WINOS Pick of the Week: Franciscan Cabernet

Franciscan Cab = great Laptop TV

Franciscan Cab = great Laptop TV

It’s ironic that I would have to leave leave California and move to Austin, Texas to discover this legendary Napa Valley Cab. After living in Silicon Valley for 15 years — and making numerous trips to wine country — I am happy this newly minted Texan can recommend Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon.

I actually discovered this wine at my local grocery store, which employs a sommelier who has never lead me astray. When he suggested this wine, he was shocked that this proud (albeit former) Californian had never sipped it before. Embarrassed, I quickly grabbed a few bottles, headed home, and uncorked the goodness.

I didn’t allow time for the wine to breathe (go figure!), and liked it immediately. I particularly enjoyed soft berry flavors, with a hint of plum and chocolate, and the velvety smooth texture.  While this wine is good with meals, I actually prefer a glass of Franciscan Cab with a hunk of Gruyere or Manchego cheese as I partake in some laptop television. It’s a no-fuss wine that tastes more expensive than it costs.

Wine details = Franciscan Estate, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007

Winemaker’s notes = The fruit-laden 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon offers a luscious bouquet of dark fruit including blackcurrant, black cherry, and blackberry layered over aromas of sweet vanilla and baking spices. Approachable cherry and cocoa notes lead to a wine of intense concentration, with flavors of dried plums and cola laced with hints of tobacco. Generous weight and mouth-filling velvet tannins frame a finish that lingers with flavors of dark cherry and cassis.

For more information, visit the winery web site HERE; purchase the wine HERE, and schedule a tasting HERE.

-LTV Mom

Photo Credit: Franciscan Winery

Wordless Wednesday: Halloween 2011

The Princess and The Frog

The Princess and The Frog

Bridesmaids and Girlfriends

Bridesmaids and Best Friends

Bridesmaids and Best Friends circa 1994

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about hosting a party to celebrate the DVD release of the movie Bridesmaids. While my post was carefully worded, my post was not entirely true. Let me explain:

When the Bridesmaids PR team asked me if I wanted to host a pre-screening party, I jumped at the chance. (Friends? Laughs? Wine? Kristin Wiig? Count me in!) But the timing of the DVD release coincided with my best friend’s *surprise* 40th birthday weekend get-away. I wanted to write about the movie-watching party, but I couldn’t give away the surprise on my blog. I had to choose my words carefully.

Turns out, the timing was perfect.

You see, if I am going to host a party like the one I described in my post — a party where we look at old wedding photos and use my actual wedding napkins - I want that party to be with my best friends. You know, the friends who were in my wedding, and I was in theirs. I wanted the chance to laugh at wearing bridesmaids dresses with giant shoulder pads, using way too much hairspray and dancing to Push It by Salt-N-Peppa… with the ladies who witnessed it first-hand.

The four of us traveled from our hometowns of Austin, Orange County and Des Moines to the delightful town of Kansas City. We spent the weekend laughing, dancing, drinking, shopping, and oh yes, remembering our weddings. No husbands, no kids, no laundry, no cooking. Just uninterrupted time together. Adding Bridesmaids, a hilarious movie about best friends sharing live-changing moments, was the perfect topper for the weekend. Just like the friends in the movie:

  • The four of us have evolved and grown as people and as friends.
  • We met as kids, and are still best friends 25+ years later.
  • I know exactly what I would put into a personalized “memory box” to present to each of my friends.
  • I know which friend would take us to the exotic restaurant, which friend would create uber-creative and personalized bridal shower invitations, which friend would do something embarrassing on an airplane to make us all laugh, and which friend would grab a microphone and break into song.
  • We were inseparable, and we took time when we needed to focus on building our own lives.
  • And we always came back to each other.

When we were in high school, our go-to movie was Shag because it was about four best friends who went on a high school Spring Break trip together. I think we now can add Bridesmaids to our list of must-watch-and-repeat movies because we are all grown up now and we still love to laugh together. And we will always be there for each other… no matter what.

- LTV Mom

Photo credit: Really? Some things are better left unsaid. But yes, I am the Bridesmaid on the far left. The other three gorgeous ladies are my best friends. Hairspray and curling irons sold separately.

I was provided with a free copy of Bridesmaids on DVD and a party pack of goodies by the PR team representing Universal Studios. I was not compensated for this post, and the words and opinions are my own.

Wordless Wednesday: Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Photo credit: Sadly, I am unclear. Found this amazing tribute on Facebook.

Happy National Play-Doh Day

National Play-Doh Day

Sept. 16 is National Play-Doh Day

There are certain must-haves for every mother of small children. When you have an infant, I highly recommend Gripe Water to settle upset tummies and a Swaddle Designs swaddling blanket for hours of sleep. Once you get past the baby-stage, you only need two things to make a child happy: sidewalk chalk and Play-Doh. And in honor of this year’s National Play-Doh Day on September 16, I am happy to share my favorite Play-Doh memories:

  • The smell of a freshly cracked can of Play-Doh takes me back to my childhood. I always volunteer to be the official Play-Doh-canopener of our family.
  • When I was a little girl, I would sit at the kitchen table with my grandma and cousin creating Play-Doh art. Then we played a game where we had to guess what each other had created, and the first person to guess won a point! I can vividly remember trying to make my creations more interesting and challenging to stump my fellow artists.
  • Once my husband and I had a child who discovered Trick-or-Treating, our family decided to hand out mini Play-Doh cans at Halloween instead of candy. The best part is that the neighborhood parents were thrilled for a break in the candyfest, and the kids were equally excited for a unique Halloween treat.
  • AND, those mini-cans were perfect dining companions for visiting restaurants with a youngster. We would fasten a disposable placemat to the table, hand her a can of Play-Doh and let the kid create. She was entertained, and we were able to enjoy a meal.
  • Of course, the best memories I have are the recent ones with my young daughter. We have spent hours playing ice cream shop with Play-Doh. Did you know that pink Play-Doh makes the best “ice cream” flavor. Bonus points for silver “sprinkles.”
  • My favorite memory? Play-Doh comes with endless imagination, giggles and smiles.

Thankfully, the fine folks at Play-Doh want everyone to celebrate today’s holiday, so I have a Twirl-n-Top Pizza Shop to award one lucky reader! Just share your favorite Play-Doh creation in the comments section below, and one winner will be selected at random on Friday 09/23.  To be eligible, you must have a non-P.O. box shipping address and live in the Continental United States.  And if you don’t win, you can buy one HERE.

– LTV Mom

The words, opinions and thoughts represented in this post are mine, and I did not receive compensation for writing this post. The giveaway prize is provided by Hasbro.

Photo Credits: Hasbro


Bridesmaids on DVD 09/20/11

Bridesmaids on DVD 09/20/11

There are many things in life that make me happy, and topping the list are smart and funny women, good wine and dear friends. Lucky for me, this weekend, I get all three!

This Saturday I will be throwing a party to preview the uber-popular movie Bridesmaids, starring Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. (Smart and funny women = check!) I’ll also be pouring wine, and lots of it. (Good wine = check!) And of course, I will be surrounded by my dear friends. (And check!)

Now, I have to admit, I am probably the only woman in the United States who has not seen this movie yet. Seriously. I blame my working-mother-with-a-young-daughter lifestyle. It’s ironic because I’m a huge fan of Wiig and Rudolph. (In fact, I’ve been known to yell “welcome to Target” every now and then.) Needless to say, I cannot wait to see Bridesmaids with my girlfriends.

In honor of the movie theme, I’m asking my guests to bring a photo of the bridesmaids dresses from their own wedding, which will certainly inspire lots of laughs! I’m also serving the appetizers with cocktail napkins from my own wedding. (Yes, even 17 years later, I still have a box of wedding napkins!) And since Bridesmaids is all about girlfriends, I’m honoring my dear friend Gina von Esmarch by serving appetizers from her cookbook called Taste This!

Now, I ask YOU this: How many bridesmaids did you have in your wedding and what color dress did you force them to wear, er I mean, what color gowns were they wearing when they walked down the aisle?

I hope that you too are able to enjoy your own trifecta of smart and funny women, good wine and dear friends this weekend!

– LTV Mom

I was provided with a free copy of Bridesmaids on DVD and a party pack of goodies by the PR team representing Universal Studios. I was not compensated for this post, and the words and opinions are my own.


Remembering 9/11

Remembering 9/11

Today marks the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The numbers nine and 11 will forever be etched in the minds of people around the world who were old enough to be aware of what happened that tragic day. I’ll never forget my husband walking up to me and simply saying “something has happened.” After hearing those words, my husband and I were glued to the TV, we called everyone we knew in New York, D.C. or possibly on a plane in Boston to check on them. We cried and hugged each other. Stunned.

Ten years later, I still am at a loss for words to express how I feel. I spent time watching the anniversary specials on TV, reading the new articles and shedding more tears. I was not a mother on 09/11, so ten years later, the events mean different things to me. It affects me differently now. Still impactful and still horrific, but different.

I was not sure how to remember the day. Honor the people who died that day, the people who saved lives that day. My husband and I proudly hung the United States flag on our house. We dressed in red, white and blue. We went to church. The flag is an obvious choice. The clothing is just a way to honor our country; we wear patriotic clothes every Fourth of July and today seemed fitting too. Going to church was seeking comfort, reason, inspiration and hope.

Like churches all over the country, my church offered an Act of Remembrance, which helped me find the words I needed. I share those words with you today:

When we remember stockbrokers, office workers, maintenance workers, bystanders, window-washers and all the others who worked together so valiantly to help each other, we can say together,

We remember great courage.

When we recall the firefighteres who rushed upstairs as most of everyone else was racing out, we can say together,

We remember selfless service.

When we recall teh police officers who stiod to protect and defend the people and perforned their duties, we can say together,

We remember selfless sacrifice for the safety of others.

When we recall those citizens who rushed to help, did all they could to helo we can say together,

We remember and give thanks for dutiful commitment to those in distress.

When we recall the thousands of workers, women and men, old and young, single and married, American-born and those born in countries around the word who did not escape the buidlings, we can say together,

We remember the loss of human life.

Please share my thanks and respect to Rev. Dr. John Elford and the University United Methodist Church if Austin, Texas for those words. Read more from Pastor John at his blog, he’s doing his best to Keep Jesus Weird each and every day.

God Bless America, my home sweet home.

- LTV Mom

Photo Credit: SB Nation

Daytime TV with David, Robert and Rocco

Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito

My family moved to Austin, Texas more than a year ago. There were many changes big and small to endure: finding a new home, sending my child to Kindergarten, figuring out how to find the grocery store, and the biggie for me, learning how to work from home.

I have worked for the same company for nearly 11 years, so I know my colleagues like family. I have the inside jokes, the rants and raves, and the daily interactions. Working from my home-office can make me feel isolated and, quite honestly, lonely.

So, I turn to my beloved TV… and a whole new kind of Laptop TV was born. Laptop TV at night is easy because I sit on my couch with a glass of wine, fire up the laptop, and finish up my work for the day. Laptop TV during the day is a different beast. I am actually cranking on work, and the TV just provides background noise to break the silence and to keep me company.

Because I am in the business of news, I spend a lot of time watching CNBC and CNN during the day. But there are some days I simply need a break from the doom-and-gloom of a failing economy, the political pundits frothing at the mouth and the loss of innocent lives. So I found some new guilty pleasures for Daytime Laptop TV:

My Fair Wedding with David Tutera = This is my ultimate guilty pleasure. The premise of the show is easy: seemingly nice brides plan uber-tacky weddings, and celebrity wedding planner David Tutera saves the day by planning (and paying for) ultimate dream weddings. I have a massive crush on David, he is so sweet, thoughtful and creative. I’m already married, so maybe I’ll plan a tacky renewal ceremony and call David for help? Find this show on WeTV.

Restaurant Impossible = This is my new favorite show on Food Network. Celebrity chef Robert Irvine gives a failing restaurant a massive makeover. (Think Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, but for restaurants.) I tell you what, there are some disgusting restaurants out there… think grease, grime and dead rats. This delicious show is like a train wreck and I can’t look away.

Say Yes to the Dress = A show about brides with big budgets trying on glam gowns? Please! I have a daughter and I rushed through my wedding. This show is pure fantasy and pleasure… and on TLC.

Dr. Phil = Say what you want about Dr. Phil and his psychology-based advice show, but I love the dude. I appreciate his “Get Real” attitude and the fact he does not coddle his guests. I respect that he calls BS when he hears BS. Of course, the real reason I watch this show is because Dr. Phil’s guests make me feel somewhat normal.

Rocco’s Dinner Party = I’m so happy to see my boyfriend Rocco get his own show on Bravo. Sigh. This show is competition where three highly skilled chefs have the opportunity to create the perfect dinner party for Rocco and his celebrity guests, including A-listers like Kenneth Cole and Liza Minelli. My six-year-old daughter and I never miss an episode!

– LTV Mom

Photo credit: Bravo TV

Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey and Jennifer Perillo

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey and Jennifer Perillo

I am part of several blogging networks, and it’s a great way to meet people from around the country. One of the uber-smart women I have been fortunate enough to meet and write with is Jennifer Perillo, who is an A-list food blogger and the food editor at Working Mother magazine.

Last Sunday, Jennifer Perillo lost her husband to a sudden heart-attack. No warning, so signs, no signals. And now, she and her two young daughters are left with broken hearts. My eyes filled with tears when I read the news, just the idea of losing my husband is too much to think about. I was saddened for Jennifer and those precious girls.

Jennifer celebrated her husband’s life today in a private ceremony, and she asked her community of friends to honor her husband my making his favorite dessert: Creamy Peanut Butter Pie.

Today, I proudly made Mikey’s favorite Creamy Peanut Butter pie in his honor. I purchased the ingredients, heck I even had to buy a 9-inch springform pan to make it work. Yeah, I even emailed my friends at Bowl Licker and Dirt and Noise to see if a regular pie pan would work! (I decided to go tried and true.)

Jennifer’s story touched me deeply. So much I actually found a babysitter so I could have a dinner date with my husband for the first time in months and months and months. And the Creamy Peanut Butter Pie was our dessert.

Jennifer thoughtfully asked everyone to share Mikey’s Creamy Peanut Butter Pie with someone you love and then “hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.” Jennifer, in honor of your family, that’s exactly what I did…

– LTV Mom

Photo credit: Food For My Family (because my pie looked *absolutely nothing* like your beautiful creation)

365 Days in Austin

My Southern Belle

My Southern Belle

One year ago today, the Libby family rolled into Austin. In the past 12 months, we have had highs and lows as we built our new life in Texas. It was hard to adjust to a new hometown with very few friends, a remote job and shallow roots in the community. As I look back at the evolution of our life, even since I wrote a post at the six-month mark, I can happily report my favorite parts of the past year:

Becoming a Tex-Mex and BBQ expert: The food in Austin is awesome, as evidenced by my impressive flabdomin and muffin top. I have found my favorite fried fish tacoahi and avocado tacofried egg sandwichSunday brunch, and Mexican martini. My mouth waters just typing this post…

Finding an amazing elementary school: One of the reasons for saying “yes” to a work transfer was the public school system in Austin. I am happy to report that our elementary school is excellent, and we are so happy with our daughter’s progress and thankful for her wonderful teachers.

Cheering for the Cyclones: I do have to admit, I love being back in Big 12 Country. We were lucky enough to witness an Iowa State football win at UT… and not-so-lucky to witness an Iowa State slaughter on the UT basketball court. Regardless, this loyal Iowa State grad loved watching my team with fellow alums.

Making some great friends: I’ve said it before, people in Austin are kind and nice and welcoming. We have made some very nice friends… and drank a lot of wine in the process.

Buying a house: We sold our house in California and bought a house in Austin. This helped with the “deepening the roots” process. We have nice neighbors, and even found babysitters and cat-sitters just a few doors down.

Enduring a Texas Summer: Dude. Summer in Austin is hot. H. O. T. We are talking 107 degrees for days on end. Thankfully, we have air conditioning and a neighborhood pool. I hope to forget about August in Austin when it’s March and we are enjoying the 75 degree-weather while we eat dinner outdoors.

Buying my first cowgirl hat: Now, this might be the highlight of my year. My husband organized a bash to celebrate my 40th birthday in February. Many friends (who happen to be some of my favorite people ever!) traveled to Austin to help me celebrate the Big Day. My friends decided I needed boots and a hat, so they took me to Cavendar’s to go shopping. I got a cowgirl hat. I love my hat… and just look at how cute my little girl looks in it!

While we miss our California friends terribly, I’d say life is good.

- LTV Mom