The fortress of Chinon, in France's Loire River valley, is definitely on my bucket list. A beautifully restored medieval castle, Chinon figured heavily in the tales of Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years' War. But my biggest reason for wanting to visit Chinon concerns Eleanor of Aquitaine, the 11th century Queen, first of France and then of England, and mother to not only Richard the Lion Heart, but also the infamously corrupt King John.
Notes From All Over
I spent most of Friday knee-deep in Italian wine geek heaven, at the annual Tre Bicchieri tasting in New York. Tre Bicchieri highlights the best of the best of Italian wines, those very few which have won the coveted Gambero Rosso 'three glass' award. Actually, 'tasting' may not be the best description for this event. Once it gets rolling, Tre Bicchieri strongly resembles a rugby scrum....where everyone just happens to be carrying wine glasses.
There is little I love more on a cold winter's night than an interesting book. Add a warm blanket, an excellent glass of wine, and both dogs nearby....nirvana!
I come by this love of books honestly, as my two oldest sisters read to me and then taught me to read well before I went to school. We were and are a bookish family, and powered through the books available at our tiny school. When we moved, briefly, to a small city in southern Minnesota, the public library was a revelation to all of us. "So I can take any book I want home, and when I bring it back, I get more?"
I grew up outside of a very small (population ~400) town on the border of North and South Dakota, working both on my family's farm and in the small cafe we operated in town. And though farm animals can be both unpredictable and cantankerous, they had nothing on some of the cafe customers.
February 14th. Do all those hearts and flowers remind you of conscription into the Roman army? Or maybe a violent beating and beheading? Valentine, an early Christian priest, ran afoul of Roman Emperor Claudius II for secretly performing the marriage rite. Claudius had banned weddings, believing that married men did not make willing soldiers. As punishment, Valentine was publicly beaten and beheaded, his head displayed on a pike as warning to others inclined to disobey the emperor.
As I write this, the federal government is once again fully open for business. For the moment, everyone's back at work, from cleaning up the garbage at national parks, to carrying out USDA food inspections, to researching (well, maybe) climate change, and thousands of other jobs that were given short shrift during the month+ shutdown. For the moment. Because twelve days from now, we face the prospect of another one.
" DON'T LEAVE THE PATH!"
-Gandalf, in J.R.R.Tolkien's The Hobbit
If you're a Tolkien fan, I don't need to tell you that Gandalf was cautioning Bilbo and the dwarves not to stray from Mirkwood Forest's central path. If you're NOT a Tolkien fan (query: why on earth not?), then just put it this way: a variety of rather nasty things were lying in wait for those who ventured into the trees. Of course Bilbo and the dwarves didn't listen to Gandalf, and their shortcut made a good bit of trouble for them but a delicious story for us.
Sign at my gym this Friday:
This is the week most people give up on their
New Year's resolutions. Will you be one of them?
Well, I certainly don't want to be the slacker who gave up less than four weeks into the New Year, so NO.... and I have plenty of company. Almost everyone I know has started a new fitness regimen, given up major food groups, or committed to some kind of 'challenge'. It's a January kind of thing. New year, new you.
I once worked with a winery owner famous for his 'challenging' personality. He was never, ever happy with his depletions. If you had sold lots of wine A, why hadn't you also sold more of wine B? If you'd knocked it out of the park with A and B, well then what about wine C, hmm? Worse, he complained about absolutely everything, and had no filter around customers. He managed to turn customers into non-customers at an incredible rate. When he visited the US, we'd argue about whose turn it was to deal with him. Rock-paper-scissors not mine!
Scene: Snowy morning. I am dressed in winter gear and snow shoes, have two dogs on a leash, and have just climbed up from the trail to a road crossing. Woman in a car stops, rolls down window.
Woman: Are you ok?
Me (perplexed): Yes...
Woman: But are you lost?
Me (still perplexed): No...?
Woman: But you came out of the woods!
Me, pointing: There's a trail.
Woman: Why on earth would you do that?