Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's a tough life, but someone's got to love a sommelier

I like wine. A lot. (Hiccup)

So you would think that I consider myself one lucky lady to be married to a trained sommelier. I never have to worry about what wine to serve with what I am cooking, because Hubby takes care of that. I rarely run out of wine because we have a cellar. And I go on all of these great vacations to wine destinations, like Bordeaux. What the heck is not to love!

But I gotta tell you... It's not always easy to be married to a sommelier. For instance, I can't enjoy a glass of wine without first being forced to stick my nose deep into the glass to determine its "nose". And I get in trouble when my answer is "grapes". "Come on Jay," Hubby will say with some measure of exasperation. "You must get [insert green peppers or caramel or tobacco or jam or any other appropriate wine smell here]. It's so obvious!" And heaven forbid I have a Malbec when I'm not eating barbecue meat, even if I really just feel like a Malbec. "It doesn't go with white fish, Jay. You can't have a Malbec with that. Here. Try [insert name of wine that goes well with white fish here] instead." Oh, and that wine cellar we have? I'm not allowed to take a bottle from it without first consulting the house sommelier. Seriously. I'm a grown woman, and. I. am. not. allowed. to. choose. wine. from. the. cellar. on. my. own. But don't worry. I am allowed to touch the "every day" upstairs supply whenever I want. "Every day" being code for "the stuff that the dumb girl who doesn't understand wine can have."

Perhaps the most difficult thing about being married to a sommelier is that Hubby is a member of a wine guild (sounds positively Middle Ages, wouldn't you say). I end up going to an awful lot of wine events, where I am surrounded by a whole lot of people who know a whole lot more than me. With their sophisticated palettes and their love of debating one another about the merits of a super Tuscan over a Côte de Rhone, I haven't got a chance of being the life of the party, a role I hold dear. Because you see, when you are not a wine connoisseur, going to a wine guild event is kind of like being an antelope stumbling right into the lion's den. Chances are pretty good that you will be the centre of attention, but for all the wrong reasons. You're likely to get eaten alive. Especially if the most insightful thing you can say about the glass of wine you are sipping is that it tastes like grapes.

Yes, as much as I love wine, wine events make me feel positively insignificant. And oh so very out of place.

But I am a supportive wife. So the same way that Hubby humours my blue collar passions like Springsteen and football, I cater to his love of trying to be the smartest wine professional in the room by going to guild events with him.

Some of them are really quite fun. Like the "speed dating" event where we worked our way around a room full of wineries, 8 minutes per winery table, sampling their award winning wines. Pretty effective way to get a Tuesday night buzz on in less than an hour, if you ask me.

And then there was the reception at the Argentinian embassy, where not only did I get to taste about 25 of my favourite varietal (Malbec), but I also met a talented Argentinian artist and purchased some of his beautiful art, which, one of these days, I will actually hang on a wall...

But by far, the best guild event is the yearly holiday dinner, refreshingly held after Christmas instead of before, and hosted by one of Ottawa's premier chefs. It is a five course food and wine pairing that makes foodies, sommeliers, and even regular folk like me, weep. And this year's dinner was just last night.

The first year that we went, I was seriously intimidated at the thought of being seated at a table full of wine experts and being forced into conversations about wine with them. So I adopted a strategy. Trophy wife. I was going to play the part of a trophy wife. Surely that would earn me some attention. Hubby could regale our table mates with stories about wine and I would charm the pants off of them by being the best dressed person and by making people laugh. So I went out and dropped an absurdly high amount of money on a sparkly holiday outfit, complete with new shoes and jewelry. Surely my lack of wine knowledge would go unnoticed!

It did go unnoticed. But not because of anything I did to divert attention away from my ignorance. But because wine lovers are really, really, really focused on their wine. And they don't really concern themselves with the fact that you can't contribute to the conversation, because they are happy to fill the void with the sound of their own wine-soaked voices. So I spent most of the meal in silence, a remarkably different scenario than most dinners I attend where I can't be shut up.

Still, dressing up is not something that a football-loving Springsteen fan gets to do very often. It's nice to get all dolled up for a fancy event once a year, even if it doesn't result in me being the centre of attention. So we keep going back. If for no other reason than I like to wear pretty dresses!

2013 dinner

2014 dinner - I don't know why I am squinting so much... This picture was taken before we started drinking all the wine...
And of course, there is the food. It is incredible. Where else would I ever try veal tongue pastrami. Yes, you read that right. And yes, it was delicious. This isn't a food blog, so I didn't take pictures of all of the courses so that I could describe them back to you in vivid detail. Just believe me when I say that no calorie was left behind last night. Even if I have to be in a bathing suit on the beaches of Jamaica in a mere ten-days time.

And you know what? Over the years, these events have actually become a little less intimidating. Partly because some of Hubby's knowledge is starting to rub off on me (but don't you dare tell him I said that). But mostly because those who know and love wine are simply very passionate people who love nothing more than to share their passion with you. They're not showing off. They're sharing their knowledge in the hopes that you will be as excited as they are and that you will find beauty in the sediment left behind in your wine glass just as they do. And when you finally accept that you don't have to be the centre of attention at each and every event that you attend, you can sit back, relax, meet some pretty fantastic people, laugh a little, and see a whole new and wonderful world unfold in front of you.

Oh yeah. And you can drink some damn good wine. Wine that tastes and smells like grapes. Damn good grapes.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Resolutions? They're not really my style...

Last weekend, my normally two-thirds-empty hip-opening-flow torture yoga class was packed. I couldn't salute the sun without hitting at least three people.

Hubby came home from the gym last Sunday morning, a generally quiet time, commenting on all the duos of brand new training buddies helping each other muddle through a workout using one strange machine after another.

Earlier this week, one of my colleagues left the office kitchen carrying a big ole' plate of lettuce for her lunch. With no dressing. And washing all those leaves down with water.

Yep. It's January. The month of self-improvement and resolutions. From spending less money to drinking less coffee to losing 5 pounds once and for all this year to vowing not to lose patience with the kids/husband/colleagues, everyone is making a resolution to be a better person.

I hate this time of year.

Okay. That might be a bit of an overstatement. I don't actually hate New Year's. The day itself is always quite lovely. One of my favourite traditions is hosting our annual Levée (a fancy word for open house), when all of our friends and neighbours stop by for some hair-of-the-dog and some made-with-love-by-me appies.

There is always too much food...

And cure your NYE hangover with another drink... or two...

And I don't actually hate being surrounded by all new people in my gym and in my yoga studio. Even though I almost got kicked in the head three times during last Saturday's yoga class. And even though I can't find an empty locker in the overly full gym change room. It's a great thing that people are joining gyms and yoga studios and getting more active. And besides, by February, most of them will be gone and I'll have room for full sun salutations again.

And I don't actually hate vegetables or eating healthy. See? This is an example of last week's lunch. Broccoli, celery, and even spinach hiding in my sandwich. Disgustingly healthy, isn't it?

No, it's not the day itself or the idea of new beginnings or the idea of being more healthy that I hate. It's the arbitrariness of January 1st as the day to decide to change your life. As though April 12th or July 27th or October 3rd weren't perfectly good days to decide to do something to improve yourself.

And so, I don't really make any big, meaningful resolutions at this time of year. 

It's not that I don't believe that I could be a better person. God knows that there are a million things that I could stand to improve about myself. For instance, I could stop nagging Hubby. I could stop eating so fast that I forget to breathe during ingestion. I could cut back on my wine consumption, even if Hubby is a sommelier. I could stop eating as much sugar as I do, even though I exercise regularly. I could be better with my money, and pause to consider whether I really need a 14th winter jacket before I drop a couple hundred bucks. I could clean my house more than once every couple of months (or at least hire someone to do it for me). I could stop procrastinating and use my time more wisely. I could be more patient, especially with my father-in-law. I could volunteer more. I could try to focus more on the positives in my day rather than the negatives. I could stop complaining. I could find ways to better manage my stress. I could...

...well, you catch my drift.

But ultimately, I won't resolve to do any of these things. At least not right now. Because, well, I don't like to fail. And of all the New Year's Resolutions that I have ever made - whether it be to stop smoking (something I eventually did in June, by the way) or to lose 5 pounds or to stop drinking wine on week nights or to be kinder to people - I've not succeeded in sticking them out much past January 23rd or so... And it feels awful when I cave. And I don't like feeling awful.

So instead, I like to focus this time of year on the things that I am looking forward to in 2014. Like:
- our family trip to Jamaica at the end of the month;
- our trip to Croatia later this fall;
- a new Springsteen tour likely to be announced any week now;
- my fifth wedding anniversary, which we plan to spend at the same winery where we spent our honeymoon;
- some key renovations we want to do to our house;
- more runs through the Arboretum with Fergus;
- more laughs with friends and family; and
- more yoga and gym-going and healthy-eating to continue to keep me strong and healthy and fit, even though I don't sleep nearly enough, carry far too much stress, and binge on too much sugar every now and then.

As for when I'll decide to stop nagging Hubby... Well, I guess that depends when he resolves to stop driving me crazy.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Were you paying attention in 2013?

About a month ago, I found myself trying to write a holiday letter to send out with our Christmas cards. I gave up and wrote a quiz instead, which I thought might be more fun and quirky than the overly formulaic "2013 was quite the year..." type letter.

For the past hour, I've been trying to write a blog post about 2013 in review. An exercise about as formulaic as writing a holiday letter. So I'm giving up and sharing the quiz with you instead. Also, I'm too lazy to be creative because it is Friday night and there is wine to drink.

At any rate, play along and let's see if you were paying attention in 2013!!!


A Holiday Quiz

How well do you know Jay, Hubby and Fergus? Take their holiday quiz and find out! If you creep them on social media, this should be pretty easy! Answers below!

1.     In Spring 2013, Hubby and Jay embarked on another European adventure. Which of these cities was not featured on their tour?
a.     Vienna,Austria
b.     London,England
d.     Prague, Czech Republic
e.     Munich,Germany

a.     To see Springsteen in concert
b.     Jay had never been to Vienna
c.     Planning for their retirement
d.     To see if there is good wine in Austria

3.     Which musical acts did Hubby and Jay see in concert in 2013?
a.     Pearl Jam
b.     Bruce Springsteen
c.     Imagine Dragons, Mumford and Sons, the Lumineers and the Cure
d.     Patti Smyth and the Avett Brothers
e.     All of the above

4.     In 2013, Fergus took his love of herding to new heights when he chased which big game animal?
a.     Black bear
b.     Our neighbour’s 16-year old
c.     An elk
d.     A deer

a.     Boston
b.     Buffalo
c.     Philadelphia
d.     Brooklyn

6.     Jay and Hubby travelled to which cold prairie city for the Grey Cup this year?
a.     Winnipeg, Manitoba
b.     Calgary, Alberta
c.     Edmonton, Alberta
d.     Regina, Saskatchewan

7.     Who played and who won?

8.     Jay started a new job this year with which department?
a.     Canada Revenue Agency
b.     Parks Canada
c.     Canadian Heritage
d.     Public Health Agency of Canada

9.     Hubby won the lead role in a play at the Ottawa Little Theatre. What was the name of the play?
a.     Lost in Paradise
b.     Still Lost in Paradise
c.     Just Another Day in Paradise
d.     Paradise City

10.  For most of 2013, we welcomed a long-term visitor into our home. Who is she/he?
a.     Sadie the cat
b.     Fritz the cat
c.     Bella the husky
d.     Hobbes the French bulldog

Answers: 1(d); 2(a); 3(e); 4(a); 5(c); 6(d); 7(Saskatchewan beat Hamilton); 8(d); 9(b); 10(a)

Happy (belated) holidays!!!