The Scarlet Letter

Apothic Logo

Due to some circumstances beyond my control, I’ve had to deal with a lot of stress over the past few weeks.  Stress of any kind attracts sha (negative energy) to an individual and/or space. Depending on the person, stress can cause a multitude of symptoms, including headaches, anxiety, skin issues, sexual performance problems, and a weakened immune system.  For me personally, I suffer from insomnia, and the resulting fatigue and lack of energy that comes along with it.  Unfortunately, stress is an inescapable part of life.  But, it can be reduced and dealt with accordingly.  One way I like to unwind is to pour myself a glass of wine, such as the red blend from Apothic Wines.

Apothic Echos

Created by winemaker Boyd Morrison in 2007, Apothic harvests its grapes from Lodi to make some of the most tantalizing blends I’ve ever had.  I was first introduced to it  on a weekend away in Big Bear a few years ago.  It was love at first taste.  The name Apothic comes from the word Apotheca;  a mysterious place where wine was created and stored in the 13th century.  The “ic” portion of the name comes from the word epic (which this wine definitely is).

Apothic Red

Apothic Red – A seductive blend of zinfandel, syrah, cabernet and merlot.  While this is definitely not a dessert wine, I found the bold and rich taste of chocolate to be highly prevalent (probably from the zinfandel grapes used).  Vanilla, blueberry, raspberry, and mocha flavors also permeate the libation.  An excellent choice for every wine lover’s palette.  Even if you’re not an aficionado of red wine, try this.  It’s impressive taste lingers upon the senses.  Unforgettable.

Apothic White

Apothic White – I had this recently at a dinner party, and the first taste to assuage my senses was honey.  Sweet honeysuckle, vanilla, and mellow pineapple bring forth images of hot summer days in tropical climates.  A friend suggested adding actual honey to the wine, which I am inclined to do for a more digestif appeal.  Best served chilled, although ours was not; we added a few ice shards instead.  Sultry and beguiling.

Apothic Rose

Apothic Rose – A limited edition released this year, this is a very stylish blush wine.  Strawberries with hints of cream, nutmeg, and watermelon are the dominant flavors.   This pairs amazingly well with Trader Joe’s Carrot Zucchini Bread.  Charming and sweet.

Apothic Wine Art

Wine Advertisement Art by Aurie Singletary of Cargo Collective.  See more of her incredible images at her site:  http://cargocollective.com/auriesingletary/Apothic-Wine

Apothic Red Pond and Trees

From a feng shui perspective, there are many ways to deal with stress.  Here are a few things I do to help relax and rejuvenate during stressful times:

  • Gaze at some art – Whether is be online or at a museum, spend some time browsing artists of various styles.  This helps to relieve the mind of worrisome thoughts, and let’s people focus their attention on an item of beauty.  Even if one doesn’t like a piece of art, it’s always thought-provoking.
  • Clear the clutter – Remove and reorganize any clutter in your environment – especially in the bedroom   Clutter also attracts sha, stressing people out the more and more it collects. Take a half hour or so to clear some of this away from you environment, or at the very least, remove it from the bedroom.
  • Get some fresh air – Open up all the windows and let fresh air into the space, for about an hour (weather and temperature permitting).   Air and breezes from outside help remove the stagnant, yin air of the area, attracting more fresh,yang energy inside.  Taking a nice stroll around a park or neighborhood also helps.
  • Take a bath – As opposed to showers, baths helps to relax the body rather than stimulate.    There are all sorts of various things one can add for the ultimate bath experience.  I like bubble bath, some essential oil (usually lavender or eucalyptus), bath salts, and apple cider vinegar.  Why the vinegar, you ask?  It’s a skin equalizer.  If you have dry skin, it helps to naturally moisturize.  If you have oily skin, it helps to draw out the unnecessary oils.
  • Aromatherapy – Lighting candles or incense is a very quick way to alter a space for the better.  For calming, I suggest vanilla, lavender, or sandalwood.
  • Calming music – Various kinds of music can help one to relax.  Studies have shown that classical music alters brain waves, slowing down heart rate and breathing to a more calming rhythm.  Soft jazz and new age music also have the same effect.  (Enya is awesome)
  • Unwind with wine – A glass of red wine a day is good for the body and improves memory.  It also helps to relax.  After my second glass, I feel much better.

These are but a few of the ways one can de-stress.  There are many others, and they’re different for everyone.  Some of my friends play video games, or go for a mile run, or do yoga, or meditate.  Find what works best for you.

Haunting Apothic Poster

Apothic has  a choice selection of luxurious products for sale on their website, like the beautiful poster pictured above.  They also have a new black, stemless wineglass I’m sort of in love with.  All of their products are here:  http://store.apothic.com/index.cfm?method=storeproducts.showlist

Opera Wine Quote

Apothic can be found at a variety of locations, including CVS, Target and Trader Joe’s.  Also, check your local supermarket, bodega, or liqueur store.  Many of them in the Los Angeles area carry Apothic, although the rose is much harder to find than the red or white.   There is also a store locator  on the Apothic site here:  http://www.apothic.com/where-to-buy.asp  The price for this relaxation in a bottle is around $9.00 – $11.00.   I would not recommend purchasing online, as the shipping costs from all available distributors seems grievously high.

To unwind from the day tonight, I plan on having some Apothic Rose as I lounge in a warm bath courtesy of that amazing gentleman, Mr. Bubble.

http://www.apothic.com/

*Uncredited Apothic images provided courtesy of Apothic Wines.

Baking Under the Influence

Amy S. Upclose

A few years ago my friend Robert, a violinist, gave me the most wonderful book called I Like You:  Hospitality Under the Influence by the legendary Amy Sedaris.  For years I have been a fan of both her work, and that of her brother David.   The book is filled with extremely helpful tips on being the perfect host, being the ideal guest, tantalizing recipes, and decorating for parties, expressed in Amy’s own humorous way.  Her clever writing depicts her own sardonic sense of humor and anecdotes, while at the same time educating the reader on various topics.   Over the years, I have referred to this volume on occasion, and am continuously surprised.  I also laugh out loud every time I open the book (because it’s really funny)  Amidst the humor and cute illustrations, there is a cornucopia of vital information, many of which can be classified into feng shui guidelines and things that are just good common sense.Pink Roses in Blue and Gold VaseOne of the things Amy addresses is the rule for bringing flowers to a dinner party on page 24.  She mentions that, if one shows up with flowers for the host or hostess, it can sometimes cause more aggravation than enjoyment for the individual – because one has to stop, react, cut, and arrange the bouquet, which causes the host to have an extra job when they are already busy “hosting” and performing other actions.  Amy advises that if you do bring flowers, bring them already in something, like a vase or urn.  If one really wants to bring flowers, I suggest bringing a potted plant, like an orchid or lily; all one has to do stick it somewhere.  And, you leave the host with some beautiful, creative wood energy behind after the party.  Or, and Amy also suggests this, send a bouquet of flowers as a thank-you gift after the party   “Now that’s class!” says Amy, and I couldn’t agree more.  (When I go to dinner parties, I usually bring a bottle of wine or sparkling cider.)  The book is filled with other helpful items such as this, which would make Emily Post very proud.

There are various sections in the book, some of which are  Entertaining the Elderly, Lumberjack Lunch, and Grieving, focusing on different scenarios where one entertains.  And the recipes are scrumptious.  Although I’ve tried a few others in the past, I decided to brave a new one this time:  Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, located on page 226.  It was my first time making this classic dessert, and I was excited.  I made a couple of alterations.  Instead of using pineapple juice, I used the syrup juice from the can of sliced pineapple – which worked well.  I also substituted almond milk for milk and margarine for butter, both also worked.  And I added maraschino cherries.  Although Ms. Sedaris makes no mention of this in the recipe, the photo in the book shows the finished cake with maraschinos.  I feel you can’t have a pineapple upside-down cake without them; it doesn’t seem right somehow.  For some  fire energy, I added red ones (but green would work, too, for a more mid-century feel).

Navajo Pride and Pineapple

Then I ran into a road block.  The recipe calls for a round pan.  I only have square or rectangular vessels.  So I looked around and found an Angel Food Cake pan (belonging to my roommate).  I’ve never made Angel Food Cake, so I was surprised that the pan was in two pieces.  Well, I thought, how different could it be?  So I greased the pan, and followed the recipe accordingly.  Everything went well, and into the oven it went.  It took a little longer to bake, I’m guessing because of the circle in the middle, but otherwise it looked and smelled wonderful.  While it was cooling, I went out to dinner, and then flipped it over when I got home.  To my horror, a lot of the brown syrup/butter mixture (stage 1 of the recipe), had leaked out between the two parts of the pan.  This changed the creation dramatically.  It became more of a pound cake with fruit rather than the sugary pineapple dream that I was searching for.  It was delicious, but definitely not what I was expecting.  It became more of a breakfast food rather than a classic dessert.  I still enjoyed it very much.  A picture of the finished product is below.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Now, I want to try this again, but using a round pan, which would make it much more accurate to Amy’s original recipe.  But what is the best feng shui cake pan?   The auspiciousness of an item depends on many things – such as shape, style, color, and material.  For example, a metal cake pan would create a different energy for a cake than a silicon cake pan.  Both work great, but each would offer a different chi to the creation.    I conducted a web search and found some amazing options, a few of which I plan on purchasing soon.

Burgundy 9 Inch Cake PanAmazon has some amazing options (And I love their free Super-Saver Free Shipping, should one spend $25.00 or more).  Above is the Burgundy 9 Inch Round Cake Pan.  This would have been ideal for the recipe – and it’s my favorite color:  http://www.amazon.com/Silicone-Solutions-9-Inch-Round-Burgundy/dp/B002RWKEH8/ref=sr_1_166?ie=UTF8&qid=1363504672&sr=8-166&keywords=cake+pan

Daisy Cake Pan

Splendid for Easter, this aluminum cake pan from Wilton is perfect for any spring event – especially those involving baskets and egg hunting:  http://www.amazon.com/Wilton-Dancing-Daisy-Cake-Pan/dp/B000M9O8J8/ref=sr_1_49?ie=UTF8&qid=1363504272&sr=8-49&keywords=cake+pan

Baby Buggy Cake Pan

Another Wilton brand pan, this is the Baby Buggy.  One online photo I saw of the finished cake actually had a baby in the carriage, made from tinted frosting.  I found it somewhat creepy.  But I think, if I was to use this pan, I would fill the carriage with lilacs or roses:  http://www.amazon.com/Wilton-2105-3319-Baby-Buggy-Pan/dp/B0009Q93O4/ref=pd_sim_k_11

Castle Bundt Cakes

From Nordicware, we have the Sand Castle Bundt Cake Pan.  Made of heavyweight aluminum, this mold transforms ten cups of cake batter into a wondrous Arthurian abode.  I love the finished product on the right, all earthly in its sand castle beauty.  I’d like to try this with a white vanilla cake, or with various shades of jello:  http://www.amazon.com/Nordic-Ware-Cast-Castle-Bundt/dp/B000F5M044/ref=sr_1_53?ie=UTF8&qid=1363504272&sr=8-53&keywords=cake+pan

Honeycomb Cake Pan

From Chef’s Corner Store, a wonderful online resource, we have the Honeycomb Pull-Apart Cake Pan.  Also made by Nordicware, this is perhaps my favorite of them all.  I think the pineapple upside-down cake could work with this quite nicely, and offer a very geometric take on the dessert.  It would also be good for making pull-apart Monkey Bread:  http://www.chefscornerstore.com/nordic-ware-honeycomb-cake-pan.html?gclid=COCUvI2Vg7YCFQLhQgodSVAA9Q#.UUV2STeXmiM

Rose Bundt Cake Pan

A more classic bundt pan would be the Rose Bundt, also from Chef’s Corner.  This would not have worked with the pineapple upside-down cake at all, but I’ve love to try a red velvet one using this:  http://www.chefscornerstore.com/18-541482.html#.UVIUAjeXmiM

The rose and honeycomb cake pans above are also available at Amazon.com, for about the same prices, but they do offer better deals on shipping.

Vintage Rose Metal Cake Pan

Some of the best cake pans, both for functionality and beauty, are vintage pans.  Above is a very similar Nordicware rose bundt pan from a seller on Ecrater.  I love the red metal:  http://www.ecrater.com/p/7037232/nordic-ware-cabbage-rose-shape?gps=1

Puzzle Piece Mold

Indulge Simply Delicious, a highly auspicious Ebay store, offers the Puzzle Pieces Silicone Mold.  Silicone is such a versatile material, as one can bake, cook, refrigerate and freeze it.  I would love to get this for brownies, or for making fancy ice cubes for punch bowls:  http://www.ebay.com/itm/Nice-Puzzles-Shape-7-Cavity-Cookies-Soap-Chocolate-Baking-Jelly-Silicone-Mold-/321089177021?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4ac26805bd

The craft items in the book are also very clever, such as how to make personalized lighters on page 288.  I also really like the fashionable bookends on page 277, and the homemade bath sachet on 267.  There is also a highly informative list of items one should always have on hand on page 299 entitled Be Prepared.  (I need to get a lemon press.)

I Like You Book

There are many places to order I Like You online.

I highly suggest acquiring this book for your permanent library, if you are the type of individual who is social, and likes to throw and/or attend festive gatherings (This should be everyone).  I plan next on trying her recipe for Pesto Sauce, and a kind of roast poultry dish called Chicken of the Taverns.  Or maybe I’ll make the stellar Meat Loaf recipe on page 170 using my new Castle Bundt Pan.   Mmmm…

Victorian Los Olivos

The 1880s were a time of tremendous growth in California, with people immigrating here from the East, as well as various parts of Europe.  One Easterner who believed his future was in California was Alden March Boyd.  Due to health issues, he was forced to drop out of college.  He visited Europe, as well as various locales in The Sunshine State before purchasing a small ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Wishing to improve the quality and landscape of his home, he planted an estimated five thousand olive trees, calling his estate Rancho de Los Olivos.  The name had a nice sound to it, and when the Pacific Coast Railway completed their line extension through the area in 1887, they decided to call the town Los Olivos.  Although more commonly known nowadays for its wineries rather than olives, the picturesque town is thriving with tourists and elegant architecture.  Most Victorian dwellings have high ceilings – usually around 9′ to 10 tall’.  The added ceiling height helps to regulate indoor temperatures.  It also, from a feng shui standpoint, helps to better circulate the flow of chi (energy) within the indoor environment.   Many of the new condo and apartment buildings being constructed today have returned to using historic design elements – including 9′ ceilings.   Those Victorians knew what they were doing.   Most modern ceiling heights are 8″, which is not bad.  But 9″ is more optimal for chi flow.

On my recent trip to Los Olivos, I visited the Qupe/Verdad/ Ethan Tasting Room.  Housed in a beautiful Victorian style building (above), the wines here were rich and luscious. This is a family business, with the patriarch of the family, Bob Linquist, as creator of Qupe Vineyards (pronounced cue-pay), while his wife Lousia makes the Verdad label, and his son Ethan makes – you guessed it – the Ethan label.   As impressed with the wine as I was, I was really taken with the layout of the tasting room.  They use a variety of vintage design styles here, especially focusing on that of Gustave Stickley.   A furniture designer, Stickley visited Europe in 1898, where he was introduced to the Arts and Crafts movement of the era.  The Arts and Crafts movement was somewhat of a rebellion against mass production, focusing more on products that were hand constructed by small groups or individuals rather than in factories.  The design style features simplistic lines and influences from natural surroundings.  Here at Qupe, it can be seen in many ways, from the classic mission style furniture, to the elegant Qupe motif of a poppy.   As you can see, wood and fire are the dominate elements used in the tasting room decor.  Nostalgic reproduction lamps act as a perfect example of fire energy, with the light green walls representing wood.  The wood furniture and bar are beautiful to behold.  I also really liked the carved front door, and the side table that uses a wine barrel end as its top surface.

As I meandered through the space, enjoying the tastings of the select wines I sampled, I noticed a bookshelf of wine.  I immediately felt comfortable and at home.  Of the wines I had, my two favorites were the Verdad 2009 Tempranillo, and the Verdad 2007 Tempranillo.  Both held a mellow and spicy appeal that warmed my soul.   A bottle of the latter came home with me.  The Qupe 2010 Viognier was also intriguing.

A private  chamber in the back provides more intimate tastings on the weekends.  Keeping true to the Arts and Crafts theme, I noticed a cunning wine rack made from barrel slates and reclaimed wood.  Not only it is green in its design, I’m guessing it’s also handcrafted locally, and fits in perfectly with the Stickley style.  I would have this in my home.

In feng shui folklore, the poppy is a symbol of romance and loyalty between lovers.   Displaying two together, especially in hues of red or orange, can help to draw romance to an area.  Poppies also symbolize sleep and rest.  Upon the suggestion of wine connoisseur Ann Johnson, Bob Linquist settled on the poppy motif in the window above to symbolize Qupe Wines.  Found in a vintage design book of the Stickley School of Design, the motif was meant to be embroidered on bed linens to help one sleep.   And Qupe is the Chumash word for poppy.    The elegant poppy motif is also on their over-sized wine glasses, which are available for purchase, or as a gift with a new wine club membership.

If you happen to be in the Los Olivos area, I highly suggest visiting the white Victorian house of Qupe/Verdad/Ethan Wines.  Unlike poppies, their wine will not put you to sleep – but could help to transport you to a more nostalgic time.

Qupe /Verdad / Ethan Tasting Room

2963 Grand Ave, Los Olivos, CA 93441

805 686-4200

Hours:  Tasting room open daily 11:00 to 5:00

http://qupe.com/