I recently gave my best friend a Champagne lesson on a road trip to Orlando. She had no idea about true Champagne; her impression was that it was just a sparkling wine you could get anywhere. Well, for starters, I explained sparkling wines have extra carbon dioxide, which makes them fizzier. This is the very reason we bring it out to mark special occasions; it is simply more fun to drink. There is just something decadent about the bubbles. Champagne’s arrival is credited to a French monk who promptly declared he was drinking the stars. That monk was Dom Perignon, a holy man who made strides in white wines when France was still predominantly a red wine producer. A monk? Yes, back then the monks could make wines and drink all day.
Champagne can only be considered true Champagne when it is produced in its namesake region in France. Otherwise, it is considered low quality. The cheap bottles in the drugstore cannot be considered anything other than blasphemy to oenophiles. Secondly, since it is a wine it comes from grapes. These grapes must be from the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or Chardonnay grapes, which are native. The name Champagne carries a lot of weight because it is high quality, almost like carrying a Hermes Birkin bag.
The last element to true Champagne production is it has to have gotten the famous bubbles by enduring the fermentation process twice: once in barrels and again in bottles. Other sparkling wines can call themselves Champagne as long as they credit the process. The most visible types of Champagne are Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs and Rosé.
Blanc de Blanc is also known as white Champagne. By law, white Champagne has to be made with Chardonnay grapes. This is a single grape production. Mostly this type of Champagne is paired with light fare such as seafood. It also makes an excellent apéritif.
Blanc de noirs are white Champagnes made only from the black grape varieties of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These sparkling wines are known to be full-bodied and deeper yellow-gold in color. Ideally, they should be paired with full-flavored foods, including meats and cheeses.
Rosé Champagnes are produced by one of two methods. The classic method centers on the addition of a measured amount of Pinot Noir still wine to the base wine just before the second fermentation. The skin contact method, involves the pressing of skins soaking with the juice of the grapes prior to fermentation. Rose, or pink Champagne, has moments of high and waning popularity. The color hue lends itself to romance, but can be overused by desperate men. It is paired well with someone by whom you want to be romanced.
If you think there are too many strict rules with Champagne, here is another one: as each year lapses into another one, producers of Champagne must hold on to least twenty percent of their wine for use in future non-Vintage Champagne. Vintage Champagne has a cache that a bottle of Andre cannot touch.
There is quite a bit that goes into a bottle of Champagne. Inside the dark glass lurks three times the air pressure of a car tire. If anyone has been accidently hit with a Champagne cork like I have (long story), you know that the uncorking is a reason to cover your face. The longest recorded flight of a Champagne cork is over 177 feet. There are actually contests to see who can get the cork farthest. Once you go through the opening whether it be dramatic by letting the cork fly or more European where it is simply a polite pop, Champagne is tricky to drink. It is a sipping wine as the alcohol content is so high, drinking it too quickly can cause a headache. This is ironic given Marilyn Monroe only drank Champagne to avoid a hangover headache.
Ever notice how Champagne bottles seems denser than other wine bottles? Well, this sparkling wine is more sensitive to temperature and light. Too much light and temperature fluctuation can affect the taste. Chilling Champagne consistently between 40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature.
The movies might have gotten something right about Champagne. The traditional way to chill a bottle of Champagne is to place it in an ice bucket, half filled with ice, half with water, for 20 minutes. We ended the road trip with a celebratory glass of Champagne and made sure to savor every delicious bubble.
I have always been terrified of horror movies. After watching the 6th Sense, I did not sleep for three days. My mother yelled at me for believing in that nonsense and ordered me to bed. However, scientists have studied why we watch horror movies and the answer is surprising : we watch them to bond.
Think about it, we have so many bonding rituals that we do not even consider great for society. Chicks get their nails done together and men watch football. Yet, the way the two genders bond cannot always be seen out in public. So, we find ways to connect with each other as a group . The two best ways are anger and fear. Protesters bond in the anger over something they fear. When someone experiences a traumatic event with another person, like a car crash or a birth, it bonds them for life.
I am writing a screenplay for a client in love with the horror movie genre. So, I had to face my fears and watch a few to understand what makes a bad, good, or even great horror movie. This is what I learned in no particular order:
1. Sleep is when we are most vulnerable. We conk out for at least six hours and we are susceptible to intrusion.
2. At some point, one character is not believed that things are happening around the house. Everything is supposed to have an explanation and the one with the most psychic powers is generally the most resistant.
3. Childhood is a sacred time in everyone’s life that cannot be interfered with by adults. Kids are low hanging fruit to make creepy because we want so badly to give them the idealistic childhood none of us had.
4. Use the happiest sounding song during what is supposedly the scariest part. Tiptoe Through the Tulips played during the stupidest part of Insidious.
5. Dolls are always scary. I only played with barbies growing up because dolls are freaky at best, possessed by the devil at worst.
6. The moms who are psycho and force their offspring (usually boys) into being serial killers generally tend to be glamorous. Michelle Crane’s fashion sense makes me want to pass out from happiness.
7. Mirrors are portals to hell. Also, they are torture devices not only to see the ever-increasing lines on our faces or bad hair, but something sinister lies on the other side.
8. Never be in your house alone; you will be touched by some invisible force.
9. If someone looks like they are bad dancers, they may just be possessed by a demon who is just getting used to their new body.
10. They are always lame. I have yet to see one that truly stays with you beyond the cheap pop up scares.
The world always needs more love. Love can come in so many forms, but the best is almost always nearly free. What if love came in snack size portions for only a quarter? The world would be a better place and those having paralyzing doubts about someone’s feelings/approval towards them only had to buy a small dose to rethink the whole situation with clarity. We may never get the love we seek or the right portion, but sometimes all we need is a taste.
I don’t procrastinate when it comes to falling asleep. A certain hour hits and I am snoozing. Just this morning, I woke up at 5:45 because I had press releases to complete. When my friends complain that they didn’t get enough sleep, I nod my head in sympathy-not empathy. Out of all the things I need to work on, sleep is not one of them.
As a teacher, this is an interesting prompt. Teachers are the scapegoats of lazy parents who resent anyone disciplining their wayward offspring. The administration will always side with parents to the point of insanity. Being a teacher is a lesson in patience.
Who would I want to teach me patience?
Ideally, all the religious figure heads. I would like to learn the secret of the ages.
Jesus- dealing with those who persecute you for political reasons. All teaching is political.
Mo-they say Islam is the religion of peace. I would like to learn more. My knowledge of Islam stemmed to a beautiful prom date from long ago. I researched his religion on my own and learned about Ramadan, etc. When I was debating a move to Abu Dhabi, I felt my eyes were open both culturally and otherwise.
Buddha- I have studied his words in Thailand. I saw his teeth and toenails in various temples. I have a feeling he might be my favorite one. We could discuss Mara at great length.
Either way, I would like to update all their books. I could, perhaps, ghostwrite their memoirs (www.sirenpublications.com).
Maybe it is true, a teacher does not like to be taught.
Women are sometimes miserable to each other. Commonly, a woman will say something incendiary and then run away. Perhaps they have the comfort of a group or position to shield them from their actions. This is beyond cowardly. If the receiver steps out-of-the-way of the verbal Molotov cocktail and goes to speak with the offender, the trouble begins. Seeking open communication with a passive aggressive person can lead one to be labeled difficult.
What makes a woman difficult? I’ve come to figure out a difficult woman is one who does not put up with nonsense. She is someone who does not back down when someone is trying to show their dominance. She allows herself an out from any situation whether it be a job, a relationship, a friendship or even her own head. There is an assumption that a woman has to stay. Perhaps it is biological that she is saddled with a pregnancy or family as the backbone of that. To leave a group situation may be social suicide. A man can leave his family and it is brushed over, maybe even blamed on the wife. Yet, a woman is expected to stay no matter the challenges.
Women aren’t given the outs that men are. Until, of course, someone stands firm and says you can’t speak to me like that or forget this I’m leaving. Girls very young are trained to have a singular best friend and to please as many people as possible, even to her own detriment. Boys can pretty much do what they want (especially in the Latin culture). A girl who says no is usually punished, rarely praised. A girl that sticks up for herself can threaten the culture with one word.
What if more women said no? Would we still have a glass ceiling or a need to shame? The ones usually holding other women back aren’t men, they are other women. Girls tend the travel in packs, even after they leave the hallways of high school and turn into women. They can still start rumors or call into question a person’s moral character with the raise of any eyebrow. We put up with it though so we won’t be on the receiving end. Having a pack of females go after you at any age is frightening. A woman that goes after another woman in a professional setting is particularly heinous.
I can still recall with most of the trouble I’ve had with other women started when I simply did not want to hang out with them. Gossip is not my idea of a good time. It is the most striking characteristic of a crocodile that they have no curiosity. They are keen on observing, much like yours truly. It is rare for me to be interested in the talks of other people’s lives. If they want to share, I’m all ears. Most of the time is simply pith. A real character, one that a writer is actually interested in, does not squawk all day of their importance through putting others down. This unwillingness to pretend in someone’s importance is not always perceived in the right way. Someone who does not want to talk smack about another person is treated with suspicion. A girl that does not care about another girl’s outfit seems to violate some unspoken girl code of vicious subtext under every statement/comment must be talked at any given moment. A woman who does not let her boss talk to her like a child can be on the chopping block.
This to me is ridiculous. If women stopped doing this there would time left over for topics such as the kidnapped girls in Nigeria or supporting each other through kind words. Labeling is our way of sorting out the universe. In our pre-historic days in order to survive, we could eat some things but not others. Labeling was necessary for living another day. Now are survival is almost guaranteed and our Darwinist skill is being used to box in people. Being difficult is an assault on our truly social nature. No one wants to be an outcast, thus the label of being difficult is socially deadly.
So what can a “difficult” woman do? Well, I revamping my writing business. I am going to spend my summer break (or potential permanent break) really focusing on making Siren Publications a further success. The skills I have acquired in teaching-dealing with difficult clients (capitalism has taken over education with the attitude if you pay, you should get A’s), maneuvering interest and catering to wide variety of interests/handicaps have enabled me to pay bills with writing. Now though I see no reason I cannot go at it full force. I’m not a corporate girl, I have no interest in playing the game of manipulating people to like a false sense of myself.
My life would be infinitely easier if I played movies for my students or stopped challenging their tender minds to think not like me, but for themselves. If I handed out A’s or stopped caring so much I would be labeled easy. Maybe I would, but my thirst for complete independence is never quenched. Any day of the week I would rather be thought of as a difficult woman and not being seen as someone who does not stand up for myself. In the end the jobs don’t matter or the entangled relationships even the strongest woman can find herself in on occasion. What matters is whether we are true to ourselves and that our voices echo because we spoke up to say I am a person of value, treat me as such.
It is too cold when I wake up in the morning to go to the beach. It’s late March in Miami and I am on spring break. Normally during any free morning I am at the beach in my tattoo print bikini meticulous that no sun tans my skin. As I wrap the blanket tighter around me, I’m struck by how much I actually want to go. In Miami the weather is such that the beach is always there, yet you can only go if the weather is complimentary. I avoid South Beach and the throngs of tourists. Instead I go to the Key Biscayne inlet right next to the Seaquarium where they have enslaved so many animals it makes me sick. In the last throes of sunlight, you can hear the seals barking, almost begging for their freedom. I can do nothing to rescue them from a life of being trapped. My dog always looks up when they bark quizzically as if she were a spoiled child that cannot fathom a life not made of malaise.
I get up and walk over to the window, touching the glass to see how cold it is. My hand is quickly withdrawn and I look out pondering what to do with my day. No writing clients are scheduled and most of my friends are working. They cannot imagine having a week off, they practically drool over the concept. I had my first real summer off last year. I didn’t travel, I stayed at home consoled by the fact I could go to the local beach every day like I do in Phuket. My plan for the day was to go to the beach for a few hours, drive back before lunch traffic on Brickell and nap until kickboxing. On vacation, I’m not good at making new plans. My life is so planned with teaching that not having to do anything is more of a luxury than time off.
Now the temperature is rising, my plan B of going to the Country Club pool is foiled by the lingering coldness in the air. The sky is a clear blue, I lay down on my sofa my eyelids heavy from nothing in particular. Gladys rushes into the room. Finding me about to nap is rare, I fight with all my might to stay awake during the day. Sometimes I nod out in meditations, but the dog looks at me straining to figure out why the lady who gives her the yummy gourmet dog food she gets for free is closing her eyes on the sofa. Gladys stands over me tale wagging. She wants another walk and some more dog food.
Not today my love, I pat her and resume the napping position. She walks to the bedroom to take a nap herself. If we were at the beach, she’d be exploring with only her wagging tail for me to keep tabs on her. Her paws do not touch the water, her delight is in the sand. I can’t wish we were somewhere we cannot be, I learned that trick a long time ago. I am a believer in making the best out of a current situation.