7 & 8 : Merlot, Malbec, and Monologues

7: Merlot (We’ve been here before, and it’s the same) paired with Gouda

8: Malbec (Argentina, notes of plum and licorice), paired with the blasted red Leicester again)

My small town is Appalachian, Rust-Belty.  All the terrible things that have happened to small towns have happened here.  The booming industry of the 40s-60s have long since vanished, and unemployment, generational welfare, and opioids have taken their place.  In fact, there has been a lot written (mostly negative) about this town in the last 15 years.  From The Washington Post to The Guardian, and just about everywhere in between.  We were even the subject of an Intervention special episode, where I, very pregnant and very sober, was filmed on a street and along with my best friend, implicated in prostitution (Hi, Mary!).  Yes, it was bizarre.  No, I am not a prostitute, nor have I ever been. We were just women standing on the street after a production of the Vagina Monologues.  I was sitting at home, breastfeeding, when my phone started doing the DING DING DING, all with messages resembling this: OMG ARE YOU WATCHING? YOU AND MARY WERE JUST ON INTERVENTION!  Yes, I was watching, along with my parents, who were in town to visit the newborn. Try to explain that to your parents sometime.

All that being said, there has been a pretty wonderful transformation in our small town within the last couple of years.  People have started to take an interest in our present and future, while paying tribute to the past.  Old buildings have taken on new lives.  Young people are challenging the status quo, the “good ol’ boy” mentality that has ruled here for decades.  “The way we’ve always done it” is being questioned, and it’s wonderful to witness.  This town successfully supported its first Pride event, is organizing a Women’s March in tandem with the national march next year. These are no small feats.

I will admit that I have not been as involved as I should be, and that is a New Years’ resolution that I am making early.  Get more involved, be the change and all the buzzy phrases.  There are always opportunities to make things better, and I want to be part of that.  It’s hard raising kids in these weird times.  I know it’s always been hard (and probably every parent has said this before), but these times feel different.  We’re living in a world where division and anger and intolerance and violence are rampant, even lauded.  I want no part of that, and I want my boys to see that their parents are helpers.  That we stretch a hand out to those that need assistance.  

It may be that I have dipped into the second glass of wine (liking this Malbec more than the merlot, and to be perfectly honest, the Leicester isn’t the absolute worst), but I am feeling especially hopeful today. For all you locals who haven’t, check out Winterfest, organized by The Friends of Portsmouth. You won’t regret it.  Seeing Second and Market decked out for the holidays is worth it.  Go “glice” skating.  Spend your dollars here.  That’s an easy way to make a difference.


5 & 6: I already fell behind

But, I have a good reason.  Well, like three.  But one big one.

World, Jasper.  Jasper, world.  

Wine: Merlot (Chilean, intense cherry and plum) & Shiraz (Australian, cherry and plum, hints of pepper and vanilla)

Cheese: Gouda and Havarti

Additional food: Aldi bleu cheese and pear flatbread, because two pieces of cheese wasn’t going to do it this evening

So yes, it’s a two glass night.  Darn.

So this dog is Jasper (aka Malachi, but when I brought him inside from the car, my husband said, Oh, he’s not a Malachi.  He’s definitely a Jasper). He comes to us from the Louisville Weimaraner Rescue.  If you know us, you know that we had two Weims previously, Moby and Joni.  It’s a breed that has our hearts. Look at that face??  Who couldn’t love that? I mean his.  I’ve looked better.

So, yes, I’ve fallen behind here.  And I’ve fallen behind on a couple of other things, too, so this weekend is going to be a major catch-up for me.  I feel like I play catch-up a lot, so by now, I should be used to it.  I’m just going to take my time and make a list and trudge forward.  What I get done, I get done.  What remains uncrossed off stays there until later.  After all, Advent is the season of preparing, of getting ready, of waiting.  Nothing happens all at once.  Every day, every turn of the wheel, gets us closer to where we want to be.

Day Four: Always We Begin Again

Wine: Pinot Grigio (yaaaassss!)

Cheese: again with the Red Leicester, which is irritating.  I wasn’t crazy about it yesterday, I probably won’t be tonight.  So, I grabbed some white English cheddar from the fridge to supplement (also from Aldi)

Always we begin again, attributed to St Benedict.  I look at it each morning on my fridge, hanging there with a hummingbird magnet.  It’s a reminder: the day ends, a new one will begin.  I can wash off the hurt, frustration,failures of today and start fresh again tomorrow.  I tell my older son this at bedtime quite often.  So we didn’t do our best today, dude. Today got us by the pants.  It’s a good thing we have tomorrow to try again. Isn’t if funny how we tell our children these things in order to let them know it’s okay to screw up, that just over the dark horizon, the sun is still spinning and waiting to light up the day again, but as adults, we choose to continue to focus on what went wrong instead of the newness of each day?  I know I don’t speak for everyone, but I certainly find myself getting stuck in that trap. I suppose that’s my Advent goal for myself: to remember that I’ll begin again tomorrow.  I’ll do better.

Needless today, I’ve had a rough couple of days.  All of my own making, don’t get me wrong.  But still, rough.  I opened my eyes this morning and just wanted to stay tucked in, wallow some more, cry some more.  But I put on those proverbial big-girl panties and went to work, and what I found were that my co-workers (and I’ve only been in this position since August) have become my friends.  My wallowing ended and I laughed and felt like a part of something good.  They don’t know how much I needed to hear my own laugh (which is loud and pretty obnoxious).

The pinot grigio is good, a little boozier than I like, but passable.  It definitely pairs better with the cheddar I already had.  I also really hope that’s the end of the red Leicester. At the end of the day, though, especially at the end of a series of days like the couple I’ve had, I never turn my nose up at a glass of wine. 

On a completely random tangent, I am coveting these bibs from Patagonia.  I have an old pair of Dickies that are about 5 sizes too big and every time I wear them my husband laughs and tells me I look like a huge toddler.  But these are sophisticated bibs, right? And by sophisticated, I think I mean expensive.

Day Two: Cabernet, Guilt, and Joni Mitchell

Night Two: Does Cabernet Pair With Dirty Laundry?

Wine: Australian Cab

(Supposed to have notes of blackberry, black currant, cherry, and vanilla.  Add a crust and it’s a pie)

Cheese: Mature Gouda

I’ll just say upfront I am not a cabernet kind of girl.  If I’m going to drink something that makes my teeth look like dirty vampire fangs, I’ll choose a pinot noir.  But, I’ll take one for the team and drink this cab.

I’ve had these Joni Mitchell lyrics running through my head lately:

I’m always running behind the time
Just like this train
Shaking into town
With the brakes complaining

And it’s probably the holidays, the stress of wondering if I’m going to give my kids a “good enough” Christmas (fearing a look of disappointment if they don’t get that very exact thing that they wanted), the grief of missing loved ones, the packed calendar and wanting to say no to some things. Then the overwhelming guilt finds me. The fear of not measuring up is always at the front of my mind. And I’m always running late, it seems.  Always wanting to push myself to be more and everything to everyone, knowing that I can’t. Sometimes I hear my brakes complaining, and usually I ignore that groan.  I find it hard to stay in the moment, or in the now, or whatever.  I have friends who swear by yoga, by meditation, prayer, or all of the above.  I haven’t been able to train my brain to find that sweet spot, the place where I can see the ledge, but haven’t yet gotten there.  The place where I can just inhale and start stepping back.  Surely I’m not alone, right? 

But back to the wine and cheese and away from my fears and inadequacies.  The cab is pretty good.  Cherry forward, I’d say. And the buttery fat of the gouda is a good match. It balances out the dryness of the cabernet. 

I’m always looking for that balance.

The Aldi Advent Experiment

That’s cheese, not a pat of butter. But I’d probably eat that, too.

I was late to the Aldi game.  I used to tease my grandmother for shopping there.  

“Wait, you pay to use a cart?”

“And there are no baggers?  I have to do that?”

“It’s so cheap.  It has to be crap.”

She, being of The Greatest Generation (and from New England, to boot), of course knew way more about frugality and practicality than I ever will.  

Then, I learned that Aldi was owned by (beloved) Trader Joe’s.  I started giving it a shot.  Yes, sometimes the lines are long, but those amazingly quick employees scan things like WHIZ WHIZ BEEP BEEP.  It actually makes me feel inadequate, like I can’t keep up with those nimble fingers.  But I also get Kerrygold Butter for way less.  I buy organic milk for $2.69.  Pasture raised, organic eggs at a price that must make Kroger shake in fear.  And now my small town even offers Aldi from Instacart.  

Months ago I started hearing about the Advent calendars they put out yearly.  The wine, the cheese, the chocolate.  My interest was piqued.  They had me at wine. (The wine selection at Aldi is fun- and cheap, which is my preferred price point.) I’ve learned that when Aldi advertises something special, it’s best to get there early on Wednesday, the day the new inventory and “Aldi Finds” are put out.  I also started chatting up the employees.  “Get here early”, the said.  “Before-we-open-early.  We’re only getting three.”  Three??  Damn.  So, early on November 7, I sat in my car waiting for the doors to open.  My wine-loving aunt also came with me.  Long story short, the two women who got there before us, the ones that we had decided certainly weren’t wine people got the first two.  My aunt deferred to me, and so it is with a decidedly significant amount of guilt that I happened to end up with an Aldi Advent wine calendar.  And cheese calendar.

I’ve wondered if the good folks at Aldi have paired the wines and cheeses for people like me (lushy cheese lovers?).  Tonight we find out.  Tonight begins the Aldi Advent Wine Experiment, also known as BarbEatsAldi.  I can’t promise that I will be faithfully updating this daily.  But don’t worry, the wine will get consumed, the cheese will be eaten, and I will report back.  I’ll also share some of the fun things I’ve found at Aldi, with short reviews and recommendations.  Also, bad food photos.

(Side note: did anyone try the Thanksgiving ravioli?  That would be a turkey, cranberry, and stuffing-filled ravioli, which sounds gawdawful but was actually pretty damn good.)

So, all of that housekeeping and introductory stuff aside, I’ll say that tonight I feel like I’ve earned this wine.  It was one of those days that my kids drove me nuts.  They are in this argue-about-everything-with-everyone phase.  They were at each other all damn day.  In the car.  In the restaurant at lunch. In the front yard while my husband cleaned the gutters.  In the car again.  All of my billions (right? Billions?) of nerves were jumping outof my skin.  And yeah, I know that looking forward to them snoring so Ican finally have that glass of wine probably makes me sound like a terrible mother.  But come on.  We’ve all been there.  

I’ll also add that I know nothing about blogging, websites, uploading, and blah blah.  I’ll be doing my best.  It’s all we can do, no?

Tonight’s wine: Prosecco, extra dry

Cheese: White Cheddar

Verdict: I like the cheese better than the wine.  Strike that, reverse it.  After sip two, the wine has won me over.  My go-to for non-special-occasion bubble (you know, like Wednesdays) is Korbel Brut.  I think this might be a bit crisper.  I think that’s a wine word.  I’ll ask my brother, if I remember.  He’s a total wine snob and a certified expert (honestly, he’s a sommelier).  The cheese is also tasty, and they pair nicely together. 


  1. I wish both the wine and cheese were labeled more specifically, so I knew exactly what prosecco and what white cheddar I just drank and ate.  If you are familiar with the Aldi cheese selection, you’ll know that they might have four different white cheddar varieties.
  2. I am trying to figure out how to change the font to Garamond, because writing in Garamond instantly makes your writing 87% better.
  3. I broke all my fancy Riedel wine glasses because I can’t have fancy things.