Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wine Pairs Well With Beer


The Merry family is
is onto something with
their wines & beers.
An oasis on the open road, my mom and I happened across a winery just after crossing into Ohio on our way to Minnesota. No matter what our itinerary, we can always make time for a wine tasting. But what made this particular winery unique was the beer. We just happened to stumble upon Merry Family Winery and Old Mill Craft Beer. When we pulled in, we could see vines planted along rolling hills surrounding the winery. When we opened the door, we could smell the delicious aroma of a batch of hops being cooked. At the tasting counter, we were given a list that included samples of their wines and beers. Mom and I voted the aptly named family's wine and beer crafting venue our favorite rest stop on our journey to the Midwest.

The combination of wine AND beer is becoming rather trendy. One of our favorite places to relax with friends is a wine and beer shop a few blocks from our home. One of the reasons we like it so much is because I prefer to sip wine while discussing small-town politics, while Hubby prefers to wash down his grapevine gossip with a bottle of beer. Logistically, it's much easier to have one place we can go that meets both our needs.

John Benca, who owns McGee's
with his wife Dixie, proudly
serves some great wines
along side Irish beer & cuisine.
An Irish pub in Anderson, SC also sees value in offering great beers and wines under the same roof. While McGee's was already a fantastic watering hole for those who enjoy beer and Irish foods, the owners decided to step things up with an award-winning selection of wines. In 2012, McGee's Irish Pub and Restaurant became the first pub in the country to be recognized by Wine Spectator for its wine list.

This trend is a good one for Hubby and me. The more places we can go to discover new wines and beers together, the more opportunities we have to bond as a couple. Now, if we could find a restaurant that serves sushi AND pizza, we'd have the happiest marriage ever.
Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 

Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING:
Micki Bare's Blog (Arkansas News Bureau)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Settling into My New Job: Sandwich-Gen SAHM


Hubby, the boys and Gramms all
greatly appreciate the yummy treats
I've been making as a SAHM.
It’s been over four months since I began my adventure as a sandwich-gen SAHM. With a third of a year under my belt, I’m just now starting to settle into my new role. Routines are beginning to shape my days and weeks. Productivity is going up. Best of all, I’m still 100 percent sure that our decision for me to resign my fulltime job was the right one.

At first, Hubby, our kids and me all struggled with my new role. Visions of nightly gourmet meals, a clean house, and both kitchen and outdoor gardens danced in our heads. However, we failed to consider that I do not have a staff to assist me make such visions a reality. On the nights we sit down to a homemade meal, the housecleaning suffers. I might remember to water the indoor plants, but I most likely won’t get a chance to head outside and weed. If I get caught up in gardening, we are most likely going to have to order pizza. And on my housecleaning days, I prefer we just go out to eat. It’s nice to walk into a clean house after a big meal that someone else cooked and served.

I'm greatly enjoying the time I
now have to write as well as
sell and sign my books.
My writing was also supposed to take off when I began my at-home career. Funny, but after the morning and afternoon trips to the school in addition to grocery shopping, banking, laundry, sweeping, and working out, there is precious little time left to write. Especially since Hubby and I have healthy social lives. It’s easy to say yes to friends and neighbors who want to get together, because I can always justify that without these life experiences, I’d have nothing about which to write.

In the beginning, I over committed. As a result, I’m now a member of two boards and have successfully pulled off a community theater leading role. I’m working on saying no. My children seem to think saying no is easy for me. Maybe if I imagine the people who ask me to do things are my children, I’ll have more success with polite refusals.

But as the weeks melt into months, I get a little better at juggling my schedule as well as the schedules of everyone else in our household. The house isn’t quite as messy. We eat more homemade meals. My garden is even starting to take shape. And, best of all, I’m writing almost as much as I'd imagined. 


Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 

Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING:
Micki Bare's Blog (Arkansas News Bureau)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Aging Filter of Straight Shooter


My grandma at her 90th
birthday. Today, at 93, she is
still our beloved, unfiltered
straight shooter! 
There is quite a difference between what runs through my mind and what is actually projected from my well-exercised lips. Not that I tell tall tales or sugar coat my words. Everyone who knows me considers me to be a straight shooter. But straight shooters, contrary to generally accepted notions, actually do filter their thoughts before their thoughts burst forth into audible commentary.

Upon hearing from the barista what my half-caff, skinny cappuccino costs, what runs through my mind is:
It amazes me how much you can get away with charging for something that costs you 50 cents to make and will take about three minutes of your time. You must make $200,000 a year here.
What I actually say (punctuated with an eye roll):
"Wow, that's expensive for coffee with some steamed milk. The profit margin must be high, like for pizza and soft drinks. I hope they pay you well. Meanwhile, I really need to invest in a cappuccino machine."

Upon being asked my opinion by a stranger trying on clothes, what runs through my mind is:
Honey, just because they make it in your size does not mean you can get away with that style.
What I actually say (without making any eye contact as I gather my things and prepare to leave):
"I really do not believe that style brings out your strongest features." 

Upon receiving horrible service at a restaurant, then being asked by the general manager about the experience, what runs through my mind is:
The food was good, but the service was terrible. Either the server was having a bad day or he/she needs to look into other career options.
What I actually say (regardless of whether or not the server is within earshot):
"The food was good, but the service was terrible. Either the server was having a bad day or he/she needs to look into other career options."

Okay, so sometimes the actual sentiment slips past my filter. As I get older, that seems to happen more and more often. In my 40s, it's unbecoming to be so abrubtly honest in public. However, I'm optimistic that I will be considered a cute, silly ol' lady, just like my grandma is considered today, when I get to be her age and my filter has completely deteriorated along with the cartilage in my knees.


Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 

Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING:
Micki Bare's Blog (Arkansas News Bureau)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This Girl's Best Friend? [Baseball] Diamonds!




It is time to get outside and play ball!
Diamonds are widely considered a girl’s best friend. As someone often categorized as a girl—at least, by people other than my children—the stereotypes dictate I should become dizzy with excitement when a friend bends her wrist to make the glittering gem on her finger appear obvious. I am supposed to crave the dazzling mineral on Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and other special occasions. 

Truth be told, I really do crave diamonds. It's just not the sparkly kind I covet. While I do have all the appropriate girl parts, I was never that interested in jewelry. Bracelets and rings always got in the way when I was outside climbing trees, building forts, or playing a friendly neighborhood game of baseball. 

Now that’s the kind of diamond that gets me excited—the baseball diamond.  Those so-called precious diamond gemstones are about three billion years old. That's pretty darned old. By comparison, baseball diamonds are practically brand new. The first set of baseball rules was developed less than 170 years ago. I guess you could say I fancy newer things.

As you can see, even with
a glass of wine in hand, I still
take the game quite seriously.
[That's me, in the middle.]
In our neighborhood, the word baseball covered a range of games, including wiffle ball, softball, stick ball, ghost baseball, and actual baseball. When you're 10, there is no better way to spend the day than to divide up into teams for a marathon wiffle ball tournament. Even today, baseball diamonds still top mineral diamonds in my book. As a girl in my 40s, I still cannot think of a better way to spend the afternoon. And the rules have remained consistent since childhood, which is more than I can say for the promises I received with my first diamond ring. 

Wiffle Ball House Rules

1. If you catch the ball on the fly, the batter is out. If you catch it one-handed, you are "DA MAN, OH YEAH!" and someone must buy you a drink. [Note: the type of drink has changed from cola to wine since childhood, but the rule is basically the same.]

2. If you hit the ball past the last line, it is a home run. If you hit the ball in the home run area, but it hits Dad's car, you're automatically out. [Note: this rule was established by my dad the year he bought his yellow Pontiac Starfire. It has since been updated to include all players' cars unless someone establishes their own crappy vehicle as fair game.]

3. If your team is behind by one or two runs, you can go into extra innings so as to have the opportunity to win; but only if the extra innings are approved by all players on both teams. Trash talk is allowed for the purpose of influencing the vote. [Note: the trash talk has become a bit saltier since I was a kid.]

Of course, we also do our best to abide by the official wiffle ball rules. Enough about diamonds, let's PLAY BALL!

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Today's Wx: Scattered Pollen with 100% Chance of Mucus Precipitation


When it was cold, we begged for the warmer weather of spring. We were then rewarded with several inches of greenish-yellow pollen. And I don't think it is a coincidence that the color of pollen is similar to that of mucus. Spring might offer relief from winter, but it also provides lots of mixed emotions toward the outdoors.

Budding Trees => Beautiful
Squiggly, Pollen-Infused Tree Debris => Annoying & Messy

Blooming Flowers => Breathtaking
Greenish-Yellow Dust => Unbreathable

No one is all that worried about sneezy, wheezy people in public during springtime. We all know the allergies from which they suffer are not contagious. Watery eyes, intense nasal congestion, sneezes that propel gallons of droplets of mucus and hacking coughs simply come standard with the awakening of the earth.

Springtime Allergies
Pollen-covered vehicles 
offer a canvas for writing notes 
and drawing pictures.
Thankfully, I'm not an allergy sufferer. But I know many who become incapacitated when the trees and flowers begin to bloom. My heart goes out to them, especially the ones under my roof. And while the allergy ailment may very well be an inherited anomaly, I do believe there are things that can be done to lesson the impact. When I took the required biology course in college, I remember learning that the human body is greatly capable of adapting to its environment. Advances in technology, however, have made it possible to avoid the outdoors during pollen season. Climate controlled homes and cars combined with over-the-counter medications that alleviate symptoms have kept exposure to pollens down. This underexposure to spring pollen is why I believe so many suffer. But I believe if people would expose themselves to more pollen, they'd build up a tolerance and reduce the symptoms. Here are a few ways we could expand pollen exposure:

Pollen Angels
Plunk down in a thick layer of pollen and then swipe arms and legs back and forth just as you would do in a few inches of snow. This activity is sure to stir up lots of pollen for which your nose will have direct access.

Pollen Messaging
Write notes to your friends in the pollen on their vehicle. Conveniently, when your friend washes their car and destroys your message, there will be enough pollen buildup within a few hours to re-write the message.

Pollen Condiments
We already eat pollen in honey. Local honey seems to alleviate allergies. Therefore, why not create other pollen-infused condiments? Stirring a little pollen into ketchup and mustard, sprinkling pollen on salads or adding it to soup would not only boost exposure, but also might add interesting colors and tastes to your foods.

These exposure methods might seem extreme, but I offer them out of sympathy to all those who are miserable this time of year. As a non-allergic bystander, I feel I must do all I can to help make this world a little less sneezy, itchy and snotty.


Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 

Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING:
Micki Bare's Blog (Arkansas News Bureau)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Must Resist Overly-Optimistic Garden Fantasies


Trees are budding, flowers are blooming and as I take it all in, I recall my past tendencies toward naïve optimism regarding impending vegetable and herb gardens. I used to love going to the farm and garden centers to pick out green plants that could eventually produce tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans and lots of different herbs. I was always careful to select only the strongest, greenest seedlings. Each little dirt filled cup in my cart added to my soon-to-be-garden fantasy.

Seeds from last year's
beans are quickly becoming
this year's bean seedlings. 
The fantasy included seedlings planted exactly four inches apart in neat, perfectly parallel rows. With no weeds in sight, the newly planted seedlings stood tall, reaching for the sun as they seemed to smile at me for giving them such a fertile home. Fantasy-me always smiled back and gave them plenty of water so they would thrive on my fraction-of-an-acre urban farm.

My future garden was a modern-day Eden. Then I’d get to the front of the check out line, at which point my fantasy would begin to disintegrate. When the cashier gave me the total, I was always knocked abruptly into reality. “Are you sure that total is correct? I mean, $68.29 seems like an awful lot for some itty bitty, wilting seedlings.”
           
“Yes, Ma’am. The total, which also includes your gardening tools, tomato stakes and pre-fertilized soil, is correct. Will that be cash or charge?”
           
After years of letting my fantasies get the best of me while depleting our coffers, I have finally learned a few lessons.

Be Patient. Protect Your Cotton Candy and Roller Coaster Funds.
It is never too late to plant a garden. It can, however, be too early. Trying to extend the growing season by getting an early jump on planting only serves to evoke Jack Frost who will, in return, cause a late-season freeze that will kill everything you just broke your back to plant. I’m convinced garden centers put seedlings out early to give us the opportunity to purchase and plant our gardens twice. This tends to double their profits at the same time we’re dipping into our vacation stashes.

Last year's garden before the plants matured 
and choked each other to death, causing the early 
demise of our dream urban farm season.
Use Last Year’s Crop to Seed This Year’s Garden.
The first seedlings to hatch under my high-humidity dome of saturated peat pellets were the ones I’d saved from last year’s harvest. The store-bought seeds eventually poked through, but they weren’t as lush and hearty. Not only will using seeds money, but drying and storing seeds from the garden will also most likely produce stronger plants than store-bought seeds.

Don’t Over-Exuberantly Over Plant.
While it is entirely possible to fit dozens of four-inch seedlings on a relatively small plot of land, they won’t fit quite as well when they reach a mature size. Don’t be like me and think you can grow enough vegetables to share with the neighborhood if you can only fit one more row of lettuce between the cucumbers and tomatoes. Overcrowding kills. I believe I’ve finally got it through my brain that a sparse spring garden will grow into a lush, productive summer garden.

Maybe this year I’ll finally be one of those people who shows up to every gathering with bags of produce to give away so it won’t, heaven forbid, go to waste.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 

Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING:
Micki Bare's Blog (Arkansas News Bureau)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Be Gone, Jack Frost, It IS Spring


Pellets of snowy sleet are falling even as the bright green leaf budlets are emerging from our trees. We’ve had some beautiful spring weather lately, but Jack Frost decided to throw a tantrum. To keep from becoming frustrated at the dismal weather, I’m pulling out some emergency spring pictures. I will also plant my seeds in the peat-pot seedling starter kit I purchased on a sunnier day. Take that Jack Frost! 

It IS spring: The daffodils are in full bloom.
It IS spring: White blossoms are wreaking
havoc on the allergy-sensitive.
It IS spring: Ground cover is turning purple. 
It IS spring: Cherry blossoms are
pinking up the place.
It IS spring: Bright green baby
leaves are replacing buds.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 

Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING:
Micki Bare's Blog (Arkansas News Bureau)