How to throw a party when you have 4 kids, in 50 billion steps.

Kidding about the fifty billion steps. There’s only 7 and one of them is optional.

Two of my kids had the crazy idea of being born the first week of January….a weekish after Christmas. It makes anything “special” about their day, and wanting to make it all special, threaten to fly out the window. 
Not because I don’t love em. I love em good. But because my husband also happens to be born the week of Christmas and we crazy folk celebrate EVERYTHING.  
It’s a lot to plan 3 parties plus Christmas around the same time. But we do it and it’s pretty dang awesome. So I consider myself a bit of a pro at party planning these days. If I do say so myself. 
And I do. 

Step 1:  Try your best to make everyone healthy.

No joke. Start with water (I’m laughing because every post I think will have water in it) and I’m trying out probiotics this year (I’ll let you know if they make a difference). 
Partying for weeks on end, especially around germy, gross, little kids who are full of colds and stomach bugs, will tear even the strongest immune system down. Guys, one year our party of 20 kids became our party of 5- and two of those were mine, because everyone we knew was sick. Even today, the day before the kids party, we’ve had guests dropping like flies due to infections and pukings. 

Step 2: Delegate

Can you actually bake cookies like a pro, Karen? Or are you just wishful thinking it? OR can you and is it worth your time making things look like a million bucks when in fact it’ll be way worth your time knowing someone else will do it, and it will come to you done RIGHT. I’m not saying make everyone else do everything but I definitely have a “cookie lady” (sweet nommies by Tara….who actually retired and I’m now left cookie-less). 
Things that I’ve outsourced are: cookies, cakes, sandwich trays, fruit tray, veggie tray, sushi, taco bar,  lamb, cevapi (little meat fingers- they’re Uber YUM). This year, due to our BROKE status, we in fact didn’t outsource anything because everything’s cheaper when you do it yourself.  But if you got the extra cash to make your stress lower, I firmly say do it.

Top: Cake and pie From Leo and Co., Middle: Cake from Pink Flower cakes, Bottom: Cookies from Sweet Nommies by Tara

Step 3: Lower your standard

Lemmie tell you about our cake de-evolution. Once upon a time, I was a new mom who wanted everything fancy fabulous for my little schnookums. Fancy cakes were the apple of my eye and, because I am no cake decorator, there was no compunction in buying the most awesome cakes ever. Cakes that were worth small artworks (because they were technically edible art). 
My standard for cakes since then has SIGNIFICANTLY dropped. Mostly because one year my kids were assholes (this is definitely our doing and we’re working on making this outragous privilege of theirs, less.) and I vowed never to get them their own fancy cakes again. 
So I didn’t. 
This year Betty Crocker is my friend.

I find people eat the EXACT same amount of dessert if it looks like (and costs) a million bucks and if it looks like I made it after a few glasses of wine. That’s a fact.

I am NOT a decorator. In fact an ideal gift for me (hint hint family) would be a cake decorating class….

Step 4: Assume everything will take 2-3 times longer than what you think. 
Take my word. Especially if you’re doing everything with kids in tow.
 

Step 5: Taste test the wine you’re thinking of serving in advance.

We taste test the wine we’re serving at parties within a month of the party. So go out and grab a few bottles and see which ones you like the best before buying a bunch for people’s drinking pleasures. This step is easily the best one. 😀

Step 6: Prep ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING you can in advance, by a day or two.

This is imperative. It took us almost a decade to learn and finally we figured it out. Because everything takes longer with kids, because you’re permanently tired, because someone might fall sick, because you probably forgot to buy stuff and need to go back to the grocery store, DO EVERYTHING you can beforehand.

Pretend you’re Jamie Oliver and have your own cooking show. He’s not chopping shit while you’re watching. So you don’t do that either. A day or two before (pending on what you’re doing) chop up all the herbs you’re using. Measure out all of the spices. Make the desserts. Set up the appetizers. Chop potatoes. Marinate meat. Make it as stupid easy on yourself to actually cook the day of the event. Set the table. EV.ER.Y.THING. You’ll thank me.

#herbalicious

Step 7: The semi optional step. Child containment and activities

 In a land of iPads and tablets, I know the easiest thing is to skip this one all together. I strongly suggest ya don’t. If the kids have something special to do aside from tablet they’ll be less likely to come loiter amongst the adults. This year I let them paint mini nutcrackers at Dave’s bday/Christmas party. They turned out cute. My carpet did not. Learn from my mistake, I totally forgot to roll up that sucka. 

I immediately used club soda and then Resolve Carpet cleaner….like, what the heck. Did I give them oil paint? I don’t know. But this is now officially the “kids carpet”.

Hopefully I’ve helped hosting your next event. If there’s anything I missed, lemmie know!

Cheers,

Juli

Your first #wine Love

Talking about the crazy romance that was me and my first wine love…

It hits me every time. I actually smile and probably blush a bit when I see that little label. My heart does a light flutter and my eyes get a little teary. It’s the first real Love I fell into for wine. Capital L people. Capital L.

My first, and most certainly not last (wine monogamy IS NOT A THING), wine love was from a winery called Chappellet. They’re based in Napa Valley in California

A lifetime ago, pre-4 kids and a move to Canada, we (my husband Dave and I) were sitting in a kitchen in South Side, Pittsburgh at a friends house, when I was introduced to Chappellet. I’m pretty sure it was a Cab we drank and it stuck as truly formidable in the lineup that we had that night. The result was that the first time we ventured out to Napa, we made a point to do a tasting and tour of the winery.

Let me tell you, maybe things have changed in the last decade, but if they haven’t, there’s NO clear signage to get to this gem. As you’re driving up this windy road, and you stop at the fork, because of course there’s a fork in the road, wondering which friggen way to go, you spin around in absolute loss and then you get the view. There’s a turquiose lake, foiliage, hills and shit just melts away and you figure, everything’s all right, and this is waaayyy worth it.

Eventually, you will get there.

We did.

I know it sounds excessively dramatic, and for a long while, I thought I was dramatic too, because seriously, how can someone be in Love with a winery and the wines it produces?

I’ll tell you, because I’m SURE, 100% positive, that the robust emotional drives you have as an adolescent don’t go away.

They go into hiding and wait for something better to latch onto

For me, (aside from my husband) it happened to be wine. There are enough complexities in wine that I can probably study it a lifetime and it can still pleasantly surprise me.

If you haven’t found your “wine”, just wait. The deep capacity to love that came in adolescence is there, waiting to find some hobby that will make you content. It definitely doesn’t have to be wine. I hope you find it.

If you found a love (aside from your spouse) I’d LOVE to hear about it. I’m a sucker for a good romance. I mean, if you’d like to tell me how you met your partner, totally let me know that too. I read romance novels like they’re going out of style. I hope to write one one day too…maybe yours will be the inspiration!

One day I’ll blog the convoluted love story that was Dave and I finding one another, until then…

Cheers,

Juli

Bedrock is the rock of my Christmas reading

Talking about the feels of Bedrock Old Vine Zinfandel, and how you can make every bottle special

You ever read and drink wine? It’s actually pretty rare that I finish a glass of wine when I read because I end up engrossed in the book and look like a book zombie flicking the pages or swiping on my phone through my kindle app. The wine is usually forgotten and left to the wayside.

Some of my Christmas read collection. Sweetness and a happy ending with some strife and touchy touchy stuff that makes me smile.

I did say rare, but not impossible. I do love me some good wine. Tonight we opened a REALLY lovely bottle of Bedrock’s Old Vine Zinfandel. It makes an average night feel kinda special. Special like, YAY I did my laundry and folded it (but didn’t put away because it’s only the real superhero moms who do that) and went to my kid’s Christmas concert (and genuinely enjoyed myself) and cleaned (which I did not enjoy, but will thank myself later for). So every average thing becomes a bit of a celebration. And who doesn’t love a celebration or a happy dance? Amirite?

Bedrock is a big wine in our house. We used to have a pretty decent sized allocation (the amount of wine you can buy from the winery based on previous purchases once you’ve gotten in through their waiting list) when we lived in the States. Now we live in Canada and our life is sad.

I really want to make good wine accessible for everyone. I really want you to like, GET it even if you’re NOT a wine person. So let me tell you why this wine is good for me when I’m blogging and hopefully reading a few pages of my Christmas romances (do they make sci fi Christmas books? I love sci fi, I love Christmas, maybe I should write a short story).

Here’s some information about it first (I LOVE info). Bedrock is founded by, honest to goodness, someone who sounds like an Einstein of wine. He could reportedly distinguish between different types of wine at 5 years old. 5! My 5 year old is pretty cool but she’s not telling me that this is a pinot noir and that is a cab sauv. His name is Morgan Twain-Peterson. This wine of his that I’m drinking now, it doesn’t have the weight that some wines do, which makes it perfect for focusing on something else, pairing it with an activity or food.

Ie. It’s pretty much an ideal wine.

Just now, I took a break and got myself a thai fresh spring roll, and guess what, it’s good with that too.

These spring rolls are my jam.

Bam.

The nose isn’t obtrusive, and what I mean by that is that it doesn’t stink of alcohol. You knnnnoooowwww what I’m talking about. It legit smells like a fresh bouquet of flowers, and honestly that appeals to me because I love most flowers. Oddly enough, it also smells like skateboarding in summer with a hint of the crash of waves on the Adriatic ocean.

It feels purposeful. It feels like movement in summer.

You have your own memories that it would bring up, but I’m pretty sure the overall feeling would be that of purpose and movement.

If you have trouble recognizing how things make you feel, this is a great time to start. Grab a glass of wine, and just purposefully dip your nose into your glass and sniff the wine (like a puppy… try two short sniffs and a long whiff) and close your eyes. Let yourself relax into the smell and hopefully some solid images will pop into your brain. It’s how the pros do it (ish). That’s where they get phrases like, berry, tobacco, leather, etc. I can smell those too, but it’s even better to smell the other stuff. The stuff that makes your experience with wine special. If it’s not special, try to make it so that it is – so that everything you do brings you contentment.

#lifestooshorttodrinkbadwine. It’s not that the wine is necessarily bad, but if it reminds you of the feeling of being stuck in traffic on a newly paved 8 lane highway, it’s probably not for you.

That’s definitely my #tipoftheday.

I will purposely go and read now, and hope that if you’re looking for some wine to pair with your Christmas motions, you think of this one. It will DEFINITELY help you keep your mind moving forward beyond the one day that is Christmas, and help you smile about the feeling of this season.

Cheers!

xo, Juli

Oda al vino

Welcome! Here’s a bit about me and what I do here

Welcome to your place to unwind with a glass of wine while your kids may or may not be wrestling.  I hope you stick around to get some insights on good wine to buy now and drink now (mostly from the LCBO because I live in #Ontario), or to get some happy thoughts and do #mentalhealth checks (I love helping parents stay sane because #ittakesavillage), or just keep the tab open while your eyes glaze over due to lack of sleep. I got your back no matter what.

Real life for me. I get people squinty eyeing me all the time. 

Here’s my absolute favourite poem about wine to kick off this journey about practicing parenting. It’s by a Chilean author who really gets it. Ya know? 

ODA AL VINO- Pablo Neruda

Day-colored wine, night-colored wine, wine with purple feet or wine with topaz blood, wine, starry child of earth, wine, smooth as a golden sword, soft as lascivious velvet, wine, spiral-sea shelled and full of wonder, amorous, marine; never has one goblet contained you, one song, one man, you are choral, gregarious, at the least, you must be shared. At times you feed on mortal memories; your wave carries us from tomb to tomb, stone cutter of icy sepulchers, and we weep transitory tears; your glorious spring dress is different, blood rises through the shoots, wind incites the day, nothing is left of your immutable soul.  Wine stirs the spring, happiness bursts through the earth like a plant, walls crumble, and rocky cliffs, chasms close, as song is born.  A jug of wine, and thou beside me in the wilderness, sang the ancient poet.  Let the wine pitcher add to the kiss of love its own. My darling, suddenly the line of your hip becomes the brimming curve of the wine goblet, your breast is the grape cluster, your nipples are the grapes, the gleam of spirits lights your hair, and your navel is a chaste seal stamped on the vessel of your belly, your love an inexhaustible cascade of wine, light that illuminates my senses, the earthly splendor of life.  But you are more than love, the fiery kiss, the heat of fire, more than the wine of life; you are the community of man, translucency, chorus of discipline, abundance of flowers.  I like on the table, when we’re speaking, the light of a bottle of intelligent wine.  Drink it, and remember in every drop of gold, in every topaz glass, in every purple ladle, that autumn labored to fill the vessel with wine; and in the ritual of his office, let the simple man remember to think of the soil and of his duty, to propagate the canticle of the wine. Translation from poetryconnection.net

How to Chill Your A#$ Out a Week Before Christmas

Need some helpful tips on keeping you sane through this next week? I’ve got you.

So this post is running about a week ahead of Christmas on purpose.  I was going to get to wine but since I feel SUPER run down, I figure so do you. It’s just that dang time of year that you want to be all happy happy smiley smiley but Janice over here is on your ass at work and then you forgot to buy  some gift online and now have to ACTUALLY WALK INTO A MALL, and your children, bless them, they’re feeling the pressure in their own way.  Thus, I’m attacking the #mentalhealth side of life first. Obs I’ll still have something about wine up in here. Come on. 

To re-reach your own personal level of zen I suggest you:

1.  Take some REALLY deep breaths. Like the ones you take to stave off tears. Seriously deep. Try 5 breaths from the belly and 5 from the lungs. It will increase your oxygen levels and get your system out of fight or flight mode. Repeat until you’re good to face another human who probably has a bunch of stress all over their face. 

2.  Drink water. It sounds stupid but dehydration raises stress levels too. Even minor dehydration. So if you’re feeling off, sit your ass down and drink some H2O. And stop with the coffee. Even the fancy stuff. 

H2O happens to be really good for your skin too

3.  Smile. Even if it’s the worst fake smile ever, smile. Like, smile at nothing. Its funny how the body can trick the brain and vice versa. When you fake smile it actually mimics a real smile, releasing all sorts of good stuff into the brain (endorphins, dopamine and serotonin). So sit in a bathroom stall and just smile your butt off like the crazy person you are and get back into the “functioning human” game. 

Yes, this is my face in all it’s yesterday’s makeup glory. 

5.   Remember you can only control your own behaviour, and no one else’s. So if everyone is being a dick around you, don’t hesitate to ask if someone’s “okay”. I did it a few times this weekend because I actually had to step into overcrowded insane malls and stores where the staff working looked like poor chickens who were half roasted and they’d rather their heads be cut off than work another second the week(ish) before Christmas.

6.  If you can, hug someone for more than 20 seconds. Breathe into the hug. You may want to cry. It’s okay, its just your body releasing tension, there’s nothing REALLY wrong with you. You’re just a stress case at the moment. Which most people are.

Kid hugs are the best hugs. And I generally don’t like being touched. 

7.  Turn off the Christmas lights if they twinkle. I sound like a troll and I promise my house is so full of twinkly lights that I understand the appeal of having them go all day every day, but give your senses a moment to catch up. Yes twinkle good. For a bit.  If you’re losing it, turn them off and just be one with the darkness. Flashing lights of any kind are designed to elicit a fight or flight reaction to our good ol animal selves.  So unfortunately, Christmas decor, in all of it’s glory, if on all the time, actually stresses you out a bit. If you’re determined I have no bloody clue what I’m talking about, no prob. Leave them on but now I want you to focus on the silence between the noise. Watch as one light flickers on and off and time your breathing with a few cycles of the darkness. 

8.  Last but not least, have a glass of wine.  Cheers!