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Valerie Kaur: “The heart is a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.”  

October 12, 2020



Mother Teresa says that if we look at all that we have to do, at the mass of it all, we will be overwhelmed and never act.  Instead, “Begin With The One,” she advises. Find the one thing, the one step, the one persons, and focus your energy there.

Valerie Kaur “In See No Stranger” says “The heart is a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.”  Read more from Valerie Kaur here.

So what will you focus on? How will you use your heart?  Here’s what I’ve been up to. 


Read more…

World Blind Wine Tasting Challenge 2020: And the winner is…

October 11, 2020

On this day last year, I woke in the Loire Valley, France. We were staying in an Air B n B that snuggled up to a limestone cave. In fact the kitchen was IN the cave. Our accommodations, a two story structure, adjoined the cave.

And there was a hot tub where I soaked and drank my tea on that misty morning. The night before, we enjoyed oysters and a pet nat.

From there, we visited Vouvray’s Vincent Careme, a master of Chenin blanc wether still, sparkling, or sweet, and after lunch at Chateau du Pray, a Michelin starred restaurant also built into a limestone cave, we arrived at Chateau Chambord, possibly the most impressive castle in France, if not of Europe.

Just outside of Chateau Chambord were our next accommodations. This is the view from my bed:


And why was I in the Loire staying at a Chateau? Read more…

October is Blogtober 2020

October 10, 2020

Did you know that October is Blogtober?

The challenge of Blogtober is to post every day of the month of October — all 31 days! Read more…

Happy Birthday to the Boss: Bruce Springsteen

September 23, 2020

“Now on the street tonight the lights grow dim
The walls of my room are closing in
There’s a war outside still raging
You say it ain’t ours anymore to win
I want to sleep beneath
Peaceful skies in my lover’s bed
With a wide open country in my eyes
And these romantic dreams in my head”

Bruce Frederick Springsteen: Born Sept. 23, 1949

“Throughout the darkness that has settled on this land, I have listened to music,” writes Ron Wells. “Lots of music.

“And Bruce Springsteen continues to provide words and music that have lifted me up, replenished my soul, kept my spirit in the light.”
“So today, I celebrate Bruce Springsteen’s birthday. He’s the same age as me and has been a great traveling companion as I followed my path after encountering him 44 years ago. Thus, I will be listening to his music for much of today. For reasons I can’t quite explain, I’m starting with Maria’s Bed. I had always heard that this was not about a woman, but rather, about a river called Maria. I don’t know if this interpretation is correct, but I kinda like that one. Either way you look at it, it’s a wonderful song about light and darkness. I especially like the closing lyrics:
Well, I’ll take my blessings at the riverhead
I’m living in the light of Maria’s bed.

“When that one is over, I will scan his catalogue and pick out another and another and another, always being thankful that he has provided me with so many songs to accompany my life’s journey.
“And just as thankful that he has led me to so many of you, my GREAT friends. So, maybe I’ll play the video of Dream Baby Dream:

“There will be more music, more songs, and more celebration because sometimes we just need to find some joy in this world to keep ourselves in balance. What better day than today.
“Let me know if you’ll be playing any Bruce songs today. I’d love to hear your choices.

“I just read Brian Hiatt’s article, a trickle of tears roll from my eye’s,” writes Marshall Sheridan about the September 20, 2020 cover article about Bruce Springsteen titled “Ghosts,Guitars, and the E StreetShuffle: How Bruce Springsteen confronted death, saw Clarence in his dreams, and knocked out a raw and rocking new album with the world’s greatest bar band.”

Bruce and a fan when they were both young

“Memories of friends, road trips, late nights in parking lots, songs, The Big “C”. missing live music, growing older. It all comes to passing with time. So I say grab a shot of Patron, turn the lights down,  raise your glass sit back and listen to The Jersey Devil tonight and wish him a Happy Birthday, and many more.” Here’s Marshall’s play list:

1. Letter to You
2.  Down Bound Train ( live version )
3.  She’s the One / Mona    ( live version 78 )
4.  41 Shots   ( live version )
5.  Shut Out the Light
5.  Land of Hope and Dreams   ( live )
6.  Ghost of Tom Joad  w/ Tom Morello
7.  My City of Ruins    ( solo piano )
8.  Devils and Dust
9.  Rocky Ground
10. Song for the Orphans  ( dug out my old bootleg cassette )
11. If I was the Priest   ( my old cassette )

Read more…

#UrineTroubleTrump #ByeHannity

August 14, 2020


Following the release of the forward to Micheal Cohen’s book Disloyal where he describes what he did for Trump including:

“When Trump wanted to reach Russian President Vladimir Putin, via a secret back channel, I was tasked with making the connection in my Keystone Kop fashion.

I stiffed contractors on his behalf, ripped off his business partners, lied to his wife Melania to hide his sexual infidelities, and bullied and screamed at anyone who threatened Trump’s path to power.

From golden showers in a sex club in Vegas, to tax fraud, to deals with corrupt officials from the former Soviet Union, to catch and kill conspiracies to silence Trump’s clandestine lovers, I wasn’t just a witness to the president’s rise—I was an active and eager participant.”

This led to one of the best hashtags that ever trended:


Possibly explaining his recents rants about shower power…

As Ron Wells points out, “Whatever you think of Michael Cohen, his book is going to be as important as the book by Trump’s niece. Cohen was the “fixer” for Trump for ten years. He knows all there is to know about Trump’s criminal enterprises. The entire Forward to the book is enclosed here. It is scary. Yes, he wants to sell books, but you can’t make this stuff up.
Trump is also trying to undermine the post office and mail in ballots. As Ron pointed out, Trump would “rather you stand in long lines with others who may or may not have Covid, and perhaps give up and go home without voting.
Mail sorting machines have been dismantled in many states.
PA and MD were notified today the the Post Office may not have time to get mail-in ballots delivered to homes, and then collected before the election deadline.
One Postal employee reported that a truck pulled away today with 80,000 pieces of mail still on the loading dock because the driver was ordered to do so.

As the 2020 election ramps up, we can’t forget what we’ve learned, what we’ve observed. We can’t let him do what he wants and grab America by the pussy.

Even if he manages to destroy the post office — we must– and we will– vote him out in 80 days!

Ron reminds us, “Stay aware. Phone calls to representatives about the mail being slowed down certainly couldn’t hurt. We will win this, but we will have to work hard for it. Stay aware and notify others about what is going on.”
“Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on”—Pete Seeger

Review: Rolling Stones Bass Player Bill Wyman “The Quiet One” by Ron Wells

July 18, 2020
2019 Documentary: The Quiet One (Bill Wyman)
reviewed by Ron Wells 
This is a nice little documentary about Bill Wyman’s life with and without the Rolling Stones. There is nothing that is groundbreaking for people who follow the Stones closely, but it is still an enjoyable look into the the life of Bill Wyman, “The Quiet One” or “Stone Face” as some called him. He has always been very much a collector and something of an archivist, deciding in 2014 to open his collection to the public. Included in these were over 20 years of home movies.
Some of the more notable facts are that he changed his name in 1964 from William George Perks, and he was brought up primarily by his grandmother who always believed he would one day be famous.
He joined the military in 1955. The Stones told him initially they didn’t want him to play rock and roll; they insisted they were a blues band. 
He mentions all three of his wives, and tells how he fought his first wife to get custody of his son. Glyn Johns and Andrew Loog Oldham are discussed, as is the death of Brian Jones. Wyman asserts that he was never addicted to drugs, but he did find escape through sex. 
When the Stones moved to France for tax reasons, Wyman met James Baldwin and Marc Chagall.  After the 1981-1982 tours, the Stones did not tour for seven years. Wyman finally quit the band after the Steel Wheels Tour in 1990. He had been with them for 31 years.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the film is when he talks about meeting his hero, Ray Charles.
Charles asked him to play on his next album, and Wyman told him, “I’m not good enough.” At this point in the documentary he breaks down and is comforted by his wife as he recalls the emotional meeting with his legendary hero. He recalls playing with other great bluesmen, and with his own band, the Rhythm Kings. Overall, nothing earth shattering, but still a very enjoyable little tour of his life with the bass player best known for playing with the Rolling Stones.
by guest blogger Ron Wells
NOTE: While he may speak of his wives, and his addiction to sex, there is more to be said on this topic which is broached in this Rolling Stones review.

What’s the Point? The Point is Poetry!

July 12, 2020

Team USA 2019 at the competition site Chateau Chambord; photo courtesy of the French US Consulate.

The point is not the point, the point is POETRY!
And we all know what Robert Louis Stevenson said about wine, right?
“Wine is bottled poetry!”

I became a bit obsessed with points there for a bit trying to figure out how they would be calculated to determine who would be on the 2020 US Wine Team (read more here).

Read more about Louis Roederer Champagne and its American cousin here.

Cheers and congratulations to the 2020 US Wine Team!
  • Kristen Shubert, Los Angeles County, CA
    2016 Team USA: 3rd place with 100 points at World Challenge (with Ulf Palmnas)
    2018 Team USA:  14th of 23 teams at World Challenge (with Lisa Stoll)
    2018 US Open: 1st with 124 points (partner Lisa Stoll)
    2019 US Open: 4th place
  • Taylor Robertson, Texas
    2019 Team USA: 30 points (with Sue Hill, Jacob Fergus, and I)
    2019 US Open: 1st with 101 points (with Jacob Fergus)
  • Ulf Palmnas, Sweden
    2016 Team USA: 3rd place with 100 points at World Challenge (with Kristen Schubert)
    2017 Team Sweden: World Champion with 115 points; read more here
  • Lisa Stoll, Ventura County, CA
    2018 Team USA: 14th of 23 teams at World Challenge
    2018 US Open: 1st with 124 points (partner Kristen Schubert)
    2019 US Open: 3rd place with 59 points
  • First Alternate:
    Jacob Fergus, Texas
    2019 Team USA Captain: 30 points at World Challenge
    2019 US Open: 1st with 101 points.
While I made the team, I’m an alternate– which means at this point, I’ve not been invited to compete in France., because Sue and I scored 91 points and placed second in the US Open in 2019 to be on the the four member team that went to France (and did terribly as a team).  Only previous first place finishers made the 2020 team. My disappointment brought me back to reflecting on one of the lessons of competing in Slam Poetry Competitions — the point is not the point, the point is poetry.
Or more accurately, bottled poetry, AKA wine!

Read about these two wines in an expanded version of this post here.

So instead of being bummed, I’m celebrating myself with sparkling wine from California and France (read about it here) and thinking about Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” where Whitman writes in the first section:  
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,

Read more…

What’s Up: World Blind Wine Tasting Challenge 2020

July 2, 2020

After posting daily American Sentences during COVID-19 in April plus a few posts about climbing Kilimanjaro (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here), I took a hiatus in May and June, but now I’m back! I’m working on posts about Covid Camping and Travel as well as writing about previous trips because I don’t know about you, but this gal here, the Art and Wine Predator, is usually on the go traveling for ski trips, camping, mountain climbing, wine events, and music festivals! I’m getting a little stir crazy and I thought I’d be able to write about travel in May but it was too hard– it made me miss the Before Times even more.

So during the lockdown, I’ve focused on writing about wine over on Wine Predator. To date, I’ve published over 100,000 words in 68 posts averaging 1500 words in each and 12,000 page views over there so far in 2020.

Writing about wine and food definitely has its benefits:

  • One, lots of wine samples to write about!
  • Two, travel!
  • Three, meeting new people with shared interests!

Yes, I do get sent “free” wine — but it’s not so free because I spend a lot of time researching, tasting, and writing about it. It’s not like I just sit around drinking and pontificating, and wines get photographed and the blog posts get written up by themselves.

It really is a lot of work — a labor of love for sure, with plenty of benefits.

One surprising benefit is that after tasting thousands of wines and writing about them, I discovered last summer that I’m really good at tasting wine blind. Even though I’d never done it before, last July I competed in the US Wine Open, a blind wine tasting challenge where the top two teams get sent to France to represent the US in the World Wine Tasting Competition!

And we came in second place with 91 points!

Team USA: Gwendolyn Alley, Sue Hill, Jacob Fergus, Taylor Robertson

That’s right: in addition to travel on media trips to Portugal, Canada, Washington, Oregon, and throughout California, I went to France on an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the World Blind Wine Tasting Challenge. While there, we spent almost a week in Champagne, and almost a week in the Loire, and finished our trip with a few days in Paris where we attended the famous Festival of the Vines.

While 92 points out of 100 may not sound like a lot, if we’d scored 70 in France we would have been in the Top 10. It’s that hard. Read how it went in France here.

And now the big question is: will there be a World Wine Tasting Championship in 2020? Who will be there? And will I be on the team again?

Read more…

National Poetry Month 2020: April 30 — the end is not in sight

April 30, 2020









It’s not joy that makes us grateful; it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.

Art is disruptive: it solves a problem in a new creative way.

Godin: You’re your own client — build yourself a better body of work!

April 2020 lasted a lifetime or maybe more: COVID.

Today’s the final day of April.

May May last half as long.

As April was National Poetry Month, each day I wrote and posted one or more American Sentences… except for one or more days when I did not.

I may continue this practice for as long as we #SIP — Shelter in Place or Slurp in Place or Sigh in Place…

While I have been posting here, I have also posted 10 or so articles about wine on Wine Predator this month.

And I’ve been fostering kittens.

It’s been quite a month.

A month like no other.

It’s almost like GOD put us all on restriction.

Art by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo, one of the few westerners trained in this rare Buddhist art of silk applique. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave his blessings to Leslie’s work and encouraged her to make images that speak to the spiritual aspirations of people across religions and cultures. Leslie’s story is the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, Creating Buddhas: the Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas. Leslie mentors a select group of students around the world through her Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program, and her Weekly Wake-ups like this one above provide a thread of inspiration to set the  week on the path to awakening.

National Poetry Month 2020: April 29 — Whiskers R We

April 29, 2020




For National Poetry Month 2020 I am writing one or more American Sentences and sharing them here.

A week ago we became foster kitty parents. This is making it simultaneously easier and harder to accomplish my goal.

It would seem easy but no. Unless you tag team you do not get enough sleep. Moms and some dads, you know what it is like to nurse an infant. I really don’t know how I did it.

And it is inspiring yes and I count the 17 syllables for the day’s American poem and find many BUT but unless you are William Carlos Williams or Eileen Myles or Scott Vetsch with a small notebook and pen in your coat pocket well… you lose the poems. Poof. Just. Like. That.

But there’s more where they come from.

There are an infinite number of poems.

Kind of like love — you can never love too many kittens.


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