Hard Cider

I never would have guessed I’d be writing this post. As someone who never liked beer and I now like interesting beer, I feel the same way about cider. Back in the olden days, the only one I ever tasted was Woodchuck, and I was not a fan. Too sweet and I just didn’t care for the flavor. Well, folks, that’s allllll changed now. I am actually a fan of cider!

About six or so years ago, my son talked to me about getting into the cider business. At the time, there were only a handful available, Woodchuck, Angry Orchard, and Crispin. Having been in England, where there were tons of options, I thought it was a good idea. And it was, but for him, that business plan didn’t pan out as planned and in the meantime, the business stateside exploded. Now, there’s a plethora of options. You can get dry champagne style cider (Crispin original and Brut are good choices) and fruity combination ciders. Some, I admit, are not that great and though this is a bit TMI, give me ‘soapy tasting burbs.’ Am I the only one who has that issue? I hope not.

So, which ciders do I like? My current fav is just about anything by Ace from California. Unfortunately, I can’t buy it in KY! That reminds me of Coors in the old days, when you had to go to Colorado to get it. It’s totally annoying. I have to cross state lines to get it. Which flavors do I like? Pineapple rocks my world. It is the most amazingly refreshing drink. It tastes just like pineapple! You may say, “Why drink cider that tastes like pineapple and not apple?” Because it’s really good! I like their pear, and the apple. Both are good and not overly sweet.  My next favorite is CiderBoys (from my home state of Wisconsin) Raspberry Smash. Lots of fruit and bubble and soooo flavorful. Their Peach Country, Grand Mimosa and Cranberry Road are wonderfully flavored, too. I can’t wait to try more from both of these companies.

The worst cider I’ve ever had was some brand of Scrumpy in England. I thought it had gone off, because it tasted like rotten fruit, but I was told, “No, that’s the way it tastes.” O-kay.



October 25, 2015 at 2:20 pm Leave a comment

Alaska shows

Okay, so I’m sometimes easily sucked into watching marathons on TV. I got hooked on Alaska, the Last Frontier, Alaskan Bush People, and even Living Alaska. I draw the line at the trucker and fishing shows, though. I can’t spend all my time watching TV! Which show is my fav? Hard to say. I watch all of them. Every episode. I DVR them, just in case I’m not home, because I don’t want to miss an installment. What are these shows? Reality TV for the most part, though some doubt the validity. I’m taking them with a grain of salt, but I do enjoy them, even if there is some scripting.

Alaska, the Last Frontier has just started a new season and it ends on a rough note. The show is about two brothers, Atz and Otto, and their families. Their father, Yule Kilcher moved to Alaska to escape Hitler’s reign and to create a life as a homesteader. So now, the sons are carrying on the family tradition with their sons and families, Atz Lee and Jane and Eivin and Eve. I like the dynamics and relationships and seeing the somewhat day to day living. It’s entertaining to see the interaction among all the family members, even when times get strained. In the end, you know there’s a lot of love. There is also a lot of mud, snow, and hunting. I’m not a big fan of hunting/fishing, but at least they eat and use what they kill. Otto raises cattle, so he doesn’t have to hunt for deer or bears. The group also have chickens, goats, and raise gardens for produce, which does get canned. You do get to see panoramas of Alaskan scenery. It is beautiful, but the cold winters are not for me.

Otto cracks me up. He has a great sense of humor and it comes out…like the time he had to move the outhouse, because a ‘poopsicle’ touched his butt. Okay, a bit TMI, but it was funny. He’s a creative guy who can fix just about anything. Every now and then, he gets a little crankly, but overall, he adds a lot of levity. I’m guessing he and Charlotte have no indoor plumbing. I was so surprised to see that Eiven and Eve had none. Eve grew up without it. Eivin did install ‘running water’, but it was a pipe connected to a creek. I was wondering how Eve was going to wash diapers without a decent washing machine. Otto and Charlotte did their laundry outside with an old wringer washer. They made it sound like ‘spring is here. Time to do laundry.’ Ga-ross! I need clean, so that wouldn’t work for me.

Side note: these families live not far from Homer, AK, and they do go to town for supplies. I’ve seen bananas at Eivin and Eve’s house and they are not grown that far north. Also, I have heard the senior members are millionaires, due to their land ownership. They do have lots of large equipment like backhoes, a barge, etc.  Also, Atz, Sr. is the father of singer Jewel and has been a musician himself. He and Jewel sing the show’s opener. This show has been nominated for an Emmy twice, for best reality series. I’m not the ONLY one who enjoys it.

Spoiler alert, if you aren’t aware of an significant member accident that takes place…skip to the next paragraph. I’m giving you a bit of space here, so you don’t see what I’m going to talk about, in case you really don’t want to know yet. What happened at the end of the season? Atz Lee was hiking and fell. He broke about 25 bones, including his shoulder, arm, ankle, hip, crushed ribs and punctured his lungs. He is on the mend, but isn’t leaving the cabin on two feet yet. We’ll find out more in the near future.  We also see the announcement of a new sibling for Eivin and Eve’s son Findley!

Alaskan Bush People has drawn controversy, because they have basically been squatters trying to homestead property and it hasn’t worked out until last season, when they bought land on the most bear populated island in Alaska, Chichagof. Many think this is a fake show with actors, but I don’t buy that. This is a real family unit headed by Billy and Ami Brown. They have five sons and two daughters. I find all of them entertaining. Similar to Alaska, the Last Frontier, they try to live off the land. Again, I know they do buy items from town and for ‘living off the land,’ the fact that they have supposedly lost everything more than once, they do seem to have a lot of things.

This family seems a bit like a throw back, since the movies they reference are mostly from the past, due to limited viewing abilities. Gabe, the jokester does a mean Sean Connery. Like Otto Kilcher, Noah is the family tinkerer who can make something from nothing, like a generator, a dumb waiter, a dryer, and a shower. Matt the eldest is often goofy and acts more like the youngest boy, who is actually the rather staid and Medieval loving Noah. Throw the task master Bam and extreme tree climber Bear into the mix and it makes for entertaining show. The girls Snowbird and Rain (Merry Christmas Catherine Raindrop) often are background players, even though Snow can out-shoot her brothers when hunting. I really would like to know more about their daily diets. They do live away from civilization. From time to time they travel to town for pizza, supplies, and women. The last one is something I think will prove challenging. Billy and Ami want the boys to marry, but they aren’t exactly ready for civilized girls. There have to be some in Alaska, since these guys are close to the median age of the population. But finding someone who will want to live in Brown town might be elusive. A matchmaker did try. I was sad when tender soul Noah’s heart was broken by a failed friendship.

The back story on Billy is that he grew up in a well-to-do Texas family and was the sole member when his mother, father, and sister were killed in a plane crash on March 3, 1969 near Lake Travis, TX. Billy Joe Brown’s co-workers took over the company and 16-year-old Billy Bryan Brown was homeless for a while. I’m not sure how all of that happened. Billy has written a book about it, One Wave at a Time, but I haven’t read it.

I like this show, once again, because of the family dynamics and their bush lifestyle. Do they make it look easy? No. Living in a log trapper’s shack with moss for chinking or a tent or in Matt’s case, a plastic wrap hut doesn’t look look appealing. They are often wet from the seemingly constant drizzle and red-faced from the cool temps. They barter a lot of make ends meet and have plenty of mishaps, like the only source of transportation sinking or floating away. I do love the love this family shares. More. It’s what they say to each other when parting, short for “I love you more.” They are a tender-hearted family and it’s touching.

Living Alaska is an HGTV show that features families who want to live in the last frontier. Would I want to live there? Not really. I do get a kick out of people who move from North Carolina to frigid temps and think it’s funny…at first. I bet they don’t after the first long winter with very dark or sunny nights and 60-below wind chills.  The people who are shocked to hear a moose or bear might go through their backyard and eat their dog or worse…keep the kiddies in sight, shock me the most. They obviously don’t research places prior to moving. Hello, people, this is Alaska and you are in the animal’s territory. Those people need to stay in the lower 48. Oh, and if you build a house in Alaska, please add a door for the bathroom, a closet for each bedroom, and don’t forget the heated garage! Even I am shocked by the lack of bathrooms with doors or lofts that count as a bedroom. In the end for me, no worries. I plan to visit the last frontier, not live there. In the meantime, I certainly enjoy all these shows that show me what life can be when you’re trying to live off the land or seeing a setting with spectacular scenery and wildlife. Unlike most, I’d be photographing the fauna, not shooting.

My only complaint about these shows? I want more episodes!

October 11, 2015 at 5:45 pm Leave a comment


What do I do when I have a few minutes to waste? Surf Zillow! Not familiar with it this website? It shows homes for sale all over the country and includes prices of existing homes, so you can get a better feel for a neighborhood, if you’re considering buying or listing your house. Or, you can just look at the homes to see how much people paid, which homes are in foreclosure, or daydream about buying that perfect beach house! They have aerial views to let you see what the house and neighborhood actually look like (Is that a dump? Are those railroad tracks? Wow, it’s only a few blocks from the beach!)

I love looking at houses and if someone would pay me to do that, it would be my full-time job. I’ve always loved the West…Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, so the other night, I spent some time on my iPad looking at homes. In Wyoming, near the Tetons or Jackson, I couldn’t find a single house I really liked and price was not an issue! I was looking for a log home that epitomized the ruggedness of the West and I didn’t see one. That surprised me. I thought for sure there would be one stunner that blew me away. I’m sure there is one, but it’s not currently on the market where I could see the interior. Every one I looked at needed changes. Granted, it’s personal preference when it comes to houses, but I was shocked that even up to $20 million, I didn’t see something that met my expectations. But, it’s free to look, so I’ll check out Colorado and Montana. Not that I’m going to buy there, as it’s tooooo cold in the winter for my likes, but with Zillow, it’s fun to see what’s out there.

I was on Zillow this morning while eating my baked oatmeal and I noticed that since I bought my house in 1998, it’s gone up about $33K. Looking at my brother’s house, because he lives in one of the priciest areas of the country, the house he bought in 2012 has gone up about $200,000. Zillow’s price estimates are a guess, but probably in the ballpark. That’s unreal to me that in such a short time, he will already make a big profit, whereas in my area, housing has been flat…which seems to be my luck in any place I’ve lived.  Another thing that amazes me, is watching shows like House Hunter’s, where even couples in their 30s, in  California, have budgets of $950,000. Not sure what their salaries are, but they must be a whole lot more than where I live. With Zillow, you can see the price of the house and get a peek at what the mortgage might be and even what the home might rent for, if you are an investor.

If nothing else, it is fun to be able to look at tons of properties for decorating ideas. Styles vary around the country and it’s evident in the photos. Zillow.com is the website and I use the app on my devices. As my grandma always said, “If you’re going to dream, dream big” and I do that by looking at homes. I may never get the 7000 sq. ft. house of my dreams, but I can look at them. Actually, right now, I’m into tiny homes, but I heard that someone hooked up a vehicle and stole one! I’m going to need a BIG anchor!

August 2, 2015 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

Bath and Body Works Lotions

I have a heightened sense of smell. Sometimes, it’s a good thing, but other times, I’m almost sorry, like when there’s a rotten potato in my bin or someone (who shall not be named) leaves a rather unpleasant fragrance in the bathroom. That being said, I LOVE pleasant fragrances! There are plenty out there, like Method’s Fresh Air laundry soap, Issey Miyake  L’eau D’issey Pour Homme Sport (calming sandalwood), flowers like daffodils and lily of the valley, and so many more.

I was surprised to find that I actually like a lot of the Bath and Body Works fragrances. (When my other half walks by that store, he waves his hand in front of his face and refuses to go in. When he walks by the perfume counters at department stores, he holds his breath. It doesn’t bother me, but then, I like potpourri and even some of the scented candles.) What are my favorites at Bath and Body? Unfortunately, they no longer carry my all-time fav, Dark Kiss in my store. I loved it and so did my mom. It is available online. I do like Pink Chiffon, Midnight Amethyst, White Citrus, Be Enchanted, and a bunch of others. I like that you can get the soap and the lotion and at Christmas, I’m addicted to the Twisted Peppermint, which smells so tasty I was to eat it! I still have some left from this past holiday and I’m going to bring it to work. I’m sure my co-workers will want to know, “Who smells like candy?” It will be me!

The best part is that they are reasonably inexpensive, especially when they are having a sale…which seems like a lot of the time. You can buy soaps, lotions, body butters (great for winter!), candles, and they have a men’s line, too. My son always uses the Whitewater Rush body wash. If you don’t mind fragrances, it’s a great place to sample some scented products and find something that appeals to you.

June 18, 2015 at 2:11 pm Leave a comment

Noosa Yoghurt

There’s a new yogurt in town. Well, at least for me, since I never heard of it prior to April. It’s Australian-style yog(h)urt that’s made in Bellvue, Colorado. No artificial preservatives, sweetened with honey (and cane sugar), and the fruit is picked seasonally at peak ripeness. It is yummy!

I eat yogurt at least a few times a week and my previous choice was Chobani, and prior to that I was eating Fage. Like Erlich Bachman pointed out on Silicon Valley, it is hard to get all the fruit sauce out of the tiny Fage container. I often resorted to using the end of the spoon handle, but still couldn’t manage to get out as much as I wanted. That frustration, and the tart taste of the yogurt, led me back to Chobani and from my visiting British houseguests, giving Noosa a try.

Unfortunately, Noosa is more fattening than I’d like (140 calories), but it is soooo creamy! I love the tart cherry flavor and even the blueberry is great. At first, I was buying the hummus size containers and having to scoop the appropriate amount into yet another container to take to work, but then, I found four-packs next to the larger size at the store. The little 4-oz. container is pretty, pretty small, but I am managing not to eat my hand off at the end of the day, as long as I eat a handful of almonds and a few Halos along with a bottle of water. It’s really only about 1.3 ounces smaller than the Chobani. They need to branch out and give me the strawberry rhubarb, passion fruit, and coconut flavors in the four-pack!noosa





May 25, 2015 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

Grace and Frankie

I didn’t have much going on today, so I thought I’d watch Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s show Grace and Frankie on Netflix. Well, there went my day! I only got up to get something to eat or drink. I have three episodes left and I’m going to be sad when it’s over. What’s it about? Not what I expected. I read briefly that it was about two adult women trying to find their way after finding themselves suddenly single again. Well, of course, I thought it was due to their spouses (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) dying, but that was not the case. I won’t ruin it for you, but it is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time that actually deals with “women of a certain age.” And, their adult children have a story, too.

What do I like about it? The banter between Jane and Lily. They have been friends for a long time, but haven’t really been themselves with each other, which often happens. It’s like being in a new relationship and both people are on, as my mom would say, “their best behavior.” This is covered in the show. It reminds me of people’s dating experiences on Match or other dating sites. If people would just be themselves and not fabricate or stretch the truth so much, more people might find matches. This is covered, too. Speaking of Match and the like, if the only photo of the person is a bit blurry or has other people’s body parts in it, they’re using it because it doesn’t really look like them. I’ve never used Match, personally, because I do have a better half, but I have helped someone else and using a photo that doesn’t really look like you is deceptive and will certainly cause an issue when you meet face to face. Not a good way to start a friendship that might lead to more.

Back to the show…I LOVE Jane’s wardrobe and I even LOVE Lily’s. They are totally opposite. Jane is subdued and classic and Lily is flamboyant and artsy. It stuck me that I thought I liked one wardrobe over the other, but I like parts of both. Jane is pencil thin and looks good in classic outfits, though I am not a fan of the turned-up collar. She rocks rolled jeans, suits, blouses snazzed up with simple jewelry, a shawl wrap, and even what looks like a cashmere robe. Her hair is perfect. Yes, she has wrinkles and I’m sure has been tweaked a bit, but she looks amazing. Lily has few wrinkles, graying hair, and also is still in good shape. She even did a squat! I was impressed. She’s 75 years old and Jane is 77! When I look back at my grandparents who were in their seventies, they were little people who looked every minute their age. These two do not. Lily’s outfits are definitely not something you’d see on most women her age. She wears lots of flowing tops with the most amazing chunky jewelry. Kudos to Allyson B. Fanger for clothing them! The houses and the wardrobe are eye candy. But I guess it’s because I love interior design and clothing.

I think it’s nice to have shows that feature women who have careers they enjoy, fears and insecurities, openly discuss women’s health, and talk about dating after being married or in a relationship for many years. I know plenty of women who have re-entered the dating pool and it’s scary. In a scene from the show, Grace ducks out of an online date when she sees the man and realizes he’s not her type. I think lots of people would like to say, “Check, please” when that happens, but are too timid and polite to do it.

I am wondering how this is going to end or if it will have another season. Part of me is thinking the marriages will repair themselves and things will work again. I hope that doesn’t happen. I also am a bit confused about the relationship between Grace and Robert’s daughter Mal and Frankie and Sol’s son Coyote. It’s sounding like they have a child together or had a child that didn’t make it or something. I’m guessing it will be addressed before the final credits roll. If you are looking for something interesting to watch, give it a try. If you are like me, you may wish to set aside a stretch of time!

July 2015 update: The show has been renewed and the new season will appear on Nexflix in 2016.


May 17, 2015 at 7:02 pm Leave a comment


Could I ever get too much pizza? I don’t think so. I love pizza…in fact, I just sent the little man to Dominos to pick up the one I ordered online. I like the tracker on the website. What kind of pizza do I realllllly like? I will eat just about anything, but I am not a fan of pepperoni. The nice part is that I can pick it off without ruining the pizza. But, I will eat almost any pizza, though I am not keen on frozen, cardboard crust versions.

I had some really good pizza last month at Dewey’s. My friend and I ordered half and half, so we could try two flavors. One was called Wild Mushroom with olive oil, minced garlic, mozzarella-fontina blend, mushrooms, Portobello mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, capers, roasted red peppers and the other was the Caprice with olive oil, minced garlic, light mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, green peppers, and fresh tomatoes. Both were good, but the addition of the goat cheese on the Caprice really added a tasty edge. The pizzas there were interesting and there were lots of options for more than your typical pizza joint offerings.

I love going to places that do wood-fired pizzas, generally because they have yummy combinations of toppings and thin crusts. I like thick crusts and even deep dish, but the wood-fired pizzas have a more distinctive flavor than pan pizzas. In Rochester, my former neighbor’s restaurant, Benucci’s, always has great pizzas like Artichoke and Pear and Gorgonzola. If you’re in Chicago, you can barely walk a block without seeing a pizza place. My current haunt is Reno Chicago with their Butternut (more butternut, please) and T. O. with chicken and peanut salsa.

Pizza I miss is from Balistreri’s in the Milwaukee area. It’s without a doubt my favorite pizza, from the cracker crust to the marinara sauce. Plus, it’s loaded with veggies, but they aren’t overwhelming in flavor.  If you are in that area, you need to try the pizza and the deep-fried eggplant! It’s a must whenever I head back to Wisconsin.

Pizza’s here and my thin crust, marinara sauce, peppers, mushrooms, onions, diced tomatoes, and black olives is really good!

March 1, 2015 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

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