Patience, Bless My Soul

I was heading to the beach and needed two items. I quickly grabbed them and skipped to the express line in Food Lion with one lady in front of me. She was a well-put-together woman in her seventies chatting with check-out guy.

Check-out guy was young and eager to answer all the questions coming at him. Oh, she asked him about his summer and seemed genuinely interested in his college choice. You see, he was “making extra money before heading to UNC Wilmington in the fall.”

“My grandson went there!” she exclaimed. I found my mind wandering back to my college years.

“Ma”am, what are these?” check-out guy asked referring to what was in the produce baggie. “Oh, those are pluOTS.” (heavy emphasis on that second syllable). “They’re a cross between a plum and an apricot. They’re so sweet this time of year.” Trusting her answer, he clicked the little codes in the cash register. Damn, I should have gotten a bottle of ChardonNAY. He fumbled with the next baggie as if it were a Braille textbook. “Avocado”, she answered before he could even ask. “Gonna make me some of that guacamole tonight,” she said with the brightest smile. Apparently removing items from these little baggies and scanning those little stickers is not customary here. This way takes much more time, something we have loads of. My left eye began to twitch as it does when I have to refrain.


There it goes!

I have adapted a West Coast mentality mixed with Southern genes. Patience is not virtuous to me, but I do my darnedest when I come home. There are “tests” along the way and this was turning into an exam.

Right then, a white-haired gentleman walked in with khaki bermuda shorts, a bait-n-tackle t-shirt, and topsiders, a uniform in the South.

“Ed!!! Heyyyyyy. Oh my GAHHHD! It’s been ayyyyyyy-ges!” He mosied on over and they hugged and a reunion ensued right before me. He talked to her about the rain and her grandchildren and she asked him about his wife’s gall bladder and how the fish were biting.

“Sadie, you shore are holding up well, considering everything and all.” I pondered over what “everything and all” was. I, on the other hand, was holding onto the checkout counter, conveyor belt stopped so Sadie and Ed could wrap up years of loose ends.

A portly woman behind me was guffawing over the gossip mags-so much so I wondered if she was inviting me to join in to see what was so gosh darn humorous or if it was just a party of one. If she was this excited in the express line (term used loosely), I can only imagine homecoming at her Baptist church. I should have taken over her free spirit and succumbed to the tedious wait, made myself at home like everyone else in Express Line 1. I should have. Instead I was made acutely aware that I was the only one with an agenda. Time stood still at the FL. I was locked in a grocery store reality show.


one minute in line equals one hour real time

After Ed and Sadie bid farewell and the conveyor belt started back up, Sadie took out her checkbook. Ohhh nooo. Checkbooks are virtually banned in CA as no one can be trusted and ….they hold up the line! Even entering a debit card PIN can cause glares.

Meanwhile the checkout line on isle 5 that had wrapped around the Jell-o molds past the neon yellow cupcakes and Moon Pies had cleared out.

“Ma’am, what kind of apples are in here?” check-out guy inquired. Sadie’s arm rested on the rectangular perch and she gave great thought to this.

“Let’s see. They’re either Fuji or Gala. Wait. Wait. They might be Red Delicious. Aren’t those on sale today?”

                         Remove them from the bag! Look at them!! I screamed in my head.

“Price check for produce!” check-out guy exclaimed over the impressive PA system. My watermelon and turkey were warm. I had no doubts that Sadie had spent most of her morning here at the FL chatting and perusing. She put those apples in her cart hours ago! How could she remember? I started wondering about Ed’s wife’s gall bladder.

Sadie giggled because she actually had put Fuji AND Red Delicious apples in the same bag! Oh my! I, too, had to giggle. I was sandwiched between Ms. Congeniality and Ms. Gossip Junkie and physically nor ethically (yes, I’m scrupulous even in Food Lion) could I be pried away. Ms. Gossip Junkie had now read three mags cover to cover and was enjoying her vacay. She now had a bubbly buddy behind her joining in unison at the disbelief of “what these stars get away with.” I grabbed a Peppermint Patty and tore it open for sustenance. I massaged my left eye as it was dancing out of socket.

Sadie finally signed her effen check and ohhhhhhhh-soooooo-carefully removed it from its perforations. She thanked check-out guy profusely as if he had discovered the cure for her bursitis. Everyone had gotten to know each other in these tight brightly lit quarters. She grabbed her bags of potato salads, pluOTS, and mixture of apples and waved back at the crowd as if she were on a float.

Right then she leaned to me and gushed, “Oh honey, I just LOVE your hair!” Awwwwww. Gosh I love Sadie. I’m gonna miss her.


 When was the last time you were in a hurry and finally just gave in?

“I’ve learned to used meditation and relaxation to handle stress.  Just kidding.  I’m on my third glass of wine.”  Anonymous


Kendall-Jackson 2012 Grand Reserve ChardonNAY

Lush tropical fruit intertwines with lemon and lime.  Elegantly rounded with a vanilla and spice finish.

Perfect for the beach, a summer dinner party, or after an outing at your local grocery store.  $22.00

Christmas Presence

photo 5

I’m in love!

As I write this, it’s Christmas Eve in my neck of the woods, still quite early. Children are nestled, snug in their beds while Mommy is almost panicked with ‘to do’ lists a mile long dancing in my head. My house is a mess, but festive! The dog needs a bath. My poor Christmas tree, “Sherrie”, is crispy from thirst. Her limbs are hanging low from ten years of homemade ornaments and lifetime memories.  My daughters named her after Steve Perry’s song.  Bless their little Journey hearts. Whew. This Christmas season has got to slow down. For God’s sake, I haven’t blogged in ages! I’m spread thinner than a Baptist minister’s combover.


December in a good year can be tough. In addition to the mountains of activities and festivities and nativities, my youngest daughter has her birthday right smack in the middle. She wanted a sleepover with NINE friends ” more than anything in the whole world.” And her sister had one the year before, so she played the older sister trump card.  And won. Without exhausting myself further by reliving it, you can fill in the blanks with screams, giggles, pizzas, popcorn, and thousands of Rainbow loom bands. (And please remove any and all sleep from this scenario). But I got gifts too! The mommies brought wine! Any time I complain about her birthday, I have to remind myself it was poor planning on my part to give birth in the middle of December.

Next. My Elf on the Shelf has all but become a third child. Actually fourth considering the dog. I have woken up at three am more than once in a panic realizing I forgot to move him. And I know I’m not alone! As darling as this Yuletide addition is to all of our homes this time of year, he’s also a bit of a pain. This year, I’ve only forgotten to move him once and the little angels weren’t happy. “Mommy, he’s still sitting on the mantle! He didn’t move!” Quick thinking mommy replies, “Well girls, did you fight yesterday?” They glance at each other, “Yes. But we fight everyday.” So true. “Girls, the Elf is not used to this and has reported back to Santa.”

Then, the  Tooth Fairy was summoned.  My oldest lost a wisdom tooth. I remembered it.  Saw it. Congratulated her. Prepared for the Tooth Fairy visit by rummaging through my purse. A five dollar bill. Perfect! Then forgot. Four days later, my daughter plops her little dimpled face into her hands inches away from mine while I’m trying to get my last five minutes of sleep. “This tooth fairy thing is a rip off.” Whaaaa? “It’s been four days! Nothing.” Lots of four letter words like sugar plums danced in my head. “Are you sure???  Did you check everywhere?”” She shot me ‘the look’ reminding me this wasn’t her first rodeo. “You have to write a letter,” I told her. “Maybe she’s sick.”  That sufficed long enough for quick thinking mommy to get my plan in action.  This is the letter I found:


“Dear Tooth Fairy, You didn’t give me my money yet from my tooth. I want it.”

Next morning, the Elf had tucked it under his little elf arms while canoodling with the Monster High dolls. That silly elf! It was him all along I assured her.  She seemed to buy the idea that the Elf actually did steal the money and the Tooth Fairy wasn’t slack. “Maybe he’s stealing other stuff. I can’t find my boots.” Now I have an elf thief.

photo 2

The Elf: Friend? Thief?

photo 4Don’t get me started in the advent calendar. Oops. Too late. Simple math. Twenty four little boxes for twenty four days times two little angels equals hundreds of small items. Right? I’ll admit I was pretty good with it, slipping only twice. But being reminded forty times. “It’s the Elf. I swear I put something in there.” I really have started liking him.

Truth is, the season is supposed to be crazy.  Things will be left undone. Things forgotten.  Who cares?   But in a flash, it’s gone. I’m thankful my children still believe for that too will be gone in an instant.  As I say, you must Believe to Receive! It is funny though when you think what must run through our kids’ minds as all of these creatures: the Elf, Tooth Fairy, and Santa mysteriously visit and play while they aren’t watching.  Hmmmm….

Tonight, I will be with my beautiful angels all dressed up with friends.  We will come home and put cookies and milk out for Santa and make Magic Reindeer Food for Santa’s reindeer. Mommy will have a nice glass of Cabernet by the fire and tomorrow a new Christmas memory will be under our expanding belts.  Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year from UnWINEd!


Recipe for Magic Reindeer Food:

Raw Oats, Glitter, Carrots, Apples

***Leave out for the Reindeer!

photo 3

Awww.  I’m really going to miss this little guy:)

‘Twas the Night before Thanksgiving

photo 2As we encroach on our day to give thanks, I can’t help but feel that the one holiday that asks so little from everyone gets the short end of the (drum)stick.  Thanksgiving is the middle child between two exuberant personalities.  It’s the five-minute placeholder between two lavish, sparkly neighbors.  They’re the envied ones with the lights, mystery, and a plethora of parties that lead up to the big day. Volumes of books mark the meaning and document the excitement behind two well-heeled holidays whose stories are told and re-told in countless fashion. Everyone gets caught up in the shivering excitement that begins a half-year before the actual day. Cue the Halloween costumes and Christmas party attire and everything else just blends into the carpet. Admittedly no one is rushing to get the ‘perfect Thanksgiving outfit’.

The little angels and I walked into CVS the other day and Christmas had thrown up in the store. It had been easing its way in for months.  There were more Santas, reindeer, ornaments, striped socks, dog and cat outfits, and mountains of chocolate than even in large department stores.  Aisle upon aisle was burgeoning with all things Christmas. Child-sized mechanical carolers held buckets of what else?  Stocking stuffers! Then, like the little kid in the back of the lunch line, quiet and unobtrusive amongst overbearing playmates, there was a mere handful of items dangling from metal hangers featuring a few wooden turkeys and caricatures of smiling pilgrims in varied shades of brown.  Ah, so easy to ignore among the deafening sounds of singing Santas, Elvises, and Nutcrackers. Not once did either of my children scream, “Mommy, please oh please can we get that really cool rocking pilgrim and hang it on the door?”photo

This past July in North Carolina, my girls and I were red-faced, dripping with sweat and drinking our ice cream in 100% heat and humidity.  We walked by a cotton warehouse-turned-retail oasis with the words “Air-conditioned” beaming through the hot haze. Cool air poured onto us and scents of cinnamon danced in the air. We stumbled in as if cement blocks were tied to our flip-flops. There before us amidst tourist traps filled with tacky t-shirts and flavored pecans was “Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe” complete with holiday music, a dozen or so lit trees and walls of ornaments and wreaths made out of driftwood and seashells. With sticky fingers and bright eyes my little angels were entranced, speechless.  Yep, here we were. Christmas in July.  No amount of coaxing could pull them away from the eye candy before them (and ice cream was no longer an option).  People were actually shopping because time was a-tickin’. The big day was only five months away. I still can’t get my head around seeing year round Christmas stores, even having them make frequent appearances in my southern upbringing. I refuse to buy a winter coat in the summer and certainly refuse to buy a bathing suit in December.  I am horrified by the push of the retail industry speeding up our lives and forcing us to think that we must get it now! Or else someone else will! God forbid.

I miss my Southern Thanksgiving with tables of rainbow colored jell-o salads, deep-fried turkeys, a mega variety of stuffing, pies galore, and real buttermilk biscuits (the sweetened iced tea I can do without). I miss the long tables atop my aunt’s deck that overlook the waterway filled with four generations of relatives. I miss watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the football games, even though I could care less who played. Thanksgiving to me was always more than a placeholder.  It was when everyone made it to the table.  You could always count on it.  Christmas is when families disburse.Thankful_thumb

Be thankful for your dysfunctional family, for wine, that your friends still like you, and that there are leftovers. Be thankful for this ‘bump in the road’ called Thanksgiving so that you can slow down before attacking shopping malls for needless items and overspending.  Be thankful for new beginnings and remember to give this shy holiday the attention it deserves.                               Happy Thanksgiving!


Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance. — Benjamin Franklin

Catfights in the Sandbox

A couple of days ago my ten year old scored at her volleyball game. She pumped the ball thirteen times before popping it over the net and she scored!  Yes, it was a really big deal, partly because of how elated (and in shock) she was.  And for me, to know that she weighed a mere four pounds when she was born and now she’s playing volleyball of all sports was an emotional double take! My eight year old leaned over and asked if I was crying. I didn’t think it was obvious so I explained they were happy tears and that I was so proud. “So if I get really really really happy, I’m going to start crying? That doesn’t make any sense Mommy.” Nothing like that rubber band to snap you out of your moment:)IMG_1122

I remember when my oldest was born and my dad said “she’s not even as big as a five pound bag of sugar.” She was healthy, just tiny. No explanations why. As a new mom, I couldn’t help but worry but after lots of reassurance from the doctor and my intuition, I knew she was ok. Funny how things shifted on the playground. That’s where I endured endless chatter of those moms whose children were smarter, bigger, faster, slept longer, ate more, cried less, talked earlier, walked quicker,  had more hair, more teeth, anything that could give that mom a home court advantage over us visitors. They could smell the fear in new moms and rather than give comforting advice, they would wave those percentile charts over our heads like victory flags. (My child barely if rarely was even on those charts). More than once I left the park clutching the remainder of my nonfat latte in one hand maneuvering my non-cooperative stroller with the other wondering if I had just made more organic baby food or switched to cloth diapers or nursed EVEN LONGER, maybe then my child’s head circumference would be in the 80th percentile!

I finally migrated to the moms who’s kids were the ones eating sand and they just smiled and cooed at them without concern. They were the ones who weren’t worried their children would catch a cold being barefoot in November or that their child didn’t get into the baby Mozart class with all the other perfect children. Looking back it was always their second or third child. They learned from the first, that barefeet and sand snacks wouldn’t kill them. And that was brilliant advice to me. I, too, let go of the fear with my second one. I tossed those awful baby books that convinced me of all the possible things that could go wrong with my child. Remember them? The ones that we read like a bible daily to guide us through pregnancy and baby years. They guided me alright-into sheer panic.

images-8And now, I have two extremely different children whose interests are polar opposites. I have one with the intensity and focus of a laser with artistic ability far beyond her eight little years. And another who floats around the room like a butterfly who connects the dots of life in a unique pattern all her own. They keep me guessing everyday as to who they will become. It’s exciting to watch and I hope everyday goes slow.

In the chaos of daily parental Olympics, the competition is exhausting to me.  Everyone is racing for gold. I wholeheartedly admit I run towards the back of the pack at times, and it’s not because I don’t want my kids to excel. I refuse to get tangled in the drama. It’s a fine line of pushing your child to their max to succeed and pushing them in the opposite direction. It’s the difference between encourage and force. We decide where that line is drawn.

So fast forward a few years and my little four pound baby is now playing volleyball. I won’t remember who she played or if her team won. But I will remember that she played. And even scored! I’ll remember that she laughed with her teammates and looked cute in her uniform. And that I sat on the sidelines with tears of joy.

So, if my children don’t make straight A’s and O’s in elementary school, will this lead to a mediocre academic life with no chance at a 5.0 GPA and no college acceptance?  Should I have painted their walls in primary colors versus pastels to boost their IQ? I’m going to walk away from this sandbox with confidence and know that they’ll do great. Call it Mom’s intuition.


“There’s a crack in everything.  That’s how light gets in.”  Leonard Cohen

Ain’t being an adult grand?

Things that are good with capers…..arewelcome even better without them.
I’ve always had this aversion to these little balls of tangy confusion. I don’t see why they are placed atop anything let alone tuna tartar, chicken, or my beloved salmon.  I don’t know if they grow on a tree, a bush, or if they’re pulled out of the ground like peanuts. Nor do I care. Bottom line, I don’t have to eat them or even like them.That’s one of the medals I’ve earned in my ranking as an adult. I can eat what I want! And while I’m at it, I can skip dinner altogether and eat a whole bag of Kettle chips with red wine while in my underwear watching Friends reruns or Duck Dynasty. (Hey Si! You’re the bomb!) I can keep all those bitchin’ clothes in my closet that I should have tossed (we had so much fun in the ’80’s didn’t we?) It’s all so liberating being an adult! Notice I did NOT say “grown up”.

To be grown up, we give up. We give up a lot of things. To be an adult, we gain things. Like freedom. Our perspective is different even when our responsibilities are the same. We can pull out the child in ourselves. We have that thing that lots of grown ups gave up: a sense of humor. It’s a survival tool to use when all else is fails. Throw up your hands. Laugh! Make fun of it! It won’t change a damn thing, trust me, but magically you’ll feel better. Grown ups get ulcers.

Remember those HUGE one-year birthday parties we had for our children? They weren’t for them. They don’t remember them! They were for us to show the world that we were all ‘grown up’ and somehow managed to feed them, keep them alive and healthy, and given all the obstacles, we made it a whole year! We were adults in disguise.

And now?

Here are just a few things that we get to enjoy with our “Got Out of Childhood Almost Unscathed while Attempting to be Adults” membership card:

Cancel appts
Hell, you don’t even have to make them! (Dentist? Every year, every other?)
Get to drive!
Play MY music as loud as I want!
Have sex
Go to bed late (see TV schedule below)
Drink wine
Have more sex
Buy stupid stuff and no one can tell you “no way!” Because it’s your money!
(That you’ve just blown on stupid stuff)
Don’t clean your room today!
Watch anything you want on TV whenever you want for as long as we want (yeh, watch out 10:30! I think I can see you tonight!)
Sleep late! (Ha! Who am I kidding)
Wear high heels (guys?)
Don’t brush your hair
Have an opinion and USE it!
Say bad words just ’cause it’s so much f—ing fun!
Have sex
Say ‘No’ and mean it with no explanation
Say ‘Yes’ and mean it with no explanation
See a movie in the middle of the day with no explanation
Weed out those people who piss you off or who are just plain crazy or stupid!
Read trashy novels
Write trashy novels!
Stay as long as you want
Leave whenever you want
Decorate any way you want
Wear whatever you want
Eat Reese’s peanut butter cups (oh how I love them) until the bag is empty. Then open a second one!
Stay out late because you have no curfew!
Hire a babysitter so you can stay out late!
No Homework
No Capers

Ooh, I must throw out one small caveat: children and partners can hinder some of the above. Make your decisions wisely:)

Yes, yes, yes. There are the notsofun things like jobs, bills, aches, laundry, grocery shopping, divorce, marriage, and a plethora of things that only life and age can drop on our doorstep. So, today, do one thing on the list. Or two or three! Make your own list. Step out of the ‘grown up’ box. Do your best to stay up until 10:30! Feel liberated! Watch a really bad movie and laugh at it. Way too many cynics in the world. Don’t be pulled in.

I’m going to go bake salmon right now with butter and lemon, just the way I like it.  Join me?


“As a child I assumed that when I reached adulthood, I would have grown-up thoughts.”
― David Sedaris, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

“Magda looks at me as if I’ve gone mad. Or I’ve grown up. It’s kind of the same thing.”                                               ― Victoria Schwab, The Near Witch

“I wondered if that was true: if they were all really children wrapped up in adult bodies, like children’s books hidden in the middle of dull, long adult books, the kind with no pictures or conversations.”                                     ― Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

It’s not whether you win or lose…well, actually it is!

My youngest daughter inherited my thick hair gene, which is both good and bad. It is so thick, laden with knots most days and when we were in the South, the child had dreadlocks. She’s quite fastidious about her hair. We go through conditioner like wine in this house and unfortunately some days there’s just not enough of either. So, I offer to help her brush her hair. Again. And again. And again. This is an almost daily FUN event that usually ends up with her in tears and me putting another dollar in the curse jar. She metamorphosizes into a growling wildcat.  This last time was enough. “I’m cutting your hair. Like it or not.” My little angel looked at me with those piercing blue eyes and that mass of entangled blonde hair. She then contorted her mouth. Then….did The Headroll.  “Well YOU don’t brush YOUR hair.” (Clearly she’s been sneaking in episodes of Honey Boo Boo again). She has a point.

“True. But I CREATED you. When YOU get to be a mommy, YOU can decide whether you want to brush your hair.  For now, you’re eight. Scissors or brush?”

Mommy         1

Little Angel    0

This is why we pick our battles: so that we’ll win. We have to assert our power in the right places so it looks like we know what we’re doing; that we planned this whole parent thing precisely and are ready for anything. (As Long as WE’VE HAD SOME SLEEP). They’re quite savvy with their premeditated bag of parental tricks. They gather them in the womb and hone them to precision the older and taller they get. Their timing is impeccable. Sometimes, no amount of books, Internet mommies, or conversations over Venti non-fat lattes can prepare us for some of the doozies that come our way.

40 yrsWe, as parents, share that secret handshake, and that tired, proud, confused, “I get it ’cause I’ve been there” look. We catch each other’s eyes in the grocery store when our children are like goats pulling items off the shelves or in a quiet restaurant when they choose to pull each other’s hair out over their toes accidentally touching under the table. Or, “that look” from friends who have teenagers that says simply “just you wait. It’s going to be rough.” Armed with our Google degree on Proud Parenting 101, age, and experience of, well, having been a child, we’re still all on a wing and a Hail Mary!

We want our offspring to be clean and neat, eat healthy, go to bed at a normal time, do their normalhomework, clean up, brush their teeth so they don’t rot out, love their friends, love each other, be respectful to everybody, be honest, be safe, work hard, and most of all love us! As romantic as this Hallmark moment is, it’s not reality. Knock just a couple off the list and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. We have to cut ourselves some slack and do our Girl Scout best to have a sense of humor. (And keep them away from Honey Boo Boo). The good always outweighs the bad. Just the other night I went to Back to School night and I read a story in my eight year old’s class about who her hero was. It was me.

Little Angel  1

Mommy     🙂


I’ll leave you with a few morsels of insight.

*Love them.

*Laugh with them.

*As mad as you get, there’s a good chance they’re copying you.

*Get a curse jar not so much to remind you of your poor (but effective) word choice but to get a jump on your child’s college fund.

*May be cliche, but this too shall pass

*Last, it’s a good thing they’re cute.

So, light a candle and take a deep breath. Enjoy this rich full bodied Cabernet once your precious angels have gone to bed. We’re all clicking our glasses in unison.

2008 Franciscan Cabernet

2008 Franciscan Cabernet

2008 Franciscan Cabernet

Rich aromas of cherry, black currants, and toasted oak

with generous flavors of cherry, plum, cocoa and a touch of vanilla


One kid’s a hobby. Two’s the real deal.”  My friend’s husband

Grits and the Art of Persuasion

I was stirring a giant pot of pasta, and my ten year old told me emphatically that she is “done with pasta.” She’s “had it entirely too much and never EVER wants to eat it again in her entire life!” That’s a pretty big statement to swallow considering she’s the ripe old age of ten and letting go of pasta is like letting go of the color pink. I stared at her as I typically do when either one of the little angels stun me as they’ve been known to do on occasion. (Sometimes I think it would be easier splitting atoms than to decide what to make for dinner. Let alone, switch gears once the dinner idea is already in progress).

She abruptly opens the refrigerator and we both stare blankly, me still with my wooden stirring spoon in hand as if it was a magic wand. My culinary choices were limited, as I’ve resisted the urge to become a slave to the grocery store. I’ve attempted to end the symbiotic relationship. I want food to magically appear.

She states the obvious,  “There’s nothing in there!”

“Schnookums, you’re wrong.” I explain. “There’s a jar of pickles, make that two, some ketchup. Oooh, There’s Mystery Tupperware container! Shall we see what’s in it?”

“Grits! I want grits for dinner!” She exclaims and grabs a box out of the refrigerator door and holds it like a trophy.

Note to self: that’s TWO pots of boiling water. Hmmmm. Cooking has been thrown to the bottom rung of the priority ladder this summer.

Grits is one of those things you’ll always find in my fridge: A big box of Quaker Quick Grits (the 20 minute kind). For some, it’s a tub of sour cream that stakes its territory way in the back. For others, it may be a jar of grape jelly or a half dozen eggs that you just can’t part with even though you have no clue how many months they’ve been in there. You know who you are. For me, it’s a box of grits.


Southern Happy Meal

I think it’s funny (not funny haha) when people ask, “aren’t grits like oatmeal?” Or, “don’t grits taste like cream-of-wheat?” Do oranges taste like bananas? Is NASCAR the same as Formula One? Is the Atlantic the same as the Pacific? Does red wine taste like white wine, people? For the love of GROUND UP CORN, the answer: a resounding NO!

Grits are ground up corn, ‘coarse-ground cornmeal’, plain and simple. (I won’t get into the hominy thing. I’ll keep it reeeeeal simple). They’ve been around for 400 years! Three-fourths of all grits sold in the US are sold in the South stretching from Texas to Virginia. Their warmth and creamy texture are a hug in your tummy-just bowls full of piping hot goodness!

If you’ve not been lucky enough to grow up in the South, I’ll gladly part with some insight, boil it down for you. First, there are two kinds of grits:

1: The ‘instant’ grits which no good Southerner would evah evah cook (or admit to)

2: The boil-in-water-for-twenty-minutes kind. And they come in two shades: white and yellow! According to grits history, white corn was popular in the port cities in the south, while yellow corn was popular in the urban cities.

Here is the simple grits recipe anyone can follow (bless your little non- Southern hearts):

*One cup of grits to five cups of water*

Bring water to a boil, then pour grits in while stirring. Add a pinch or two of salt. Lower the heat and simmer, all the while stirring to prevent clumping. You do NOT want clumpy grits.  After twenty minutes, voila! Now,  throw in butter or cheese, add some country ham, sausage, or red-eye gravy and dare I say…piping hot buttermilk biscuits, (cue gospel choir). There’s just not a better meal, breakfast or suppah! And they’re healthy too! (above additives notwithstanding). No fat, no cholesterol!

(Fun fact: you do not use the term ‘grit’ when referring to this folate fantasy food. It’s always plural! How can we forget ‘My Cousin Vinny’)?

So, Of COURSE she can have her grits! I have indeed raised a Southern child and it warms my heart almost as much as a bowl of grits themselves. After all, how can I possibly say no to her or grits?


Get Real In The South

Try ’em. You just may like ’em. Would I stir, uhm, steer you wrong?

For some delicious Grits recipes, give this a try:…/gritsrecipes-…


Vinny Gambini: How could it take you five minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit-eating world 20 minutes?
Mr. Tipton: Um… I’m a fast cook, I guess.
Vinny Gambini: [across beside the jury] What? I’m sorry I was over there. Did you just say you were a fast cook? Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than any place on the face of the earth?
Mr. Tipton: I don’t know.
Vinny Gambini: Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove. Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?


Gruet Brut is a crisp, full-bodied, sparkling wine that has light green apple and grape flavors.  Goes perfectly with shrimp-n-grits for a lovely brunch.

Cost: $15.00


Ribbit the Exhibit , another stellar way to unWINEd in the South

Since my mind was old enough to record memories, I remember my love of frogs.  I used to ‘rescue’ the little green tree frogs with sticky feet from my sliding glass doors.  I would cup their little smooth bodies carefully in my hands and transport them to their new home: my red Old McDonald barn with doors that “mooed” when they opened.  If I got really lucky, I might even find a bullfrog.  They loved it there.  Or, that’s what my four-year old mind thought.  After they would hop around with the plastic cows and chickens, it was time for a swim!  I would then fill my bathroom sink with water and watch their little legs kick in synchronicity!  I would hold them and wrap them in washcloths after.

Over the years, my fondness hasn’t wavered.  I am drawn to their cuteness- those big eyes, bulky bodies, their quirky sounds and harmless nature.  They’re not exactly superhero material, though their fly-catching ability and immense jumping potential is pretty impressive. Obviously, there’s something to this attraction as they’ve cornered the fairytale market for years. The idea of kissing a slimy suitor only to have him turn into a handsome prince is not just for the pretty princess, it’s a mini life hint: behind those bulging eyes and big mouth, you may be surprised at what’s in front of you, warts and all.


All this leads me to the Ribbit the Exhibit, a spectacular display of HUMAN size frogs in a heavenly corner of the world, Airlie Gardens in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.  Set amidst 67 acres of jaw dropping lush gardens, live oaks, ponds, and Bradley Creek, are 16 copper creations by famed sculptor Andy Cobb. Having known Andy for years and my little angels adoring his many unique aquatic adaptations, this exhibit exemplifies his mega talent.


Fred and Ginger


fFresh catch


Tree frog

And these aren’t just your average hop-in-the-field frogs.  They mow, dance, scuba dive, catch butterflies, and even perform a lotus pose on a lily pad.  And if you happen hoppin to be in the area, Ribbit the Exhibit will be on display until September 22, 2013.  Feel free to kiss them….you won’t be the first!


mowin’ the garden


lotus on a lily pad


Brass Band

“Theories pass. The frog remains.”  Jean Rostand

“I’d kiss a frog even if there was no promise of a Prince Charming popping out of it. I love frogs.”  Cameron Diaz

Humidity Rocks!

Welcome to North Carolina ya’ll!  Please put your hair in its upright position!  Once we stepped onto the jetway and took our first big gulp of wet air, I knew I was home.  Humidity and the South go together like bees and honey, cukes and tomatoes, flies and Chardonnay. The little angels whined, “Mommy it’s sooooooooo hot.”  Ah, bless their little hearts….and we just got here! My hair went from unmanageable to Miss Sweet Potato Queen runner-up in seconds! In the land of big hair, I fit right in.

cukes2We were welcomed with the sweet melody of Southern drawls. Even the airport security guy was nice when I freed Cowboy from his carrier.  “Excuse me honey.  Do you mind holdin’ your dawg until you can take him outside?  Thank you.(smile) He shore is a purty dawg.” He reached down and gave him a little scratch on the head. We are not at LAX.

My friends and my daughters’ friends were circling like seagulls waiting for us to pull in from the airport.  Holding mommy sippee cups filled with fruity cocktails, they embraced us as if it had been forever and a day. With a few apologies for impending rainstorms, I couldn’t thank them enough as if they had ordered it especially for us.  Rain?  Yippee!  Tears of joy! (It never rains in California, the girls don’t they warn ya’). We caught up on gossip, our lives, and tied the two coasts together as if they were connected at the hip.oak tree

I slid into the South like an old pair of loafers, ones I had hidden in the back of a closet.  The air is fresh and clean.  Cicadas hum every afternoon from the live oak trees and people stop by unannounced just to talk about the weather, leave a pie or boiled peanuts, or ask how we’re doing (and they really want to know!).  To see my daughters beam with the same excitement I had growing up by the beach here overwhelms me.  The simple pleasures are the big ones.  Riding bikes in bikinis, jumping off friends’ docks, eating fried shrimp and picking blueberries excite them more than a One Direction concert

dockNorth Carolina is where my heart is; where it will always be.  My toes dig into the soft powdery sand like roots and to me, there’s no place more beautiful.  My years away make me more appreciative everyday that I have this.  It has shaped me into the person I am. I’m doubly thankful that I can see the same joy in my daughters’ eyes.  They are me.

As I unWINEd in North Carolina, I want to give you a few sweet things to sink your teeth into about the wonderful South:

Land of Southern Belles, country ham, and blueberry pies.  Azaleas, beauty queens, pig pickins’ and front porches. Rocking chairs, and NASCAR, sweetened ice tea, ice-cold beer, and the Intracoastal Waterway.  Garden clubs, floral dresses, floral everything.  Long vowels, country music, fat tomatoes and cucumbers from your garden and summer rainstorms and bare feet. Live oak trees, bluegrass, cardinals, bushy-tailed squirrels and the Civil War.  Pee-cans, homemade preserves, and Dukes mayonnaise.’Yes ma’ams’, grits and buttermilk biscuits, and warm ocean water.  Hush puppies, needlepoint, chivalry, madras plaid and pick-up trucks.  Just to name a few…..

Stop by and say heyyy!  I’ll have a cocktail waiting.  And thanks to the humidity and my perpetual glow, I’m two years younger just writing this!bikes

Sending warm hugs and humid kisses,


“In my mind I’m going to Carolina. Can’t you see the sunshine, can’t you just feel the moonshine? Ain’t it just like a friend of mine to hit me from behind? Yes, I’m going to Carolina in my mind.”

-James Taylor (NC native) “Carolina in My Mind”


“Spend the afternoon.  You can’t take it with you.”

~Annie Dillard

(Hot)Dog Days of Summer

As if we needed another reason to celebrate summer, July is National Hot Dog Month, recognition for something so great, it’s not just a one-day event; it’s 31 days of pure nitrate goodness. On July 4th weekend alone, over 150 million hot dogs will be downed. That’s enough hot dogs to stretch from Malibu to North Carolina 5 times! And 750,000,000 will be consumed in the U.S. each year! (Los Angeles being the number 1 city).  There’s no denying our love for the pup.

I’m a fan of the hot dog.  It’s entwined in my childhood memories, perhaps my DNA and I’m proud to say that I’ve passed it down to my two daughters. They count down the minutes til we hit our favorite place to get the best hot dog: Trolly Stop in Wrightsville Beach NC.  About the size of a small kitchen, they churn out over 1,000 plump dogs a day in the summer.

The Trolly Stop Wrightsville Beach NC

The Trolly Stop
Wrightsville Beach NC

People wrap around the shack of a building like a giant hug waiting patiently in the hot sun for clearly the best hot dogs on the planet (I’m biased, but right).  What seals the deal is the bun.  The buns are steamed then the hot dogs are carefully laid upon these soft pillows.  Once the condiments adorn them, it’s a matter of minutes before the fireworks go off in your tummy.

553795_10150744611875140_46004845_nI love that there’s an actual National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) a ‘governing body’ that offers insight, statistics, facts, recipes (and more!) about the rolled-up wonder meat. For those of you talented crooners who didn’t make the American Idol cut, there’s Hot Dog Idol! Feel the love and express your admiration in a song. There are no recording contracts, but there is a $250 grand prize to your favorite grocery store to buy what else?  Hot Dogs! Log onto:

Wanna know what’s in them?  Doesn’t matter! Turn the other cheek er… bun. The pork versions contain everything except the oink. MSG and spice and everything nice. (Just for fun: read the ingredients on your favorite protein bar).

There have been loads of claims on the actual origin of the hot dog.  Germany?  St. Louis? New York?  Let’s just be thankful they did! How much do you love the hot dog?Let’s count the ways. In Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest this 4th of July on Coney Island, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut woofed down 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes, his seventh consecutive win.  He’s a real Weiner! Uhm…winner.  And did you know that when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made their first visit to the United States in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomed them to his Hyde Park estate by hosting a picnic and served them hot dogs? (wonder if he used this tactic for getting us through the Great Depression and WWII).

Beer has typically accompanied the hot dog on most of its outings.  They look good together. They go together like peas and carrots. But I thought I’d do a little wine pairing with the hot dog- ya’ know, dress it up a bit.

2011 Esperto Pinot Grisio $10

2011 Esperto ville Venetzie

With simple condiments such as mustard, ketchup, perhaps some relish, pair it with a nice cold Pinot Grigio such as the 2011 Esperto ville Venetzie. Its light, delicate notes of mandarin and white peaches compliment and don’t disappoint. It stands up to the tanginess of the mustard. Perfect for the simple dog.

If you’re a fan of chili on your dog, maybe even some onions, try it with the 2010 Francis Coppola Blue Label Merlot.  This Merlot is medium bodied and has multiple layers of fruit flavors, spicy notes, and earthy, mineral nuances.  It won’t compete with the strong taste of the chili and onions.  You’re able to distinguish all the flavors nicely.  I would recommend eating this dog at dinner, maybe on something other than a paper plate.  Light a candle while you’re at it.

2010 Francis Coppola Blue Label Merlot

2010 Francis Coppola
Blue Label Merlot $17

One of my all-time favorite dogs is the Surfer Dog.  It has spicy mustard, melted cheese, and bacon bits sprinkled lightly on top (I’m salivating).  I enjoy this piece of culinary heaven with a 2011 Rodney Strong Sonoma Chardonnay.  This Chardonnay has toasty hints of oak with lemon and apple aromas finishing with pineapple and spice.  It’s a lively chardonnay that brings out the nice smokiness of the bacon bits.

2011 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Sonoma

2011 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Sonoma $15

So whether you call it Perrito Caliente, Chien Chaud, or simply Hot Dog, this iconic snack is imbedded in our hearts (our arteries mostly), and always brings a smile to our faces.

Cheers to Fun in a Bun!  Happy Summer!


Edible names are what drives me as a musician. My next band will be called the Hot Dogs. Chad Smith, Drummer, Red Hot Chili Peppers

The pairing of food and wine is a complex and highly inexact science. It is fraught with out-moded rules and a propensity for generalizations. Sid Goldstein, The Wine Lover’s Cookbook

A hot dog at the park is better than steak at the Ritz. Humphrey Bogart