Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bring it On

I made it past the dreaded Christmas holiday. Chris and I celebrated in our usual fashion--we call it "Mas Chris" (Spanish for "more Chris" --you got that right?) and just let it be all about him. Although, he, as is our tradition, was the one in the kitchen whipping up a pan of mouth-wateringly good paella and pouring the Tempranillo. We also have a custom of sipping on some Madera wine from 1904. Yes, 1904. The wine keeps that long (and after the bottle is opened as's like magic wine!).  Throw in a fews books, a nice fire going, a snuggly beagle on his cashmere throw on the couch...and yeah, we survived nicely.

And now, on New Year's Eve, I'm very much in my happy place. My happy place looks a lot  exactly like this:
This is Wind 'N' Sea beach in La Jolla, California. Truly one of my favorite places on earth. I took these photos (with my cell phone no less) on my walk this morning. I'm here in a friends condo, finishing up the manuscript for "The Dog Lived (and So Will I)" memoir.  (4 days to deadline!)

Walking the beach is good for the creative (and all other types of) energy. And today on my walk I encountered at least six puppies (Christmas gifts?) and a whole bunch of adult dogs. Dogs on a beach? Pretty much my favorite thing.

2 Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppies with their moms (dog and human!) on the beach

And in a few short hours my favorite person on earth will be joining me. Not a bad way to end 2011.

As for 2012? Bring it on. 

Happy New Year to all!

P.S. The savvy readers among you at this point are thinking, "Wasn't she just in Maui?" And the answer is yes. I have very kind, very generous clients who share their beautiful vacation homes with me from time to time and all seem to want to help me get this memoir finished. I am rich in friends. But, um, I better get back to work on that memoir lest they all think I'm a fraud!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Anniversary Gift

 If you've met me or been reading this blog in holidays past this will not come as a surprise to you: I hate Christmas.

Actually, it's much deeper than that. I loathe the entire month of December, right up to Christmas (oddly, I'm okay with the 26th through the 31st). I'd give you the whole long, sad saga of why but there's no need to bring you down too. (Let's just say it includes deaths, a coma and cancers--please note the plurals. And please return to your happy holiday celebrations as though you never read that.)

December 23rd is a particularly bad day historically, so I hesitate to write this before the day is completely over. But, I feel I must was 3 years ago today I got the "highly suspicious of malignancy" phone call from my doctor. That statement was followed by "you need to see a surgeon and have the mass removed; not even a biopsy, just have the surgery." Oh, and that call came at 3:45pm. Merry, merry...uh, quite the contrary.

That was, however, 3 years ago. I'm fine now. Scar is faded, mammograms are clear, hair is grown back and chemo weight gain is finally gone (yeah, it took 3 years; whatever. ).  And dare I say it--I've had a very nice quiet day at home. I've been rewriting, and rewriting and rewriting the memoir (due to my editor in a mere 12 days!) while sitting by the fire with Seamus for most of the day. (Chris is busy at his new wine shop.) It's been, actually, unbelievably, a pretty nice day...but it makes me nervous to say that (lightening will strike soon). And while I'm still not up for celebrating Christmas or any other winter holiday, I have gifts for you. Let's just call them anniversary gifts, shall we?

As my gift to you, I'd like to share some blogs that make me happy. Blogs that cheer me. Blogs that are just so freakin' cute. (Although I follow many cancer blogs, none are listed here...I have a certain mood to maintain!). And as you know, the things that make me happy involve my alphabet life (alcohol, books, coffee and dogs). So please enjoy:

From Sophie's View (please don't tell Seamus I said this, but this is one gorgeous dog who has one fantabulous life)

Mutterings (watch this video in particular; it's so good it almost made me like Christmas!)

Going Gently (in my next life, I want to come back as one of his animals/ pets/ housemates. And only now that I had to grab that URL for you did I see that his URL is, which gives you an idea of the humor)

Luna, A Dog's Life  (she's a beagle puppy...and if that's not cute enough, she lives in Australia with her two doting daddies who teach her all sorts of tricks.)

Coffee With a Canine (Coffee. With a Canine. Are you kidding me? How does it get better? --well, I'm holding out for Wine with a Canine....but in the meantime, I'm good with this.)

Sara in Le Petit Village (Sara is married to a French guy, has a great dog named Fifty, lives in a postcard French Village and has a terrific sense of humor; I'd hate her if I didn't enjoy her blog so much. And the fact that I won a book called "Dog Trots Globe" on her blog this week? That's just icing on the cake...or the croissant. Whatever.)

Greetings From Texas (Megan is, as her blog says, a "professional blogger, amateur Texan," she also just happens to be a young ovarian cancer survivor with a great sense of humor...and fashion!; This does not mean I lied about no cancer blogs being listed here...this is not a cancer blog. If it was, I might never have found out about UV Cake Vodka.)

And finally...

I Shoulda Been a Stripper  (I guess with that title I don't need to tell you she's funny. But it's worth noting she has two beagles. Which also means she's hip and smart. No, it does. It totally means that.)

And just as a side note, because it's worth sharing should this ever apply to you: American Dog magazine recently posted an article on where to get help paying vet bills if you need it. Now that's something that could really be a gift.

I'm dangerously close to being all perky and holiday happyish here and we do not want to tempt fate. So, let me hasten to add...

Bah, Humbug!!
And to all a goodnight.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Holiday Tradition

The Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center here in Riverside has a "Pet Pictures" with Santa fundraiser event every year. We take Seamus every year. And every year he does this:
Christmas 2007

Christmas 2008

Christmas 2010
That's right...every year he hates it! (2009 was my cancer year... I thus call "chemo brain" on the fact that I can't find that photo).

So...aren't you dying to know how 2011 went? Here he is:
Christmas 2011
Hey, at least Santa didn't have to put him in a headlock this time.
But  then look what happened...

I guess Seamus didn't want to wait for Christmas morning to get his treats. He hit up Santa when Santa was trying to take a break. Santa obliged and just happened to have some dog treats in his pocket.

And now we all believe.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Pup-arazzi Following begins

Seamus is getting even more famous. It happens. This interview of me (and Seamus) was done in connection with the "Boobie Bash" fundraiser for The Pink Ribbon Place and Tongka Dog Foundation (raising funds to support canine cancer research).

Let us know what you think of the video! (And please don't point out all the faces I make...I know, I know....)

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I had this crazy idea that I'd have MORE time to blog on vacation. Especially since my vacation was in know land of beautiful beaches, sunsets and a "hang loose" attitude.

But, no. First, I was sick the first two days I was there (crazy stomach bug--so much for Thanksgiving dinner) and then I was hyper-productive on The Dog Lived memoir manuscript. The point of the week in paradise really was to write. I'm pleased to report, I finished another draft! Probably only one more to go before I hand my baby over to the editor at Sourcebooks. Super exciting times.

So that's my excuse for being absent from the blogoshpere. Well...that, and these:


Sunday, November 20, 2011

So Much Wine...So Little Time

The last day of Wineapalooza...
I love Paso Robles, so I really didn't want to leave, but alas, we have jobs (no, I promise!) and we missed Seamus, so we packed up and made our leisurely way home. In downtown Paso we had lunch and hit the Paso Wine Centre tasting room. We were a little early (12 is too early for wine?? What??) so only JK Wines and Roxo Port were pouring....but they were worth the trip! We then decided to drive around enjoying the beautiful day  and randomly picking a winery to visit. My random pick was Red Soles winery. Much like picking Irish Vineyards a few days back, this one had my name all over it...they've got a shoe theme going!
See? Paso is just gorgeous!!

Our 40th winery visited and 330th wine tasted (in my glass--2010 Stiletto: a Late Harvest Viognier).
And look, we're still standing!! Now, we could have just stopped at 40 wineries and 330 wines tasted, which would have been a nice well-rounded ending. But, no. We're not wimps. But we should have been...
We rolled on into Los Olivos and...well, a tasting room that shall go unmentioned because the crabby, miserable man behind the counter was such a disappointment. We sort of felt trapped into a tasting...and he charged us more than anyone else on the entire trip!  Our last stop was better though. It involved wine AND dogs! How much better can it be?

Carinvintas Winery's motto is "Blending Wine with Philanthropy" and their philanthropy of choice is animal rescue organizations. Look at these beautiful labels, each has a rescue dog on it:

They're the winery that has the Vicktory wines (in honor of the dogs rescued from the awful Michael Vick dog-fighting ring) on  labels to raise funds for the dogs' care and rehabilitation. So, this was a great way to end our trip.

We bought the "Lassy" blend-- 50% Barbera and 50% Tempranillo....and then we drove home.

Our Stash...A job well done, no?
Final totals:  42 wineries/ tasting rooms visited.
346 Wines tasted
106 bottles purchased.
(It's 3 1/2 months since we ended this trip....I'm not going to report on how many of those bottles are left.)

And now, we will return to our regular programming of all things A,B,C and D  (Alcohol, books, coffee and dogs. And sometimes cancer...)

Fun fact for this post:   Yesterday I received my first official advance check from the publisher for The Dog Lived memoir!!!  I was disproportionately excited about that. And when I can, I'll post a picture of the painting I bought to celebrate the sale of my book and the opening of Chris's wine shop...which will happen on December 1st!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wine-ing Up and Puppying Up

Yeah, so it's taken me nearly four months to finish telling you of the epic wine tour through Oregon and California. I'm going to finish this up just as I leave on my next trip (Shhh....I'm going to Maui!). Perhaps I should have stuck to cancer and dogs (I have more stories there too!!). But the trip was fabulous and I feel obliged to share. So here's the second to the last Wineapalooza post, with, as promised, a little something else at the end....

We have a very boring but quite enjoyable (we like each other's company... a lot) drive from Sanger

alllllllll the way down through central California to Paso Robles. I heart Paso Robles. Really. Truly. Madly. Deeply. And it did not disappoint. Dinner was at Artisan and then we crashed at the Marriott.
The next day we decided to check out the tasting rooms in town and started at Clayhouse (loved their Adobe White blend as well as the Adobe Pink rose'!)

Next up we hit Bear Cave, which I was fond of because it's a) a wine tasting room, b) a law office and c) their dog was there--and boy was he playful!

Next up was Bodegas/ Asuncion Ridge (they share a tasting room) and....our 300th wine tasted!

Lucky 300 was a tasty Bodegas 2007 Vaca Negra (50% Mouvedre/ 50% Tempranillo)...note Chris's serious wine teeth. Good, good stuff.

We ran into the same woman at several of the tasting rooms and it was here we found out she worked for one of the wineries with a brand new tasting room in town. Naturally, we took her suggestions and headed over to Parrish Vineyards tasting room. And we ended up there for the rest of the evening!

Chris with winery owner David Parrish...discussing grapes of course

The beautiful bottles of gorgeous Parrish wines!
(Love their Silken red. Mmmmm..... )In fact, we went to dinner with David and the young woman who enticed us over, Chalan Lind (pronounced, she helpfully told us, like "Shhhhh....Alan.") Great people with some great wines! This turned out to be one of our favorite tasting experiences (see? I love Paso!). And we're pleased to say Chris will be carrying some of those great wines in his Forgotten Grapes store! (Opening soon and yes, you'll be hearing more about that too!).

In real time...sort of, the little something extra of this blog post is what Seamus and I did last weekend:

That's the Puppy Up Canine Cancer Walk in Costa Mesa CA. And they say it never rains in California! It poured! So only a few of us die hards showed up and they had us do a "symbolic" walk (not a mile...more like 100 yards). Seamus probably would not have forgiven me except that the nice lady at Take5forFido massage gave Seamus a massage! Also, we won a raffle prize full of some healthy snacks and relaxing music for stressed out dogs. Yeah, Seamus thinks he's stressed. It's hard not getting steak every time you howl for it.
The short walk meant we had time to visit with my sister, her husband and my two adorable nieces that all worked out!

(I promise you, that's hot chocolate...not the lattes they look like.)
Next up...the final day of Wineapalooza and an update on the progress of The Dog Lived memoir (as my manuscript deadline approaches...)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pink on Parade...With Dogs

Last weekend Chris, Seamus and I participated in Pink on Parade--our city's first breast cancer awareness walk benefiting The Pink Ribbon Place (yes, yes, it you're a pink ribbon hater you can stop reading). Our team was called "Legal Beagle and Friends." We were a small team (us, my secretary Michelle and her husky-wolf hybrid Rocco), but we raised $850 and Chris was the M.C. I was also on the committee, so we did our part. Much to our surprise over 800 people showed up!

Over $37,000 was raised--all of which will help support under- and uninsured people needing mammograms and other services as they battle breast cancer. It was a great day.

And tomorrow, Seamus and I will be walking in the "Puppy UP" walk in Costa Mesa--a walk to raise funds for the 2 Million Dogs Foundation fighting canine cancer.

P.S. When we're not walking, I'm writing. Book is coming along (man is it a lot of work!!), thanks for asking!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bleeding Fingers

Well, it is Halloween, so I needed a blog title like that. It's also (almost) appropriate.

I need to return to Wineapalooza because we met so many wonderful people and tasted some extraordinary wines and those deserve to be shared, so I'm pushing on with it, even though I'm months behind. In fairness to me, I didn't anticipate signing a book deal in the midst of Wineapalooza. I have been a writing maniac of late (hence, the bleeding fingers --or, um, figures of speech), working on The Dog Lived manuscript and it seems like as soon as I look up from the keyboard, another week has flown by. And there is so much going on! So much more to share! So, here's my new  scheme wishful thinking hope and prayer plan. I'm going to give you a little of the remainder of Wineapalooza, and then a little something else. Then wineapalooza, then something else. All of which requires me to actually blog.... Hmmmm.. Well, let's get started.

Wineapalooza left off at the cabin randomly named for Mark Twain. The next day we were in Madera, where we had no winery reservations and thus slept in. Which turned out to be a good thing, because there weren't many wineries (um, none) open on Monday and making wines of the Forgotten Grapes varietals. So we drove on out to Sanger where we visited the Cedar View winery. And what a gorgeous stop that was! I mean, look at this:

Right? How could I not share this with you? Favorite wine at Cedar View was the Alicante Bouschet (see if you don't know that that is!). And in the "it's a small world" category, the owner/ winemaker, Jim Van Haun, and I had a friend in common, so I brought back a bottle of his rose' wine for her (Hi Stacey, if you're still reading this even though you know I lived.) Here's Chris with Jim and his wife Debbie in their tasting room--with a copy of Touring & Tasting magazine open to the page that features them. It's like we're tourists. Only with taste.

For the record, at this point in the Wineapalooza Mother of all Wine trips, we have visited 31 wineries and sampled 269 wines. It was time to head to Paso Robles, which, not coincidentally, is where I dream of living some day.

And for the current "little something else" of this blog post, on this, the last day of "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" I want to share a little news with you. I'm coming up on my 3 year "no-cancer-versary." Well, that will actually be January 28th (the 3 year anniversary of my surgery and thus the last time there was any visible signs of cancer in my body), but that seems right around the corner doesn't it?   I mention that only for context....see, last week I packaged up my wigs and scarves and even the styrofoam head to hold the wigs and donated them to The Pink Ribbon Place. And, I'll admit, it was a strange feeling. Uncomfortable. What if the cancer returns? What if I need these again? And, I can also tell you that I kept the wigs, t-shirts, scarves, etc. all together in a laundry basket in a corner of my closet. I had not looked at those items in a long, long time. So I had a rush of emotions pulling everything back out. It was difficult looking at them again. In the end, that's what made me decide to go ahead and donate the items. That was a different time in my life and it's over. These wigs and scarves can help somebody else now.
Goodbye red...somebody else needs you now.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blog Obssession

Hmmm...perhaps we should just agree that I'm going to post a Wineapalooza blog post, then something else, then Wineapalooza, then something else...because Wineapalooza and all the fascinating and delicious wineries we visited deserves continued blog posting. But also, there's so much else going on now and I can't seem to catch up! Wineapalooza only has 3 more days, but as you've probably learned by now...many of the wineries we visited deserve and require their own posts. What's a wine lover to do?

And did I mention...I have a book deal now? And a deadline for turning in a manuscript? Right! So I'm busy with that writing. I'm really enjoying it. Polishing some chapters, throwing out others, re-writing, writing entirely new's all good. But time consuming. Because, right, I have a "real" job. And Seamus. I have Seamus and therefore must meet Seamus's demands for attention, cuddles, food and walks (and not at all in that order). And ever since the book deal, Seamus's demands have increased. It's like he knows.

For this post though, I'd like to share a blog and website that I've recently discovered. I'd like to share the Dog Cancer Blog with you. Not to depress you, but because it's filled with valuable and promising information. Dr. Dressler has a book out now too, called The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. Man, oh man, do I wish this book existed when Seamus was diagnosed and going through treatment. When Seamus was first diagnosed with cancer, I really couldn't find a lot of information and that only added to the stress. And Seamus's original oncologist was not a particularly communicative (or, um, nice) person. Eventually, Seamus's doctor was switched (at my request) and we were assigned to a wonderful young woman by the name of Dr. Autumn Dutelle. She was fabulous and answered all my questions patiently and genuinely and in a way I could understand. Dr. Dressler (the author) seems that way too. And I bought his book even though Seamus's cancer is far behind him. I find the book fascinating and the blog is too. So I'm sharing. Because, sadly, 1 in 3 dogs gets cancer. That means one day, one of you might need this book and this Doctor's advice for your beloved pet--so your doggie can kick cancer's ass just like Seamus did.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wineapalooza Returns...with Mark Twain

Where did we leave off??? The world's longest wine tasting tour has now turned into the world's longest blogging journey. But, I believe when we were lasting tasting (virtual) wines together, Chris and I had just left Irish Vineyards and were headed into Calaveras for dinner. You've heard of Calaveras County right? Made famous by Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" short story? We were there for wines, not frogs, but still...I'm a fan of Mark Twain. Which explains (barely) why when I saw a small road sign that said "Mark Twain Cabin" I asked Chris to turn off the road and head to the cabin. Chris and I both love those road trips where you just see strange/interesting/ weird things and drive to them, so he turned off the highway and away we went. We winded up this road with no traffic whatsoever and seemingly heading nowhere or at best into someone's ranch or private home. Our first sign of civilization was actually this peacock:
Because we sort of figured it wasn't a "wild" peacock. And sure enough we came upon Mark Twain Cabin...and it had some visitors besides us:

But still, no people.
We parked and approached the, Mark Twain was here...:

and so was I!! Okay, kind of a book geek that I was excited about that, but I was. Until I read the plaque, which said this:

WTH??? Ah, the importance of an apostrophe. It was not "Mark Twain's Cabin" it was "Mark Twain Cabin" in a cabin merely named after Mark Twain!! I could do this at home. I can name a tree "Mark Twain Tree" or my hot tub "Mark Twain Jacuzzi" or hell, I'm going with "William Shakespeare Garage." If I just get a plaque and a road sign, I will lure people in. But why? WHY??? 

We did get a big laugh out of this, and yeah, we blamed all the wine we had for our being so gullible. Then we searched for the hidden cameras (oh, those Rotarian jokesters!).  But, on the other hand, it was a beautiful drive and we had a beautiful sunset on our way back down the winding road.

Our trusty wine-mobile.
Don't you just love road trips??