Romantic Meals & February Wine

groundhog-day-2016-wishes2-300x218February is here – finally! Seriously, I thought January would never end. February brings us many wonderful holidays with which to celebrate. Here in the United States, Ground hog day starts off the festivities. Up next is Chinese New Year, followed closely by Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras. Then there is Ash Wednesday, Lincoln’s Birthday and the all important Valentine’s Day! The final popular holiday is President’s Day (I guess this replaced Washington’s Birthday?)

This gives us a plethora of opportunities for cooking romantic meals and pairing them wine-dark-chocolatewith February wine. You may be asking what is February wine? For me, it is beautific reds and creamy complex whites. I’m thinking about Cabernet Sauvignon (the king of reds), Merlot, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese. The whites I love to drink in February are from France, White Burgundy (Chardonnay), White Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc) and Sémillon.

Yes, there are a lot of other reds, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Gamy, Grenache, the list can be quite long, and of course many, many other whites, Albarino, Vinho Verde, Pinot Grigio, I’ve written about all of these, but in February, especially in the cooler climate, I peggplantrefer a more complex red or a white such as the White Wines of France.

Now that you know what I deem to be February Wine, let’s pair these lovelies up with some meals!

For the vegetarians in this group, I tapped an excellent source from Australia, my lovely daughter-in-law. She is a vegetarian and she is a chef, I figured I would just go to the professional in the family. She recommended an Eggplant Parmesan or an Roasted Veggie Risotto.

Eggplant Parmesan


  •    1 large unpeeled purple eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
  •    1 teaspoon fine sea salt, or as needed
  •    2 eggs
  •    1 tablespoon whole milk
  •    1 cup Italian-seasoned Panko crumbs, or more as needed
  •    3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
  •    1 (24 ounce) jar prepared marinara sauce, or home prepared marinara sauce –    recipe below.
  •    1 bunch fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  •    1 (8 ounce) package smoked mozzarella cheese, very thinly sliced
  •    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Line a plate with a paper towel; place a layer of 2 or 3 slices of eggplant onto the towel. Sprinkle eggplant with sea salt. Repeat layers of eggplant sprinkled with salt until all eggplant slices are stacked. Place 2 paper towels onto the stack and place a plate on top of the towels. Lay a heavy book onto the plate to squeeze out moisture. Allow to drip for 20 minutes to 2 hours. Rinse and pat dry.

Note: salting is done to take away bitterness, not to make the eggplant tender, and it is not necessary if you have wonderful tight-skinned, fresh young eggplants.

Beat eggs with milk in a shallow bowl. Place Panko crumbs into a separate bowl. Dip eggplant slices in the egg mixture and gently press into the crumbs to coat; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; fry eggplant slices in the hot oil in small batches until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

Pour about 1/4 cup of marinara sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish and arrange a layer of eggplant slices to cover the sauce. Scatter basil and a few slices of smoked mozzarella cheese over eggplant; repeat layers, ending with a layer of sauce on top. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven until heated through and the cheese has melted, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Marinara Sauce


  •    2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
  •    1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  •    4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  •    2 cloves garlic, minced
  •    1 teaspoon dried oregano
  •    1 teaspoon salt
  •    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  •    6 tablespoons olive oil
  •    1/3 cup finely diced onion
  •    1/3 cup red wine


In a food processor place Italian tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped parsley, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, saute the finely chopped onion in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the blended tomato sauce and red wine.

Cover the saucepan and simmer for an hour minutes, stirring occasionally.castle rock

If you do not have Panko crumbs, you can substitute bread crumbs.

I would pair this dish with a rounded Merlot, one such as Castle Rock. Look for a Merlot that has a few years on it. We recently had a bottle of Castle Rock Merlot, year 2011. Fruit forward, lots of berry notes, little tannin. Open the bottle about 15-20 minutes before serving.

Corn Risotto with Roasted Red Pepper


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups Unsalted or Low Sodium Chicken Stock, divided, heated
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (thawed)
  • 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until leek is softened (do not allow to brown), about 6 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste; add rice and cook, stirring, until grains look slightly translucent, about 5 minutes.

Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until wine has all been absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Add a ladleful of chicken stock to the rice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until rice has absorbed all of the stock. Add another ladleful of stock, stirring, until rice has absorbed the liquid. Continue adding stock, one ladleful at a time, always allowing rice to absorb it before adding another. When about 3 cups of the stock has been added, stir in corn and roasted red peppers. Continue cooking, adding the remaining stock, a ladleful at a time, until all of the stock is incorporated, corn is tender, and rice is creamy and tender, about 30 to 40 minutes total.

Remove risotto from heat and stir in the Parmesan and remaining tablespoon of butter. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

With whisk or electric mixer, beat cream at high speed until it holds stiff peaks. Uncover the risotto and stir vigorously. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, stir in the chives and then gently fold in cream.

Serve ducasse-graves-bordeaux-blanc-2013immediately.

Pair this with a chilled bottle of White Bordeaux, Ducasse Blanc would be my choice. The crispness of this beautiful wine would not compete with the decadence of the Risotto.

On to my favorite chicken dish. I serve this often to celebrate, it is one of my family’s favorite recipes.

Lemon and Wine Chicken


  • 2 or 3 skinless, boneless chicken breast half – pounded thin
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 4 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups Chablis or other dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

in a medium skillet, heat oil and sauté the onion, garlic and mushrooms until slightly brown. Remove the onion, garlic and mushrooms to a dish. Heat more olive oil if necessary for frying the chicken. Dredge the chicken breasts in flour and place it in the hot skillet. Add pepper to taste. Cook until golden brown on one side, 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn chicken over (presentation side up) and add the wine, the onion, garlic and mushrooms, pour the juice from 1/2 lemon over and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove chicken from skillet and add the room temperature butter. Swirl it around in the macon villagesskillet sauce until it is incorporated and the sauce is slightly thickened. Pour sauce over chicken. Serve over wild rice pilaf or angel hair pasta.

Pull out a chilled bottle of White Burgundy to serve with this dish. I brin

g out a bottle of Henri Perrusset Macon Villages to enjoy when we have this chicken. The wine is creamy and complex, but it finishes with a taste of citrus to compliment the lemon in the chicken.

filet mignonFor the meat lovers, the most romantic of meals is a steak, and I always go with a Filet Mignon when it is time to turn up the romance.

Filet Mignon with Balsamic Glaze


  • 2 (4 ounce) Filet Mignon steaks
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine


Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over both sides of each steak, and sprinkle with salt to Rodney-Strong-Cabernet-Sauvignon-2009-Labeltaste.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place steaks in hot pan, and cook for 1 minute on each side, or until browned. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add balsamic vinegar and red wine. Cover, and cook for 4 minutes on each side, basting with sauce when you turn the meat over.

Remove steaks to two warmed plates, spoon one tablespoon of glaze over each, and serve immediately.

The only wine I can recommend to serve with this meal is a Cabernet Sauvignon, of course. Bring out the big guns for this, something such as Rodney Strong’s Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, the older, the better. Try to find a 2010 or 2012. Open the bottle 25-30 minutes before serving to fully enjoy the flavors of blackberry, cocoa, and herby black-currant.

lindt dark chocolateFor dessert, to go with any of these meals, serve a Petite Sirah, such as Michael David’s Petite Petit Sirah, slightly petite petit sirahchilled with a very dark chocolate. I like Lindt’s extra dark. If you’re not serving chocolate, then pair a bottle of Ware’s Warrior Port with some blue cheese, that is room temperature, one such as Plymouth Blue Cheese.

No matter what you serve, be sure to celebrate at least one big_blueoccasion during this wonderful month of February.


Valentine Gift Ideas for Your Honey

valentines day heartsIt is amazing to me that Valentine’s Day is less than three weeks away.  Where did January go?  I’m not complaining about seeing the end of January, it is never my favorite month.  And now we get to move into a glorious month!  One filled with hearts and flowers – and ground hogs.  Okay.

So…what to do about the big day that lands in the middle of February – Valentine’s Day.  The answer depends on who’s your honey?  Of course.

You can always go the standard traditional route – flowers, chocolate, fragrance.  There is flowersnothing wrong with this.  But – if you’re going the traditional route, change it up a bit.  Go with the unexpected, but more requested.  Find out what flowers your honey loves the most.  My particular favorites are Tulips, Lilies, and Daffodils.  I know, sounds like an Easter bouquet and that doesn’t arrive until March.  What I’m saying is, not everyone loves roses. if your snookums loves Gerbera Daises, or Sunflowers, then by all means, get those flowers, not Roses. If you are unsure as to what flowers to get, just ask.  But don’t wait until February 13th to ask what flowers your special someone likes, ask today, and makes notes.

The same goes with chocolate.  There’s nothing wrong with giving chocolate – ever – except perhaps if your sweetheart is on a strict diet – then no chocolate, go with lake champlain chocolatesomething else.  But all chocolate is not created equal.  Sad, but true.  Find out what your darling likes as far as milk, dark, white?  Nuts, chews, soft centers, caramels, the list goes on and on.  Godiva, Dove, Lindt, Lake Champlain, See’s?  So much chocolate, so little time.

The easier course is with fragrance.  My suggestion is to find out what your honey is currently using and get a matching lotion, powder or shower gel.  My personal chanel_bath_body_rangeexperience is that I rarely repurchase a fragrance, so getting more is not always a good thing. And, I seldom purchase the special extras to go with the scent I’m currently using.  I love having the matching shower gel or lotion but it costs more money, and I don’t feel comfortable spending more money than I’m already spending on a fragrance.  Check out what your special someone is wearing, and get some body lotion, shower gel or powder to go with it, the gift will be greatly appreciated.

Then there are those that don’t go the traditional route, they give a gift that keeps on giving.  You do this by paying attention to what your special someone wants/needs/desires and go for it.  This course of action will require you to pay attention to what is going on – all year long.  And you will need to take notes!

wild birdsIf your loved one adores animals, birds or fish, go in that direction.  For example, we feed the wild birds, and a 20 pound bag of wild bird seed is a wonderful gift.  If your sweetie has a cat or a dog, see if a new bed is needed, or a toy or a new feeding dish.  Something along these lines is always appreciated. Please note: do not give an animal, bird or fish to anyone, this is something that the individual receiving the animal needs to pick out.

If your special someone is currently repairing a vehicle, get him or her one of the parts they need, or a tool that will help the project along.  If it is a woodworking project, find out if a new saw is need, or perhaps special wood?

Throughout the year, I am sure your Darling has said “I need a ___” or “gosh, I wish I had a ____”.  You fill in the blank.  Every time you hear “I want”, “I need”, I wish I had”, write it down.  When you’re out and about with your Honey, and you hear, “wow, I really like that”, or “isn’t that beautiful” or something to that effect, write it down.  Keep this information on a pad of paper, your phone, your Kindle, somewhere.  Then, when a celebration comes along and you want to give a gift, you will know what to give.

It is also helpful to keep a list of likes, favorite colors, sizes (fingers, hands, wrists, and making a listthe usual top, bottom, feet).  Keep track of favorite music, books, movies, coffee, wine.  Everything you pay attention to, and everything you keep track of, will give your sweetheart the message that you care, and what is more important than that?

Valentine’s Day is a day to be with someone you love, someone you care about, and someone you want to share your feelings with.  Giving a gift should be a way of showing that you care about that person.  Giving a gift that reflects how much you have paid attention to the wants and needs of this person really communicates how much you care.

One last little piece of advice.  If you’re going to go out for dinner, don’t go out on Dinner-party-finger-hordervs (1)February 14th.  Make it the following or the next weekend.  The restaurants are extremely busy on February 14th and you won’t feel special at all.  But, if you wait and go out the following weekend, you will not be rushed and you will certainly have a much better time.  Instead of going out for dinner on February 14th, why not cook dinner for each other?  Or, make it a group event, have a party of 6 or 8, assign jobs to each party member party that turns into dinner.

No matter what you do, where you go, or what you give, do it with love in your heart and you cannot do it wrong.



Big Bad Boys and Hot Stews

stew and wineIt is time to invite the Big Bad Boys of wine to the party! Cold weather is when these wines really shine. I call the wines with the big earthy flavors, beefy tannins, and smoky notes the Big Bad Boys of wine. And, on a cold January night, I cannot think of anything better than a big bold red wine and a beef burgundy stew, complete with carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and onions. For me, it is obvious to pair a beef burgundy with a hearty robust red wine, one such as a burgundy (well, it’s in the stew, it should go well with it). But these days, with so many “outside the box” options, I like to try pairing a wine with something that isn’t in the stew.

For baby steps, walk to Italy. Italy makes beautiful red wines, I have never met one I didn’t like. Look for a brawny red wine such as a Tuscan Sangiovese, nice and earthy, one of the Sangiovese 2011primary red varieties in Italy. Sangiovese wine often gets labeled as a Chianti. Either a Chianti or a Sangiovese would go very nicely with a beef burgundy stew. Another Italian red wine would be a Brunello di Montalcino. The difference between a Sangiovese/Chianti and a Brunello di Montalcino is confusing because Brunello wine is made from Sangiovese grapes. The difference is where the grapes are grown. The Sangiovese/Chianti wines are usually higher in tannins, with a more unsophisticated feeling to the wine. A Brunello di Montalcino wine will typically have more finesse and complexity to it, and a higher price tag. Brunello di Montalcinos also cellar longer. Don’t keep your Sangionvese/Chbianti wines more than four years, you can usually keep the Brunellos at least five to seven years.

If you want to go a bit more international, try an Irish Stew with a Spanish red wine. A lot irish stewof Irish Stews are made with Lamb and/or Guiness Beer. A Spanish Monastrell would add a nice blend of pepper and black fruit flavors to pair with an Irish Stew. Spanish wines are getting better and better, and there are many very good Spanish wTempranilloines with a decent price tag. A Monastrell should have a price of $10 to $15. If you want to go a little higher in your budget, get an aged Tempranillo, which will have a price of $25 to $35. If you want a Tempranillo with a smaller price tag, you could try a young, Tempranillo but open this wine about 30 minutes before you want to serve it because you won’t get the nice round tannins and you won’t get the notes of vanilla and cedar (which come from more years in the oak barrels and the bottle).  By opening a hearty red wine 15 – 30 minutes before you serve it, you will round out some of the stronger notes and tannins in it.

Finally, to go completely continental with your big bad boys and your hot stew, consider pairing an Australian Shiraz with a Melting Pot of Beef Stew made from Beef Chuck, Spanish Paprika and Sicilian Beef StewMarsala Wine. Look for an Australian Shiraz that is lighter in color than you would typically equate to a Shiraz.  The primary difference between a Syrah and a Shiraz is the Shiraz typically comes from a hotter climate, usually an Australian hot climate. Lately, I have been impressed with the beautiful light colored Shirazes that I’ve seen at wine festivals and I rDSC_5855eally do enjoy them over the darker Syrahs, but for a beef stew with spicy Spanish Paprika and a flavorful Sicillian Marsala Wine, you need beautiful light Australian Shiraz that won’t compete with your stew, it will just bring out all of the beautiful flavors and nuances in your meal.

So….which Big Bad Boy will you bring to the table tonight?

Plump Up in January!

new england winter
January is the time to plump up.  Please put down the Fries, I’m not talking about your thighs, I’m talking about your skin.  With the colder, darker days upon us (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), January is when we need to focus on taking care of our skin.

Winter air is drier because cold air cannot hold as much moistureWater splashing into glass.  Added to this, when you heat your house, regardless of how you heat your house, you’re losing moisture, causing a double whammy.

You may have noticed your skin is itchy, flaky and dry looking.  There are several easy remedies to fix this.  Start with drinking more water, less alcohol and less caffeine.  Next, add a warm air humidifier vicksto your house.  I like to keep one going at night in the bedroom.  El Hub doesn’t like the “swampyness” the humidifer causes so I defuse this with a slow moving fan.  Third, eat more healthy fats.  I’m not talking about eating more french fries, step away from the fries.  The key is healthy fats.  Add foods such as seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), avocados, nuts, eggs and olive oil. french fries

To work on plumping your skin from the outside, you may think all
you need to do is grab a jar of moisturizer and slather it all over your face, arms and legs.  Um…no…not exactly.  In fact, you may not need moisturizer at all.

Skin care is a step-by-step process.  Cleanser, toner, moisturizer, it is all necessary and individual to you and your skin.  If your skin is acne prone or is oily, you may not neemoisturizerd a moisturizer, but you do need to make sure your skincare products have the right ingredients for you.

The ingredients of your products are the key to keeping your skin plump and happy.  You do not ever want to strip your skin, even if you’re acne prone or oily.  Stripped skin is unhappy skin and it will work twice as hard to get back to its normal happy self, causing more oil and more problems.  If you have dry skin and it gets stripped of its natural oils, it may never regain happiness.  Check the ingredients on your cleanser, if you see anything with:  alcohol, peroxide, sulfates, or acids, you should shy away from it.  These ingredients will certainly strip away the natural (good) oil in your skin.  Lonars tonerok for:  glycerol or glycerine, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, and chamomile.  You may not see all of these ingredients in your cleanser, but try for one, especially glycerine if you have dry skin.

Toners are used to completely remove the cleanser from your skin,
they help to put a balance in your personal pH levels and can be beneficial to restoring the moisture to your skin.  Nars makes a lovely toner; Multi-Action Hydrating Toner.  This Toner is free of synthetic fragrance, parabens, oil, and alcohol.  Just what you want.

Finally, the moisturizing part.  If you have acne prone skin, or oily skin, you want to stay away from products with petroleum, mineral oil kiehlsor silicones.  You may not need any moisturizer in the summer, but in winter, you should look for something to give your skin an added layer of protection from the elements.  Something oil-free or water based and lightweight.  Kiehl’s Oil-Free Lotion is a nice choice, or look for Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Daily Moisturizing Lotion (Amazon).  If you have normal or dry skin, checkout Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 50.  Yes, you still need SPF in the winter.  This moisturizer is lightweight and doesn’t leave a light cast on your skin, despite the high SPF.  For a basic daytime moisturizer, CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM is a nice option.  This product has ceramides and niacinamide which are ingredients you want in your daytime moisturizer.

If your skin is extremely dry, and you live in a northern climate, you can also add a little facial oil to your non-spf moisturizer.  Don’t add abobbi brown facial oil facial oil to your moisturizer if it has spf in it, it will break down the spf.  I like Bobbi Brown’s Facial Oil.  I use it after toning, before moisturizing during the winter months.

Now you should be all set.  You’ve upped your water intake, you have added more healthy fats to your diet, and your skincare regime is set to maintain happy skin.  The only addition to this would be a dose of exercise, something to move the blood along, and perhaps a big smile to complete the look.


Easy and Simple Resolutions

happy new yearHappy New Year to all of my readers!  I hope 2016 is a fabulous year for everyone.  As a friend recently said to me “may you have many unforgettable stories in the coming year”.

The New Year always brings to ournew year house new resolutions, new goals, and a hope for a better self.  We are hoping to get healthier, smarter, and of course we want to get into better shape.  Never easy, always worthwhile.

One way to make any resolution easier is to make it within reach.  Baby steps.  We do not resolve to workout for an hour everyday in 2016.  Instead, we many resolutionske a promise to our self to workout more often (add one or two days to each week), for the month of January and February, then re-evaluate, add more time, another class, or another day, after that.

January always brings an abstinence of wine, beer and spirits to our house.  It is a tradition in our house to stop drinking alcohol in January.  Again, never easy, always worthwhile.  It is easier to accomplish this resolution if everyone in the house agrees to do this together.

We started the no-alcohol-in-January tradition many, many years new-year-resolution-cartoon-500x318ago.  The obvious benefits were weight loss, save money and give your body a break.  One surprise was how personal relationships were affected.  Drinking is a social thing, and some folks tend to get offended if you don’t or won’t join them in the imbibing of alcohol.  Some people take it personally and won’t invite you to the party if you are abstaining.  I found this interesting.  If you find you’re in a situation where your friends are grumpy because you’re not joining in with their drinking, you can do several things.  You can give the bartender some cash to only pour drinking_glass_00118club soda and lime, no matter what you order (if you’re going to do this, it is most effective if you order Vodka and Tonic), or, you can say you’re feeling a bit under the weather and simply order club soda and lime or lemon, or you can just ignore the grumpiness and go on with socializing with your friends.

Another surprise we experienced was the lack of tolerance to alcohol after we finished our 30 days of abstinence.  In December, we were accustomed to consuming a bottle of wine between the two of us per dinner.  We only had wine with dinner about three times ane resolution week, but we usually finished off the better part of a bottle.  In February, we found one-half of a bottle was more than enough, showing us our
tolerance was not what it once was.  This can be a good thing!  Just think – you only need to purchase half as much wine, and you only consume one-half of the calories.

030110Sommelier 1.jpg

We also noticed we appreciated the subtle nuances of what we were drinking, and our nose was more sensitive to the delicate and more understated notes of the bouquet of the wine.  Another wonderful surprise.

So, if you’re going to make a New Year’s resolution, keep the goals realistic, keep the New-Year-Resolution-photopromise to yourself within reach.  Get a partner to help you along and to give support.  And, if you’re NOT giving up alcohol for January, check back in two weeks, I’ll be doing a recommendation for wine pairings with cold-climate stews.

What resolution(s) did you make for 2016?

Holiday Sparkle and Shine

sephora holiday

The holiday season is here and the next two weeks are the biggest celebration weeks of the year.  Now is the time to escalate your sparkle and shine (my favorite time of the year).  If you’re like me, you may think you just want to throw some glitter on your face  and that is all you need.  Hmm…well…not quite.  On the other hand, if you’re not careful and youglitter fallout don’t use the right products, you may end up with glitter all over your face, and, more than likely, that’s not the look you’re going for.

The eyelids are the most popholiday glitterular spot for maximum glitter and if you’re not careful, you may end up with a lot of fall-out.  Fall-out is when the pigment of the product you’re applying does not stay where you want it.  Instead, it goes all over your face where you don’t want it.  Glitter is exceptionally prone to fall-out, ending up under your eyes and on your cheeks, not on your eyelids.

The best way I have found to keep the glitter or sparkle where you want it mac painterlyis to make it stick.  You can use a sticky eyelid primer such as MAC’s Pro-Longwear Paint Pot.  I use the color “Painterly” most often, it blends with the color of my lids.  I use a lighter color (“Soft Ochre”) when I want to lighten things up, and a darker color (“Blackground”) when I’m going for a more smoky eye look.  Another cream shadow option is bobbi brown cream shadowBobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Cream Shadow, which comes in large selection of nudes and a rainbow of colors.  You can also use a gel liner for the base but a gel liner is more difficult to blend out and it dries faster.  I find it easier to work with a cream shadow or a eye primer.

If you want to use a primer, try Shadow Insurance by Too Faced (which comes in several shade options) or Nars eyelid primer.  I like both of these because they lay evenly, no clumping, and they do not crease.

One word of caution, when doing any type of smoky eye or a party look, I like to do all of my eye makeup first, this way if I need to clean up anything that may have landed in an area that I did not intend for it to land, I can easily clean it up without disrupting my face makeup. Or, you can dust a translucent powder under your eyes for easy cleanup. e552 brush

After you apply your sticky base, take a flat eye brush (one such as a
MAC’s 247 brush or the E55 brush by Sigma).  Lay your brush down onto the glitter and then lightly pat it onto your eyelid.  Do not brush it on.   You can also use a mixing medium to adhere the glitter.  MAC’s Fix + works well for this, just spray MAC Fix itonto your brush and then lay into the glitter. It is important you do not get glitter in your eye, please be careful and do not get glitter in your eyes!

If you want to have some sparkle on your eyes but not the full on effect of glitter, you can use a shimmery eye shadow or you can use a sparkly eye liner.  TSmashbox-Double-Exposure-Palettehe Smashbox Double Exposure is a lovely sparkly palette. Make Up For Ever (MUFE) makes a nice selection of individual glitter and sparkly eye shadows.

stila glitter eyelinerNYX, Stila and Urban Decay make excellent glitter eye liners.  Of these, I prefer Stila.   By using a shimmer eye shadow and a glitter eye liner, you can get a nice amount of sparkle and shine without feeling like a neon light in a room of darkness. glitter liner

But what if you want a matte eye look, but still want a bit of sparkle?  Go for a shimmery highlighter or a sparkly lip gloss.  Dior came out with a beautiful palette
this holiday, the ‘Couture Creations’ Palette.  Along with the four stunning shadows there is a Diorific Face Powder in #001 Rose d’Or.  This is a very sparkly highlighter.  If you’re applying this, use a fan brush – yes, there is a use fordior palette a fan brush!  I recommend this palette for people with light to medium skin tones.  For a less expensive sparkle on the tops of the cheekbones, over the brows and on the cupid bow, I suggest checking out Burberry’s single eye shadows, several work well as a highlighter.  If you’re in the Walnut Creek, California, Nordstrom, ask for Susie Dragoni, she is an expert when it comes to anything Burberry Cosmetics.

becca goldenIf you’re looking for a highlighter that shimmers and glows, instead of the sparkle, check out Becca.  This company makes several gorgeous highlighters which have shimmer, not sparkle.  The Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in “Golden Opal Pearl” has a cult following. It is that good.

Finally, for just a touch of sparkle, something for a daytime holiday party, look for a sparkly lip gloss.  Bobbi Brown makes my favorite shimmer lip gloss, “Pink Sequin”, bobbi brown shimmer lip gloss“Bellini” and “Pink Tulle” are gorgeous  You can keep the sparkle and shine off the eyes and cheeks, but still have a festive look with a shimmer lip gloss.

Please keep in mind that it is usually best to limit the sparkle to one area on your face.  If you add too much glitter or sparkle, it may clash and cause confusion to your look.

Happy Celebration Time!

Multi Colored Star Confetti

Bring on the Bubbles!

champagne 3December has arrived, it is time to bring out the bubbles.  I’m talking about Sparkling Wine, Cava, Prosecco and yes, Champagne.  I’m a firm believer in drinking bubbles all year, but especially in December.  December is a month of celebration and festivities.  It is a time to gather with friends and family.  There is no better way to celebrate the special times than to open a bottle of bubbles.

Now, how to decide what to purchase, what to serve and how toprosecco jj buckley store the  bubbles.  First, you need to determine how much sweetness you wish to have in your glass.  There are four levels of sugar in sparkling wine; Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry and Demi Sec.

  • Extra Brut is the sparkling wine with absolutely no sugar.  This is the driest of wines.
  • Brut is the most popular.  Most Champagnes are in the Brut style.  There is a small amount of sugar, lending itself to a hint of sweetness.
  • Extra Dry is slightly sweeter than Brut.  Most Proseccos are in the extra dry style.
  • Demi Sec is a sweet sparkler.  Serve this with dessert, there is noticeable sugar in a demi sec.

cavaNow you need to decide if you want a fruity type of sparkling wine or one that is drier and less fruity.  The Italian method of production, the Charmat-Martinotti method, produces a sparkling wine that has a fruiter taste, the Champagne method will give you a drier wine.  The Champagne method (fermented first in the tank, then again in the bottle), takes longer and is more expensive to make.

Speaking of cost, you will need to figure out what your budget will allow.  How many bottles will you need?  If you’re serving more than 10 people, my opinion is to head for a prosecco or cava.  Prosecco and cava wines are generally of fair quality for a good price (around $15.00 or less).  These wines are usually brut or extra dry and will pair beautifully with a variety of foods; appetizers such as cheese, nuts, or fresh vegetables, and entrees of chicken, turkey, and seafood, and of course anything Italian oDomaine Ste. Micheller Spanish of origin.

For a smaller crowd, you could go with a sparkling wine or champagne.  One of my favorite sparkling wines is Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut from Columbia Valley, Washington.  This wine is made from primarily the chardonnay grape, with a little pinot noir and pinot gris, and has a lovely crisp flavor, with pear and apple notes to it.  The Domaine Ste. Michelle comes in a brut rosé, and an extra dry version, as well as the brut.  frank sinatraMy favorite is the brut because it is always a perfect pairing with fish, poultry, pork and of course dancing to Frank Sinatra.  It is generally easy to find a bottle of the Domaine Ste. Michelle on the shelf at your favorite wine shop, and the price should be around $17.00.

If you’re willing and able to get a bit more luxurious, and you want Champagne, then check out Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvee.  The Piper-Heidsieck folks make a wonderful collection of wines; Cuvee Brut, Cuvee Sublime, and Rosé Sauvage are their three most popular wines.  Again, the Brut Cuvee is my pick, because this will work beautifully with most foods, and all festivities.  The Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvee is crisp, with a taste of toast, herbs and a little apricot.  The price averages around $39.00 and you should be able to find this Champagne in most wine shops.  If you’re looking for somethinpiperg a little sweeter, check out the Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage.  This is a spectacular rosé champagne, and will make a stunning appearance at your celebration.

The general rule for figuring how much wine you’ll need is four glasses per bottle.  The type and shape of glass you use is up to you.  There are no longer any hard and fast rules as to what glass you must use, it depends on your preference.  The narrower the glass, the longer the bubbles will stay in the glass (less surface for them to escape).  I personally prefer a white wine glass for any wine with bubbles.  It’s more comfortable to drink from and it’s still narrow enough to keep the bubbles in.

When serving a brut or extra dry wine, try adding one or two fresh champagne and raspberriesraspberries to the bottom of the glass before pouring the wine, it’s a very nice touch for a special occasion.  The raspberries will float to the top adding a bit of flavor and a beautiful spot of color.

Oh – and please be careful when opening a bottle of bubbles.  Always put a towel of some form over the top and hold the bottle away from you, away from any people, and away from all windows and glasses.  No swords or knives, just a dish towel or something to that effect.  I recommend opening the bottle outside in case open champagneit runs a bit over upon opening.  You don’t need an opener, just twist off the wire cage and gently pull up on the cork, and smile while you’re doing this, it helps.

If by chance you have a bottle of bubbles that has not been totally consumed, please use a wine vacuum to remove the oxygen from the bottle, and then store the bottle in the refrigerator.  Your sparkling wine should stay reasonably well for one or perhaps two days.  I do not recommend re-vacuuming the wine a second time, but it will work at least once.  If you have bottles that are not opened, please store them in a cool, dry place, away from light.  You can safely keep an unopened bottle of bubbles for a year in a cool, dark place.  If you want to keep your wine vacuumunopened bottle of bubbles longer than a year, you need to check with your wine shop about this.  The amount of time you can store an unopened bottle of bubbles depends on the vintage, type of wine, and location of storage.

What wine will you be serving at your next gathering?




Organize Your Stuff!

giftThe gifting season is about to begin. What a lovely time of year. Although, looking around my house, I can see where there may be a problem finding a place for anything new.

Through the years, I have accumulated a lot of stuff. Having two kids did not help, it seems I’ve now accumulated their stuff. They get organizedmoved out of the house, their stuff did not. To compound the issue, I live in a small house, with even smaller closets. What to do?  How to keep it all organized and tidy?

First thing is to clear out all items that have expired. Next, clear out anything no longer used, you don’t like, don’t want. If it is something that someone else can use, give it away trashor sell it. If, you’re like me, and there are items you don’t use, but for whatever reason you can’t let it go, store it in a container that is completely opaque. Put this container in a dry, dark spot. Visit your container every six months to see if you still feel the need to keep these boxes

Now you’re ready to organize what is left. My number one stop for organizational and storage containers is the office products shop, such as Staples, Office Depot or even Amazon (Office Product section). Look for the storage and organization category. If you’re looking to add storage to your bathroom, plastic storagechild’s room, sewing or hobby room, look at the plastic rolling carts at Staples. I recommend the plastic style over the wooden style for the bathroom, it’s easier to maintain with all of the steam and damp heat that collects in the bathroom.

Go to the Container Store website for items that will give you options for your cosmetics and skin care products. I like to keep my everyday, twice a day, necessaries handy. The acrylic section of acrylic container 2makeup organizers should have an option that will fit in your bathroom. If you sign up for the e-mail option, you will get periodic e-mails with discount coupons. Or, you may find similar items at Amazon.

While we’re in the bathroom, if you’re like me, there’s a bit too much “stuff” in your shower. I can never decide which shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, facial cleanser, etc., that I want. simplehuman So, I tend to keep a lot of options in the shower. This can get a bit dicey and scary (picture items falling off the little sides of the tub and dancing around my feet while showering). I have found a safer and better alternative to storing my shower goodies on the little (too little) sides of the tub. I found the Simplehuman Shower Caddy. These come in several options, big, bigger and biggest. I love the Simplehuman brand, very clean lines, very functional brand.wooden rolling cart

Moving into the kitchen, if you’re looking for something to store your kitchen items in, look for a rolling wooden cart. You may want deeper drawers for the kitchen to hold those appliances that need a home away from your counter top. Appliances such as the electric hand mixer, coffee bean grinder, food scale, juicer, need a place away from the counter to clear the clutter and to keep them clean. I like the rolling carts, they are effortless to move which makes cleaning easier. kitchen caddyWhile you are in the office store, look at the acrylic containers for holding your small kitchen items (long handled spoons, whisks, spatulas, clips, pins, etc.). You will find these items in the desk top organizer section.

Are you ready to tackle the garage, basement, cellar, attic or your storage unit? First rule: get it off the floor! Depending on the weight of your stuff, whitmorget some metal shelving that you can stack your possessions on. I like Whitmor Shelving. You can find these at Amazon. Each shelf holds 350 pounds, and these shelves have a ten year warranty. And, I have found the Sterilite 106 Qt. Latch Box (sold at Home Depot) fits perfectly on the Whitmor 4 or 3 shelf unit. Using a plastic box sterliteto store your belongings will protect them from water, rodents, insects and any other little nasties that you find in garages, basements, attics, or storage units. These Sterilite boxes are semi-transparent making it possible to see what is inside. However, I also color-code labels on the outside, making it easier for trouble-free retrieval. I color code each box according to season (for clothing), purpose (holiday, cleaning, yard) or person. Each garage storageson and daughter-in-law has a color assigned to him or her. I use different colored index cards to simplify this task.

Last stop is the home office. This is a very important room to organize. The best way to get rid of paper clutter is to scan any paper you will need to access in the future. This makes it super simple to locate documents. You need to set up file folders on your computer first. Then, as you scan the documents, save each one to the assigned file folder on your computer. If you don’t have a scanner, I highly recommend getting one. Most printers come with a form of a scanner, but if you don’t want to get a new printer, a hand-held scanner is an option. Even if you have a scanner in your printer, you may want to invest in a hand-held scscanneranner for those items that do not fit on a printer scanner. You can, and should, also scan all of your photos that you want to keep forever. Again, set up several file folders on your computer, and as you scan the photos, save them in the assigned file folder for effortless retrieval in the future.  Be sure to name the documents and photos with a name you can easily remember for searching purposes.  I always save my photos with the name(s) of the individuals or the location of the picture as part of the file name, dates are helpful too. shred

The next thing to do in your home office is to shred any documents which you no longer need. If in doubt, scan the documents first. Please note:  If you have original estate planning documents, please put these into a fireproof box for safe keeping. Never shred original legal documents, keep these in a safe, fireproof box.

For all of your important papers that you need to keep, and need easy access to, you will need fireproof boxa file cabinet. File cabinets come in all sizes and materials. If you do not have a lot of papers, you can get away with a file box. If you’re further along in your life experience, think file boxabout getting two, three or two-drawer file cabinets. If you purchase two of the same units, you can lay an acrylic or wood top over the two file cabinets and make a desk. Determine how high you want your desk and get two file cabinets that will work accordingly. The file cabinets will provide you with drawers and the top will give you a home officesurface to work on. One more rolling cart for your home office to store your small bits and pieces and you should be all set.

Now that you’re all set to organize your space, why not get everything in place beforerunning the gifting begins?

Hmm…sounds good to me.

****runs off to clean up kitchen clutter****

Wines to Enjoy with your Thanksgiving Meal

thanksgiving wineFor my readers in the U.S.A., Thanksgiving will soon be upon us.  Next week!   This means a feast of turkey or ham, or perhaps shellfish (the Northeastern Indians incorporated clam chowder into their diet long before the albarino-wine-0810-mPilgrims landed).   Turkey, Ham, Fish – sounds like white wine to me – right?  Not exactly.  While there are no hard and fast rules about which wine to drink with what food, it is a beautiful thing when the wine and food complement each other to bring out the best in your meal.

There are many lovely white wines out there, and yes, they go beautifully with Turkey, Ham and Fish, but when enjoying a day like Thanksgiving, fennel and citrus saladdon’t limit yourself to white wine.  Definitely start with white.  Start with a Prosecco or sparkling white.  Enjoy your deviled eggs, baked brie or iced shrimp while sipping an Albariño or Pinot Grigio.  Enhance your Fennel and Citrus Salad with a Grüner Veltliner, Vermentino, or Vinho Verde.  Yes, these are all white wines and they pair beautifully with your apps and saladssyrah.  Now, when moving onto the main course, think red.  Instead of a Pinot Noir, think about serving a light-bodied Syrah, one grown in a cooler climate such as Washington or Northern Rhône.   I recently enjoyed a lovely Syrah; a 2014 Les Vignes d’ à Côté from Yves Cuilleron.  If you are unsure of the region where your Syrah comes from (no information on the bottle), check the alcohol level.  The lighter syrahs will be under 14% ABV.

A light-bodied Syrah will allow the flavors of the turkey or ham to come through and will not overwhelm any seafood you are serving.  Another light bodied red to consider serving to your guest would be a Côtes du Rhône.

cote-du-rhone-winesThere is a lot to learn about a Côtes du Rhône wine.  I’m not going to expand on it now, but I will tell you these are the basic wines of the Rhône region.  They come in a red, white, and rosé variety.  I’m talking about the red right now.  The reds contain a blend of Grenache noir, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise and Mourvèdre grapes varieties.  Not all reds will have all varieties, but they will all have Grenache in the blend.   Look for a Southern Rhône, one that is medium to light in color.  You can pair this wine without worry.  This wine will not upstage anything you’re serving to your guests for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner; turkey, goose, ham, pork roast.

If you really want a white wine to go with your turkey, then try to find a roussaneRoussanne.  Roussanne is a white wine grape grown in the Rhône region of France, typically used as a blending grape, this grape makes a fabulous wine all on its own.  You will also find this grape in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  This grape is also found growing in California, Washington as well as Australia, Italy and Spain.  My favorite Roussanne wines come from France.   With honey and pear notes, together with a light acidity, you will find a French Roussanne is the wonderful complement to your turkey.

Of course you will be serving much more than just the protein.   You will certainly have potatoes, perhaps both mashed and sweet, and a thanksgiving dinnergreen vegetable, possibly a green-bean casserole or asparagus with parmesan cheese.  If you’re not serving sweet potatoes, you’re sure to have butternut squash.  Carrots may make their way to your table, along with corn and onions.  And, if you’re serving turkey, don’t forget the stuffing (I make mine with apples and sausage), and cranberry sauce.  For those of you serving ham, you’ll need to add some bourbon-orange glaze to this list.  Now, just how well will a Roussanne, Syrah or Côtes du Rhône wine go with all of this?  Perfectly!

Has anyone mentioned pie lately?  For dessert, you will want to sherrybring out a different style of wine.  If you’re serving pumpkin pie (yum, my favorite), try to steer clear of the sweet dessert wines, look for something with a little raisin and hazelnut flavor to it.  Something along the line of Amontillado style of Sherry.  Yes, Sherry.  This will bring out the cinnamon/nutmeg goodness of your pumpkin pie.

pie and wineFor apple pie, one leaning towards the tart side, I would suggest a rich white dessert wine, perhaps a German Riesling or Sauterne.   Pecan pie calls for Madeira.

If you are completely stuffed and cannot eat one more bite, end your festivaties with Iced Wine.   I particularly like the Ice Wine that comes from the Finger Lakes area of  Up State New York or the Quebec region of Canada.  Okay, so you may want iced wine and cheesea slice of aged cheddar or Vermont Plymouth Blue Cheese to go with this, go ahead, it’s Thanksgiving.


bon appetite





Purchasing a Used Car Should not be Painful

used car salespersonThis is off my usual topics of makeup or wine, but I felt it necessary to share my recent experience of trying to purchase a use (new to me) car.

First I have to say, money is not readily available in my house.  Spending any money, but more than $500, is a lot for  us.  This said, spending $18,000.00 is A LOT OF MONEY!  So, I think it would be nice if the people at the lot of moneycar dealers would respect anyone coming in to purchase a car.  I have to say, I get better service at the local convenience shops than I did at the first Car Dealer that we went to.  Basically everyone should be given a fair amount of respect if they are clean and neat in appearance, courteous and have a modicum of social skills.

model tWe did all of the research to find the car(s) which we felt would fit our needs.  I found several car dealerships that had the cars we were considering.  My husband is a certified journeyman mechanic which helps when buying a used car.  I found a car we were interested in and made an appointment to come down (1 hour drive away from our house) to drive the car.  The price of the car seemed too good to be true.  I had e-mailed the saleswoman and requested any information about the car, such as “what is wrong with it?”  I get a response “nothing is wrong with the car, we have too many on the lot and need to move the cars”.  We get to the dealership and find the person we made the appointment with was not in and the car was not ready.  Sedrivingems someone left a light on in the car and they had to charge it.  Now, I’m thinking;  just put a new battery in it.  But no.  Okay, this particular dealership had two other cars we were interested in, so we test drove those cars while the one I had an appointment to drive was made ready.  Long story short, we tested the two other cars, did not like them and finally tested the car I had an appointment to drive.  We finally find out what is wrong with the car.  It has an odd rumble in the middle of the undercarriage when the heater/air conditioner is turned on (which is not correct), and it has a lot of odd wind noise when it is going more than 5 miles per hour down the road.  I put the window down and it was quieter with the window down than with the window up.

used car saleswomanSo, we go back inside to the woman that has spent about 15 minutes with us and tell her we did not like any of the cars, and we are going to leave.  She jumps up from behind her desk and tells us we have to meet the manager before we can leave.  I said “no, we don’t”, and start to leave.  I get a snippy remark from the sales woman that she has “spent all day with us”.  El Hub thinks we need to be more courteous than anyone at the Dealership has been so we wait for the manager.  And we wait.  And we wait.  Finally, Mr. Smarmy Manager appears and asked us what was wrong with the car.  El Hub tells him there is too much wind noise, there’s an odd rumble in the middle of the undercarriage, especially when the heater/air conditioner is on and there appears to be an exhaust leak, but he could not be sure because we were told to NOT turn off the car because of the battery.  Mr. Smarmy Manager tells us there is no extra charge for that.  What?   Because we could not turn this car off, El Hub could not crawl under it and find out what the problem is – Oh, wait!  Perhaps that is why no new battery!  That would allow El Hub to crawl under the car and he may get too much information.  Very smart of the Dealership to not put in a new battery.  Now I get it.  Silly me, I tused car salesmanold the Dealership El Hub would find out what is wrong with the car, but they figured out a way to keep him from getting under the car.  Not really a problem, there were too many issues with the car, Hubby did not want to crawl under it, no need to do this.  Well, Mr. Manager wants to know what is wrong with the car.  We tell him and he finally tells us  everything that is wrong with the car can be fixed.  Great!  Then fix it.  And we leave.  We do not want to spend money on a car that needs to be fixed.  We figure this particular car was put together all wrong in the first place.  It might have been a Friday car.  You do not want to buy a car that was put together on a Friday or a Monday.  Shift happens on those days.

We checked the internet for another dealership that had a vehicle we were interested in.  Found one about 20 minutes away.  We go to the second dealership only to find the one car we were interested in “just sold”.  Out we goused car dealership!  Of course we had to give an e-mail address and listen to a spiel about how the car we want is all wrong and the cars they are selling are much better.  Sorry.  I’ve done a lot of research as to what we need and it’s not what they are selling.

On to the third dealership.   Another 12 minutes and we are at the third stop.  We were very fortunate to get a young man who was not into the typical used-car chatter.  We gave him the information as to what we were looking for.  He looked at his inventory sheet and found several cars.  We agreed on three of the cars, and took those for a test drive.  We did find one car that we really liked but of cooverpricedurse the price was too high.  We gave our offer, said thank you and left.

We have since visited two other dealerships, no luck in finding a used car that we like that is in our price range.  However, we have the internet and all of the tools we need to find our car.  We  will prevail.  We will try to find an honest car dealership, one that will give us a fair value (Kelly Blue Book Value would be nice), and sell us a car without problems.

toyotaAfter testing 12 cars, we finally found a very nice woman at a dealership that allowed us to take the car home, and the next day, drive it to where El Hub works.  He put it up on the lift and checked it out.  All looked well.  We went back to the Dealership and put an offer on the car.  We negotiated back and forth a little and came to an amicable conclusion.  This saleswoman was forthright, and did her best to get us the best possible price for a decent car.

What this little chapter in my life has taught me is;  persevere with my conviction and stay true to my belief that I can find a vehicle that will suit what my family needs and be the right price.  This took many hours of research on the internet to get an accurate price for the on liftvehicle of my choice.  It took the test driving of 12 cars, and traveling over 150 miles to find the right car.  During this process, I did find the prices of the comparable vehicles change depending on the average income of the local community.   We didn’t purchase our car from an affluent area.

My advice:  determine your needs, research the car(s) you think you want to purchase.  Figure out your budget and what you can afford.  Stick to what you can afford.  You’re going to hear a lot of sales talk about how you can lower your monthly payment by extending your payments to 72 months – or more!  Really?  72 months?  Test as many vehicles as you can.  Stay true to yourself.  Don’t listen to “We’ve had a lot of people looking at this car, it may not be here very long”, or  “you purchaseshould put a deposit down to keep the car”.   You’ll make a better deal at the end of the month.  If you can’t negotiate the price you want, try to get something added into the negotiations that you need, such as tires, new brakes,  whatever you think you may need with the car.  Carfax is good, try to get that, it will help you get a sense of the history of the vehicle.  Take your time, look around and make a reasonable, logical decision.  A decision  you can live with for at least five years.  Five years is how long your car should last if you’re able to buy a car that is in fairly good condition and you take care of it.  Don’t purchase with your emotions, purchase with your brain.    If you do this, you may just end up with a good, sound, car that will serve you well.