Friday, January 30, 2009

Delicious Petite Sirah

I realized its been awhile since I posted a wine review-must remedy that!

A recent selection from Gold Medal Wine Club, the Peltier Station Petite Sirah is delicious! Dark with a little bit of spice and just enough cedar to balance out the fruit, it is great with food and with some air, good by itself as well. Although I would say it is best with something hearty and winter-ish.

Its aged 24 months in oak, 100% Petite Sirah.

With a case purchase through GMWC it was only $14.50 a bottle and they are offering free shipping as well. Since Europe is looming over our heads, we've been trying to cut back on purchases, but lets be honest-its not like we're giong to quit drinking for the next 5 months!!!

We like it enough to pay $20 for it, so we are lucky we found someone to split a case with us!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bad, bad t-shirts

Have you ever seen a shirt in a store or online that makes you laugh and you really want to buy it, but then you realize you'd never wear it anywhere? sells tons of those shirts. In fact, there's only a small handful I would actually even post on my blog, they are so wrong. So wrong, but so funny........but here's a "clean" one:

I encourage you, if you are like me and appreciate low brow humor, that you visit the site. However, please note, that this shirt above is not representative of the kind of shirts they have so its not for the easily insulted.

What's neat about is that you could order all of their designs on anything from a tank top to a sweatshirt, in a ton of different colors as well. What's sad about is that they are going out of business. I realize that there must be a lot of people like me...who visit the site and laugh. Maybe you'll get one for someone as a gag gift, but for the most part the purchase of the shirts won't actually happen. *Sigh*

They are, however, offering a discount for the remining two weeks they are open. I might just have to get the one above. I feel like I owe them $20 for the laughs I had for shirts I didn't buy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sushi with Lucy

Saving sucks.

Well, saving money because you got a deal is fun, but saving money the old fashioned way of going without things you want really sucks. For example, I usually eat sushi once a week, sometimes more often, as evidence in my Sushiholic post. Its almost the only thing Mr. Lush and I eat out for/get to go. However, in light of trying to save for Europe, I realized today that I haven’t had sushi since the 8th of this month! While I’m happy and proud of ourselves for saving $100 so far this month on abstaining from sushi, I realized how frickin excited I am for tonight’s plan of sushi with our good friend Lucy. I mean, I’m always excited to have dinner with Lucy, but I’m extra excited that its Sushi With Lucy.

We'll have to open something extra special and bubbly to celebrate.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Self-Catering Holiday Rentals?

After many hours of pouring over hotel, B&B, etc listings for France I ran across a term I haven’t heard of before: “self-catering holiday rentals”. Based on the name, it appears its just a room/house, etc, with no food or amenities available. Some are luxury-like castle rentals that hold 50 people and others are just rooms, with of course pricing varying wildly.

I’m a bit torn. I don’t know what French B&Bs are like – am I expected to report to breakfast at a certain time and do some conversing with the owners, should they want to and speak English? Am I expected to have dinner if they offer it as an optional service even though I’d rather go to a restaurant? Is this something that would be nice sometimes, like if I need tips for the area but be more of a pain at others, such as after a long day of traveling? Would it be nice to just show up to a place and not have to worry about anything? Will I miss the amenities or are they just an illusion anyway, unless I plan on taking full advantage? Or am I way off-are they like hotels (just with 4-8 rooms) where they don’t want to talk to you any more than you want to talk to them?

Right now we’re pondering a night or two in one, but could use any insider tips, even secondhand ones.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Saving money already and giving up planning

Last night I couldn't help myself and so I priced the trip I just booked on Wednesday. To my suprise, it had already gone up $160/person! I know the deal is likely to re-surface with the horrible economy, but it made me feel good for pulling the trigger, per say, before we were totally ready. Normally I wouldn't dream of booking the most expensive part of a trip before planning out where we're going and where we're staying, so this was an odd experience for me. But, I'm glad I did it.

So this is what else I'm pondering. The Dublin portion of the trip is for Mr. Lush, who is Irish. (loosely, through a few generations, but that's ok) He, by nature, is NOT a planner. While I am not the planner Lucy is, nor could I ever aspire to be, I do my fair share of planning, usually having a rough outline with quite a few additional options. Normally I would pour over travel websites, hotel reviews, message boards, tourist sites, etc to determine all the activities we could do, how we would get around, where we could stay, etc and present him for "final consultation". (more of a loose veto power, if truth be told)

However, I wonder if I should turn the planning reins over to him for the Dublin portion? Its just two nights and the rest of the trip is pretty much my baby and I'm fairly sure whatever I suggest and want to do he'll be totally ok with. However, its likely he will not be as organized I would like him to be- could I deal with that? Could I let it go, and potentially end up spending all day looking for a pub? (which I can't imagine is that hard but who knows) Will I be able to keep my mouth shut and just go along for the ride and let him enjoy his "Dublin vacation"??

I don't know, I just don't know. But I think I might try.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Europe 2009 - airfare booked!!

Well…..our airfare is booked. We leave Chicago at 6:50p.m. Sunday, June 7, arrive in Dublin at 8:30a.m. Monday, June 8 (Dublin time). We leave Paris on Saturday June 20 at 10:25a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 4:40p.m. (Chicago time).

Why aren’t we flying out of the same city? Well, Mr. Lush wants to go to Dublin. Orginally it was out, based on the distance between Dublin and Paris, but I found this great deal that was $700.03 per person (including fees and taxes) on Aer Lingus, an Irish airline. The sale ended yesterday and after much deliberation, we decided f*it, and booked it!! So, we aren’t sure if we’re going to spend 1 or 2 nights in Dublin but had to take advantage of this great deal.

**Sidenote***Of course, there is a chance our deal isn't the "deal of a lifetime" we hope, but right now, I can't imagine it getting a ton cheaper for travel in June, so we had to take advantage. The last thing we wanted was to not book, then it go up, then up again, and we hem and haw, and not book, then all the sudden its May and we didn't book and now we aren't going. So, we only live once, lets make it worth it!!!

As far as how we’re getting from Dublin to France….I looked it up, and found that we have lots of options from Dublin to Paris, or Lyon, or Avignon, or wherever we might want to go first. Since the actual itinerary of our trip is still up in the air, we thought it best to take advantage of this deal and figure out the details in the next few months. In the meantime, the main “leg” of our trip is booked.

Please, please, any suggestions or tips for Dublin and anywhere in France, is oh so welcome!!!!

Not sure if I feel relief that its actually booked or fear that we booked a trip to Europe in the worst economy of my lifetime, but right now, I’ll pretend I’m 100% excited and nothing else….after all- we’re spending TWELVE NIGHTS IN EUROPE BABY!!!!

On my 30th birthday I'll either be sipping a nice French wine in:
a) a chateau in France
b) a cafe in a little village in France
c) in Paris, France

Really, don't all those sound fabulous?????

A special thanks to Lucy for celebrating with me last night!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My liver is smiling

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to include more Liver Holidays into our routine. What’s a Liver Holiday? It’s a day completely off from drinking and it evidently has great health benefits - read Lucy’s post and it’ll explain it all.

Well, since I am an “equal opportunity drinker” and thus like beer, liquor AND wine, have a wine club, and of course have friends who I have a lot in common with (we often share the above), a true Liver Holiday rarely happens. A TWO DAY Liver Holiday even more rarely happens. Mr. Lush jokingly suggested that we shoot for 8-10 Liver Holidays a month-but we decided instead to just try to include them more in our lives, particularly after a heavy drinking weekend and see how that works out.

So I’m proud that so far in 2009, I’ve had three Liver Holidays. Two were back to back around the first week of the month and one was last night.

My liver is smiling.... well, sort of.

Friday, January 16, 2009

If you don't gamble with your own money, the winnings aren't yours....

Here's a recent Dear Abby:

DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Alexa," and her boyfriend, "Ryan," were on vacation and went gambling. Ryan bet $400 at a craps table, handed Alexa the dice and told her to throw. She threw the whole night for him and won $2,500.
After they finished playing, Ryan put all the proceeds in his pocket. I thought it was unfair. Alexa says it's no big deal. I understand that the $400 was his, but she won $2,100 for him.
What's your opinion? Isn't this a red flag not to invest any more time in this relationship? -- NOT BETTING ON THIS ONE

DEAR NOT BETTING: If Ryan's basic nature was generous, he would have split the winnings 50-50. I agree your daughter would have a happier life with someone whose interests are less selfish and more generous. However, if she isn't ready to end the relationship, advise her to have an arrangement with Ryan in advance the next time they go gambling so she'll get more out of the game than carpal tunnel syndrome.

So, I like to gamble now and then. Ok, well I wish I could gamble more than "now and then", because I like it a lot-Roulette is my game of choice, although I want to play craps, its always full. Of course I love it only when I win. :)

Anyway, I don't think Alexa is entitled to any money. Gambling is a risk and Ryan risked his money. Yes, it was Alexa's "lady luck" that rolled the dice favorably, but if she had lost she wouldn't have had to pay for it. Plus, it appears he did the betting and she just did the throwing.....the betting is the part that requires a bit more skill.

All that being said, I would've given Alexa some money, but she's not entitled to it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Good site for Alsace, Burgundy, and Champagne

So I found a rather informative website for our trip, called The ABC's of France, and it focuses on Alsace, Burgundy, and Champagne. For each of those regions, they have what to do, where to say, outdoors, food, history, heritage and tours & itineraries, like this one:

Burgundy - Côte-d'Or / Burgundy Suggested Itineraries
3 Days / 2 Nights

Day 1 - 45 km
Dijon, capital of the region and former capital of the Duchy of Burgundy
"Côte-de-Nuits" and its famous wines. Visit the "Château du Clos de Vougeot", head of the world's largest wine brotherhood, "Les Chevaliers du Tastevin"
Lunch in Nuits-Saint-Georges (or nearby)
Beaune, capital of Burgundy wines. Visit the "Hôtel-Dieu", most eloquent example of Flemish art.

Day 2 - 85 km
Fontenay abbey, fascinating example of Cistercian architecture. Listed as a UNESCO world Heritage Site.
Semur-en-Auxois, town perched on a granite outcrop. Stroll through the narrow streets.
Lunch at the restaurant or a farm inn in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, medieval town known for its famous aniseed balls and its wines which are enjoying a recent revival.
" Town of Buffon, father of anthropology - discovery of his scientific and naturalist work. Study, museum, park, garden and the 18th C. forge located at Buffon, near Montbard.
Saulieu, centre of gastronomy and gateway to the Morvan regional park. Guided tour of the town and visit of the Museum Pompon with its animal sculptures.

Day 3 - 48 km
Visit of Cîteaux Abbey, birthplace of the Cistercian monastic order. Open for visitors: cloister of the transcribers, the library, the church. Cheese made by the monks can be purchased.

Valley of the Saône for lunch, boat trip on the Saône river along the boundary of the department Côte-d'Or.
Visit of France's smallest town Saint-Jean-de-Losne. It is located at the crossroad of the Saône and the canal of Burgundy and is rich in maritime history.

Auxonne, with its fortifications left from the past, is located on the banks of the river Saône. Visit the arsenal and the castle that preserves the memory of Napoleon Bonaparte, once a student at Auxonne's artillery school.

Côte-d'Or Tourist Board
1 rue de Soissons
BP 1601 - 21035 DIJON
CedexTel: 011 33 3 80 63 69 49
Fax: 011 33 3 80 49 90 97

Note that refer you to the board of tourism, which appears it is not-affiliated with any travel agency, which is nice.

For example, for Where to Stay in Burgundy, they have 49 hotels listed, with a description that mostly includes a star rating. Over half have links to their website, so you can not only find out the all important question for us US travelers- do the rooms have their own bathroom- but also get direct rate information. (In Euro's of course) They have links to 140+ events in Burgundy as well as other info on that general part of France. I won't say its the end-all-be-all, but its got a lot of info so I'm pouring over it daily.

For us, probably our biggest decision right now is what class of hotel to stay in. At this moment we're thinking alternating is our best bet. Stay in a lower star hotel for a couple nights then in a nicer one the next leg of the trip. Maybe we'll find some good deals, maybe we'll find that the "nicer" ones are overpriced, maybe we'll find that you get what you pay for. Hopefully, by alternating we'll have a happy medium.

Wish us luck, and of course, any hotel recs for Burgundy or Rhone are welcome!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Does my dog really look vicious???

Yesterday the Fed Ex guy came by with (you guessed it!!) wine and got really freaked out when he saw Layla. He raised his voice and told me to get the dog back and sorta freaked out. I told him to calm down and I started to exit out the front door and hold Layla back (not that she needed it-she was just curious) and he said (loudly) "I don't need to calm down, not when there's a dog". Anyway, I went outside, signed it made a joke about how she was really vicious, he made another rude freaked out remark and told him he didn't need to be rude and went back inside with my wine.

Here she is, the day of the "near attack".

Now, lets look at this from a couple viewpoints. Yes, she's a boxer, but she's also a SMALL boxer (she's about 52 lbs right now-about 10-20 from being full grown and filled out). I'm sure, given the right circumstances I could probably count on her to be ferocious and save me....however, right now the most it appears she is capable of to lick and wiggle her butt until some criminal gave up and ran away. Which doesn't seem all that likely.

So, assuming she IS capable of a violent attack...wouldn't being mean to the owner and having a freaked out tone antogonize the dog? I mean, if she was a chow (and I had a chow when I was lil tike- very sweet dogs but very territorial) she would've attacked based on his tone alone and the anxiety he caused me to have. Of course, she just sat there, like a good little doggie, and looked. Never a growl, just a curious "are you here to play with me" look?

However, it has waken me up a bit. She is no longer my little lap puppy. She's getting big and people are afraid of big dogs. Which, is good, when I'm walking her, not so good when the Fed Ex guy doesn't want to deliver my wine. Hmm.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Quick Twilight update

Finished all 4 as of Sunday evening. My head has just recovered from the furious reading I did (all 4 books from Mon-Sun), but the vampire dreams haven't stopped yet.

I guess I should go see the movie to see if I'm as enamoured with the "on-screen Edward" as I am with the "in my dreams Edward".

All in all, it was a good time reading, particularly now, since all I will be reading is journal articles for my thesis. Bleh.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Half Bottle Heaven

Recently, I’ve been on a half bottle kick. It started because I purchased a few half bottles of sparkling, for my friend Lucy’s birthday. Why half bottles?? Well, Lucy likes sparkling but Mr. Luce doesn’t share her passion so this way she could have a few glasses by herself without feeling wasteful.

I found a website, Half Wit Wines, that sells only half bottles, offers free shipping and frequently has specials. Regularly priced, two half bottles are a bit more than one bottle, of course, but that’s ok, because if you keep an eye out for specials you can get a steal. (Stores do carry half bottles, but maybe 5-15, and this website has 1300+ bottles, so the selection is extraordinary.) I ordered on Christmas Eve and got them on New Year’s Eve, which isn’t bad for free shipping over the holidays. They package in Styrofoam, which is great for secure bottles, not to great for environment, but shhh, I still prefer solidly packed bottles.

Since I purchased something from them, I received an email notification of their sparkling and Champagne special toward the end of the year. I purchased 7 bottles- 2 each of 3 different kinds of sparkling and one 2002 Chateau Rieussec Grand Cru Sauternes. Overall, the specials made two half bottles about 20-40% cheaper than a full bottle, regular price. We had the Sauternes on New Years Day with some peach cobber with the Luce’s, and it was lovely. Since Sauternes is so sweet and rich, a half bottle is plenty for a party of 4, so I certainly recommend picking a half bottle up.

Then last night, Mr. Lush surprised me with some takeout sushi- to pair we had one of our other half bottles, the Moet & Chandon White Star, along with a Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer, as we have a few spicy rolls that go best with something a bit fruiter. It was absolutely perfect-we were able to have 2 glasses of the M&C (remember sparkling glasses are smaller) and a glass of the Gewurztraminer with dinner and one+ after. It was just perfect, because sometimes we prefer sparkling, sometimes we prefer other things and this way we got to have two, without having to open two separate bottles or letting the sparkling go flat.

The M&C Champagne was great-very dry and not very "yeasty" so it went great with the sushi, especially the Shrimp Tempura Roll. The Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer...well, it was ok. It was on sale, for maybe $7-8, so I'd say pick up a bottle for when you have something spicy, but its not very complex. (which is fine, for $8 a bottle)

I would certainly recommend checking out Half Wit Wines, whether to pick up some dessert wines or to enjoy something by yourself, either rbecause you’re drinking by yourself or as a way to have something your significant other doesn’t like.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

On the Twilight Bandwagon

Ok, ok. I gave in and read Twilight.

Them prompty called Lucy to ask her to borrow New Moon, which I read last night :)
I'm addicted.
I'm almost glad I didn't get on the bandwagon until book 4, so I get to read them all back to back.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Flight research for Europe 2009

So I spent much of Sunday researching flights to Europe. Pouring over blogs, travel tips, etc, trying things many different ways. I determined that I should look at flights from JFK, STL, O’Hare, and Boston. Boston and JFK for flight availability and from O’Hare because if I’m flying from a different city, it’s obviously the cheapest city to get to.

I found that flying from JFK gets you the most options and travel times to get to really any city in Western Europe, however to get from STL to JFK isn’t quite as convenient. All in all, I found that booking a flight directly from JFK and then booking an additional one to get me to JFK only saved about $100/person and either left us with an annoying large amount of time or annoying little. Not enough to go out and do anything in New York, but enough to be bored off our arses at the airport. (Although, after seeing The Terminal, there is evidently a whole life one can have at JFK.) For a moment I thought, well, maybe we could just stay overnight in New York, see a few things, etc. But then I thought realistically, I’d rather spend every available moment in Europe, so I scratched that idea.

I looked at flights to Frankfurt, Geneva, Belgium, etc (from all the above locations) and pretty much found yes, a bit cheaper than Paris, but right now significantly to make a difference in the fact I’d then have to get a multi-country Eurorail pass and deal with losing some time traveling. (once again, maybe only $100 cheaper per person)

Don’t get me wrong, I like saving $100. I like winning $100. Really, I just like $100 in any way I can get it. But, after pouring over flight times, total duration time of flights, and taking travel time into account, we determined an extra half day in Europe is worth $200 total. Now, that might change, once we hammer out where we’re actually going. I think I might've found a cheaper way to get there, but I don't want to jinx it yet so I'll keep it a secret until I get closer to booking.

For where, we talked about it and currently the Rhone (specifically Chateauneuf Du Pape) and Burgundy are on the list. They are (relatively) close to each other and connected by the train system. While we both would LOVE to go to Bordeaux, as you can see in this map of the France Train system, it’s a bit out of the way without a direct way and would mean ½-3/4 day of traveling. (It appears that its about 6.5-7.5 hours on the train based on what I can decipher from the timetable) Then we’d have to also spend time getting back to Paris and it’s a bit farther away from Paris than the other regions.

So, do we want to waste basically an entire day of our trip traveling? (The area we're thinking about is basically Dijon through Avignon.) We've determined we'd like minimum 2 days with no travel in each city. So, 2 days in Beaune and 2 days in Macon, and 2 days in Valence/Avignon area, plus 2 days for travel within France....that's 8 days. (We are shooting for 9 full days, not counting arrival/departure days.)

We’ll see. Of course, nothing I have said is set in stone. Heck, the trip isn’t even in stone with this economy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Have a Hot Toddy to soothe your throat

With so many colds going around, one needs a good recipe for a Hot Toddy to soothe the throat....or just to enjoy on a cold winter's night. I’m happy to oblige:

WineLush’s Hot Toddy
½ shot bourbon
½ shot triplesec/cointreau/grand marnier (whichever you have)
1 shot brandy
1 tbs honey
Fill mug with hot tea. (personally I use Orange Spiced (black) Tea or Orange Passionfruit & Jasmine (green) Tea-bonus, its got antioxidants in it!)