Baby Sister And Retirement – Take 3

Recently, our family has experienced two momentous events.

A few weeks ago we welcomed our fifth grandchild and first granddaughter!!!

Baby sister

To say that girls are scarce in our family would be an understatement. Baby sister is the first female to be born on either side of our family in almost 25 years.

She’s kind of a big deal. And she is beautiful.

Her twin older brothers, Chip and Dale, are quite besotted with her. The household is settling in nicely; that is to say, they will be once the wee darling gets a little better grasp on night vs. day.

To celebrate her arrival, we opened a bottle of 2009 Wallis Family Estate “Little Sister” Proprietary Red Wine from the Diamond Mountain District of Napa Valley.

2009 Wallis Family Estate Little Sister Proprietary Red

Perfect, right?

We discovered Wallis Family Estate at a Family Winemakers of California tasting event about 5 years ago. Pouring wine at their booth on that day were both Mr. Wallis and his younger daughter, AKA the Little Sister.

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Shortly after Baby Sister’s arrival, Peter started retirement.

For the third time.
Peter Begins Retirement

Retirement #1 never really happened even though the date was set and we completed the planned relocation.

You see, Peter is a team player. When the company came to him saying, “We’ve had a bit of a situation and we really, really, really need to have you stick around for another six months or so. Pretty please???”, he couldn’t say no.

Retirement #2 proceeded swimmingly for a grand total of three months.

During that time we packed in all sorts of fun activities like concerts and wine events.

I became quite accustomed to having Peter cook dinner, pairing it with the perfect wine, as I perused my People Magazine.

Well, that arrangement came to a screeching halt when Peter received a call asking if he could help out on a teeny, tiny project  – “should last no longer than a couple of months” – which turned into a big, big project consuming about fifteen months.

Now, finally, all is as it should be in Maison Lux. Peter is home and splitting his time, once again, between his two happy places: the kitchen and the wine cellar.

Wine Spectator magazine’s website has a series called “8 & $20” which features wonderful recipes (with suggested wine pairings) serving up to 8 people for $20 or less (not including wine, obviously).

One, in particular, caught Peter’s eye and he decided to give it a whirl.

Braised Chicken Thighs in Mushroom Sauce

Braised chicken thighs in mushroom sauce.

Now I was a little wary of this dish for two reasons: I don’t like dark meat chicken and I REALLY don’t like mushrooms. Other than that, it sounded great…

But, if Peter was doing the cooking I figured the least I could do was to be a good sport and try the dish without complaining. Besides, I knew it would be served with a great wine so not a total fail.

I may not have instantly become a dark meat/mushroom convert, but I will tell you that this combination was delicious! Check out the recipe here.

Peter paired this yummy gem with a 2012 Foxen Melville Vineyard Pinot Noir.

2012 Foxen Melville Vineyard Pinot Noir

Located in Santa Barbara County, Foxen makes a wide variety of wines including single-vineyard Pinot Noirs like this one, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and red blends.

The Foxen tasting room in Santa Maria is a simple and rustic but beautiful place and one I highly recommend to anyone visiting Santa Barbara County. Just a tiny bit down the road is their second tasting room, known as The Shack, where visitors can enjoy selections from Foxen 7200 which focuses on Italian style and Bordeaux wines.

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Now that Peter has more free time, I’m looking forward to many delicious meals, great adventures and lots of time to spend with the five grandchildren: Baby Sister, brothers Chip and Dale and cousins Andy and Harry.

Life is, indeed, good!

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Women’s March Chicago – A Beautiful Day And A Beautiful Event

On Saturday, I participated in the Women’s March Chicago along with my husband, my sister-in-law and 250,000ish of our closest friends.

Women's March

Chicago has a, perhaps well deserved, reputation for bad Winter weather. Well, someone was looking out for us marchers because Saturday was an absolutely glorious day – sunny and 60+ degrees.

I heard one marcher say, “Today is the one day I’m ok with global warming.”

I’m sure they were kidding and they are NOT ok with global warming but it was nice to have a sunny day.

Our little, mighty band of marchers decided to stay in the city on Friday night to avoid traffic on Saturday morning.

We went down to the hotel’s Starbucks about an hour before the gates were going to open at the rally venue. Already the lobby and Starbucks were packed with pink hatted folks.

By the way, a giant shout-out of thanks to my fabulous daughter-in-law, Lily, for knitting hats for us so that we would be properly adorned.

As we left the hotel, we started to get a better sense of how many people were joining us.

Women's March Chicago Art Institute

Note that the bus is jam packed. We passed by an “L” stop and folks were just streaming out of the trains on onto the streets.

As recently as the beginning of last week, the Women’s March Chicago organizers were estimating 22,000 marchers based upon the number who had registered on Eventbrite.

On Thursday they sent out a notice that the number had jumped to 50,000 then 60,000.

As we walked down Michigan Avenue heading for the rally, there were people in the streets and on the sidewalk as far as you could see.

We looked at each other and said, “Toto, this is going to be WAY more than 60,000 people.”

Women's March Chicago entering the park

The organizers sent out a plea, asking all participants to stay off the grass at Grant Park since they would be responsible for the cost to repair any damage done. (The Cubs had to pay $388,000 for repairs after the World Series Champions rally in November.)

God bless all the cooperative midwesterners. We did stay off the grass.

WOmen's March Chicago stay off the grass

Even though we arrived at the rally over an hour before its scheduled start time, this was as close as we could get.

Women's Rally Chicago stage

The crowd continued to build. Not just an event for women, there were plenty of men showing their support, too. And lots of Cubs fans.

Women's March Chicago cubs fans

Soon the message started filtering through the crowd:

Rather than the expected 60,000 participants, the crowd is estimated to be 250,000. The park is completely full of people. All of the streets around us – Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive, Jackson, Van Buren, and more – are shut down to traffic and flooded with people. The entire length of what was to be the march route is packed with sign carrying folks.

This is AMAZING!

Although the organizers said that officially the “march” part of the day was canceled you sure wouldn’t know it by the streams of people who peacefully walked through the closed streets of Chicago for hours.

women's march Chicago marching

Women's March Chicago people everywhere

Every participant had their reason for joining in on this event. While there certainly were a number of signs expressing dissatisfaction with our new President, overall the message of the day was one of strength, respect, sister (and brother) hood, and action.

And love for our country.

Women, men, families, grandparents, babies in strollers, lots and lots of little girls and boys, veterans, people from across the entire spectrum of our citizenry joined together.

The Women’s March Chicago was a beautiful, powerful, happy, uplifting and moving event and I am thrilled to have experienced it.

Women's March Chicago Kindness Counts

Why did I march?

Honestly, for me it was less about protesting the election results (although I’m pretty sure you know where I stand on that) and more about what kind of country and world I want for my children and grandchildren.

Women's March Chicago my sign

I marched because I believe in equal rights and respect for all people.

I marched because I realized that I need to be a better citizen; a more responsible and engaged citizen.

I need to be the change I want to see.

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May Gardening And All The Rest

Holy moly, this month has been busy!

We are all experiencing it, right?

May always seems to be one of the craziest months of the year.

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Early May marks the beginning of gardening season – at least that’s what gardeners tell me. I’m a bit of a black thumb gal myself.

After a few years of neglect while we were in California, our garden had become quite overgrown. It was time to tear everything out and start anew.

Mocadeaux - garden before

Fortunately, our dear pal, Zsa Zsa, gardener extraordinaire, came to the rescue creating a fabulous landscape design for us.

Zsa Zsa and I have traveled to practically every garden center in the greater Chicagoland area searching for the 38 different types of plants included in our design.

The most successful trips were those on which Peter, the gardener half of this marriage, was able to join us. He and Zsa Zsa could speak the same language.

When Peter wasn’t available, poor Zsa Zsa had to cope with me – the D Team – and my endless ineptitude.

Zsa Zsa: OK, now we are looking for Raspberry Truffle Echinacea.

Me: Say what now??????????????

Heaven forbid I had to go to a nursery unaccompanied. Can you say “deer in the headlights”?

Eventually, we procured most of the plants on the list and we were ready to go.

Zsa Zsa carefully laid out the plants based on her plan.

Because there were over 120 pots to plant and because I’m a team player, I offered to get started on the planting.

Peter and Zsa Zsa gently (and wisely) declined my offer.

Instead, they worked like crazy and now we have this.

Mocadeaux - garden

Beautiful and it’s not even blooming yet!

We can’t thank Zsa Zsa enough for her generosity and gardening brilliance.

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While Peter and Zsa Zsa were up to their elbows in garden dirt, I was attending a charity luncheon as a guest of my pal, Clare.

The luncheon was a benefit for Misericordia, Heart of Mercy, an organization that provides a wide range of services and residential options for developmentally disabled children and adults.

At its core, Misericordia is all about bringing happiness, comfort and support to those they serve and to their families.

A group of residents, The Misericordia Heartbreakers, performed. They were amazing.

Through this luncheon and many other projects, the dedicated and hard-working women’s auxiliary raises funds to support the excellent work of Misericordia.

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On Sunday, I spent Mother’s Day attending a performance of The King and I at the Lyric Opera with my mom and my sister-in-law, Kate.

The King and I program

Kate snapped up tickets as soon as they went on sale so we had excellent seats on the main floor.

The 3-hour performance flew by. Everything was dazzling: the costumes, the scenery, the dancing, the singing and the entire ridiculously talented cast.

The curtain call brought us all to tears. It was a beautiful day.

I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day!

What has been keeping you busy this May?

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Retirement is Exhausting – Part One

Leading up to my husband’s recent retirement, everyone asked me how it would be when he was around the house 24/7. Would he drive me crazy? Would he be uber-annoying?

No worries. I was certain things would be peachy.

First of all, Peter loves to cook. Now that he has time, he spends lots of time in the kitchen. In fact, since his retirement, he has cooked dinner almost every night. And, he pairs every meal with the perfect wine from our wine cellar.

I have a personal chef and sommelier all wrapped in one.

Also, Peter loves having a good time. Our kids have dubbed him the family C.F.O. Chief Fun Officer.

This week alone, we have attended two concerts, two dining events and are heading to Disney World.

Retirement in exhausting.

First up: Buddy Guy.

Every January, this Hall of Fame blues genius is in residence at his Buddy Guy’s Legends blues bar in Chicago.

Buddy Guy's Legends

We arrived at 5pm and were able to snag a couple of great seats at the bar. Although Buddy wasn’t scheduled to come on stage until 10:30pm, we were entertained by a steady stream of really good blues musicians, each grateful for the chance to perform at Buddy Guy’s.

We were also entertained by the adorable young couple sitting next to us at the bar. It was the husband’s birthday and they had come in from out of town to enjoy the show.

Apparently, they had come to Legends to celebrate last year but the wife had to leave the show early because she came down with the flu. Oddly enough, after drinking 2 beers and 3 margaritas in an hour, the wife developed “the flu” again and birthday boy husband had to take her back to the hotel. Such bad luck, two years in a row!

Our evening was much better than theirs.

Buddy Guy on stage

At almost 80 years of age, Buddy Guy is an amazing performer. His voice and his mad skills on the guitar have not faded with age. This fabulous bundle of blues playing energy performs about 150 shows per year all over the country.

Buddy Guy in crowd

At one point in his 2 hour show, Buddy came down off the stage and worked his way around the entire bar performing like a man half his age.

What a night!

A few nights later we attended the Bruce Springsteen concert – my 13th time seeing Bruce and Peter’s 15th.

We were a bit concerned that our seats, in the upper deck behind the stage, would not give us a good view of the show. We needn’t have worried.

Springsteen concert

Other than my very first Springsteen concert, in which I was in the front row, these were probably my favorite seats.

Funny story about that first concert.

It was my freshman year in college. Some of my pals and I camped out in front of the ticket office for two nights in order to be among the first to buy tickets. Our plan worked and we were rewarded with front row center seats.

On the night of the concert we were having a blast with our up close view until a bunch of guys came down from their balcony seats and crashed our front row party. There was a bit of a confrontation but we were able to shoo these cads away.

Fast forward a few years, Peter and I were talking about our Springsteen concert experiences and, the truth comes out, Peter and his friends were the ruffians who tried to move into our front row territory.

Fortunately, Peter’s concert going manners have improved since then.

James and Bruce

A concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is a non-stop party.

The band played for over three hours, covering the entirety of The River album and lots and lots of other favorites.

Their playing of “Take It Easy” as an homage to the recently departed Glenn Frey was a crowd pleaser.

Springsteen playing Take It EasyAt one point, Bruce ventured out on the cat walk into the general admission floor seats then crowd surfed back to the stage.

Springsteen crowd surfingAnd the guy is 66 years old…

Apparently no retirement plans in his future.

Fans might remember that Courtney Cox had her first big break as the “girl in the crowd” who gets pulled up on stage to dance with Bruce in his 1984 “Dancing In The Dark” music video.

At our concert, this lucky gal got the gig.

Bruce dancingI’m not sure if it is Bruce’s age that has changed his choice of dance partners or the fact that his wife, Patti Scialfa, is on stage with him as a member of the E Street Band.

Probably a little from column A and a little from column B.

Eventually the house lights came up as the band played encore after encore.Springsteen concert house lights upAfter a 10 minute finale of “Shout”, it was time to say good night.

E Street Band leaves stageSo long, gang.

Hope to see you soon for Springsteen concert #14!

Have you ever seen either of these talented musicians in concert? Have any special memories to share?

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