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This past weekend was a girls’ weekend… and a good one.  One of the things that I adore about wine is that the right wine goes with food AND friends.  The elegant bottle and lovely glasses lend a celebratory air to any table while the simple act of toasting the occasion and clinking stemware reaffirms ties both old and new.

Friends, malbec and Japanese food- life is good!

Friends, malbec and Japanese food- life is good!

This weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to spend much of my time with two grammar school gal pals, Holly and Kimberly.  It’s been thirty-four years, but we still get one another.   On Saturday evening we had dinner together at Yoshi’s in Oakland.  Yum.  Japanese goodness on a plate, or in this case, many plates– we ate a lot!  With dinner Holly and I split a bottle of the 2011 Andeluna Cellars Malbec 1300 Mendoza.  (Kim is not a wine drinker, but she still toasted, so it’s all good.)  Thanks to the Andeluna’s tastiness I shall always remember this meal as, “that delicious sushi dinner we had with the fabulous malbec.”  It will help me cement the sensory impressions of this special time I spent with my dear friends.

Argentina is well-known for its malbecs and some of the best come from Mendoza.  As I have mentioned in a previous column, malbecs are amazing.  Like pinot noirs they are that uncommon red wine that pairs well with a variety of foods (similar to rieslings and sauvignon blancs amongst the white wines), although far more fruit and berry-driven than the pinot.  Japanese cuisine can be a particular challenge to pair wines with as one’s dinner can run the gamut from delicate to complex to spicy flavors.

The Andeluna took on all comers.  It’s an accessible wine– for those just beginning to become acquainted with red wine, here’s your gateway bottle.  There’s enough tannin to add structure and complexity, but in general one is struck by the bright berry and cherry flavors.  This is a very well-rounded malbec with just a hint of spice.  It was really quite lovely, and at about a $13 price point (depending upon the vendor), it’s very affordable, especially for a wine averaging about 87 points by reviewers.  Should you have a bottle at Yoshi’s, they charge $30 which isn’t bad for a really tasty wine at a restaurant.

2011 Andeluna Cellars Malbec 1300 Mendoza, Argentina

2011 Andeluna Cellars Malbec 1300 Mendoza, Argentina

If you wish to purchase a bottle for yourself and aren’t planning on an evening of sushi in Oakland, California, here are a few options:

The Wine Club

Solano Cellars

Both charge around $10, but remember you still have shipping charges.  I shall certainly be purchasing some for my husband and myself.

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her creative contributions to the BBB Blog.

I’ll say it again… there’s no shame in pink.

The 1990’s and crimes committed against white zinfindel and its fans have a great deal to answer for.  For starters, I now frequently meet people who believe that all rosé wines are white zin.  This is not true. The pink color of some wines is achieved when the juice from red grapes (which is clear) is allowed to ferment for a time against the skins of these grapes.  These wines can be sparkling or still.  There can be any number of blends and varietals: white cabernet, white grenache, white syrah and, of course, the aforementioned and much abused: white zinfindel.  In the United States we call them rosés, in Spain and Portugal they are rosados and in Italy they are rosatos.

The time the white juice is allowed contact against the red skins (typically only a few days) changes the taste and structure of the wine, adding flavor and tannins which add complexity.  The longer the juice is with the skins, the deeper the pink hue to the wine.

I can remember when I truly enjoyed a nice white zin, until some corporate dunderbluss decided to make it accessible to the masses- read “water them down to a bland, sicky sweet punch-like substance.”  As an aside, something very similar occurred with merlot in the early 2000’s– gag me with a decanter.

Where was I?

Oh yes, yummy rosé goodness!  This week on Get Your Wine on Wednesday I’d like to introduce the Wild Coyote White Syrah- perfect to chill on a summer evening.  C’est delish!

If you are ever in Paso Robles- be sure to stop by this very different and fun winery- the House of Reds as they like to refer to themselves.  (Fair warning- you need to like big, high-octane California style fruit bombs to enjoy these babies.)  Accordingly their white syrah is nicknamed, “El Gringo.”  Don’t let the name deter you- it’s zippy: flavorful, fruity and the perfect wine with spicy food.

You can purchase this and other Wild Coyote offerings (they make a mean mouvedre) on their website.

http://www.wildcoyote.biz/

If you are lucky enough to be able to make it down to Paso Robles and go to the winery: enjoy the Tipi, check out their B & B and for the love of God, ask for Sean- he rocks.  With him as your guide you’ll have a ball.

Sadly, I only bought two bottles.  My friend, Monica, and I drank the first during one of our Doctor Who DVR nights and then Eric and I served the second at a barbecue with great friends, new and old, this past weekend.  Here are Michelle and Monica, featured in their second “Wine on Wednesday” post… well, they are two of my most fabulous pals.

Enjoy your wine!

Slainte!

M & M- aren't they lovely?!?!

M & M- aren’t they lovely?!?!

 I saw two friends last week, though actually, it has been two weeks.  I went back east and had a chance to reconnect with two very rare souls, then came home and got sick.  I am better now and so began to flesh out a piece I began on the plane ride back to California.

I saw two friends last week.   Many years passed since I had time with either of them.  They did not know one another, though they had met in days gone by.  They didn’t remember, but I did.

I joke with my children that everyone has a super power.  They say mine is reading, but I wonder… maybe it’s remembering.  It’s not a matter of intelligence, God, no; it’s just that social situations resonate for me.  Everyone who has ever met me is rolling their eyes in agreement right now- I’m like… social.  Super power is too strong and narcissistic a term, though perhaps it gives you an idea of what I mean.  Conversations that sparkle, instants captured, moments held; they all exist inside my head.  As a book is like a film to me, so too, there exists my own movie; it is my life playing in my head.  People far away, but never truly lost because I have them with me on a track I can repeat again and again.

We are born alone and so we end, by ourselves once more.  Yet in the intervening time, however long that may be, we each, in our own way, seek to reach out.  We strive for connection, understanding and companionship.  The best of art, literature and politics are played out when that connection is achieved. It may come in the form of bright, brittle social interaction, forgotten like a may fly in the summer air as we move on to the next encounter.  We might find it on a sexual level, heady with a shattering power forged in sweat and shared passion.  There are the friendships, those platonic, those romantic and a few which are mixed of both.  Some even endure, long beyond the initial connection, becoming lifelong touchstones we return to, brothers and sisters, finding in them our best and truest sense of self.  Likewise, the failure to connect, to establish those bonds which sustain us results in some of the worst of humanity: the murders, the bombings, the sadists.

This week’s song for Musical Monday is an old one; 1992, in fact.  It’s called “Man of Golden Words” by Mother Love Bone.  It seems another lifetime when a good friend played this for me, set the song on repeat and we saw the night through.

Of all the ways we find to connect, music has certainly been an important conduit for me.  Verses and the lyrical poetry hidden within operate on multiple levels, bringing about a closeness with those whose souls are similarly moved.  A long past memory can become more real than the mundane closeness of present day given the right notes played at an unexpected moment.  That is the power of song.

I love you, my friends- you shape my life in the most profound ways and, thus, help and change me along my path.  Miss you already!

Lyrics to Man of Golden Words

Wanna show you something like
The joy inside my heart
Seems I’ve been living in the temple of the dog
Where would I live, if I were a man of golden words?
And would I live, at all?
Words and music, my only tools
Communication

And on her arrival, I will set free the birds
It’s a pretty time of year, when the mountains sing out loud
Tell me, Mr. Golden Words, how’s about the world?
Tell me can you tell me at all? yeah
Words and music, my only tools
Communication
Let’s fall in love with music
The driving force of our livings
The only international language
Divine glory, the expression
The knees bow, the tongue confesses
The lord of lords, the king of kings
The king of kings

Words and music – my only tools
Communication

Man of Golden Words

Man of Golden Words

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.

Good Morning!  The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the flowers say hello.  I hope you all have a lovely May Day!

May Day Posies!

Happy May Day

A Time to Talk

Robert Frost

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, ‘What is it?’
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

Warning, it’s my blog so you are getting my opinion.  I make no pretensions at being impartial, I don’t get paid for that.  Heck, I don’t get paid at all.  I do try very hard to be fair and I do not wish to be unkind.  You want another opinion, fine, but this one is mine.

I use Facebook a fair amount.  I say “fair amount”, my better half would probably characterize that as a lot.  As per often, I disagree.  I’d say I go in spurts.  A couple of times a week I’ll post three or four things in a day, then I won’t post for a few days.  I do make a point to spend a few minutes on Facebook each day.  I like seeing what my friends are doing.  And when I say “friends” I really mean friends.  If I haven’t actually met you then I don’t accept your friend request.  It’s nothing personal; I’m just funny that way.  I won’t “like” a page either unless it’s something that I actually know and like.

So when I go on Facebook it really is to catch up on friends, especially those that are far away.  It’s wonderful that in a few clicks I can see what Sarah-from-college’s daughter Sheridan is up to, I can laugh at what funny status my friend Kathryn posted this time and don’t get me started on Caroline’s hilarious pictures and cartoons.  Not to mention, I love seeing photos of everyone’s kids and vacations.  It makes you seem closer.  I miss you, guys.

The other day I posted a little blurb on Newt Gingrich.  It pictured Newt (not a bad shot either) and then under it read, “Family Values- Using daughters from your first wife to convince everyone that your second wife is lying about your third wife”.  I know, funny, right?  I was looking at it as the photo equivalent of a political cartoon.  It makes an observation.  It expresses a point of view.  To me being able to express one’s self is a classic hallmark of American society.  I can post this about a presidential candidate and still sleep soundly at night knowing that I won’t be hauled off by the secret police in the wee hours of the morning.  Neither will my family.  That’s an amazing, wonderful thing about this country.

Two of my Facebook friends got into a commenting match with each other.  You’ve all seen them.  It happens.  I’ve entered the fray a few times myself on things that struck me.  Frankly, I like when this happens.  It is always nice to see people stretch their brains.  I mean, that’s what they are there for, brains, that is, to be used.  Naturally, as today we live in a society of polarizing forces, my friends came at the topic from widely divergent points of view.

Though I know they publicly posted using their real names, and even photos, and so aren’t ashamed of their opinions, they are not YOUR Facebook friends.  Ergo, to protect the innocent, let’s give them aliases.  One friend came from a very liberal slant, similar to myself.  Let’s call her, Libby the Liberal.  The other friend came from a more conservative, republican point of view.  We’ll name her, Connie the Conservative.  Okay, everyone still with me?  Excellent.  Let’s get down to brass tacks.

Connie commented on my post that we had previously had an adulterous president but that he had still been supported.  To which Libby replied this was true but that Clinton hadn’t run on a platform including protecting “traditional marriage” or “family values”.  Libby went on to say that you could be a real lying, cheating S.O.B. yet still be qualified to be president.  Her language was more colorful that what I’ve used here.  Connie came back to that with a post agreeing Clinton had been elected “without a stand on values” and wasn’t it nice to have a civil conversation.  I’m pretty sure that last bit was sarcasm, what do you think?  Libby came back with several posts that apologized for any offense her salty talk might have caused and proceeded to eloquently outline some of her frustrations with the conservative wing of our political parties and her perception of the hypocrisies therein.  I’m paraphrasing, of course.

Which brings us mostly current to today’s blog post.  I say “mostly”, I’ll explain in a bit.  There’s a status update.

Here’s the thing.  I find Libby and Connie to be amazingly representative of the divide that exists in this country.  Quite frankly, it’s a situation doing great harm to our nation.

Much of America is divided into two primary groups.  When I Googled the definitions for Conservative and Liberal, this is what I got.

con·serv·a·tive/kənˈsərvətiv/

Adjective:  Holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in politics or religion.

Noun:  A person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in politics.

Synonyms:  traditional, orthodox, unchanging, stable, inflexible

lib·er·al/ˈlib(ə)rəl/

Adjective:  Open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.

Noun:  A person of liberal views.

Synonyms:  generous, bounteous, lavish, bountiful, free

To be fair I should mention initially the only synonym I could find for “conservative” was Tory.  I had to search again to find the ones that I used.  And before anyone starts shouting about my liberal bias let me just say: 1.) You bet your ass I’m biased, and so are you.  Everyone is. 2.) I rejected many really ugly synonyms.  You don’t believe me? Just Google the word yourself.

Back to our friends Connie & Libby and how they are symptomatic of America today.

These two women have an enormous amount in common, and not just that they are both friends with me.  For starters I would wager both of these women would describe family as one of their top priorities. Both of them are happily married.  Both are devoted mothers- good mothers.  Both are extremely articulate and intelligent.  Both have what I would call successful careers.  Funny factoid, I met both of these women through my former life in Stampin’ Up! (before you ask, yes, I am still a demonstrator, it’s not my top focus these days).  Connie led a business builders Yahoo site for about twelve of us all trying to take our teams to the next level.  It helped me.  At one point I was the #23 Demonstrator of the Year.  Girlfriend Connie knows her stuff.  Libby was a mutual friend of a college friend and I met her as one of my customers.  So, they’re both crafty and artistic.  Told you they were a lot alike.  Both are educated.  Libby has her PhD. I don’t know Connie’s level of education but based on her intelligence and writing ability I’d say she has some college if not an actual four-year degree.   Oh yeah, one more thing, both love their country deeply.

The differences?  Well, those are small, yet profound.  Libby is an atheist.  While Connie is a devout Christian.  I’m guessing Born Again or Evangelical, but we’ve never formally discussed it.  (This is based on her FB posts.)  Clearly, Libby is a democrat and Connie is a republican.  One is for gay marriage, the other against.  One believes abortion should be safe and legal, the other does not.  One believes in a smaller government and the other believes in a smaller government.

Whoa, those of you paying attention just blinked and scratched your head.  Gold star for you- that was not a type-o!  Yep, turns out conservatives and liberals BOTH want smaller government. We just want it in different ways.  We also want control, but over different things.  Finally, we both trust people to be able to make their own decisions, but again, you guessed it, on different topics.

For example, conservatives would like smaller government in regards to funding of government programs and regulation of businesses and corporations.  They would especially like lower taxes on businesses.  They reason, correctly, many government programs are bloated and in need of an overhaul and audit.  Trimmer programs would mean less expense which would lead in turn to lower taxes. They also reason that less regulation would allow businesses to innovate.  This combined with lower taxes would allow companies to expand, thus creating jobs.  They believe that people could do a better job deciding how to spend their tax dollars than the federal government does.  Many government programs, they reason, are full of lazy free loaders who are taking advantage of the system.  Private charities and churches should be trusted with many of the needs of the deserving poor.  Conservatives argue that we should trust in the haves to take care of the have-nots.  We should trust in businesses to make decisions that would build the economy and increase jobs.  I am over simplifying, but hey, this is just a blog post.

Okay, so far, so good.  I get the reasoning.  I really do.

On the other side of the aisle are the liberals.  They too, would like smaller government.  They would like government out of their uteruses, out of their bedrooms and out of their homes. Sexual practices like oral and anal sex are no one’s business but the consenting adults involved. They believe people can do a better job deciding how to make love to their partner in life and, more importantly, who to choose as that partner.  They believe people can do a better job deciding how to spend the days of their lives than the lawmakers can.  It is not the government’s job to regulate a person’s morality based on one section of the population’s opinion.  Liberals want government out of the church business, too.  If you read the Framers’ writings, it’s pretty clear.  Those guys were a radical bunch.  They were serious about the whole separation of church and state.  So are liberals.  No prayer in schools, no creationism (or Intelligent Design) in science classrooms (I’ve got my eye on you, Kansas City School Board) and no Ten Commandments in front of courthouses. (That last one is mostly because I live in fear of #10.  I always wanted a pony and it specifically says not to covet your neighbor’s donkey.  They’re pretty close.)  Again, I am over simplifying but it’s still just a blog post.  Albeit, one of my longer ones.

Conservatives say we should trust businesses, the “job-creators”, to do what is best for the economy.  Liberals know that businesses don’t work for the betterment of America, they work for profit and profit will always win.  Conservatives say we should cut funding of public programs.  Yes, there is bloat and waste and even free loaders but liberals still believe that government does have a role to play in the assistance of citizens who have fallen on hard times.  Liberals do not trust the haves to care for the have-nots.  I don’t know, blame it on education, we’ve learned too much history.

I am deliberately leaving off the whole Newt debacle.  If he becomes the nominee, my blog will be all too easy.  It’s written: the family values, the hypocrisy, the affairs (plural), the leaving of the wives (please note plural, again), the 84 ethics violation charges and more, so much more.  You want him as your nominee?  Go ahead, I double dog dare you.

So here we are, at an impasse.  Two sides of a coin and never the twain shall meet.  Is there a way clear?

Of course there is, there always is.  The biggest thing is to keep talking.  Things get rough, don’t yell, take a deep breath.  Then try again.  As I outlined above Libby and Connie have a lot in common.  Actually they have more in common than they do apart.  So do Liberals and Conservatives.  Obviously, we are unified by three main things: our distrust in government to make the big decisions, our love of this country and our shared humanity and belief in the basic goodness of people.  Hey, look, that’s actually four things!

You keep talking.  Maybe we can’t change Washington overnight but we can get to know and value one another.  Start at the local level.  Maybe you begin humbly, voter registration, get more people involved in the process.  Or maybe efforts to welcome home and reacclimate returning veterans.  We all want to see them valued for their sacrifice and return to happy, fulfilling lives.  Maybe there’s something environmental, I value clean air and water for my children.  I figure Evangelicals have to value the earth if they believe that God created and touched everything in it.  How can they then simply trash His work?

Most of all, we forgive and move forward.  We keep looking for points of common ground.  We keep looking for compromise, for opportunities to do real good.  Liberals and conservatives may not see the world the same way but we have a country to run, children to raise and a tomorrow to see to.  We don’t have the luxury of being petty or small.

I promised you a Facebook status.  Libby is still my friend but Connie “de-friended” me although I had no part in the dialogue.  I am sad to see her go but still, there’s a conversation to be had, children to raise and a tomorrow to see to.

You fear change, Connie?  You fear the different?  The unknown?  Honey, life is change.  Life is the unknown.  Go out and try to tell the tide to stop if you like, but get out of my way.  I have work to do.  The world moves on and thinking you can keep things “the way they used to be” has never and will never happen.

Can you spot the liberal and the conservative? Yeah, me neither. Keep talking, ladies.

For the giggle factor I just had to include the info I found regarding sodomy laws- priceless… hmmm, a bit sad.  Let me explain, folks, most “sodomy laws” actually include, amongst other things, provisions outlawing oral sex.  Not oral sex, say, in public, oral sex at all.  And before you cosmopolitan types get too smug and say, “Sure in North Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, but not here”. ( No offense to those states, although hey, you do still have the laws.) You might be surprised, fourteen states have yet to turn over existing sodomy laws.  And then are the stupid laws that are just a waste of government time and energy. What if I said in Virginia you can’t have sex during the daytime, with a light on, or with socks on?  In Florida, the only legal sexual position is the missionary position (I couldn’t find out if woman on top is allowed, but I have my suspicions).  In Arizona it is illegal to have more than two dildos in a home.  Drat, there go the Pleasure Parties.  In California it is illegal for animals to mate within 1500 feet of a tavern, place of worship or a school.  Hmm, I’m pretty sure no one told the squirrels.  In Pennsylvania it is illegal to have over sixteen women live in a house together because that constitutes a brothel. However, up to one hundred twenty men can live together, without breaking the law.  Thank The Flying Spaghetti Monster for 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas.  We’re slowly, state by state, undoing these ridiculous laws.

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