Monthly Archives: April 2014

Naughty wine no-no’s

Wine no-no's WTF-AmyYes, I am guilty of doing some things with wine that would make certain people gasp.  Please, learn from my mistakes. Like your parents told you, do as I say not as I do…yeah, I know. It doesn’t work.

WTF-Amy’s Top 4 wine no-no’s list

  1. Ice cubes in white wine.  My sister and I are guilty of this crime against wine.  You can see the evidence in the above photos. Yes, it waters down the wine and it’s especially heinous to do this to good wine.  It’s one thing to do it to a bottle of two buck Chuck, it’s another to do it to a $30 bottle from your wine club.
  2. Dinner parties. Some good advice I once read said that you should only bring a bottle of wine you are willing to lose. That doesn’t mean bring a crappy bottle. It means you might not get to drink what you bring, but taking it back would be so bad, so you should bring something good enough to share, but won’t break your heart if you don’t get to drink it.
  3. Milk or milk products in wine glasses.  Wine glasses can pick up odors, so no matter how much you clean them, there could always be a rotten milk smell to the glasses…slight as it might be.
  4. Filling the glass to the top.  I’m OK with this one at a restaurant…because I’m probably paying by the glass, but otherwise, no. The wine needs to breathe and I’m a little clumsy. Picking up a full glass is pretty much going to result in a nice red spot on your lovely white tablecloth. Do us all a favor and adhere to the 2/3 rule.  There’s always more wine in the bottle…or another bottle.

Are there any other wine no-no’s that should be on this or future lists?

Family Connection Travel: Santa Barbara Mission

The other day was DNA day, which got me thinking about family.

Previously, I lived in California. My father’s side of the family settled much of California. They came up from Mexico (which as then part of Spain) in the late 1700s and founded many of the big cities. One such city is Santa Barbara. About 5 years ago, I visited there for the first time.

What a lovely place! If you live in California, I highly recommend you visit. If you don’t…I still recommend you visit. Continue reading

Five Road Trip Tips…say that five times fast.

5-Road-Trip-Tips-WTF-AmyA year ago, I went on the road trip of my life. I packed up my Beetle and moved from California to Minnesota to move in with my then boyfriend (now husband). I picked up a few road trip tips along the way. Like don’t drive through Wyoming in months that aren’t June, July or August or you’ll get trapped by a snowstorm.

My family was big on road trips when I was growing up, so I’m a pretty seasoned road tripper. Is that like a Day Tripper? Now I’ve got that song in my head. Continue reading

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies-WTF-AmyI’m not a fan of fancy cookies. Just because it looks pretty doesn’t mean it tastes good. The first cookie I ever learned to make from scratch were chocolate chip cookies. The recipe is fairly simple, but making a good cookie takes talent.

Or maybe it just takes scientific knowledge? I’ve always thought baking was more scientific than cooking. You can’t really fudge the basic ingredients too much.  I mean have you ever forgotten to put enough flour in a batch of cookies?  How about the baking soda? You can forget to put salt on meat and it will still be edible.  In cookies? Not so much.

But, how do you get chocolate chip cookies to be soft?  The trick I’ve found is brown sugar.  This recipe only uses brown sugar. Also, I add in a teaspoon of molasses to give it a little more softness. I could probably add in a tablespoon and it would be OK, but again, science.

The best recipe I’ve found comes from Crisco. Odd, I know, but I use Butter Flavor Crisco in the recipe.  I swear it’s the brown sugar that makes it so good.  I suggest you get dark brown sugar.  Also, don’t cheap out on the chocolate chips. Use good ones like those by Ghirardelli or Guittard.

Anyway, here is the recipe if you are too lazy to click through to the Crisco site.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe type: Baked Goods
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Recipe from:
  • ¾ stick Crisco® Baking Sticks Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
  • 1¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1¾ cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 (6 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)
  1. HEAT oven to 375ºF.
  2. COMBINE shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in egg. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into shortening mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
  3. DROP by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
  4. BAKE 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies, or 11 to 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.
  5. TIP * If nuts are omitted, add an additional ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.


I think chocolate chip cookies are my favorite not only because of the chocolate, but because of the memories of childhood they evoke. Memories of baking them with my mom, eating them with my sister…good times. What’s your favorite kind of cookie?

Amador County Wine

wineries, amador county, wine, northern california, sierra nevada foothillsWhen most people think of California wines, they immediately think of Napa. Some even know about Sonoma County, which is right next door to Napa County.  What most people don’t know is that hidden in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains is Amador County and its wine.

The Amador County wine making area has some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted.  Granted, my palate isn’t that refined, but I know what I like.  The area is known for Barbera, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Vioginer.  I’ve also had some great Tempranillo, Mourvedre, and Primitivo…not to mention a lovely Sauvignon Blanc or two.

Continue reading

Travel: Best hotel room amenities?

Best hotel amenities, good amenities, hotels, coffee, robes, bottled waterAnyone who has stayed in a hotel more than once has that one favorite hotel room amenity that makes them happy when they see it. Sometimes it’s an unexpected item or brand in the bathroom that makes you squeal with delight…ok, maybe just for a few seconds.

Best hotel room amenities: Amy edition

For me, it’s a Keurig brewer.  In fact, when I’m researching hotels and they state that the brewers are in their rooms, I bring my own coffee.

I’ve seen robes, bottles of water, and yes, even wine.  The wine wasn’t free, but it was in the room, which was very convenient. One hotel room had a makeup remover and show cleaner in the bathroom. Definitely unexpected, but appreciated.

I would like to see little bottles Lysol.  Yes, I know. Hotel rooms are supposed to be clean, but let’s face it. They’re not.

At this point, hairdryers, irons, and extra pillows/blankets are to be expected. WiFi should also be all in hotel rooms.  It should also be free or at least already included in the price. How hotels get away with charging extra for it is beyond me.

Hard to find best hotel room amenities

Oddly enough, it’s difficult to find shower caps. It seems that you have to request those from housekeeping most of the time. I do know that you can usually request toothbrushes, razors, and even sanitary products from housekeeping.  Hyatt Hotels have a list of what you can request for free, or even borrow.

Oh, let’s not forget…bedside plugs to charge your smart phone or tablet. Seriously, why don’t more hotels have this amenity? It seems so simple, yet so hard to find.

So, what’s one of the best hotel room amenities you’ve experienced?

Tips for hosting a wine tasting party

how to, throw, a wine tasting, partyHave you ever been to a wine tasting party? Want to know how to throw a wine tasting party? You don’t have to know wine to have a good time at this party. You just have to know what you like.

Hosting one is easier than it sounds. You get a bunch of friends together. Everyone brings their favorite bottle of wine and an appetizer to share. See half of the work is already done!

Continue reading

Hotel Review: Avatar Hotel, Santa Clara, CA

During our honeymoon, we stayed at this funky, cute hotel located in the Silicon Valley. We were on a road trip around the Bay Area and I chose this hotel because they had a picture of a toy Bender from Futurama on their website. I hadn’t stayed at a Joie de Vivre hotel before, but if the Avatar is anything like the others, they will definitely be on my radar in the future.

My first impression upon arrival was that it might have been an old Howard Johnson at some point in its life. The grounds look as though the are in the process of being revamped. Like, they were dirt and a chain-link fence.  It wasn’t really a big deal.

reviews, hotels, bay area, silicon valley Continue reading

Food Friday: Quick and easy smoothies

Wine, travel, foodThe warmer weather is going to be here soon, even if it did snow last night in my neck of the woods… Sometimes you want something nutritious, but also quick.  Those two things don’t always go hand in hand, but below is my easily adjustable recipe for a delicious smoothie.

The secret is to use frozen fruit.  It keeps for a longer time in the freezer and it’s already cold, so you don’t have to add ice to cool down the smoothie.

My smoothies usually have these key ingredients:

  • Frozen fruit
  • Yogurt
  •  Juice

I’m guessing most of you probably already have these ingredients in your home. But do you have a blender? Of course, you do. And no, you don’t need one of those $700 fancy blenders.  If it will crush ice, it will work.  Do you make margaritas with it? There you go.

Dump in some of your favorite frozen fruit. I prefer strawberries and blueberries.

Follow up w/an individual sized container of yogurt. Usually I choose either strawberry or blueberry.

Then pour in your favorite fruit juice, mine is orange.

Hit blend and voila! Smoothie!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with other ingredients. Need some protein? Maybe a dollop of peanut butter? I’ve never put kale in a smoothie, but that seems to be trendy right now.  Remember wheat grass? Is that the green stuff?

Either way, my smoothie recipe has to be better for you than a deep fried piece of beef.  Mmm. Beef.