Category Archives: General

How to Find Your Kind of Wine

I enjoy big wines. Seriously the bigger the better (TWSS?) Thick and heavy on your tongue, flavorful, but not too jammy-sweet, with a lingering coat on the tastebuds. I never thought I’d be the type of person who’d be able to describe what kind of wine I like, and it seems pretentious to even say it now. But I am that kind of person, I do know what I like, and once you do too, you’ll be oh so thankful and realize there’s nothing pretentious about it.

The sooner you learn your “type,” the sooner you can describe to shop owners, bartenders, and waitresses what you’re looking for, and the more likely you are to spend your hard earned dollars on something you’ll actually enjoy drinking.

One of my favorites.

This is not to say you shouldn’t continue to experiment outside of your comfort zone when the opportunity arises. There are a lot of fantastic wines out there that you can still appreciate even if they don’t fit your “type” (crisp, sharp Savignon Blanc; bright, spicy Pinot), but just like having a go-to cocktail (vodka soda, double-lime), having a go-to type of bottle takes the anxiety out of ordering.

So how do you go about determining your “type”? There’s an easy answer – drink more.

But more important (probably) is to pay attention to what you’re drinking. When you go to a party and the host offers you white or red, check out the bottle you’re drinking from and look for a few things:


Most bottles of wine aren’t straight Zinfandel or straight Cabernet Savignon. More likely they’re a mixture of Cab Franc, Zin, and Cab Savignon, or something of that nature. The amount of which type is present in the bottle will likely be listed on the back of the label. By checking out what type of wine makes up the majority of the mixture, you can get an idea of the type of wine you prefer.

You can also use this later when checking out wines in the grocery store – see if the percentages look similar to the bottle you bought earlier that you remember enjoying. Likely you’ll enjoy this one too. When you order at a restaurant, the only information you might get is “House Cabernet” or “House Pinot.” Which percentages did you prefer when you were drinking those bottles earlier? The one made up mostly of Cabernet or the one with a high percentage of Pinot?


I used to think Zinfandel wasn't my thing, until I tried the ones from Sonoma County.

This is where things can get a little tricky. What if you’ve decided you like Pinots, and you go ahead and order a bottle of Pinot Noir from Spain, only to discover that it’s way too spicy for your liking? Now you’re getting a sense of region. The Pinots from Spain tend to carry more of a kick, whereas the ones from California Sonoma Valley can be more mellow. Grapes differ based on the climate and soil in which they’re grown, so take a quick peek to where this wine is coming from as well (usually on the front of the label).

Soon, you’ll have a few favorite regions for your favorite types, which will really help narrow it down at the store where most wines are separated by country, and then type.


Now you’re really getting it. You have a few favorite go-tos and you feel fairly confident picking out a range of bottles from your local shop. This is where you have to push all fears of pretentiousness aside and learn how to describe what you’re looking for. The people who can do this are much happier wine drinkers – I assure you. They know that no matter what is offered, whether they’ve seen it before, they can pick out something to please their palate.

The key to this one is the same as the rest – pay attention. Most wine bars and restaurants will have descriptions listed. If something is described as “crisp” and “floral,” swirl the wine around in your mouth and think to yourself, “this is what floral tastes like.” Really. When someone describes a wine as “floral” they pretty much always mean the same thing.

Now when you’re in a wine bar and ask for a Savignon Blanc recommendation, you can say, “do you have anything crisp and almost floral-tasting?” Don’t you sound fancy?

Remember, this is not about being pretentious, it’s about knowing what you like and having a good go-to so your money is being spent on tasty wine that you’re going to enjoy. Notice price is not one of these differentiators. It’s just not. There are $8 bottles and $80 bottles that are both excellent and stick to the description of my “type” of big, heavy Cabernet Savignon, preferably from Napa Valley. Can I tell the difference? Hell yeah. But they both satisfy what I’m looking for, and I can be happy with either. Figure out your “type” and you will too.

True Life: Recruiters

I get contacted by job recruiters constantly. Mostly while I’m at my current job. It’s one of the perils that come with agency life (see also: billing your time, the worst invention known to man). Your information is all over the internet and has been forwarded to everyone everywhere in the hopes that your company can get clients because it’s a word-of-mouth, relationship-type business. So they know how to contact you. That’s all it takes.

Sometimes they call:

Lauren, I have the perfect job for you. We’ve done our research and you’re perfect for it. Oh you’re not interested? Well do you know someone else who might be?

I thought I was perfect for it.

Sometimes they LinkedIn:

Hi Lauren,

I know we spoke three years ago when you really needed a job and would have KILLED to have me find you one, but now that you’re gainfully employed and no longer need anything from me, I’m going to finally contact you. I have this job opening which is exactly what you told me you were NOT interested in when we first spoke, but what the hell, that was three years ago! Are you interested?

If you aren’t interested, can you forward this to someone who might be?

And sometimes, like today, they send an email to your entire team alias (including your supervisor) but addressed personally to you:

Hi Lauren,

My name is Sue* and I am the assistant to Someone More Important, an executive recruiter for Random Acronym Search. We are particularly looking for candidates with a background in what you did when you first left college and have not done since then. If you know of anyone who may be interested in these opportunities, please feel free to pass on our information to them. Or, if you are interested, please forward on a copy of your resume and I will be happy to schedule a call for you and Someone More Important to get acquainted. Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

Best regards,


Sure, Sue. I’ll just reply all so my supervisor is sure to know that I’m leaving their company for YOURS because your email was just so exciting, I couldn’t help myself.

After some fun emailing back and forth with my team members, my supervisor replies to Sue:


Lauren is our employee. She has signed her life away to us in blood. We will have contractual ownership of her spawn and her spawn’s spawn and so forth until the end of time. Mwahahahah.

Go bark up another tree…

-Lauren’s Supervisor

More random emails back and forth between team members discussing if my supervisor has ruined my relationship with all recruiters henceforth (which would be awesome), and suddenly we get an email back from Sue:

Don’t listen to them Lauren. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the industry as father and son!

In all seriousness though, I apologize for the mix-up and I’ll make sure my research assistant avoids sending emails to the group alias from now on. 🙂

Best regards,


At least it seems like recruiters have a sense of humor.

*Names and details changed to protect the innocent and my job

Giants Win the World Series!

Congratulations to the SF Giants on their first world series since moving to the city by the bay!

Coworker dressed as the pitcher Wilson for the first game of the world series in SF.

Scene at AT&T park last night in San Francisco after the Giants won the world series.

Flashback Friday

In honor of the Flashback Friday Queen, a halloween post for you.

Unruly soccer fan + tremendous athlete.

I had just signed up for swim lessons to learn how to swim, and Michael Phelps had just won 8 gold medals in the Olympics so it seemed like the stars aligned for this costume.

G was an unruly soccer fan, which allowed him to yell at people, get increasingly dirty, and carry around a mug of beer all night.

True story: That halloween night we went to a huge, inappropriate, costume party in a house reminiscent of your favorite fraternity (not where this picture was taken). The next day, we went back to the house to finish off the kegs with a friendly beer pong tournament. My conversation with one of the guys visiting:

Him: Hi, I’m [name hidden to protect the notsoinnocent]. What’s your name?
Me: I’m Lauren. I think we met last night. I’m soandso’s friend.
Him: Really? I don’t think so ….
Me: I was dressed as Michael Phelps.
Him: YOU were Michael Phelps?? Wow … well, you look a lot better with hair.

Somehow, I don’t think he appreciated my costume to its fullest. But it’s all homemade except for the Phelps swimcap ($2.99 at the swim outlet online!).

Have a SAFE AND happy Halloween weekend! And go Giants!

(giants colors=halloween colors. Coincidence? I think not.)

Fighting Back!

Half my office has been laid low by whatever cold/flu-type thing is running rampant these days. I don’t usually get colds anymore, but I was down and out for awhile myself, which got me thinking about the home remedies I turn to when I need to fight back. I won’t lie and say I don’t have a stash of Nyquil and Suddafed packed away for a sick day, but this list is my first resort for a variety of ailments:

When you need to fight a sore throat:

Start by gargling with salt water. Heat up some water, crack in your sea salt or kosher salt, and gargle the heck out of it. Don’t swallow, obvs.

After you’ve thoroughly exfoliated your throat, soften it up with hot water with fresh lemon squeezed in.  Sweeten to taste with agave nectar or honey. It is SO soothing.

Another option you can take back to work with you, Throat Coat, available wherever hippy teas and remedies are sold (Whole Foods, Real Foods).

When you need to fight a hangover:

Who does this? Winners, that’s who. Well if you’re gonna need your sick days for actually being sick, you’re gonna have to suck it up and make it to work somehow.

First, drink a lot of water. It can only help.

Next, take two Vitamin B12, and they will perk you right up. If you were feeling particularly ambitious the night before, it’s good to also take two before you go to sleep. I take Vitamin B12 pretty regularly, but ALWAYS when I’m feeling sleepy or um, less than steller, in the morning. It’s magic.

When you need to fight heartburn:

This is never something I thought I would ever experience, and low and behold, you get older and spicy dinner + red wine can take you by surprise.

First, start with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted with water. Pretty soon you’ll get so good, you barely need the water. The effect is almost instantaneous. People who have regular heartburn are advised to take a tablespoon a day – I just take it whenever I’m feeling a little unsettled. Megan Fox swears it cleanses her system.

The Best Thing I Ever Ate

I loved reading your guesses for which were the lies and which were the truths. The best is that my mom didn’t know the answer either, but that’s because I’m so tricky!

The answer is: #6. My favorite meal I’ve ever had was ham and cheese on a roll.

Food Network has this new show, “The best thing I ever ate” that follows the channel’s stars around the world to see all their favorite meals. The commercials specify it’s not what you eat every day, it’s not the most outrageous thing you ever ate, it is, by the stars own definition of “best,” the best thing you ever ate.

That’s what got me thinking. When traveling in Asturias, in Northern Spain, I hiked up a snowy mountain with my professor and class in the drizzling, cold rain – up to a farmhouse where my professor’s friend waited with prosciutto cured from the farm’s pigs, chunky, spreadable blue cheese made on site with milk from its cows, and crunchy yet soft baguettes. This simple sandwich is without a doubt, “the best thing I ever ate.”

Instead of passing on the award, I’d love to hear your stories of the best thing you ever ate. If you want to email pictures, I’ll run it as a guest post ( or just leave your story in the comments.

I’ll leave you with my favorite thing I’m eating right now. Marinara pizza topped with fat, briny capers and fresh, crunchy arugula. I had it for the first time at Tony’s, my go-to SF pizza spot. Tony’s Web site claims he’s won numerous awards for his sauce, and I believe it. It’s incredibly authentic and sweet without being too sweet. Combine that with cooked capers and peppery arugula and you’ve got a winning combination.

Make it yourself with TJ’s whole wheat dough, Muir Glenn organic tomato sauce, canned capers, and local arugula, which should just be appearing in your farmer’s market. Let your pizza broil on high for a minute or two at the end to get that wood-fired look. Top with arugula.

So let’s hear it! What’s the best thing you ever ate?

A Sunny Day in Alcatraz

Funny. We live in DC for 3 1/2 years and it barely snows more than 2 inches at a time. The first winter we’re away, and DC turns into Syracuse overnight.

Meanwhile, G and I were lucky enough to have a DC native in town. We were worried it might rain on our parade, but apparently all the moisture in the air was otherwise engaged.

View from our balcony ... the same day.

We took advantage and visited Alcatraz, a place G has always wanted to go and I have never wanted to go. I thought it would be scary, boring, and crowded. It’s actually one of the more beautiful places we’ve visited since we came to San Fran. The audio tour (included in the cost of the ferry) was really fun to follow, not boring at all.

Looking out over the prison recreation yard. From the top step, the prisoners could look out at the amazing views and see everything they were missing.

I never thought of Alcatraz this way, but it’s actually a sanctuary for birds and hosts amazing plants nurtured on the island from its various inhabitants. Check out the size of this calla lily!

I was most struck by how close the island (and prison) is to the city. On New Year’s Eve, if the wind was blowing a certain way, the prisoners could hear the sounds of the yacht club across the bay – women laughing, glasses clinking. Crazy.

View of the city.

“If you disobey the rules of society, they send you to prison; if you disobey the rules of the prison, they send you to Alcatraz.”

Hm, doesn’t sound half bad.

California Dreamin’

Thank you all for your kind thoughts about Vince. The internet is such a small place – I never thought that people who knew and loved Vince would find my post! Everyone who expressed interest in the memorial, I sent your email addresses to his daughter and she should be in touch with more information.

This weekend we took advantage of the one and only break in the dreary, rainy weather and zipped around SF.

It’s funny how these pictures make it look like we’re experiencing beautiful weather here when really it’s the exact opposite. Of course, some sea lion friends hung out.

And we checked out the beach.

That’s the Pacific ocean, baby! California … California … here we cooooooooooommmee!

Vincent Vallely

Yesterday evening, I learned that the man I considered my grandfather, Vincent Vallely, had passed away. My biological grandparents have all been gone for many years, and I never even met one of them, so “Vince” filled that role in my and my siblings’ lives.

Vince was the father of my aunt, who is married to my mother’s brother (got that?). In short, he was in no way biologically related but instead, he became family related. G always jokes that he can’t follow my family tree and it’s because I don’t have a family tree in the sense that most people do – most of the people we see on a regular basis and holidays are the people we consider family, and Vince was one of those people.

He had a dapper old-time look and a great sense of humor. It was no wonder that in his 90s, he continued to pick up ladies left and right at the nursing home. Two nights ago this week, confused, he wandered out of his room, down the hall, and jumped right into another tenant’s bed – with her in it.

Vince cracks me up because he loved wine, gin, and meat, in that order, yet somehow not only lived into his 90s but also stayed sharp enough to debate politics and issues at the Thanksgiving dinner table. I’m not sure that I could have explained vegan to him, but I’m fairly certain he would have thought it a silly idea.

In 2006, blowing out candles on his 90th birthday.

It’s strange that I met Vince so late, when he had already experienced a lifetime of events. The part of him that I knew about was so small in comparison to all that he’d done before we even met. I hope when I reach his age, I will follow his way of looking forward. We’re drinking a glass of red tonight for you, Vince.

Had to close with Vince and his G&T.

Not Perfect

Dan from Casual Kitchen tweeted recently about this post on how to be a better blogger. The message is, “Be a Real Blogger, Not a Perfect Blogger.”

I’m definitely guilty of prattling on about health food like I eat awesome all the time when really, I love french fries and have been known to polish off an entire basket by myself. Especially with the healthy living blogs it’s hard to read all about how perfect everyone is (or maybe just seems to be) and not just gloss over my penchant for french fries and beer.

So in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll reveal that G and I just made it to Ikea bought a bedroom set. Yes, we have been living in this apartment for over two months and basically sleeping on the floor. There are a lot of excuses for this, but the real reason is probably that we frekin’ love football season and when you spend all day Sunday at the bar, it doesn’t leave much time for Ikea.

Perfect bedroom set?

Eh, not exactly. Once we messed this up it was too late to change it. I blame Ikea and their completely incomprehensible directions. Plus it took us all week to actually open the box and put the bed together so despite having ample time during the week, we continued to sleep on the floor.

Perfect dinner?

Maybe if I hadn’t eaten like half a bag of these afterwards.

Hope this empowers you to go out there and be as un-perfect as you want this week.