Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wine Barbie?!

I just saw a blog post about "Wine Barbie." Seriously?  That girl is everywhere!  Turns out this particular Barbie is a wine enthusiast, and is holding forth for Women's History Month. 

The article mentions a few wine makers and experts who are women (and we KNOW there are a lot of female drinkers -- wink). 


My treasured sweatshirt.
I didn't see mention of one of my favorite wine maker names and coincidentally a women-operated business -- Hip Chicks Do Wine in Oregon.  My sister and I did a little tour of a few wineries in the Portland area several years ago. Hip Chicks was on our list mainly because we simply HAD to see what this place was all about with such a fun name. Their wines are what they call drinkable -- nothing complicated, but easy going down. I brought back a few bottles of their Vin Nombril, or “Belly Button Wine.”  It's a Pinot Gris-Muscat blend, and lovely on a warm summer day--sit back, sip, and contemplate your navel. Learn more about them on their website.

One of my go-to reds is MacMurray Ranch's Pinot Noir. Fred MacMurray may be gone, but his daughter Kate MacMurray is still involved in the winery. Their wines are easy to find in the Northern Virginia area --Wegman's is where I usually go. The extra couple of dollars for the Russian River Valley PInot Noir is worth it, but the Central Coast PInot Noir is just fine in a pinch. I haven't had good luck with their whites. 

Speaking of good white wines, Naked Mountain in Markham, Virginia, makes several yummy whites. They also hold various events, such as delicious lasagna lunches in the winter, Winemaker Dinners, and more. One of the upcoming events is a star-gazing evening on the mountain. How fun!  Too much wine and I suppose we may start seeing UFOs instead of stars.  I'll take my chances.   







Thursday, February 13, 2014

ISO Stink-Free Paperwhites

At about 10 days.
Guaranteed to bloom with very little effort on my part and with their delicate white flowers, paperwhite indoor narcissus are such a nice bit of cheer in the dreary days of winter. The only problem is that they have a fairly strong odor that I don't care for.

Some might consider the scent "floral," but to me it's just plain stinky, and too strong. Like lilies, the scent also acts as an allergen to some of us. I can feel my throat close up when I get too close.

I was delighted to stumble upon fragrance-free bulbs at Merrifield Garden Center. They cost a bit more than I remember paying for regular paperwhite bulbs, but I figured they were worth it.
At about 2 weeks. 

Lies, all lies! I'm here to tell you that they are NOT fragrance free. They may be a bit less odoriferous (how's that for a $5 vocabulary word?), but I can smell them when I enter the room.  Forget sitting next to them.

The process is so easy:

3 weeks-ish.
Place bulbs, little hairy roots down, in a shallow container. It's fine if the bulbs are touching. I used 3 bulbs in these photos.

Cover with pebbles or aquarium gravel.  Some people use soil or peat moss.

Water to keep the roots wet.

Place in a sunny location in a 55-65 degree F. room.

4 weeks.
After the stems start to get really tall, I try to remember to tie a loose bit of string or ribbon around them to keep them from flopping over later.

That's it -- just keep the roots moist by adding a bit of water every few days.  In 4-6 weeks you'll have beautiful (if stinky) blooms.

Even with all my grousing, I enjoy watching them grow and bloom.  I'll just enjoy them from afar. 

Ignore my dormant orchid in the background.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Great Backyard Bird Count - 2014

If you're at all interested in wild birds, you might find the annual GBBC a fun activity. It doesn't have to take up a ton of your time -- learn all about it here: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/

This year, I'm going to participate from Chincoteague Island. You can always count on seeing cardinals, finches, chickadees, heron, egrets, and all other manner of shore birds there, of course.   

Last summer I saw an entire flock of white ibis in the trees alongside a marsh on Chincoteague. I thought I was seeing things. And then just this past weekend I learned from a ranger at Mason Neck State Park that the ibis shouldn't really be here -- but they're starting to move further north.  It's hard not to be excited by this news, but you have to wonder what's causing the change in their habits.  

Happy bird counting!



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Organic Veggy Delivery

A "medium" box from Johnson's.
I tried one of Amazon's local deals this week. The deal was for a box of organic produce from a local distributor. The price seemed fair, and they charged only a small amount ($8) to deliver it right to my door.  The only catch during this extreme cold weather is that someone needed to be home to accept the package, but that was easy enough to schedule for my telework day.

Even though the info on the Johnson's Organic Food website said I could let them know of any allergies or strong dislikes ahead of time, I decided to let them send what they had and enjoy the surprise.

Everything is fresh and in excellent shape, unlike some of the organic produce in a couple of our grocery stores. The quantity of items seems quite fair, too. I got 2 generous bunches of collards (the only item I'm not wild about), 2 big bunches of carrots, 2 nice chubby bunches of spinach, 3 huge onions, some green apples, a bunch of bananas, and a kabocha squash. 

I immediately looked up kabocha -- and mmmmm, look at this curry recipe I'll need to try this weekend:

http://www.chow.com/recipes/30268-thai-red-curry-with-kabocha-squash

I like the idea of eating/cooking based on what's available vs. having a taste for, let's say strawberries, when it's freakin' January.  (When did our expectations become so out of whack?!  And then we complain that the berries are in sad shape!)

Happy, healthful eating.