Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year, 2016!

Whether you are looking for celebratory drinks, gifts, or just ideas for the future – Valentine’s Day is just around the corner – you’ve come to the right place.

Reds for Your Table…
I’m not a big red wine drinker, but I’ve learned to recognized what makes a good red. Sometimes I even find one that I really want on my own dinner table. I found two that fit that category this month:

George Dubceuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2015
This wine is a meal in a glass. You’ll get the spice in the front and the fruit in the back, while it’s rich and jammy throughout. You could pair this with just about anything, but I prefer to sip and savor. Best of all, it’s under $15!

Masciarelli Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d ‘Abruzza DOC
I love to cook Italian food and I’m always in search for that Italian wine that will complement the meal. I opened a bottle of this Montepulciano (an Italian grape) and it worked perfectly with my Baked Ziti and Italian meatballs. It’s not too dry and full of fruit. The retail price is under $30.

For Celebrating…
I confess that Freixenet was my go to sparkler 20 years ago and I’m certainly not the only one. The company has been making this cava since the 19th century. The latest vintage works just as well as it did the first time I served it New Year’s Eve. Cordon Negro is their signature sparkling and it creates a nice balance between sweet, dry, and fruity. It’s also still about $12.

Something Sweet…
Leer Vineyards considers giving back as important as making wine. They have sustained three partnerships with charities: Special Kids Blend to donate to The Special Kids Foundation in Brentwood, California; Heroic Red and Valiant White for the Military Warriors Support Foundation; and CoCo Blend, which gives some of its proceeds to K9 Paw Print Rescue.

I tasted the Valiant White and Heroic Red. The white is a moscato, sweet and filled with flavors of apricot and peaches. The red is the total opposite, dry and tobacco like, with lots of pepper and a bit of fruit (it’s a blend of syrah, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon.

And Speaking of Charity…
I received a beautiful turquoise bracelet from World Vision and I highly recommend checking out their catalog next time you need a gift. This organization helps provide food for those in need, and stop exploitation of girls and women around the world.

If you don’t find anything to purchase, you can still make a donation at World Vision which goes directly to your choice of items, such as sending a girl to school, buying a goat for a family, or giving a fishing kit to someone who will use it to bring food to their kids. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Additions to Your Holiday Shopping List

Whether you are doing shopping for yourself or someone on your holiday list, you can’t go wrong with these items I’ve fallen for lately.

I’ve heard a lot about this travel friendly company, but I never imagined just how good they were until I got one of my own. I chose the Sterling Jacket, which also converts to a vest. It’s form fitting and flattering, with an amazing array of pockets so you can secure everything from your water bottle to your keys to your passport. I also happen to love the Boysenberry color.

SCOTTeVEST is the perfect gift for travelers, and I also suggest you pick up one of your own. Check for specials on their website.

Pistachio Chewy Bites
One of the things you should stock your SCOTTeVEST with is a package of Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites. These delicious snacks are also nutritious. A packet of two – which is about the size of an average protein bar – has 7 grams of protein, and only 8 grams of sugar, with low glycemic agave nectar. The ingredients are simply pistachios, cranberries, and the sweetener. Keep in mind that the calorie total is a little high at 210, so stick to just one of the bites if it’s an after meal snack.

Purchase the Setton Farms Pistachio & Cranberry Chewy Bites at Amazon.

The Kitchen Bounty Amazing Rubs
I could rave about the products – and cooking – by Terri Bergman all day. Here’s one of The Kitchen Bounty items which is a perfect gift for this season. Make sure you also get some extra to keep in your kitchen. I cook with them all the time. 
 The Amazing Rub Trifecta
This includes three of The Kitchen Bounty’s best seasonings: Amazing Rub, for caramelizing and flavoring meats and vegetables; Amazing Heat, a mixture of spice for your spiciest creations; and Amazing Herbs, a blend of cheese and herbs that can be used in just about anything.

The Amazing Rub Trifecta is available at

2014 Sterling Vineyards Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay                               
If you are looking for a special wine to serve or give this season, pick up a bottle of this. It’s a full-bodied chardonnay, filled with butter and oak for a complex mouthful you won’t soon forget.

You can get Sterling’s Vintner’s Chardonnay at their winery or online.

Villa Gemma Bianco IGT Colline Teatine IGT
This wine is well worth its $15 price for a food-friendly white. It’s not overly fruity and just has a bit of lemon so you can serve it with anything.

Check the Villa Gemma website for where to buy this wine.

Tanqueray Bloomsbury
One of the reasons I love gin is because everyone is different. As long as you have some juniper in the final spirit, it doesn’t matter what other fruits, herbs, and flowers you put in there. Tanqueray Bloomsbury is a perfect example of that. Instead of the more common heavy citrus, this delicious gin has taste and nose filled with herbs and fruit, with the cassis and juniper standing out.

Whether you are already a gin lover or love to experiment with interesting spirits, read more about Tanqueray Bloomsbury

Cash Back!                                                        
I’m all about easy rebates and I have to highly recommend these three sites for getting cash back on online purchases of just about everything. I belong to all three check each of these before buying for coupons and cash back. Although Giving Assistant doesn’t have quite as many offers as the others, it’s worth a check because in addition to giving you cash, they donate meals.

Here are the links to sign up. Sign up bonuses are usually available too.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Things You Must Taste and Try

First and foremost, I’d like to give a shout out to Tishbi Winery for a most memorable experience on my recent trip to Israel. If you make it to the Tel Aviv area this place is worth a trip for both the wine and food, but you don’t have to go there to experience the wine as it is exported.

You can’t go wrong with anything here, but the Brut Sparkling and Viognier are my favorites.

One of the most memorable things I ever did was to spend a weekend in a cottage in the middle of a vineyard. It was on the property of Donnafugata in Pantelleria, Italy.

During those three days, and in the following days at their Marsala winery, I was able to taste and enjoy many Donnafugata wines.

I recently received some of Donnafugata's latest vintages and they are even better than ever. They are also still readily available in the U.S. so pick up…

Sedara-A bit of fruit and a bit of spice make this red, made mostly with Nero d’Avola grapes, easy to pair with anything;
Anthilia-This Catarrato blend is citrusy, especially with grapefruit, and also has notes of floral, making it a good mix with light pasta or fish;
Lighea-When I was in Sicily, this quickly became my favorite wine. It’s made from the Zibibibo grape and while it’s described as dry, I call it more “crispy” and full of flavors, including white peach.

I’m always interested in checking out new travel products and a few came to my attention that I really liked:

Totlogic 2 in 1 Wash & Shampoo-This is gentle, child safe, and smells great. It leaves my hair and skin softer than any other two in one product I’ve tried. Also, I found it gentle enough to wash my clothing items with in the sink while traveling. You can order TotLogic 2 in 1 Body Wash & Shampoo here. 

Thinoptics-I’ve previously mentioned Thinoptics, the thin, flexible reading glasses that can attach to your phone. They’ve since upped the design and offered more options. If you haven’t checked them out previously, now’s the time to buy Thinoptics .

Dreft Pre-Treater-Speaking of washing clothes, I often change hotels every night on trips and don’t get a chance to wash and hang dry. That can do damage to clothes if you let stains sit – and I always manage to wear some of my food on the run. Dreft now has a pre-treater for stains in a squirt bottle for your suitcase, or a pen for your bag, and it works quite well.

Znzi Travel Pillow-I have tried a number of different travel pillows and have yet to find one worth lugging around – until now. Znzi uses magnets to easily change to one of six comfortable positions. It’s also light and easy to carry and will be with me from now on. I am even buy a few for gifts this upcoming holiday season.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Wine and Spirits to Warm your Fall

It’s that time of year when a chill starts to come into the air. What better way to warm up than with a glass of something tasty. Here are some of my recent finds.

Walnut Street Winery Shanle Tropical Breeze
This small winery in the suburb of Rochester, Illinois, went big, using grapes from all over the world and then blending the raw grapes into their own products. I’ve only tried one so far and it’s a winner. The Shanle Wines Tropical Breeze is an ideal viognier, easy drinking with light citrus and tropical notes.

Baglio Di Pianetto Ficiligno Viognier
This viognier from Sicily is quite different than the Shanle. It’s not quite as sweet and easier drinking, with hints of kiwi and lemon.

Vigna di Pettineo
Also from Sicily are two wines for those who want drier reds. Vigna di Pettineo Nero d’Avola is an excellent choice with strong chocolate flavors. It’s got a Chianti-like taste, dry, but fruity.

Vigna di Pittineo also has a Sedara which is well done, but very dry, with pepper and smooth tobacco notes.

Little Black Dress
If you are looking for an inexpensive Pinot Noir that even a non-pinot drinker (like me) will enjoy, this is the one. You’ll notice it’s lighter on the tobacco and pepper than most pinot noir, but has enough flavor to keep your interest.

Also from Little Black Dress is a Rose Pinot Grigio that was a nice change. It had a nice strawberry flavor, but it wasn’t too overpowering. Just make sure you chill this one well for full flavor.
Frontera Pinot Grigio, Concha Y Toro
This is the wine you want to stock up on and keep in your refrigerator. At only $11 a bottle, this Chilean pinot grigio is what you pull out when the neighbors drop by to sit on the porch, or when you don’t know what to bring to a large dinner party that will require more bottles than your budget will take, but you want to make a good impression. 

Frontera Pinot Grigio a very light wine with subtle notes of pear and just a bit of honeysuckle. It will go with everything.

New Amsterdam Pineapple Vodka
For a while, it seemed as if flavored vodkas were being delivered to my door all the time. It was the spirit to make and I tasted the good, the bad, and the ones that should not have wasted a bottle. It’s been months since I’ve gotten any flavored vodka, but this one was worth the wait. New Amsterdam did Pineapple Vodka just right, with lots of fruit flavor while keeping it from getting too sweet.

I’m fine with this just on the rocks, but a little coconut water could make a very light pina colada.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Some Products that Take You (and your family) Back to School

GoMacro Bars
Having a few nutrition bars in my bag and carry-on is essential to my trips. I don’t want to always be relying on expensive, and often unhealthy, snacks. The problem is that most of these bars have chocolate in or on them. While chocolate is one of my favorite things to eat, it also melts all over everything when the weather is warm.

GoMacro Bars come in a dozen different non-chocolate flavors. They are also vegan and gluten-free. The minis – which are a decent size – are only 100 calories and have just 5-6 grams of sugar. My favorites are banana + almond butter and sesame butter + dates, but, honestly, I have enjoyed every single one.

You can purchase GoMacro bars here

WildKin Kids Luggage
These Wildkin Kids backpacks are fun and practical for kids to travel with (or bring to school). They are durable and clean easily. These twins, whom I travel with often, really enjoyed them and were ready to get them packed.

You can find Wildkin Kids backpacks and luggage on their website.

I confess that I am not a big proponent of vitamins and supplements. I take very little so I wasn’t too sure about these vitamins aimed at kids in a powdered form.

It turns out the kids love them and they seem to be healthy with no artificial flavors or colors, and no major allergens -- egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish or shellfish. (I do have to say, though, that despite the fact that they don’t contain shellfish, they do contain quite a bit of Iodine so you might want to avoid them if you have a shellfish allergy, which I do.)

In addition to giving the flavorful packs to kids, you can sneak more vitamins into snacks, such as this yogurt pop recipe:

Packet alternaVites
Cup of Yogurt
Fresh Fruit
Popsicle Sticks

Mix alternaVites into yogurt along with fruit. Put a popsicle stick in the middle of the yogurt and freeze for at least one hour.

Experiment with different alternaVites and yogurt flavors, as well as your favorite fruits.

FlipStir Puzzle
Keep the younger ones happy and occupied with this self-contained puzzle while you are helping older ones with homework, or even carpooling.

Buy one here.

(Special thanks to my young product testers.)

Kudos to Dawn for creating StyleRx, a stylish way to carry your vitamins, supplements, and medications. The case is very attractive and can easily slip into your suitcase or carryon. It’s set up for a week’s worth of pills, but only for those that take a few a day. The only other downfall is that it is a little heavy for the purse. I’d stick to for travel.

StyleRx medication holders are available in a variety of designs.

And, for the end of the day, to remind you it’s still summer…
I did some reminiscing about my amazing Sicily adventure while tasting the latest from Donnafugata. These wines were even better than I remembered…

Lighea, Lemony and light

Sur Sur, tropical paradise, the perfect light white for sauvignon blanc lovers like me

Anthila, for lovers of chardonnays that haven’t been over-oaked

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Fun Products to Add to Your Travels

The rain has finally stopped in the Midwest and the temperatures have started to soar. Summer is definitely here. With the season has come a lot of products I don’t usually get. So, pull up a chair and get ready to take some notes!

Timi & Leslie Bag
When I was first asked if I wanted a sample of the Timi & Leslie diaper bags – used by many celebrities – I was quick to turn it down. Then, on the PR rep’s urging, I took a look at the bags on the site and I was sold. They are beautiful and functional as both diaper bags and travel bags.

I recently took my Hannah Pastel bag on my Croatia trip and I loved it. It has a separate zippered sac and clutch purse, and lots of pockets. I loved the outside pockets for my water bottle and cell phone.

For those of you that actually need a diaper bag, it also has a changing pad, an insulated bottle tote, and a stroller strap.

Pick up your own Timi & Leslie bag here. I love the lilac and navy.

InsectLogic Natural Bug Repel Gel
Yes, this all natural gel appears to work. I had it on for two nights and did not get a single bite, despite it being a mosquito filled summer (thanks to the rain). The only downside is that it does smell slightly like bug spray, but much less than others and it’s gentler on your skin.

Blue Chair Bay Rum
Kenny Chesney's Blue Chair Bay has two new rums and they are well worth picking up. The Banana Rum Cream is a cocktail of its own and, in the lazy days of summer, it’s nice to just pour something over ice and not have to start mixing.

The Blue Chair Bay Vanilla Rum is also quite good, though I found it too sweet on its own. Pour in some soda – plain was fine for me – and you’ll be good to go.

Visit the Blue Chair Bay Rum website for more information.

Nolet’s Gin
I know many people say that gin and tonic is a summertime drink, but it happens to be my favorite cocktail any time of year. I had yet to try Nolet’s Silver Gin and was excited when I received the bottle. It didn’t let me down. It’s a nice combo of floral and fruit, but enough juniper that you have no doubt what spirit it is.

Oliver Winery Soft Red
If you are looking for an inexpensive ($7.50) wine for summer barbecues that will work on its own or fruity for sangria, look no further than Oliver Winery’s Soft Red. It’s a bit sweet and a bit fruity, but neither is powerful. It’s a very easy drinking wine.

Woodbridge Pinot Grigio by Robert Mondavi
Here’s the answer for those who prefer the whites. Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi not only has a selection of low budget white wines, but they come in 1.5 leader bottles. The Pinot Grigio is a nice light one you can drink on its own, or mix into a white sangria. (I love white sangria with peaches and pears.)

Check out all the 1.5 liter Woodbridge wines available.

Cork Pops VinOice
I remember when the Corksicle came out. I thought it was a great invention and I still do. Now, I’ve got VinOice in front of me. It works in a similar method, chilling the wine from within quickly, without diluting it. The difference is that this product also has a pouring spot that closes to keep the wine fresher. I’ve also found that I can get more uses out of it than I did the Corksicle so at under $30, it’s a good deal.

ZeroWater Tumbler
One of the most important things I’ve learned about traveling is staying hydrated, especially when drinking wine. I confess that I’ve done my damage on the landfills with plastic water bottles. ZeroWater Tumbler has changed that for me.

This container is not only BPA-free and leak resistant, but it filters the water for me, an important step because I drink a lot of water and I’m choosy about the taste. At only $15 it will save you from purchasing many plastic water bottles.

ZeroWater Tumbler can be purchased on Amazon

As is always my policy, I don’t write about things I don’t like so not all products I receive will be featured.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Taste, Wear, and Feel Great

I had quite an unusual mix of products to write about this month, from wine and spirits to make-up and clothing. I even had a little nose spray with some big benefits.

Uncommon Vodka by Deep Eddy
Deep Eddy Vodka sent me a bottle of their straight stuff (smooth and fruitier than most plain vodkas) and a mix of some slightly different flavors. I have to admit, in this world filled with flavored vodkas, I was quite impressed with these offerings. They also run only about $20 a bottle.

Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka
What a great idea? After all, we put cranberry in vodka. It was my favorite – not too tart, not too sweet. After we were done tasting, I put some club soda in it and enjoyed an easy cocktail.

Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka
This was totally unexpected. We all agreed that it wasn’t at all sweet, but it had more tea flavor than any tea vodka we’d ever had. Perfect for the tea – not sweet tea – lover.

Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka
I have to plead citrus allergy so I didn’t have a lot, but this was a big hit with my friends. They expected grapefruit to be sour, but this was definitely a delicious pink grapefruit.

Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka
Again, I just did a sip, but this caused a very interesting battle – the men said it was the best of the four, the women still loved the Ruby Red more.

Stolen Rum
Stolen Rum is advertised as “smoke and coffee,” implying that these are the flavors this rum takes on through a complex process. First, it’s blended by hand in Trinidad with Fenugreek, Columbian Coffee, and Madagascar Vanilla before it’s aged in oak barrels that were once used for bourbon. After a minimum of two years, the rum is passed through smoking American Hardwood, giving it a hint of whiskey.

I do agree that Stolen is complex and delicious in flavor and I’d definitely say it’s whiskey-like. The only problem I found was that, as rum, I expected it to have more substance and some sweetness. Stolen is one of those products that is well-worth getting, but not what it’s made for. You’ll be disappointed if you dilute it. Serve it neat and savor the flavor.

Wine to Go
The weather is beautiful and you’re heading out for a picnic or a day at the beach. You don’t have one of those solid wine holders. Honestly, how many people really do? How do you get your wine there without risking broken glass and lugging corkscrews? That’s where Nuvino comes in.

Nuvino makes pouches of wine that travel easily in your cooler, don’t break, and serve well. They come in a nice variety: Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, South African Chardonnay, Australian Red Blend, and Argentinian Malbec. They only sent the Malbec for me to try and it was very good. The only downside is the MSP is $6, but if you shop around, you can get them for around $4 @. Each pouch is a full glass

A Scotch Treat for Dad
With Father’s Day around the corner, you might be looking for a really special gift for a special Scotch lover. Macallan has the answer. Their Rare Cask is definitely something special. You’ll immediately get the sweet notes on the nose, from vanilla to caramel. As you sip it slowly, and it must be sipped, the Applewood and citrus start to appear perhaps from the sherry oak casks that were used. Macallan Rare Cask is as smooth as a Scotch can get, almost to the point of cognac (thank you, sherry casks). You’ll pay for this privilege at $300 a bottle, but isn’t a dad worth it?

Work or Play
I am always ready to try out easy travel pieces of clothing and that’s what Sofibella provides, whether you are on the tennis court, in the gym, or in an airplane. These pieces have it all: UV Protection, Anti-Bacterial Properties, and a Stay-Dry Agent. The fabric Sofibella uses is also very comfortable, yet I found the tank and crops also gave me support. I also loved the light weight micro flare cardigan. It is perfect for quickly “dressing up” an outfit without adding weight (something you don’t want in the heat of the summer).

No Fuss Make-Up
I am a fan of bareMinerals makeup and I probably always will be. My one complaint is that I find I need 2-3 different products to complete the natural look. That’s too much when traveling. Now that I’ve tried Jessica Robertson Collection Bronzing Powder , I have a new travel go to. This product is convenient and makes my skin feel good, with a glow. It’s a natural looking tint that acts as both makeup and bronzer. Best of all, it comes in an easy to carry compact. Prices vary from $20-$25 and it’s well worth it.

Help for Allergies
My allergies are horrible in the spring and fall. I take allergy medicine, but sometimes it’s not enough. Rather than adding in some sleep-inducing Benadryl, I’ve started using saline nasal sprays. I also like to have one in my Ziploc for the plane as the humidity deprived air can dry out my nose. I was more than happy to try Boogie Mist Sterile Saline Nasal Spray, Fresh Scent, 2 Ounce and it works very well. It also, comes in a grape flavor so you can get the kids to keep their nasal passages clear and maybe prevent a cold or two.