The Kiss

My sister was recently married in London, England and decided to have a reception in the States. We were ecstatic, and got right to work on preparations.

I was in charge of the cake.

Being that it was to be a small venue of close southern Californian friends and immediate family, I didn’t think the multi-layer cake was in order.

Since the art business is where my sister ‘calls home’, it seemed fitting that the cake should reflect that, and the romantic Gustav Klimt came to mind. His 1908 painting, “The Kiss” portrays a newly wed couple in a loving embrace of gentle affection. No other image would do.

Fondant City
I surrounded myself with coloured fondant icing – every inch of the rainbow, expanding it by making my own colours, working the dough-like frosting as if it were clay. It might have been more fun without the plastic cloves, but it was important to me that the cake be suitable for the pickiest eater. Accents of edible gold leaf pulled the image together. (The ‘glow’ around the couple is a gold leaf covered rib of fondant, as are a few areas of the garment designs in the photo detail, above.)

When the thing was presented to the newly-weds and guests, no one was willing to cut into the artwork – not even the bride and groom! Cake maker Alex Kent (aka Niki Chanel) had to do it amidst hisses and boos and gasps of disbelief… but they all had a piece.

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Pinterest Warning

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Warning! Warning! Pinterest users!

Those of you who have Pinterest logo3discovered   Pinterest already know of it’s addictive nature. What you may not know yet, however, is its ability to inspire.

I am a fairly new member and this weekend was driven to redecorate. Images of what I had seen on Pinterest boards earlier in the week came to mind and I was unable to resist the temptation.

Switching out the bed in our guest room, we put together the antique headboard that had been in the garage for years. Oh no! A  deep scratch! Wait; I know what to do… what was it? Quick – check out household tips of your Pinterest followers boards for the solution. Yes! A walnut meat. Strange but true, rubbing the walnut over the gouge concealed the damage enough to celebrate.walnut cover scratches wood

The guest room is shaping up nicely.

You have been warned.

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For the Love of Romance… and Wine

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Too many people seem to think that Romance novels are all about sex. If that were the case, only Erotica would be considered romantic.

Writing sex, however is not my forte; in fact, I don’t think of myself as a Romance writer. Rather I’m apt to weave romance throughout the story. Romance, the way I see it is about being aware of sensuality, both in one’s self and in the world around them.

For example, a romantic interlude between a couple from my favourite story might have you leaning across the picnic table for the salt and the person you have heartache for but won’t give you the time of day also reaches; your hands touch… your eyes meet. Then BANG! Birds rush from trees in fright, guests stand in shock, a drink falls over. The moment is lost – but not forgotten.

That table, however, will undoubtedly be laden with a Mediterranean feast of vegetables, olives and the all important wine. This, to me, is the essence of romance… relaxing time together with the ones I love.

Colour me old-fashioned if you must, but my definition of romance is more about sensuality than about sex. 

In a story, as in life, If and or when togetherness becomes sexual, the beginning of the end must be near. The relationship is doomed to some kind of change. Either the passion peter’s out or the marriage becomes comfortable; either way the electricity of anticipation and mutual magnetic desire to seduce each other becomes diminished. The couple will have to work harder to keep the love alive: house, kids, love of work…

To my mind, this tenuous affection is a God-given magic; the magic of someone’s attention can make you feel beautiful and wanted. When you feel that kind of good, you are in the state of grace they talk about in Regencies, but notice it’s all too often in a ‘don’t touch’ sort of way. The attention you crave is wrapped up in hope – hope that you will see the heartthrob again, hope for that deep, timeless eye contact again; hope you will feel beautiful and wanted again. You anticipate. You hope. You romance.

That’s why the wine is so important. Remember the wine? It was on the table with the pesto noodles.

It’s not there to quench your thirst. It’s more like a lesson in lovemaking. It makes you pay attention to it. It fills your senses with romance, delivering a bouquet of gifts from the garden, a bright red ruby to put in your hand and dives in for a teenager’s kiss when you take it into your mouth. If a secret love is nearby, it’s an ice breaker. If the lover is known to you, eye contact becomes a promise. Anticipation. Those intense moments of passion leading up to the act is where the romance lives.

little bit left

And for those who find no partner, there’s always that glass of the sublime elixir to be your tour guide of the world, pointing out the beauty and meaning of life, and you fall in love with the knowledge and your experience. Somehow Mother Nature has created a love potion – a liquid lesson in appreciation. 

After a sip or two of a rich Burgundy, any moon is gorgeous, the flowering tree is a marvel and the birds are speaking a language you can almost understand; your senses have been unveiled. You are in the throws of Romance.

not romanticIf you doubt me, just try stargazing with a Coke Cola or an energy drink and see how magical that is. Those drinks force you to pay attention, but to a different tune… because the romance is missing.

There’s that word again.

Hey, I have an idea; let’s go pour a glass of pinot and I’ll show you what I mean.

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Who Do, Voodoo?

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A Quick, Fast Paced, Absorbing & Fun Murder Mystery

by Rochelle Staab

If you like magic of any kind you’ll love this wonderful romp around the underworld of hexes and spells.

Author Rochelle Staab (what a great name for mystery!) weaves old movies, restaurants and key streets of Hollywood into her story to make you feel like you are in the limelight; it made me want to get in my car and go see for myself.

The story revolves around a self-sufficient, non-believing psychologist, Liz Cooper, who is swept up in the world of magical mayhem when she tries to clear her best friend Robin Bloom, of murder. It seems everyone she meets in this well rounded cast becomes involved in the deadly game of getting to the source of the danger first, before another life is lost. In the process our snarky, sexy female-lead meets up with Nick Garfield, a witty college professor and occult specialist, to get to the truth – fast! And, yes; he’s sexy, too!

This supernatural suspense is a fascinating insight into the realm of unseen forces – forces that will have you turning its pages to the unforeseeable end.

I loved it!

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Really Expensive Wine

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I just read a blog by Brian Clegg aboutBrian Clegg a  book titled “The Billionaire’s Vinegar”. Yes, it’s about wine – very old and ancient wine.

Though not having read it, yet (it’s new on my TBR list, so it’s fairly far down), I am intrigued by the blog’s information regarding the possible fakery of such expensive sale items. Some of these bottles have apparently gone for as much as $100,000!! It would make sense that some brave entrepreneur would try to fake a few.

Billionaires Vinegar But what do you do with a $100,000 bottle of wine?

You drink it, silly! Lordy, introduce me to the guys who spend their money like that!

Now you and I both know that if wine is left out overnight, it tastes like vinegar. If the cork is tainted by TCA, the wine can be ruined, or ‘corked’.

Here’s my question to all you fabulously wealthy wine connoisseurs: How do you know the wine in that aged container is still wine and not vinegar? How do you know it’s not rebottled table wine? How do you know it will be worth the expense?

The only answer I can possibly accept is, “I’m a speculator.”glass of wine

Ahhh, the romance of a gambler who prefers a  candlelight tasting to a Vegas poker table – give me that any day. These are individuals in no need of a wash-board stomach or a tan. All they need to get my attention is to invite me for a glass!

Tense, excited, sitting in anticipating as the sommelier opens the bottle… one wonders – what will they pair with this enigma?

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Wine in the Desert

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I’m in Vegas this weekend with friends, and we’ve been out on the town (in the heat) and eaten our fill of restaurant fare, so tonight we stayed in the condo.

Trebbiano Pinot Grigio I made a faux Chicken Marsala – which was pretty tasty. Either that, or we were really hungry!

Normally, this dish is served with a bottle of wine. We drank three… three different kinds. (Is that ok?) All were inexpensive – an unbelievable $1.99 from the Las Vegas Trader Joe’s (though not marked TJ’s), and all were good! Products of Umbria, Italy. We started with a 2010 Vola Trebbiano Pinot Grigio before the table was set, had a 2010 Vola Sangiovese with dinner, and drank Cupcake Chardonnay for dessert, also from TJ’s which I brought from Los Angeles, and goes for $9.99. My mom liked it and got me a bottle, bless her heart. The label says citrus-y with a hint of vanilla. While I could tell there was something sweet-ish in the flavour, to me it came across as a sweet bark flavour, like cinnamon but not cinnamon. While I was deciding, up came that Chardonnay oak that I love. Nice.

For background music and entertainment, I put on a travel video of Southern France and all were happy. Don’t worry, it’s alright to mix cultures. I’m American with a European upbringing and I say it’s okay.

But I’m thinking you might be wondering, “What exactly is faux Chicken Marsala?” Before we get into that, I want to tell you a cooking secret: whatever you cook, the food always tastes better if the chef has a glass of wine first.

Having no idea what I’m going to make, I check the fridge for supplies. We had boneless, skinless chicken and some grapes – three colours, in fact. I found a box of raisins, and thankfully there were onions.

I sauté at least three loosely chopped onions in olive oil and butter in a pot while browning the chicken in a skillet, also with a bit of olive oil and butter. To the onions, I added grapes, raisins, bit of pepper and any other seasoning salt I could find (I found Lawry’s) but not much or it will toughen the meat and taste commercial. When the chicken begins to stick to the pan, add enough white wine to sizzle the chicken loose and make a bit of sauce – about two glasses of white wine. Reduce by half, for taste and thickening. Add the chicken and juices to the onion mixture and lower the heat to medium. Add a bit more wine to the skillet and gently dissolve the brownings into the wine and add it to the main mixture. I thought it needed a bit of sweet and was lucky to find some syrup. About 3 or 4 tablespoons did the trick. So far, so good, but it lacked colour. Aw, hell, add some red wine until it looks right – a glass of that Sangiovese, please.

It was getting hot in the kitchen so I let it simmer while we hung out on the balcony overlooking the inviting swimming pool and talked about why it’s closed for the summer.

Time to eat. We lit the candles and served the chicken with potatoes and veggies. Oh yeah, and the wine.

Luxury.

A few hours of Fringe reruns in anticipation of the new season and my friends are off to bed. Not me, though. I’m staying up to enjoy the storm, watching the jagged bolts arc the sky reflected in the pool and listening to the deep sounds of boulders falling from heaven roll about the open desert. The bit a rain that was squeezed from the clouds evaporated in minutes.

The end of a perfect Vegas day.

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What’s with this Wine Pairing Thing?

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First, let me say I’m not a big fan of shellfish, but when the vintner suggested pairing crab and Cupcake Chardonnay on the back of the bottle, I had to try.

See, I’m a bit new to the pairing table. I used to just drink wine with whatever I was eating, taking little notice of the age old ‘rule’ of white with fish, red with meat. I am a Californian, after all.

So, back to the bottle; “Serve chilled cupcake chardonnaywith crab cakes, seared Ahi tuna on waffle crackers or fresh baked French bread and cheese” says the back label of my 2010 Cupcake chardonnay. Initially, I wondered just how dedicated they were to actual pairing, as everyone and their grandmother knows about the cheese thing, even if cheese is the number one taste eliminator of subtle flavours.

Mulling it over I decided I liked the company’s attempt at educating its interested drinker’s with these mini menus. Great idea!

Some of you may know that I’ve been flirting with Cupcake for weeks now, and though I’ve enjoyed it with many dishes, for some reason the exoskeleton proposal stuck in my mind… you don’t think it could have anything to do with my arachnophobia, do ya?

Naaah…

Today I finally had enough nerve. I bought pre-made frozen crab cakes and fried them in a tiny bit of olive oil until crispy. Added a salad and took the first bites accompanied with the chardonnay.

I think I get it… I see what they mean; the delicate blend of distinct flavours of the Cupcake, being fruity to start with and a long woody finish, were not overpowered by the Trader Joe’s Maryland crab cakes. The crab flavour, which as I said I’m not crazy about, was actually improved by the wine. Much like sniffing coffee beans between perfumes or ‘cleansing’ ones palette with pickled ginger before another bite of sushi, the chardonnay made it possible to get through the meal. Imagining what this pair would be like to someone who truly liked crab, I can testify that the flavours accentuated each other. The verdict? The wine was the best part of the pair.

salad_poached_eggI’m trying the tuna next, though probably without the crackers. A mixed green salad complete with a five minute egg on top, sliced open to drool out like a Hawaiian volcano is more my style.

But for those of you not in love with seafood or fish, please, be my guest and move on to the cheese!

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