How to Make the Most of Your 2015 Digital Marketing Budget

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How to Make the Most of Your 2015 Digital Marketing Budget

New Year’s resolutions apply to businesses, too. And though it may be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of trimming down or cutting back when it comes to your 2015 digital marketing budget, how about having a healthier year simply by investing more wisely in digital strategy, app development, responsive web design and social campaigns?

If your 2014 marketing strategy left you wanting for something more impactful, deconstruct last year’s efforts, assess the numbers and approach digital marketing in 2015 with the speed and ardor of a startup.


Innovation is Key

“Marketers should have a defined portion of their budgets that’s purely for innovation,” says Ken Allard, managing director of business strategy for Huge. “It’s for trying out new things, new experiences, and new ways of interacting with consumers that don’t have a history of return; it’s funding something new to help move a brand forward.”

Instead of sticking to strategies that didn’t necessarily fail last year, try something daring and new. Marketing kudos these days are going to companies who make bold moves…not the ones investing in being ‘just another popup.’ That doesn’t mean discarding your traditional strategies that may have been working, but rather, innovating better ways to implement these strategies. Is there a new technology that could augment your strategy’s effectiveness? A new marketing medium that could activate a broader audience?

If so, dive in. Innovation is not only helpful, but it is also necessary for continual growth.  And where should the rest of the budget go after innovation?


Industry experts weigh in on where to apply your 2015 marketing budget:

  • A variety of unique mobile marketing channels
  • A clear plan for results measurement and ROI of marketing strategies
  • Case studies on how your adjusted spending affects consumer behavior

Ken Allard, managing director of business strategy for Huge

 

  • Creating engaging customer experiences across digital channels (mobile, social, video, display, email)
  • Programmatic buying to enable cost-efficient marketing media-buying at scale
  • Data and analytics should to reach the right audience with the right offer

Mark Strecker, CEO, Amobee

 

  • Determining where your key target marketing audiences are
  • Pinpointing where their target consumers are spending time
  • Mobile, marketing learning curves and new fiscal steps involved

Rebecca Lieb, analyst, Altimeter Group

 

  • Social: as a marketing medium that grows so fast and is so large, it’s rich with customer-driven data
  • Studying that social data, which improves the quality of relationships marketers can have with consumers

—Mark Josephson, CEO, Bitly

 

  • Choosing the right channels for your unique message, which may not be the same marketing channels as others are using or having success with
  • Video (mobile and web) marketing: a great place to create a true connection

Mark Yackanich, CEO, Genesis Media

 

 

 

SOURCES:

1“5 Ways to Spend Your 2015 Marketing Budgets”. Smith, Natasha D. Direct Marketing News. Version 1. N.P. Web, 15 Dec. 2014. Accessed 8 Jan. 2015. http://bit.ly/1BF9NPe.

 

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Rhone Rangers Varietal Nights – MOURVEDRE (This Newbie Cali Girl’s FAVORITE Rhone Varietal)

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On May 6, I had the pleasure of attending the Mourvedre Varietal Night at Tablas Creek Vineyard, just one event of the Rhone Rangers’ 2014 Varietal Night Series.

During this event (along with the others in the series), patrons have a unique opportunity to celebrate and taste Rhone-varietal wines poured by local wineries, sample artisan cheese and small bites served to pair with the wines and enjoy live music.

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Brief History of Mourvedre
Mourvedre happens to be my favorite of all wine varieties. Pronounced More-VEHD-ruh, this wine has a mid-palate depth and a structural bass-note compared to other GSM blends. It is native to Spain, where they call it Monastrell. It was well-established in the Roussillon region of France most likely by the 16th Century, later spreading east towards Provence and the Rhone.

Mourvedre’s Aromatics, Flavor & Mouthfeel
A Mourvedre often offers more savory notes than fruit notes, and has been described as “meaty,” “earthy,” and “herbal.” Its aromas can include coffee, pepper, cured meat, licorice, wild mushrooms and tobacco. Its mouthfeel could be described as plush and full-bodied with a long, velvety finish.

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My Tasting Experience with the Mourvedre
Although I did not have enough time to taste every wine at this event (I struck up conversation with several of the vineyard representatives), I was pleased with the varieties I did taste. I would still like to venture out to the remaining wineries I missed to taste their Mourvedre, and then do a follow-up article to this one, so stay tuned for that.

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My Tasting Notes…
Cass Vineyard and Winery
Wine: 2012, 100%, neutral oak
Winemaker notes: “I’m a farmer. I want you to taste what I grow, not what I can do to what I grow.”
Aromatics: Tart fruit, pomegranate.
Flavor: Pure, Smooth, bit of spice (baking spices).
Pairing: “I would suggest enjoying this wine with rack of lamb.” – (from the winemaker) or “Come visit the veranda because we serve food until 5 p.m.!”

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Adelaida

Wine: 2011, 100%
Winemaker notes: “This is a darker, more serious blend. I like Mourvedre more fruit-forward.”
Aromatics: Fruit-forward, fig or raisin, hint of warmth, like an afterthought of spice.
Flavor: Myrrh/Incense, smoky but smooth on the first sip, black cherry in the middle with a warm candied finish.
Pairing: I paired with Tartufo charcuterie, and the wine definitely woke up the truffle/yeast mushroom flavor of the meat…like nutritional yeast. Do not pair with plain bread, as it almost makes bread taste bitter.

 

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Anglim
Wine: 2011 just-released, 100%
Winemaker notes: “Pair with ahi tuna, beef, lamb shank or herbed Chevre.”
Aromatics: Spicy and warm, cedar, yet noticeable red fruit.
Flavor: Complex, spicy, heat/kick to it, cardamom, pepper, oaky. You get a recognizable forest floor, red berries, mocha and the cedar that was on the nose.
Pairing: I paired with bread and cranberries with olive oil, as well as a bite of plain Chevre, which smoothed out the wine and brought out the fruit of it.

 

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Kenneth Volk Vineyards
Wine: 2010, 100%
Aromatics: A bit sour, tart and pungent.
Flavor: Very blackberry, hint of spice, somewhat underwhelming with a dash of strawberry.

 

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Cypher
Wine: 2011 “El Pelon,” 100%, only made 303 cases.
Aromatics: Spicy and complex, heavy and dark-red fruit.
Flavor: Smooth, clove, good mouthfeel, bay leaf and herbs with hint of dark fruit.
Pairing: I paired with boar, which brought a buttery softness to the complexity of the wine. Bread with olive oil took its personality down a notch.

 

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Tablas Creek Vineyard (the host)
Wine: 2011 Estate, 100%
Winemaker notes: “Tablas Creek actually started the Rhone Varietals on the Central Coast. This wine had a soft, wet, long and lush year. Chateau de Beaucastel (sister winery) sent the Rhones from France to California in 1990.”
Aromatics: Subtle fruit, darker and fresher.
Flavor: Wetter, cooler taste to it, with earthy, blue fruit.
Pairing: I paired with bread, cranberry and chevre, which brought out the earthy/bitter/gamey-ness of the chevre.

 

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Thacher Winery and Vineyard
Wine: 2011 “Controlled Chaos”47% Mourvedre, 33% Zinfandel, 20% Grenache
Winemaker notes: “We haven’t done a 100% Mourvedre since 2009.”
Aromatics: Summery strawberry/rhubarb (Grenache).
Flavor: Hint of spice/warmth, more medium-red fruit with a cherry aftertaste…hint of pepper (the Zin).

 

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Sculpterra
Wine: 2011, 100%, only made 200 cases.
Aromatics: Spicy, earthy, peppery, bitter.
Flavor: Spicy, notes of black cherry, very earthy and full-bodied, great stand-alone.
Pairing: With Fisalini cheese, the wine is sweeter and smoother.

 

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Minassian – Young
Wine: 2010, 100%, 14.4% ALC
Aromatics: Tart, but rich and fruit-forward.
Flavor: Medium-bodied, darker red fruit, hint of warmth and spice, smooth finish.
Pairing: I paired with bread, cranberry and Chevre, which brought out the earthy/bitter/gamey-ness of the Chevre.

 

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Pomar Junction
Wine: [YEAR?] – Grenache – 30%, Syrah – 30%, Mourvedre – 40%
Aromatics: Tart, but rich and fruit-forward.
Flavor: Medium-bodied, darker red fruit, hint of warmth and spice, smooth finish.
Pairing: I paired with bread, cranberry and chevre, which brought out the earthy/bitter/gamey-ness of the chevre.

 

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Pomar Junction #2
Wine: “Train Wreck” – Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Zinfandel (25%), Mourvedre (25%), Syrah (12.5%), Petite Sirah (12.5%)
Aromatics: Fruity/Jammy, spicy with black berry and a hint of jalapeno.
Flavor: Leather, spice, jalapeno, black currant, cherry and blueberry, tobacco; excellent as a stand-alone.

 

FOODS
Foods that were available to pair with the wines were as follows:

  • Chevre plain: fresh and soft goat’s milk, creamy in texture with light citrus notes.
  • Manchego: delicious Spanish hard cheese made with sheep milk, aged for six months to give it a nutty, caramel flavor.
  • Fisialini: hearty, nutty cow’s milk with no rind, creamy white, firm and crumbly fresh.
  • Prosciutto: Italian ham cured by drying, served in thin slices.
  • Tartufo: a sausage made with black summer truffles with a delicate, earthy aroma.
  • Finnocchiona: Tuscan seasoned sausage flavored with fennel seeds and black pepper.
  • Wild boar sausage: artisan, gamey and earthy.

 

Wines I Have Yet to Taste

  • Alta Colina
  • Venteaux
  • Vines on the Marycest
  • Lone Madrone

 

Overall, it was a wonderful event with amazing wines, and excellent opportunities to meet the people who know those wines the best. It also saves the time of driving all over the county to find your favorite wine of a certain variety by bringing them all to one place to learn about and sample.

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For more information on this event and others Rhone Rangers events like it, please visit www.//rhonerangers.org/calendar/chapter.php or email pasovarietalnights.@gmail.com. Discover the American Rhone wines of Paso Robles…

LXV Wine – The Magic Begins (May 22 Post Written for LXV Blog)

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The below is a post I wrote for LXV Wine at blog.lxvwine.com about an event they were having.

Enjoy…

 

May 22, 2014

Secret Craving: A Secret So Lavish, We Can’t Keep It…

It is the shadowy desire that crosses your mind in the deep, open possibilities of a long night, and in the rejuvenation of a new morning…the strength of your convictions and the frivolity of your indulgences..the coaxing you give in to when no one is looking…
your Secret Craving.

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Photo by Sarah Graybill – sarahdgraybill@gmail.comhttp://www.practiCaliLocal.com

 

The Secret Is Out
Our Secret Craving? It’s a deep, ruby-colored wine…a mellow yet dramatic performance starring three distinct beauties: Cab Fanc, Syrah and Merlot.

Plucked from the rich soil of Paso Robles, the grapes that wrote the script for this unique ensemble deliver an engaging deep fruit and blueberry performance. Subtly sweet and gracefully bold, this hush-hush concoction speaks of its passions through flavors of cassis, leather and spice.

Sip it, pair it, chill it, air it…and each time, it will provide you with an experience more unique than the last. It’s the very evidence of intrique and the very magic of science, all at once.

The First Rendezvous
On a breezy, sunny Sunday this past weekend, Secret Craving was poured at a secret tasting on LXV winery property in Paso Robles, greeted by the eyes, noses and palates of a select few “suitors” who could not wait to meet LXV’s (and winemaker Amy Butler’s) latest work of winemaking art.

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Photo by Sarah Graybill – sarahdgraybill@gmail.comhttp://www.practicalilocal.com

Surrounded by barn wood, vines, crystal chandeliers, homemade international cuisine and superb company, lucky wine-lovers basked in the glow of this chic rural hideaway as it created the perfect balance between a simple backdrop and a complex, agile wine.

 

Experience the Magic
If you can’t bear to leave this Secret Craving unsatiated a moment longer, we invite you to a mysteriously riveting and whimsically indulgent tasting this Saturday, May 24, 7-9:30PM at the rustically elegant LXV property.

On-location at LXV, world-renowned LA magician David Minkin will conjure an exclusive, private magic show for an intimate group of spectators, to their delight and amazement.

The magical gathering will include:

–       Wine tasting (meet your Secret Craving)

–       Indian epicurean delights (aka, outstanding food)

–       A private magic show

–       Mysticism, ambience and intrigue

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Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1gnSQRl

Details
Saturday, May 24th
(7:00pm – 9:30p
LXV Wine (Willow Creek Ranch)
3680 Willow Creek Road
Paso Robles, CA 93446

Directions: 101 – 46W exit, Head West on 46. Turn Right on Vineyard Drive. After 0.8 miles, second right on Willow CreekRoad. After 0.5 miles, just after Changala Winery, you will see a board for LXV.

Parking: Plenty of parking on Willow Creek and in front of the house.

 

50 seats ONLY!
$85 per person
$72.25 – LXV Club Members (contact Neeta for the code)
$75.50 – groups of 4 or more
Purchase at: http://lxvwineandmagic.brownpapertickets.com/ or call Neeta at 530-763-3821.

 

ID: Please bring some form of identification

 

Dress: Relaxed cocktail – (Dressy but no tie necessary). This is an outdoor event, so please wear comfortable shoes and bring a light sweater.

 

We can’t wait to see you there. And THAT’S no secret at all…

Nevermore, Nevertheless

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There’s got to be more to this life
than the same mug I wash
and use
and let dry with a brown ring in the bottom
every day.
More than the kiss of coffee
to say “good morning” to me
on what is really
much more like an average morning.
av
er
age
…such a word was never more itself
to say.
There’s got to be more to this
than an expensive black leather chair
that is not at all comfortable,
and which smushes
my firm, beautiful ass
into something flat
that now has actual stretch marks
from being so
not-stretched in this
same
abnormal
sitting position for eight or more hours
every day.
I haven’t even had babies yet.
Because of course,
where would I find the time to
MAKE a life,
in this space
with no space
where I live
in which I can’t even
HAVE a life.
There’s got to be more to this
than three devices surrounding me
at all times
clicking and beeping and demanding
my attention and
immediate response
and that their next requests be done
by yesterday.
There has got to be more than a to-do list
so long it has me
listless,
and see now, that is TRULY
ironic.
There has got to be more than
these nights being what they are,
filled with a room always
too hot
or too cold
…or maybe that’s my mood…
or too loud
or too quiet
…or maybe that’s my mind…
punctuated with snores and
the tick of the minutes
as I lose another one
to restlessness.
Oh, please,
there has GOT to be
rest…
There has got to be more to this
than hills that are too hard
to enjoy climbing,
even though they
didn’t used to be
and roads that are
too long
to run,
even though they didn’t used to be
and a woman that is too
leeched from
by everyone else
to take care of the
one person
taking care
of everyone else,
and who is too spent
to spend
and too given
to give
and too tired
to tire,
but she didn’t
used to be.
There’s got to be more than this,
than one more way
to try
to earn
the stuff
to pay for
the stuff
to make life easy
enough
to live it well.
And there’s got to be more
than a wait
always waiting
for more,
the more that will fix everything,
or the more that will allow us to be okay
with never having more.
All we need is more time to
wait for that
more.
There’s got to be more because
I need more
than a vent
more
than a window,
more
than a door, even
how about no walls at all?
no ceiling?
Because climbing the ladder
they say
means having a wall
to lean it against
but what is it worth
if all you want to do
when you get to the top
is jump?
And sure,
you wish you could fly,
but they only taught you to climb.
They gave you rungs,
not wings.
So you can’t take
flight
on your own
now,
even if you wanted to.
You missed your window,
your door to escape
and there is no such thing as thinking
outside the box
once it’s been sealed.

There’s got to more to all of this than an unfinished poem
Or prose, for that matter,
since it has no rhyme,
more to all of this than a
bunch of words in an a poorly punctuated mess
that people will read
and read into
but to which no one
will have the answer.

Because of course there is more
but no-one knows
what
or where
or when that is
or who to get it from.
All we know is that
everyone
has it
except us.

That more.

And what if
what we
really want is
less,
and we can’t have
that either,

more or less.

Zinful Selections of the Central Coast – (Broken Earth Winery Zinfandel Festival 2014)

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Picture this:
It’s 10AM on a Saturday, and the sun has already gotten in its morning workout and is beaming all over the place.
Its greeting is warm and breezy and says, “Time to come out and play.”

And on the agenda is a scenic drive through Wine Enthusiast’s 2013 Wine Region of the Year, Paso Robles, CA.
And this drive ends at Broken Earth Winery, complete with a beautiful stone barrel and tasting room, a sprawling green lawn reminiscent of a resort escape, staff that give off more a “family” feel, and an amazing festival taking place in the midst of it all.

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Jen and Sarah, taking in the tasting room.

Welcome to the 2014 Zinfandel Festival (March 15, 2014).

I arrived with my friend Jen promptly at 11AM, and we made our way to the tasting room first.
We’re Central Coast newbies and are all about this “wine is the new coffee,” brunch-time tasting.

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WHITES
Our first sips were of the 2012 Grenache Blanc, which was awarded a Gold Medal and 92 points at the Central Coast wine competition.
Nose: Fruity, crisp, with notes of apple and melon.
Body: Lighter, complex, with bright fruit and distinguishable (yet delightful) taste of the alcohol…smooth finish.
*Can purchase for $20.

Next, we tried the 2010 Pinot Gris, which is made from grapes other than the ones they grow. (All of their wines’ grapes are Broken Earth-grown, besides the Pinots and Zins.) (Silver Medal)
Nose: Bright and light, with notes of pineapple and melon.
Body: Hints of a petrolly, almost plastic taste, slightly bitter finish.
*Others may experience notes of ripe red apples, honeydew, along with pineapple, mango and guava.
*Can purchase for $16.

On to the 2012 Diablo Blanco (aka “white devil” in Spanish) is a Viognier. Should be intriguing, right? And it was. But far from evil, I must say…
Nose: Fresh pear and distinct grape on the nose, like a younger grape though…light and sweet.
Body: Notes of bergamot and an herb, perhaps rosemary.
*Others may experience hints of apricot and peach, along with tangerine, papaya and guava.
*Can purchase for $18.


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REDS
On to my favorites…the red varieties. This flight began with the 2010 Quadrant Platinum, which is a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Petite Syrah. (Double Gold Medal)
Nose: Mid-level fruit-forwardness, and just a bit dry.
Body: Complex, with notes of sandalwood or myrrh…so a bit smokey and toasty…with a warm and understated finish.
*Others may experience ripe fruit with a velvet texture.
*Can purchase for $16.

The Quadrant, in all of its unique and subtle boldness was a perfect precursor for the 2010 Pull CdR, a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache and a dash of Viognier. (Silver Medal)
Nose: Subtle, fruit-forward (but not too forward).
Body: Dry and smooth, just a hint of spice and with a velvety finish.
*Others may experience aromas of strawberries on the nose.
*Can purchase for $18.

Next, we sampled the 2010 Broken Earth Tempranillo. (Silver Medal)
Nose: Fruit-forward and a bit jammy, smokey.
Body: Toasty, rich and tart, with a smooth and subtly spicy finish. Warm.
*Others may experience subtle floral notes.
*Can PAIR WITH Italian or red sauces, smoked pork or sausage.
*Can purchase for $22.

Then, we were down to the Zin! We sipped the 2012 Broken Earth Zinfandel, which was a new release.
Nose: Smokey and dry, a bit of spice…nutmeg or cardamom perhaps.
Body: Full-bodied and complex, with a smokey/myrrh taste, a bit of a kick and edge to it, with a smooth finish.
*Others may experience black cherry and pepper.
*Can PAIR WITH pasta or grilled beef.
*Can purchase for $22.

As a follow-up to the earlier “white devil,” we next tempted our tastebuds with the 2012 Diablo Negro (black devil), a Petite Sirah.
Nose: Fruit-forward and a bit jammy.
Body: Very bold fruit presence, with plum and vanilla on the finish. Smooth, subtle & tart finish. Hint of strawberry on the tail end of it.
*Others may experience vanilla bean, roasted coffee and intense berries.
*Can purchase for $18.

Next, we had the privilege of trying the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which was delicious.
Nose: Sweet and fruit-forward with strawberry and rhubarb.
Body: Smooth and compex, with a hint of celery seed, or parsley perhaps, with a subtle yet full, warm finish.
*Can purchase for $48.

Second-to-last, we also had the privilege of tasting the 2010 Reserve Petit Verdot, normally used exclusively as a blending grape as it can be too bold and spicy on its own. But the climatic conditions of that year, made this one an excellent stand-alone.
Nose: Evident alcohol scent and very dry.
Body: Dry, but warm and toasty like a campfire. It was smooth and warm to the finish.
*My tasting cohort, Jen, got goosebumps!
*Can purchase for $48.

Finally, we capped off our delightful tasting experience with the 2010 CV Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which spent 13 months in one barrel, five months in another, both of which were new French oak barrels.
Nose: Dry, with a raisiny essence of fig.
Body: Medium-boldness, but dry with dark cherry, the taste of oak and a sugary finish/aftertaste.
*Others may experience dark fruit, vanilla and exotic spices.
*Can purchase for $59.

Tasting room staff was informative, pleasant, and all were having an amazing time, as the Steve Sturgis and Roadhouse band played outside until 1PM.


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Sunshine, Santa Maria Grills and Zinful Thinking

As Jen and I wandered outside, we were greeted with the perfectly-charred, smoky scent of the large Santa Maria grill in action.

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This was our first-ever experience with what was called a “sausage garden,” provided by J&R Meats, all-you-can-eat, with a delicious variety of mustards and breads.

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Best of all, we were handed a generously-poured glass of Zinfandel with with to enjoy/pair our sausage selections.

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So we filled our plates, perched on the babbling fountain in the sun, and enjoyed what—so far—was turning into a perfect day.

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Other patrons were scattered at tables, lounging in chairs and cheery conversation in a sun-dappled and tree-speckled, green garden.

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It was lovely.


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Straight from the Barrel – Venturing Inside the Broken Earth

Next, self-proclaimed “cellar rat” David Sanchez, accompanied at points by Broken Earth Event Coordinator Michelle Angell, gave is the grand tour of the cavernous depths and high ceilings of the Broken Earth barrel room and offices.

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We saw the amazing place where they print their labels, where patrons can actually have their own custom labels, printed—which not a lot of people know!

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So if you have a gift, wedding, business event, anything, you can print your own custom wine label. Amazing, right??

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Look at this printer! They are the only winery in the U.S. to own this equipment, which is very cool.

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Once in the barrel room, we had the opportunity to taste straight from some of the barrels, which was pretty fun! David was incredibly informative, and made a really awesome time of it all for everyone.

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It eventually become hot as Hades outside, so the cool barrel room was a welcome relief of an environment, with tunes from the Back Bay Betty band wafting in through the open doors from outside.


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When we headed home, we were slightly tanned, full and very content.

I would highly recommend this event to anyone passing through (or living near) the SLO/Paso-county area. Keep your radars up for next year by following their Facebook page for event updates!

Cheers!

 

Learn more about Broken Earth wines.

Follow Broken Earth on Facebook.

 

Event photos continued….

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26 facts to make you feel better (whoever you are)

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26 facts to make you feel better (whoever you are)

26 face to make you feel better, whoever you are. Give it a quick read, and go into this day a little happier. 🙂

Excerpt:
” 13) Your mid-eighties self would tell your twenty-something self these very important things: move and travel as much as you can; run, play, climb and exercise as often as you are able; take care of your body and ration your risks—you only get one vessel/one life; love…work for it, and let it work for you.”

My Om is Your Om

1) Your ability to care for a house plant does not reflect your ability to care for a child.

2) Eating an entire bag of junk food (8 single servings) in one sitting, just once, will not make you fat.

3) Everything you own is replaceable. If not, it’s still just a thing. You’ll be fine no matter what “thing” you lose or ruin.
 
4) Everyone picks their nose. Hard boogers don’t come out with a polite puff of air, and that’s just the way it is.
 
5) Even the person who intimidates you more than anything in the world farts. They probably pick their nose, too.
 
6) The person who saw you talking to yourself in your car will probably never see you again.
 
7) It is scientifically proven that there is a hole in your bottom lip first thing in the morning. So mop…

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Rhone Rangers – A Tasting for All Tastes (with detailed photos and info)

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The day’s adventure began with excited chatter resonating off the walls of a pristine barrel room almost as chilling as the Sommelier exam…
and concluded with a giddy gaggle of wine “tasters” napping here and there on the winery lawn as if it were the world’s softest blanket.

And somewhere between these two amusing bookends of the day was my first-ever grand wine tasting.

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A Day as Warm as a Central Coast Zin
Feb. 16 was a beautiful, warm Sunday on the Central Coast. My parents had made the short trek from Illinois to visit for a week, thus having the pleasure of joining me for the Rhone Rangers Experience at Broken Earth Winery, Paso Robles, CA.

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Moderated by Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein (author of “Perfect Pairings and Daring Pairings”), the event began in the winery’s belly: the cool and austere barrel rooms, which had been partially cleared to make way for elegantly set white-linen tabletops.

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There were more wine glasses at each place than silverware—a beautiful sight indeed for lovers of the vine.

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Wine for Breakfast: the Seminar
Starting the day with vino is one thing I will never complain about. Except, perhaps after a grand tasting day as grand as this one turned out to be…

The “Rhone Essentials” Seminar kicked off at 10:30 AM with a series of delightful whites. I had favorites and less-favorites, but what I found most fun was marking down my own notes on each wine to see how close or far my observations were from those of the wine experts seated at the head table like a grape grand jury.

Connoisseur until proven amateur, right? And I was determined to simultaneously enjoy the wine in front of me as well as preserve the validity of my astute critiques of each wine’s unique features.

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Love at First Flight
The first sip to hit my palate was of the Tablas Creek 2012 Grenache Blanc, presented by Jason Haas, the winery’s partner and general manager. This long-legged wine was fruit-forward on the nose…peach and pear, to be exact. It had noticeable oak in the middle and a smooth, buttery finish.

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Now, Grenache Blanc (pronounced gruh-NOSH blonk), which is a Rhone varietal in the family of all of the wines I will detail here, combines both richness and acidity. It is known for carrying notes of preserved lemon, green apple and grapefruit, developing a hint of nuttiness with age (much like myself). Needless to say, the Grenache Blanc and I were instant friends.

The second “leg” of the first flight was a Pomar Junction 2012 Viognier, presented by winemaker Jim Shumate. This wine is fermented in actual barrels, and during this particular year, in acacia-wood barrels to bring out the body and flavor (delightful floral, tropical and citrus notes) without adding oak. Prominent to me were peach on the fruit-forward nose with a hint of honeysuckle, green apple and melon to create a smooth and tropical middle, with a warm and subtle finish.

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Viogniers like this one (pronounced VEE-ohn-yay) are typically aromatic, with a nose of peach and apricot. Apparently they are known to have a hint of violet is well, which is where I’m guessing my brain was saying “honeysuckle.” Viogniers are full-bodied with stone fruit (such as peaches and plums), spice and moderate-to-low acidity.

Something funny to point out to all you experts out there is that, for the longest time in college, I thought the descriptions of a wine meant the wine was actually made of those things. For example, if I saw “cinnamon” or “melon” in the detailing of its flavor, I thought the wine itself actually contained that fruit or spice. To this day, it still amuses me that the product of a single type of fruit can parade as a host of other fruits and spices all at once, but I suppose therein lies the magic of wine. After all, I have yet to sip the juice of a peach that makes me think of Viognier. Grapes alone hold that kind of power….the chameleon of the fruit realm.

Third in the first-flight lineup was the Adelaida Cellars 2012 Version White Reserve, presented by winemaker Jeremy Weintraub. Wine-traub…easy to remember. This wine was a unique blend of 33% Grenache Blanc, 25% Picpoul Blanc (pronounced PEEK-pool Blonk), 25% Viognier and 17% Roussane (pronounced ROO-sahn).

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Picpoul Blanc translates literally to lip-stinger, and consists of wines known for their acidity complemented by tropical notes in some of the older (riper) vintages. The Roussane ages very well (like my beautiful mother, no doubt) and tastes of honey, pear, honeysuckle and rose petal. In other words, it tasted like my family’s beautiful country yard in the spring, when everything was in full bloom, mixed with the late summer ripening of all our fruit trees. Yes, if I could lick that memory, this wine is what it would taste like. But to me it also had a subtle nose, very grape-firm flavor and oak in the idle, with a subtle finish. I think it left me only slightly underwhelmed, perhaps being overshadowed by the robust scent-memory I was in the middle of.

Finally, the first flight came in for a smooth landing with the Proulx 2012 Grenache Rose, presented by Proulx owner and winemaker Kevin Riley. This grape varietal is the world’s second most-planted grape, normally (in its pure red versions) producing a wine with red fruit on the nose, licorice, black pepper, cherry and spice. As a rose, this wine had higher sugar (and alcohol), lower acidity, more of a subtle fruit nose, hints of rose petals on a smooth—almost unrecognizable middle—and with a slightly oaky, subtle finish.

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“Reddy” To Turn My Tongue Purple
I have always been partial to reds. Whites make me want to nap, reds make me want to dance.

Whites put me to bed, reds put me to work on chores or writing. That’s not to say I can’t enjoy a great white or rose, but for me, Mourvedre is bettah…

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The second flight (yay, reds!) began with a sample from our host—Broken Earth Winery’s 2012 Grenache, presented by Broken Earth winemaker Chris Cameron. As I mentioned before, this particular grape is known for fruits, licorice, black pepper, cherry and spice. For me, it was very dry and woodsy on the nose…so I could tell I was going to like it.

In the words of my dad, “I want to spit splinters.”

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But when I took my first sip, there was the fruit! I savored delightful notes of fig and raisin, I sailed blissfully through a drier yet full-bodied and tannin-heavy middle, and slipped out of that first taste with a dry, fruit finish. Perhaps it was the mere transition from white to red that had me enthralled, but regardless, it was an excellent start to the second flight.

Next in this flight was my absolute favorite wine of all wines—Mourvedre. This was Cypher Winery’s 2011 Mourvedre “El Pelon,” presented by Cypher winemaker Christian Tietje. For my parents and I (to whom I had the privilege of introducing Mourvedre) this was our favorite so far. This wine was fruit-forward on the nose, very full-bodied (and therefore a good stand-alone wine that did not necessarily require a pairing) with a dark color and complex middle and a sweet yet oaky finish.

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Mourvedre (pronounced more-VEHD-ruh) ripens later than all of the other Rhone varietals. It is known for aromas of chocolate, red fruit, earth and leather, which altogether give it that complexity that I find ravishing in a wine. In addition, notes of currant, plum and spice accentuate it. Should you decide to pair it with food, Mourvedres team up amazingly with gamey meat and Italian dishes that incorporate mushrooms, as an aged Mourvedre carries notes of game and truffles, even.

The third wine brings is only to the middle of this slightly longer flight, with the Eberle Winery 2012 Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard. The wine was presented by former winery proprietor, Gary Eberle. I say “former” only because, although he continues to be part of the winery, he is no longer as key a stakeholder as before, perhaps due to family differences—which I can neither confirm nor dispute, based on the limited information available in the press. All I CAN say is that Gary gave us the pleasure of his company at our table later on, which I will talk more about later…good man, great wine.

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So this Syrah was also an excellent stand-alone wine, which struck me instantly with a nose of blueberry. Others at our table agreed with a “blueberries and blood” type of flavor, which was confirmed. While it sounds odd, it was delicious. It resembled a sirloin, cooked to perfection…or Carpaccio…served with a warm blueberry glaze. It was full-bodied on the nose, fruit-forward, strong and bold in the middle, with a smooth, woodsy and spicy finish. Syrah (pronounced Sur-RAH…also known as Shiraz) is the most frequently planted Rhone varietal in California. With aromas of smoke, bacon fat, black fruit, crushed rock, blue- and blackberry, black olive and spice, this wine seemed to take all of the best flavors of my past (in Iowa) and my present (in the Central Coast) into consideration with this one amazing cacophony of savory richness.

Fourth in this flight was the Zenaida Cellars 2011 Petite Sirah, presented by winery owner/winemaker Eric Ogorsolka. Now, Sirah is a challenging varietal to perfect. As we learned from Eric, you don’t crush it…you let it do its thing. This wine is the free spirit and (according to my judgment) also the “Virgo” of the Rhone varietals. With this wine, they used CO2 to prolong the fermentation, which takes approximately 30 days. In growing the grape, you must give it enough water that it won’t shrivel up, but you must also let it take its time…very much like a successful love story, if you ask me.

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This wine was fruit-forward on the nose, dry, with a nutty brown color and heavy tannin. It had a spicy, warm and blackberry-essence middle and a smooth tannin finish. Pronounced puh-TEAT-sur-RAH, this wine is halfway between Syrah and Poursin, which was developed in France in 188- by Dr. Fancois Durif. The wine is very dark in color with almost bluish hues amongst its red with powerful tannins that reward those with the patience to cellar.

Finally, my tongue was totally purple and was headed gleefully into the last of the “red flight:” the Anglim Winery 2011 Best Barrel Blend (Red Rhone Blend) of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. I cannot find it anywhere online now, so I’m assuming it may have been so good, it has already sold out. Presented by the winery proprietor Steve Anglim, it is their best barrel blend. My parents and I definitely agreed…we thought it was unique, with its spice on the nose….and almost a bit heavy, harsh and only slightly bitter on the finish.

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As it blended three amazing types of wine, detectable characteristics included red fruit, black pepper, hints of rose petals on aromas of smoke, bacon, blackberry, chocolate, and earth. It was outstanding. Though Mourvedre can be difficult to find on their own, a blend that includes Mourvedre very rarely disappoints. And this one was no exception.

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Gourmet Food and Winemaker Chats
As we eagerly began the Vinter’s lunch, all tables at the seminar were joined by the Rhone Ranger’s principals and winemakers for a gourmet banquet lunch, with each members’ Rhone wines being passed freely for consumption among the tables.

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Prepared by Chef Jeffrey Scott, the incredible meal we consumed consisted of slow-braised Niman Ranch lamb with windrose potatoes, porcini and pomegranate gastrique; grilled, free-range chicken Tagine with Israeli couscous, currants and Nantes carrot glace; winter vegetable gratinee with glazed fennel, celery root and melted leeks; thyme-roasted heirloom beet salad with barrel-aged feta, rocket greens, candied hazelnuts and Solera vinaigrette; organic watercress bisque; and hot chocolate bread pudding with cinnamon stick crème Anglaise.

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Three words: my happy place.

To complement this amazing meal, Gary Eberle was pouring several Eberle wines, including the Cotes du Robles. In the midst of other cheerful conversation and excellent storytelling, Gary also told us the story behind the name “Eberle.” Apparently, “eber” means the bear and “le” means little…so “the little bear.” So neat!

 

 

 

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The Grand “Tasting”
I put “tasting” in quotation marks, because by the time you’re done, you’ve gone far beyond merely “tasting” anything. Without even meaning to, you’ve been drinking since 10:30AM. Though incremental, it’s still going to hit you at some point that the reality of how much wine you’ve really sampled is astounding. I stopped at a point, but I am not a person to dump out the wine normally. Perhaps it’s due to my Midwest roots, where you finish everything on your plate and all of the milk in your glass. It didn’t matter if you were full, finished or on fire. You would eat and drink every last drop. So I used to be that way with wine. But I’ve finally evolved through my Central Cost living to be a “taste and tip-out” sampler. WIN.

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So for the Grand Tasting, we moved out of the barrel room and into another large room filled with tables that were stationed with wineries from all over, local well-known individuals, fruit and cheese.

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By the time I’d gathered enough photos and wine samples from the event to last me an eternity, I joined my parents outside where they had decided to sit and bask in the type of weather in February that has yet to hit Illinois in April.

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There was a great live music performance going on outside, and people had either picked a table and cracked open their own bottle…or were napping face-down on the grass. (see backdrop of next photo lol)Image

Of course, they were totally fine….just wine naps, clearly. But it was nevertheless funny to see a person far beyond my parents’ ages just snoozing in the lawn sporadically. Most guests, however, were up and about and taking in the scenic ambience of Broken Earth…rather than laying ON the “broken earth…”

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Conclusion
This is DEFINITELY an event worth attending. In my opinion, visitors to the San Luis Obispo metro can wine taste until they’re blue in the face and leave town without any real sense of what the wine is about, how to interact with it, and what type of feedback to take back with them to accompany the bottle of wine they purchase. But in contrast, events like this give patrons not only a delicious array of wines to sample and memories to savor, but they also give an education.

In addition (and a part of the event that I personally loved the most), you get to meet the people who understand the love, care, science and labor behind the wines we drink. I grew up on a farm. So whether you harvest corn and beans or wine from the vine, I respect that immensely. There is something to be said for people who make a living cultivating the land, and doing it in an attentive and tender enough way to produce the types of wines we are lucky enough to enjoy here on the Central Coast.

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About Rhone Rangers
Rhone Rangers is an organization committed to advancing knowledge of American Rhone grapes, as well as how to enjoy the wine those grapes produce:

The Rhone Rangers is America’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines. American Rhone-style wines are made from the same grapes that have flourished for centuries in France’s Rhone River Valley, and their growing popularity in the United States speaks to their versatility with food, wide range of rich flavors, and to the skills of American winemakers.

Our mission is to educate the public on Rhone varietal wine grapes grown in America and to promote the production and enjoyment of these wines, with emphasis on integration into our daily lives. For a wine to qualify as a “Rhone Rangers” wine, the winery must be a member of the organization and 75% of the wine’s content must include one or more of the twenty-two traditional Rhone grape varieties as approved by the French government for the wines of the Cotes du Rhone (including Petite Sirah/Durif).

The Rhone Grapes Themselves
With ancestral roots stemming back to France’s Rhone Valley, these 22 grape varieties’ Appelations include Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Condrieu, Chateuneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Bandol, Cotes du Rhone and more. To be considered a “Rhone Ranger,” one of these 22 accepted varieties must dominate at least 75% of the blend.

This Rhone Rangers Event
At this 2014 Rhone Rangers tasting event, Broken Earth Winery had a record turnout that included a sold-out seminar attendance of 240. which were joined later by an additional 310 people. In addition, there were 65 show representatives there to provide conversation, information and more tasting, including 45 Paso Robles member vineyards.

The event, now in its seventh year, continues to grow with each tasting, and not surprisingly so.

CHEERS! Looking forward to 2015…

For a complete list of vendors and silent auction lots, click here.

And more photos to enjoy, below!

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Music to My Years

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(prose) – Sarah Diane Graybill, April 2014

 

Cotton, soft…warm from slow and heavy breath

Pressed to my lips, nose, face smushed…

I have no pores

no morning breath

no care for hair, nowhere

to be.

You have pancakes and butter and syrup…

I fill my belly with ‘til it puffs out like a piglet’s, and

I don’t know what calories or nutrition facts even are.

I dress in mismatched patterns and colors:

a dress, a Supergirl cape, patent leather shoes and oodles

of plastic jewelry…a crown.

Wear more,

You take me to the bank, the store, the park, the library, the pool…

My day, a sweet song

with staccatos of suckers and sand and books,

smiles from strangers at me

singing songs from my perch in the front of the shopping cart.

Minutes marked not by seconds,

but by the lists you draw lines on and throw away,

by trees I count outside the car window on the way home and by

the number of things I can find in the car to doodle on.

I ask for pens. For more gum. For lotion. For lipstick.

For attention. For affirmation. For answers to question after question after question

Grass, freshly chopped, freshly glued to my legs with hose water

as I play harp on the sprinkler and you do lots of things inside

with papers and soap and clothes and pots and pans.

And I miss you…

‘til you emerge with sidewalk chalk and bubbles,

all mine again.

And as we turn an uneven driveway into a 2-D rainbow-colored fortress,

YOU come home in a pickup

Smelling like dirt and fuel and dried corn…like sweat on plaid.

YOU kiss, you hug, speaking your secret language with your eyes

over the noise of my excited babble.

You have hot dinner ready: something brown, something green, something white.

And I scarf it down into my piglet belly because I am thinking of the

purple, orange and blue in the freezer that rewards me.

And on a swing outside, I fawn my big eyes at the dusk over the bean fields,

the wildflowers, the lindens and the cicadas and mourning doves,

while I freeze my lips with sticky cold and

dig my bare piglet toes into the dust.

You play a slow song out the open windows,

And YOU dance like before I was born because you don’t know

I can see you.

But it comforts me…like the warmth of the bath I take next,

the pull of your fingers through my hair to tame the tangles,

the story you read me, then the one you make up.

You are there

and YOU are there beside the bed when the lights go out.

YOU bonk bad dreams from my head and

you sing me a song.

YOU bring me my stuffed animals and

you tuck the covers tight around my shoulders.

You are a whiskered and a soft cheek-brush… a kiss on my forehead,

and I am up, up and away into my great big mind,

Eyelashes fluttering

with flawless dreams.

 

 

 

I can never go back to you.

 

 

 

But I pray each day

that the giant mass of my gratitude

will fill the space left

by your gradual departure,

and that your great big footprints on my heart

become pools where spring rain can collect.

My First Yoga Retreat – Discovering the Undiscoverable, and some Other Oddball Notions

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My greatest fear is to stop thinking.
This was the profound discovery I made on November 16, during my first-ever yoga retreat at Harmony House Yoga in Pismo Beach, CA.
Not spiders, not public speaking, not cancer, not even death.
No.
I realized my greatest fear is to let a moment lapse where I am not actively thinking about something…planning, reconsidering, judging, musing, creating, analyzing, generating. And while this makes me an excellent PR/social media agency Accounts Manager, it makes me a very, very poor yogi.
There is no mental quiet, no inner calm, no inner “blank white nothing” that I can easily fall into nor scavenge for. There is only color and sound and thoughts tangled with loose threads from other balls of thoughts.
Why is this?
Why is it that even if I don’t have time to think about something to the extent that it deserves, I actually write it down so I can think about it later when I do have time?
It’s like I’m afraid I’ll miss something…overlook something. Like I’ll forget something important, suffer a missed connection, bypassed opportunity or underprepared attempt.

Overcoming This Greatest Fear
I strongly believe that people should try to overcome fear. Not all fears, as some fear is not only acceptable, but also essential. It keeps us grounded, realistic and human. It keeps us relatable and humble. No…I just believe we should try to overcome our greatest fear, for that is the one that stands in the way (usually) of true happiness, contentment and peace.

So, to try to conquer my fear of ceasing my thoughts, I decided to attend a two-day yoga retreat…complete with morning, afternoon and evening yoga, meditation, camaraderie and…where lack of camaraderie…the bliss of solitude. This solitude being, of course, the elusive, magical goal of my experience since I have not (thus far) ever been able to manifest it internally.

DAY ONE
The dawn paddle-out, and my inside-out self.
Gray mist still hung low in over the Pismo Beach coastline as several other early-rising yogis and I made our way out to the sand for the morning (7AM on a Saturday) paddle-out. There was Ryan MacDonald (Irish, by name and by beard), Kelly Metcalf (the studio owner), Claudia (the more tenured yogi of the bunch), Summer (with fiery red hair), a girl with dark hair (who emerged from a nearby beachfront apartment) and a girl with a really cool surfboard (see photos).

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We first formed a sort of prayer circle right there on the sand. And as the wind skipped around our faces, throwing loose strands of hair this way and that, Chris played the bagpipes and Kelly led us in a morning meditation.

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As I looked around the circle at everyone else with their eyes closed and smiles on their faces, I noticed very blatantly the key difference between me and them:

There they were, sinking into their own inner peace of this gray, quiet morning, eyes closed and trusting, uncurious about anything else around them…able to FOCUS.

And there I was, finding joy in THEIR expression of peace…finding my own mirth in watching the waves lick the sand, and the seagulls pretending to be untethered kites over our circle, and finding awe in staring wistfully at surfers interacting with the ocean in a way I’m fairly certain I will never have the skills nor gall to.

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But in that moment of reconizing this difference, I made peace with it. PEACE…that thing I can never find. I made peace with the fact that I want my eyes open. I want to absorb everything and everyone else. I want to be the sponge of the nature and souls that surround me in order to give off their vibrant energy in return. And maybe in that osmosis of all life surrounding me, the tiny pieces of my environment that I take in and hoard for a lifetime, maybe that IS my “self.”

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Maybe my “inner peace” is different in that I both find it—and wear it—on the outside.

But one thing I did NOT have on MY outside…was a wetsuit. So at the end of the meditation, when the bagpipes fell silent and the other yogis ran towards the waves with their surfboards, I gleefully watched. I sent my camera lens and hearty grin in their direction to show my support from the dry (and only slightly warmer) beach.

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The Afternoon Beach Yoga and Tiny Joys
The day was beautiful, sunny and warm (hello, Cali). It was dappled with tea at Honeymoon Cafe with Chris Assaad, Summer (from the morning paddle-out) and Ryan, during which I discovered that Yerba Mate is divine with a little bit of honey and nutmeg in it; a brief peek-a-boo session with Chris Buschard’s baby from behind a newsstand; and yoga on the beach with three women at least 20 years my senior…and another tiny, joyful realization…

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When these three other women and I finally settled into Sivassanah on the sand, I realized that the sand has the exact same muffling effect as a Midwest snow. If you lay down in even the smallest groove of it, it sounds like you’re miles away from everything else. For a moment, despite the warm temperatures and sounds of the surf, I felt as if I was packed into a neon snowsuit in mid-January…bundled up by my mom so thickly I could only move like a robot…nuzzled into the quiet of a snow-fort in the backyard of our Illinois home where I grew up.

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And right there in that moment, in my sunny new home, I became ever-so-slightly homesick.

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An Evening Conversation (Talk) With Chris Assaad
Along with a fairly large group of other yogis, I rang in the evening with a low-lit, calming and very unifying talk by Chris Assad.

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The story he told began with how he had just gotten into music when he started losing his hearing. He thought he was bad at music. He had surgery on his ears, and within a year and a half, he got his hearing back. When he turned on the radio after regaining his hearing, he became on fire for music…because he finally had sound…something he didn’t think he’d be able to have. And along with music, he gained spirituality.

He began to go to school during the day, and to play music at night. And once he was fully launched into his law career, he ended up turning down a six-figure salary to focus on music…to put something more into his life than the 9-5 chatter we all live with.

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“If you were God, why would you give someone a gift that requires something great of them, then put them into a condition that prevents them from doing it?” he asked us. And what I thought in response was that…well, he doesn’t. I think we put ourselves into those conditions that we feel are restraining us. Perhaps we are righteously misguided, if that makes sense. We are making good decisions, but are doing so in a way that ignores the inherent compulsion we feel to pursue our true gifts. So…we are not in the wrong, we just aren’t headed in the right direction for ouselves either.

He asked us to take out the crayon and paper in front of us and write town dreams we have realized, dreams we have given up on, and then the reasons why we’ve given up on those dreams.

Here’s what I came up with for myself:

Realized dream: Marrying a good man and living by the beach. And more importantly, outgrowing my adolescent self. (Not like I wouldn’t have—you can’t stay 12 forever—but you’ve been there and know adolescence feels helpless and eternal).

Dream given up on: Having my family and my husband’s family live close to one another.

Why did I give up: Washington and Illinois are never going to be closer to one another, and both families are settled in houses they built themselves. So we will either have to choose a family, move every two years to remain fair, or live precisely in the center…thereby never being close enough to either family to just drop the kids off on particularly busy days.

So even though I ultimately have little decision in this situation, I’m sure many others in the room came to some profound (and perhaps even solvable) realizations in that conversation and time of reflection

Chris did leave us with some profound words:
“Fight or flight does not know the difference between real danger and perceived danger. Therefore, we need to take action in the face of that which makes us uncomfortable,” he said. “If you take even the first step today that leads towards your dream, then you are living your dream.”

DAY TWO
When I Almost Went Raw, Buuuuuuut…Didn’t (photos to come)
After morning beach yoga, which was delightful, I made the point to attend church in a nearby Catholic church I would walk to (yes, I’m Catholic). The mass started 20 minutes late, was half in Latin, and 90% of the women and girls had lace atop their heads…aka, not the best mass to be at in a tank top in yoga pants & flip flops. I was wildly out of place, but the people there were friendly enough. So yeah…church and yoga in one day. Some sort of saintly feeling to that…

So raw food chef Betsy Asmus gave a seminar at the retreat, which I was excited to attend. I’ve always wanted to hear more about going raw, and perhaps even go raw myself. Why not. I love anything that could make me healthier, have more energy and live longer.

Betsy’s story:
Before she went raw, she was 45 lbs heavier and was on nine medications at age 55. She would get up at 4:30AM to work out every day, would work 12 hours as the dean of a college, but it wasn’t enough. When she finally went to the doctor and lined up all of her drugs to inform him that they weren’t working he said, “Oh, you’re not supposed to be taking this with that, or that with this…” and so on and so forth. Being a woman who has previously worked in Medication Therapy Management, this aspect of her story hooked me, and I wanted to hear how she moved forward from this all-too-common (and unfortunate) dilemma in the human healthcare system.

Her first step was to go to Whole Foods and check out Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen book. From that point on (according to Betsy), she had no more allergies, is on no mediations, she sleeps with a cat now (in fact), she has lowered her bad cholesterol and blood pressure, she has a freedom from food (rather than an addiction to it), she does not bloat (no wheat), she does not have mucous (from dairy), and more. Her first clue that going raw was working was that she didn’t flat-line at 3PM like usual. Her extra weight started melting off, and her skin tone improved.

In the middle of her story, she fed us an oatmeal raisin cookie that was made using persimmon as the liquid, and which was dehydrated instead of baked. It was unreal delicious. Like, seriously.

So my first question to her was which dehydrator she used. (That’s me…if I like it, I want to learn how to make it too…NOW.) She said she uses an Excalibur 9-tray with the 14”x14” trays, which runs around $250. She said to make sure the temp gets down to 105 degrees on whatever machine you purchase, because otherwise (any hotter), it takes away the foods’ nutrients.

On dehydration of food, she says that YES…it takes longer, but it maintains the minerals and enzymes in the food and prevents them from deteriorating.

On her other dietary habits, she said, “If it comes from something that has a face, I don’t eat it.” (This made me chuckle.)

Next, she prepared us a pumpkin pudding with ginger spice cream. How? You can soak cashews to make creams and cheesecakes! (OMG, who knew?!….more like, who knew and DIDN’T TELL ME?!) You soak them overnight, using the hottest filtered water you can (which speeds it up). And you blend them to make the cream.

FUN FACT: Cashews are fruits. (?!?)

Also, apparently…don’t eat peanut butter. This is because bacteria often grows between the hard shell and the nut, which is not healthy to consume.

GOOD NUTS: cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts.

GUIDELINE FOR FOODS:
– Must be labeled “raw” AND “organic” to ensure it hasn’t been heat-processed or radiation-processed. Sprouted is even better.

Finally, she won my heart with  a “fudge ball.” This wondrous little morsel was comprised of almond butter, dates and cacao and strawberries (whaaaaat?). It was delish.

To make, simply puree the strawberries, chop the other half of the ingredients and blend with the dates, add lemon juice as a preservative and a raw vegan “binder” substitute. You can also make sunflower seed flour and pumpkin seed flour, just be sure to use a dry container when “blending” and DO NOT overblend…or you will get a substance that has a very peanut-butter-like consistency.

I decided, as I left, I was going raw. And I also knew that, as a woman married to a “comfort food” guy and also being a woman who loves all things that can be hunted and cooked on a grill (i.e elk), I would probably go through life continuing to eat foods that came from something with a face. However, I love the idea and think that there are likely a variety of nutritional routes a person could take to obtain what they felt was their optimum regime. I think it works much the same way as exercise does….there is no perfect form of exercise. The best form of exercise is the KIND THAT YOU WILL ACTUALLY DO. So with a diet, the best kind of diet regime is one that is actually PLAUSIBLE and ENJOYABLE for you to stick with.

The Yoga Retreat Finale
There were no fireworks, no weeping goodbyes, and I had made no new best friends. However, I had learned, I had practiced great yoga all weekend, I had spent my days filled with the joy and light of a variety of vibrant and inspiring individuals, and I would definitely go back again. I loved the studio (and the beach), I loved the people, and I loved the time the retreat forced me to take out of my usual monotony and actually ENJOY the sea, sand and sky I’ve been blessed with living in the midst of since October.

I ended the day with another amazing yoga session, some tea and healthy treats with the other students, and then I headed back into my busy life to talk about what a great time I had.

I met my pals at Phantom Rivers Winery, not far away at all, where I ate some food that had come from something with a face, drank wine, and made a little bit more peace with the fact that internal and external zen doesn’t have to be a perfect art acquired by intense meditation and a flawless sense of self.

Sometimes zen is just a little bit of dusky sunshine, a little bit of a rich Mourvedre, and a little bit of acknowledgement to oneself that you are ever-so pleasantly always on that delightfully thin line between all stereotypes.

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