Friday, November 2, 2012

New Blog!

Thanks for reading Jen's Write Side! For more snarky humor, head over to my new blog, "Snark on the Side." You'll need to update your feed reader if you would like to receive updates about new content and quirky thoughts from yours truly. 

All the best,

Friday, October 5, 2012

Locavino: Cellar 4201

It’s a gorgeous Friday afternoon in October. After a week of rain, the sky is a clear blue with a white tint on the edges of the horizon. I’m sitting on the patio of Cellar 4201, a small boutique winery in the Yadkin Valley AVA of North Carolina, surrounded by crape myrtles, ferns, and bright yellow hibiscus flowers; the whole area pock-marked with two-seater cast iron tables sporting sun umbrellas in vibrant shades of yellow and orange.

I’ve just finished a tasting with one of the owners, Greg, and have settled down to work while sipping a glass of their Cherokee Red, an oak-aged blend of Merlot, Cabernet, and Sangiovese. The nose is soft and full, with hints of cedar, chocolate, and coffee that mimic the espresso bean chocolate I tasted with the wine. The mouthfeel is pleasantly round, demonstrating rich plum and blackcurrant, with notes of raspberry and chocolate on the back end. The finish is smooth; the tannins, gentle but present.

I meet the winery mascot, a thirteen-year-old beagle named Buttercup, and spend a few minutes talking to the other owner, Donna. The patio is still wet from a hosing-down before tomorrow's fundraising event for the horse rescue operations at Hidden K Stables, so we chat about upcoming wine events in the Yadkin Valley.

Meanwhile, the poplar trees at the edge of the property are going through their own form of veraison, shading from green to yellow at the tops. It’s been an odd year for weather, Greg confirms: late freeze; spotty hot summer; rainy fall; and early, slim harvest. By now, his five-and-a-quarter acres are all safely bestowed in steel and oak inside the rustic brick winery to my right. The 2012 barrel-aged Chardonnay looks particularly promising, he says.

Cellar 4201 sells two Chardonnays (oaked and steel), a reserve Merlot, a Cabernet, the Cherokee Red, and a semi-sweet red blend called Sweet Native. All of the wines are reasonably priced at under $20 a bottle. Most are sold right here at the winery, and for good reason. I can think of few better ways to spend a Friday afternoon than with friendly people, lovely scenery, and a glass of red wine to make the hours speed by.

Thanks, Cellar 4201!

Monday, October 1, 2012

October's Child

“He is outside of everything, and alien everywhere. He is an aesthetic solitary. His beautiful, light imagination is the wing that on the autumn evening just brushes the dusky window.” - Henry James 
 That's the way October makes me feel. The air yields a crisp bite like that from a juicy apple, and the golden light of evening becomes at once more beautiful and more ephemeral. Life, full life, presses itself against your senses and threatens to vanish if you move too quickly.

Compounding this sense of fragility is the designation of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I come from a family of breast cancer survivors, so efforts to battle this disease strike particularly close to home, and it feels right that I should do my part not only to raise awareness, but also to model prevention in my own life.

Perhaps for that reason, it seems appropriate that I marked October 1 by getting my first screening mammogram. By most standards, I'm too young for this procedure, but my doctor recommended that I establish a baseline scan now because my family history renders me "at risk". So, on a drizzly, rainy Monday, I made my way to the Comprehensive Cancer Center at my local hospital.

The hospital is a labyrinth of parking decks, hallways, and long, sterile corridors with frosted glass windows and purple-tinted trashcans. I am at least twenty years younger than everyone else in the fourth-floor waiting room, and I feel out-of-place immediately. I'm sitting next to a hardy plant, distinguished from a fake only by the browning scars where anxious fingernails have scratched or pinched off the tips of the leaves. It's better than biting your fingernails, right?

The news murmurs in the background, but my head is buzzing louder. Remember: you parked in lot B, green level. Take a left. Ride the elevator from the hallway on the purple level (marked "M" in the elevator) to the green level (marked "B").

Who is here because they are dying? What an absurd but natural question to be thinking right here, right now. Who here is in pain? I am the only one not wearing tennis shoes.

The outside of the hospital is under construction, and it's an eery sound. I don't want to mistake those machines for the ones inside. I'm glad I know a little bit about what to expect. Thank you, private web browsing and a phone call to Mom. Why is it so difficult to talk about a clump of cells that have been gone for twenty-five years?

"Have a seat at the second desk on the right." It's like taking a standardized test, only not. No cell phones. Put your pencils down. But here they Scantron your body, not your paper, looking for bubbles that shouldn't be filled with cells.

It's been thirty minutes now. I think about the GRE again, showing ID and being shown to a locker. But now, "Keep your personal belongings, leave your clothes."



One hour and forty-five minutes have passed, but the test itself took only fifteen. I should have used the waiting time to cram my brain full of medical terminology, so I could understand what the technician was saying.

"No cause for concern."  I understood that much, at least. I'm free to go?

Lot B; Green Level.

Green is good. Green means "Go."

And yet, I'm one of the lucky ones. For so many women (and some men), October is full of yellows and reds. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

On Lying in Bed

G.K. Chesterton, sometimes you just get it right.
Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling. This, however, is not generally a part of the domestic apparatus on the premises. [...]

Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before. A man's minor actions and arrangements ought to be free, flexible, creative; the things that should be unchangeable are his principles, his ideals. But with us the reverse is true; our views change constantly; but our lunch does not change. Now, I should like men to have strong and rooted conceptions, but as for their lunch, let them have it sometimes in the garden, sometimes in bed, sometimes on the roof, sometimes in the top of a tree. Let them argue from the same first principles, but let them do it in a bed, or a boat, or a balloon. [...]

For those who study the great art of lying in bed there is one emphatic caution to be added. Even for those who can do their work in bed (like journalists), still more for those whose work cannot be done in bed (as, for example, the professional harpooners of whales), it is obvious that the indulgence must be very occasional. But that is not the caution I mean. The caution is this: if you do lie in bed, be sure you do it without any reason or justification at all. I do not speak, of course, of the seriously sick. But if a healthy man lies in bed, let him do it without a rag of excuse; then he will get up a healthy man. If he does it for some secondary hygienic reason, if he has some scientific explanation, he may get up a hypochondriac.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Movie Preview, 2012

So many good movies to anticipate! Ahhh!

-The Hobbit, part 1
-Les Miserables
-Life of Pi
-Wuthering Heights
-Anna Karenina
-The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Making autumn soup while I work (one of the perks of working from home).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dream a Little Dream of Me

The mental health experts would have a field day with this one... 

Scenario: The dear cat of the house encounters the crazy about 5:30 a.m. and begins running suicides across the house, ending each one by slamming against my bedroom door.

Subsequently, I have a vivid, memorable dream that I am attempting to recoup, among other things, a dozen or more loaves of sliced white bread, and I am being attacked by a gang of middle school boys brandishing sticks.

I win.

Look out, ALN.  :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

All in the Rhetoric

Last night, I watched Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention, and I was frankly captivated. What a compelling speaker she is. My next thought was that I would love to use her speech as an example for rhetorical devices and oratory in general.

The more I dig in to curriculum writing, and the more time I spend getting fired up about speeches, politics, tutoring, and even marketing, the more I wonder if I might not find my passion better met in Rhetoric and Composition. Not this year, but maybe down the road...

I'm getting back a little of my fire back, y'all. And it feels great.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

This is August, Y'all

So...the beach photos? They like to drag their feet. Walking in sand, you know, is very slow going.

However, this happened:

Then I had a brief love affair with a bag of potato chips. Or several. (The relationship may have been polygamous.)

Returning, I became an at-home professional in a new "office":

The world ended.

Just kidding. It's August, y'all. I'm not in school. This is weird.

That's all.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

This is August

I'm back.
This is me.

(This is also an open letter of apology to any human being who encounters me today.)

My beverage of the morning is a venti dark roast from Starbucks. Black.

Kindly ignore the fact that I haven't shaved my legs. I moved yesterday.

My nose is blue, and I'm not a Smurf, nor am I being abused. I play Ultimate Frisbee. The sequence of a committed, if unsuccessful, dive is this: knees, hips, elbows, nose. My injuries correspond.

I spent the evening listening to Bon Iver and alphabetizing my books. That's how I unwind. (English major.)

So buy wine from me today. The wine will be excellent. My ability to form a cohesive sentence about it may not be. Have pity.

Thank you.

Beach photos to follow.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Today's Quote

Briefly back, and currently loving this poem by St. Augustine. Pretty smart dude.

I praise the dance, 
for it frees people from the heaviness of matter 
and binds the isolated to community. 

I praise the dance, 
which demands everything: 
health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul. 

Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people, 
who are in constant danger of becoming all brain, 
will, or feeling. 

Dancing demands a whole person, 
one who is firmly anchored in the center of his life, 
who is not obsessed by lust for people and things 
and the demon of isolation in his own ego. 

Dancing demands a freed person, 
one who vibrates with the equipoise of all his powers. 

I praise the dance. 
O man, learn to dance, 
or else the angels in heaven will not know 
what to do with you.

Regular posting to return in August. Probably.  :)