at a moment like this in time - how can life ever be bad?

I started this year with the flu and confused on where life was going for me.
I ended this year with hope, clarification and a clear head.  
Feels good to not only say that, but believe it.

I am blessed with a year of great health again! 

Some of the best moments of 2012
I went to Disney World for the first time of my life.  It was even better then I thought it would be!  
M I C K E Y * M O U S E......
My best friend got married on a perfect April day to her love.  The days leading up to the wedding and all the time we got to spend together are days I will never forget.  I didn't think our friendship could grow and strengthen more - but I was wrong.
I got the best title added to my name this year - Godmother.  My brother and Erin had a baby - his name is Jack.  Hes a smaller version of my brother - who is pretty amazing - but Jack is my main man...He is not just cute- but smart and smiley and perfect.  I find myself a little infatuated with seeing him smile.  
I took trapeze lessons and did a flip about a mile in the air (i'm exaggerating but it felt like it)
I saw the magnolias and Azaleas in full bloom in Savannah, Georgia.  And stayed at the best place of my life for my birthday, with my dear friend,  in South Carolina - The Inn at Palmetto Bluff.
I went to Palm Springs for some old 50s style charm and to see a movie or 2 at the Palm Springs International Film Festival - and also went to the Napa Valley Film Festival to watch the Premiere of "SOMM" and it was spectacular.
I went to California Wine Country about 10 times this year - went horseback riding, made my own wine and ate and drank like a queen there.  Every time is still like the first time out there!
My oldest and dearest friend had a baby, Ella, a red head of beauty. 
I went to Texas with a friend I hadn't seen since High school - we rode a longhorn with a 9 foot horn spread.  We danced under the stars on a perfect starry night to Jake Hooker. We went to Texas Wine country, which was surprisingly great....I have new cowboy boots, went to Austin and seen live music and smiled and laughed with the cowboys!  San Antonio river-walk completed
I went to Bayfield, WI for my first time and biked on Madeline Island.  Also found many waterfalls there!  and the opening of Wild Rice Restaurant.
My 71 Volvo had an amazing Photo shoot with Motor Trend Magazine and I was featured in the fall issue.  It was over the top cool! 
I spent loads of time with Kila - In wis, cali and many other places!
We celebrated my grandparents 62 anniversary - I had many Sunday mornings with them and great stories of love and faith to share.
Emily got engaged to the most amazing man - I cant wait for the wedding.
I took a new job at my company and have more time for a personal life!
Time in Door County was relaxing - Sheboygan fun over the summer with paddle-boarding  fires on the beach and bocce ball in the sand!
I went to a 5 day Wine Seminar in California and learned so much! 
HAWAII - one of the best, if not the best, trip of my life.  Maui is a dream - like paradise that I could have stayed in forever. I intend on going back and soon!  Please go!
I paddle-boarded, cross country skiied, biked, ran many miles, snorkeled, golfed, swam, hiked and biked.
I drove the entire 269 mile Blue Ridge Parkway - from Washington DC to North Carolina.  It was gorgeous. Virginia was one of my biggest surprises of the year - their wine country, the food, the vibe, the history - I am going to explore more this year!
Ft Lauderdale, Miami and South Beach were firsts too this year! 
 I went to a Catalina wine mixer, and also saw Madonna front row in Minneapolis. 
So Many New great friends this year! and that stupid scramble with friends!

I had some tough times this year too.  But out of the tough times has come positives.  I realized I was carrying someones elses burdens.  I was living in a life that was mentally unhealthy.  And what finally has changed that was unfortunately - the worst part of my year.  I lost my grandparents in a tragic car crash.  There really is nothing worse than seeing not one, but two, hearses leaving a church with your favorite two people in the world inside of them.   It is still hard every day BUT out of this has come clarification and peace.  This tragedy made me re-evaluate my life and its contents.  It was like a light switch flipped on (or off) something and I have never felt better mentally.  I feel like I can finally breath.  Thank you to them for helping me see things differently and getting on a healthy track.  They have given me a solid foundation to work from.  I am blessed to have been able to share so much time with them and watch their love grow still every day.
I also went to Michigan and rekindled a dear friendship that means a lot to me.  Friends are my family and I'm glad to have that dear friendship back in my life.  
I want to be a better communicator.  I want to travel and I want to love hard and be able to take a new and healthy chance with someone special.  

lastly - there is wine.....that perfect grape elixir - So many memories have been made and I drank so many grand bottles of red, white, bubbles, pink and with so many amazing friends, co workers, family and just randoms. 3 liters, magnums, regulars, minis - beautiful dinners and lunches all over the country....I spoke at over 100 wine dinners/events this year! and at Kohler Food and Wine....I had lunch with Lydia Bastianich.  I met so many other celeb chefs and winemakers and have had the pleasure of staying at many wineries overnight - Jordan, stags leap, Franciscan, and my favorite the Inn at Buehler Winery! 

On this day - the first day of the rest of my life on January 1st 2013 - I wish you all faith, love and health

I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.  I can choose which it shall be.  Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet.  I have just one day, today, and I am going to be happy in it........Groucho marx


Picture this - 
  A perfect fall day in Napa Valley....the vines changing color like the autumn leaves in Wisconsin.  The temp at 60- weather where a coat is too much and a sweater is just right.  There was a crispness in the air and a buzz that would of made you thought that this was a spring day - with the bees buzzing around, pollinating every blossom they could......but no! What was this BUZZ!  These People were gathering from all over the country for one thing - the exclusive first showing of the movie SOMM.....
  A little background here.  This movie follows 4 Advanced Sommeliers, all with different personalities, all with different skills but all with one hope- to pass this bad ass test to become one of the elite few to call themselves - Master Sommelier.
  The producer is Jason Wise.  A handsome, outspoken, young and exciting guy whose excitement is almost contagious.  He wears his emotions on his sleeve and is a very humble soul.  He is thankful and full of life and hope.  I was lucky enough to spend 11 days in Italy with him and his also handsome and talented sidekick, Jackson Meyers.  I was blessed to have been chosen through the Guild of Sommeliers to go to Italy with 4 other gents.  I was the only woman with 5 male super tasters and the 2 guys filming for this movie- all while traveling through whats known to be the most romantic  country in the world.....Imagine it...Really it was a dream.  We drank wine, talked shit and ate like kings and queens....and then drank some more!  We even got asked if we were part of the "bachelorette" taping as I was the only girl on a table of 16 at the Banfi Castle in Tuscany! HA! And then there was that damn FERNET BRANCA! 

  Anyway - So a great bond was established and then I hear the news that the movie is finally coming out and BAM - here I was....In Napa Valley about to see this masterpiece.  
  The movie was great in many ways. Jason took each of the 4 guys and really let their personalities come through and shine.  I felt like I knew all 4 guys when I left the Opera House that night and just by watching this movie!  Jason created a movie that was serious and ultimately funny.  I held my breath on parts, gasped on some and laughed my ass off on others.  
  The music in this movie was magnificent.  I was tapping my toes sometimes and others I wouldn't even know the music was there and then all of a sudden your mind would drift to the music in the back out of nowhere.  
  I also believe the wine business needs a movie like this....not one where its always perfect and a love story and everyone lives happily ever after.  And also Not one that focuses more on this paradise and fantasy world that most wine focused movies end up being.  The Wine business and wine world is hard work, determination and mostly- willpower.  Now... don't get me wrong.....it can sometimes be glamorous and completely awesome....like being able to get free poured Krug all night long is pretty stellar!  And waking up in the middle of a vineyard at the winery that I was staying at for free because of my friend owns it.  And going horseback riding in the vineyards and drinking the very Cabernet they made from the vineyard I was sleeping in. (sigh - I love the wine world) But still - to get to that point takes time, loyalty and tons of glasses of wine and sleepless nights and long days that lead to longer nights. Its not all wine, food, travel and fun.    
  These 4 guys are not crazy- they are relentless in getting what they want.  This test isn't just hard....its hardening.  And they should be commended for even trying to pass it.  As Jason and his partners should be commended for thinking up this idea and then making it happen.  He has what it takes, just like these 4 guys did - to put their life on hold, work extremely hard and be focused, to achieve their dreams.  They did it.  He did it.  
This movie made me want to do more with my life and re-sparked a feeling that I didnt even know had left me.

Queen of Pop, striking a pose, the material girl, the virgin on a holiday and so much more....Love her or hate her - shes a first class performer.  There is NO comparison.  
  She started 2 hours late but put on a grand performance for 2 and a half hours that would make anyone forget that she was even late.   Her new album - I love it.  Its raw, loving, hateful, angry, happy, relentless, and appropriate for anyone going through a divorce (as she was)

She is more in shape then most 20 year olds and her willpower must be intense.  She was political and made it known that she didnt care who you voted for as long as it was Obama!
My three favorite songs on this new album were Love Spent, gang Bang, and Best Friend. She played them all - and on "Best friend" I shed a tear.  Losing your partner - no matter what the circumstances- is crushing.  

Then came the Classics - Vogue, Holiday, Like a virgin, erotica, Music and ending this magical show with - Like a prayer!

She danced the night away and only slipped backstage for seconds to change her outfits.  Her dancers kept you busy and the show playing in the background on the screens was intense.  gang Bang was the best "show" I thought by far - 

I was lucky enough to be able to be so close to actually touch the catwalk stage.  I got some amazing video and some even better pics.

Madonna Concert #5 in the books - Not my favorite tour of hers but damn close.  I dont believe any other singer/dancer/musician has had more of an impact on me and my life - then her.  

Her career is over the top - just like her.


Sun, waterfalls, bamboo forests, palm trees, hibiscus, orchids, tuberose, plumeria,  lush tropics, shave ice (passion fruit, guava and mango are my FAV three) fruit - like fruit that is so flavorful that you have to continue to eat like an addict it is soo good.  Pineapple - so sweet it tastes like you sprinkled it with sugar first.    

The Road to Hanna was twisty and windy and full of surprises.  Waterfalls everywhere. Plated lunches roadside.  Fresh fish nachos, tuna poke, coconuts with a straw bobbing out of it.  

Lahaina - the most well known city in Maui
I went to Feast at Le Le - overpriced Luau with ok food. cool dancing
watched the sunset- best place to in Maui
bought a lei
got amazing Kona Coffee
the best shave ice

Kihei - southwest city
Boss Frogs Snorkeling gear 
bobbing in the ocean for hours
reading on the beach
Breakfast at the Four Seasons
Cuatro - great lil restuarant

O'O farms - organic farms where I had the most delicious garden tour and then lunch outside in the sun with a bottle of Ferrari carano fume blanc.
Mauis Only winery - Pineapple wine, Chardonnay, pineapple sparkling and regular sparkling
Hali imaile General Store- nicoise salad for lunch was one of the best things I ate the whole trip.
Haleakala National Park - I watched the sunset and the sunrise.  One of the best things about this trip!
Its like you are walking over the city.
Ziplining in the canopy
Paiai - cute little hippy city
Mamas Fish House - I stayed over one night at their inn and had dinner - delicious tuna

This is their slogan

I really do not get what that means.

It IS gorgeous here.  Wineries, the Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, The Blue Ridge Parkway, SHopping and just beauty at every sight.  When you combine mountains and valleys and history and wine - a perfect blendhas been created!

GO there...Asap.  Especially at the end of October when the leaves have changed color.

Paddling on Lake Michigan during a beautiful pink sunset - WOW.  It was like walking on water.  It was like that movie "what dreams may come" when she painted that colorful painting and then when she died, they ended up trying to find each other in that painting in THEIR version of heaven.  
   I felt like I was in this painting.  Gliding across the water as pink as cotton candy at the circus.  It was silently gorgeous.  
It was one of those life changing moments.  One of the moments that you look into the horizon and your life seems so unrealistic.  

It was one of those moments that I felt like I knew nothing about my wants or my needs or my life.  
I felt small.

And then I looked behind me.  And there was answers. I wasn't alone.  I was amongst friends.  

Bandera Texas

Yes - if you want to meet an Amber you have never met - meet me in Bandera, TX.

Cowboy hats, cowboy boots, a firm hand on your back, polite nods, dancing on air, honkey tonk music that begs for you to come out on the dance floor, a floral breeze, the perfect temperature, a longhorn, single servings of wine and the feeling of being free.
  I had the best brisket from this angry old woman, I bought my cowboy boots, the rodeo was in town, memorial day weekend.....all the ingredients for the best recipe.

11 street cowboy bar
I dont know why this place affected me the way it did.
I love dancing and boy did I dance
I love cowboy boots and I dont think I met anyone that wasnt wearing them- including myself
I love cowboys - and these were real ones - YES
I rode a longhorn - one with a 7 foot 4 inch spread- his name was oreo - like the cookie
I love that a man can look so manly and burly and have facial hair and dirt under his fingernails and then get on the dance floor and so proudly dance with his lady and it looks like he is floating on a cloud, his hand so proper on her back letting her know that he was in control but doing it so softly like he was holding a child.  And this just isnt one cowboy - this is all of them.  And when the song is over they walk you back to your spot, hand in hand, and thank you for the dance.  I didnt know this was the way it happened and one of the nice cowboys told me the way - so I wasnt disrespectful.  They MUST walk you back to your spot.

I saw Jake Hooker - he is a famous honkey tonk country band. He and his band was stellar.  I was so impressed on that fine Friday night of Memorial day weekend.  I spent 3 days here in Bandera and had never planned on even going there - it was a quick thinking detour.  I am so glad I did. It was a side of me that I forgot was there and it also reminded me how I romanticize most situations in my head.    

George Straits band played on Sunday night - Amazing.  

I will be back to that magical place and I will find the dance floor again, with my cowboy boots 

Austin - Cool city, retro, vintage, great restaurants, amazing live music, food truck central, mexican food, brisket and these weird ass bats that live under the bridge.

I stayed at an amazing B&B - gateway guesthouse  www.gatewayguest.com
The bed was one of the top beds I have ever slept on (in the studio suite)  The two lovely ladies that own it are from the Midwest (hugs) and are amazing cooks (bess was on Food network in Minny)  They turned this place into a cozy haven of relaxation - a beautiful pool, hot tub and great guest rooms.  
I went to the broken spoke to do some two stepping and to listen to the best honky tonk music- hats and boots on I got my dance on!  www.brokenspokeaustintx.com
I went to Uchi for dinner for some amazing sushi and raw delights.  I had a great albarino with dinner.
The next day I walked all around Congress street and went into the many crazy shops, found my cowboy boots FINALLY, ate off the food trucks, had a margarita and then off to a state park right outta town to relax and play in the water.
That night out to Congress for dinner and then to see the chaotic 6th street (kind of like new orleans with bourban st) www.congressaustin.com 
I really liked Austin and its vibe.  Its cool city, retro and vintage city and honkey tonk cowboy all in one city.  

San Antonio, TX

Hot, Humid, Amazing.
The Alamo, the Riverwalk and the gateway to Bandera (cowboy capital of Texas)
  The riverwalk was at full capacity on the eve of Memorial day- young people everywhere drinking out of those funny long glasses with cheap booze that will surely give them a headache in the morning.  I was on the hunt for a late night meal - Not many things open after 10pm - Ended up going to Landrys for a late night glass of champagne, a steak and lousy service.  I slept at The Sheraton Gunter Hotel (supposedly haunted but I didnt experience anything out of the norm) The room was very nice, great beds, linens and coffee for the morning.  Our view was great as well. 
I woke up to a fresh day and a day to relax.  I ate at boudros for lunch- I had a delicious Seared Tuna salad that was one of my best meals of the trip.  I also ran into charles Barkely - yes THE Charles- he was nice and BIG.  What are the odds.