Somm Thoughts on Napa

 

I first visited wine country in October of 2005. My family and I had moved to Southern California a year earlier and going to Napa seemed like a very West Coast thing to do. This was a short trip that my husband and I took with another couple. The four of us spent time enjoying our digs at Auberge du Soleil, touring wineries via bicycle and dining at restaurants such as Thomas Keller’s Bouchon.

I think we spent two nights in Napa, but to be honest I don’t remember much of the details. Wine country has a way of erasing details. The highlight of that visit, beside bonding with another couple from our new hometown, was the bike tour. But that was because: drinking wine — while riding a bike — in a group of people! The tour guide wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about wine, or if he was, I don’t remember him sharing that knowledge. And the wineries we visited were for the most part not memorable. In a nutshell, my inaugural Napa vista was mostly about drinking wine and having fun. I left loving Stag’s Leap Winery cabernets, but knowing nothing about the reason why.

It took 10 years, but this past December I finally returned to Napa. And this time the visit, which I shared with my immediate family, in addition to being about drinking wine and having fun — was all about education.

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Here’s a bit of what we learned while touring wineries:

  • When it comes to certain wine-related topics (the virtue of viscosity comes to mind), opinions vary.
  • When it comes to using descriptive language to illustrate the smell, taste or finish of a wine — anything goes. Is the finish like sandpaper? Do you like wines that “rip your face off”? Do you smell grass? Say it!

Which brings me to:

  • According to the wine experts we met, what you smell, what you taste, what you like — it is all just fine. They say that there is no right answer (I feel like there probably is) and that there are no stupid questions.

However…

  • You can swirl your wine glass too much.
  • You can kill the smell of your wine, if you swirl your wine glass before smelling it.
  • You shouldn’t say that you don’t like a specific varietal. According to the folks we spoke with, that would be like saying you don’t like pizza, when it reality, you don’t like Pizza Hut pizza. You might LOVE New York pizza or pizza that was prepared to your tastes, if given the opportunity to taste it. (If you don’t like pizza, I am okay with that. I am also okay if you don’t like specific varietals.) (I am just the messenger.)
  • Take a sip (or six) of wine before you take a bite of your food. Wine-coated tastebuds neutralize the sugar in your saliva, which makes the taste of the food come through.

And…

  • The soil in which the grape is grown is the secret sauce. And the consistency and composition of Napa soil can vary greatly. That’s why some Napa wines will rip your face off while others are shy. (I am going to be sure to describe a wine as being “shy” the next time I go.)  Somehow, I missed this lesson completely the first time we visited the region. But I left this time understanding that I am more of a Rutherford gal than anything else.

I also learned:

  • Visiting Napa in the winter, in the slow season, is great! We were the only guests in our Winemaker for a Day program and we were able to get reservations at some very good restaurants . Additionally, when taking vineyard tours/going on tastings, the groups in late December were small. This was especially nice because it meant we were able to ask a lot of questions.
  • While touring a vineyard (if you have paid for a tasting), you can usually order wine at the wine club price without actually joining the club. And if you do join the club, you can drop out before any additional wine is sent.
  • Staying in Yountville, during the off-season, is smart. It is probably also smart to stay there during the peak season. But you will pay more.

Three full days of wine tasting and vineyard touring was about my limit, but I am glad that I live a short plane ride away. I’ll be back, Napa. And in the meantime, I’ll slowly work my way through the bottles of wonderful wine that we bought while there.

Cheers!

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Even the Losers


For those of us who regularly follow sports and have specific teams that we always root for, a big loss can be very tough to take. As a lifelong fan of the Atlanta Braves, a 25 (plus) year fan of the Georgia Bulldogs and a former season ticket holder for the Atlanta Falcons, I know this as well as anyone.

This past December, my Georgia Bulldogs lost a heartbreakingly close Southeastern Conference Championship Game [SECCG] to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Here’s some of what I posted on Twitter after that loss:

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Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 3.52.45 PMI went in search of those tweets after seeing how fans of the Seattle Seahawks were conducting themselves on Twitter after their team lost to the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s NFC Divisional Playoff Game. While not happy about some of what the Seahawks fans were tweeting, I was fairly certain that when Georgia lost the SECCG that I had probably expressed my disappointment, heartbreak (and bitterness) in a similar manner. After re-reading my Twitter feed from December 1st-December 2nd, and after going through many of the tweets that were posted under the hashtag: Seahawks, I’ve come up with a theory.

And here it is:

The Five Stages of Grief, though originally identified by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as pertaining specifically to death and dying, can be applied to almost every type of meaningful loss that we experience in life–including those that relate to sports.

And to illustrate my point, I’ve *curated a collection of tweets from Seahawks fans that were posted in the period immediately following their team’s loss up until almost 24 hours later. I am not trying to pick on the Seattle fans–not at all. They are famously known for their role as the “12th Man,” so I thought that their post-loss behavior would make an excellent case study.

Stage 1: Denial.

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Stage 2: Anger.

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Stage 3: Bargaining.

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Stage 4: Depression.

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Stage 5: Acceptance.

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 1.43.40 PMAnd because this is my blog (and my social experiment), I am going to add a sixth stage: Grace.

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How do you handle it when your favorite team loses a big (or little) game?

*All of the tweets that I’ve shared here were posted publicly on Twitter.

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Waiting

“I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.” ~E.V. Lucas Photo ©2011 The World According to Jennifer

Big Hair… Big Heart?

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My big hair, prior to Keratin treatment, but–after–it had been slightly tamed.

When left to do as it pleases, my hair is: big. I’ve got some wave, and if the length remains above my chin, also some curl. But for the most part, my hair is just big. And big, (as far as I can tell anyway), went out in the 1980s. So, after struggling for almost a year to grow my locks from the short pixie cut that had been my signature style since the late 1990s, I decided to venture into the world of chemical straightening.

In August of 2012, I had a Keratin treatment applied to my hair. This was not something I did without reservation. I had several of those. My father died at a young age of a non-smoking related form of lung cancer, so for me, the fear of breathing in formaldehyde fumes was very real. I took care of that concern by asking my hairdresser to blast two fans on my face. And I also had a washcloth at the ready to cover my nose. My other main worry was that my hair would go from being big–to being flat. I have a long face to begin with, and the drowned water rat look doesn’t make it appear any shorter. This potential problem was addressed by leaving about an inch to an inch and a half of my hair (at the root) chemical-free.

My initial reaction to the straightening was one of excitement. Prior to having the process done, I spent a lot of time with my blow dryer  and flat iron. My hair is big–remember? Big hair does not go down without a fight. After the Keratin treatment, my hair was so straight that I could have let it air-dry. But I didn’t want to do that, because the one or two times I did, I kind of looked like a drowned water rat. Oops.

It’s now the first week of January, and the Keratin treatment is almost grown out. And I don’t think I will have it applied again. Here is why:

  • My hair, despite overuse of the flat iron and blow dryer, had been very healthy prior to the treatment–and now it isn’t. I have a lot of breakage, most noticeably in the areas that surround my face.
  • The smell of the chemicals, (even with two fans blowing on me, the front door of the salon open, and a wash cloth pressed to my nose) was at times overwhelming. My eyes teared up often during the process, which tells me that my body was not reacting well to the odor.
  • The treatment definitely reduced the time I had to spend styling my coif. But in the end, even when using a blow dryer (and not the air), my hair was too flat.

So in 2013, my mantra will be: bigger is better! And once again, I’ll be cranking up the flat iron. If you need me, I’ll be in the bathroom.
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My hair immediately following the Keratin treatment. Note: the drowned water rat look is not yet in full effect. 

While I Was on Hold…

In March of this year, I traded my Droid for an iPhone. And a few months later, I started using the photo-sharing app, Instagram. And a few months after that, I created an iPhone photo-based blog. Today, as I was thinking about writing a year in review, it dawned on me that I have a nice visual record of the past nine months. So I am going with that instead.

There is no comparison when it comes to the camera on my iPhone 4S and my Canon DSLR. And for that reason, when photographing professionally, I will always use the latter. But… there is a lot to be said in support of a quality camera that is the size of a deck of cards. There is something about capturing the small, and often undetected, moments in life that really appeals to me. And let me tell you, it’s a heck of a lot easier to photograph people on the street–when they don’t know that you are doing it.  That is reason enough for me, when doing street photography, to choose the camera in my phone over my bulky DSLR.

Interested in learning how to do a bit more with your phone’s camera? If so, this article offers some good tips.

Here are some of the images I captured on my iPhone 4S in 2012.

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All images ©2012 The World According to Jennifer

Happy New Year! And thank you for being a part of my world.

What Not to Wear–Ever

In the three-year history of The World According to Jennifer, there is one post that has been demonstrably more popular than the rest. Confessions of a Short-Waisted Woman, in which I write about my lifelong struggle with trying to dress in a way that kind of sorta makes it look like I have a definable midsection, is the most searched, commented on, and read, of my 155 entries.

So it should probably come as no surprise that I have been itching to take another stab at the world of fashion. But I didn’t want to just take a stab. I wanted whatever I came up with next to come from a source of inspiration. It was after all, a life well-lived, but lived without a real waistline, that inspired my first successful fashion-related post.

It has taken a while (one day shy of 23 months, but who’s counting) for lightning to strike again. But today–boom!–it did. (Oh wait, that’s thunder.)

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(photo credit: http://www.saksfifthavenue.com)

I came across the above dress (I would use the word sack, but the high-end retailer listed it as a dress and I am going to take them at their high-end word) online while perusing a 40 percent off sale. Here’s the view from behind:

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(photo credit: http://www.saksfifthavenue.com)

This lovely little frock originally could have been yours for the very reasonable price of $1,515, but is now, thanks to the holiday discount gods, available for a mere $909. That’s quite the bargain–no?

What? You don’t think wearing this dress could change your life? Look at the model! She clearly feels great about herself in this red-hot number. I’d even go out on a limb and say she feels confident and probably beautiful. And who wouldn’t when wearing such a fine example of couture?

And lest you be confused, this design is indeed considered to be couture. It originated in the house of Comme des Garçons, a Tokyo-based fashion label that reportedly grosses around $180 million in revenue each year. The best part? Comme des Garçons is French for: “Like the boys.” I am going to assume that in this instance, that stands for “thinking like the boys.” Because there is no way any woman–at least not one who actually likes other women–could have come up with this particular design.

There you have it, my fashion advice for what not to wear–ever.  I hope I helped. I suspect that I did.

Most of the Time, It Is About Who You Know

I spoke on the phone with Dr. Ruth once. The conversation was short (it was Dr. Ruth after all) and involved no sex talk. At the time, I was working on an idea I had for a photography book and Dr. Ruth was one of several celebrity-ish people I approached about participating. She turned me down, but did so over the phone and only after telling me how much she loved the concept. As rejections go, it wasn’t bad.

I also chatted about my project with Mean Joe Greene, the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler who was known for selling a Coke or two. I don’t think he ever really considered participating, but it was nice that he took the time to hear me out.

And I received the following rejection from Bil Keane, creator of the Family Circus cartoon:

I liked the late Mr. Keane’s “no” so much that I had it framed.

You might be wondering how I was able to get in touch with the above mentioned folks. The answer to that question can be found in Bil Keane’s letter. I had a name; I knew someone. Though, that connection was very limited. In 2002, I photographed former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and his grandson. I was a portrait photographer in Atlanta and Senator Nunn’s daughter came to me via a word-of-mouth referral, which was how I generated all of my business.

I must have done a good job on those photos, because when I told Senator Nunn about my idea and asked if I could feature him in my book–he said yes. Feeling a bit emboldened, I then requested permission to use his name to secure other participants–and again–he agreed. That was the end of the connection. I had use of a name, but not use of a Rolodex. I made all the contacts myself and included a link to my website in every query letter I sent. Examples of my photography, and the concept for the book, were proof that I had ability. But, there is no denying that my entry (even in the instances where my foot never crossed the threshold) into the world of the celebrity-ish was due to the fact that:

I knew somebody.

With the economy being what it is, and the job market tighter than tight, who you know–and who they know–really does matter. The success of LinkedIn, the online site that bills itself as the world’s largest professional network, is proof of that. As is the fact that being social, both online and in person, is easier than ever. You can connect with people on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, YouTube–and if you want to go old school–Facebook.

Marty Ingels, husband of Shirley “Partridge Family” Jones, also rang me up. I think his call was to figure out if I was on the up and up. He was funny and his voice reminded me of my dad’s–which I told him. In the end, I must not have passed his smell test. As we neared the conclusion of our conversation, Marty said that he would: “check Shirley’s calendar” and get back to me, but he didn’t.

Had Marty been able to read my Twitter stream, or view my about.me page, I have no doubt that me and Mrs. Jones would have worked together. But alas, at the time our call took place, Zuckerberg was still working on outsmarting the twins Winklevoss. And Twitter was but a glimmer in Jack Dorsey’s eye.

With one child entering college and the other firmly established in high school, I am at a stage in life where I really want to put my creativity and business acumen (I’ve got boat loads of both) front and center. “What I know” definitely remains my strongest selling point, but I am also going to need to get some help from the connections I have made in person and online. “Who I know,” especially in 2012, remains crucially important. In the meantime, I’ll continue to extend my hand to others–because that’s “who I am.” 

Just so you know, not everyone turned me down. In addition to Senator Nunn, famed college football coach Bobby Bowden was, according to his wife, Ann, a go. As was George Clinton, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician who among other things is known for founding P-Funk. His inclusion would have been beyond stellar.

Sadly, my book never came to fruition. An unforeseen opportunity (“Let’s move to California and start a business!”) got in the way. But you can bet that I am still patting myself on the back for securing George Clinton’s yes. And Dr. Ruth, if you are reading this, call me. I have a new idea I’d like to run by you.

*Punk Rock Girl

I’ve written here before about my love of documentary films. And if you are at all familiar with this blog, you also know that I am very fond of music and that I have a special affinity for the bands that populated college radio in the 1980s. In fact, one of my boards on Pinterest is primarily dedicated to artists from that time. So, I am sure you can understand the high level of giddiness I felt recently when I had the opportunity to marry these two passions.

First, I viewed the documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. I had the pleasure of seeing Fishbone in concert during their heyday. The energy of the band and charisma of lead singer, Angelo Moore, was unlike anything I’d witnessed before or since. And did I mention that Fishbone has a horn section? I am an absolute sucker for a horn section.

As much as I love Fishbone’s music, that wasn’t what made this documentary for me. It was the story of the band’s origin, struggles, and determination to keep on keeping on that had me hooked. I came away feeling a bit sad, but was also inspired. And after watching the film, I couldn’t help but think that Norwood Fisher, Fishbone’s bass player and co-founder, would be a very interesting person to interview. I’d like to do that one day.

Here’s the trailer:

The second doc I watched was: The Other F Word, a film that explores fatherhood through the sometimes bleary eyes of aging punk rockers. I have to stop here and say that I don’t think all the musicians featured in this documentary fit that bill. Who issued Blink-182 a punk rock card? Because I would like to check that person’s credentials. I realized, however, after posting about this on Facebook, that my idea of what is punk might be different from those who came of age in the 1990s and later. I guess I can accept that. But no way I will ever see Mark Hoppus and John Lydon in the same light.

Despite my above quibble, I thought The Other F Word was entertaining and quite touching. I will admit to even shedding a few tears at one point. And I found it interesting, though not surprising, that most of the men in the film had strained or non-existent relationships with their own father.

Here’s the trailer:

If you only have time to watch one of these movies, I’d recommend going with Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. Raised on the East Coast, I didn’t really have more than a passing understanding of what life was like in L.A. during the effort to desegregate public schools. I enjoyed and appreciated the way that Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler, the filmmakers behind Everyday Sunshine, wove that information and other historical context into Fishbone’s story.

Now for my burning question: Which bands do you think best exemplify the spirit of punk rock?

And while you are thinking about your answer, here’s a photo for you to ponder. I feel almost certain that this guy, who I spotted recently in NYC, doesn’t listen to “pop-punk.”

*Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been, anything close to what would be considered punk rock. Though, one Halloween when I was still in college, I combed my spiral perm over my eyes, donned a black leather jacket, black t-shirt and black skinny jeans and went out dressed as Jenny Ramone. That was fun. 

Time, You Thief!

After almost a full year of being on college admissions overdrive, I’ve come to the conclusion that Tom Petty was correct: “The Waiting” is the hardest part.

Had you asked this past October, I would have said that getting my daughter to complete her applications was the most challenging of the admissions-related tasks. A few months before that, I would have sworn that convincing her to expand the rather small list of schools she was considering was the most arduous of my jobs. And this time last year, I have no doubt I would have told you that getting my girl to focus on grades and standardized testing was impossibly exhausting.

Now that this is all behind us, I can say with absolute certainty, that the period between December 6 and December 15 (the final week and two days before decisions were released) was by far the most difficult time of all.  And that’s because all we had left to do was wait.  And wait we did. I’ve never known time to pass more slowly—and I’ve been pregnant twice! If you haven’t experienced pregnancy yourself, I am here to tell you that nine months spent walking around with another human being lodged in your gut does not pass quickly.

But this felt worse.

And then, with the click a MacBook Pro trackpad, everything was good again.

I will never forget the moment that my daughter learned that all of her hard work had paid off.  And I will always hold in my heart the memory of the two of us, her hands clasped inside of mine, jumping up and down and screaming in absolute joy. Her dream school said: yes!

And now, several months later, I find that time won’t slow the hell down. The universe is playing a sick joke on me. The days are flying by. In just a few months, my baby will be heading out.

My daughter asked me recently if I would “feel sad” when she is away at college. I responded that I would definitely miss seeing her on a daily basis and would also miss the pleasure (and that is exactly what it is) of her company. I added, making sure to stress every syllable, that as long as she is happy, I could never feel sad.

Now, I have to work on putting that into practice.  And I better hurry… because time is flying.

*sigh*

I was named, in part, for the title of this poem. How appropriate it feels today:

Jenny Kissed Me

by Leigh Hunt

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief! who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;
Say I’m growing old, but add-
Jenny kissed me!

 

Boxy but Safe

The mail carrier (that’s the term we use now, right?) showed up at my door the other day with a certified letter. I couldn’t make out the contents while signing for it, but I did notice that the return address was Texas and that the envelope had the words: Auto, Title and Legal Notice stamped in red ink on the front.

The purpose of the note, as it turns out, was to inform me that someone had dropped a Volvo convertible that I used to own off at a repair shop in Houston, Texas and–oops!–they forgot to return for it. The certified letter went on to say (keep in mind that I haven’t owned this car since May 2009) that the car had a mechanic’s lien attached to it and would be auctioned if I didn’t pay the almost $3,000 that was owed for replacing the transmission.

Wha?

I immediately placed a call to the service station. The woman who answered the phone told me that the mechanic wasn’t there and that he didn’t have voice mail, so I would have to call back. I don’t like having stuff hanging over my head, so I dialed the dealership that I purchased my current car from. I had traded the Volvo in as part of that transaction and was hoping I could put this off on them–and go back to enjoying my life.

Not exactly…

Josh, (the manager who had the good fortune to answer my call), did some digging and sure enough when he plugged in the VIN for that particular Volvo, my name and address showed up as the last registered owner. This meant that whoever bought the car from the auction house (the one that Josh’s dealership sold it to) never bothered registering it.

Josh told me that in all likelihood the Volvo was taken across state lines and operated *gasp!* illegally. And then, to add injury to insult, the jerk blew out the car’s transmission and abandoned it.

Who does that?

I feel bad for the Volvo. She (yes, it was a she) was a good car. And though her top malfunctioned a few times and her acceleration left a lot to be desired, she was the primary mode of transportation for me (and my kids) for almost eight years. And she served us well. I should add that I also feel sorry for the mechanic, who in what I am sure was an act of good faith, repaired my old girl. He deserves compensation.

My husband and son suggested we go to Texas and stage a rescue operation. We were after all still listed as the last registered owners, couldn’t we just pay the ransom bill and buy the Volvo’s freedom? I quickly shot that idea down (though, to their credit, a customer service agent from California’s DMV made the same suggestion a few days later).

The moral to this story (it’s my story and I want a moral, so bear with me) is that some people do bad things. Also, and this is kind of important, when you sell (or trade-in) a vehicle make sure you fill out a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form. The first DMV rep I spoke with said I had not done this for the Volvo and could be held responsible for all tickets, liens, children birthed out-of-wedlock, etc.. The second rep, (he’s the one I like), said that I had in fact filled out the form and it was on file.

So my question for you: How connected are you to your car? Connected to the point that you assign it a name and gender? And kind of miss it once it’s gone?

This, by the way, is not the type of connection I am talking about…so don’t even go there.

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