In Defense Of Reality Television

I don’t stick my head in the sand.

I watch tv, read the newspaper and follow breaking news on my ever-present smartphone.

But sometimes, it’s just too much. Sometimes I need a break from reality.

That’s when I turn to reality television.

Reality television helps me escape reality.

In 6 words, that’s my true confession.

I’ve tried getting on board the crime drama bandwagon but the shows seem to be getting worse – trying to one-up each other in a contest of who can be the bloodiest.

Sure, there is some back-stabbing among the Real Housewives, but they don’t involve graphic operating room scenes in which beautiful surgeons save the patient’s life while making plans for a secret tryst with the anesthesiologist.

Sci-fi, fairy tale, and vampire shows just aren’t my thing.

My type of fantasy show is Million Dollar Listing New York or Los Angeles. I fantasize about paying cash for a $10 million gem with an infinity pool and killer outdoor space.

To me, the Real Housewives are just a modern-day, real-life version of Dynasty or Dallas. Alliances are made and broken, fortunes rise and fall, friends become enemies and the bad guys find redemption.

Valuable lessons can come from devotion to these shows.

Reality television is inspirational.

For example…

Project Runway’s Tim Gunn implores struggling designers to “Make it work.” as they survive on two hours of sleep and lots of caffeine while crafting ballroom frocks out of penny candy. With Tim’s encouragement, the designers really do “Make it work.”

Tim Gunn bobblehead

My Tim Gunn bobblehead doll, a gift from my pal Franny.

Is there anything more goose-bump producing than when a hard-luck contestant on The Voice belts out a song resulting in the coveted Four Chair Turn? This kind of validation gives hope to aspiring performers everywhere.

And who among us has not been inspired to knock down a wall or two in our home to create the open concept that every HGTV show has taught us to love?

Reality television is educational.

Million Dollar Listing New York has taught me the difference between SoHo, NoHo, NoLIta and TriBeCa.

I may never use huitlacoche, durian, or dulse in a recipe but thanks to Chopped, I can use these terms in Words With Friends.

Other terms I’ve added to my vocabulary:

Shiplap – Joanna’ favorite reclaimed wood on Fixer Upper.

Front of house – the job you DO NOT WANT in Restaurant Wars on Top Chef.

Step and Repeat – the advertising background in front of which reality stars like to be photographed.

 

Porte-cochère – the covered entryway through which the champagne delivery truck drives at Heather’s new home in the OC.

Product placement – the shameless way that Project Runway shills for advertisers. For example, the “design a garment based on the flavors of Yoplait Yogurt challenge” or the “design a garment based on the color of a Lexus sedan challenge”.

And, finally, borrowing a concept from the Muppets…

Reality television is celebrational.

No one knows how to celebrate like reality television folks. Whether it is the big reveal of a newly renovated Fixer Upper, a cleverly themed brokers’ open house, dinner parties, charity events, or fancy society balls, “YIPPEE!!” is the rallying cry of all reality television personalities. (Except Vicki who prefers “WOOHOO!”)

Sure, once in a while a table gets flipped, an insult (or a leg) gets flung, but all in all, it’s just good old harmless fun.

So please join me in raising a glass of champs or Ramona Pinot Grigio or a Skinnygirl Margarita to toast the people who expose the reality of their lives so we can, if even for a little bit, escape the reality of ours.

Party


Head on over to Coach Daddy to check out the true confessions of other participants in the 6-Words Challenge.

Thanks for stopping by,
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Wine Tasting At Binny’s – You’ll Want To Try These Wines

Mo Wine Please

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a good old wine tasting roundup. So let’s do this!

Last night, Peter and I met up with my folks and sister-in-law, Kate, for an evening of wine tasting at the brand new Binny’s Beverage Depot in Lincolnwood.

Binny's Beverage Depot Lincolnwood

The theme for the night was “California Wines” so this was right up my alley.

Binny’s set up 7 tasting stations throughout the store with six to eight different wines being poured at each station. There were lots of fellow tasters present but it didn’t feel crowded because of the fabulous setup.

Now the wines.

Chardonnay

My step-dad who, by the way, turned 98 on the 4th of July, was in search of a new Chardonnay to add to his list of favorite wines.

Wine tasting at 98

The favorites among the Chardonnays were:

2013 DuMol Chardonnay

The 2013 DuMol Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($55) is a wonderfully complex wine with layers of flavor. It has great body and a pleasing finish. The winemaker says that the 2013 vintage is very strong in this coastal region of Sonoma County. He feels that this wine could age for five to seven years.

2014 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Another favorite was the 2014 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($45). This wine, made from grapes sourced from several of the Flowers vineyards literally right on the Pacific Coast, has a bit more minerality while still providing plenty of the honey and citrus notes that Chardonnay lovers love.

2014 Stags Leap Chardonnay If you are looking for something at a more modest price point, try the 2014 Stags Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay ($20). A bit less complex that the two wines above, the Stags Leap still provides lots of flavor and quality for the price. It is crisp and clean and quite good.

2014 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

The 2014 Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($18) has a bit more of a creamy flavor but still with enough acidity to provide good balance. This could be a nice choice for a house Chardonnay.

Other White Wines

2015 Cade Sauvignon Blanc

The 2015 Cade Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($33) was a big hit. Cade is a member of the wonderful PlumpJack family of wines. I love a Sauvignon Blanc that is crisp and refreshing without being too citrusy. The Cade Sauvignon Blanc delivered this profile beautifully.

2014 Jaffurs Viognier

I was drawn to taste the 2014 Jaffurs Bien Nacido Vineyard Viognier ($27) based on two things: I love Viognier and I love any wine that comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara.

Remember what I’ve said, if you ever see a wine with “Bien Nacido Vineyard” on the label, you can be pretty certain it will be awesome.

Red Wines

Because we are experiencing a heat wave here and temperatures are hovering around a zillion degrees, we were all inclined to try more white wines than red wines.

Still, I am a red wine gal so I soldiered on.

2012 The Pairing Red Blend

The Pairing is what you might call the younger sibling of Jonata and The Hilt, two ridiculously outstanding wine producers. The same winemaker is responsible for all three members of the family and the quality shows.

While the 2012 The Pairing Red Blend ($25) contains some Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, the highest percentage of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine tastes like a classic Napa Cabernet but at a fraction of the price.

2013 Emmolo Merlot

Merlot, unfairly criticized in the movie, Sideways, can be the perfect wine for folks who want a bold red but prefer slightly softer tanins than what is usually found in Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2013 Emmolo Merlot ($56) comes from the Oak Knoll region of Napa Valley which has both the best soil and best climate for growing Merlot grapes. This lovely wine is smooth and has all the great flavors of luscious fruit balanced by a touch of earthiness.

By the way, Emmolo is part of the Wagner Family Wines which include Caymus and Conundrum.

2014 Cane and Fable Cabernet 373

We first discovered this wine on a trip to Solvang and Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County. Then the winery was called Cane & Fable but they have rebranded as The Fableist. Either way, the wine is quite recognizable because of the grasshopper on the label.

The 2014 The Fableist (Cane & Fable) Cabernet Sauvignon 373 ($23) is produced in Paso Robles and drinks like a Napa Cabernet at more than twice the price. This gem of a wine is a real bargain and could absolutely be a great choice for a red house wine.

I love the description by the winemaker:

“Every little sip leaves you comfortable, content and just feelin’ lucky.”

We did, indeed, feel lucky to have had the opportunity to try so many great wines at Binny’s. And, hopefully, our research will give you a few suggestions for new wines to try.

Do you have any new favorites to share with me?


Please note:

  • I received no compensation from Binny’s or the wineries. The wine tasting was complimentary for anyone with a Binny’s loyalty card.
  • The prices listed are Binny’s. You should be able to find these wines at your local stores but the price may vary.

Designated driver, Uber or cab

Thanks for stopping by,
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The Camino of St. James

The Camino of St. James describes a series of pilgrimage routes with starting points throughout Europe, all ending at the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Since the middle ages, pilgrims have traveled the path to the burial place of St. James the Great hoping to earn the special blessings promised to those who complete the pilgrimage.

The Camino serves as the backdrop for the 2010 movie, The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen.

Camino old marker

Three years ago, our college friend, Ellen, walked The Camino with a few pals. Upon her return, Ellen shared the story of her experience with our group.

One by one, everyone chimed in saying, “We should do that.”

Before we knew it we had a date, a plan, and reservations with a tour company.

We were going to walk The Camino.

First sign of the Camino

The first and most important thing we did to prepare for the trip was to hire the super fabulous tour company, Spanish Steps. This was the same company that Ellen used for her first trip.

I can not say enough wonderful things about Spanish Steps or about our super amazing, rock star guides, Monica and Olga.

Spanish Steps Camino Guides Monica and Olga

Monica and Olga – Guides Extraordinaire

Many people who take on The Camino walk hundreds of miles over weeks and weeks, staying in hostels or albergues. For those of us interested in more of a “glamping” experience, a tour company is the way to go.

Our group of 13 pilgrims (nine of our Notre Dame pals, the sister and brother-in-law of one of these folks and our Glenview friends Nora and G), was expertly cared for every step of the way.

Spanish Steps arranged our lodging for each night including a private breakfast and dinner and provided a bus to take us to and from the trail each day. The bus also met us at several checkpoints throughout the day to replenish our water and snacks and, if necessary, give us a ride to the next checkpoint.

Most importantly, Spanish Steps blessed us with Olga and Monica.

Our plan with Spanish Steps was to walk the final 110km of The Camino over five days, ending in Santiago de Compostela and the Cathedral of St. James. (By the way, Spanish Steps now does the trip in 7 days.)

Pilgrims must walk at least 100km to earn the Compostela or certificate of accomplishment.

On day one, we all donned our team shirts and were ready to go.  Olga and Monica gave each of us a shell, a pilgrim’s passport and a map of the day’s journey.

Camino passport and shell

The scallop shell is the symbol of The Camino. There are many stories about the role of the shell in The Camino’s history – from mythology surrounding the death of St. James to the shell’s practical use as a water scoop for pilgrims. The shell symbol can be found on all of The Camino markers along the way.

 

Camino day one

Ellen and Byff show off our team t-shirts

In order to receive a Compostela at the end of The Camino, pilgrims must “prove” that they walked along the path for at least the required 100km. This proof comes in the form of stamps in one’s pilgrim passport.

Stamps in pilgrim passport on The Camino

Stamps can be attained in bars and churches along the way. As you can see, we spent a great deal of time in bars and churches. Mostly bars. More on that later.

Our maps showed the part of the trail we would cover each day including locations of the checkpoints where the bus would be waiting, mileage from point to point so we could keep track of our progress, a description of the sights and scenery we would see along the way and where to find the ever so important bars and churches.

And the even more important “facilities”.

Camino facilities

The spirit of The Camino dictates that each person must do it for their own reasons, at their own pace, and in their own way.

Right from the start, our group of 13 transitioned into two groups: the fast group and the slow group.

Monica and Olga took turns walking with each group so they could get to know us as individuals. Almost immediately they understood our capabilities and needs and used this insight to make sure that each of us got the very most we could out of our experience.

Olga and Monica encouraged us, translated for us, shared lots of stories and lots of laughs with us. Their presence was the secret sauce that made our time on The Camino extra special and we will be forever grateful for that.

Camino group

Our Camino group receiving a send-off by our innkeeper, José.

Each day we walked up to 15 miles. The terrain varied from paths through farmland to rocky, muddy trails to streets through tiny or not so tiny towns.

Camino path through farmland

 

Camino muddy trail

 

Camino walking through town

Along the way we would stop for lunch – almost always including some wine and beer.

Camino lunch

Because of the area’s proximity to the coast and the bounty of available fresh seafood, we enjoyed lots of treats like scallops

Camino scallops at Casa Tia Dolores

and more pulpo (octopus) than you can imagine.

Camino octopus stand

Sometimes we would enjoy leisurely sit-down lunches and other times we would make a quick stop in a bar for a snack or sandwich and always to get a passport stamp.

One day we popped into a bar for what was intended to be a quick stop and ran into our innkeeper, José.

José insisted on treating us to a bottle of wine so that particular stop turned out to be more leisurely than originally planned.

All part of going with the flow on The Camino.

At the insistence of Olga and Monica, we stopped at Casa Tia Dolores to take part in the beer ceremony, something not to be missed.Camino beer ceremony at Casa Tia Dolores

We came across another bar in which hung hundreds of t-shirts left by pilgrims over the years. At the end of our stay, we all signed one of our blue shirts which our guides are going to drop off at the bar on their next tour.

Camino bar with t-shirts

At the end of each day, the slow group would finally catch up with the fast group and we would head to our B&B for the night. After freshening up and changing out of our dusty trail clothes, we would meet for cocktail hour

Camino cocktail hour

before sitting down to a delicious dinner.

Camino Toasting

One night, Monica treated us to a presentation of the Queimada ritual of the region.

Camino Monica's Queimada

After sleeping soundly, we were up every morning and off on the trail again.

Along The Camino, we saw many beautiful churches both big and small.

Camino church

Most of the smaller churches were not open but when they were we took the opportunity to collect another stamp in our pilgrim passport.

Camino collecting passport stamp in church

We walked through the woods, across rivers and among the local people carrying on their day to day life.

Camino through the woods

 

Camino scenery

 

Camino cows on the street

We met people from dozens and dozens of different countries. Families and long-time friends. College students and senior citizens. Some who were “glamping” like us and many who had already been on the trail for a month having started their pilgrimage in the Pyrenees.

Along the way, we greeted fellow pilgrims with the call of The Camino.

“Buen Camino”

That wish for a “Good Camino” was the universal language of the trail, uniting and inspiring all of us.

Our friends, Byff and Ernie, were particularly good at striking up conversations with once-strangers-now-friends. They taught a group of Spanish students the good old camp song, On Top of Spaghetti.

Camino singing on the trail

The students repaid the kindness  by performing the Macarena for us.

Love and a feeling of community were everywhere.

Camino Free hugs

On the final day, we ascended to Monte del Gozo (Mount of Joy), so named because it is the point at which pilgrims get their first glimpse of the city of Santiago.

Camino Monte del Gozo

We were on the home stretch.

Completing the final 4.5 km, we reached our destination: Santiago de Compostela and the Cathedral of St. James.

Camono Cathedral of St. JamesThe feeling of relief, accomplishment, camaraderie, and sheer joy was overwhelming.

After five days and well over 100 km, we had earned our Compostela.

Camino Compostela

Upon returning home, and talking incessantly about our experience, the question most people ask is, “How hard was it to walk The Camino?”

The answer is that The Camino is hard but doable.

Doable, especially if you have the support of Spanish Steps, guidance by the incredible Olga and Monica, and the loving encouragement of this team.

The end of the CaminoIt was a Buen Camino, indeed.

Thanks for stopping by,
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Life Experiences: Some Wacky, Some Wonderful

“Who I Am” – Chapter 6

Throughout 2016, I am participating in the “Who I Am” project which is the brainchild of Dana from Kiss My List and Bev from Linkouture.  This month’s topic is: ‘Betcha didn’t know…’.

(You can find all of the other chapters in my “Who I Am” story here.)

Mocadeaux - page breakWe all have some life experiences that stand out in our memory for one reason or another. Wacky, wonderful, life-changing or personality-revealing, these experiences help to illustrate the story of our life.

Please let me share a few “betcha didn’t know” facts about myself.

Over the course of my life, I have moved 25 times.

moving boxes

Witness protection program?

No, just a family that likes adventure and isn’t afraid to try new places.

These different homes include 3 dorm rooms in college, a couple of temporary housing apartments occupied while we waited to move into one house or another and multiple homes in five different states. Each of these moves involved copious amounts of boxes, paper, and tape.

So, yeah, I’m kind of an expert at moving. If you need any advice, I’m your gal.

I’ve been to dinner with Phil Donahue and on a late night Denny’s run with Timothy Leary.

When I was at Notre Dame I was the Comptroller of the Student Union. This very exciting job meant that I paid the bills for all of the Student Union sponsored events, got free admission to these events (making me a very cheap date) and occasionally got to dine with the various celebrities who came to campus.

 

Phil Donahue, Notre Dame alumni, husband of Marlo Thomas, and former talk show host is the person whom Oprah credits with paving the way for Oprah to become OPRAH.

Phil was on campus for a lecture and four or five of us took him out to dinner at a fancy-pants restaurant.

Quite charming, he spent the entire meal asking us about life on campus and seemed particularly interested in how women were assimilating into life at Notre Dame since the school had become co-ed only a few years earlier.

 

Our trip to Denny’s with Timothy Leary, world-renowned proponent of the mind-expanding benefits of LSD, was something different.

I assure you that no LSD was involved but Mr. Leary did bring a bottle of liquor in a paper bag from which he took frequent gulps while enjoying his Grand-Slam Breakfast.

I’m a proud member of the CPA Exam 300 Club.

The CPA exam consists of four parts. The passing score for each part is 75. Those of us in the 300 Club scored exactly 75 points on all four parts meaning that we just barely passed studied precisely the correct amount of time and not one minute too much.

My place of employment has been robbed – twice.

The first time was when I was in high school working at a bookstore in the mall with my sister. One day I was managing the cash register while my sister was in the back room working on inventory.

There were a number of customers in the store and a few in line at the register. As one customer departed, a couple stepped up to the register. She distracted me with questions about a display behind me before I had a chance to close the register drawer. After what seemed like only a few seconds, I turned around to see her accomplice yanking money out of the cash register.

Insanity kicked in. Yelling something like, “What do you think you are doing? Give that back!”, I grabbed the money out of the robber’s hand and the duo ran out of the store.

(Definitely one of the most foolish and unsafe things I’ve ever done and was, in fact, my answer to Coach Daddy’s 6 Word Challenge for June: Tell us about something you did decidedly unsafe – in six words.)

shakedown

The second time, I was working at a bathing suit shop on the beach and noticed a woman stick a couple of string bikinis in her beach bag. This time, I was smart and called the authorities rather than taking matters into my own hands. The police nabbed the woman in the parking lot and – wouldn’t you know – she had a gun in her purse.

I’m not sure that those bikinis were worth risking a charge of armed robbery. Throw in a Speedo or two then maybe…

I volunteered on the committee to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago.

Chicago 2016

For a couple of years, I spent hours each week as a volunteer with the Chicago 2016 committee. Without a doubt, this was one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences I have ever had.

I rode the train downtown one or two days per week to work in the office doing everything from making copies to researching international holidays. I helped out at events all over the city including Taste of Chicago and youth fitness events.

I greeted International Olympic Committee members when they came to Chicago for their site visit and stood on the stage near President Obama as the city celebrated making the first cut from Applicant City to Candidate City.

Even as a volunteer, I got to participate in small ways at big events.

I collected a lot of great SWAG and most importantly met lots and lots of incredible people who were all working diligently towards the same goal.

Sadly, the International Olympic Committee decided that the games should, for the first time ever, be held in South America rather than in the greatest city in the greatest country in the world.

Go figure.

So as you are watching the Rio Olympics with all of the talk of Zika and filthy water and crime and power outages, remember the folks who tried really, really hard to bring the 2016 Olympic Games to the good old U.S. of A. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Thanks for stopping by,
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