Welcome back to Vines!

I recently had the pleasure of attending a wonderful mixer and re-introduction to the Vines Restaurant right here in our own backyard at the Hyatt Regency Valencia.  Barry Prescott, General Manager, produced an event that struck a perfect balance between good food, good drinks and good people.  If you find yourself in the Santa Clarita area, give the Vines a try, it’s worth it!


How Wine Tasting Can Change Your Life in the New Year

Have you taken a moment to stop and identify your goals for the New Year?  If you’re like me, you’ve had every intention to set your goals, but somehow you lose sight of them.  So this year, I’ve resolved to make sure that I focus on my goals and start living the life I was meant to live.  Of course, I can’t do this without wine!  Wine plays an important part in my life, it represents my passions and my thoughts, so I turned to wine to teach me what I need for the new year.

There is so much wine, and so little time.  We taste and taste, and then we have difficultly describing what we taste and what it was that we tasted.  This is what it is like for me when I make my new years resolution.  Every year, I make so many of them, that I lose track of what they were or why I made them.  This year, I’ve only made one resolution – I’m going to do things different.  This is my plan…

Setting the Scene

When we are wine tasting, the circumstance in which we taste affect our judgement.  Is it a good day? A bad day? Do you like where you are at?  Do you like who you are sharing this experience with?  If all of the factors are aligned in a positive direction, chances are that you’ll have a more favorable impression of the wine you are tasting.  Conversely, if it’s negative, no matter how good the wine is, chances are that you won’t think of it in a favorable light.  Goals are no different.

When life seems to be going in a positive direction, our goals are more aligned with positive thoughts because they stem from positive experience.  When life is not so great, then our goals tend to revolve around change.  Change isn’t always easy, so set the scene for yourself.  Before identifying your goals, identify what you would like your scene to be next year.

What does it look like?

Setting your scene takes reflection.  Much like wine tasting, we are told to stop and look at the color of the wine.  If you look closely enough, you can get a better idea of the age of wine.  Is it bright and vibrant or is it dull and brown?  I’ll give you one guess on which represents youth vs age.  When you are setting the scene for your goals, what does it look like to you?  Write that down.  Picture it.  Remember it.  Live it.

list-800759_640Get in there and Sniff and Taste

I once read, that life is experienced through our senses, and I believe this.  I like to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Wine tasting is exactly all of those things.  It’s the look of the wine, the sound of the story behind it, the taste of it, the mouth feel and the aromas.  It is an all encompassing experience of the senses.  So life should be the same.  Get in there and be a part of life, don’t just watch it pass you by.  So what if some of the experiences aren’t what you thought, or are scary, or different.  At least you experienced it, and you lived to tell about it.  I read a post on Facebook this morning that read: “It’s time to start living the life you imagined”.  This year, I’m jumping in and going to start doing just that.  Like you, I have dreams, and it’s time to make them happen.

Good Wines Finish Last

The finish of a wine is the amount of time the aroma and the flavor remain in your mouth after you swallow.  All factors being equal, the wine that is usually the better wine, is the one with a long finish.  It’s memorable, durable, lasting.  Life, next year, needs to be the same.   Build strong foundations and work at making relationships last, whether in business or personal.  Be memorable and plan on making it a lasting finish, because once we start, there is not stopping us!

The End… But Really the Beginning

Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible, and inspiration for this piece, as I’m currently reading her book (again), writes on the art of mastering wine.  She explains that she wrote this section of her book knowing that some would breeze through it looking only for the juicy parts. “But the truth is that a really intimate knowledge of anything necessarily beings with the fundamentals of that thing.  With wine, I’d even go one step further and say that the capacity for pleasure — the capacity to be thrilled by wine — is ineluctably tied to understanding it in all its most basic naked details.  Anyone can drink good wines and anyone wealthy enough can drink rare, super expensive wines.  But without knowledge, the soulful, satisfying part of the experience is lost.”

Life, is the same.  We are intimately knowledgeable about our own lives, but we tend to focus on the things that, sometimes, aren’t the ones that will let us live the lives we dream about.  So this year, let’s be thrilled by our own lives and remain focused.  Let’s take the time to find somewhere comfortable and reflect on life over this past year and identify the life we want next year.  Be clear, write it down, start living that way right now.  Review notes daily, make changes as necessary and really get in there and live that life with all of our senses.  Let’s leave an impact on not only another’s life, but on our own.  And, let’s remember that when one season comes to an end, it represents the beginning of the next one.

This is my resolution.  What’s yours?

What’s more important?

I just spent a great weekend with my family celebrating Christmas.  As usual, my mom did an amazing job with the food and everyone was in great spirits.  A new tradition that my little brother and his wife have started is breakfast on Christmas morning – this year I was asked to bring a dish and it turned out pretty darn good if I may say so myself :) .

Anyways, during the morning we got into a conversation about a friend of our who recently paid his debt to society and is now out trying to re-enter the world.  He’s far from perfect and has a long way to go, but he says that he’s taking it day by day — I really hope he is.

My sister-in-law commented on how he made her feel uncomfortable on a recent visit — nothing that he did in particular, just his presence.  She said that she didn’t know why, and she gets that she doesn’t know him very well, so it was just a feeling.  I, on the other-hand, grew up with him.  I explained to her that growing up, he was always vying for attention — and any attention was good attention to him, even if it was bad.  But that despite all of his many many flaws, I respected that he was a man of his word.

Enter another mutual friend, one that is very close to her and my little brother.  This “friend” is one who is known to take advantage of situations and of people. I personally don’t think he is a good person because he is a proven liar.  My brother and sister-in-law insist that to know him is to love him.  I, on the other hand, still classify him as a man of no integrity because his word means nothing.

I have known both of these men, my friend and theirs, all of their natural lives – which is now around 30 years.

So which is a better person?  My brother insists that their friend is the better one because he has not been in jail and does not illicit an intimidating air.  I, on the other hand, feel that my friend is a man of his word, and therefore is a man of some integrity.  I guess it comes down to trying to define what makes a person one of quality.

I think it’s fair to say that we will probably never agree on who is the better person.  I wish my friend luck and strength to continue to take things day by day and to hopefully make good decisions.   As for their friend, I wish him well as well.

Extreme Couponing – Lessons Learned

Extreme Couponing – I’m always amazed when I watch that show. I recognize that it’s for our entertainment, but if it weren’t for that show, I wouldn’t have known where to even look to begin to learn how to save money using coupons.Anyways, I’ve been couponing since mid-May and my average savings are about 60-70%. Twice I’ve managed to get 94% savings or higher — those receipts are taped on my fridge to remind me that it is possible.I find that I spend about 6-15 hours a week on couponing – when I combine clipping & organizing coupons, reviewing the ads and then actually doing the shopping. I have a subscription now to 2 newspapers (both of which I spoke to the newspapers and was able to get a discount just by asking — and the total for both newspapers, Sundays only, is costing me $4/year). If the coupons are good that week, then I’ll pick up 2 more at the local stand for a cost of an additional $2/week — but that usually only happens once or twice a month. I found that working with 4 inserts maximum is the best for me, otherwise I get overwhelmed, confused and frustrated. PLUS most coupons I’ve noticed limit it to 4 like coupons per visit — and since I do work full time, I just don’t plan on visiting the stores more than once a week.

Personally, I don’t see the point in spending thousands of $ in newspapers to purchase things that I simply don’t have the space to store, nor that I use. I completely understand donating unused items – but I’m really focusing on making my ends meet before I start solving the rest of the world’s problems. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also pretty heavily involved with non-profit organizations – so I’m not a selfish person – but as that trusty flight attendant suggests before a flight, I need to place the oxygen mask on myself first before I place it on those around me if I want to be of any assistance.

Anyways, thanks to a simple show, I’m now learning how to reallocate my money within my budget. I’ve read a TON of posts over the past couple of weeks that really knock the show down. I get that this show may not portray the reality of the sport, but I guess that’s why it’s on television — because otherwise it would just be a class at the local rec center. I watch the show to remind me that it is possible to save money if I pay attention to the tools that are around me — in this instance coupons and store sales.

Learning how to use coupons and pay attention to sales has made a difference not only to me, but to my parents as well. Being “Senior Citizens” they are on a fixed budget. This past weekend my mom and I sat down and put her binder together and then we went to a couple of stores so that I can teach her the little things I’ve learned so far to save money. Yesterday she had a 70% savings on her 1st trip purchasing items that both she and my dad use daily. I was so proud to be able to show her something that would make a difference on the bottom line.

So for all the sites and postings I’ve read who seem to look down on the show and all of the new couponers trying to score a deal — I ask that you please consider the good that the show does for some other viewers who are learning how to make ends meet in today’s tough world.

Just my .02

Stabbing your Ex — and other things to do with cutlery…

Little known fact about me is that I’m kind of a foodie — by that I mean that I enjoy cooking and I actually think I’m pretty good at it.  But I don’t only enjoy cooking, I enjoy exploring new recipes, learning new techniques (because I don’t know that many) and trying new foods.  The reason I bring this up is because I was only this evening looking for a good and affordable set of cutlery.  So of course, after traversing through one of my favorite web sites – Food Network — I opted to check out overstock.com — where I came across a unique set designed by Italian designer Raffaele Ianello.  Who is Raffaele Ianello?  <shrug> beats me, but according to his website, he designs “cutting edge, ground breaking and thought provoking products” — I’ll say!  The design I saw that made me think WTF was this one:T10220048

Twisted right?  And get this — this is called “The Ex”!  Overstock.com’s description reads:  “Though frowned upon by many, stabbing your ex can really give you some closure, although it’s often the kind of closure that leaves you closed for thirty to life.”  And it goes on to say that the set not only “makes a great gift for any occasion and it’s also considerably cheaper than therapy”  Like really?  I’m not sure if I’m more disturbed, or if I find it more funny than anything else — or maybe I should be disturbed about the fact that I find it funny???

So of course I had to do more research on this piece, along with others from Mr. Iannello.  I learned that The Ex has made its movie debut in Jim Carey’s Yes Man! And that Mr. Iannello also has another piece called The Five Finger Fillet which houses steak knives….


Crazy right?  All I know is that whereas I wouldn’t buy it for my kitchen, and no matter how twisted they are, they’re definitely conversational pieces that are pretty funny.  If however, you find that this is something that you would like for your kitchen, then check out overstock.com or Mr. Iannello’s website at http://www.ricsb.com/us.

Blogging from my cell phone?

As I was window shopping in the “marketplace” within my cellphone, I came across an application that allows one to blog directly from their cell phone — yes I’m feeling a little behind the times about this. But, at least now I know that it is in fact possible! The challenge… make the next post from my phone. The next steps.. figure out exactly how to do this. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Speaking a different language

I’m a little sad.  I’m sad because I realized this evening that one of my dearest friends and I are just not connecting.  I’m not sure when this happened, but I think that it must have been recent.  I’ve noticed that she and I can’t seem to have a conversation without one of us getting defensive.  It was recently compared to oil and water or a married couple who just doesn’t know how to communicate without bickering.

This hurts because my friends really mean the world to me.  My first impulsive says to go up and talk to her, to ask her what’s wrong.  But I realize that the timing isn’t right.  It’s not right because the conversation would no doubt go something like this:

me:  Are you mad at me?
friend: Why would I be mad at you?
me: I don’t know, I feel like you may be mad at me and I’m not sure what I did.
friend: we’re fine
me: ok

But what I would really be thinking is — what do I do now?  how do I fix this because there is obviously something wrong, otherwise it wouldn’t be this awkward.

If you know me… like REALLY know me, this kind of situation causes me to retreat.  I start to wonder if my presence is wanted or I start to think that by staying away then I won’t escalate the situation – whatever the “situation” is.  I makes me second guess my words, my thoughts, my actions.  Sometimes it’s just easier to retreat, but she is someone I consider on of my best friends, so I really don’t want to retreat.  I guess I just wish I knew how to fix this —  I guess I wish that I knew why we’ve suddenly start to speak different languages.

William S Hart – a local icon

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting a local museum – the Hart Ranch and Museum – with a great group of friends.  The Hart Ranch and Museum is where western movie pioneer William S Hart retired after a successful career making silent movies.  I admit, I had no idea who he was.  I mean I know that everything out here seems to be named after him, but other than that — no clue.

Jack Stewart was our tour guide and he did a wonderful job sharing Hart’s story.  The museum’s website (www.hartmuseum.org) describe Hart and his ranch in the following manner:

William S. Hart was born in Newburgh, New York on December 6, 1864.Hart started his acting career in his twenties. At the age of 49, Hart came west to Hollywood to start his movie career. During the next 11 years, he made more than 65 silent films, the last being “Tumbleweeds” in 1925.

In 1921, Hart purchased a ranch house and surrounding property. He built a 22 room mansion which toWilliam S. Hart Mansionday houses Hart’s collection of western art, Native American artifacts, and early Hollywood memorabilia. Hart lived at the ranch nearly 20 years until his death in 1946. In his will, Hart gave the Horseshoe Ranch to the County of Los Angeles. It was to be set aside for the use and enjoyment of the public, at no charge.Today, the Horseshoe Ranch consists of 265 acres. Both the ranch house and the Hart residence are open to the public. An assortment of animals reside at Hart Park, including a small herd of bison which were a gift from the Walt Disney Studios in 1962

The home is a beautiful and we learned that at the time, Hart forked over a good $100K to have the home built. That’s a pretty good amount of coin if you consider that it was nearly 90 years ago.  There’s this beautiful texture on the walls, which are all decorated with amazing paintings by Charlie Russel and Fredric Remington.  And a great room upstairs that houses gifts and possessions Hart enjoyed.  We learned that the museum is a static museum – this means if something is broken, it is not replaced, it is simply removed from the museum, so guests are careful not to touch anything.  We also learned that Hart authored numerous books containing stories that he and his sister would write for both boys and girls. Hart seemed like a pretty cool guy – too bad United Artists didn’t do his final movie, Tumbleweeds, justice.  Apparently Hart was mad at the movie industry and produced his own movie which was distributed by United Artists. The movie didn’t do great in the box office and Hart sued United Artists – and Hart won the case in the 1940s.  I guess the last laugh was his though, because when he died, he willed his ranch to the county on 3 conditions – that it would become a museum, that there would be no charge for guests to visit, and that there would be absolutely NO filming.  Thank you William S Hart for opening your home to us!

Busy week!

Wow, what a life changing couple of weeks this has been.   Over the past 10 days, I’ve had the following changes:

  • On Wednesday, Dec 2nd, I moved to a new home
  • On Friday, Dec 4th, I was gifted with a brand new beautiful baby niece
  • On Saturday, Dec 5th, I got to meet my Niece
  • On Sunday, Dec 6th, my Mom and Nephew helped me finish cleaning the condo
  • Today, I started my new job

Right now I’m sitting on the couch watching Christmas with the Kranks with Tim & Jenny and enjoying some 2002 Silkwood Red Duet an 2006 Fleur Petite Sirah with various cheeses.  2010 is going to be great!

Happy Birthday!

DSC05763_smToday is the day that my older brother an I are no longer the same age.  You see my older brother and I are 9 1/2 months apart, so for 2 1/2 months out of every year we are the same age.  When I was younger, this really bugged my brother.  I remember us going to the LA County fair and sitting for one of those calendar pictures, you know the ones where they snap your picture then print it on a canvas with a dot matrix printer?  Anyways, we’d sit there every year and the attendant would ask us how old we were.  The conversation usually went something like this:

Attendant:  “So, how old are you?”

Me: “siiiiiix”

Brother: “six”

Attendant: “Six, wow!  Are you twins?”

Brother:  “NO”

Me:  “yeeeees”

He hated that.  I, on the other hand, got a kick out of it :) .  The the picture would end up with me smiling and my brother cracking a slight grin.  The LA County Fair is in September, which was right after my birthday, so my brother would have to endure another 72 days of this torture until he was once again a year older than me.  This happened every year and every time I think of the Fair, I think of that exact moment.

Adrian, today you are released from your 72 days of twin-ship – and I wish you the best birthday ever.  When I think of how much  you endured of that torture, I love you more and more.  I really can’t think of anybody in this world who has a heart the size of yours.  You deserve greatness, you deserve ease, you deserve the best that life can bring to you (I mean, hey, life brought you me, so that’s a start! Lucky you 😉 ).  But seriously, I wish for ALL of your dreams and wishes to come true.

Happy Birthday Adrian!