Sunday, November 26, 2006

My little eater...

When Brea was born everyone was amazed at how much she resembled her older sister, looks and temperament. Over the past few months her own personality has really started to shine. Much like her sister was, she's a happy baby and she loves to giggle. On the flip side, she has a bit of a temper and wants what she wants and NOW. There are other small differences that a parent can easily pick out, but three of the biggest differences we've notices between the girls at this age:

1. Brea likes to make it known when she's around. She loves to just scream to hear herself scream. Put her in a space that echos a bit and watch out!

2. Brea is more of a dare devil. Lexi was always a careful baby. Not so careful that she wasn't willing to try new things, but the type of careful that resulted in a relatively bruise and bump free infant and toddler years. Brea on the other hand...well let's just say she doesn't see the distance from the couch to the floor as a barrier really, just more of a challenge. And what do you do if your crawling along and something or someone is in your way? Well just crawl over it/them of course. Duh!

3. She's an eater! Lexi actual ate more of a variety of items during her infant months than she does now, but there have always been certain foods she just will not let past her lips or down her throat. I have to give her credit, she's been more willing to try more "new" foods as of late (thank you preschool!), but I think she'll always be somewhat of a picky eater. Brea on the other hand will (and DOES) put just about anything in her mouth. And boy does she get excited when you put her in the high chair and head towards her with anything that might look like a food...

Her daily dose of Cheerios.

Yummy, it's carrots!

Avocado...a food and a facial.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Holiday cooking...

As I sit here typing, the pumpkin pie for tomorrow is baking away in the oven. Food has always been an important part of the holidays for my family. I find that over the past few years, the years when we've started to build family traditions for our girls, the years when I've not be able to spend the holidays with my mom and brother, food has played an even bigger part in my holiday preparations. It's a small piece of "home" that continues to be special to me even miles away from the rest of my family. When I look back through my childhood, most of the memories I have of the holidays involve food. The past couple of days I've really been thinking about that fact. And well, here's what I think it boils down to...

Growing up in your average dysfunctional American family, the holidays were a time to celebrate, but often in a general air of stress. Family dynamics were complicated. Finances were sometimes complicated. General logistics, depending on where we were living at the time, were sometimes complicated. But there was always the constant of good food. Wholesome, delicious, home made food that brought everyone together. Special foods, that for one reason or another, were only prepared during the holidays. Foods that connected to our heritage and celebrated family traditions passed down for generations. Foods that drew people to the kitchen to talk, laugh and of course taste test while preparations were being done.

As a professional in the fitness/wellness industry, I'm often conflicted with my whole food obsession at the holidays. Food was, and continues to be, a source of comfort for me and many members in my family...hence the continual struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. A struggle I don't care to pass on to my girlies. Yet, at the holidays, many of the happy memories I have of my childhood and of my connections to family and friends are closely tied to food. So what to do?

This year, I look to my yoga practice to remind myself to FIND BALANCE. After all, taking time to celebrate, be with family and throughly enjoy oneself is part of maintaining good overall wellness.

So tomorrow, I'll cook, and I'll eat, and I'll nap,and I'll enjoy time with family.

And on Friday...I'll workout!


Thursday, November 16, 2006

A day to celebrate...

Yesterday marked the end of my dear hubby's daily 110 mile round trip commute to work. After almost 6.5 years of making the hour drive each morning and night, this morning he made the 5 minute drive to his new job at ASI Modulex. For the first time in our oldest daughter's life (not counting those occasional days when daddy went into work late for some reason) she was able to have breakfast with her daddy before he headed off to work. So many simple pleasures come with this change: breakfast and lunch with daddy on a regular basis; a shortened drive, less miles on the car, and much less spent monthly at the gas pump; the chance for Scott to feel more part of the community in which he lives; the ability for him to be in town for doctor's appointments, school programs, etc; the opportunity for him to spend time taking the dog for a walk in the morning and to go play some hoops over the lunch hour a couple times a week; and let's not forget, a little more sleep each day and NO MORE 4:30 am alarm clock buzzes!

A day to celebrate...a day to be thankful!


Friday, November 10, 2006

Back on the wine trail...

The third stop on the Wine Trail this past Saturday was definitely my favorite, Park Farm Winery and Vineyard in Bankston. It was the most difficult to find, nestled in the Iowa countryside, but the beautiful French style Chateau (pictured above) is like an oasis in the middle of the desert. A beautiful tasting room, complete with comfy furniture and a large fireplace, leads out onto a deck from which you can look down over the vineyard and out across the valley to the hills beyond. To add to the magical ambiance, we were invited on a tour of the wine making facilities where Lucas, the winemaker, talked about how the winery and vineyard had grown over the past several years. If ambiance contributes to your desire to buy on your way through the retail store, then call me a sucker as I left happily carting 3 bottles of wine and a new CD. The wines at Park Farm are more to my taste, plenty of deep, dry reds AND surprisingly, I even purchased a bottle of white, a rare occurance for me. We will be returning to Park Farm one of these days, probably with a picnic lunch in tow, for an afternoon and a bottle or two of wine!

Leaving Park Farm and starting on our way to our final destination, Tabor Home Vineyard and Winery, in Baldwin, proved to be a bit of a challenge. Knowing we would be arriving at Tabor Home just past the advertised ending hour of the trail (5:00), we gave Tabor a call and asked if they would wait for us as we had a group of 9 willing to buy a couple cases of wine. They were happy to accommodate and were great help when we had to call back a second time asking them to help us find our way to their location after choosing "the scenic" route.

Tabor Home is the oldest, most established, and most accomplished winery on the tour...probably in all of Iowa for that matter. Their entry here will be short, not because they don't deserve equal time, just because it was the end of the day, I was exhausted, and we rushed a bit since we were already running on borrowed time. The spread at Tabor included the basic food and wine parings as the other locations, but we also got a treat...a private (because our group of 9 was the last there) barrel tasting. The two wines we sampled were both dark reds, much to my liking, and will be great additions to Tabors already tasty offerings. I of course was able to find one bottle (I could have found a couple, but I was already going over my self imposed 4 bottle limit) to bring home with me.

After loading the last of the group back in the van, we headed back to CR where part of the group would spend the night, departing on day 2 of the Wine Trail the next morning, while the rest of us would come home to Grinnell. The drive back to CR was fun even though we were all starting to wind down. We had lots of laughs from the day to carry us to the end. We returned to our initial meeting location, sorted out our wines, and went our separate ways. A day well spent!

As promised, a final listing of my purchases:
Winneshiek Wildberry Winery's American Canoe Creek Chambourcin - an off-dry red
Park Farm Winery's Mississippi Red - a red table wine
Park Farm Winery's Iowa Fume LaCrosse - a dry white
Park Farm Winery's Vintner's Reserve American Marechal Foch (2005) - a dry red
Tabor Home Winery's Iowa St. Croix - a dry red
And let's not forget, that ambiance CD from Park Farm...yes, I'm a sucker!

I'm already looking forward to our next wine outing. Good food, good friend, good wine. What more could a girl ask for.

peace and cheers!

Monday, November 6, 2006

A day on the Wine Trail...

Over the past decade or so, the number of vineyards and wineries have grown steadily in the state of Iowa. Twice a year 7 wineries in the Northeastern part of the state come together for a 2 day event called the Iowa Wine Trail. This fall a group of our friends decided to partake of the festivities...after all, what better way to get ideas for your Holiday entertaining! After several weeks of planning (thanks MB), Saturday morning 9 of us loaded into our rented 15 passenger van and headed north. Destination: Winneshiek Wildberry Winery in Decorah. The first of 4 wineries we would visit that day.

For those of you who have never traveled in Northeastern Iowa, it's amazing. You gradually leave the rolling hills of the central part of the state for rockier, tree cover hills which spill dramatically into beautiful valleys. Along the way you come upon small towns and family farms fit for a Grant Wood painting. Fall is a particularly beautiful time of year and even though we're past prime foliage season, the view was still worth the visit.

Our little group is quite an eclectic group of individuals when you look at us: a law enforcement officer; a fund raiser; an environmentalist; a lawyer; a social worker; a pharmacist; a stay-at-home mom/fitness instructor; and 3 guys who work in various business settings. But put us all together and we always manage to have A LOT of fun. This trip was no exception! Disclaimer to the Ridin' Dirty crew...this is the clean version...after all, my mom reads this!

We arrived at Winneshiek Wildberry Winery just before noon. The newest winery on the trail, WWW had a number of fruit wines. As noted on their web site, in addition to the vineyard, the farm is home to 750 rhubarb plants. (I'll try to impart something unique about each of the wineries in this missive.) Obviously the wine and food at this stop didn't leave much impression (though I did buy a bottle of their off-dry red, Canoe Creek) because the first thing that came to mind when I thought back to this stop was the bathroom. I walked into the roomy, nicely decorated bathroom, locked the door behind me, and went around the small partition wall to find 2 toilets setting side by side. No stall divider of any sorts, just two toilets. It was kinda weird. After a quick tasting of wines and foods prepared to compliment each wine (something each winery provided for this special event), we all made our purchases and departed for destination two: Eagles Landing Winery in Marquette.

The drive to Marquette brought us winding down to the banks of the Mississippi. The small section of Marquette where the winery is located is adorable. A single old street of store fronts, now very touristy in nature containing mostly antique shops, winds along the river bank backed by a steep bluff. The winery is actually spread out over two locations; a tasting room located in 2 adjoining store fronts, and the actually winery/bed and breakfast located down the street. Additionally they have a vineyard, which we didn't see. Eagle Landing had a number of wines, much like WWW, they produced a number of fruit wines. Being a person who doesn't care much for sweet wines in general, their wines were less appealing to me. One stand out, and the food paring was an amazing compliment, was a dark red port which was paired with a chocolate mouse tartlette. Yummy! For me the location of this winery proved to be my favorite quality and I choose not to purchase a bottle of wine to bring home. However, the location was so great, I imagine we may once again find our way to Eagles Landing and may even have to give their B&B a try. One interesting find...just down the street from the tasting room was a business called The Body Connection. They provided the community with aerobics classes and massage. As you can imagine, quite intriguing to me.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of A day on the Wine Trail for the report on the remaining 2 wineries we visited that day and a listing of my final purchases!