Change......the weather, the seasons, your friends, your partners, your underwear, your oil.  Change is so hard and we try to discount its enormity.   I am sitting in a grey area in my life right now.  Im not ashamed of it or afraid to talk about it.  I feel like nothing is quite right.  Like something is constantly off.  Its disturbing and I find it harder then normal to sleep at night.  I know, like everyone else, we struggle to find out what makes us happy and the people around us in our lives happy too.  What do you do when you dont know what makes you happy anymore?  Or maybe what ever made you happy in the first place.  I have this amazing life and I dont feel satisfied.  Does that make me selfish?  or ungrateful?  or not knowing how good I have it or lucky I am?  I hear about how lucky I am over and over during my day.  I know I live and lead a good life.  I have a great job, I have great friends, family and I  travel all the time (which I love)  So why the unfullfillment.  A friend told me I need a baby- I laughed.  Another told me to go sew my oats in the love circus- HA that sounds like a headache.  Someone else told me to move to Cali and live out my dreams - maybe.....but what is it really? 
I should exercise more, i should donate more, give more of my time, work harder, see my friends more, read more,  love more, live more.  More.   Its always more. 
Im ashamed to say Im not 100% happy.  I should be.  people have lives and problems that I cant even have nightmares about.  I appreciate what I have but this second it doesnt seem like I try hard enough.
Instead I think about how Im bored with my job, part of my soul is gone and I miss her every single day 1000 times, my family cant get it right and again.......I just feel ungrateful. 

So the next step will come.....because It always comes, and I will continue to live and feel amazing most of the time.   And I hope I find it.......and I will. 

I hope its everything you dreamed your life would be and so much more
 
 
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Last Night I did what every loving grandaughter does with their grandparents. 
I helped my gram with her obituary. 
It wasnt what I was expecting to do when I got there - but - as I sat down to a piping hot cup of decaf instant coffee, I was thrown a piece of scribbled on paper to read.  I started to read and then realized what it was.  My heart skipped a beat and my stomach scrunched but I gave her no reaction.  It talked about her family and how she loved flowers and reading etc..... I read on and with both sets of eyes on me.....
grampa says "what you readin" 
Gram snaps at him "my obituary, wheres yours" 
Gramps - "im not dead yet"
gram - "well you better start writing - it wont be long"
Gramps - "im staying for awhile Gram"
Gram as she throws a vanilla cookie at him from Aldi "keep eating these and we will see how long  you last"
Grampa picks up the cookie and starts to eat (his 5th at least)  - while you can see his brain cranking away at the thought of his own obituary.......

I keep reading and make some verbal changes to her - then I turn the page over  and read this-
 "husband was never satisfied with what I made him to eat and he cried all the time".  I can feel her eyes on me as I read this sentence and I look up at her shaking my head......Then I start to laugh - laugh so hard my eyes are watering- my gram is laughing too and rubbing her hands together like shes trying to warm them.....
Gramps looks up from his own thoughts about cookies and obituaries and looks startled
Gramps "what are you guys laughing about?"
We continue to laugh and he is now upset because he believes its about him.
Gramps "Come on what are you cackling about?"
laughing continues and
gram  - "waa waa waaa Mikey" (remember his name is steve and his brothers is mikey)
Gramps "Well I am going to write mine right now and its going to say how I wish I married a woman who didnt read and she never made me lunch" (as hes eating an egg and toast that she has prepared with his Aldi cookies"
Gram threw another cookie at him like she was throwing a treat to a dog
I tell them both they are crazy.  I also tell her she may not put that in her obituary as I think it may not look as funny to everyone else as it did us. 

We talked about many other things last night -  where they want to be buried and where the funeral should be and her songs and favorite flowers.  Grampa sat back and ate cookies and drank cheap instant coffee.

Even writing their obituaries with them is somehow fun.....As I drove home later, I thought about the gravity of that situation.  I fear the day they leave my life......

There is so much to live for



 
 
Vegas - the $4 steak dinners (which I have NEVER seen) the Elvis impersonators, the lights, the buzz, the all night, all day, 24/7, drive thru weddings, slot machines, bells ringing, girls wearing next to nothing, buffets,  celebrities, noise, people, limos, shuttles, People, drinks, little cards with naked women on them....etc

Most people think thats what Vegas is and that all it is. 

My version of Vegas is oh so different.......Food.  MOst of the best chefs in the world have a restaurant here, and all are in a 7 block radius......hundreds of them, waiting. 
Spas- i believe to this day that the Wynn has the best spa ( i have been to many on the strip)  Jon has given me massages at the Wynn for 6, maybe 8 years.  His hands are like magic. 
WIne.  Its everywhere.  And some things I have never seen before or never tried before.....at my fingertips.  
Did i mention the food.  Every hotel fights for you to come to theirs for dinner.  Joel Robuchon, Michael Mina, Mario Batali, Todd English, Thomas Keller, Jose Andres, Wolfgang puck, emerile legasse, bobby flay,  David Burke, Charlie Palmer, Tom Colicchio, Guy savoy and the list never ends with celebrity chefs.  I love to eat.  I love flavors and food that livens my life.  Ask a loved one how a bad meal can change my night in a flip of a dice.......(im working on it only changing a 10 minute span ;)
Service - amazing.  not just good or ok or great.....most are amazing.  Its hard to come across amazing service anymore.  Most of the servers there are professionals.  Thats what their career is and they make awesome money.  They are not college students who dont eat meat or forget about you or go smoke a cigarette and not wash their hands before they come back to the table.....
Also - if you love to look at nature and its beauty do it.  Rent a car and go to Red Rock Canyon.  I have been there more than once.  Its spectacular and only 30 minutes (or 20 mins in the Viper shown above) and its stunning.  Skiing in the winter there.  How about Hoover dam - truly a manmade wonder.
I had my own helicopter pilot once fly me into the grand canyon for lunch and bubbly and then watch the sunset in the horizon then fly down las vegas boulevard at night to see the lights. 
Vegas is not just gambling and showgirls and lights and drinking cheap ass drinks.  Its a couple fine blocks of life.....you can eat, drink, go to a show, walk, go alone and feel safe (which I have gone to Vegas well over a dozen times alone) and live life without regret and breaking the bank with a toss of a dice..   If you happen to go through a drive thru and get married - so be it........that old saying is true if you want it to be. 


shut up and put your money where your mouth is

best moment of my day - realizing I wont be alone forever


 
 
I love the peaches - Its time for these fuzzy, juice running down your chin, sweetened by God, flavorful and delicious stone fruits to be eaten.  Do it - go.  Michigan, Georgia, Cali, HERE.  go buy them. Farmers Market, on the side of the road stands, the grocery store - wherever.....  Its like the seinfeld episode where they wait all year for this one week to arrive for The MACKINAW PEaches from ORegon. 
I bought peaches.   I ate 6 today.  yes 6.  yesterday 2.  tomorrow watch out. 

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And then there was Gramps, my grandmas pa, my great grandfather.  He was a very tall and broad man, white hair, glasses and I remember him wearing a Ron Burgundy burgundy colored suit.  I was just a short, chipmunk cheeked, smiley platinum blond haired girl when he was still around.  I dont remember much of him but 2 things - he ate bacon everyday and soaked up the bacon grease with bread and ate that too - (now i know that my love of pork has come from many family tree branches back)
They other thing was his love of hollyhocks.  There is a picture at my grandparents house still today of him standing tall and proud next to his barn that is surrounded by dozens of towering hollyhocks that are even taller then him.  Pink, burgundy, light as white pink, and the occasional yellow. 
I remember everytime we were over to visit in the late summer, the smell of rotted apples and the hum of busy bees, he would call all of us kids over and he would pull off a full bloomed flower and a bud with just peaking out color.  he would turn around and hide what he was doing with them and then He had a shallow dish with water and he would set this perfect flowered tiny dancer in the dish and it would dance around and he would tell a story how she was the most beautiful girl at the party and how all the boys fancied her. How she wore the long flowing dress and a big beautiful scarf in her hair......he would go on and on and all of us kids would be enamored, imaging this big palace with men in tuxedos and chandeliers and beautiful woman and everyone dancing.  Then he would say that  at the end of the night she was walkin down the steps to leave, she tripped and fell and WOOP - you could see under her dress and he would turn the flowered princess over.... Now as a child - I assumed he meant her undies (as I snickered and giggled and ran off like it was a naughty word) but in fact, if you look at a hollyhock as you can see in my last picture from above, you will notice he meant something different.  (that damn dirty old man)    I obviously finally got why my parents and other adults would laugh at Gramps story when I got into my early teens.  Through out the years, everytime I see a hollyhock I grab 2 and tell the story to the poor person that happens to be with me at the time.  I still think its funny and I remember him, and this story, right now because hollyhocks are in bloom and I told this story today and made a princess and floated her on the water and laughed my tail off when I flipped her over.  Thanks God my account found it funny (thanks)
BY the way - you get a bud that just pops out, peel off all of the green on it and there is tiny holes on the white part.  On the already bloomed one, you have to cut off leaving a tiny bit of stem.  You shove the stem into one of the holes on the bud and it becomes her head.  It also looks like she now has eyes and shes wearing a beautiful scarf wrapped around her head.  the bloom is her dress.  it floats on the water.  If you try it let me know what you think! I did this one last year, or maybe year before when I was in Napa.  One of the vineyards had them planted on the end of the row.......


 
 
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Sushi
I could eat it everyday. Tuna, salmon, eel, tobiko (fish eggs) - really i love it all except for all the sauces they blop on there like they are trying to cover that delicious fresh fish with makeup.   LEAVE the makeup off!  I am lucky to have great sushi where I live - and Yes in Wisconsin which you would not think could happen.  It does.  I travel all over the country and we really have fresh and delcious sushi here.  Its not caught that day but some of them damn close.  It pairs great with wine - I usually drink Sauvignon Blanc or sparkling.  For lunch today i had sblanc and tonight at dinner with sushi I had bubbles.  Yes i had sushi 2 today.

I also found out that there really is not truth to the term "sushi Grade" .  I should say legality.  You could pull one out of Lake michigan and call it sushi grade - no lie.  I would call it more like "muck grade" but whatever works.

Its also healthy for you, as long as all those gross sauces dont get spread all over them.

Then there is wasabi.  I love that as well and i tend to always put too much on.  You can tell by the watering of my eyes and the squishing of my face as I feel my sinuses getting cleaned out.

Sushi - its whats for dinner

it feels so real

 
 
So the beauty of the pig -
I am a lover - If I had a choice of one animal to eat the rest of the my life - mr. Pig is my choice.  
Maybe its that brick size piece of ham at Christmas or the bacon in the morning while suffering from a mild hangover.  Maybe its the bacon grease that I saute brussel sprouts in or a classic pork roast with potatoes, carrots-  just like the one my mother threw in the oven in the morning and she wouldnt even open the pot once the whole day while it was cooking - unlike me to have to at  least check it once after a couple hourse but no, not her - she did the right thing (Set it and forget it!).  Her roast was always fall apart and delicious.  Always.  Ham bone boiled soup for the best stock ever.
Maybe you like pork ribs basted on the grill or pork spare ribs roasted in the oven with sauerkraut.  A roast pork loin grilled, oven ready, or sauteed.  Braised pig cheeks or pate so intense, dense and flavorful that its hard to swallow.  The new hot trend is pork belly.....I have a great memory at King Estate winery in Oregon.  We ate all day (and drank too - they specialize in Pinot noir - the perfect pig pairing in most cases) and I didnt think I could eat one more bite at 8pm and then still continued to eat till 10.  We got back to the house on property we were staying at - at lunch we had a cookout and there was remenants of that day around the kitchen but when I walked in I had smelled something - and boy did it smell awesome.  I opened the stove and there it was- a flat pan with tin foil over - I pulled it out and layed it on the island and carefully opened - laying there looking like a steaming block of gooey amazingness was - a full pork belly that had been simmering in the oven for 16 hours.  I was drunk with lust for this thing and had to try it NOW.  I was screaming for people to come in and the only thing I found was tortilla chips - opened them and dug in.  Imagine myself and 6 guys standing around this island, hovering over this long, flat pan, shoveling pork belly into our mouths with tortilla chips not even remembering that we had just eaten a 12 course meal just minutes prior.  It was mind blowing pig and the layer of fat in the belly had started to melt into the meat so it was the most flavorful pork belly I have ever had - they had put cardamom and dash of cinnamon inthe rub as well.  You could get a tad bit of essence on that end palate.
how about that also trendy pulled pork sandwhich or that also ground pork that you can use in tacos or make into pork sausage (YUM)
OK - Head cheese - Do you actually know what it is? not cheese people- Im from wisconsin so the magic word is cheese here and I will tell you - nothing to do with cheese.  I like head cheese - preferably pig.  its primarily everything on the pig head - head meat, tongue etc and also pig legs  (usually NOT eyes, ears or brain)   and they grind it up and usually put in a jelly type (aspic) and serve it cold like a cold cut.  This is made in Europe a lot and it started because they hate wasting and try to use everything they can on an animal. 
Maybe a classic grilled pork chop or kilbasa (my grandparents call it horse cock - im not kidding - so do my parents)
My last pork treat I can think of now is a restauarant that took pig skin and i think, fried it and then crumbled it and made tiny pig crackles that they put on top of a piece of duck - its was like an adult pop rock for me wow.

SO lastly when a friend sent me this video yesterday I couldnt resist.  I may try to make this on Thanksgiving this year -

My pig liked to eat figs
 
 

Checked into Trump - 32nd floor Suite with a full view overlooking the entire city. Posh is an understatement

ABC Kitchen

What a great way to start a food and wine "time out" from reality trip - Why not go to the #1 rated Restaurant in the country by James Beard?
10pm reservation - I flew in late so perfect - The place could have been tricky to find but the miracle of a smart phone is priceless.  I ordered an Alsace Pinot BLanc to break in the taste buds - I sat down to a large dining room that made it feel like you were sitting in a park - the ceiling was dark as the night sky.  There was driftwood everywhere to make it feel like trees - the kitchen was not really in full view as the massive dining room contained the restaurant.  I didnt feel like I was crowded like most EVERY other new York thing - hotel rooms - restaurants - bathroom etc as no one wants to waste space as real estate is insane.  The lighting (which I believe (as Em does) is the one of the most important keys to great ambiance) was awesome - like hanging lantern lights on a perfectly clear night - the only thing I was missing was the big dipper!

The food - wow -
Starting with house favorite - roasted beets with homeade yogurt
fresh pulled mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes and sea salt
chicken and pork sausage with radish, jalepeno and house made grain mustart potato salad
Tuna sashimi with mint and ginger
roasted corn with manchego cheese, jalepenos and lime
Every single dish was fresh, local, organic, flavorful and delcious - He wasnt afraid to use spice and I loved it there - Loved it

LUNCH - Osteria Morini - specializing in Emilia Romagna food in Italy (coming from there just weeks before I was in)
I had a great bubbly made with Pinot noir that was quite rare - they also had a dry lambrusco flight I was dying to try.
I did the prixe fix lunch
whipped ricotta cheese with pesto, walnuts and summer peas - amazing flavor- the peas were fresh as if it was picked seconds before - the ricotta was satisfying like a cold glass of milk
Then a medium cooked sea bass with hericot verts with salsa verde - flavorful
olive oil cake with just picked strawberries and Marscapone and vanilla bean whipped cream - this marscapne was so outrageously heavy but tasted as light as air - really amazing dish - one of the best desserts i had all week

Dinner at Bar Boulud - Daniel Bouluds amazing casual cool resto - I was blessed with amazing conversation - some of the best Ive had in months....its always great to eat with other people that appreciate food and wine as much as you do. My most enjoyable night in many ways, food - wine - flavor - conversation - funny laughs and pancake hands :)
first bottle   - DOMAINE TRIENNES, VIOGNIER "SAINTE FLEUR" 2008  this was vibrant with pear and ripe peach flavor and there was acidity to hold up that alcohol (which sometimes doesnt happenin Rhone Viognier) It was a crowd pleaser by all
Now first appetizer of the Gods has come out - the table is silent (im thinking - "hello lover - come to mama")
deliciously devine - pate -
 head cheese -
 jamon -
rabbit and carrot -
 fig and duck -
 foie gras and truffle -
 pistachio, caviar,
 beef cheek -
apricot and foie gras encroute (OMG) -
 lamb and sweet potato

Then we devoured a special (the last one) slow braised pork belly- smoky like a campfire
the chef sent us 4 gorgeous langostine/prawns - the meat was sweet and smoky - the heads after you sucked them out were gelanous and
I had duck - with braised swiss chard with a hint of garlic and roasted radishes - the pan sauce around it was intoxicating like the smell of your old boyfriends cologne.
we had a great bottle of GSM then another bottle  - 06 LAUREL GLEN SONOMA CABERNET SAUVIGNON "COUNTERPOINT" 
it was a full bodied chewy treat with a boatload of alcohol - it stuck with you like after you rinse with listerine

Dessert wasnt my fav - apricots and chocolate just dont mix for me
Great night and still trying to figure out why I woke up with dreams about wine whores :)

Spent the day at Central Park - walking - ate berries with marscapone for breakfast - 
FIG AND OLIVE for lunch - i had mixture of crustinis -
* my fav by far - Mushroom, Truffled Artichoke, Parmesan - flavor was something I want to taste forever
*Roasted Bell Pepper, Ricotta, Caper - sweet and smoky
Crushed Tomato, Olive Oil
*Manchego, Fig, Marcona Almond - great together
Bresaola, Goat Cheese, Black Olive
Prosciutto, Ricotta, Fig, Olive, Walnut 
Crab, Avocado, Cilantro, Pine Nuts 
also Sesame Tuna Tartar  with Chive, Shallot, Cucumber - fresh and lively with herby and sesame finish
BEEF CARPACCIO -Filet mignon, 18 year old balsamic vinegar, baby arugula, parmesan – Truffle Olive Oil - another flavorful and mouth blowing combo - sweet, peppery and rich and round - SPECTACULAR- reminded me of spain all over again

Dinner - Marc Forgione - the new Iron Chef this year with the faux hawk -
I wont go into too much detail - The food never came together - the restaurant was brilliantly lit, great atmosphere- my server was not up to par (at all) and the food (every dish which I had many) was missing something on every dish or it just didnt mesh together correctly.  boo - didnt enjoy and a lil bummed but it could have been an off night - I will just not ever go back - Its bound to happen with 5 great meal to get a bummer one - I'm lucky to have had the others!

 BRUNCH
La Boqueria Spanish Tapas
Ensalada de Remolacha - Spinach salad with roasted beets candied walnuts, goat cheese
Pintxos Morunos - Seared lamb marinated in lemon and cumin, “salsa verde”- fresh and zesty
Bombas de la Barceloneta - Two beef and potato croquettes, “salsa brava,” garlic all i oli - perfectly hollowed out potatoes shoved full of beef then flash fried with a garlicky, creamy and spicy sauce - really simple but so full of flavor!
Salteado de Setas - Sautéed wild mushrooms, Manchego cheese - threw these on the beet salad for an awesome treat

It was awesome to go to NYC on a stellar summer weekend - met great friends - we broke bread and talked food, wine and fun.  I read a book, took 4 baths (one for over 2 hours and I was like a huge prune) I went to see the progress on the twin tower memorial - walked Central Park, shopped in So Ho and chelsea and 5th ave, ate in Little Italy, ate by the Lincoln Center, went to Times Square with all the chaos and funny street acts, went up on the Rockafellar roof and saw amazing pics of the city - ate in the Flat Iron District and walked through Hells Kitchen.  NYC is a city full of life and energy.  You can feel it shake you in the streets, you can hear it all night long with horns honking and people yelling, you can see it with the twinkling lights and the brake lights of all the yellow cabs, you can smell it throughout the air - a mix of gas, food, sweat, stink and life!
I love it - I will be back - I will eat drink see and live it all again.

Madonna sings "i love NY" and shes right-  If you cant stand the heat then get off my street!




 
 
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Have you been there or tried it?  YOu MUST
Nansorellas/Pullmans has been my longest continuous running wine dinner place in Appleton.  It started off with 12 people many years ago and has blossomed into something very special.  We now get over 100 people and many times there is a waiting list.  We have had almost every producing wine country, kentucky derby, oscars, halloween parties, white elephant parties, football parties, lobster boils and the list goes on.  They are super fun, educational, and delicious.  THey have up to 5 wines, 5 courses of food and always the "muffins"    I urge you to check out these fun events (every 6 weeks) as its a jewel in this city.  The 4 owners are amazing and very supportive.  Their staff is attentive and very nice.  Their new chef has been hitting home runs every dinner.  DONT BE INTIMIDATED.  We have non wine drinkers that have turned winos!  We have 21 year old and 75 year olds, we have doctors, housewives, lawyers and students.  We hope to see you there - Its time to spice it up kids!


navy beans navy beans navy beans
  
 
 
A day passes, then a week.  Pretty soon you look back and its been a year or years.  Where does our time go?  We pillage through life trying to make memories and live the American dream.  We are supposed to find a mate and then procreate.  All of the other luggage comes with - a house, a car or two, a dog and cat, the once a year vacation from your job that you may not like or you may love and OMG i forgot - the Kitchen Aid Mixer!    THese are all things that we are supposed to do.  And these are not bad things - but amazing.......I dont know many people that look back and say - I wish I wouldnt have kids - (Ive definately heard people say their partner choice may not have been the smartest decision ha!) But this is life - I find not having any of the forementioned, that I am living the American Dream too.  Because its mine.  And thats what we can have here - our own dreams.  And then we can try and live them. 

I really like everyday- I love smelling fresh cut grass with my car window open.  I love that there is a lilac tree right under my window and sometimes I wake up in the morning to that smell.  I love that I can walk outside on a rush to work and stop and eat cherry tomatoes off my plant for 4 seconds and it changes my mood from being rushed to - wow - that little red fruit tastes sweet and juicy and like summer and I grew that.  I like that smell of stargazer lillies and how one of them in bloom can seduce a whole room for days.  Or how a glass of sauvignon blanc on the hottest summer day satisfies and seems to cool off my insides.  I love that in summer every sunset is spectacular and reminds you that tomorrow is going to another day full of surprises. 

Life is amazing- and lately Ive been trying not too look back in the rearview mirror - but it has some of the sweetest memories back there that its hard not to.


keep me young as I grow old

best moment of my day - getting my toes done with my girl christina and having an antipasto platter of love with a bottle of wine with her on her last week living in appleton