Mulling Over Wine: Three Favorite Recipes for Your Happy Holidays

Written December 12, 2012, this set of recipes for mulled wines is especially great for warming a cold winter’s day and for bringing holiday cheer.  But why wait until November to enjoy a delicious cup of wine?


Mulling Over Wine: Three Favorite Recipes for Your Happy Holidays

Classic Medieval Beverage Stands the Test of Time

 The holidays are here…along with the darkness of winter, biting cold winter storms, and frozen toes. It’s also a time of year when we look back on the year that was as we welcome a new year. In December, we celebrate Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, and Kwanza, typically in that order. It’s a festive time focused on spending time with family and friends; the gifts we might exchange are secondary, contrary to what a plethora of TV advertisements may tell us.For centuries, a critical part of spreading that holiday cheer has been a cup of warmed, spiced wine. Typically red, it can also be white, depending on personal preferences, and infused with any number of fragrant herbs and spices.

For me, three recipes really stand out among all the many mulled wine recipes you can find. The first recipe is medieval. It’s an example from 1660 with doubtless origins stretching back several centuries before it was written down. Unlike most recipes you’ll find on the web, this medieval recipe adds cream to the mix, something I don’t see very often, but really adds to the flavor of the wine. Second, it’s written for a large gathering — an entire GALLON of (red) wine. This makes it perfect for serving at historical re-enactments where typically at least 40 people are sitting at feast at any given time. Not hosting a yuletide event? No problem…just serve it at whatever festive gatherings you choose to host. I can tell you from experience that few things make you feel warmer or happier coming in from a brutal storm than a nice cup of hot or warm mulled wine. For parties, I suggest using a crock pot to prepare and serve the medieval recipe. Your guests will thank you for serving the wine at just the right temperature to drink right away!

The second recipe is a favorite of mine because of all the extra information I found along with it. But it’s also just a really nice, flavorful mulled wine choice. This version calls for three full liters of red wine; I usually make 1/4th of a recipe (one regular 750 ml bottle). It features cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg for a very classic taste that is palatable to almost anyone who enjoys red wine. Choose your favorite budget priced vintage for this one; the cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg add so much flavor that you don’t really need anything more pricy than $18 per bottle!

The final recipe, for mulled riesling, is my all time favorite. Like many people, I prefer lighter flavors; the tannins in reds just don’t agree with me as well as the lighter blushes and white wines do. For many people, white wines are also better tolerated, especially if a person takes prescription medications on a regular basis. But more than that, I love the combination of rosemary, honey, and lemon with riesling. Riesling is a very flavorful, light wine to begin with. Those flavors really come alive when you add rosemary, honey, and lemon to them. For someone with a refined palate especially, the combination is just spectacular! I love the nuances you get with this third and final recipe.
Medieval Recipe:

“1 gallon wine
3oz cinnamon
2oz ginger, sliced
1/4oz cloves
1oz mace
20 peppercorns
1oz nutmeg
3lb sugar
2qt cream

“Take a gallon of wine, three ounces of cinamon, two ounces of slic’t ginger, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of mace, twenty corns of pepper, an ounce of nutmegs, three pound of sugar, and two quarts of cream.”

In essence, mix all ingredients and heat slowly in a large pot. Serve warm. You can also let it ‘settle’ for a few days and serve it cool, depending on which way tastes better to you!”

Anything Wine’s Recipe:
3 Liters red wine (we use Merlot) but you can use something like a hearty burgundy also

· 8 sticks of cinnamon

· 32 cloves

· 3 cups sugar

· 1 cup lemon juice

· 1Tbs nutmeg

· 3 cups water

“Combine all of the above in a pot and bring to a low boil with the cover on. I put the nutmeg and cloves in a small bag for easy removal and strain out the cinnamon sticks with a spoon. Boil for ten minutes.”

Let stand overnight and then take out the spices. Serve warm!


Riesling Rosemary Mulled Wine1/2c water
1/2c sugar
2 Tbsp rosemary
1/4 cup honey
2 lemons
2 bottles riesling white wine

Simmer (but not boil) the water, sugar, rosemary, and honey for 10 minutes. Add in the wine . Peel the lemons and add in the peels. Let sit for a length of time to seep in the flavors, without boiling. Strain out the larger bits and serve warm.
No matter what your mulled wine indulgence is, these three recipes are absolutely certain to please. Whether your interest is in making a historically accurate beverage, a family favorite traditional mulled red wine, or in the delicate flavors of the mulled riesling, there is something for everyone with these mulled wine choices.As the weather grows colder yet and the snow falls once more, try a cup of warmed mulled wine at your next holiday party or celebration. Long before egg nog (an American invention), the holidays were filled with generous cups of hot/warm mulled wine. Discover the tradition and you’ll know why it’s been the beverage of holiday cheer for over one thousand years!

Flexible Isolation: Sound Absorption Options for Apartment Dwellers

One of my most popular articles on Yahoo Voices, this article looks at how we can better sound isolate our homes to make them quieter from our neighbors’ noise.


Flexible Isolation: Sound Absorption Options for Apartment Dwellers

These Sound Absorbing Options Make Apartment Tenants and Landlords Happy

July 4, 2013

If you’ve been listening to me on social media lately, you would think that the only thing going on in my life is my relentlessly loud and borderline sound-harassing next door neighbor. Growing up and living in cities, noise is nothing really all that new to me. Psychophysics tells us that women like myself tend to be more sensitive to noise than men. But over the course of my life, I’ve found that most neighbors (except for a few best described with profanity) usually will try to be nice and at least attempt to make things better.

So what do you do when talking to your neighbor is just not enough, when a discourse on the physics of sound and the impact on the human body of low frequency noise (LFN) reaches deaf (perhaps literally as well as figuratively) ears?

There’s lots of advice out there, most of it absurdly expensive. Most of the advice and products out there are for keeping your noise in, not absorbing structurally-transmitted sounds caused from without.

Here are some things I’ve found that I’m hoping will work for me – when I can afford to do more of them:

  1. Use a sound absorbing rug pad under your rugs and any new carpeting you lay down.

Carpeting seems to be one of the best ways to absorb sound. The thicker the rug, the better. Rugs and carpets can get pricey, of course, and by themselves may do nothing for your problem if they are low pile (read that, economical). Fortunately, there are sound absorbing rug pads that protect your apartment’s hard wood floor and are designed to reduce that structural noise – both what you transmit (walking, a/c, TV, music, etc.) and what others transmit to you. Check out the selection ofhigh density Jute felt rug pads at Rug Pad corner. What I like about Rug Pad Corner is they can cut your rug pad to whatever size your particular rug happens to be. So if you find a great deal on a 6 foot by 8 foot, 9 inches rug, you can still get the pad cut to fit without additional cost.

2. Try sound absorbing “vibration isolation feet” for your bed, couch, bird cage, or other piece of furniture that sits on casters that you do not need to move around much. Needle doctor has several sizes, based on weight, sold individually. Use size 5 for any furniture weighing more than about 50 lbs.

3. Sound absorbing “Quiet Barrier” is rubber/foam sheeting specifically designed to reduce noise transmission between rooms and apartments. Apply on the ceilings, walls, and floors. There is one big downside to the quiet barrier: cost! A 4 x 8 foot sheet is over $60 before shipping with a 30 feet roll costing over $250!

These three options seem to be the best and most economical for apartment dwellers, especially as they do not involve altering the apartment unit itself. Do they work as well as ripping up the floors to apply sound absorbing foam or filling drywall with sound absorbing materials? NO! But then again, odds are really good your landlord won’t let you re-model your apartment for sound anyway.


Finally, there is a lot of support for wall to wall carpeting, especially thick carpeting paired with the jute carpet pad mentioned earlier. The more your home is carpeted, the more sound-resistant it will be. Concrete floors, bare wood stairs, and hard wood floors by their nature sound the loudest. Finally, when searching for your next apartment, look for and ask about these simple measures. Landlords can be flexible and reasonable once asked. I have known many friends in New York City who petitioned for and receivable approval to carpet their apartments – generally at their own expense – but with really good results. Not only are their thickly carpeted apartments more pleasant to walk on, but they really are quieter than hard wood floor homes!


Bon chance in your quest for a quieter home.



Merida’s “Brave” New World

Originally posted June 26th, 2012, I wrote this review of the movie “Brave” after watching it opening weekend.  In the first two weeks of the film’s release, it received an outstanding 5000 hits on Yahoo Voices.


Merida’s “Brave” New World

Princess Merida and Queen Elinor have a problem: when they speak to one another, neither is truly listening. To Merida, her mother seems like all rules and discipline. To Elinor, her daughter Merida seems reckless and rebellious. Merida doesn’t seem to process that she is a princess and heiress-apparent who must someday rule with wisdom and grace and would rather ride her horse, explore her beautiful kingdom, and practice her archery.

In other words, Elinor and Merida are just like most young women and their mothers, each feeling she is right and neither wanting to walk in the other’s shoes. Merida is so convinced her mother won’t listen to her that she seeks to change, anyway she can, what she feels is an inevitable imposed life of misery scripted by her mother. Along the way, mistakes are made and mended to the transformation of both.

If none of this sounds to you like your typical Disney princess movie, you are absolutely correct!“Brave” is, indeed, a brave new world for Disney-Pixar. Traditional Disney princesses are pursuing romantic love; finding a husband and having a wedding have been the focus of countless Disney-animated films. But “Brave” is different. In “Brave” our heroine feels she is much too young for marriage and fights to preserve her maidenhood, to stay young and feel for as long as possible, shirking adult responsibilities instead of throwing herself into them headlong. Merida is strong, independent, and a bit unruly; a strong departure from Cinderella, Princess Aurora, and other beloved Disney heroines.

Another feature to “Brave” is its beautiful rendition of medieval Scotland. Here the art is resplendent, full of Celtic knot-work and stone carvings. Celtic stone circles feature prominently in the film. In “Brave” they are holy ground, sanctuary against dark forces with our heroines often retreating to them. Without any particular references to religion in any direction, “Brave” uses the stone circle as a sort of symbol of Celtic culture, powerfully connecting the clans to both past and future. The climactic battle at the end of the film happens inside the great stone circle seen across the film with good prevailing against the apparent odds inside its borders.

In “Brave” Disney-Pixar create a new kind of heroine, strongly Celtic and true to ancient Celtic culture, yet feeling equally modern and timeless. Every girl and woman can relate to Queen Elinor and Princess Merida. Boys and men will love its constant action. It even addresses that age-old question of “what do men wear under their kilts” both tastefully and comically. Humor can also be found in King Fergus and Merida’s triplet brothers, all of whom will have audiences of all ages rolling in the aisles!

I have been a fan of Disney animation for most of my life. Yet I will come out and say that of all the Disney films I’ve seen, THIS ONE is the film I cherish most. Without relying on musical numbers, it speaks to the heart and soul of everyone and reminds us that no matter how difficult communicating with our mothers or daughters may be, in the end, the quest is worth it!

Chamomile and English Lavender Iced Tea

Chamomile and English Lavender Iced Tea

Winning Recipe from the Barony of St. Swithin’s Bog (SCA) Tea Brewing Competition at 2012 “Spring Thing”

July 15th, 2013


Recipe Used for tea brewing competition at the Barony of St. Swithin’s Bog (Aethelmearc) 2012 “Spring Thing” event:

2 TBSP loose chamomile

1 ½ tsp English (culinary) Lavender

¾ cup granulated sugar

4 trays ice

1 quart cold water

Follow manufacturer instructions or your favorite method for brewing

Makes 1 quart

Medieval Period usage:

Chamomile and lavender were both well known medicinal herbs in period. In her paper, “Medieval Use of Herbs” Mistress Jadwiga Zajaczkowa outlines and documents how dozens of herbs, including lavender and chamomile, were used in period.

Chamomile, Matricaria chamomilla: a short, creeping fringy plant with daisylike flowers. Used in handwashing waters and for headaches. Lawns and garden seats were planted with chamomile, for it ‘smells the sweeter for being trodden on’. Scientific testing indicates that it really may help settle the stomach and soothe the nerves, which may be why it was used in fevers.”

“LavenderLavendula vera, Lavendula spica, Lavendula stoechas: dried purple flowers. Used in food, and in refreshing washes for headaches; a cap with lavender flowers quilted in it kept headaches at bay. Used extensively in baths, as a personal scent and as a moth repellent.”

Third-Hand Smoke: The Hidden Danger to Apartment Living

This article I wrote after becoming very ill from my west end Johnstown neighbor’s smoke which filtered into my apartment.  As I researched, a learned a great deal about how second and third hand smoke makes non smokers sick.


Third-Hand Smoke: The Hidden Danger to Apartment Living

Neighbors Smoking Tobacco, Drugs Literally Makes You Sick

 August 28th, 2013
Monday August 19th. An odd putrescence fills my bathroom and home office through the walls and ventilation system of my apartment. The smell is semi-sweet, but also nauseating, an intense grassy stench. My heart starts pounding out of my chest. I lose all ability to concentrate. I feel light headed and generally sick.I do not take drugs — not even Advil — my system does not tolerate anything stronger than homeopathy — like the Feverfew and vitamins my migraine specialist prescribed for me after years of prescription Topomax sickened me without alleviating my severe and crippling chronic daily migraine caused by the head injury that took my eyesight. Even simple antibiotics and over the counter cold medicines make me intensely sick. I do not smoke. I consume fewer than 10 drinks of alcohol in an entire year and do not like the effects of alcohol when I do take that occasional glass of wine or champagne with my dinner or during the holidays. In short, my own body’s intolerance means I live a very clean life.As the odd chemicals from my neighbor’s apartment seep into my home, my body starts to experience terrifying symptoms. It feels like I’m having a medical emergency. What on earth could be creating these sudden symptoms?

In search for the answer, I remember my college days when I very briefly experimented with tobacco under peer influence. I know what tobacco does to me; none of my symptoms overlap with that.

Continuing my quest to understand this sudden illness accompanying the stench, I come across an August 11th article by Aaron Brachfeld on something called “third hand smoke.”

Third hand smoke is smoke you neither take in directly nor inhale from close physical proximity such as being in the same room as the smoker. This includes any air you may share — including and especially the air in apartment buildings, townhouses, condominiums, co-ops, and other residential communities.

The effects of third-hand smoke depends on exactly which drug or drugs are in the smoke and how much exposure is required to physically affect you, your family, and your companion animals (companion birds, then human infants and pre-natal humans being the most intensely affected at the lowest levels of exposure). With regards to third hand exposure to marijuana, Colorado-based journalist Aaron Bachfeld cites,

” 3rd and 2nd hand exposure is potent. 3rd hand exposure usually results in something in the neighborhood of 1/100 of the dose received by 2nd hand exposure. 3rd hand is accomplished by inhalation, ingestion and osmosis: particulates bind to dust or dirt or clothing or whatever, and are consumed as well as breathed. This dust also allows it to enter the blood through the skin. Furthermore, the effect increases as more particles are ingested and inhaled, creating an increasing effect. The particles, even when not ingested, inhaled or touched, result in exposure: off gassing by the dust created by the use or storage of aerosols creates gasses which are then inhaled – even without dust as a carrier. (Third-hand smoking: indoor measurements of concentration and sizes of cigarette smoke particles after resuspension, M H Becquemin, et al. Tob Control 2010;19:347-348 doi:10.1136/tc.2009.034694, and Indoor Air Pollution: Problems and Priorities, edited by G. B. Leslie, F. W. Lunau, 1992, etc.).”

On September 2nd, 2012, in the midst of Colorado’s consideration of legalizing marijuana, Mr. Bachfeld cautioned,

“Marijuana has been and remains a valuable tool against disease for many doctors, and the public should never prevent the use of medicine. Yet the abuse of marijuana is prevalent, and preventing that abuse is impossible except by a path of limited tolerance.

There are numerous dangers to marijuana, and not just to the user who exposes themselves to higher cancer rates (even if it is not smoked), diabetes, psychological disorders (depression, anxiety and schizophrenia are inevitable with long-term use of marijuana due to permanent changes to the brain caused by the drug), heart disease and other disease. The high cost of legally grown marijuana makes it difficult to afford, leading to demand for illegally grown marijuana.

With this in mind, there is an urgency to regulate through governmental control the growth of marijuana. And when even proponents of legalization admit that legalization will not likely reduce illegal grow operations, but increase them (just because stronger and safer marijuana is grown in legal labs does not mean that people will stop buying inferior marijuana if it is cheaper), we must admit that the dangers and responsibilities of marijuana use belong to all Americans, and it is right that that regulation should be placed wholly in the hands of the public.”

While marijuana was likely (though wholly untested and unproven) the culprit of my illness on Monday, smoking any drug — including tobacco — holds dangers to those who breathe it. Since we cannot control the distribution or concentrations of airborne chemicals, all smoke from all substances create numerous and wide-spread hazards to the health and well-being of everyone within a certain chemical proximity of the smoker.

Or, put another way, there is no such thing as “safe” smoke — to the user or anyone else. All smoking of all substances holds health risks extending well beyond the person who lights up. Second and third hand smoke kill. Who will be next to die?

For more information, please consult:

Having symptoms*? Don’t ignore them; seek out professional medical help for evaluation and treatment options for you, your family, and your companion animals.

*If you are exposed to second or third hand smoke, consuming a high fiber diet may help your body eliminate some of the toxins from your body. High fiber parrot foods include sunflower seeds, almonds, and other nuts. If your bird suddenly starts craving high quantities of these, she could be instinctively trying to eliminate smoke toxins from her body, much as her wild cousins use clay licks to counteract toxins found in their diets.

We Need to Free Teachers: How Micro-managing Teachers is Undermining American Education

Originally posted June 26th, 2012


Recently a 16 year old friend complained about spell check trying to insert an apostrophe in one of her contractions on facebook. Whenever I speak to her in facebook chat, I find her words are so filled with mis-spellings and incorrect grammar that I cannot understand her. When I try to speak to her about this, she ignores me (typical of a 16 year-old!).

Dismayed, I spoke to several public school teachers and university professors I know through both my education and facebook games. I asked them about what is happening in the classroom. Their answers revealed just how much has changed in public education over the last 20 years.

During my education in the 1980s and 1990s, teachers were trusted as the professionals they are, allowed to adjust their lessons to each class they were teaching, accelerating or slowing down the pace, providing enrichment activities that made learning fun, and above all else, free to do whatever they felt would be effective in empowering their students to think critically and apply lessons to the real world. Standardized tests were issued from time to time, but never focused upon. Instead, my teachers focused on making sure every student grasped every subject competently.

Things have changed. Since my high school graduation in 1990, governments on all levels have decided to supervise and micro-manage to levels unheard of in previous decades. Today’s professional educators no longer possess the freedom to adjust their lessons to specific classroom situations and specific student needs in order to maximize student learning. Instead THE TEST has taken over class room time to a degree I find barely plausible. Now, instead of engaging and challenging students, both teachers and students are frustrated and bored. More importantly, students are advancing to the next grade with few critical thinking or researching skills, no ability to apply the classroom to the rest of their lives, and little permanent knowledge.

This trend is so severe that university professors now have to dummy down their curricula. If this seems unimportant, then consider that our most sensitive professions require graduate degrees. Do you really want the doctor operating on you to graduate with less knowledge and competence than a physician educated in the 1980s? Do you want your lawyer to not know the law expertly?

All professions build upon the foundation our public school teachers provide across a person’s early life. We cannot afford for university professors to dummy down anything; doing so puts every aspect of our lives in danger.

It is time to reverse course in education and return the classroom to our dedicated education professionals. It is time trust our teachers to know their jobs. It is time to get government, even local government, out of the classroom and restore control to those best able to handle the responsibility of educating our youth: our classroom teachers. When we remove teacher control from their classes, we undermine our entire society. Let’s stop politicizing education and let teachers teach. Not the politically correct version of their subjects, but each subject taught to prepare each student for the high standards expected of them in university. We all deserve nothing less.

Chocolate and Vanilla Egg Crèmes: Brooklyn’s Best Kept Secret

One of the most enduring parts of my experience living in Brooklyn, New York for over four years is in food.  In that time, I was introduced to one of the most delicious beverages ever:  the egg cream.


Chocolate and Vanilla Egg Crèmes: Brooklyn’s Best Kept Secret

July, 2012

Go into a diner in Brooklyn and they are hard to miss! They are a Brooklyn tradition since the turn of the 20th century. They were a staple in drug store soda shops. What are they? Brooklyn’s best kept secret: egg crèmes!

What pray tell is an egg crème? A delicious, non-alcoholic soda you can make cheaply and easily in your own home. Dining out and they are not on the menu? Ask for one anyway. Most restaurants with a bar tender have the ingredients right there – they just may need the recipe from you. The Altoona, Pennsylvania Olive Garden recently made them for my dining party after I asked. The rest of my group was skeptical about this Brooklyn invention…that is, until it arrived and we each drank one!

Here’s what you need to make your own egg crème:

12 oz glass

Whole milk (or really indulge with a splash of half and half with your milk)

Seltzer soda water (club soda is more salty, but will work if you cannot find seltzer)

Fox’s U-Bet chocolate or vanilla syrup (Hershey’s can be substituted, but be aware that the Fox’s product is more of a semi-sweet chocolate and Hershey’s is more a milk chocolate that tastes sweeter and less bitter)

  1. Begin by pouring from 1/4th to 2/3rds of your glass with milk and/or milk and half and half.
  2. Add about one to three tablespoons of chocolate or vanilla syrup. The more syrup, the richer and sweeter the taste.
  3. Stir vigorously.
  4. Add seltzer to the top of the glass, tilting the glass to maximize the carbonated head. A thick head of about 2 inches is considered ideal.
  5. Stir vigorously.
  6. Drink immediately.

Some purists I know from Brooklyn say to stir only once and to make the dryer version with only 1/4th of the glass in milk. I personally love the richer, sweeter version created by using at least half a glass of milk and more syrup. You add more calories this way, but it’s a tastier soda.

Egg crèmes can make a great party drink. Simply mix the milk and syrup into a pitcher with a heavily chilled 1 liter or 2 liter bottle on ice on the table. Then ask guests to simply pour their milk/syrup in first and top with the seltzer. Those swizzle stick stirrers are great if you are serving egg crèmes this way. For a fancy touch, chocolate shavings make the perfect garnish. Simply set out a small dessert bowl of the shavings for your guests next to the egg crème ingredients.

Egg crèmes are the perfect balance between chocolate milk and regular sodas, giving you the best of both worlds. They are a delicious treat for your meal, your party, or just the end of a hard day.

So try the Brooklyn egg crème and discover what most Brooklynites have known for decades!