Thursday, February 1, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cheap Wines Are Just Fine

I used to write – a tiny bit – about wine.

But my husband is under strict orders not to tell anyone … because then wine snobs (there are always some) will want to debate/compete.

I liked the wine professionals I met. One demonstrated to me the difference between “old world” and “new world” wine styles. If you taste a French white wine by itself, say a chardonnay, which is called a Burgundy (after its region rather than its grape varietal, because it’s French), it will taste thin. A California chardonnay, drunk alone, will taste better. But put some salt on your tongue and the French wine will taste a lot better. That’s because French wines are meant to be drunk with food, while California wines are meant to be what the wine person called “a cocktail-party wine,” often drunk alone.

Sommeliers told me the cheapest wines on their lists don’t sell because no one will order them. If they find a great deal, they often have to raise its price to sell it. That’s why I like a pal of mine who, with a great flourish, will tell a waiter, “Bring me a glass of your cheapest chardonnay!”

One wine guy told me syrah (or shiraz) wines – syrah is a red grape varietal grown mostly in Australia – are always good, though cheap.

I discovered vinho verdes at a Portuguese restaurant. These “green” or “young wines” have a slight sparkle, taste like the wine version of beer and cost $4 a bottle at my Kroger.

Which is where I search the lowest shelves (cheapest wines) for funny names and labels.

Because, really, most wines are just fine.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

You Don’t Have to Show It All

Staying at hotels is fun, except for the mirrors in the bathrooms.

They all seem to have magnifying mirrors and lighting suitable for an operating room.


Why would you do that to yourself?

Is there a conspiracy between the hotels and beauty companies? Do the hotels get a kickback when people run out and buy electrolysis and/or concealer?

Calling them vanity mirrors seems like a misnomer; insecurity mirrors would be more like it.

Seeing everything in detail on anything is not always the best option. For example, as a near-sighted person, I have discovered that Christmas trees and Christmas lights are best looked at without glasses or contacts. You don’t see the wires and the hooks and the bulbs and the extension cords. You just see what you are supposed to see: lights and colors and shine.

I would argue that the same holds for faces, your own and other people’s. We don’t have to see every pore and eyebrow hair, people.

The New York Times Magazine tends to employ a photography style on their cover subjects that zooms in on the pores on the person’s nose, which is just mean.

I think/hope that what I see in my own bathroom mirror (a regular one, lit by regular light bulbs) is what other people see when they look at me.

Another reason I think people aren’t seeing me in high-def: They are probably worrying more about their own faces than scrutinizing mine.

I’m all for not worrying about this. How about you?

Monday, November 20, 2017


The windows on the top of the
castle are smaller than the
ones at the bottom, to make
it took taller.
I was just at Disney World.

The easiest impulse here would be snarkiness.

In three days, I saw only four people use the stairs rather than the escalator. My husband and I were two of them. I felt like I was on the spaceship in Wall-E, which is a Disney movie.

In one restaurant, I could see 27 television screens from my seat and more screens hung over the stalls in the ladies room.

People have their weddings at Disney.
You can even buy these ears, $25 each.

Our hotel, the Dolphin, looked like it was constructed out of Styrofoam and was topped by 56-foot-tall dolphin statues. They don’t look like real dolphins. They are based on the “nautical dolphins” drawn on old maps.

That’s the thing: Everything is artificial at Disney World. But it’s so well-done. They’ll tell you some of their tricks (on your hotel TV): the streets in the medieval village at the Magic Kingdom are striped with brown. That alludes to how people threw the contents of their chamber pots into the street. At Todd English’s bluezoo restaurant, the lighting looks like the bubble rings of humpback whales.

There’s a word for this: “Disneyfication.”

Disney employees were strikingly nice and helpful. Wikipedia explains this is “emotional labor,” which can be done two ways: by “surface acting,” or faking it, or by “deep acting,” when you actually try to be that weirdly chipper person.

I hope it’s not a terrible job. Glassdoor gives Disney World pretty good ratings as an employer. And according to an entire genre, those attractive college students who dress up like Belle and Tarzan do about what you’d expect in their off-time. I'm glad.

Monday, November 13, 2017

It’s All Made Up

Don’t hate me, but a week or two ago, I was doing some early Christmas shopping.

I went into Sephora, the cosmetics store, to see if I could find a “stocking stuffer” or two for my daughter, age 22.

She doesn’t usually wear make-up but she likes perfumes. (An industrial-design major, she collects perfume bottles.) And she’s not adverse to fun things and silly things, sparkly things and colorful things. Make-up’s fun, I said to myself, though I wear little to none myself.

But it’s not, really.

Yes, it’s exotic and colorful and super-duper expensive. A small pressed disc of colored powder $40, make-up brush extra. What a racket.

But I couldn’t find the fun.

It was all about how you aren’t good enough the way you are. You need to hide all your shameful “flaws.” The make-up I perused was supposed to make your skin look clearer or your eyes look bigger. Those false eyelashes, which you glue to your eyelids, are supposed to replace your own sparse and unsatisfactory ones. You’re supposed to use blush, contour AND highlighter powders to create the illusion you have high cheekbones, the lipstick and other lip “products” to make your lips somehow “better.” A salesperson told me that $30 brush was to use with your foundation. Otherwise, people might see fingerprints on your face. Maybe on her face, on which she had applied about a quarter of an inch of “foundation.”

The sales pitch was: Your face isn’t fit to be seen as it really is.

And that’s sad.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Trying Too Hard

That little basil plant in with the mint.
It has always seemed counter-intuitive to me, but there really is such a thing as “trying too hard.” 
There is also such a thing as trying the wrong way.

This came to mind when I was watering my potted herbs the other day. I bought these as seedlings. Why? Because I have never been able to raise anything from seed. I’ll plant a seed and get a sprout, that tiny little filament stem topped by two little leaves. I watch it carefully, water it carefully – and one day, there the little seedling will be lying, wilted and dead on the soil, already turning back into dirt.

But that day as I watered my herbs, I saw a nice sturdy basil plant growing in the mint pot. It landed there by accident. It got through the vulnerable seedling stage without me even noticing it and there it was, a sturdy young plant.

You know what the most common cause of death for houseplants is? Not under-watering, overwatering. This link calls it “fussing your plant to death.”

Sometimes, benign neglect is exactly what’s needed.

And sometimes, you can approach something the exact wrong way. When I was a little kid, my mother tells me, I couldn’t figure out how to jump. I’d stand there, knees bent, face screwed up in concentration, think really hard about jumping and not move. I was always very verbal, but an absolute mess with anything physical. I was thinking the word “Jump!” in my head as hard as I could, but that, of course, didn’t get the job done. There is something distinctly not verbal in physical movement and I didn’t have the first clue how to access that.

So – I am going to try not to try, especially not in ways that don’t work. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sick of Fear

I went through a period of about a year and a half, with an intense stretch of about three months at the end, of health scares.

Suddenly, it seemed, I couldn’t get a routine medical test without it coming back positive, possibly indicating something dire. Literally, at one point, I was standing in line at a doctor’s office, to get a follow-up procedure for one finding, when my phone rang, to let me know of another positive test result that could indicate something else dire for which a follow-up had to be scheduled … in a few weeks.

All I had done was get the routine screening tests my doctors told me I should, the way I always did: mammogram, pap smear, eye exam, etc. But this go-round, they led to, according to my count, a follow-up mammogram, three ultrasounds, four unpleasant gynecological procedures, in which, as my doctor-husband put it, gynecologists got “way up into my business,” a urology procedure, two MRIs, a CT scan, two sets of x-rays, excisions and a skin graft.

I am not blaming anyone. My doctors are very good at what they do, were doing exactly what they are supposed to do and very possibly saved me from something bad.

But, although it was no one’s intention, I cannot think of a better way to push someone, especially someone like me, who’s kind of anxious, right off the fear cliff.

I am fine, for which I feel lucky and grateful. I know I am also lucky to have access to healthcare.

But I also ended up seeing a therapist and getting on Prozac.

(Prozac’s great, so is therapy!)

Maybe that’s a silver lining: Feeling besieged led me to seek help for the anxiety I’ve come to realize has  always been lurking inside my head. J