Showing posts with label Wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wine. Show all posts


Iced Out

So Xmas is coming, even if winter is barely here. 

There's no snow whatsoever. It's straight up a bummer for the holiday season. The situation used to be that I loathed winter and couldn't stand the omnipresence of snow. It was dark and miserable and painfully cold, but hey - that's life in the Middle West, huh? 

It still is, just not as severe these days. Last winter we hardly had any snow at all. Here we are on the 5th of December with nothing to show for it, save for the dead lawns and bare trees filled with lights. I guess the fact that it gets so dark at 4:30 in the afternoon tends to cover that up a bit but it's still a bummer when Xmas is on the way. It's hard to believe just two years ago we had a blizzard so severe the Metrodome straight up collapsed in on itself. That was an amazing storm. My (then) fiance and I spent the day cooking and baking and watching the world slowly succumb to the snow. At about one in the afternoon we saw all of the city buses line up on the street below our condo. We were confused as to why all the people were streaming off the buses until we saw the signs on the front of each one change from the route to 'Not in Service'. The city had given up. They knew when to pull in and close up shop, even if that meant stranding everyone at the Rainbow Foods in Uptown. 
Not even a month earlier an even crazier weather event happened. While my better half had gone out with her friends for a girls' night out, my younger brother and a friend of mine came over for a drink before seeing a movie at the Lagoon Theater two blocks away. On the short walk there we noted the steady drizzle and the dropping temp. I remember the three of us exchanging mutual concern over what was going to happen. We went inside and promptly forgot about all of that while we watched Monsters, an awesome yet underrated movie. Two hours later we left our seats, took one step outside and simultaneously grabbed each other for support as we slid down the curb on half an inch of glare ice. We were equal parts terrified of falling (and really hurting ourselves, as we were juuuuuusssst old enough to see the danger in icy walkways) and hysterics as we navigated the treacherous path back to the condo. I know I slipped at least twice, the slow, steady breakdown where you start standing and go down in stages, so by the time your feet fly out from under you you're really only a few inches high anyway. My brother tried to stop before hitting the crosswalk (and potentially being rundown by an out of control car or bus) only to slide into the street and almost to the other side, like a statue of a figure skater. 
When we got inside my building I made them promise they wouldn't try to leave. We all biffed it on the two block walk - no one was going to get anywhere without breaking a bone. So what to do? We sat at the windows and drank, five floors up and surrounded by a vantage point from which we could watch the chaos unfold. People were either boldly braving the roads or foolishly ignoring the conditions, staying out until bar close. Seeing the drunks stumble out onto the ice and skid around on shaky legs like a newborn deer had us all doubling over in laughter. That is, until we saw one guy go down hard and not get up. Our laughter quickly died down. "Oh. Oh, no. Alright, coats guys. Let's go help." Before we could leave, though, he made it to his feet and, with great trepidation, made it over to his friends. They hadn't even noticed he went missing. The joys of living somewhere the weather can kill you! 
So we stayed up all night watching the slowest, gentlest car crashes in the world. Blizzards that ruin buildings. Ice conditions that force us to hunker down indoors. I somehow fell in love with bolting the doors and watching the world turn white. Xmas is on the way, but there's nary a flake on the horizon. 

I hope that changes. It's not the same without the white stuff.


Home Again

Kevin Mcallister must have been an anti-social nerd.

I realize that this stance on Home Alone sounds harsh, but hear me out. As is the annual tradition, we were watching the 21 year old movie tonight when I noticed a trend in the movie that hadn't picked up on before. You see Kevin building all of his gadgets and traps and have him talking about making ornaments with the forbidden glue gun and his dads new fish hooks.

This all makes for fitting foreshadowing to the madness that follows in the second half of the movie, but it also shows his ingenuity in Macgayver-ing his schemes. The whole thing with the mannequins as a faux party to throw the set bandits off his scent? Inspired stuff, I wouldn't have thought about that now, let alone at eight years old. So his gearhead/crafty nerd side is firmly in place.

But here's the other thing - I don't think Kevin has any friends. Not once in the three day ordeal does he think to call a friend. I'm not saying I'm throwing a ripper the minute my family disappears (actually, I did do that in high school...once) but never in his folly did he think about calling a buddy? Sure, everybody in the immediate neighborhood was out but that doesn't mean Chicago was empty. Furthermore, are there no Jews in Chicago? Not everyone is tied down for the holiday. So no friends came over, not even the kid from across the street, the talky one whose fault it was anyway.

Poor, misunderstood Kevin Mcallister. No friends and a nerdy passion for building contraptions and booby traps. He endured his darkest hour, a Twilight Zone scenario that saw him unleashing his crafty talent to save his own life. The Looney Tunes action turned dark at the last minute, with Joe Pesci threatening to bite of Kevin's fingers. Yeah, it got kind of weird there as the Wet Bandits hit the end of their rope.

They never stood a chance against that adorable little nerd, though.


Did you guys know Juliette Lewis was in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?

That still weirds me out whenever I see that holiday staple. I'm on vacation, taking in one nice meal after another, usually topped off with a Christmas movie. Today had me dining on some superb burgers and splitting a bottle of cab, followed by Christmas Vacation. It's no Citizen Kane or Dark Knight, but it has a lot of nostalgic charm. Since that seems to be my forte, lemme extol the virtues of this weird little movie.

It's really a patchwork affair. The movie plays out like an extended series of skits for the first 2/3rds, only to dovetail into a sub-par 'kidnap the boss and learn the meaning of Christmas' cliche. Still, the stuff that happens before that is a great bit of relatable, and insane moments.
The endless trek into the woods to find the right tree, forgetting the shovel of course. Helping your dad set up the decorations and lights. The sheer insanity of a whole slew of elderly relatives arriving en masse, filling the air with conversations about sores, symptoms and maladies. Pets making a ruckus. Sledding misadventures. Pretty much any horrible or awkward experience you deal with this season has been touched upon by this strange movie from 1989.
It is a strange movie, after all. There's a totally unrelated and unnecessary animated sequence in the beginning. Juliette Lewis is taking the role rotation of the Griswold daughter. Chevy Chase existed as a proto-Pierce Hawthorn. I'm not saying its the best movie, just a fun, cathartic and nostalgic way to deal with the holidays. Enjoy some slapstick and try not to think of all the stuff you have to do before Sunday.


Little Monsters

Evening, kids.

How about a trip down memory lane? After all, hasn't that become a de facto theme to this site? I breakdown something we've all forgotten about while giving you a personal anecdote? On board? Good? Great. Let's do this. Today's Xmas Xception is Gremlins, a film like no other.
If you are roughly my age, there's a strong chance this movie gave you a serious case of the creeps when you were young. It was terrifying despite being oh so appealing to the youth market. Gremlins was part of that microgenre that blends horror and comedy in a subtle way. Ghostbusters was another prime example, as was the modern iteration, Shaun of the Dead. How could kids not get suckered in by the adorable Gizmo - voiced by Howie Mandel, nonetheless. Still, you break those three inscrutable, arbitrary rules and all Hell breaks loose. Nothing seemed safe as a kid after that. The little monsters were so devious! So malicious! The original draft of the screenplay was even darker, with decapitations and animal mutilations abound. Nasty stuff, eh? Of particular note was the over the top gore of the finale when a melting gremlin becomes a horrendous, dripping mess. It broke my mind as a kid. Hey, as an adult it still elicits a visceral reaction from me. Pretty killer Christmas movie, huh?
Oh, what's that? You forgot Gremlins was a Christmas movie? That's right, world. This nasty little staple of 80s horror was planted squarely in the midst of yule tide madness. I found myself forgetting that fact, only to see a clip of the movie online and I recalled all the snow and realized "Oh man, I have to watch that again! I haven't seen it in years!" Well, by a bit of serendipity that actually happened to me last Christmas. There had been some conflicts with my Christmas arrangements last year, and I ended up spending the holiday here in Minnesota while my better half saw her family in Arizona. I had to be back at the office the next day, so when I got back to my place in Uptown I grabbed my mail and headed upstairs. There, in a now defunct Netflix envelope, was Gremlins. By some excellent coincidence my DVD queue had synced up perfectly with me being all alone after Christmas. So I did what any twentysomething would do - popped it in and cracked a bottle of wine.
It was awesome.

Gremlins was cathartic and mischievous, a fantastic way to vent after the stress of the holiday. A little Cabernet Sauvingon didn't hurt either, but hey! Monsters terrorizing the town and ruining Christmas! What better way to indulge my inner (but most likely outer) child! While obviously dated and intentionally hokey and B-movie-esque at times, it still held up really, really well. I had a lot of fun poking through the memories of my previous experiences watching this movie and being do damned scared. Sounds like good holiday fun!


Where We've Been

Evening, gang.

If you're reading this, it's most likely Halloween where you are. I dig. I hope you're having as mega of a day as I am. I spent the previous day recapping the Saturday night hijinks, packing some boxes while watching spooky movies and opening a bottle of Cabernet to enjoy another Treehouse of Horror. Not bad, I have to say. My apartment has no kids, so no trick or treaters for me, to my dismay. I would have fun passing out candy. I would have fun with wine until I pass out, too, but that's not really a Halloween thing. I digress. This year I was a bull, my better half was a matador. Here's me:
Nice, right? Best of all - pretty darn cheap. Total cost? Five bones for the horns. All else was mine. Okay the leg warmers on my arms as hooves were courtesy of my better half. 

So I've written up and down about Spooky Month. I loved it. It gave me a chance to indulge in my spooky side and share some awesome Halloweenish things with the wider world. There are, however, some things that slipped through the cracks. These are the posts I wrote prior to Spooky Month that would have been totally appropriate to cut and paste if I had been short on time and creativity. In no particular order, you should check out:

The Thing and I - a genuinely creepy Treehouse of Horror installment, all set at night in a storm.
Silent Hill 2 - the most terrifying game I've ever played. An emotional trip, to say the least. HD collections for PS3 and 360 due out in January.
Cloverfield - A modern Gojira, my favorite monster movie. It's a crazy post-modern take on terrorist events.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors - An underrated gem for the SNes. A love letter to B Movie madness.
Crimson - Beautifully dark album from the Alkaline Trio. Lush and pulsing punk music to set the mood.
MST3K - The best way to enjoy old B Movies. Snark galore. Laughs abound. Legendary.
Old Boy - Not a horror movie, per se. Still a dark, twisted trip to the most tormented depths of humanity. Yeah.
Silent Hill - My love for a flawed, but well-intentioned cinematic adaptation of the video game series.
You Were Always On My Mind - Getting severely caught off guard by a creepy soundtrack.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies - A forgotten gem from Rare. Super fun and full of simple frights!
Maniac Mansion - One of the first great haunted house games. Packed with point-and-click antics.
House of Leaves - Watch a book eat itself like a snake swallowing its own tail.
World War Z - The definitive record of humanity's war on zombie-kind. A sprawling, epic tome.
I Hear You Calling - A great video by the band Gob with homages to Thriller.
So that about sums it up. It's been a month of scares and jumps, noises in the vents and things lurking around the corner. Hit up the Spooky label on the side bar for more goodness. Otherwise, come November 1st it's back to business as usual here. I've had a blast this past month. Hopefully you have too. I'll try to do more large scale themes in the future. Christmas Conundrum, perhaps?


Short and Simple

Hello kids!

Like I thought, today was a busy and frenetic day, resulting in no proper post. I do feel bad about it, no doubt. My own life is interfering with my ability to post consistent, quality content. That doesn't mean I can't put something up, though. I just won't ramble on for 1000 words without a clear vision. Low time means low volume, as it is.

So what's a short and simple rave about something I love and think everyone needs to know about? 

Easy, Breville's Panini Press!

A gift from some very kind and thoughtful people, this piece of magic will absolutely change the way you cook. Whether or not you love a good sandwich (but who doesn't love sandwiches? WHO!?) this thing will make you want to live off of nothing but breads and cheeses. I can't even tell you how many meals I have made that involve only pumpernickel-rye bread, Gruy√®re and a little olive oil. Okay, there's typically some red wine in there as well, but it pairs so well!

It's so easy and simple to make unbelievably fantastic food with the Panini Press. It's like an over-sized Foreman Grill and I mean this in the best possible way. Throw the sandwich in, give it a couple minutes and presto - a delicious little dinner. Your options are limited only by your imagination. This morning, I may or may not have tried to make a panini with an egg in it...

You can do other things in it besides sandwiches. I have tried burgers but the ensuing clean-up was a bit more than the pay-off in my mind. Regardless, this is an excellent addition to any kitchen. While not a bargain by normal definitions, I feel like it's worth the price of admission. If you, like any sane human, enjoy the "adult's grilled cheese" as my friend Sam calls them, give it a whirl.

Tomorrow brings another normal week. Content should come back to more of a consistent, quality level we've all grown accustomed to. I appreciate your patience for these truncated updates. Stick around, I'll see you tomorrow!


Veni Vidi Vino

To make up for the sloppy double post yesterday I'll atone by posting one well written piece today. Unfortunately it has to be pretty bare bones due to some "known issues." Curse you, progress of software!

The subject of today's refined write up?

The Vinturi! 

A sophisticated and elegantly designed little device, the Vinturi is a marvel of function and form. Also, it improves the inebriation process! For those that imbibe, please - right this way! Teetotalers and those who care not to participate, I'll see you tomorrow (or possibly tonight for another impromptu WFV).


This plastic marvel is a simple solution to a problem I never knew I had. Namely, a bottle of wine becoming more enjoyable with every glass. I know, I know, it sounds like I'm just getting drunk. What actually is happening is the oxidation process occurring to a fuller extent as more of the wine is exposed to the air. Thus the first glass least enjoyable and the last the best. Additionally if one practices single-serving ideaology (not that I'd recommend it) by the time you reach the bottom you probably don't care about flavor. It makes a world of difference, though, if you're just sitting down to dinner and have not had a chance to aerate a bottle before dinner. Simply pour through the egg shaped device and the particularly placed ventilations allow the wine to oxidize as it passes through. Even more amusing is the fact that there is legitimate math involved. Hard sciences and alcohol are always a winning combination. According the the maker's site, Bernoulli's Principle is inherent to the operation. Check their work!

Increase in velocity versus a decrease in pressure. It's almost too easy.

I suppose this is where my wine afficianado readers would object and say "It's an inelegant solution to your impatience! Allow it to happen naturally, you philistine " but I can't hear you because I'm typing somewhere that I can't hear you. I am new to this vino thing, I admit. BUT! The difference between a normal glass and one poured through this device is night-and-day. My fiance and I laughed out loud at the difference. It's simple yet marvelous. No matter how gauche it may be, the simplicity and elegance of the operation of te Vinturi is amazing and I am thrilled to have picked one up at Williams Sonoma.

Amazing that none of this is a paid advertorial, eh? It's just that good.