wine by the color

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Our office is closed for the week between Christmas and New Year's for the first time, so I compiled a list of things to tackle during my idle time at home - organizing photos, cleaning out my closet, reorganizing my kitchen, ripping music onto my laptop.

And what has actually been accomplished done today?

12:25 p.m. - Got out of bed.
2:15 p.m. - Went to the grocery store.
5:00 p.m. - Watched highlights of the Packers' 1996 Super Bowl season.
7:30 p.m. - Heated a Lean Cuisine.
8:00 p.m. - Watched the last seven minutes of "Rudy."
8:05 p.m. - Cried.
8:30 p.m. - Read Us Weekly.

Yep. That looks like a productive day.

I will not be commenting on the Jets until Sunday around 6 p.m, so don't try to dragoon me into making comments like, "A Herm-led Jets' squad would have lost Monday night's game against the Dolphins." I will not say anything until Gang Green's playoff fate is confirmed.

Also, I won't be talking about the Packers, or their QB's future, until 2007, thanks to their Sunday game against the Bears being pushed to 8:15 p.m., victims (benefactors?) of the NFL flex scheduling.

Speaking of football, this may be the funniest thing I've read all year. And I read a lot of funny shit, thanks to the limitless talents of writers on the internet.

I know I'm late to the party on this one, but check it out anyway. It's a blog written in the voice of benched Dallas QB Drew Bledsoe. For my non-sports readers, he was replaced midway through the season by someone named Tony Romo. This blog is dedicated to the supposed thoughts of Bledsoe on his successor. Do yourself a favor: set aside 40 minutes and read the entire thing, starting at the beginning.

An actual conversation I had yesterday with an orthopedic neck/spine surgeon's office:

Me: "Hi, my name is Jersey Girl and I've been referred to you by Dr. Dave. I'm having some terrible trouble with my neck and shoulder. My hand has been numb for two weeks and I'm in a lot of pain."

Appointment Maker: "Oh my. Well, let's see what we can do for you. Oh, good news. We've got something on January 15th."

Me (choking on my own tongue): "Uhhhhh. Really? Well, all right."

So I have three more weeks of knife-stabbing pain and mysterious, worrisome numbness to deal with.

Cranky? Me? Nah.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jersey Girl and her three favorite crazy little people wish you and yours a very happy holiday.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Can anyone tell what the following musical artists have in common?

Christina Aguilera, Badfinger, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, Johnny Cash, Ciara, Kelly Clarkson, Destiny's Child, Bob Dylan, Elvis, House of Pain, Jackson 5, Ini Kamoze, Cyndi Lauper, Kingdom Come, Lit, Maroon 5, Pink, Nina Sky, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, and Charles Wright and the 103rd Street Rhythm Band.

Give up?

I downloaded at least one song from each of these artists from iTunes tonight. You can call me many things, but don't ever call me musically one-dimensional.

Thanks to my ongoing medical malady, and the lack of a legible MRI REPORT THAT MIGHT HELP MATTERS, I continue to suffer and thus had to cancel my plans tonight. This really irritated me, because it involved out-of-town guests and, in general, some of my favorite people.

So I decided to use the unexpectedly free evening to use the 25 remaining free downloads I received earlier this year when purchasing airline tickets from Continental. I had to use the downloads prior to Dec. 31 or lose them, so I went nuts.

I half-expect the folks at iTunes to report me to some sort of clinic for the musically bipolar.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

As annoyed as I am that I can't watch tonight's Packers-Vikings game at home, imagine how irritated the fine folks of Wisconsin who find themselves in a similar predicament must be. Oh, you don't have to imagine. You can read all about it here.

And what do they have to say?

"It's inalienable, darn it."

"The NFL can go to the place where the guy with the pitchfork lives."

I love Wisconsin.
I'm sorry there's been so little posting this week. Despite my continued misery, KT and I managed to keep ourselves entertained for a few days. Catching up quickly ... went to AC ... had an MRI ... don't have any spinal injuries, but won't know until tomorrow what does ail me because of, get this, poor penmanship on the preliminary report (WTF?) ... went to work today for the first time in two weeks but was sent home because I was in obvious agony sitting at my desk ... didn't need to wear a jacket again today due to continuing weather nuttiness.

So there you go. Aren't you glad you took valuable time out of your day for that?

Perhaps you have seen the commercial for tonight's NFL game, which may be His Holiness' last at Lambeau. The ad features Favre highlights with the Stones' "The Last Time" in the background.

I'm not ready to talk about it yet. So don't ask.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

So given the cancellation of the ski trip and my still-dicey medical situation, my cousin and I needed to find some alternate activities.

We decided to start with a history lesson. Museum? Monument? Nope, better. Today we traveled to Pottsville, Pa., home of America's Oldest Brewery.

Quite frankly, it's negligent that we haven't been there before. It took no more than 90 minutes to get there, which makes the lack of a previous visit simply embarrassing.

KT and I weren't sure we had the right place when we first drove by. It's very low-key, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It also doesn't look that big from the outside, which led us to wonder how such a small place could produce so much beer (knowing, of course, how much our family drinks of it, and knowing we're certainly not alone).

We got our answer to that, and many other questions, during the fine tour. The Pottsville brewery produces about 600,000 barrels of beer year. The Tampa facility produces 1.2 million barrels, and the new outfit in St. Clair, Pa., churns out 1.5 million barrels a year. Our tour guide did tell us that they are pretty much maxed out in terms of production, so unless they build/buy more facilities, they won't be expanding their distribution anytime soon.

A few interesting things we learned today:
-For more than 100 years, Yuengling used water from a natural spring five blocks from the brewery in its beer. For the past 40 years, they have used city water.
-The day Prohibition ended, Yuengling Brewery had a truckload of Winner Beer delivered to FDR at the White House.
-Yuengling means "Young Man" in German.
-Lager is apparently available in 22-ounce bottles, for which we'll be searching henceforth. Ten extra ounces of lager - what could be better?
-There used to be a Yuengling dairy across the street from the brewery, which made ice cream until 1981.
-The caves under the brewery were closed for many years but re-opened for Yuengling's 175th anniversary two years ago. They were so popular they remained open (and they are really cool).
-Anyone 21 and older is welcome to sample two of Yuengling's beers after the tour. We were sad it was only two, although that's completely understandable, because we'd still be in the brewery's bar.

Perhaps the most surprising thing was how many people were there. Given that it was a quiet Monday, I thought there would be a handful of folks at most taking the tour. Actual number? 26.

I think I've gotten my issues with Yahoo photos fixed, so you should be able to find a gallery from today's visit here.

History can be educational, interesting and fun. And sometimes comes with free beer. Should you find yourself near Pottsville in the near future, I'd highly recommend making a stop.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Our weather is downright bizarre.

It's so unseasonably warm that I haven't worn a jacket or turned on the heat in almost a week. As I strolled down Main Street in town earlier today, I came across a gaggle of carolers dressed in old-school Charles Dickens garb, singing Christmas favorites. Somehow, listening to "Oh, the weather outside is frightful" just doesn't have the same impact when it's 51 degrees. Tomorrow it's supposed to be 59, and Monday it's going to rise to 61. Frightful, indeed.

However, this nutty weather has helped eliminate what was going to be a difficult decision - whether or not to go skiing tomorrow. Every year, my cousin and I hit Vermont for a few days before Christmas. It's always a great time to go - the conditions are usually good and the mountain is usually empty because the kids are in school and everyone's too busy getting ready for the holidays to hit the slopes.

But earlier this week, I injured my neck and shoulder so badly (don't bother asking how - I have no idea, although the Professor insists it's an eggnog-related injury) I was having chest pains and experiencing numbness in my left hand and arm. I'm a veteran of neck and shoulder pain, but this is a whole different level. I have used the word "agony" to describe my condition at least 20 times this week. I wound up at the family doctor, who poked and prodded and subjected me to an EKG to make sure the numbness wasn't caused by anything heart-related. That all came back fine, so it was off to my chiropractor, who diagnosed a horribly (my word) pinched nerve.

It's been so unbelievably painful I considered skipping last night's holiday gathering at our dive bar with my favorite group of clowns. But I'm no quitter, so I sucked it up and headed out. And thank god I did, because I would have missed two wonderful karaoke performances - the Sandman giving me an early present with a fine rendition of "Jersey Girl" and a quartet of two short Italians and two Jewish men teaming up for a heart-warming version of Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Good times!

Anyway, given my tenuous medical situation, I knew skiing was a bad idea. If I were to fall, which is highly likely given my lack of athletic conditioning of late, it could kill me. Despite that, if the conditions were great, I'd have considered still going. Fortunately, the mushy slush that's resulted from the recent warm weather made it easy to postpone the trip.

But this means we have to come up with a Plan B to fill the next few days. We're looking at quick daily road trips and I have a few ideas. I'll let you know what we come up with.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

If I came downstairs Christmas morning to find this under the tree, I'd be mighty unhappy indeed.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

While watching "Rudy" for the 253rd time last week, I started to think about movies that make me weepy, many of which are sports movies. I am a complete sucker for the underdog sports flicks. Or dying athletes. There's nothing I love more than a tug-at-the-heartstrings sports movie. They don't even have to be good. Hell, I once cried watching the Lil' Bow Wow film, "Like Mike." Shut up. He got a new father, dammit!

But it's not just sports movies. It's everything. So I decided this sort of endeavor would call for two separate lists - sports and non-sports. Some are movies I've watched repeatedly, with tears every time. Sometimes it was just the initial viewing that caused the tear-duct breakdown.

Let's start with the non-sporting weepers (and I'll warn you, some of these are flat-out embarrassing).

10. "A Stranger Among Us." It pains me to describe this plot and then admit it made me cry. A tough female NYC cop (Melanie Griffith at her worst) and a Hasidic man fall for each other while she investigates a murder in his jewelry-dealing community. He eventually marries the woman his father has arranged for him as she looks on. It's a horrible movie.

9. "Love Story." I worked in a video store while in college, and my roommates and I decided we needed to rent this one night, having heard what a tearjerker it was. So I bought it home, we had some cocktails and popped it in. The movie runs 99 minutes. We ripped on the overacting and horrid dialogue for 93 of those minutes. And bawled for the remaining six.

8. "Up Close and Personal." I watched this a few years ago on Thanksgiving, when I was too sick to join my family and thus spent the day home alone on the couch. I was watching a harmless little romantic comedy, and then, wham, not so comedic. Perhaps it was because I was alone on my favorite holiday, but there was a lot of crying. Despite the Celine Dion theme song. Or maybe that added to the tears.

7. "A River Runs Through It." When the main character is doing the voice-over at the end, as he fishes in the river and talks about everyone being gone, it just made me very sad.

6. "Good Will Hunting." When Ben Affleck shows up on Matt Damon's door and realizes he's gone, it sets me off.

5. "Saving Private Ryan" - it's impossible to keep it together when Matt Damon falls to his knees at the cemetery.

4. "Beaches." Yes, it's the ultimate chick flick. But I've had the same best friend for 34 years, so watching a woman lose her long-time best friend is an emotional doozy.

3. "Armageddon." I'm not proud. But every time Bruce Willis says goodbye to Liv Tyler, I lose it.

2. "The Notebook." As the granddaughter of someone who suffered from Alzheimer's, this movie crushed me. I watched it while on a plane that was grounded at the terminal for hours, and the flight attendant had to provide me with a hearty stash of tissues.

1. "Shawshank Redemption." I can turn this on to the last 10 minutes, when Red is on the bus, talking about how excited he is to be visiting his friend, and then their reunion on the beach, and the waterworks kick in. Guaranteed. They're not sad tears, but they are there every time.

Huh. Who would have thought that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon would each appear in two of these movies (and, quite frankly, it would have been three except I just couldn't admit "Jersey Girl" is really on this list too).

Moving on to the ice, court and fields...

10. "Ice Castles." Yes, it's a stretch to call figure skating a sport. But it's in the Olympics, so we'll count it here. "We forgot the flowers." God help me.

9. "Remember the Titans." The knowledge that a huge number of important facts in this movie were out and out falsified did nothing to alleviate the crocodile tears.

8. "Miracle." Knowing what was going to happen, having actually watched the game in 1980, didn't help me. I saw this in the theater with BAM, and she said the best part was knowing that I would cry. And I delivered.

7. "Brian's Song." They made us watch this during class in middle school. Cruel.

6. "Field of Dreams." "Hey Dad, you wanna have a catch?" Egads.

5. "The Rookie." Tell me when Dennis Quaid realizes that half the town came to watch him when he makes it to the majors, including his semi-estranged father, that you didn't get worked up. No? Heartless wenches.

4. "Rudy." I hate Notre Dame. But the first time I watched this, I was all but sobbing when he finally made it into an ND uniform, and when he gets carried off the field. Ok, I WAS sobbing. A friend happened to call and heard me breathlessly crying, and asked, "Oh my God, is everything ok?" to which I replied, "I'm watching a movie. I'll have to call you back."

3. "The Champ." This flick came out in 1979, so if you haven't seen it by now, you're probably not going to. Therefore, I'm not going to ruin this tale of a boxer and his little boy by pointing out this weepy scene.

2. "Something for Joey." One of two TV movies on the list ("Brian's Song" is the other). The true story of a Penn State football player who wins the Heisman Trophy while his young brother is dying from leukemia. I remember watching it as a kid and thinking I'd never see anything sadder. And I didn't even realize it was a true story at that time.

1. "Million Dollar Baby." I started crying about 2/3 of the way through this one, when Hilary Swank tells Clint Eastwood, "I've got nobody but you, Frankie," and the tears continued until after the credits finished rolling. I have only seen this movie once, in the theater, and I think that might be the only time I ever see it. It devastated me. We had to sit there for a few minutes so I could compose myself to drive home.

I called my mother the next day, as she and my father had already seen it, and yelled at her for not warning me. Her response: "What was I supposed to say?" Fair enough.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something important. Please feel free to point it out.
Apparently I live in the safest neighborhood in the country.

I went out for a day of shopping (and an afternoon of $1.25 Yuengling drafts, god bless happy hour) with an old friend and arrived home 11 hours later to realize I didn't close my front door upon leaving. Not that it wasn't locked. It was wide open. As a veteran of the home invasion, I'm usually much more careful. That's what I get for allowing a six year old to be in charge of closing the door and not checking to make sure he actually did it (trust me, I don't feel good about blaming a child, but facts are facts).

I had a horrible sickening feeling as I ran up the stairs, but soon realized all was fine, as my laptop was sitting on the coffee table and the television and TiVo were untouched.

It's the second Christmas miracle in a week. Last week, when I put the lights on the Christmas tree, they all worked. No profanity, no temper tantrums. Definitely a first.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Stench (n) [stench] - 1) an offensive smell or order; stink; 2) a foul quality

Also see: The Jets' effort yesterday.

I can't understand how a team can look so good one week and then look like a JV squad the next. Particularly a team with a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. Conversely, the Packers couldn't do anything right against the Jets last week, but yesterday went and beat up on the 49ers.

As the holiday season rapidly approaches, might I provide my annual reminder that egg nog and other alcohols (for instance, red wine and/or beer, as we tried yesterday, or red wine and blackberry brandy, which we gave a go last year), do not mix.

I'm here to help.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It’s not often my horoscope leads to hearty laughter, but today’s did…

Suddenly, you find it in your heart to forgive your enemies, perhaps because now enough time has passed. But more likely because you think it would annoy them.

Hee! If only I had some suitable enemies.

That wasn’t the only gem in today’s rag. There was a bevy of highlights in the police blotter (names removed because I felt like it)…

-A 39-year-old man was cited for excessive noise after a neighbor complained to police. Police have been called about noise from the condominium unit six times this year, according to the police report. He reportedly explained to police, “This is the only way to watch a movie.”

-The next day, this same audio-challenged gentleman was arrested for threatening to damage his neighbor’s truck and banging the walls in his condo while screaming profanities.

-A 34-year-old man told police someone stole his debit card number and made $1,457 in purchases at liquor stores in Connecticut.

-Police were called to BJ’s Wholesale Club for a person creating a disturbance. Upon arrival, a 45-year-old man was charged with inhaling fumes of a toxic chemical for the purpose of causing a condition of intoxication.

It puzzles me that newspaper circulations are down. Information dissemination aside, don't people realize the wondrous entertainment potential?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I spent a few hours at the local Borders tonight, wrapping gifts as a volunteer for a literacy program. The wrapping itself was uneventful, as I applied Christmas and/or Chanukah (why the different spellings, my Yiddish friends?) paper to a grand total of three items in two hours, although I'm happy to report I collected a solid amount of donations, from people who gave money but didn't want anything wrapped. I knew the bustier was a good idea.

But there was excitement in the store, thanks to a book signing by someone I've never heard of, but who had a line of at least 200 people waiting for him by the time he walked in the door.

Does anyone know Jim Cramer? Apparently, he's the money guru on CNBC, and his new book came out yesterday. And tonight, he was in our neighborhood. After watching how many people bought this bought in advance of his arrival, I expected him to breeze in with an entourage featuring at the very least a publicist, but when he showed up, he was solo and simply walked in the door and said to me, "Uh, hi, I'm supposed to sign some books tonight?"

As I was leaving, I could hear whooping and hollering from the back corner. People were FIRED UP about Jim Cramer. Mad Money, indeed.

While I sat at the wrapping table, the guy coordinating the book signing told us about a recent Nicole Richie signing. Did I look like the wrapper who would be interested in Nicole Richie? Um, ok. Apparently, it was their most successful signing ever, for which thousands (his words) of people showed up. He told me she was very nice, and surprisingly humble.

Speaking of money matters, is there any better feeling than putting on a piece of clothing you haven't worn in several months and finding dollar bills in the pocket? I think not, unless it's then putting your other hand in the other pocket and finding more money.

When I got home tonight, I decided that nothing would go better with a "Biggest Loser" viewing than some wine. After opening a new bottle, I had some trouble getting the cork off the corkscrew. So I used my teeth to remove the cork.

Because I see that in Wine Spectator all the time.

Finally, I tried to find the Bud Light commercial with the rubber floors and bouncing beers, because it makes me laugh every damned time and I thought I'd share the joy with you.

Instead, I found this. And, on the other end of the spectrum, this.

Wine by the Color. We're all about keeping you on your toes.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Kids, we have a LOT to talk about.

For now, I am going to skip my issues getting to Chicago on Friday. As soon as I finish my letter to the evildoers at Continental Airlines, I'll post it and that should help paint a good picture of my adventures. But just know that around 8 p.m. Friday, I sent the following text message to the Sandman: Here's something to look forward to - an upcoming blog entitled, "the filthy (very bad four-letter c-word) from Continental who caused me to miss my flight." It should be a real doozy.

Thus, ignoring that temporarily, I arrived in Chicago around midnight, and was greeted by the lovely Megan. The next morning, after retrieving my luggage from someone in an industrial complex parking lot, we enjoyed some important television programming (there's no better way to get me hooked on a show than lines like: "I just love making out with people. It's like, my thing"), had lunch and headed due north for Sheboygan. After quick stops to buy warm boots and visit a castle of cheese, we arrived in Megan's hometown.

I hate to say this about my soul sister, but Megan is a big liar. Sheboygan, or She-Vegas, as the locals call it, is fantastic. The city has small-town charm, is on the water, and features a slew of bars. Really, what more do you need? Two wonderful parents who made me feel so welcome I felt like I'd been there many times before, despite this being my first visit? Yep, Sheboygan has that too.

After a delicious dinner with her fantabulous parents Saturday night, we met up with a friend of mine who happens to be living in Sheboygan for a few months and proceeded to a local tavern, where we watched Rutgers lose a heartbreaker to West Virginia. (As a sidebar, Schiano is staying? Very good news for R-U Rah Rah. I'm not shocked - I didn't think he'd want to walk into the shit-mess that is Miami football at this point.)

Sunday morning, after piling on enough layers to look like Randy Parker, we headed north to Green Bay. Anticipation hung heavy in the air, as did frigid weather conditions. But only once during the day did I think we might freeze to death, during the walk from the car to the tailgate at this little joint. The wind was whipping and my face and feet began to freeze immediately. But we remedied that with footwarmers and screwdrivers and it didn't really bother me again.

After several hours at the tailgate, including some time with fellow Jet fans (of whom there were a surprising number, but I attributed that to the lure of Lambeau and the hard-core nature of the J-E-T-S faithful), we headed to the Frozen Tundra. After a brief, unpleasant run-in with one of Green Bay's finest, who felt I didn't have the right to carry my little backpack into the stadium, we were sitting on the metal bleachers of Lambeau (albeit, thankfully, with padded seats under our derrieres).

Lambeau is amazing. Certainly the best professional football stadium I've visited. I don't know that there's a bad seat in the house. And it snowed, so I got the full Frozen Tundra experience, which is exactly what I wanted. The people sitting near us were all quite friendly, even after discovering my allegiance to the visiting team.

As for the game...

Prior to my trip, I fielded quite a few queries regarding which team I'd be supporting. I had two hopes for Sunday's game - that His Holiness would play well but that the J-E-T-S would win, thus keeping them in the hunt for a playoff spot.

I got one of the two.

There are a few potential explanations for what happened Sunday:
1. His Holiness was nervous, feeling extra pressure to perform well knowing I was in the stadium.
2. His Holiness was felled by the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.
3. The Packers are a horrible football team.

We'll take votes until midnight, but I'm pretty sure #3 is going to be your runaway winner. Here's the Green Bay paper's round-up of Favre's Day.

Favre said walking off the field at halftime with the Packers down 31-0 was one of the low points of his career.

"I haven't ever seen anything like that," Favre said. "I was hoping I'd never see anything like that in my career."

It was painful to watch at times. It's not entirely his fault, because his supporting cast is young and providing very little help and the coaching is A-trocious. But he's definitely struggling, and although it wasn't enough to ruin my pilgrimage to the holy land, it did diminish my enjoyment a bit. I didn't see any exuberant running around the field, and I was really looking forward to that.

So that's the bad news. The good news is that the Jets looked really good, albeit against the worst defense I've seen in person all year, including Syracuse's effort against Rutgers. Gang Green didn't punt until more than midway through the fourth quarter.

Admittedly, I was skeptical when the Jets hired a head coach younger than me. But Mangini deserves a good look for Coach of the Year honors. This year's personnel isn't that much different than last year's, outside of Pennington remaining healthy, and the Jets are 7-5 and a possible playoff team. I've said it before, but at no point did I expect them to have a winning record, let alone in December.

One thing that did amuse me was the Green Bay crowd's sheer indignity that the Packers were being blown out by the Jets. Apparently, the home crowd doesn't think a whole lot of the Jets' success this season. Oh, and as the Jets built their lead during the first half, the woman behind us continued to hope that the Jets "get cold, because that's the only way we're coming back." Hee!

After the game, we wandered around Lambeau a bit, then enjoyed some post-game antics on the streets surrounding the stadium. It was then time to return to Sheboygan, where we met up with friends for dinner, including fried cheese curds, and some fine Milwaukee beer.

Monday, I got the five-star tour of Sheboygan. It's right on Lake Michigan, and has a lovely downtown area. It's somewhere I could imagine living, although Megan insisted that was crazy talk brought on by a Favre-induced fog.

Yahoo Photos is being a pain in my ass so I can't figure out how to directly link to slideshows. However, if you go here, and then select Slideshow, you should be able to check out the highlights of the weekend. I amused myself with the captions, which will provide more details about the trip.

So this was my time in America's Dairyland. The hell with good times - this was EXCELLENT times all around. I'd highly recommend checking it out if the opportunity presents itself.

I'll be back, Wisconsin. I'll be back.

Friday, December 01, 2006

As has been previously mentioned, I'm not very good with numbers, so I'm having trouble figuring out how many hours this is.

But it seems like a very long time, no?