A drink for the non-drinker

Wine slushie

Though I’ve never been a drinker, I’ve found a new passion.

Out at the Grape Discovery Center in Westfield, N.Y. (photos coming next week), I was recently introduced to the incredible elixir known as the wine slushie. The place is teeming with wine tastings, exhibits and gorgeous vineyards right outside the door — and all in celebration of the Lake Erie Concord Grape region. Lots of good stuff comes from here, including the grapes used to make Welch’s products.

We smelled grapes. We sipped wine. We talked about grape stuff. A bunch of us ordered grape slushies, and then I tried the boozy version . . . which was just pretty fantastic.

A drink for the non-drinker, if you will.

Until I met Spencer, I can’t say I’d ever really thought about — or even tried — wine. Though we’re far from connoisseurs, we decided to learn something about vino. Through trial and error, we’ve deduced that we both like sweet wines, mostly whites, and can tolerate the occasional red. With his scientific mind, my fiance started making his own wine last year . . . and won “best in show” for one variety at the county fair! (Yes, we totally rock out at the county fair. It’s next weekend and I will so be there.)

We went to Napa Valley last year, swilled wine like pretend fancy people and wandered vineyards dreaming about a different life. I think I like the ambiance of wine — and wineries — even more than drinking the beverages themselves, as evidenced by how much I loved vineyard hopping for a good friend’s bachelorette years ago.

Wine is fun. It’s tasty. It’s a little bit fancy. And though I know hardly anything about anything, I like knowing I can confidently order a white without looking like a total geek.

Other alcohol? Not so much.


In planning my sister’s bachelorette (for this weekend! EEK), I realized just how little I know about, um, partying, bars, shots, etc. I didn’t have the “typical college experience” extolled by coeds everywhere; I commuted to college all four years and wasn’t all that interested in debauchery. (You’re not surprised, right? I mean, I’m a total book nerd. I’m in bed with a novel by 11 p.m. most nights.)

I don’t exactly aspire to being a proficient drinker, but I am 28 years old . . . it looks a little silly when I stand awkwardly at a bar, wishing I could just order a diet soda and be done with it. I’m probably in the minority, but I live by the one-drink-and-out rule: I have a glass of something or other, then quit. Nursing a lone Blue Moon or Sam Adams is usually my M.O., but I go for the wine when I want to look sophisticated.

I usually fail, but I try.

So we’ll see how this goes.

And in the meantime, I’ll keep daydreaming about that wine slushie. That I could chug all day.


Side note: As I was snapping this picture, another guest at the bar joked, “You know, uh, you’re actually supposed to drink that.” Which is a pet peeve. Maybe because I’ve heard it a million times, and some folks don’t take kindly to people photographing food and drink? It offends them? I don’t know. “Don’t worry,” I said, “I’ll get there.”

The obvious Americans — and happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It’s been almost a year since I was in Ireland, drinking my fill of Guinness (or Smithwick’s — I’m not serious enough for straight Guinness, despite my cupcakes) and thinking I blended amongst the locals eating out in Dublin. Though I was, of course, an American tourist, I wasn’t prancing around with a neon pink fanny pack and white tennis shoes, barking at people to serve me “A-mer-i-can food, dammit!” and generally setting international relations back a few centuries.

Not that I recall, anyway. (So much Smithwick’s.)

(Okay, not really — I’m not a drinker — but everyone is a drinker in Ireland. Even my mother, plied repeatedly with Irish coffee.)

I’ll just come out and admit it: I can be a bit smug when I travel. I try to never be “the ugly American,” offering courteous smiles to everyone I meet and never stiffing the locals on tips. On our trip to Italy years back, our tour director said something that has stayed with me: “We are all international ambassadors.” Meaning, you have an unpleasant interaction with an American. You think they’re rude. Though it’s not necessarily fair, our minds may make a leap: this American woman was rude. Americans can be rude. All Americans are rude. And so on.

I try never to be rude. To blend, if you will, and this doesn’t just apply to international travel. When asked by a clerk if I was “from Texas?” while shopping in Los Angeles years ago, I just cocked an eyebrow and laughed. If she thinks my Southern accent is strong and Texas-like, she’s obviously never met a real Texan. (Or a real Southerner, ’cause my twang ain’t go nothing on the accents of my North Carolina relatives. I’m sort of jealous, really; I’ve just got the Eastern Seaboard thing goin’ on. Though I do use “y’all” with reckless abandon.)

So anyway. In Dublin. I’m trying to blend and not be rude and be a courteous American when I walk into a pub with my family. I’m trying to not scream “TOURIST! TOURIST OVER HERE!” and just enjoy a casual evening in Ireland. Before we’d uttered a word — before we’d even greeted a soul in the place — a cute young waiter approached, passing out menus. “Evenin’,” he said with a smile. “Americans, eh?”


I was flabbergasted. I didn’t think I had a “tell.” Is it my purple jacket? My jaunty swagger? The way I “style” (term used loosely) my hair? My liberal eye contact?

Grabbing hold of our good ol’ American enthusiasm, my family and I exchanged questioning looks while I laughed, “Yes — what gave it away?”

The server’s crooked smile would have made Edward Cullen jealous. With a gentle but aggravating shrug, he replied, “I just know.”

“But how do you know?” I pressed, suddenly desperate to see what set us apart. “The way we walked in the pub?”

We hadn’t known where to sit, of course. Not locals.

“I just know,” he repeated, and then I dropped the matter. Mostly because I was starving and we were soon going to be served this:

(And yes, we ordered burgers and fries in Ireland. How cliche.
But I tried haggis in Scotland, so sue me.)

Then I forgot about cultural identities and international relations and politeness and fanny packs (or lack thereof).

Om nom nom nom.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Drinking on the job

drinksIn keeping with my recent thoughts on vices, I have yet another confession to make: I like to drink.

But not alcohol, mind you — oh, no. Not interested. I mean flavored tea, sparkling water, diet cola, Red Bull, hot tea, coffee, espresso, lattes, fruit punch, Sprite, and . . .

I’m sure you can see where I’m doing with this!

On my desk at any given time, you’ll see a littering of cans, bottles and mugs. I’ve tried to keep this under control — honestly — but, well, I get a smidge lazy about my recycling and have a tendency not to dispose of things as fast as I should! Since we don’t have a designated recycling program at my office, I store everything until I can drag it all home in bags for curbside pick-up. And that process can take months — especially when I have something like the above snapshot on my desk daily!

I guess I should be thankful that I’m not a chronic work snacker. I purposely don’t keep any junk food within arm’s reach, choosing instead to shove a mug of tea into my grasping fingers. Any nearby crackers, chips or popcorn would be swallowed whole in a matter of seconds — and that’s why I have to keep all forms of delicious candy away from me, too! (I’m sure my incredibly good-looking dentist would approve.)

And now I’ll return to guzzling my kiwi watermelon spring water from Archer Farms, followed quickly by half a can of Red Bull. Good day to you!

“Watchmen”? Pass the booze, please

I'm gonna need this!

I'm gonna need this!

pina_coladaAt dinner last night, my boyfriend and I decided that the only way I was possibly going to get through the new, hit flick “Watchmen” was to drink.

Enough to get a little silly. Enough to make almost three hours of violence, sex and a bizarre alternative universe scenario in which the good are bad and the bad are good and we’re all headed for nuclear war unless some blue guy can stop the whole mess begin to . . . make sense.

Mind you, I very, very rarely drink. Ever. I can probably count on two hands the glasses of alcohol I’ve consumed in my entire life. And that’s what makes my immediate interest in booze a little hilarious to me — I was desperate to get through this film. I was trying to be a good girlfriend! It may be hard to believe (or not!) based on my good-natured blog posts on books, music and cute scarves, but I can actually be a pretty hard-headed, difficult person. We usually do what I want — see the movies I like, eat the places I enjoy, etc. — and I can recognize that good relationships are all about compromise. Boyfriend is very sweet and usually willing to go along with my demands, but I knew how much he’d been looking forward to “Watchmen” — and talking about it for months. I had to tough this one out.

watchmen_movie_posterThe problem is that, Internet guru that I am, I looked up the movie’s stats a while ago . . . and promptly decided that the gore was going to be too much for me. Everything I read talked about “intense” scenes and disturbing images, and I’m not all about the blood! In fact, I’d much rather skip the blood all together, thankssomuch. But I was trying to be good! I really was!

And that’s where the piña colada came in.

We get to the theater a little early, hunker down with our snacks and settle in for a long wait. I get a little antsy in theaters, I’ll freely admit it — I can’t stand when people around me are talking during a movie, and I have a tendency to voice my unhappiness about said distractions. Much to the dismay and chagrin of my friends and family. But I was determined not to let anything ruin this for Palmer — he’d been dying to see it for so long, I was going to turn around and punch the guy behind me in the jaw for mumbling plot points to his girlfriend for the first 10 minutes of the showing. Or was I?

watchmen_smiley_faceNo, no — I didn’t. I behaved myself. While people are being thrown through windows, blood is spewing and random characters are appearing out of nowhere, I rocked gently in my rocky theater chair, eyes to my lap to avoid seeing any unpleasantness, and swayed to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (love that song, by the way). At some point, the movie introduced the fact that it was 1985, Nixon had been elected for a third term (okay, we’re in an alternate universe — got it) and the U.S. and Soviet Union were in a heated entanglement regarding nuclear weapons (Cold War issues — check). And then I got a little lost. Or I zoned out. Or the booze took effect and I dozed off with my eyes open. I don’t know.

Needless to say, I got a wee bit lost! The movie was interesting, the special effects awesome and the acting solid, but I just couldn’t keep my brain moving at the speed of the comic characters. And I had to look away every ten minutes or so to keep from watching someone bleed out. Unpleasant. All tied together in a neat bow, it added up to one perplexed Megan.

Of course, driving home from Virginia, Boyfriend totally filled me in on any gaps in the story — and explained a lot more of the back story and other details I was missing, or just didn’t catch. The important question I kept asking was whether he liked it — he was the target audience. I was just a sleepy, semi-tipsy tag-along girlfriend. So it’s not like what I was thinking was of serious importance! Palmer said the movie was true to the book, and that most of the characters (save Dr. Manhattan) were as he would picture them. He was happy with the representation of Rorshach — the creepiest of all the characters, in my opinion — and liked the movie’s tying up of loose ends at the end. I’m glad he had a good time!

And I’m glad I had a little something to . . . take the edge off. As I sat on the edge of my seat. Ha!