How Do We Mourn Today?

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

It was Thursday evening, March 19th when my phone rang.  Covid-19 reality was setting into our community as the area ski resorts had closed four days before, and my Mom’s assisted living center had closed its doors to the outside world two weeks before.

It was my sister calling to tell me that our 84-year-old Dad had passed away from a massive heart attack that afternoon.  He had been doing yard work which he loved.  Dad had a long history of cardiac issues and I had lost count of how many stints he had put in over the years, so in a way, this wasn’t a major surprise.

I sat speechless on my couch.  My sister’s and my first thought was, how are we going to tell our Mom?  Our parents had divorced over 30 years ago, and barely spoke to each other for years, but in the last few months they had reconnected and had become friends again.  Legacy Lodge was in lockdown and I was not going to give this news to my Mom over the phone.

I called Miekka Zanders, the Executive Director, and we put a plan in motion for the next morning.  Clean clothes donned, my computer and phone were wiped down with Clorox wipes, my temperature was taken, exposure questions answered, hand sanitizer and mask in place, I went to tell Mom.

While I held her hands when I told her, I so desperately wanted to hug her but couldn’t.  I had 40 other people living in Legacy Lodge on my mind and their health and safety were paramount.  We sat and cried, laughed and spent hours calling friends and family while I sat on the couch across the room from her.  We used hand sanitizer, we blew hugs and kisses from across the living room.  IT SUCKED.

My sister, brother and I had a conference call with Mom and we shared our grief together as best we could, but it didn’t fill the horrible void of truly being together.  Since that day I have not been able to be with my Mom physically in order to keep residents at Legacy safe, and that is difficult.  As you may have seen in my previous post, I sit outside her window and we chat almost every day.

At a time when we should be together, hugging, crying, drinking, telling stories, seeing family and friends, we can’t and our hearts hurt all the more.

How do we mourn in today’s world?  We watch on TV as the Italians are burying their dead without any family around.  We watch as families and friends have loved ones in the hospital who they cannot sit with, hold their hand or stroke their hair.

Loss hit home in our community yesterday when a 28-year-old man lost his life in an avalanche while snowboarding.  My Dad’s passing was somewhat expected, his was not.  How do his family and friends mourn this shocking situation when they can’t be together?  And trust me, phone calls and Zoom conferencing just don’t cut it.

This situation isn’t new to me in some ways.  When I was 26 I lost my first husband in an accident.  At that time, no one knew what to say to me or how to help me.  I constantly heard, “you aren’t supposed to lose someone at your age, what can we do for you?”  I’ll be damned if I knew.  I remember my Grandmother’s best friend saying to me, “Isn’t it a shame you didn’t have any children?”  I was horrified.  She meant well, but at that point, I had to walk out of the house and just breathe, alone.

It hurts no matter what, but mourning now is like being alone in a cavernous void with those you love, just out of reach.  We don’t want to be told to be strong, we don’t want to be told it will be better when Covid-19 passes and we can be together.  I’m guessing the young man’s family doesn’t want to be told he died doing what he loved.

I desperately wish I could sit on my sister’s front porch with my siblings, family and friends and just BE TOGETHER.  Unfortunately, that time will have to wait until there is a safe window when we can gather for a small graveside service, followed by a celebration of life party.

While I don’t have the answers, a phone call, food and beverage delivery, mowing their lawn, an email or a text, and even an old fashioned sympathy card goes a long way.  This will be a difficult time for so many, and then it will have to be revisited again when we are able to come together and grieve as one.

Be cognizant of those going through a loss or a traumatic event at this time.  Think carefully about how you can help them from a 6-foot distance, and be very thoughtful of what you say to them.

Above all, keep them and those around you in your prayers.  We are stronger together.

Know Someone In Elder Care? Call Them!

Do you know someone in a senior living center, care center or elder housing?  If so, call them, FaceTime them, or set up a Zoom happy hour with them!

The effect that Covid-19 has on our “greatest generation” hit squarely home on our family over the last few weeks.  My Mom, A.J., who is affectionately known as “Mom AJ”  to so many people, lives at Legacy Lodge here in Jackson Hole.  I cannot say enough good things about Legacy and it’s parent company Nye Health Services, based out of Omaha.  Their team jumped on protecting their residents immediately upon hearing the stories coming out of Kirkland, WA.

But with that protection comes isolation.  While they have each other inside the building, they are cut off from those in-person visits with their friends and family.   There are no hugs from the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends.  There are no trips to the grocery stores, Senior Center, church, or other activities they regularly participated in.  There is a real concern for depression and isolation.

While many seniors have smartphones and computers, there are just as many who don’t, making video chats, much less in-person chats at a 6+ foot distance impossible.  That is why it is so important that we reach out in any way we can to these rockstar seniors who may not have anyone to talk with on a daily basis.

My husband and I have started daily “window chats” with my Mom.  Luckily she lives on the first floor of her assisted living center, so we bring our lawn chairs, a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) and call her!  She sits on her couch on the other side of the window and we typically chat for 15 to 20 minutes.  Yes, we could FaceTime but being able to physically see the person you are talking to adds a comfort level that you just can’t get over a phone.  See the story by Billy Arnold and Bradley Boner in this week’s Jackson Hole News & Guide about seniors and technology, featuring us.

Are you a musician?  Check with your local assisted living centers and see if you can play “outside” the building.  They will open up the windows so the residents can hear you.  Or, just like Christmas caroling, go play outside the home of a senior who is isolated and make them smile.

Think about seniors you may know from church, a social club or your neighborhood.  Just pick up the phone and say hello for a few minutes, trust me, it will make their day!


Re-Discovering The Good In Our Community

It’s been some time since I sat down to write on my blog.  Life got in the way, work got in the way, all the usual excuses that are exactly that, excuses.  Today, as the world around us is spinning, people are sequestered to their homes, neighbors wonder how they will pay their bills, and we all are praying for the day when Covid-19 is a far, far distant memory in our rearview mirror.

What has been inspiring to me in the midst of this is the kindness, giving and hope that I am seeing not only in our community, but across the world.

A friend went to the back of a grocery store to grab eggs for an elderly person who had difficultly walking.

Another friend parked a car for an elderly couple when an obnoxious kid pulled in front of them and took a handicap spot. (By the way, that kid has been arrested when he was reported and was found to have an outstanding warrant.)  Karma.

Companies like Zoom, Scholastic and many others are providing free streaming educational services.

Teachers are providing guidance and recommendations on homeschooling.

Museums and National Parks are providing virtual tours online.

Friends are throwing virtual happy hour parties on FaceTime and other streaming services.

A local knife producer, New West Knifeworks, has converted their production facility into making hand sanitizer for the elderly and their community.

The list goes on and on…

But more importantly, our medical community is working endless hours testing, attending to the sick, and ensuring that their communities stay as safe as possible.

There are reports of clear water and dolphins returning to the canals of Venice, and significant pollution reduction in Asia!  Not only are we healing, but our planet is healing.

Yes this is scary, yes, this is inconveniencing, yes, this will hurt all of our bottom lines.  But, we are rediscovering books, great movies, our families, walks, and what is truly important – our friends, family, and community.

Stop with the stress, the political bantering, the blaming and general b.s. and take in the GOOD that is going on around you.  Add to that good by staying home and staying safe.  Jump on the phone or streaming service and say hello to distant family and friends who you may have not connected with for some time.  It will make them smile!

We are in this together, and together we are stronger.  Together we will put the hate, the polarization and labeling aside. Being kind, funny and loving will go much further and make a much stronger impact in our world today.

We took a drive yesterday afternoon to get out of the house and get some fresh air.  We are blessed to live on the edge of Grand Teton National Park and this view always reminds me that there is something much bigger out there than us, and it takes my breath away each time.


Eating Our Way Through San Martin & Junin

When you blend world-class fly-fishing, exquisite cuisine, plush mountain luxury and spectacular scenery, it can only add up to Patagonia River Ranch.

Long overdue is my “Ode to PRR,” sharing the unforgettable week in southern Patagonia where we belatedly celebrate my 50th birthday.  Two months later, our minds still easily wander back to a beautiful oasis just 30 minutes outside of San Martin de los Andes, on the banks of the Chimehuin River.  It is without question that we will return again and again to reabsorb what the staff at PRR has perfected: spoiling you with exceptional service.

Before I get to PRR, I have to touch on our 24 hours in San Martin de los Andes.

Following our wonderful tour of the Mendoza wine country, we jumped the once-a-week plane from Mendoza to Bariloche.  While we could have flown back to Buenos Aires and then directly to San Martin, one flight and the beautiful 3-hour drive up the Seven Lakes Road to San Martin was more appealing.   Our driver met us at the airport and let us sit back and absorb the beauty of the surrounding mountains, small villages, deep blue lakes and snow-capped volcanos.

We arrived in San Martin just as siesta time was setting in and of course, we were starving.  Strolling through town we came upon a small quaint restaurant, El Mason de la Patagonia.  The owner, Raul Duarte, welcomed us and had us feeling at home in no time.  Over John’s shoulder, I noted a massive prosciutto stand, many antiques and fly-fishing pictures adorning the walls.

We were immediately presented with a refreshing starter of salmon, dill, red onion, carrot and green onions on crostini, and mozzarella and tomato skewers drizzled with balsamic.  Paired with a very cold and crisp Chilean Punta Final 2012 Sangiovese and our taste buds had awoken.

While we weren’t planning on a big lunch, we realized we wouldn’t have dinner until late that evening, so we indulged.  Taking advantage of the fresh prosciutto that I watched Raul delicately slice for my order, I enjoyed a prosciutto wrapped trout with roasted garlic, fingerling potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini and brussel sprouts.  The saltiness and rich flavors of the prosciutto beautifully complimented the fresh trout.

John went straight for the mint crusted roast lamb with au gratin potatoes and prosciutto.  Juana, Raul’s wife oversees the kitchen and what a wonderful job she does!  We leaned back in our chairs, smiled at each other and knew an afternoon nap was in order.   Before we could ask for the check, Raul returned with cool, crisp chocolate wafers and El Mason’s version of what I would call mintcello (versus of lemoncello).  Not too sweet, but the perfect aperitif to complete and unexpected lunch experience.\

After a well-needed nap, we ventured out to explore San Martin, which had come back to life around 7:00 pm.  I love local artisan shops and John was patient while I ducked in and out of countless stores.  In one store, I set my sites on a beautiful handmade cream shawl, trimmed with lace and ribbon – the perfect gift for my Godson’s bride-to-be for their February wedding.

Our hotel recommended several restaurants for dinner, but they all appeared too touristy for our liking.  A small cabin caught our eye with the ever-present meat roasting in the front window.  Peering inside Ku we saw many local families and knew we had found our place.

The biggest problem was trying to decide what to order from their incredible menu.  Our first decision was wine.  Our waiter recommended Ernesto Catena’s (son of the Catena wine family) 2010 Alma Negra Pinot Noir Select.  Heaven in a bottle… unfortunately, we can’t get it in the States, alas.

With additional insight from our wonderful waiter, I selected the Red Deer with a sweet and sour sauce of mixed berries, orange rind and balsamic vinegar.  Argentinians must be hearty eaters because when it arrived, it was not one, but two steaks!  Thank goodness John was able to help with the leftovers.  The steaks were incredibly tender, juicy and perfectly cooked at medium rare.

John decided on one of the many trout dishes.  His was served with cream mushrooms, sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts.  We were worried the cream would overwhelm the trout, but it a light blend that only enhanced the flavor.

Over dessert, we giggled as much as the little girl at the next table who was playing peekaboo with us.  We loved the home-like family atmosphere of Ku and pride that the chef and staff took in sharing a little corner of Argentina with us.  We highly recommend skipping the restaurants with the dinner tango shows and instead enjoy a warm and delightful evening at Ku.

As we walked back to our hotel for the evening, it was wonderful to see families and musicians gathered in the town square, enjoying the beautiful evening and each other.

It was time for a good nights sleep and we couldn’t wait for our adventure at Patagonia River Ranch to start in the morning.

Jackson Hole’s Secret Jazz Club

When you first think music and Jackson Hole, country at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is undoubtedly at the top of the list.  Tourists gingerly balance on the saddles at the bar, sipping Wyoming Whiskey, while seasoned local dance pros two-step, country swing and waltz visitors across the dance floor.  Around the corner at The Wort Hotel, country is also found, but mixed with bluegrass, reggae, folk and rockabilly depending on the night.

But for those looking for that non-traditional piano bar, where you can enjoy a nice glass of wine and carry on a conversation without yelling over the music – where to go?

For many years, one of my favorite fine dining restaurants in Jackson has been The Granary at Spring Creek Ranch, just outside of Jackson and peering down over Spring Gulch. Whether enjoying a glass of wine on the deck during the summer, cozying up to the fireplace bar or restaurant during the winter, The Granary provides spectacular views of the Teton Range and the Spring Gulch ranches.

The Granary is also home to what I call Jackson’s Secret Jazz Club.  Jackson is blessed with two incredibly talented Jazz musicians – husband and wife, Keith and Pam Phillips.   Almost every young local pianist has taken lessons from this duo, creating a bevy of kids who “get” jazz and classical music at a young age.

Typically, Friday and Saturday evenings you will find Pam twinkling the ivories at The Granary’s bar.  Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, or Diana Krall, you name it, she plays it, with flourishes that will keep your toes tapping.  On Friday evenings, Pam is joined by a variety of musicians, further bringing the jazz club to life.  One of Pam’s regulars is bassist Bill Plummer who lovingly embraces his bass like a very special woman, making it sing.  Plummer has played with The Grateful Dead, Quincy Jones and Tony Bennett, just to name a few.

Before moving to Jackson, Pam conducted for Evita and Crazy For You on Broadway, in addition to playing with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings.  You can find her music on iTunes and in many of the local stores.  One of my all-time favorites is “Woolly Bugger Rag” (it’s a fly fishing thing….)  Make a request and you won’t be disappointed.

So next time you are in Jackson, and if you love piano and jazz, make a point to spend an evening at The Granary, experiencing Jackson’s Secret Jazz Club.  Order a bottle of Hahn Pinot Noir, very affordable and perfect to enjoy with the Smoked Trout Dip, creamy flaky smoked trout mousseline with Parmesan Reggiano cheese, served with crostini.  You also must try the Game Sausage Plate, exploding with flavors that will excite your taste buds.  If you are having dinner, the elk tenderloin is not to be missed.

If you miss Pam at The Granary, she also is the music director at St. John’s Episcopal Church.  Trust me, the lady can wrap up a church service with a version of Amazing Grace that would bring anyone to their feet with a serious AMEN!

Check the local newspaper, or contact The Granary at 307-733-8833 to confirm the music schedule as it varies by season.

Christmas Krumkake

Hands down, my favorite Christmas cookie is krumkake. How does a Scottish girl who adores shortbread, slip over to Scandinavia?  Decorah, Iowa and Fran Leeman.

Holiday Krumkake cookies ready to eat on a white serving platterGrowing up in Northeast Iowa, a common Norwegian slang term is “oof-dah!”  Translated: Oh my!  I remember the first time I had krumkake and oof-dah was what my taste buds said.  That sweet, crispy, paper-thin cookie, rolled like a lace ice cream cone tasted like heaven.  I fell in love but realized it was a treat I would only get to enjoy when I was in Decorah at the Norwegian Festival, or at Fran Leeman’s house.

Mrs. Leeman was my 4th-grade teacher, a dear friend of my parents and I thought she was one of the most beautiful women in Guttenberg next to my Mother.  She had the best humor and a great laugh.  She also knew how to make krumkake and lefsa, and I spent a fun afternoon with her one day, learning the art of Norwegian treats.

Years later I was given a krumkake iron for Christmas and the pursuit of duplicating those perfectly toasted cookies began.  It’s been a few years since I dusted off the iron but I had a good reason.  Tomorrow is the Murie Center Holiday Cookie Swap.  Mardy Murie, the Grandmother of Conservation, each Christmas season would invite friends to her cabin in Grand Teton National Park for a “cookie swap.”  That tradition is carried on in that same cabin which is the centerpiece of The Murie Center.  In honor of Olaus, Mardy’s husband’s Norwegian heritage, it was time for me to make krumkake.

The two things to remember when making krumkake: First, set aside several hours, it’s going to take some time.  Second, have ice cubes and aloe handy, you will undoubtedly burn your fingers.

This is the best recipe I have found and it also has a great step-by-step illustration.  I usually add a touch of cinnamon in addition to cardamom to the recipe.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s your first time making krumkake or your fiftieth, the first few cookies you make will not work.  It takes a little tweaking to heat your iron just right – so don’t sweat it, you have plenty of batter to make mistakes.

It usually takes between 20-40 seconds to toast the cookie and it all depends on your type of stove, gas or electric, and your iron.  Carefully lift one side of the iron and peak in to see how it is progressing.

If the edges of the cookie are turning brown, it’s usually time to roll it off, as it cools it typically browns just a bit more.  I like to use a table knife to lift the cookie and slide it over the rolling cone.  You need to move quickly once the cookie is taken off the iron and wrap it around the cone as it will crisp up and you won’t be able to shape it.  This is where you have to be careful of your fingers!  It is easy to slip and touch the iron, so be careful…

You can’t get distracted when making the cookies, so again, make sure you have plenty of time and don’t start doing other things as you will burn your cookies if you don’t check them regularly.

But all that time and effort is worth it!  I enjoy krumkake plain with a little powdered sugar dusted over them.  You can also fill them with whipped cream, fruit or other goodies – it’s your preference.

Take time to stop and make your favorite holiday cookies this year and if you have the opportunity, invite a young cook into your kitchen and teach them how to make a special holiday treat.  And Mrs. Leeman, thank you for being one of my favorite teachers and one of my Mom’s dear friends.  I wish I could share these with you, Merry Christmas!







Susan Balbo Surprise

In any trip I have taken, a pleasant surprise always occurs.  Whether it’s a hidden photography gem down an alley, the Mom and Pop restaurant, or something you trip over because you were not where you were originally supposed to be.  Fate, kismet, dumb luck – I don’t care what you call it, I’ll take it.

After two days on airplanes, John and I were ready to collapse when we arrived a Lares de Chacras, a wonderful boutique hotel just south of Mendoza.  As we entered through the massive front door that pivots at a unique angle, we took a quick step back as we realized we were walking across the glass ceiling of their wine cellar.  We both smiled as Franco welcomed us and we knew we made an excellent choice in accommodations.

A welcome shower and a two-hour nap are exactly what was needed before joining the other guests in the dining room for our first wonderful dinner in Argentina.  We selected an Alta Vista Single Vineyard Serenade 2010 Malbec from the wine cellar to start the evening.  Instead of the typical bread, we were presented with addictive warm, melt-in-your-mouth herb biscuits.  To start, we enjoyed “wrapped seafood” a delicious mix of seafood and mushrooms wrapped in phyllo, and a wonderful winter soup of pureed pumpkin drizzled with pureed beetroot and touches of green onions and jalapenos.  We both could not resist the opportunity to enjoy our first Argentinian beef.  While John enjoyed a perfectly grilled filet mignon with chimichurri sauce, I tried the skirt steak.   I was very pleased that my steak which can be overcooked at tough at times, was juicy and perfectly medium rare.  The simple spices allowed the flavors of the meat to shine.  While we didn’t think there was room for dessert, there always is.  The caramel, coconut flan was too much for me to resist and it did not disappoint.

The morning arrived and we headed south with the spectacular Andes mountains as a backdrop.  A fresh dusting of snow brought them to life, even though another 90-degree day was predicted in the valley.  The cold and snow we left behind in Jackson Hole made us smile.

Our first stop was Catena Zapata.  A number of years ago I had the honor of meeting Nicholas Catena at a wine dinner and he made me promise if I ever visited Mendoza I would make the winery my first visit.  I kept my promise and was not disappointed.  The Catena wines have always been one of my favorites and were my entrée into Malbecs years ago.  I cannot say enough about the staff at the winery, Tatianna and Mercedes, who were exquisite hosts.  They were also a godsend when we had some transportation difficulties and they didn’t even blink before jumping in to assist us.

The winery is designed after a Mayan ruin, paying tribute to the history of the country.  But this history of Argentine wines has been built squarely on the shoulders of the Catena family.  It was Nicholas who first planted vines at a high altitude (6000+ meters), and while everyone shook their heads and thought he was crazy, it was he who proved them wrong.  Today their Adrianna vineyard has generated over 500 Malbec varietals.

Every element of the winery was beautifully designed, from the brass staircase in the center of the building that ascends to the roof, to the 300 barrel wine theater where the best of their wine is aged, to the impressive Catena and European (read – the competition) wine cellars.  We so wanted to poke around the European cellar and see what was hiding under the dust covering many of the labels.

While we only tasted the wines available for export during our tasting – wines I have already tried, we were able to enjoy a wonderful DV Catena Malbec 2010 Malbec while we waited for our ride to arrive.  Well worth the wait!

My hat is off to Laura Catena who is now in charge of the winery.  She is blazing trails for women in the wine industry and is making her Father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather very proud.

Another woman making advances is Susan Balbo – our wonderful, incredible surprise of the day.  We didn’t originally have Dominio Del Plata on our radar screen, but thanks to a last-minute recommendation by a Jackson Hole wine rep, we were able to book a visit.  We arrived early at the winery and famished, so we asked if we could slip in for lunch at Osadia de Crear.  Our hotel manager, in addition to our wine rep, said it was a must.

Osadio only opened in March and it has an amazing future with Chef Jose Cacciavillani  at the helm.  Osadia de Crear translates to “daring to create” and is the perfect name.  While the seating is limited, I have never experienced a restaurant where the chef comes to each table with each serving and provides a description of your meal.  Raw talent and creativity are his foundation, and then he intoxicates your palate from there.

I highly recommend the Susan Balbo prefix meal for approximately $80.  It includes a starter, entrée and dessert, along with two glasses of wine and coffee or tea.  We each ordered different wines so we had the opportunity to try four Signature Balbo wines.

We began with a Signature 2011 Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Malbec was beautiful with strong chocolate and spices.  Initially, the Cab was light, more typical of a French Bordeaux, but by the time the entrée arrived, its flavors sang.  Again, warm, fresh bread was brought to the table, but accompanied with a light olive oil and very different guacamole that was spiced with coriander and smoked Tabasco.  Its flavor was perfect.

I decided to live a little and ordered the blood sausage and quince dumpling for my starter, while John ordered the German sausage, vegetable and fruit fondue.  Let me just state here that Chef Jose’s presentations are exquisite.  From the brush of balsamic vinegar to the bright colored flowers, each plate is a work of art.

One bite of the blood sausage and quince dumpling and I was a puddle.  It truly fits in my highest score – the culinary orgasm.  The sweet and tart flavors make your taste buds happier than they have ever been.  I could have stopped right there, not had another bite of the meal and died happy.  Run, fly, take a train, but you have to try this appetizer.

If I smoked, I would have stepped outside, lit one up and recomposed myself, but our entrees arrived and we had to see what surprise was next.  I enjoyed a very simple plate of Patagonia trout, seared with the perfect amount of salt and pepper, and paired with a sweet potato, squash and garlic puree.  John’s leg of lamb ratatouille had been slow cooked for 10 hours and fell apart when touched.  Enhanced with olive oil and duck fat as it is roasted, the flavors were immense.  Both the Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon were excellent compliments to the meal.

Dessert, you knew it would be heavenly.  While I am not a big sweet wine drinker, the Late Harvest Malbec and Torrentes were perfectly chilled and what can I say, we both giggled after sipping our respective glasses.  Paired with a green apple strudel and a crème brulee, we were spent, finished and happy.

This trip was number two on my bucket list and I sometimes worry, what happens if it isn’t as fabulous as you imagine?  Any such thought was pushed aside.  Our first day in Mendoza was complete and I received my “surprise” the first day.



That Special Bottle Of Wine

It was Easter 1984 and the family sat down for our traditional spread of honey-baked ham and Mom’s oh-so-succulent turkey that had been slow-roasting since before we left for sunrise service.   Dad had just delivered the blessing when my sister followed up with, “And God bless Chris and Chuck’s engagement.”

I screamed, Mom started crying, Dad let out a howl and Chris uncovered her gorgeous engagement ring, while my future brother-in-law, Chuck, sat there with a Cheshire grin on his face.

My family were not major wine drinkers at the time, but when we did imbibe, it was usually along the lines of Riunite Lambrusco.   When everyone came down off of the euphoria cloud, Dad noted we didn’t have a bottle of wine to celebrate.  Shock, gasp, appalling!  At that moment I ran upstairs and pulled from under my bed a very dusty bottle of wine I brought home from my year living in Australia.  Sadly, I can’t even tell you what it was…. I came bouncing back downstairs, set the bottle on the table and Dad looked at me and said, “I thought you were saving that for something special?”

There was a moment of silence and then everyone burst out laughing. The wine was opened and toasts were made, while my sister glowed.

Today, I’m not a sommelier or wine expert, and I don’t play one on TV. I just love drinking wine.  It was several years after my sister’s wedding when a good friend invited me to one of Dornan’s winter wine dinners.  It was a vertical tasting of cabernets sauvignon and I had no appreciation what I was tasting.

At one point, Bob Dornan, master of ceremonies and a man who I love and adore, as does much of Jackson Hole, said, “Can you taste the chocolate in this wine?”  I thought the man had lost his mind – chocolate in wine?  I was such a rookie.

Years later, much more versed in wine and the enhancing flavors, I opened a bottle of wine, took a sip and stopped.  I took another sip and, I’ll be, chocolate.  Dark, rich, luscious chocolate, masquerading as a bottle of wine.  It was pure heaven.

For those of who want to learn about wine, it’s simple. Go to your local wine store and ask for recommendations.  Or, throw a brown-bag barbecue with your friends.  Everyone brings a red and white bottle, wrapped in a paper bag.  Your guests taste each wine and then vote.  You’ll discover some fabulous and very affordable wines this way.  Just keep tasting until you find something you like and keep notes.  The Evernote and Vivino apps are my best friends when it comes to keeping a list of wines I want to remember.

Pick up Wine For Dummies and learn the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Gris.  And for you history buffs, Wine & War and the Women of Wine are two fabulous books that will keep you turning the pages.

Sip, breathe, eat and enjoy.  It’s the best way to learn about wine, plain and simple.

Chris and Chuck are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary today.  Like a good wine, they have gotten better and better with time and, they have become major Malbec connoisseurs – love swapping recommendations with them!

So happy anniversary you two, I raise my favorite glass sparkling wine, J Brut, to my best friend and her incredible husband.  You remind us that love, friendship and most importantly, communication are paramount to making a marriage work and last.





The Cutters Run So Children May Walk

Each WinterFest Week, Jackson Hole residents and visitors can enjoy two very exciting and unique events benefiting the Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City: The 44th Annual Cutter Races and the 3rd Annual North American Ski Joring Championships.

Hosted by the Jackson Hole Shriners, the Cutter Races are held Presidents Day weekend.  The races were originally on the streets of downtown Jackson, but the event has grown so much that it is now held just south of Jackson, off of South Park Loop Road and Melody Ranch. The Ski Joring event was created several years ago as a bookend event to wrap up Winterfest Week in Jackson Hole.

For those not familiar with cutter racing, think Ben Hur, but instead of a colosseum, imagine two horses and a carriage moving at top speeds across the snow. Ski joring gets a little more crazy as skiers are pulled by running horses through an obstacle course filled with jumps and speed runs.  Click here to watch exciting videos from previous events.

The locals know to show up early and park their trucks, flat beds and RVs, then proceed to set up elaborate tailgate parties complete with grills, music and specialty flags so their friends know where to find them.

Calcutta betting is used to raise additional funds and create further competition in the events.

The net proceeds from the events are donated to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake which serves children of the Jackson Hole community. The hospital is committed to providing the best care for children in their specialty areas of orthopedics, burn care, spinal cord injury and cleft lip and palate, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

The Shriners and the hospital have helped countless children and their families in the Jackson Hole area receive care they may otherwise have never been able to afford. This care changes lives, brings hope and smiles to the faces of children and parents, and simply is priceless.

The 2014 Cutter Races are held February 14th and 15th at 12:30 pm. The Ski Joring event is February 21st and 22nd at 12:00 pm. There is a $15 entry free for the Cutter Races and $10 for Ski Joring.  Children under 12 are free. For more information on the events, visit