Photo 101 Day 1: Home

I had so much fun with the Blogging 101 course here at WordPress that I decided to try the Photo 101 course. These days, I take all of my photos with my phone, since it’s the one thing I’m guaranteed to have on me at all times. Also these days, my photos are pretty split between my umpteenth moss/log/mushroom photo (sometimes, I even hit all three in one shot!), taunting wine and food photos that I immediately text to my friend who totally deserves each and every one (they’re all in retaliation to her taunting photos, I swear!), and some wine tasting and recipe photos for this blog. It would be nice to expand my horizons.

The first prompt is home:

Home is elusive. When we think about this word, we might picture different physical locations. And while home is often found on a map, it can also be less tangible: a loved one, a state of mind.

Home, for me, is sanctuary. I’m quite introverted and guard my personal space fiercely, and rarely invite people into my home as a result. So for this prompt, I decided to push myself past my normal comfort levels and offer up a photo of the most intimate part of my home—my altar:
altar_photo

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(Mini) Wine Review: Rivata Casa Rossa

casa rossa

Hello, my new summer crush! You are so fizzy and flirty and sweet.

This is a sweet (but not too sweet) Italian red with a touch of carbonation, so it’s refreshingly fizzy and delightful chilled. It’s fresh and crisp with a hint of blackberry and a strong plum finish.

It’s the perfect wine to sip on a gorgeous summer day when you’re out on the back porch with a good book and a cloudless sky. I’m going to be forced, forced I tell you, to pick up another bottle for to celebrate that first perfect summer day. And at $11.99, it’s a wine that’s going into my gift rotation. I know a few folks who will enjoy it as much (if not more than) me.

Three Things Thursday

I found Three Things Thursday through one of my mom’s blog, Retreading for Retirement. It sounds like a fun exercise: “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life” and include a link back to Nerd in the Brain’s current Three Things Thursday post.

So, here are my three things:

1. The Walking Dead

More specifically, discussing The Walking Dead with a couple of my coworkers who are huge fans of the show. I’m a bit behind the curve. These coworkers have been trying to get me to watch The Walking Dead since the first season (it’s currently in its fifth season). I snagged the first two seasons on sale over the weekend, dug in on Sunday and am currently in full marathon mode.

And every morning when I get into work, I report my progress (and my reactions) to my coworkers. (All right, some evenings, I can’t resist texting them.) It’s been a long time since I’ve been actively fannish and even longer since I’ve been actively fannish with people I know offline. It’s so much fun!

2. The weather

It was 61 F today when I went walking after work. (Sorry, Northeast folks.) As I said yesterday, February is usually my roughest month, but so far, it’s being very, very kind to me.

3. L.A Confidential

L.A. Confidential is one of those movies I pop in on a regular basis. It’s stylish and brutal, and I have a soft spot for James Cromwell and Kim Basinger. Mom loaned me the book, so now I get to do one of my favorite things: compare the book to the movie.

So a mushroom walks into a bar…

We’ve had a mild winter (sorry, Northeast folks), and it’s already starting to take a springish turn here. The frogs are out and singing, and today, when I was out walking with my dad, I spotted my first mushrooms of spring. Naturally, I had to stop and take a photo.

mushrooms around branch

I think this is turkey tail. It’s very pretty, and almost hypnotic the way is swirls around the branch.

Or two.

mushrooms at base of tree

These lovelies were nestled at the base of a cedar tree.

Okay, much more than two. Fungus is very photogenic. (Or maybe I’m just my mother’s daughter.)

mushrooms on log

More (possible) turkey tails. As much as I like mushrooms, I’m not up on all the varieties.

I’m a moss girl, so it’s fitting that towards the end of our walk, I saw this beauty:

mossy fungus

Moss, stums, and mushrooms. Three of my favorite things!

February is normally one of my toughest months. By the time it comes around, I’m done with the gray and the rain and the dark, but as I mentioned, we’ve had a mild winter. Our fall wasn’t too bad, either. So far, this February has been, dare I say it, pleasant.

But I’m still excited for spring.

(Mini) Book Review: Shiver by Karen Robards

Samantha Jones is the best damn repo woman on the books. The streetwalkers, the drug pushers, the bands of looking-for-trouble punks haunting the mean streets at midnight don’t intimidate her. These are her people. The guy she finds bound and bloodied in the trunk of a flashy new BMW is a different breed entirely.

Daniel Panterro knows he hasn’t seen the last of the vicious drug runners who kidnapped him from protective custody and left him for dead. His only recourse is to take his pretty savior and her four-year-old son hostage and force her to help him. With ruthless killers stalking their trail, Sam must trust this handsome, menacing stranger. But as she relinquishes control, she feels an unmistakable desire. What is the price of falling in love with a man who operates on the edge of danger–her heart, her life…or both?

Shiver by Karen Robards cover

I finished Shiver back on January 22nd, and have been poking at this review and debating if it was worth posting since then. Shiver is one of those books that didn’t work for me, and my complaints boil down to my personal tastes, and I can’t fault the book for not lining up with my tastes. I’m a bit bummed it didn’t work for me, because the back of the book summary hit a number of my happy buttons: a tough heroine (with a young kid!), a morally ambiguous hero willing to take her (and her kid!) hostage to save his own skin, and, of course, killers determined to hunt them down.

While the heroine, Sam, hit my happy buttons and then some, unfortunately we don’t spend much time in her world. The streetwalkers, drug pushers, and bands of looking-for-trouble punks might be her people, but I have to take the back of the book’s word for it. All they are is brief window dressing before Sam finds herself stuffed in a trunk with a bound and bleeding Daniel Panterro.

And that’s where my disappointment starts. Daniel hit that annoying spot between my shoulder blades and just dug in. At first, I thought it was his undercover identity, but no, it’s him. He calls Sam baby doll long after she tells him not to. Which…doesn’t seem like that big of a thing all by its lonesome, but it sums up his attitude towards everyone, but especially Sam. It doesn’t matter what anyone else wants or thinks. He knows best and is going to do what he wants, and if pretty little Sam protests, well, she’s cute when she gets all riled up.

I wouldn’t be so bothered by Daniel in an urban fantasy or paranormal. I do love alpha heroes in all their alpha bastard glory, but I prefer the story reality to be pretty far removed from mine. A thriller reality isn’t quite far enough removed for me to ignore the little voice reminding me that I’ve known people like Daniel, and it’s annoying dealing with them.

So it was annoying dealing with Daniel as a hero. There were many points where I wanted to reach into the pages and give Sam a good shake while saying, “He’s an asshole, and you can do so much better. SO MUCH BETTER!”

The book at least ends on a happy for now note, so I can imagine Sam’s best friend Kendra doing the shaking and shouting for me a few months down the road. And Sam listening, because she’s a smart cookie (who can do so much better).

(Crossposted to Booklikes)

Wine Review: Northwest Cellars 12th Man Viognier

a toast to the Seahawks

Wine totally goes with Super Bowl pizza, especially when it’s 12th Man wine. GO HAWKS!

So. It’s Super Bowl Sunday. And since I live in Seahawks country, I am obligated to tune in. Okay, the for real true story is that I fully intended to follow the Hawk’s performance through my neighbor’s fireworks, Facebook, and Twitter, but then my parents invited me over for pizza, and mom said I should make honey walnut ricotta baked apples for them, and then I saw 12th Man wine in the grocery store, and. Well. I know my own personal version of Beast Mode when I see it.

I told my parents I’d happily come eat pizza, watch the Hawks trounce the Patriots (I know; it’s tied at halftime, but GO HAWKS!), and make baked apples if they’d do a special Brown Family Review of Northwest Cellars’ 12th Man wine, To further encourage mom’s participation, I even opted for the white.

This is a 2012 Viognier, hone grown in Washington (specifically Upland Vineyards at Snipes Mountain, in the Yakima region). Now, I am not a huge fan of whites, and Viogniers are hit and miss for me. This one’s a miss for me. All I can taste is the alcohol.

Luckily, my parents are around to pick up the slack for me. Here’s what mom has to say:


It truly compliments my pizza…yes, I would drink it again.

And dad:


I think it has a nice aroma, and the first taste is slightly sweet, but not cloyingly so. It has a fruity taste to me, and it has a nice finish, no unpleasant aftertaste at all.

Like mom, my dad would have it again.

The pizza, for the record, was bacon, black olives, and mushrooms. I can see why mom, who likes whites more than I do, said it compliments the pizza. The sharpness of it was effective at cutting through the lingering (yummy) taste of bacon.

End result: if you’re a fan of sweeter whites, this might be a good try. As for me, I think I’ll be sticking to late harvest Viogniers.

And if the Hawks make it to the Super Bowl next year? That will be an excuse to try the 12th Man red. 😀 GO HAWKS!

Wine Review: Fish Eye 2013 Merlot

One of the shows I’m enjoying this season is Fox’s Gotham, because I have a weakness for All Things Batman. And over the course of this season, I’ve developed a weakness for one of the main antagonists, Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith.

(I may also have a weakness for All Things Jada Pinkett Smith.)

(I definitely have a weakness for smart, scheming women looking to head up criminal empires. And when they look as fabulous as Fish Mooney and have sidekicks like Butch, hello special place in my heart.)

Without being too spoilery, I knew coming into this week’s episode that I might need some wine-infused courage.

(Yes, Fish, I feel the same way.)

Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to try a new-to-me wine. Either way, I was on the lookout at the grocery store this weekend, and Fish Eye’s 2012 Merlot all but jumped off the shelf at me. I mean, really. It was a sign from the DC-FOX gods, or something. (And also, the bottle was under $10. That’s two and a half mochas, which made it an even easier sell. But I digress.)

Fish Eye Merlot

I can see Fish Mooney giving folks the fish eye with a glass of this in hand.

Fish Eye wines come out of south eastern Australia. I haven’t had a lot of Australian wines (south eastern or otherwise), so I can’t say how this Merlot compares to others from the region. I can say that this one tastes young. It’s got an up front bite that’s harsh and a bit hard for me to get past. The tasting notes say ripe plum, currants, and a nose of smoky oak. I can definitely smell that. In fact, the wine smells delicious. So delicious, that I’d like to snag another bottle and stick it in the back of the pantry for another year or two to see if the taste mellows out a bit, because with a little less up front bite, this would most likely be one of those wines I’d regularly have on hand.

This is a wine you want to let breathe (and breathe), and one to have with food. I had it with some cream of mushroom soup while watching Gotham, and I think it would have gone better with something more substantial, like a nice roast beef or a thick slice of meatloaf, or even lasagna with lots and lots of garlicy red sauce. Basically, food with a lot of bite on its own, so the bite of the wine feels refreshing.

Fish Eye has a number of other wines, all at affordable prices, so I’ll be tasting my way through their offerings. I’m particularly interested in their Pinot Noir. Merlots will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the first varietal I realized I liked when I started tasting wines, but it’s not one of my current go-to favorites. That may have worked against this Fish Eye.

On the other hand, that harsh up front bite was a good pairing with the Gotham episode. 😉

(Oh, Fish Mooney! I do adore you!)


Animated gifs from fallontonight.tumblr.com & Fox TV, both found on giphy.com

Wine Review: Sun Garden 2012 Riesling

I’ve come to learn that I approach wine buying much like I approach book buying. I have my favorite “genre” (reds) and “subgenres” (Sangiovese, Malbec, Pinot Noir…), and my tried and true “authors” (Airfield Estates, Brian Carter Cellars…), but sometimes I want something new. And a catchy cover bottle and the right price point will get my attention.

sun garden 2012 riesling

Sun Garden’s 2012 Riesling is a little like having a glass of early spring sunshine.

That’s how I came to try Sun Garden’s 2012 Riesling. It is a gorgeous bottle (I love turquoise), and while this winter hasn’t been as gray and dreary as past winters, I am starting to give the clouds the stinkeye. The sun on the label immediately perked me up, and the price was right. And I do like (the right) Rieslings.

This is an off-dry Riesling, and any off-dry white is a hard sell for me. I generally like my whites to commit to the sweet or dry end of the spectrum and tend to be underwhelmed by anything in between. Sun Garden’s 2012 Riesling, however, has enough fruitiness to hold my interest. It starts nice and tart and then opens up to a nice, crisp melony-peachy note.

I had it with my baked apples with honey walnut ricotta this past weekend, and it was a perfect compliment to the dessert. The apple really highlighted the tartness of the wine, and the wine, in turn, brought out the sweetness in the dessert. I also had it the next day with some cream of mushroom soup, and while it wasn’t quite as dazzling when paired with the soup, it was nice and light and a good counterweight to the heaviness of the cream.

I’ll likely pick it up again, especially when I want to offset a sweet dessert.

Recipe: Baked Apples with Honey Walnut Ricotta

I always enjoy baked apples when I have them, but I rarely make them at home. That needs to change. They’re a quick and tasty dessert, and maybe it’s because I don’t make them too often, but they feel like a treat.

baked apples with honey walnut ricotta filling

Baked apples with honey walnut ricotta fresh out of the oven.

And now they really feel like a treat. Over the weekend, I made some ricotta cheese, and then promptly made baked apples with a honey walnut ricotta filling. And once they came out of the oven, I promptly ate one. It was delicious, so let me share them with you!

Ingredients:


  • 4 medium to largish baking apples.
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup (uncrushed) walnuts
  • 2-4 tablespoons honey
  • Approximately 1 cup boiling water
baked apple ingredients

Apples + ricotta + walnuts + honey + oven magic = YUM!

Instructions:


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Wash and dry the apples. Use an apple corer or a paring knife to cut out the cores. Leave the bottom part (about 1/2 inch) of the apple intact. Scoop out the seeds and widen the filling hole to 1/2 to 1 inch depending on the size of your apples.
    baked_apples_cored
  3. Place the walnuts in a plastic bag and crush them a bit until they’re medium-sized chunks of walnuty goodness.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, walnuts, and honey. I ended up using 2 tablespoons of pumpkin honey and 1 tablespoon of buckwheat honey. The buckwheat honey is dark and tastes a little like molasses, so I thought it would go well with the walnuts, but it is strong, so I wanted a gentler honey to offset it.
    baked_apples_filling
  5. Fill each apple with the honey walnut ricotta and place in a baking dish. If there’s an extra spoonful of the filling, well, it would be horrible to let it go to waste. Horrible. Eat and enjoy and promise (with your fingers crossed behind your back) to either buy bigger apples or widen the filling holes next time.
    baked_apples_filled
  6. Add the boiling water to the baking dish and 350°F for 35-45 minutes, or until the apples are tender.

Enjoy with a glass of Riesling or a scoop of ice cream (or both)!

It’s a walk in the park

Quote

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Re-springing Your Step.”

When I was a kid, my dad and I used to go bike riding on the weekends. It was our father-daughter bonding time. As I got older, school and swimming took up more of my time, and then I went to college (well) out of state and stayed there after graduation.

Now that my parents are retired, they’ve moved up here to Western Washington. Now I meet my dad once or twice a week when I get off work for afternoon walks. I’m enjoying this version of father-daughter bonding time more, I think, than I enjoyed our bike rides when I was a kid. For one, they’re still a novelty. For two, my dad is good company. It’s fun interacting with him as an adult.

And for three, we live in the age of camera phones. I take a lot of photos on our walks. Allow me to present a couple of my favorites:

Puget Sound from Titlow Park

A view of Puget Sound from Titlow Park.


Fall day at Snake Lake

A fall day at Snake Lake. The path is so inviting…


mushrooms for mom

The obligatory fungus photo for mom.