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Backsplash Redo

After surviving performances in seventeen (17!) Christmas concert events of one kind or another, I had to nap…but after a few days I crawled out and decided it was time to deal with my outdated kitchen backsplash. Here it was:ImageVery late 80’s/early 90’s, no? Ah, hunter green. I loved you then. But that was so very then.

Someday I’ll change several things about my kitchen, not least those horrid orange cabinets, the countertops, and of course, the boring tile backsplash. But until that day comes, I decided ditching the green would be a happy interim solution. What’s the worst that could happen? It could look atrocious and then I’d have to chip out that section of tile and replace it with mosaic or something. I figured that was worth a $6 gamble (cost of paint & brushes). And indeed it was. Here’s the after: ImageThat’s Martha Stewart’s multi-surface paint in Tartan Red. I cleaned the tiles, wiped them down with alcohol, then taped and painted. I found the best method was to get paint on the tile with a small foam brush, then run over it with a foam roller to smooth it out. Once dry I applied a coat of sealer and there you go. My Williamsburg pub sign is attached with those Contact adhesive strips, everything goes better with the new color, and I’m a happy camper.ImageWill it hold up to heavy cooking & cleaning? We’ll see. If not, well, that will be an excuse to do a little tiling.

Next project: writing down everyone’s phone number–you know, the old fashioned way, with pen and paper–just in case I lose my phone and want to talk to anyone ever again. What’s next on your project list?

My apologies for the slow giveaway results, I’ve been sitting in a puddle of sheep urine. Not the whole time, but long enough. (Trust me, it doesn’t take long for that to be long enough.) But never mind, that’s a story for another day. For now, it’s all about who gets the fun wine book.
book cover
So raise your glass for…

Andrea Leech!

Andrea voted for Riesling—a little sweet for my taste, but whatever pops your cork.

Congratulations, Andrea! I’ll put your book in the mail tomorrow. No, really, I will. There are no sheep scheduled in my immediate future.

So go eat your food and enjoy it; drink your wine and be happy, because that is what God wants you to do. (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

While I get the impression the writer of Ecclesiastes may have written that line a wee bit sarcastically, I do enjoy both food and wine and reading about both. So when I got the chance to review The Curious World of Wine by Dr. Richard Vine, I jumped at the chance.

As far as I know, “Vine” is his real name. I have no idea if that contributed to his career choice as a winemaker. He does have impressive credentials: 50+ years in the industry, 21 of them as the wine consultant for American Airlines. Heck, Purdue University named a wine library after him.
book cover
If you have wine-lovers on your Christmas list, this would make an excellent gift. It’s hot off the press, so they probably won’t have a copy. Thanksgiving is in two weeks, people. Two. Weeks. Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye after that. It is not too early to shop.

About the book: it’s highly amusing and informative, packed with (as the subtitle says) “facts, legends, and lore about the drink we love so much.” It’s the sort of book one can pick up and put down, absorbing little sips of knowledge each time. It covers everything from the history of wine to “legends and lore” and “charming wine characters.” Did you know Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about Napa Valley? If you’ve been to the California state park named after him, you probably did, but I haven’t and didn’t. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island, and Napa Valley…quite the variety of topics.

Patriotic as I am, I would, have appreciated more attention to Texas wineries. Still, there is reference to the time Texas saved Europe’s vineyards…it’s true! Read the book to find out how it went down. While you’re in there, you’ll learn the history of phrases like “three sheets to the wind” and “the bitter end.” Then there’s that whole thing about how wine glasses came to be shaped that way. Let’s just say it’s there were molds involved, it’s anatomically based, and theoretically goblets could come in sizes A, B, and so on.

There’s a lot of information about wine, too. And vineyards. And stories about the people who founded and run vineyards. And, oh, lots of interesting stuff. You should read it! Which brings me to…

The Giveaway
The publishers sent me a copy of the book, which the delivery person thoughtfully hid behind the scarecrow on my porch. It was so well hidden, I couldn’t find it, which resulted in my being sent another copy which I received shortly after I found the first one. Ahem. So now I have two—but not for long! If you’d like a copy of The Curious World of Wine, leave a comment below about your favorite kind of wine. I’ll put all the names in a bucket and poke a corkscrew in there to draw one at random. The winner will get my extra copy of the book.

Ready? The contest will be open until midnight next Saturday, 11/17. Just post your favorite kind of wine below—in the blog comments, please, not on Facebook, so they’ll all be in one place. Winner to be announced next week. Good luck!

Chihuly

No, I didn’t sneeze. Dale Chihuly is a world-renowned glass artist and there’s an installation of his works at the Dallas Arboretum. (Just extended through 12/31, I hear, so there’s still time to see it.) I moseyed down there one evening with Samantha and Laura.
That red fan is a church choir thing. Alto 1's (aka Hot Wings) present!
We had a grand time roaming the grounds admiring the glass. We arrived just before dusk, in time to get a good look at things like this:
Doesn't it look like a ginormous Christmas present bow?In one of the sunken gardens...but it would look lovely in my backyard.

There’s just something magical about a boat filled with glass bubbles…

Then as darkness fell, some pieces really came into their own:

It's called the Texas Star.A close up view of all that beautiful glass.In the fern dell with the mist rising.
It was a fabulous evening of fabulous art in a fabulous setting. I highly recommend it! You’ll need a reservation for a night-time ramble, but it’s worth planning ahead a little. They’re open select evenings from 6-9 and it takes every minute of that to see everything. Well, it does if you putter and stop to take photos every few feet.
Here’s a link to the arboretum’s site: http://www.dallasarboretum.org/

P.S. As we are an area known for wind and hailstorms (though thankfully nothing as violent as the recent devastation of Sandy), one might wonder as to the practicality of leaving a bunch of glass outside. Apparently pieces do occasionally break and when they do, one of Chihuly’s talented minions comes in to fix it. Just thought you’d like to know!

Technical Difficulties

Sorry to have left you hanging, but I’m currently experiencing some technical difficulties. Hopefully we’ll be back up and running soon. Til then, keep having adventures–and please, if you’re registered, go out and vote!

Below is Kerri’s report on her great oatmeal adventure earlier this year. It’s spurtlicious!

Kerri with Bob. Yes, THAT Bob.


You may remember me from reading about the fun and exciting time Susan and I had preparing for the Spar for the Spurtle Contest we both entered back in July. If not for Susan’s keen eye and wonderful way of bringing her friends along into cool new ventures, I would not have known or cared about the Spar for the Spurtle.

We prepared like mad women to be sure we had just the right recipe and flavors to win, even holding taste-tests at our office. Finally, we made videos for our entries at Susan’s house and our precious friend Richard filmed and edited them to greatness. (He’s brilliant, by the way). Here’s Susan’s:

And mine:

Although I felt I had no chance against Susan’s amazing video and recipe, I was thrilled to receive a call from Matt at Bob’s Red Mill, the host of the contest who told me that I had been selected as one of 3 winners to go to all expenses paid to Portland for the national live cook-off at Bob’s. I nearly fainted. But off I went, recipe and all cooking gear in tow. The morning of the contest came early and started with a 2 hour tour of the Bob’s Red Mill plant.

It was amazing. You could eat off the floors in that place. They go to great lengths to preserve the integrity of the Gluten-Free grains and to only sell the best of the best from local farmers. Very impressive. Bob himself led our tour and we felt like royalty as we had our pictures taken and had lunch in the beautiful courtyard of the Bob’s Store where the cook-off was held.

Spurtle contestants

Ready, set, spar


When it came time to start the contest, we were first led in great pomp and circumstance through every aisle of the store marching behind a darling girl bagpiper, then the head of the Oregon Scottish Consulate addressed us to discuss his experience with what they call “porridge”, we call “oatmeal”. The judges were introduced and before we knew it, we were underway! 40 minutes to prepare, plate, and serve our recipes.

I delivered my plates first with my recipe “Raspberry Oatmeal Dumplings”—boy, was I nervous. Then the terrific gal to my right (she’s on my left, your right in the photo above), who had made “Apricot Oatmeal Pot stickers”. Both of our dishes were sweet, but the last gal to go had made a savory dish, “Italian Pinhead Torta”. The judges tasted, then stepped out of the room to decide who should win.

Drumroll please…….it wasn’t me. I was sad. I really thought I had it, but the judges had been given a specific task to choose the recipe which was the most likely to win the International Porridge Making contest in Scotland. They chose the Torta recipe as it put the oats (called pinheads) at the forefront and as the starring ingredient.

Italian Pinhead Torta


Surely they chose rightly, judging by the results of the International competition. Yep— on Saturday, Oct. 6th, Laurie won the specialty division with her Torta recipe in Scotland, and brought the trophy back to the US for Bob’s Red Mill.

I was happy for her (really!) and for all the good folks at Bob’s. They are a wonderful bunch of people, with terrific hearts and completely engaged in their mission. I highly recommend red Mill products to everyone as they are simply the best! I have seen it firsthand, and am a true believer. They are worth every penny. If you want to learn more or see this crazy Scottish contest for yourself, click here: http://www.goldenspurtle.com/

Now…to get started on next year’s winning recipe….

Chocolate Conference

Don’t those words just make you smile? A whole conference dedicated to chocolate. I know. It was awesome.

Held in the mildly fabulous Addison Conference Center (that would be in Addison, Texas) it was a chocoholic’s dream. Table after table of truffles, toffee, molded chocolates, “enrobed” chocolates (that would be chocolates that have gone through a chocolate shower, not chocolates wearing bathrobes and bunny slippers), even cocoa beans and cocoa butter.

I tried to take photos but only had my phone, and with my hands full of chocolate and all, they didn’t turn out. Let your imagination run wild.

I tried chocolates with blue cheese in them and chocolates infused with chicory and molasses (from Dude, Sweet Chocolate). There were chocolates with bacon and chocolates with lime centers (Chocolate Secrets). I had what just may have been the best brownies of my entire life (Oh Brownie), amazing homemade marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate from Elegantly Chocolate, a delicious taste from Toffee Treats, and the rest all kind of merged together in a chocolate-induced haze.

I also met some fascinating people who turned their passion for chocolate into a business. I’ll introduce some of them in the coming days. (They’re fun, you’re going to like them.) I was amazed at the number of locals who offer chocolate delicacies, many of them with day jobs who do this on the side. As Sandra Boynton’s classic work tells us, chocolate really is a consuming passion.

Chocolate: The Consuming Passion

A much-thumbed volume in my personal library

Until next time, have a lovely piece of chocolate. Unless, of course, you’re one of those odd people who doesn’t like chocolate. In which case, I’m so sorry. Perhaps some day they’ll come up with a medication for that. The rest of you, make note: the Chocolate Conference & Festival is an annual affair. See you there next year?