Weekly Photo Challenge: Trio

A trio of lichen growing on a rock in the Shenandoah National Park.

Our theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is:  Trio.
Our instructions: What comes in threes?

My husband and I went for a hike in the Shenandoah National Park on Tuesday.  I love hiking in the fall and winter — we mostly have the park to ourselves.  The only downside?  Mother Nature’s color palette has taken a decisive turn for the brown and blah.  But, I always have my camera with me when we hike, because you never know what you might find.  I set out to find a trio of something for this week’s photography challenge, which pretty much guaranteed I would find everything but threes.  (We did find a black bear, but he was solo, which was plenty exciting.)

Me of little faith.  I walked around a corner and saw this . . . a trio of lichen.

What the heck is lichen?  You know, it’s that stuff that grows on rocks.  Beyond that, I knew nothing.  So I figured I’d better learn something.  Lichen looks like one organism, but it’s actually two — a fungus and an algae.  They live together in a mutually beneficial relationship (sciency people call this a symbiotic relationship).  Fungi can’t make their own food, but algae does, through photosynthesis.  Fungi retains water and nutrients from the environment that the algae uses to create energy, which the fungi uses to retain water and nutrients from the environment . . . and so on and on.

After that, my interest in scientific inquiry fell off pretty steeply.  I’ll just admire nature’s trio.

DSC_8388-1Nikon D800
ISO 400 | 44mm | f/2.8 | 1/800 sec


Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 75

Today’s words come to us from Master Sommelier, Andrea Robinson.  I came across these the words the other day while I was looking for stuffing recipes (who knew there were only six degrees of separation between stuffing and Andrea Robinson?).  Anyway, they made me laugh.

More-than-any-other-mealSooooo true.  I can’t think of a flavor that isn’t somewhere on the Thanksgiving table.  And all of the food texture groups are represented, too.  Add the potential for co-mingling all those flavors and textures . . .  on the same plate?!?  We could all use a group hug.  But what kind of group hug?!?

Every year, there’s a flood of blog posts about how to choose the right wine hug for Thanksgiving.  People really seem to stress out about this task.  So, I’m gonna save you a lot of stress and drama (so you’ll be nice and zen when Uncle Arthur wants to talk politics at the Thanksgiving table) and tell you the secret to choosing the right wine hug for Thanksgiving.

There is no secret.

Just serve and drink what you like (unless you’re serving White Zinfandel, then give me a heads-up so I can bring my own wine).  Open a few reds, a few whites (throw in a Rosé for fun) and . . . Voilà!  A buffet of hugs!

I wish you the joy of family, friends, an abundance of schizo food . . . and lots of good, group hugs!

Happy Thanksgiving & Salud!  🍂🍗🍷

My Week in Wine Labels (9)

A continuing series on wine labels, and the wines that wear them, under the macro lens.

I love to take photos of pieces of things with my macro lens — pieces of wine labels seemed like a natural extension of that inclination.  It’s a lot of fun to see the colors, and especially the textures, on a wine label that you wouldn’t ordinarily see (or maybe even notice).  It’s almost as fun as drinking the wine.  Almost.  So, I thought . . . why not stitch the photos together into a collage?

Voila!  My week in wine labels.

Do you recognize any of these guys??


Tenuta Serradenari Barolo 2004  ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
I can’t remember where I got this bottle.  I probably bought it during one of my frequent, but short-lived Barolo binges (this is where I decide I need more Barolo, buy a couple of bottles, and then remember Barolo is expensive).  Although, this one didn’t break the bank — it was $28ish. 100% Nebbiolo from the highest vineyards in Barolo (between 450 and 530 meters above sea level).  This bottle has a decade of age on it, and it’s lovely.  Lots of leather and coffee notes, with some black fruits in the back seat.

I couldn’t find any info on the label logo (boo!).  It reminds me of a mosaic puzzle I had when I was a kid, though.  I did learn that Serradenari is the name of the farmhouse on the property — it’s considered the peak of Barolo.  According to local lore, during the Black Death in Italy, the local peasants took their life savings and sought refuge on the peak.  (I guess if you can’t pray away the plague you head for the hills?)  Sara D’nè is the local dialect for sierra of money.

McPrice Myers Cuvée Kristina California Red Wine 2007  ⭐⭐⭐/88
Cuvée Kristina is named after the wife of winemaker, McPrice Myers (the first vintage was 2005, the year of their marriage).  The McPrice Mysers labels feature an Irish Claddagh ring — a symbol of love, loyalty, and friendship.  It’s very handsome in orange.  This is one of my last McPrice Myers bottles.  I used to have a McPrice Myers wine club membership, but it fell victim to one of my wine club purges (I’m a big fan of McPrice Myers wines, but unfortunately, there is such a thing as too much wine, or rather not enough space to put all of your wine, so sometimes you have to cull the herd).  Cuvée Kristina is a Rhône style GSM blend.  It’s massive and hedonistic, almost inky.  Licorice, blueberry notes weigh heavily on my palate.  I think this was $40ish.

Bastgen Kestener Paulinshofberg Riesling GG 2011  ⭐⭐⭐⭐/93
In the dizzying tangle that is German wine regulations, if you see GG on a wine label, that’s your signal that it’s the highest level of quality, from a very select vineyard.  GG means Großes Gewächs, or great growth (think Grand cru).  GG also means it’ll be a dry wine.  This wine is made with grapes from the steepest part of the Paulinshofberg vineyard, at a 65% slope.  If you’re a skier, that’s solidly into double-black diamond/imminent doom territory.  Minerals, wet stones, white peach, and glorious acidity to tie it all together.  Wish I had a case of this.  $45ish.

I’ve got zippy on the label . . . but I like the background especially under the macro-lens.  It looks like little waves.  The logo reminds me of a treble clef sign in music.

Champagne Philippe Fourrier Carte d’Or Brut ⭐⭐⭐/87
Champagne Philippe Fourrier was founded in 1847 (right about the time a German guy named Karl Marx was living in Paris, writing for radical newspapers, and fine-tuning his thoughts on the bourgeoise and the struggle of the working class).  Champagne Philippe Fourrier is located in the Vallée de l’Aube, or Côte des Bar region of Champagne.  The soils in Côte des Bar are different from the rest of Champagne (limestone marl soils vs. chalk).  The Carte d’Or blend is 100% Pinot Noir.  And maybe it’s the Champagne talking, but I feel like this bottle is a little less acidic and less mineral driven than those from the chalkier regions.  Still pretty delightful stuff, though.  Another one of my WTSO “Exploring Champagne” purchases.  $24ish.

Using my coat of arms knowledge from last week, I know the lion on the Philippe Fourrier coat of arms is in the lion guardant position.  What, exactly, he’s guarding, I couldn’t tell you.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory

Victory!  I made it to the tippy, tippy top of the Ulm Münster, the tallest church in the world.

Our theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is:  Victory.
Our instructions:  Forget the sad times. This week, it’s all about revelling in a win.

DSCN6775-1The first stone on the Ulm Münster was laid in 1377 (on the heels of the Black Death in Europe).  It started as a Roman Catholic church, but during the Reformation, the congregation converted to Protestantism (today, Ulm Münster is a Lutheran church).  Construction came to a halt in 1543 (due to a variety of economic and political factors), restarted again in 1817, and was finally completed in 1890.  During World War II, the city of Ulm was heavily bombed, leveling most of the old city, but the church and its spire were left unscathed.  Sidebar:  the organ inside the church was once played by Herr Mozart himself (wish I had a ticket to that concert!).

There are 768 steps to the top of the spire at Ulm Münster (that’s 161.5 meters, or 530 feet for the metrically declined).  You probably think I’m going to tell you I’m scared of heights, but heights don’t bug me.  Tight spaces bug me.  And tight spaces filled with crowds?  No.  Just, no.

If you’ve ever done any cathedral climbing (or castle scaling) in Europe, you know about the stairs (a claustrophobic’s dream).  Hundreds and hundreds of stairs.  Spiral-y, incredibly narrow, and most likely stone, built sometime around the year 1 (if you’re really lucky, you’ll find a wooden staircase, and with each creaky step wonder, is this the one step to end us all?).  There’s barely enough room for one person to ascend and descend these stone relics, but you can bet money someone will be coming down when you’re coming up, and vice versa.  You think the battle for the airline armrest is critical??  Try the battle for who gets the wide part of the cathedral steps.

I almost turned back after the first 34 panic-inducing steps (would you believe I left my Xanax in my other purse?!? 😉).  My family was a few dozen steps ahead of me (keenly aware of my impending freak out) and assured me there were windows further up (I usually do OK if I can see out).  So, I took about 527 deep breaths and forged ahead.  There were indeed windows further up (along with a spate of graffiti — why do people think it’s OK to carve their names into centuries old structures?).  And just when I thought I was done climbing, I wasn’t.  The finish line was still 120 über-steep, narrow steps away.

The final ascent.

Is it really necessary for me to make it to the tippy tippy top?!?  I was ready to declare victory right there, but my kids insisted I’d regret it later if I didn’t make it to the finish line.  (Hindsight being 20/20, they were right.)  You can see the spiral-y steps through the windows in the photo, and you betcha, people were coming down as we were going up (I won the battle for the wide part of the steps, btw).

C’mon, Mom!!  You can do it!


And . . . I did!

Wait.  I have to go down now?!?


Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 74

I don’t have any words about wine this week.  I’m having trouble using my words this week. Strike that.  I’m having trouble finding my words this week.

So, I’m letting a picture do (most of) the talking.

I took this photo last summer in Normandy, France.  This was only one of many windows like it, remembering and celebrating the bond of friendship between our two nations.  But our friendship with France has roots deeper than Normandy — our friendship stretches back more than two centuries.  France was our very first friend (thanks again for helping out with our Revolution), and though we’ve had our differences, France remains our ageless ally.

Sometimes, it’s tough to know what to say to a friend who’s hurting.  And so we simply stand beside them.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité.




My Week in Wine Labels (8)

A continuing series on wine labels, and the wines that wear them, under the macro lens.

I love to take photos of pieces of things with my macro lens — pieces of wine labels seemed like a natural extension of that inclination.  It’s a lot of fun to see the colors, and especially the textures, on a wine label that you wouldn’t ordinarily see (or maybe even notice).  It’s almost as fun as drinking the wine.  Almost.  So, I thought . . . why not stitch the photos together into a collage?

Voila!  My week in wine labels.

Do you recognize any of these guys??


Balbas Ribera del Duero Reserva 2001  ⭐⭐⭐⭐/93
I love the background texture on this monogram label — reminds me of tiny honeycombs.  The Balbas Winery was founded in 1777, and they (along with a handful of other wineries), were instrumental in creating the Denomination of Origin (DO) for Ribera del Duero.  A Tempranillo based wine (90% Tempranillo and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon), and an outstanding one.  I’m a total sucker for Ribera del Duero.  Loaded with minerals, leather, tobacco and herbs. Simply superb.  Oh!  And I got this from WTSO for something next to ridiculous, like $20.

Champagne Émile Leclère Blanc de Blancs Brut NV  ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
The Émile Leclère label sports a pretty fabulous double-lion family (I assume it’s family) coat of arms.  Lions make frequent appearances on coats of arms — who wouldn’t want their family represented by a symbol of bravery and strength?  And I now know (because I fell down an Internet rabbit-hole researching this wine) there are about 7 billion ways to describe a lion’s position on a coat of arms (is it rearing up, standing, sitting, laying down, tail between its legs, facing in, facing out . . . you get the idea).  The lions on the Émile Leclère label are in the Lion Rampant Regardant position (rampant is Old French for rearing-up, regardant is looking away). I wonder what, exactly, the lions are regarding??

This is another one of my WTSO “Exploring Champagne” purchases.  The Leclere Family has been making Champagne, just outside of Epernay, since 1832.  They have 12 hectares (30 acres) of vineyards, composed of 70% Pinot Meunier, 6% Pinot Noir and 24% Chardonnay.  The Blanc de Blancs Brut is 100% Chardonnay.  And it tastes like Breakfast in Paris (well, my breakfast in Paris, anyway) — fresh croissant with brie cheese, apple jam, and a grapefruit juice chaser.  A steal at $24ish.

Piper-Heidsieck 2006 Brut Champagne  ⭐⭐⭐⭐/91
Champagne is a treat, vintage Champagne is an über-treat.  Florian Louis Heidsieck (if you’re thinking Heidsieck doesn’t sounds like a French name, you’re right — Florian was a German) founded Piper-Heidsieck in 1785 (thought it didn’t become Piper-Heidsieck until 1839).  That would have been during the French Revolution, and the reign of Louis XVI.  Marie Antoinette (Louis’ wife) was said to be a huge fan of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, and often served it at Versailles.   The red label has become somewhat iconic for Piper-Heidsieck.  According to their website, the red label is a “symbol of enthusiasm, passion, panache and excellence, to convey a message of conviviality”.  Wacky weather in 2006 produced a particularly intense Pinot Noir, so winemaker, Regis Camus, increased the proportion of Chardonnay in this blend to near parity —  49% Pinot Noir.  51% Chardonnay.  Superb balance.  So precise, it’s like tasting a laser beam.  And an apricot-almond Linzer torte.  Retail on this bottle is $70ish.

Btw, the lion on the Piper-Heidsieck label is in the Lion Dormant position.

Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2008  ⭐⭐⭐⭐/93
Paul Hobbs is a globe-trotting winemaker/consultant — he’s got his own label in Sonoma & Napa Valley, and ventures in South America, Canada, Cahors, Hungary, and the Finger Lakes. The Paul Hobbs label features a wood-cut grape leaf silhouette — a moss green print set against a black background.  (I made a woodcut in art class once.  Mine was very, um, primitive.)  The Paul Hobbs label is very distinctive, as is the wine.  From the cool-climate rockstar, Russian River Valley, this is beautifully integrated and balanced (red fruits, spice, minerals and a super interesting blast of tea) — a bottle that ended all too soon.  Truly outstanding.  $46ish.

Damn.  I had a pretty good week in wine, didn’t I?






Weekly Photo Challenge: Ornate

A Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho peleides), resplendent in iridescent color.  (It’s not every day you get to weave the word resplendent into your blog.)

Our theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is:  Ornate.
Our instructions: Forget about subdued and restrained.  This week, let’s embrace the breathtakingly extravagant.

There’s nothing more breathtakingly extravagant (ornate) than Mother Nature.  I took this photo of a Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho peleides) at the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara, Canada.

The iridescent blue color on the top of Morpho’s wings is because of microscopic scales, which reflect light.  The underside of his wings is a dull brown color with eyespots, which provide camouflage against predators when his wings are closed.  When the Blue Morpho flies, the contrasting iridescent blue and dull brown colors kind of flash, creating an illusion that the Blue Morpho is appearing and disappearing.  Cool, huh?

Happy Friday . . . and Salud!