Thursday, October 31, 2013

#112 He Drives the Parkway for Me

The Garden State Parkway is my least favorite road in New Jersey to travel.  This is followed by the New Jersey Turnpike, which is followed by Route 130.  Although, Route 130 is really in its own special class.  The area of it by my house is perfectly fine.  I drive it with little angst or anxiety.  The end south of Florence is the when I start sucking my thumb and screaming for my mommy.

Note: I had to drive it for work for a whole year of my lovely life.  I still twitch a little whenever I have to grace it with my presence.

Hubby drives the Garden State Parkway (GSP) everyday.  Only a short stretch, but it is the most dreadful part of his entire commute, as noted by me.  I don't think he acknowledges how terrible it is.  Perhaps he has blinded himself to the horrors of this road so that he is able to endure it.

I don't know.

In case you don't live in New Jersey, or in case you are so blessed as to never have to drive this end of the GSP, here are my complaints.  For starters, there are five lanes.  That in itself is recipe for disaster.  As if that wasn't bad enough, whoever designed the lanes clearly had smart cars in mind because short of a bicycle, they are the only other vehicle that could comfortably fit.  Though I know I am staying in my lane, I am constantly feeling as though I'm drifting closer and closer to the cars beside me.  I can't imagine what it is like when there is an accident.  On top of all this, the lanes curve and turn more than a bendy straw.  Meaning that as a driver you have to be doubly alert.

That said, Hubby ventured even further than usual down the GSP with me Tuesday night for a life changing event: another chance to see the Pioneer Woman live and in person.

Okay, not exactly life changing.  Perhaps, simply inspiring?

You might recall a year and a half ago, when this blog was just a baby, Hubby took me to meet The Pioneer Woman.  Her second book had come out and I was ecstatic to go to NYC to see her.  I walked on clouds the entire night and left the city with her signature, a blurry picture, and the courage to pursue my dreams.

Seeking another such experience, I begged Hubby to take me to the signing of her recently released holiday cookbook.

Alright, I didn't really have to beg.  I just said I wanted to go and he made it happen.

I love him.


Our long drive down the GSP wasn't so horrible.  We headed out before rush hour and were at the bookstore a honkin' two hours before the signing started.  We weren't taking any chances with having to wait three hours again to get our book signed.

No, that time is not an exaggeration.

This signing was in the Barnes and Noble in Paramus, NJ and they did not seem to have their ish together.

I know, I just used a non word 'ish'.  It was that horrible and I'm sorry.

There were no organized lines, no staff readily available to guide and assist the customers, it was, in a word: nightmarish.


We weren't let in to our seats for the presentation until 15 minutes before it began.  Which meant we had to stand for an hour and a half.   

We got coffee first, of course.

When we were finally seated, the leg room provided was worse than economy class on an airplane.


We were in the third row and although we really should have been in the second or first, I wasn't complaining.

Okay, I might have complained just a little.


Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, came out a half hour late.  Apparently no one had warned her what NYC traffic into NJ is like around 5 o'clock. 

Again, people, get your ish together!

She did a short presentation that inspired me to blog blog blog, and then began signing books.


Which meant more waiting.

There were quite some characters that Hubby and I observed together as we all bonded in the boredom of waiting and the stickiness of three hundred people being squished in a small room for two hours.


Pioneer Woman is gracious enough to sign every item brought to her and to pose for pictures with every person who wants one.

Hubby was beginning to melt and hinted to wanting to step outside when I was only about a half hour away from getting my book signed.  I gave him the you-won't-get-in-trouble-later-if-you-do-this okay and he cleared out of the room.

IMG_6394 - Copy

Which meant the poor Barnes and Noble guy had to take my picture for me.  I brought my DSLR camera this time, instead of using my phone last minute like last time.  He looked at my camera, held it for a moment, then said, "It's not on" and Pioneer Woman and I shared an understanding laugh.  I went over to explain to him that it was indeed on, but the picture was not going to show up on the screen, that he actually had to look through the little hole that is made for an eyeball to be held up to.

It was a learning experience for us both.

*"Boy, I'm glad I didn't use a blotting paper, tissue, of even just a sheet of paper on my face before this picture"...wait, nope that's not what I said.  I looked at my picture on the ride home and though, "Gee, I'm so glad I fixed my hair before this picture.  If only I realized it was my oily face that needed the work!".

IMG_6395 - Copy

Though I had pre-ordered my cookbook, as any true fan would, I bought one of her "Charlie" books for my Kindergarten class.  She signed it to them and I shared it the next day in school.  They seemed to really enjoy the fact that her dog likes bacon....just like any smart person or animal would!

*Oh look...Kitty Kitty is having the same problem that my face was having.

Hubby and I love trying local restaurants whenever we are in a different city.  Hubby found "Chakra" while we were waiting in line.

He may or may not have made a reservation for 7:30 and we may or may not have shown up at 8:00 and pretended we didn't have a reservation.

Come on, don't tell me you've never done it.

It was a Tuesday night, after all.

Okay, I know, I'm just making excuses now.


You would never know from it's name that it is a Modern American restaurant. 

The mood was very intimate, definitely a perfect date setting.  There were couches with pillows instead of chairs for some of the seating.  There was one wooden table seating about ten with a glass top that covered a dug out center that any type of "centerpiece" could be placed in, or under.  I wanted it. 


It's been some time since I've pulled out my DSLR camera in a restaurant, but my food looked so good I knew I needed to do it.  I had to do it.  I ordered the Goffle Farm Chicken 'Thanksgiving Style' with a side of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes.  The chicken was tender and served on top of root vegetables, cornbread stuffing, and cranberry jus.  It was the perfect blend of wonderful.  The mashed potatoes might not have been a necessity, but they made it that much more delightful.  They were smooth, buttery, and everything I love in a mashed potato.


Hubby ordered the TC steak which is 40-day aged Colorado sirloin steak served with cream spinach.  He also ordered a side of hand-cut fries topped with Parmesan and truffle oil and served with ketchup, aioli, and spicy mayonnaise.

I'm going to be honest.  I was so obsessed with my food that I didn't even look at Hubby's plate until his steak was half way gone.  I did get a bite of his steak and a handful of fries.  The steak was perfectly done and the fries were exceptional.  The aioli and spicy mayonnaise were a delightful difference to the average french fry dipping sauce of ketchup.

If Hubby hadn't said it first, I might have said it myself.  The experience of going to a book signing is awesome, the first time.  While this trip was still inspirational, and all in all I'm glad I went, it will probably be the last book signing I attend until I am able to go to one of my own.

Here's to that hope.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

#111 He is Calm

I lived the opening of my all-time favorite movie, "The Godfather".

Not many people can say that, I suppose.

The movie begins on the day of Don Corleone's only daughter's wedding.  Don Corleone has just had a private meeting with a man seeking justice from him.

No, that isn't the part I lived through.  Could you imagine how this post would go if it was?

Instead of celebrating his daughter's wedding, the Don spends his time agreeing to favors as a gift to others on his daughter's wedding day.  Loads of fun, right?

Awkward Family Photo #1
Note: None of these photos are the before mentioned photo.
The Don is pulled away from his affairs to take a family picture.  Everyone is there, or so it seems.  He looks around and realizes his youngest son, Michael, is not there.

"Where's Michael?" he asks.

His oldest son, Sonny, who is standing by him says, "Huh? Don't worry, it's early yet."

The Don waves his arm, then says, "We're not taking the picture without Michael."  

He turns to say a private word to the photographer and then suavely leaves the scene.

Awkward Family Photo #2
Second Note: You'll notice that my family does not know how to pose normal.
My situation was awkwardly similar.  Like, exactly the same thing except it spiraled out of control around the 'We're not taking this picture without Michael' part.  My heart was in the same place as the Godfather's, it just ended up coming out quite differently.  It started calm, but then suddenly all I could see was red, I went partially deaf for about 30.893 seconds, and the words coming out of my mouth spat fire that I'm sure was derived from the flames of hell.  This lead to inappropriate behavior on other parties' parts, which was followed by further demons being released from within my being.      

There were of course, a few differences between the Godfather and myself.  The Godfather made his decision quickly, calmly, and stuck to it as he walked away.  My decision to respond was made over the course of a few panicky minutes, was made full of emotion, and was not carried out with firm decision.  Also, the Godfather was paying for the wedding taking place, I was merely an attendee.

Awkward Family Photo #3
Yes, we are.  We are posing with a cow.  A pretend cow at that.
So, why do I put myself on the chopping block here?  Why do I expose my humanness?

For me, this was a life lesson.  People will always make choices that are thoughtless, whether on purpose or not.

The first action that can be taken is the simplest, but hardest: do nothing.  I certainly congratulate you if you can do this.  Doing nothing requires willpower.  It requires resistance.  It requires holding within you all feelings, emotions, and opinions that are begging to be set free while you stand in the face of those who offend you.

Awkward Family Photo #4
There are two other options.  The second action, the one I made, is to return wrong behavior with a less than kind reaction.  This action leads only to personal hurt and possible harm.  For a moment, it feels good.  Even afterwords it feels good, but in hindsight a better option lays.

We know the scriptures, the ones that are ever so popular, the ones that even those who never pick up a Bible can quote:  "Turn the other cheek" and "Do not repay evil with evil".

They certainly work well with situations we don't want them to work well in.

Awkward Family Photo #5
I could explain, but, it would take too much time.
If you cannot choose the first action and feel, as the Godfather and I did, that you must make a stand, the best option is, of course, the one the Godfather carried out.

More than likely, a man like the Godfather didn't think twice about his choice of action.  He probably didn't need a reflective blog post about his behavior either.  The third action is to make a calm statement and then walk away.

As humans, especially for women, I think we feel we need to respond loud and strong so that our voice is heard.  If we don't clearly communicate our point, no one will recognize it.

Sometimes, the loudest statement is made with little to no sound.

I'm doing what I can to speak in whispers.

Awkward Family Photo #6
I'm starting to think that hubby is part of the problem.

Monday, October 14, 2013

#110 He Cleans Up His Spills

I think by now I've made it clear that I love the city of New York.

Here are a few past posts where I've written about some aspect of the city:

Post about Caffe Bene

Just an average day in the city

Meeting Pioneer Woman in NYC

Most times, we try to avoid the crazy parts of the city.  Crazy = Times Square.  This past Saturday we found ourselves right in the center of it all.  Leading me to this post: a rant about just a few of the things about the city that I hate.

1. The combined smell of cigarettes and subway.  This is typically one of those 'deal with it' things about the city.  That smell?  It's a part of city life.  However, on Saturday, I did not subscribe to my own opinion.  Aside from the fact that it was much warmer than I expected it to be (therefore I was constantly switching from wearing my jacket to not wearing it), I felt myself absorbing the city smells much faster than any normal day in the city.  As we drove home, Hubby began to sense it too.  He finally asked which one of us was smoking because the car smelled so much like cigarettes.  When we reached home he realized he had a cigarette butt stuck to the bottom of his shoe.

The summation of this point is that the city smells bad enough due to subways, we don't need cigarette butts all over adding to the stench.  Although I'm not about telling people that they can't do something like smoke, something needs to be done about the maddening smell of this city.  I'm thinking they should install some sort of oil burners on every corner.  How does the scent 'Apple Pie' sound?

2. People walk within the same standard of how they drive.  Everyone is so incredibly selfish in the way they walk.  Yes, we're all trying to get somewhere.  Yes, most of us are trying to get there quickly (except for the slow pokes that need to be cut around).  But at least let's all try to stick to one common understanding, one common rule for drivers and walkers in America: Stay to the right!

3. People who stop dead in their tracks.  Never, ever, NEVER stop walking in the middle of the sidewalk.  Move over to the side.  It will be a sad day, but I will run you over with a force that the Hulk himself would be afraid of.

4. Two words: chain restaurants.  I never go to chain restaurants in the city.  Being that this weekend I happened to be there with my little brother, I made an exception.  He wanted to go to a scary restaurant.  We had gone to Jekyll and Hyde last year, and he loved it.  We decided to try out Times Scare's restaurant, only to find that they had a private party and were closed for the day.  We called Jekyll and Hyde to find they had no reservations left for the day.  As a last minute resort, we went with our fall back: Planet Hollywood.  Jonathan cannot be happy with simply good food.  No, he needs a themed restaurant and by this point Hubby and I were tired and cranky.

Chain restaurants, especially in the city, are the most expensive restaurants and for no good reason whatsoever.  A milkshake was $6.99.  A milkshake!  That's the price of two tall Starbucks lattes!

Knowing that the following day I would be having a burger for lunch, I avoided the only option that was probably a decent tasting option, the burgers, and went with Lasagna Roll Ups, for $18.99, that were lukewarm and bland.  Hubby and Jonathan both ordered lunch meat sandwiches (because even though we were there at 5:00 we were given lunch, ok?) which were $15.99 and had half the pictured amount of meat on them.

Although my belly was angry, Jonathan was happy.  Jonathan being upset can be almost as bad as having a terrible meal, so I decided to leave well enough alone and force myself to be happy.

Yet to all the NYC chain restaurants I say this:

Never again.

5. Strollers.  It should be illegal to have a stroller in the city.  (Okay, I suppose there are certain things that I'm okay with telling people they can't do).  I detest strollers in the city, especially in overcrowded areas like Times Square.  The hustle and bustle of the city is too much for your little tykes.  Leave them at home.

I know, I'm brutal.

(This also goes for people who decide to use rolling luggage and walk super slow with it so that I nearly walk on top of it four billion times).

Finally, there was a positive.

After our horrible meal, Hubby and I knew the one thing that would undoubtedly cheer us up: Caffe Bene.  We could taste the smooth delight of their mocha frappe as we trudged through the crowded streets.  There was a moment of frustration where I'll admit, I almost lost hope.  "Let's just go to the car and get something on the way home," I said.  But Hubby persevered and we arrived at Caffe Bene, tired, exhausted, but glad we were there.  We ordered our drinks and the most tasty delights you could imagine.  Can you believe that I didn't take any pictures of them?!  This next part will explain why.  I waited for Hubby and my drinks to be made as Hubby and Jonathan went to find a spot to sit in.  There was some mix up on my name and the girl making my drink was screaming for "Suzanne".  Well, I'm not Suzanne so I didn't answer.  Until I mentioned that they were my drinks she was making and she looked at me and said, "So, you're Suzanne," to which I said, "No, I'm Jessica".  She apologized for the name mix up from our cashier and asked me if we wanted whipped cream, then gave me our drinks.

No sooner had I put Hubby's drink down and began finding solace in my own then Hubby had reached across the table for something, brought his hand back, just barely hit the tip of his straw with his arm and sent his drink crashing down on the floor and pouring out everywhere.

His face read:  That is it.  I have had it with this day.

I would have reacted the same exact way.  I got up to go buy him another drink and he said, "No, don't."  To which I ignored him and continued down the steps and around the bend towards the register.  I ordered the drink and said, "My husband dropped his upstairs," not in an effort to get anything out of it, but just so that she would send someone to clean it up so that my already aggravated husband didn't put a hole through their floor.

She called over to the girl who thought I was Suzanne, told her to make me another drink, and then told me to go wait for it.

I offered to pay and she shook her head.  She didn't check with anyone, and she wasn't the girl who had rung me up before.

I wanted to kiss her face.

There's something about people watching out for people and the general kindness that one person can give to another that makes you know there is still some good in this world.

Needless to say, if I didn't already love Caffe Bene before, which is just preposterous, I'm totally sold now.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

#109 He Likes Wawa

I have to brag on my hubby today.  Not that I don't always brag on him.  It's not like this blog is based on him or anything.  However, with the lack of work ethic in our society today and the blaring ignorance of it all, I have to express my pride in one of the few decent human beings left who I am fortunate enough to share my life with.

Hubby's first job ever was at Wawa....working the night shift.  His first year there I was still in high school.  He would call me as soon as he got off work which was supposed to be 7:00 am, but always ended up being around 8:15 am.  I would duck into the bathroom, hiding my phone from teachers, and say a quick hello.  Because of the sun glaring into his bedroom and the inner body alarm we all have that says, "Hello! Something is wrong! You shouldn't be sleeping right now!", on an average day, he ended up getting roughly six hours sleep.  On weekends, which he always worked, he would give up on trying to get any extra sleep and by 2 pm he would be over my house.  At 10:30 pm he would throw on his uniform and head out to another night shift.  Sundays were even better.  He would finish working at 8:15 am, run home to sleep for an hour, two if he was lucky, then meet up with me at church.  From church, he would stay with me and my family for lunch and until it was time to get ready for the next night shift.

Within a year of working there, he was 'promoted' to shift manager.  Now he worked even harder and he stayed even later.

Throughout his Wawa days and even when hubby hung up his apron and started his first internship in accounts payable, I would always complain about how much he worked.  I saw a job as something you put in your eight hours for and then you walked away from.  (As a teacher, I now see this from a much different perspective).  I complained that he worked too late, he worked too hard.  'It's only Wawa!" I would say.

An oldie but a goodie: Hubby and me hanging out before night shift. 
 My young self had the attitude I see too clearly represented in our country today: Less work, more pay.  The youth of my time and today have high expectations for the things they should have, but they don't want to work for them.  Unemployment is spiraling out of control and more than half of the people on it don't have a job because they don't want to go beneath themselves and apply at Wawa.

My younger self was spoiled.  She was a hard worker, but she was spoiled.  (Let's be real, my older self is spoiled too).  She didn't have to work hard in the way my husband had to.

College?  Paid for by her parents.

First car?  Paid for by her parents.

Extracurricular activities?  Paid for, you guessed it, by her parents.

She was blessed beyond compare, knew how to be a hard worker, but didn't understand for what reason she needed to be a hard worker.

My hubby got it.  You work hard, you have a positive no quit attitude towards your position and you build a work ethic which carries with you when you reach the position you actually have been dreaming about.  From slicing rolls at Wawa to balancing private equity accounts, it all falls onto the same playing field in the world of work ethic.  Employers want to hire employees who will work.  How do you prove that you can work?  Through sticking it out in jobs that might not always be so glamorous and glorious as we all hope a job under the category of "Entry Level" would be like.

Good positions, good pay don't magically appear.  Good positions are built from the sweat, the tears, the sleep deprived moments of someone who recognized that their first job is only the beginning.

Last night, after I had been home for three hours already, I got the text that I absolutely love to receive from hubby, "Working late".  When he finally did get home at 9:10 pm, we had barely said hello when his Blackberry started up with the buzzing and frantic wailing of some unsatisfied client.  Within an hour, he was back on the computer, logged in and working until 1 am while I was snuggled up in bed asleep.

He was also back to work bright and early this morning.

So what am I trying to say here?  I hardly am trying to debate an issue or go on a rant about the fact that the American government is out of control, this you already know.

Ultimately my point boils down to this:

1. I love my husband.
2. I'm proud of my husband.
3. My husband's work ethic (though at times, yes, frustrates me) is an expression of his love for me.
4. Every accomplishment he reaches is all the more satisfactory when I think back to times like last night when I barely got to spend time with him and he was up late working hard.
5. If you want something in life, you'll have to work hard for it.  If you refuse to work hard, don't whine and complain to the rest of us.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

#108 He Puts Me in Awkward Situations

They say that opposites attract.

Note: I'm not quite sure who 'they' are.  Whenever I make a comment referring to the mysterious 'they' I instantly think of the movie "Conspiracy Theory" and Mel Gibson's paranoid character who in actuality had real reason to be paranoid.  Me, I'm usually paranoid for probably no better reason than I'm bored and searching for something for my mind to obsess about.

With that unnecessary comment said, my husband and I are absolute complete opposites.  Here are just a few examples, but definitely far from the complete list:

1. He loves playing sports.  I close my eyes and scream when a ball is thrown my way.
2. I play multiple instruments: primarily violin and piano.  He sat with me once to try and learn piano.  Within five minutes he declared that his hands weren't made for such an instrument.
3. He loves rap, hip hop, punk, and all other kinds of popular music that all the young kids are talking about.  I like oldies and classical.  (*This musical taste difference is actually something that when we were dating he said his uncle told him is an indicator that a relationship won't work.  All I can say is: 11 years strong.  What now Gordon?  Love you.)
4. Football season is heaven to him.  For me, football season is simply: Fall.
5. He hates decorating for Christmas.  I live for it and begin my preparations far in advance of Christmas....or even Thanksgiving.

What is funny is that both of my brothers married women who I think are exactly like them.  They found the female version of themselves and said, "There is something familiar about her.  Whatever it is, she seems pretty awesome".

This post ultimately has nothing to do with differences between spouses.


I just like to set you up on one track of thought and then cut over to a different one real quick and see if you still can stay on board.

One difference between hubby and me is that he will put us in an awkward, unfamiliar situation for the sake of trying something different.  The strange thing is that hubby is something of a introvert.  It makes absolutely no sense for him to do something like this.

His friend/coworker, Drew, invited us on a wine tour celebrating Drew's 30th birthday.  When I was informed about said trip, my first question was, "Who else from work is going?"  To which I found out some guys might have been invited, (key words, 'might have') but he didn't think they were going.

Great.  So we aren't going to know anyone?  And we're going to spend the entire day with them?

Can you say, awkward?

At least, that's immediately what I thought as we sat in a limo bus with a group of people who all knew each other and had been on previous wine tours together.  Maybe it's just me, but being mixed in with a group of almost total strangers makes me start to sweat and laugh really loud at stupid things.

We started at Cedarvale Winery in Swedesboro, NJ.

This being hubby and my first ever wine tasting, we didn't know what to expect.  We quickly learned from our group that this stop was sub par at best.

The room was small, but cozy, making this an intimate tasting (although I did note they had a wine tasting room just through the back doors).  We stood around the bar with our list of wines as the woman in charge quickly went through the different offerings.  I think I would have been okay with the standing if she hadn't rushed through the wines, giving hardly any description of how the flavors came to be or any history on their vineyard.

The ever impulsive shopper that I am, I still had to buy a bottle.  There was a yummy apple wine that I wanted, but since the wines in general were a little pricey (all things considered) I went with only the Strawberry Table Wine.  I have all intentions of giving it to my grandmother as a Christmas gift (shhh, don't tell!). We'll see if it lasts.  As the description says, it literally tastes like strawberry jam.

I walked around the back of the winery to take some shots of their vines, but when I compared them to the ones of the other wineries, they were not worth the space in this post.

Of the four, yes four, wineries we visited, I enjoyed the ambiance of Auburn Road in Pilesgrove, NJ the best.

We had our tasting inside, however, I was tempted to grab one of the outside seats and have my own private tasting as I enjoyed the view of wide open country filled with nothing but rows and rows of grape vines.

With fun names like 'Give Peach a Chance', 'Roxanne' and 'The White Bottle', Auburn Road gives a different turn on the typical bottle of wine.

We planned to have a light lunch at this winery, and light it was.  For a foodie like myself, it didn't cut it.  For a wine and cheese type person, it was probably a thrill.  (Yet, my fellow limo bus inhabitants also made comment to the lack of variety on the menu.  The choices were basically between a panini or a cheese and bruschetta platter).  We were given a better tour of the wines during this tasting, however, it took forever.  Which would have been totally fine with me, but we still had two more wineries to get to.  Each wine was described in detail.  Hubby and I left with a bottle of 'Rosalita' which is a 'bright candy apple red blush'.

The owner/proprietor was on the premises and was giving a group tour of the property as our group was on our way to the next winery.

My future home?

Oh yes, please.

While I loved the mood of Auburn Road, our third stop, Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, NJ, offered more than only wine making.  It was a spot that could be visited and enjoyed for several hours.  Within minutes of walking through the doors of their gift shop, hubby and I spotted apple cider doughnuts.  We bought one to split and instantly realized our mistake.  We should have bought two.

An hour tour of the winery (generous tasting of three of their different wines included) was $10.  Plus, we got to keep our glasses.

I learned much more than I ever expected to at this winery.  So much so that now I know a grape vineyard is much more profitable than a vegetable/fruit farm.  Heritage started as a peach/apple orchard.  Now, it is primarily a vineyard, still with patches of apple and peaches growing.  They also have a pumpkin patch and offer hayrides during the fall.

In growing grapes, I learned they need to struggle to survive.  Rather than nurture the vines, the farmer needs to allow nature to take its course.  We drove around the 150 acres of farmland, viewing grapes that had just been planted within a few months.  These looked mangled, and certainly not like the grape vines that I've taken pretty pictures of.

It's an incredible process.  One that not only involves clever farming tactics, but also a lot of expensive machinery.

Unlike the grape stomping of that all famous 'I Love Lucy' episode in Italy, grapes are pressed in the above machine.

The huge machine behind our tour guide is the bottling machine that we were told when bought new costs $70,000.  When bought used (as Heritage did), it only costs $15,000.  Not to proud to own a used machine when it looks as good as new and saves your pocket $55,000.

Ever wonder how corks are made?  No?  Me either.  Not until we were shown this and my mind was completely blown.

Their wines are fermented in 3,000 gallon stainless steel vatts as well as...

barrels.  Very expensive barrels from France and Italy.

Not that we had any on hand, but this little area outside was cute.

It took about ten pictures before I realized hubby just won't take a nice picture with me.  Believe it or not, he looks best when he's not looking at the camera.

We were just a few feet away from live entertainment.  I was ready to skip the last winery and stay at Heritage for the next hour or so with half a dozen apple cider doughnuts.

Okay, hubby and I did split another one.

These signs were simply adorable.

Long before out last stop, Monroeville Winery in Monroeville, NJ, I was glad hubby and I had gone, even if it was a little awkward at first.  I learned so much, tasted so many different varieties of wine, and branched out from my usual Saturday routine.

Monroeville Winery was a lot like the first winery.  Very small and intimate, but a little more friendly and inviting than Cedarvale.

With only having been up and running for a few years, they seemed to have a smooth production going.  The owner, originally from Brooklyn, runs the place with her mother-in-law.  She did our tasting for us and talked about each wine she served.

Hubby and I bought a cherry wine.  We learned that cherry wines are hard to come by because cherries are so expensive.  However, Monroeville was fortunate that a local crop of cherries had some issues and they were able to scoop them up to use in their wine.

The birthday boy...

and my hunk enjoying the view.

The experience was certainly worth the initial awkwardness that hubby put me through.

A word about wine:  There are tons of different opinions out there on wine/alcohol, especially in the communities that I frequent.  For me, I had my first glass on my 21st birthday, with my older brother.  If you've got a good Italian grandma, you were probably given wine as an infant.  Some people drink every day, some people drink only on special occasions, and some people never touch the stuff. Personally, my thoughts are: to each his own.  I don't drink to excess, I can honestly say that I never have.  In fact, I don't drink often at all, but I do enjoy it on occasions.  I especially enjoyed the novelty of wine tastings where one can experience the vast differences produced by something as simple as a grape.  It was certainly an educational experience for me, one that I would definitely do again (next time though, probably only one or two at a time).