Archive for the ‘Editorial Thoughts’ Category

My Newest Title: Wine Educator

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
List of classes with arrows next to the wine classes

NOTE: This article has two sections. Section 1 was written about three weeks ago and placed on hold. Section 2 was written last week.

Section 1

As I wrote last month, I passed my WSET Level 3 exam with distinction. To everyone who asks, I’m still quite far from being a sommelier, but I also know a decent amount about wine. I know that this certification is an odd/vague sort of title. What does it says about my credentials?

That’s something I’ve been trying to figure out as well. What do I want to do with this education? Yes, I enjoyed the subject itself and the challenge of learning all the material, but that was just the path and not the destination.

Being on the road this year, I wanted to figure out something that both utilized this new certification and was flexible. I know, I’m a dreamer. One option I considered was education. I was hoping that maybe I could earn my WSET Educator certificate. I learned that it may be trickier than I had thought.

However, while I was seeking ways to earn that certificate I was introduced to a number of team members at University of Arkansas- Pulanski Technical College, specifically in their culinary program. In the amazing coincidence of life, they were in need of a wine instructor for their community education program. I explained that I’d only be in Arkansas until early May, and guess what? That worked well for them!

Starting on April 1st, I’ll be teaching four wine classes. Not only will I be teaching them, I’ll also be designing the curriculum. I’m excited for this opportunity. I’ve built curriculum for elementary aged children and startup founders, I’m ready to tackle these wine courses.

If you happen to be in the Little Rock area, feel free to register to join me for one or all four!

Section 2

It should come as no surprise, but all of my wine courses have been cancelled. With COVID-19 and all of the precautions that need to be taken, classes have been cancelled for the month of April. I’d be untruthful to say I’m not disappointed; I am. However, I understand and respect that decision. It’s the right choice to make; it’s one I would make if I were in charge of the schools.

I could pout and frown, but that does no good. So, what I’m doing is building the curriculum anyway. I’ll find a new place or way to teach these courses once the world settles down. Building the curriculum will allow me to stay immersed in wine knowledge and be ready for the next opportunity I find.

Home Is Where You Are

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

There are things that we say, like the title of this article, that seem like clichés. They come across as tossaway lines, things you’re supposed to say but don’t carry weight. Then you hear that sentence or phrase in a different setting, and you realize the impact.

This year, my husband and I are on the road. We’ve been in Hot Springs, Arkansas, since the end of January. We’ll then move onto Lexington, Kentucky, for the summer and then try out another place or two before the end of the year.

So, as we are in Hot Springs for a good chunk of time, it’s kind of like home. We’re staying in a condo we’ve rented that’s nicely decorated, although it’s not our own decor. We have a well-stocked kitchen, but most of the items in there are not from my kitchen. (I did bring a few need to have items for my work at Think Tasty but not enough to make it feel fully like my old kitchen.)

During our first week here, I felt not quite in my own skin. I guess it’s like that at any new location. But unlike other moves, it wouldn’t become my own with the unpacking of boxes and firmly setting roots.

And yet, by a few days into our stay, I felt at home. I knew the surroundings and was more comfortable here. I didn’t see our clock in the living room, our artwork in the dining room, or our dishes in the kitchen, but this place began to feel like home home.

Why, then, did this place begin to feel like home? The short answer is my husband. As empty nesters, it’s just the two of us on this year’s journey. Although we don’t have a physical location that is our home, we do have each other. This cues up the oft clichéd phrase:

Home is where you are.

Overused or overly sentimental, it is true. Home isn’t necessarily a physical construction; it is more of an emotional item. Being in a different location without many of our possessions doesn’t mean that we’re without a home. We have a home because we are together.

Every place we will stay this year will neither be owned nor decorated by us, but yet each of them will be home. How lucky are we to have each other and thus our home.

Friendliness Begets Friendliness

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

I will start by clarifying that I am not an expert on human emotions or reactions. I’m neither a trained psychologist, scientist, nor researcher in these areas. However, I do love to contemplate the emotions and engagements of people.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my first week in Hot Springs. Feel free to click the link, and read. The short version is that everyone here is as friendly as I remember from my stay in 2019. In the three weeks since I posted that article, the theme of general kindness continues. Pick a location- gym, racetrack, grocery store, restaurant, and more- everyone is unbelievably friendly and warm.

In our time here what I’ve observed about myself is that this general sense of congeniality has encouraged me to be more conversational and cordial when I’m out in public. Between having lived in New England, where people aren’t this friendly, and sometimes leaning toward shy, I am oft to keep my head down and hurry about my day.

Being here in Hot Springs and feeling so welcomed has made me want to be part of that community. Rather than looking toward the ground as I walk, I make eye contact far more often. This eye contact is accompanied by a smile and greeting. Even better, these greetings are returned with a smile and true response.

Although these are brief encounters, they really can do much to affect your mood. Even if I’m out and already in good spirits, being welcomed in such a warm manner just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. It’s like I’ve been wrapped in this blanket of camaraderie.

All of this brings me to my thinking that friendliness begets more friendliness. It may sound corny, but when you smile directly at someone, it makes both of you feel happier. If that smile spreads to more people, you can create this giant community of people who are happy. That’s what Hot Springs feels like. And honestly I think it’s pretty much a good portion of the south. Having now driven to southern Alabama and back, I can say that all the people I met along the way were incredibly friendly.

So, if you want to try and build this same community of happiness, start with one smile and genuine greeting. Just a simple, “Good morning!” might be enough to spark the chain of events. Give it a try, and see if you, too, can be a person whose friendliness begets the friendliness of another.

Level 3 Certified- with Distinction

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020
Watch out, wine world. Here I come!

Last summer I wrote about all of the roles I hold professionally and what some of my future goals might be. Included in the list was the role of student. At that point I had just begun the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 3 certification course.

This 15-week program involved weekly drives to Boston for an in-person class and many, many hours of at-home studying. I wrote (and whined a bit) about it back in October. This course does require a good amount of commitment to pass the exam.

I took the exam on Tuesday, December 3rd in Boston. Mother Nature decided to torment me and make it a snowy day, but thankfully it wasn’t snowy enough to delay the exam. With all the time and energy I’d spent on preparing, I really didn’t want to go through more days of studying and waiting for the exam.

At the exam, the director of the school, through which I took the course, explained that results are ready in approximately three months. 3 MONTHS! As I took the exam, I felt cautiously optimistic. For both the tasting and theory portions of the exam, I was able to proceed at a reasonable pace and still had time to review my answers before closing my booklets. In fact, for the theory portion, I was able to leave about 30 minutes before the exam ended.

In the days following the exam, many people asked how I felt I did. I was hopeful that I did well, but I also was hesitant to be too confident. For me, I would prefer to be modest, hoping I did well, than to be boastful and do worse than I thought. Plus, I realized on the drive home that for the tasting portion I had practiced tasting many times and discussed correct answers but never discussed how the written answer should be formatted. My process was to create a grid of the things I was to note and then fill in my answers. My concern was that perhaps it should have been written in sentences. I decided not to research that. If I didn’t format the testing portion correctly, I would learn that when I got my results.

Fast forward to the evening of Friday, January 31st, as I was about to get out of the car and enter a restaurant for dinner with my husband. I decided to do one final peek at email before ignoring my phone for a while. There was the subject line I’d been awaiting: WSET Level 3 Exam result. I clicked and scanned. In the body of the email were words I dreamed I might see:

When taking a WSET exam, there are four options. Fail; Pass; Pass with Merit; Pass with Distinction. I scored in the highest possible category. All of the time that I put into studying and learning was rewarded. I don’t know that I stopped smiling that night. I probably didn’t stop smiling all weekend.

Now it’s time to begin using this certification. I have a couple ideas in mind. If you check back in the coming weeks, I should have an update. Here’s to a new role in the world of wine!

Week 1 in Hot Springs

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020
My daily view

What can I say? It’s very good to be back in Hot Springs.

In the mere week we have been here, I’ve been reminded how kind and friendly the people are here. Let the multitude of examples (in a five day span) begin.

I returned to the same gym that I used last year. On one of my visits there, two different people welcomed me back to the gym, remembered I was from New Hampshire, and also remembered my name. Their genuine happiness at my return was so kind.

The kindness continues almost everywhere you go. Using a self checkout at the grocery store, I managed to make the need assistance light go off. Yay, me. The clerk came to help, as expected, but also made pleasant conversation. When I returned a couple days later, she saw and greeted me, remembering me as the woman from New Hampshire with Thoroughbreds. I shopped consistently at the same store in New Hampshire for years, but no one remembered me or seemed quite as friendly.

This friendliness continues. We had dinner at the bar at the Bleu Monkey Grill the other night. I know a bartender should be friendly, but our bartender, Courtney, was even more so. Although she never stopped moving because there was a steady flow of customers, she recognized that we were new to the restaurant and took the time to get to know us as she filled orders.

I also went to the library this week, both to get a non-resident card and to use it as a workspace. When I went to the counter to get my card, all of the librarians were busy. I was waiting patiently, but a staff member saw me waiting and immediately called behind the counter for another librarian to assist me. My librarian was thorough and thoughtful, as she reviewed all of the information and offered to help with anything I might need. Although I know that’s how it should be, it doesn’t always happen, so I appreciate it when I receive exceptional service.

This kindness reminds me that when I’m out, I need to exhibit that same warmth. Maybe because it’s colder in New Hampshire, we often keep our heads down and move quickly. Here, I feel the need to pay attention to where I’m walking and greet others with a smile and hello. I want to be part of this group this is so kind and friendly.

All of this kindness and warmth reinforce that we’ve chosen a great place for the first stop in our year on the road.

Hot Springs via Nashville

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020
We were in Nashville; we had to take the picture.

The drive from Manchester to Hot Springs is about twenty-three hours total. When you drive with someone who isn’t a fan of driving, that’s a pretty long trip. Want to guess who the non-fan is? Yep, it’s my husband, not me.

Months ago, when we began planning our year of finding a new home, I decided to be the chief organizer. Finding homes to rent, determining how to ship our possessions, and planning travel all fall within one of my favorite skills: research. As I planned this year, one thing I wanted to do was make the travel to each location into a fun adventure. I’ve raised kids; I know how to make a boring car trip into fun.

Since the first drive was almost a day long, if done straight through, I decided to break it into chunks. This worked well for several reasons. First, none of our days of driving lasted more than six-ish hours. Second, because our drives were shorter, we could leave after morning rush hour and be at our next destination before afternoon rush hour. Third, we each had time to work at the start and end of each day. We didn’t have to work late into the evening nor be stressed about work piling up.

Along the route, I didn’t have set stops for the first two days. It was merely a matter of seeing where we would end after six hours of driving. Since we were traveling in January, I knew that weather might slow or delay our travel, so all hotels were booked about noon of the day needed. Thankfully, the worst weather we encountered was downpours on Friday morning in West Virginia.

However, on the third day of driving I did have a destination in mind: Nashville. We couldn’t move into our home until Sunday, so why not spend 36 hours in a fun, new-to-me city? It was a great choice. We basically ate (and drank) our way through a portion of the city. Here’s a quick accounting of what we enjoyed:

  • Friday afternoon snack at Tavern at Bobby: Crispy Brussel Sprouts, Italian 75 (me), Everything Nice Old Fashioned (him)
  • Friday dinner at Party Fowl: Fowl Balls (shared), Hot Chicken Tenders with collard greens and mac & cheese (me), Hot Chicken & Beignets (him)
  • Saturday afternoon snack at Diskin Cidery: Charcuterie (shared), Flight of Bob’s Your Uncle, BTC, Resolution, and Wetter the Better (me), Tiki Tonic and Jalapeno Honey (him)
  • Saturday dinner at Butcher & Bee: Creamy Kale, Whipped Feta, Avocado Crispy Rice, Lamb Riblets, Apple of My Eye Cheesecake, and Sweet Potato Pie (all shared)

Nashville was a delicious city! It also was a great city to explore. It was upper 30s and overcast on our one day to tour, so we didn’t walk as much as we could have. However, in that time we did visit the Nashville War Memorial, Tennessee State Capitol, Belmont Mansion, and Nashville Craft Distillery. As non-country music fans, I think the locations we chose worked well and were perfect for us.

Sunday was our final day of driving, and we arrived in Hot Springs in the mid-afternoon. Return next week, as I’ll share more about the start of our Arkansas adventure!