Saturday evening I was sitting at my computer when I hear the most terrifying shriek! it brought me right out of my chair. It was followed almost immediately by a second, louder shriek. The hair on my arms stood up — a child was obviously in distress. I raced out the front door and had a quick look up and down the street and there — across the street and up a couple of houses — was a jump house that had suddenly materialized.

jump house

Jump house — you know — the large inflatable thing that looks like a castle. Kids go inside and jump up and down and bounce all around like on a trampoline, and apparently shriek while they do it. At least this one had a shrieking child inside. I watched for a couple of minutes to make sure that was really what was happening until a little girl, probably about 8 years old, emerged. Her mother, perhaps seeing a neighbor standing on the sidewalk watching, said something to her — I hope about not shrieking.

Now in case you are not familiar with children’s shrieking — and I should actually say girls because I don’t think boys make this particular sound — it is similar to when the tea kettle boils. The difference between the two is that you have put the tea kettle on so except for the instant when it first boils, you are sort of expecting it. When a child shrieks, it’s totally unexpected.

The jump house, of course, was for a party, so I braced for a long, loud night. At least the neighbors have finally realized that they have to squelch the noise by 11. It only took three visits from Las Vegas’ finest for them to learn this. It’s not the party I object to, as I told the dispatcher, but the loud speakers that blast the music all over the neighborhood — and on one occasion, a DJ with a microphone who the later it got, the louder he got. I think the beer had something to do with that.

The good news is that these parties seem to be occurring less and less. Used to be every couple of weeks — not it’s every couple of months. Maybe they got tired of the cops coming by every time.

So now it’s Saturday a week later and the jump house is long gone. There is no more shrieking and the only thing that remains is a recycling bin at the curb filled with aluminum beer cans. All I can say is that thank goodness the kids aren’t drinking the beer — can you imagine how loud the shrieking would be then??

girl screaming


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How Hand Sanitizer Nearly Killed Me

Three things happen on Tuesday morning around here: the trash is picked up; the street sweeper comes by; Bible study at church. Preferably in that order.

Bible study starts at 10. The street sweeper comes by sometime before noon. The trash truck comes whenever it darn well pleases, sometime between 7 in the morning and 5 at night.

This morning I was backing out of the driveway about 9:30 when the trash truck lumbered down the street. When the trash guys empty the cans, they leave them in the gutter. Why, I don’t know. Maybe to remind themselves — or some roaming trash truck errant — that this street has been done.

Exactly when I turned into “that crazy woman who wants her gutter clean,” I can’t say. But by gum, if the city is going to send the street sweeper by my house every Tuesday, I sure want to make sure it does its job. So if a car is parked there, or if there are trash cans, my part of the street is missed because the street sweeper makes a detour and whatever debris was there is still there for the rest of the week. Drat! To try to stop this from happening, I began pulling the trash cans back onto the curb for the houses on each side of me.

Sometimes I’m outside when the street sweeper comes by in his huge yellow machine. I wave, he waves — sometimes. So I was quite surprised about a month ago when I heard the sweet sweeper on Monday. Now that I’m retired, it does happen that sometimes I get my days confused, but I was pretty sure it was Monday. I checked the date on the newspaper — yep, Monday. Strange. Stranger still was that the machine had stopped and was rumbling right outside my house. Had I entered The Twilight Zone?

I scurried out and found the driver sitting in the cab eating his lunch. I reached up (it’s pretty high up there) and tapped on the window. He rolled it down, took a swig of Pepsi and said, “Hi.”

“Hi yourself — it’s Monday. You’re the sweet sweeper. Your day is Tuesday. Whatcha doing here?”

“Oh, I’m taking a couple of days off and won’t be here tomorrow so thought I’d just run through this neighborhood and get it done before I go.”

Su-weet! “I sure appreciate that,” I told him and then proceeded to tell him how I pull the trash cans out of the street for him. “Hey, thanks. I hate to make those little detours.”

We chatted for about 5 minutes while he swigged his Pepsi, then he said, “Hey, nice talking to you, but I’d better get moving.” I stepped back as he put the monster machine in gear and rumbled down the street. What a nice guy!

So what does the hand-sanitizer have to do with all this? As I said, the trash truck came by just as I was leaving, so as soon as it was gone, I jumped out of my car, grabbed the trash cans lying in the gutter and hauled them up onto their respective properties, one to the east of me, one to the west. That done, I jumped back in the car and headed to church.

Of course my hands felt yucky. I keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in the glove compartment. I don’t like the stuff, but there are times — and this was one of them — when it comes in handy. There are only 4 stoplights between here and church and you know when you need a red light, you never get one. At the first intersection, I caught the tail end of the red and managed to open the glove compartment and fish out the little bottle. The next 3 lights were green.


The street outside church is wide and as I turned onto it, there was no traffic — not coming toward me, not behind me. I took that moment to open the bottle and squirt some of the noxious stuff onto my hands. I looked away for just a second, I swear! At that moment, a big black car came out of the apartment complex on my left. Apparently I had veered into the middle lane because he leaned on his horn, scaring the daylights out of me. I jerked the wheel to the right — thank heaven nobody was there — and spilled sanitizer in my lap as well as a big glop in my hands which was then generously smeared onto the steering wheel. The guy in the black car swept past me no doubt thinking, “stupid woman should know better than to text and drive!”

Now my car smells like hand sanitizer. I hate that smell and I’m going to be smelling it for the next few days. It’ll be a reminder that I should never take my eyes off the road!

I am pleased to report, however, that when I got home, the sweet sweeper was rumbling down the block, having cleared my gutter — and not only that, he came back and made a second pass. I was in the house, but I waved anyway.

Thanks, guy!


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Staying Alive in Berkeley

Remember when you were a little kid and you learned, “Look Both Ways Before You Cross the Street”?  Or perhaps you were taught “Stop, Look and Listen Before You Cross the Street.” Sound familiar? Every child knew that, and we would sometimes chant them to each other as we walked to school three blocks away.


I was reminded of these while I was in Berkeley these past couple of weeks. Evidently these old sayings that the constant reminder to be careful, don’t apply in Berkeley. Or probably all of California. The laws of common sense apparently have been replaced by the laws of entitlement.

Of course, in California the pedestrian has the right-of-way. And this makes sense when you look at the difference between a 150 pound person and a 1800 pound car. Naturally drivers should look out for pedestrians. But in Berkeley, this right-of-way has been taken to a ridiculous length.

Pedestrians in California act as though they were bullet-proof. Of course if they were hit by a car, the driver of the car would be thrown in the lock-up for the foreseeable future. The fact that said entitled pedestrian would probably end up in the hospital — if not the morgue — doesn’t seem to enter into this.

What bothers me most is that parents are actually teaching their children NOT to look as they step off the curb. Hang the traffic — it’s the driver’s responsibility to be aware. Case in point was the woman who stepped into the street looking straight ahead as she strode on, dragging her child with her. The child at least had the common sense (soon to be culled out of her, no doubt) to look somewhat alarmed as I slammed on my brakes. The child hesitated slightly and the mother — never looking around — gave her a slight tug as one might to a dog on a leash, to hurry her along.

"I've got better things to do than watch out for cars. Let them look out for me!"

“I’ve got better things to do than watch out for cars. Let them look out for me!”

A couple of days before that, I’d had a similar, but not as disturbing, experience when I was following a mail truck. At an intersection a car on the right started to cross the road although he had a stop sign. The mail truck slammed on his brakes and leaned on the horn, barely averting a collision. The car — suitably abashed and realizing he was in the wrong — backed out of the intersection. Since I was following the mail truck and watching the car to make sure he realized I was on a through street and didn’t have to stop, I neglected to make sure the crosswalk was clear. Sure enough, there was a woman crossing the street. She was still on the other side of the yellow line so in no actual danger, but I shouldn’t have been driving through the crosswalk. I held up my hand and sort of cringe-shrugged in an apologetic gesture.

The woman — who looked as though she had just eaten a lemon — glared at me. No softening here. No acknowledgement that people make mistakes. I was wrong and she was right and that’s all there was to it. I actually felt sort of bad for the old crone, because that is what she looked like. Her mouth was turned down and her face set in lines of permanent disapproval. I doubt she often smiled or found joy in life. A sad soul indeed.

That very same afternoon I had a similar experience, only with a young woman. In Berkeley — at least the part where I was staying — the streets are narrow and steep and lined with wonderful old trees. There are also bushes and vines that grow abundantly in that climate. The trouble is, some of that vegetation can make it difficult to see stop signs and I’m always watching to see if the cross traffic is going to stop. On this particular street, I’d had a stop sign and after I stopped, I checked both left and right for approaching cars. None. As I pulled into the intersection, a young woman stepped off the curb to my left. No way I was stopping in the middle of the intersection. Again, I shrugged in what I hoped would be an apologetic gesture. She clamped her lips together and grimaced in a gesture of disgust. I wanted to stop and tell her that if she wasn’t careful, her face would freeze that way and she would soon look like an old crone.

And don’t even get me started on the University students. Driving anywhere near there is taking your life in your hands — or someone’s life anyway.

I love California, but the people there seem to live in another universe where they are always right and essentially bullet-proof. Must be nice.

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I Do the Stupidest Things

Oh, don’t look at me like that — I’m not the only person who does dumb things. Unfortunately, the dumb things I do seem to have a potential for being life-threatening. And it’s happening again right now.

(Spoiler alert: Since you’re reading this, you know I survived.)

This morning was lovely. After two days of screaming winds that tore up Las Vegas, uprooting huge trees, blowing patio furniture into swimming pools and stirring sand from the desert into huge clouds that coated everything with fine grit, it has finally died down. As I sipped my coffee and read the paper, I opened the sliding glass door so I could enjoy the fresh air. After awhile I left the dining room and came in to my office at the other end of the house and was on the computer for most of the morning and making phone calls. I just went back to fix some lunch when I heard a sound that made my blood run cold. The sound of death on shiny yellow wings. Bees. Lots of them. Close by.

Being allergic to bees, I reacted the way most people would to the rattle of a snake. I froze. I did not move. They were inside the house, buzzing against the windows beside the sliding glass door, which was (still!) open. Dummkopf! MORON! IDIOT!!  Yes, I had walked away and left the door to my house wide open to bees, stray cats and any other miscreant in the area.

I ventured closer, slowly, quietly, and slid the door closed because although there were a dozen bees inside, there were ten times more outside swirling around on the patio.

I concentrated on breathing slowly and not making any sudden moves, and something floated to mind: I remembered hearing that spraying flying insects with hairspray makes their wings stiff, they can no longer fly, and they drop to the ground and die. Good. That’s good. Die, bees!

Now I don’t dislike bees. They are very useful creatures. They pollinate fruit trees and flowers. Without bees, the world would be a dreary place. But this was an entirely different scenario than watching them buzz happily around my apricot tree and flit around the honeysuckle. These were not happy bees and they didn’t look at all friendly, either. African bees maybe? In my house? YIKES!

Then I remembered something else — bees do not like dark colors. Dark colors remind them of bears. Bears rob their hives and steal their honey. I was wearing black pants and a dark gray sweatshirt. I was dressed like a bear. Fortunately, these bees were too busy trying to find a way through the glass to critique my ensemble, so I quietly backed away and went for the hairspray. But before that, I got out the Benadryl — I had providentially bought some a week ago — and peeled a handful out of their wrappers. A doctor had once told me that if I were stung, gulping a handful of Benadryl would ward off anaphylaxis until the paramedics could arrive. Believe me, if I got stung, I wanted to be able to gulp those things down in a heart beat– while my heart was still beating!

So back to the dining room and gently pull back the curtain which they were hiding behind. Before I tried the death-in-a-can, I had another thought — and this has worked with trapped flies. I gently moved the curtain toward the door gathering up the bees on it as I went. Then, I slid the door open, holding the curtain there so they could smell the fresh air. The bees, of course, once they realized they were in the clear would gratefully fly out. Wouldn’t they? No, they wouldn’t. And didn’t. They flew right back to the glass and resumed buzzing. You mean to tell me that bees aren’t even as smart as flies? Well, that’s sad. So now I had no choice.

I aimed the spray and figured I better get it right the first time because if not, I was going to make them mad. I sprayed, they dropped to the bottom of the window and then … shook themselves off and went back to buzzing. Damn!  (Not only are the bees not dead, but I’m going to have to wash hairspray off the window. If I live long enough.)

So I gingerly pulled the drapes closed so they are at least trapped (I hope) against the window. I’ve retreated to the office and am wondering how long it will take them to actually die. How long do bees live? And what do I do about the ones on the patio? And OH DRAT!! I just remember the gardeners are coming today — they’ll be here at any time. I will definitely have to warn them — last thing I need is for them to go out with their mowers and blowers and get stung to death.

Later …

The bees are gone. Mostly. The ones inside the house are not there anymore but now there’s a mystery — where are their corpses? I saw two in the sink (down the garbage disposal with them) and one in the kitchen window sill (I’ll get out the vacuum), but there should be a little pile of bee bodies at the bottom of the dining room window. There aren’t. But there isn’t any buzzing, either.

If I go out and find a hive on my patio or hanging from the fig tree, I’ll let you know, but in the meantime I hope the rest of the guys made their way safely somewhere else and got back to the business of making honey.

Go, bees, go!!

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Easter Monday !!

Today (as I write this) is Easter Monday. Just saying those words gives me a warm fuzzy feeling and brings a smile to my face. Easter Monday.

It's Easter!

It’s Easter!

When I was in the Foreign Service working at the American Embassy in London, Easter Monday was a holiday, as was Good Friday. The Brits know how to celebrate something important! Four whole days off. My co-worker Marlene and I went to Brussels for a magical long weekend. We stayed in The Metropole, a magnificent old hotel, dined in French restaurants, and did all the tourist things we could manage.

I woke up that particular Easter morning to some kind of indescribable racket — sounded like someone had emptied the entire silverware drawer at the top of the stairs and the knives, forks and spoons were clattering all the way down. It took me a few moments to realize it was church bells! Church bells on Easter morning ringing out the victory of the resurrection. Totally awesome.

But that was Easter Sunday. Easter Monday was my family’s special day. It all began many years — decades — ago.

In our little town of North Hollywood, there was a bakery named Ahren’s. Although mother bought our groceries at the market, sometimes she’d send dad to Ahren’s for bread. I don’t know what kind — I was probably 6 or 7 and bread to me was something to slather peanut butter on. I couldn’t care less what kind it was or where it came from.

Ahren's Bakery - the site of our delicious Easter Monday for many years.

Ahren’s Bakery – the site of our delicious Easter Monday for many years.

Once in long while, dad would let me go with him to the bakery. It was a great treat to go anywhere with my dad, but the bakery was especially exciting. Walking into that enveloping aroma of hot bread, chocolate, cinnamon and a host of other spices was too wonderful for words.

I remember gazing into the glass cases at the beautifully decorated cakes with shining white icing and trailing pink and green roses, the trays of cream puffs, the piles of strudels, the stacks of brownies and display of eclairs. It was like looking through the window of paradise. On one of these occasions, my dad looked down at me and said, “How would you like to come here and eat anything you want, as much as you want?”

Of course my dad would never on this earth say what I thought I’d just heard him say. But on the other hand, my dad would never lie to me, either. I just stood there and stared at him.

I do clearly remember what my mother said when we got home: “Donald, have you taken leave of your senses?”

There are many reasons for my mother’s reaction, not the least of which was money didn’t grow on trees and another — and probably more important — was that in our house sweets were frowned upon. There was no soda pop, no cookies, no candy of any sort. Dessert, when we had it, might be canned peaches (in syrup!), or ice cream. Once in a great while there would be pie or cake, but that was rare. So this was certainly a mad-cap, totally out-of-character idea. However, they apparently agreed because the next day Dad announced that in another two weeks, on Easter Monday — the day after Easter — we would do just what he had said.

Of course, to a child, two weeks might as well have been a year. The anticipation was exquisite torture. My brother and I planned and discussed what we might get.

Oooh, just one of the many delicious treats in store!

Oooh, just one of the many delicious treats in store!

After school on the appointed day, we went to Ahren’s bakery for what was going to become a Skone-Palmer family tradition. Dad gave us each a dollar to begin. I followed my big brother’s choice and started with a chocolate eclair and a cream puff and took them carefully back to the little table where Mother and Dad were sipping coffee. The only rule was that you had to eat whatever you had bought before you could go back for more. Not a problem, I assure you!

I can’t remember what else we ordered, but I do remember that toward the end — before we declared ourselves too full to eat anything more — mother did graciously help out by finishing the ill-chosen petit-four or taking a bite of the brownie that turned out to be much larger than it had looked.

As a child, of course, I didn’t notice, but in later years my parents told me that they got many disapproving glances from customers although the bakery staff thought it was funny.

We did this every year until my brother grew up and left home. Toward the end, when he was in college and I in high-school, we changed from the bakery to the Farmer’s Market in downtown Los Angeles. There the routine changed and I remember wandering through the stalls checking out the various offerings. Now that we were nearly “grown-ups,” we started with French dip sandwiches (again, following my brother’s lead) and then moved onto cheese blintzes and hand-dipped chocolates. I remember watching the cake decorating booth where the man was using pink icing to make inebrieted elephants all over a cake built around a champagne bottle. Funny — and sweet. I remember watching the lady hand-dipping chocolates and my dad miming licking his fingers — she laughed.

I hope every family has some special tradition that is singularly theirs — that makes them smile and brings back a flood of warm and happy memories.

Give me a minute, will you, to wipe my face which for some reason suddenly feels damp, then I’ll raise a cup of coffee to the sweet memories from a lifetime ago. Easter Monday.

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Oh no — Don’t tell me I did it again!

A couple of weeks ago while lunching with my friend Susie, I lamented that the last two pair of slacks I’d bought both were going into the Goodwill bag. (I don’t really give to the Goodwill — I give to Big Brothers/Big Sisters or the local charity, Opportunity Village, but in my mind it’s still the Goodwill bag.)

Nice black pants, but there's a problem ...

Nice black pants, but there’s a problem …

Anyway, the nice black slacks I’d bought seemed like lint magnets. And not just lint, but cat hair stuck to them like it had been glued on. No amount of brushing could remove it. Even washing them only helped a little — they came out of the washing machine still sporting remnants of cat hair. With four cats, this was a major problem. I’d already gone through two lint rollers, and the Norwex Lint Mitt I keep in the car had worked overtime. (I sit at red lights working the lint mitt over my legs and then wadding up the resultant cache of cat hair and dropping it out the window. I tell myself that birds would be happy to line their nests with the soft fur. At least that’s what I’m going to tell the cop when he pulls me over for littering.)

The other pair had a different problem. I had not noticed — and wouldn’t have realized the significance if I had — that they contained 2% Spandex. Not a bad thing, surely. They fit well — snug, but not tight — and they were a nice khaki color that would go with almost anything. What I quickly found out is that while they had a slight “give” to them when I sat down or bent over, the “give” didn’t have a corresponding “take,” so that when it stretched a bit, it didn’t un-stretch and soon the waist was no longer at my waist but inching down toward my stomach. When I first put them in, they’d be fine, but before long, they were sagging. It was sort of like when you first put your jeans on after you’ve washed them. You know how snug they are? But after a few minutes they’ve relaxed and feel fine. The difference is, they don’t keep stretching; they actually stay put.

Yeah, something that will fit right and stay put! AND not collect lint. Is that asking too much?

Yeah, something that will look cool, fit right and stay put. OH — and not collect lint. Is that too much to ask?

So, I told Susie, I am going to reluctantly toss both of these and buy myself some new slacks before I go on the weekend trip I had planned. I was particularly sad about the black lint-collecting slacks because I had also bought the jacket and although it also collected cat hair, cats sit in my lap a lot more often than they sit on my shoulder, so it wasn’t that much of a problem.

So into the thrift store bag they both went and off I went to the department store. Gonna get it right this time!

I snagged a bunch of slacks and trotted into the dressing room. Amazingly, two of them actually fit the way I liked. Wow! One dark pair and the second, lighter that would certainly work well for summer. I was happy — usually it takes forever to find something I like. I had a gift card from Christmas that covered the cost and I was good to go!

On Sunday I put on my new slacks which turned out to not be black, but dark, dark blue — Navy. Well, okay, I can do dark blue. I don’t have any blue shoes, but black will work. I think. So I got in the car, and as the sunlight came through the windshield, I nearly croaked. This can’t be happening! My new pants were covered with cat hair! Drat those lap-sitting cats! I quickly grabbed the lint-mitt and went to work. With four red lights between me and church, I managed to de-furr a lot, but was beyond discouraged. I had just traded one pair of lint-magnets for another. And paid to do it!

At least I had the other, lighter slacks. I was happy with them when I put them on, but it wasn’t long before I realized they seemed to be stretching out. I quickly unfastened them and sure enough, 1% Spandex! Don’t you think I would have looked?? No, this can’t be happening.

Will I ever learn? I just gave away two perfectly good pair of slacks and replaced them with ones that were nearly identical — and had the same problem. I should probably just get jeans and wear them everywhere. Even if they do get cat fur, it won’t show. I mean, nobody expects jeans to look pristine, right?

And as I write this, here is Paddy O’Cat poised to jump into my lap. I guess it’s a question of which is more important to me: clean slacks or happy cats. And the answer, in case you haven’t guessed, is: Bring your own lint roller when you come to visit me. I’ve used up all of mine.

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The 99 cent store isn’t anymore …

No, that’s not quite right. The store is still there, but it’s now the [nearly everything is] “99 cents” store. A few months ago they raised their price from 99 cents to 99.9 cents so they charged $1 for everything. Fair enough. Actually, more than fair. Still an incredible bargain!

bottles with glasses and grapes

Wait — we’re talking the 99 Cent store, right? Why are we looking at a picture of grapes and wine?

(And a note about this picture. Since I took my computer to Best Buy to correct a minor problem — which cost major bucks! — I haven’t been able to download things I could get before, like the pictures of the 99 cent store. So you’ll have to be content with a picture of wine and I am going there — just be patient.)

My favorite is the raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. 99.9 cents is 1/3 what I pay at the market, and it’s the same brand! I don’t know how it works, but I’m happy it does. Their produce is an amazing bargain. For a ten dollar bill, I can walk out of there with fruit and veggies for a week, even though they’ve started charging for some things by the pound. Well, okay, still cheaper than the market.

And now get this … they are selling WINE!

Moldava Pinot Grigio

The bottle is beautiful with butterflies and flowers.

NO!  Yes, I swear!

The wine is $2.99. They have several different labels like “Feeding Frenzy” (such an an attractive name, don’t you think? At least they don’t have a picture of a shark tearing into a fish on the label),  “Swirls and Whirls” (maybe how you feel after drinking some?) and chocolate wine!

I have had chocolate wine before — I’m not sure how they do it, though. Has someone found out how to grow chocolate grapes?  There are some things you don’t want from the 99 cent store, and wine is one of them. I mean, what do they make it out of? Do they just pick up the grapes that fall by the side of the road or what? But as I was staring somewhat in awe at this huge display of wine, I saw it: a lovely, tall bottle which has raised designs of flowers and butterflies. The front says Pinot Grigio. The back says “product of MOLDAVA.”

If you’re thinking “that should be Moldavia,” that’s what I thought, too, but the country changed its name after the break away from the USSR. Still, Moldava, Moldavia … six to one half-dozen to the other. I’m thinking of the wine Paula and I bought for $1.99 one time. It was from Romania — or perhaps Bulgaria — one of those countries that ends in IA. We said to each other “how bad can it be?” Well, there’s a stupid question if there ever was one. There went $1.99 down the drain — literally.

So I had NO hope for this wine from Moldava until I Googled it and — would you believe — the country of Moldava is a wine-producing country and it has the biggest wine cellar in the world! Even though we both know that quantity is no indication of quality, I have to say I’m intrigued. Why would you have a big wine cellar if you don’t have something good to put in it? I mean, you don’t put a safe in your house to stow your jewelry from Target, do you?

So I could stand it no longer — I chilled the bottle and opened it. A cork — that’s a good sign. I poured a couple of inches in a wine glass and stood by the sink just in case I had to spit it out immediately, but no. It was not all that bad. It had a slight hint of apricot and then something else. Guava, maybe. Something light and pleasant.

So now I’m thinking this would make a nice summer wine. Trouble is, when I went back, the 99 Cent store had sold out of it. I guess it’s no great loss — I’m not that crazy about white wine anyway. The best part was the pretty bottle. It’ll make a nice candle holder.

And in the meantime, I opened a bottle of Beringer Chenin Blanc which is a great inexpensive summer wine.




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