina with two of my favorite people in the whole world: my sister and my nephew.

We had a packed schedule, to ensure lots of fun was had and lots of sights were seen. We also had a very cranky and restless 17 month old on our hands who made sure we were on our toes the entire time …

If his style was cramped because his routine of playtime-nap-food-playtime was off, he made sure ours was also. But through it all, cries, and screams, kicks and punches, poopy diapers and abused cats, scraped knees and bruised face and fingers, sleepless nights and missed meals, we had a week to remember for sure!

We loved climbing the trails at Stone Mountain, getting him acquainted with the big blue ocean for the first time, sharing chicken fingers on the docks of Cape Fear River in Wilmington, shopping everywhere possible (it seemed) in Greensboro, Carolina Beach and Wilmington, climbing up slides and playgrounds in town, seeing the fish and wildlife at the NC Aquarium in Fort Fisher, even playing at The Children’s Museum.

Through it all, with as many challenges as this week’s had, I kept thinking how grateful and blessed I am that I have had ONE week with them. This time will never come back. He will never be 17 months old and confused about the world ever again, like he is now. He will not speak like he speaks now, in baby-ise for long. And he will not need his apples and mangoes all meshed up to eat them for long either …

I loved it all, as exhausted and drained as I feel. Thank you for the visit, little man! You have taught me a ton this week: Like you can make a receiver with your hand and pretend you’re speaking to someone you miss dearly (like your dad), or that it doesn’t matter that your chin is dirty and your pants are wet, nor does it matter whether you’re sitting in a fancy blue chair or on the kitchen floor – as long as you’re feeling good and having fun. You also have taught me that my cats really do have more patience than I was giving them credit for!

I miss you already, although you’re still here, napping upstairs.

Thank the skies for a wonderful weather week, also! It's been perfect all around.

All of us, on Carolina Beach, NC
(click on the picture for all the shots from this trip)