Is It Fall Yet?

Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Although the temperatures outside don’t agree, I know that sweater weather is just around the corner.

Tomorrow is a big day for me – stay tuned for that – and next week I will be sharing a post about why wine vintage matters even to those who don’t cellar their wine.

But today, I’d like to share some random things that have caught my eye.

The Art of Liz Lyons Friedman

I first discovered Liz Lyon Friedman’s beautiful work at the Sausalito Art Festival several years ago. Held every year over Labor Day weekend, this beautiful art festival in Sausalito, California, is one of my favorites.

As I walked past her booth, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Liz’s colorful and intriguing pieces.

Liz creates “linocuts” or linoleum block prints. (See details on her process here.)

Their beauty with a touch of whimsy, speaks to my soul. And, the themes Liz focuses on – wine, friends, life, and love – are the very things I celebrate every day.

We have these fabulous pieces in our house along with her award-winning poster from the 2012 Sausalito Art Festival.

Kitchen Crowd by Liz Lyons Friedman

Kitchen Crowd by Liz Lyons Friedman (used with permission by the artist)

Cooking With WIne by Liz Lyons Friedman

Cooking With Wine by Liz Lyons Friedman (used with permission by the artist)

You can visit Liz Lyon Friedman’s site or find her on Facebook to see more of her talent.

College Football Tailgating

In a couple of weeks, we will be heading to Notre Dame for a home football game.

My mouth is watering thinking of the delicious meatball subs, chili and scrumptious baked goods on hand at the tailgate party our friends so generously invite us to.

This post, It’s Tailgate Season, by my blog friend Vicki at Life in My Empty Nest, is chock-a-block full of amazing recipes for tailgate parties. Vicki found all sorts of great recipes on Pinterest (like this yummy looking bacon cheeseburger meatball recipe from An Affair from the Heart) collected just for us!

I have pinned every one of the recipes shown in Vicki’s post. Now I just have to talk someone into making them for me!

The West Wing Podcast

I’m a nerd. My favorite television show of all time (please don’t tell the housewives) is The West Wing.

I loved that show from the first minutes of the pilot all the way through two terms of Jed Bartlett’s presidency.

Imagine my delight in discovering that there is a podcast, The West Wing Weekly, which is an episode by episode analysis of my favorite show.

Be still, my nerdy little heart.

Hosted by Joshua Malina (who played the role of Will Bailey starting in season 4) and Hrishikesh Hirway (musician, composer, podcaster and political news junkie), the podcasts feature analysis of each episode, behind the scenes stories and visits from many of the West Wing actors.

Netflix is offering every season of West Wing. I have been watching each episode, then listening to the podcast.

The only teensy tiny problem is that Netflix encourages binge watching by starting the next episode as soon as the last is done. I have stayed up waaaaaay too late too many nights hanging out with Toby, Josh, CJ and Donna.

And loving it.

Bounty Hunter Wine Catalog

I’ve shared this gem with you before. I consider the Bounty Hunter catalog to be the best source for online wine purchasing. They also carry spirits.

Bounty Hunter Wine Catalog

The fine folks at Bounty Hunter scour the world, curating a collection of wine based on quality and price. There is something for everyone and you can be guaranteed the wine will be good.

Just this weekend, Peter and I pulled a bottle of wine which we had never had before out of the cellar, a 2007 Pedestal Merlot.

2007 Pedestal Merlot

As soon as I saw the Bounty Hunter sticker on the back of the wine, confirming where we had purchased this bottle, I knew it would be a gem and it was!

When you visit Napa, be sure to visit Bounty Hunter’s Smokin’ BBQ Restaurant and Wine Bar for delicious food and a wide selection of wines. It is right in the heart of downtown Napa at 975 First Street.

That’s my roundup for now. By the way, all of these opinions and endorsements are my own. Other than permission to use images of Liz Lyons Friedman’s art, I have received no compensation from anyone included in this post.

Now, what about you? What’s on your radar? Are you ready for fall?

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Trains, Planes and Autos

Peter and I have just returned from a whirlwind two week trip to the east coast.

Our wild schedule had us on 2 flights, 2 train rides, countless “T” rides and taxi rides. We relocated 6 times.

It was exhausting but tons of fun.

First on the schedule was our grandson Andy’s 1st birthday party. Time has sure flown by between my stint as granny nanny for the little guy and the milestone of his first birthday.

Our darling daughter, Annie, created an adorable Toy Story themed party for 30 friends and relatives.

Happy birthday

The birthday boy loved it all.

Birthday boy

We spent the week hanging out with all three grandkids including trips to the Boston Children’s Museum and the Harvard Natural History Museum.

Chip and dale at museum

One of the many highlights of the week was having lunch with my pal Katie Clooney (author of the fabulous Preppy Empty Nester blog) and the Sudbury sweethearts.

Boston lunch bunch

The second weekend found us in downtown Boston meeting up with some Notre Dame friends for the Shamrock Series football game.

Since 2009, Notre Dame has scheduled one of their home football games on the road providing a full weekend of festivities. The Shamrock Series brings Irish football to fans who may not be able to travel to lovely South Bend, Indiana.

Past games have been played at Yankee Stadium, AT&T Stadium and the Alamodome.

This year the Shamrock Series game was played at Fenway Park in Boston. Our opponent, Boston College, was not amused by the fact that Notre Dame was the home team meaning we got 90% of the tickets, the better locker room and what ever other privileges come with being the home team.

The weekend began with a very special night at Boston’s Symphony Hall.

ND at Boston

The hall is old, storied, elegant and gorgeous.

Symphony Hall Boston

Folks, I will tell you that this concert was one of the most amazing events I have ever experienced.

I will also tell you that it was fully geared towards those with a strong love for Notre Dame.

Anyone else would have needed a dose of pepto bismol.

The incomparable Keith Lockhart led the fabulous Boston Pops, Ronan Tynan (one of the Irish Tenors) sang, the Middlesex County Volunteer Fifes and Drum Corp marched and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus chimed in.

There was a video montage about the history of Notre Dame. Music ranging from Irish tunes and patriotic songs to Bohemian Rhapsody culminated in the singing of our Alma Mater.

The Pops members donned Notre Dame caps and Keith Lockhart shed his tuxedo jacket in favor of a Notre Dame football jersey.

Nauseating, right?

It gets better.

Maestro Lockhart said, “There is one more song that should be included in this concert.”

Suddenly the ND Band’s drum major was on the stage. After a couple of toots from his whistle, every door in the place flew open and the Notre Dame Band marched in filling every aisle, every balcony, every spare corner of Symphony Hall.

Cue the Victory March.

The audience was strictly forbidden from taking pictures during the concert. Since I am a pathological rule follower, I complied.

Lucky for you, there were some professional, sanctioned photographers who captured still shots and video of the night including this:

The next night we were bundled up in Fenway Park for the football game.

Notre Dame at Fenway

The Green Monstah looks pretty good!

The game itself was the low point of the weekend, The Irish won but barely.

OK, moving on.

We wrapped up the east coast tour in New York enjoying dinner with pals Ellie and Archie and the wedding of our son-in-law’s sister.

After weeks on the road it was good to be back home. Even if we were greeted by this…

piles of mail

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College Football

You may have noticed a bit of radio silence here last week. I was in Florida starting Phase One of

Operation: Move The Parents To Chicago

First Giuliana and Bill, then Mo and Peter and now Gee Gee and Doc. All the cool kids are moving to Chicago.

We are very, very excited about the prospect of having the folks living so close and we feel incredibly blessed because they are so enthusiastic about the move. Well, maybe not so much about the actual move – no one likes that part. But they are excited that we will be almost neighbors.

Stay tuned for future reports on our wacky escapades.

Immediately upon returning from Florida, Peter and I were off to lovely South Bend, Indiana.

A sure sign that summer is over: college football season begins.

Fighting Irish

Our dear pals, John and Ellen, own a vacation football season home in South Bend and are kind enough to accommodate our crew with their generous hospitality.

Other pals arrived on Saturday but Friday night we had Ellen and John all to ourselves. We toasted the start of football season by enjoying a bottle of Chimney Rock wine purchased during our group trip to Napa.

Chimney Rock

Bright, but not so early, Saturday morning we got ourselves organized to head over to campus.

John, Ellen and some of their neighbors host an epically awesome tailgate party before every home football game. The party has taken place in the same spot for many years.

However, this year there is some construction in progress that made part of their party location potentially unusable.

No worries, the hosts planned ahead and secured permission to forge ahead as usual.

Well….seems that the person giving permission maybe didn’t clear it with all the right folks creating quite a kerfuffle in the early morning hours of game day.

text, text, text

phone call, phone call, phone call

angst, angst, angst

Finally, a temporary stay was issued and we were able to carry on as planned.

I know. First world problems.

The weather for the day started out promising. Promising to be wicked hot and possibly rainy. By game time the forecasters predicted pleasant temperatures in spite of 1000% humidity.

We strolled over to campus taking the scenic route along the lake.

ND View from the lake

By the time we got halfway to the tailgate site, the skies opened up.

Peter and I took refuge in the library recalling the many hours spent doing homework and studying in the very same library during our time on campus. Obviously these were Peter’s memories and not mine.

ND library in the rain

Soon enough the skies cleared and the quads filled with fans. I must say that I was impressed by how many folks were sporting the burnt orange (?) of the University of Texas Longhorns.

ND game day

Many of these folks were, just like us, ducking into air conditioned buildings periodically to fend off heat stroke.

Peter and I spent most of the afternoon at Ellen & John’s tailgate party visiting with our pals including Clare & Cooper and, all the way from Texas, Arthur & Gwen.

I was certain I had taken pictures of the tailgate party but then I remembered that I was too busy hydrating and enjoying the best meatball sub EVER!

Finally, the time came to file into the stadium for our 7:45pm showdown against Texas.

Rumor has it that #1 UT fan, Matthew McConaughey, was in attendance at the game.

I’m certain he drove up in his Lincoln. Not because someone paid him to. Not to be cool or make a statement. Just because he liked it.

ND vs Texas

As you can see our seats were great: 50ish yard line and high enough up to see everything.

We had an excellent view of the scoreboard and the final score, as well.

ND vs Texas score

At the end of every game, after greeting the opposing team at midfield, the Notre Dame football team gathers at the corner of the stadium populated by the students to join their classmates in singing the alma mater.

ND players singing the alma mater

All students and alumni in the stadium lock arms, rock from side to side and sing our devotion to Our Lady, Notre Dame.

I’ve been doing this for 40 years and, I’m not exaggerating, I get teary-eyed EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.

Finally, it was time to walk back to John and Ellen’s house before we turned into pumpkins, looking way too much like the fans of our vanquished opponents.

And so ended the opening Notre Dame college football weekend of 2015.

Go Irish!

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Football and Fly-Overs

I’m what you would call a nervous football fan.

When my beloved Notre Dame is playing, I want to watch the game but sometimes I can’t. Apparently I don’t have a very strong constitution when it comes to gridiron competition.

Why do I care so much?

My life, the life of all other fans and even the lives of the players and coaches will go on – win or lose.

Why do I pace and fret, watching every single 3rd down play (or God forbid 4th down and we are going for it) with my hands over my eyes just barely peeking out between my fingers?

Pride? Devotion to my alma mater? Insanity? All of the above?

My most common way to mitigate the stress of dramatic games is to do laundry. From the laundry room I can avoid seeing each play while still being able to hear the play-by-play and Peter’s reactions. Our laundry basket is always empty in the fall.

This past Saturday I discovered a new way to distract myself while watching a tense game of Notre Dame football on TV.

The Blue Angels

From the balcony of our apartment we had a bird’s eye view and almost front row seat to the MCAS Miramar Air Show.

This is WAY better than doing laundry.

On Saturday, Notre Dame played Stanford. It was a big game and we knew that the Cardinals were going to be a very, very tough opponent. Peter was pacing and I was fretting even before kick off.

Side note: I don’t consider myself to be a fair weather fan in the “my team isn’t winning so I no longer love them” kind of way but I am definitely a fair weather fan in the “it is sleeting/lightning/20 below zero so I’m going to leave the stadium and watch this game from inside” kind of way.

As good as the game on Saturday was, I’m glad I was watching it from the comfort of my living room and not from the stands in Notre Dame stadium where it was pouring rain with a wind chill of 31 degrees.

Among the fans that braved the elements were friends of Annie and Jerry’s; lifelong fans attending their first Notre Dame game. In spite of the fact that they couldn’t feel their toes by the fourth quarter, they witnessed a great game and a victory which definitely makes the cold weather not seem quite so cold.

A couple of shots of whiskey helps, too.

But back to the game day scene in San Diego.

Through most of the first three quarters, Notre Dame and Stanford were engaged is a close, defensive battle.

We were down, we were tied, we intercepted a pass, we missed a field goal, we made a field goal to take the lead then, with 3:01 left in the game, Stanford scored a touchdown to go ahead 14 – 10.

Up until this time I had been dashing back and forth between watching the TV and watching the air show. Sky-writers, helicopters, jets that blasted off leaving a fiery tail, more jets screeching across the sky and some doing loop the loops. Quite a show!

loop the loop

But at this point, with three minutes left in the game and Notre Dame needing a touchdown to win, I couldn’t take it any more. I stepped out on the balcony, closed the sliding door and watched the planes as the minutes ticked away.

Then I caught a glimpse of Peter jumping up and down, fist pumping and pointing to the TV.

With one minute to go, on a 4th and 11 yards to go play, Notre Dame SCORED!

Notre Dame 17 – Stanford 14.

A few seconds later the AWESOME Blue Angels did a fly-over directly above our heads.

Notre Dame wins! Amazing!

The perfect icing on the cake of a Notre Dame football victory.

Thank you Blue Angels and thank you MCAS Miramar.

Next week I will be back to doing laundry. If you have any extra, send it my way. The football season is not even half over and I have a feeling I’m going to need it.

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