Never Assume, Thank You Benny Hill

I was 8 years old when I learned an enduring life lesson from Benny Hill. What’s a little kid doing watching Benny Hill and what can he/she learn from that show, you ask?

Toshiba CRT TV

I sneaked Benny Hill for years late at night after I was big enough to drag a chair up to the fireplace mantle and reach the small Toshiba CRT TV set and turn the dial. Who were these gorgeous, buxom women hanging around with a funny looking old man? It was one of the few programs on after most of the major channels signed off for the night.

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Never Assume

This particular episode had nothing to do with the ladies. Here Benny Hill was a German professor with a funny accent. He stood in front of a chalk board with the word “Assume” written in it.

He said, “Never assume because it makes an ass out of you and me.” Cue studio laughter. I giggled too. I heard the word “ass” on TV. Until this point, I only heard it in church in reference to a donkey. I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and just a bit immature – lol.

Fast forward 20 years and counting. Whenever I am in a situation and I say to myself, “I assume that…,” the thought immediately triggers me to ask the next person involved the question. I try to verify my assumption before moving forward when possible. Because who wants to feel like an ass?

To view the full skit, visit this link.

Drinking Now: Jermann Pinot Grigio at Hotel Zaza

Every time mom asked me to move to Houston, I said no. I’d give her my usual story of, “whose going to take care of the house?” and “Cristina is in school,” etc etc etc..

But, now we’ve lived in Houston for 4.5 months. One of the benefits of living in here is that I’ve gotten to explore the town in ways I never have when I just visited for a week or two at a time.

This Sunday we went to the Houston Zoo and grabbed an early dinner at Hotel Zaza.

IMG_7954WinePinot Grigio
Varietal – Pinot Grigio
LocationFriuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Vintage – I forgot to ask
Type – White wine
Color – Golden hay
Nose – yeast, green apple, gravel, hints of blossoms
Palate – high acidity, my salivary glands are really firing, pith, tart lemon, hints of tart green apple
Finish – long lingering finish – for a white. I could still taste the wine about 7 seconds after I swallowed it

Other notes – I’m almost certain that this wine was aged on it’s lees – or the spent yeasts from fermentation. The wine making notes say, “part fermented as a white” which means the other part must have been fermented as a red – meaning on it’s skins. This might explain why the color of this white wine is so intense.

Why I picked this wine – I’m not a huge fan of this grape. However, I really love this producer and I will try any wine from them. The first time I met a wine by Jermann, I purchased the Pignacolusse for our shop during the holiday season. People were hesitant to buy it because no one knew the grape, Pignacolusse. So we opened it for a wine tasting class. The wine was full bodied and explosive with  aromas of leather, chocolate, earth and raisin.  When I saw the Jermann Pinot Grigio on the wine list, I couldn’t pass it up.

Drinking Now: Domaine Tourbillon – Plan de Dieu 2016 at Bistro Provence


Wildflowers at sunset at Terry Hershey Park

Thank goodness for the end of the work day! We went for a bike ride after work. We started on the bike trail along the Buffalo Bayou at N. Westpark Dr, cycled the Terry Hershey Park Hike and Bike trail to the Terry Hershey Park playground. SB played for a bit and then we cycled back. After the ride, we ate at Bistro Provence for lots of water, delicious food and delicious wine for me.

Wine – Plan de Dieu “Querelle de Clochers”
ProducerDomaine Tourbillon
Varietals – Grenache, Carignan, Syrah
Vintage – 2016
Color – Ruby with tinges of purple/fuchsia around the edges – the lighting in the restaurant was kinda dim so this may be off
Nose – Closed, hints of flowers, spice, stone, strawberry, raspberry and violet
Palate – Super bright acidity, the tannins were firm but not super stiff and bracing. This is definitely not the same wine I bought last month when my friend was in town. The last time I drank this wine upon opening it showed a lot more tannins, more mushroom, earth and herb along with the fruit. For the most part, this 2016 bottle is still closed. However it shows hints of the flavors I experienced on the nose.
Finish – Super long finish

Magret de Canard and Plan de Dieu

What I Ate:  Bistro Provence is an intimate French Bistro in West Houston near the corner of Memorial Drive and N. Wilcrest. The quiet restaurant features an open kitchen, a large wood burning oven, a specials board written by hand, handmade bench seating along the walls, and faux wall finishes. When in this restaurant I am transported to another world and time. I forget that I am in Houston, a place I equate with endless strip malls and lots of traffic. On this evening, I ate the Magret de Canard, which on their menu is seared duck breast prepared with lavender and honey, roasted potatoes and green beans – a wonderful blend of sweet, savory and textures. I had the duck prepared medium rare. SB who is turning into a picky eater never fails to eat a quarter of my serving of duck, if not more. This delightful dish always makes me happy.

Why I chose this wine: The first time I bought this Plan de Dieu, I drank one glass at dinner. Then I finished the bottle over the course of five days. By day five, the wine had opened up into a lovely experience of lavender, thyme, black bramble fruits, clay and leafy tea. I could not believe all of the flavors that exploded in my mouth.

The second time I ordered this wine, my best friend was in town. While we finished the wine over the course of two days, the poor thing was too young for us to really enjoy its flavors.

This is the third time I purchased this wine albeit a new vintage. I had a glass at dinner and brought the rest home. It is my hope that in day three or four, I can begin to experience the herbal, floral character I had the first time I bought this wine. We shall see how the 2016 Plan de Dieu holds up in my kitchen cupboard over the next few days. I plan to do it. 😉


Plan de Dieu – translates to God’s Plain. Plan de Dieu is a region within Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, a wine producing area of Southern Rhone in France.

Want to know more about wine vintages? I usually visit the Wine Spectator, but their charts are considered member content. If you cannot access it, here is a free vintage chart from

Drinking Now: Gruet Blanc de Noirs at Bistro Le Cep

Life has been pretty challenging over the past few months. In order to release some stress and take advantage of the great spring weather in Houston, Allan, SB and I have been doing a once or twice weekly bike rides. We pack SB up in a bike trailer and ride about 15 miles after my work day. After that, we go to dinner. This time we went to Bistro Le Cep.

gruetblancdenoirs1bswebjpg_69Wine – Gruet Blanc de Noirs, Methode Champenoise – half bottle
ProducerGruet Winery
Varietal – 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay
Vintage – Non Vintage
Nose – Bready, yeasty, green apples, pear citrus
Palate – Fine frothy bubbles in the mouth. Bright acidity – my tongue is watering. The palate confirms nose, meaning that it tasted like buttery bread, kinda like a croissant with tart green apple, pears and a hint of sweet citrus.
Finish – Lovely finish – medium in length

What I AteBistro Le Cep is a little French Bistro on Westheimer Ave in Westchase section of Houston. I ate the veal medallions in a mushroom sauce served with caramelized carrots and spaetzle.

Why I chose this wine – I knew that I wanted a wine that would go well with my food and wines with higher acidity do just that.  I did not really like the by-the-glass pour wines on the wine list. I knew the champagne method sparkling wine would deliver the complex flavor and acidity that I liked at a reasonable price.


Blanc de Noirs – translated as “white from blacks,” blanc de noirs white wine from black grapes. In this case, Pinot Noir is the red grape used to make this

Méthode Champenoise – now formally known as Traditional method outside of the Champagne region of France. When you see this phrase, it means that the wine makers used the same labor intensive process to make this wine as they do to make Champagne.

Part 3: Unexpected Snowbird – Falls, Protecting Yourself and Acute Inpatient Rehab Works!

The New York Times published How to Prevent Falls by Jane E. Brody January 8, 2018. The article served as a PSA about preventing falls and protecting against serious injury if you do find yourself in a sudden descent from an upright position. The article talked about the uptick of fall injuries during the winter months when surfaces become slippery with ice because of falling temperatures associated with winter. They also talked about slipping in the bath and tripping over clutter.

The article also reviewed the right way to fall. When falling forward, try to twist as you go down to land on your side then roll over to your back. If you are falling backward, tuck your chin to your chest to avoid hitting your head and keep your arms in front of you, to lessen the backward impact. These lessons can help but what if you didn’t know that event was happening?

Coming Back to Consciousness

Dad’s fall was due to Orthostatic Hypotension which resulted in subdural hematoma. In other words, his blood pressure dropped and he fell. When he hit head on the pavement, the impact triggered bleeding in the brain aka, a stroke.

Orthostatic Hypotension itself causes dizziness, confusion and in extreme cases, passing out. This could explain why Dad had no recollection of the fall. He says he doesn’t remember even walking out of the restaurant minutes before.

The subsequent trauma can lead to brain damage and even death. Dad was very lucky that Mom was with him and ensured that he received immediate care. I have a cousin whose in-law had a similar accident earlier in the year. He fell on a busy street. However no one was with him. Minutes passed before people noticed that he was not conscious. Unfortunately his brain was irreparably damaged.

In total, Dad stayed in the hospital for 34 days. He didn’t fully wake up until December 25. He did not begin to remember people until 3 weeks in.

Dad entered the hospital on December 7. About a week into the stay, one of the attendants informed Mom that Dad was supposed to be released from the hospital on December 19 into a skilled nursing facility, and that she needed to find one.  Mom started researching options for facilities near her home and work. The literature for each facility looked great but what skilled nursing could provide did not seem to be enough. The information about the services varied. Mom had images of Dad laying unresponsive in a home. She supposed she would visit him before and after work. With just the weekend to research and the target discharge date a few days away, Mom asked for something more. The attending case worker that day said, “well this is normal for medicare patients.”

Mom was incensed. Yes, Dad was 80 but she carried him on her insurance. Did the case worker even look at the file?

Dad’s main doctor, noting Mom’s distress during one of his visits, consulted with her. He would consider Dad for Acute Inpatient Rehab in the hospital if Mom had visual proof that Dad did not have a pre-existing neurological condition like Parkinsons before the fall.

Luckily, mom had a video on her phone of dad dancing to calypso music at a cousin’s birthday in Trinidad just 3 weeks before the accident. The very next day, the doctor signed off on Acute Inpatient Rehab. He said he only sent people onto this program who were expected to make a full recovery.

By the end of the week, Dad was on the Acute Rehab floor. Here he would relearn everything – to sit up, to feed himself – everything to become independent again. But first, he would have to wake up.

The therapist came daily to work with him, to try feed him, get him to move. After 2 full days of therapy, Mom snapped. Her patience gone, she railed at the form on the bed. “You were accepted into this program. You need to work to get better. You need to eat and gain strength or I’m going to leave you in a nursing home!”

The very next day, on December  25, Dad became responsive thus starting the gym regimen. It was Christmas Day so Mom played Parang – folk music from Trinidad. On the 27th he started to recognize people. On January 9, the day of his release date, Dad’s doctor made a video of him dancing. Ok it was more like swaying his hips and shuffling feet. Dad was an inspiration for other patients entering the rehab wing.

Conclusion and Learning

After 18 days in Acute rehab, Dad was released to go home to follow up with a regimen of occupational, speech and physical therapy. More details to come on that in future posts.

Orthostatic Hypotension is not limited to older people. It can affect people at any age. It can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling faint or even passing out. If you routinely feel these symptoms when rising from a seated or lying position, you may choose to consult your doctor or try ways to combat low blood pressure.

Some ways to naturally combat low blood pressure and stabilizing yourself before you fall include:

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently to combat the dipping in pressure that happen after larger meals.
  • Stay hydrated. This is increasingly important as people age. As we age, the body loses the ability to tell that it is thirty. This was one of Dad’s issues. A few months before the fall, his primary care doctor had told him that he needed to drink more water.
  • Stand up slowly from a seated or lying position. Instead of just getting up and going, if you feel lightheaded make sure that you stabilize yourself before you move into open space.
  • Before you get up, pump or flex the calves to get blood circulating upwards. Flexing your feet helps fight gravity and circulate your blood back up the heart and head.

In addition to learning more about the perils of low blood pressure, I also learned about nursing and rehab facilities this winter.

I was most familiar with the Skilled Nursing Facility. Growing up as a piano student, I would routinely go to nursing homes to play for residents. There were patients of varying abilities, assisted by a nursing staff.

What is acute inpatient rehab? The goal of acute inpatient rehab is to help people regain the basic skills required for independence and self-sufficiency before they’re discharged from the hospital and re-enter community living.

There wasn’t one specific place to learn about rehab versus skilled nursing. The best comparison I found was on the Main Line Health website for Bryn Mawr Rehab. The linked site is marketing for their rehab but the service is similar to the care that Dad received. However, I really liked the comparison chart.

I am not a doctor and I offer no medical advice. These are just my own experiences within this serious situation. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, please be aware and take precautions for your future.

I Bought Wine Without Trying It – And It Was Awesome!

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See, after he opened his first bubbly with a saber

One of my good friends, See Wee, Is getting married in Singapore. We met while Allan and I had our wine shop, For Love of Wine. He discovered our wine classes and began to come by in his free time to hang out, taste wine, learn from representatives, and in time, teach about wine. When the holiday crush happened, he would even sell wine, just for the sheer joy of talking about it and sharing his passion.

In addition to his upcoming summer nuptials, it is his birthday today. To celebrate all the things, he and his bride just completed an 11 day road trip of Napa and Sonoma, planned by a sommelier friend. He invited us to come along. Alas, between the costs of living in two places unexpectedly, we could not afford to join him for either event.

I decided to send a surprise gift instead. I requested that he send me his itinerary for the road trip under the guise  that I would experience the wine and food vicariously through him.

I researched all of the wineries and decided to send a red and a white wine from Hourglass Winery in Calistoga, Napa Valley. The Owners came together over music.  The winemaker was from Cornell in Ithaca, NY and I am homesick.

The wines I chose and why I chose them

White Wine – 2017 Hourglass Estate Sauvignon Blanc

Hiking in the spring

California Sauvignon Blancs always remind me of late spring in Upstate New York. The winters in the Catskills where I live feel so long. In April, when most of the threat of snow is gone, it rains. With the rain, coupled with the thawing ground, there is mud everywhere.

Come May, one starts to smell hints of bud break in the trees before they leaf and flower. Maples, oaks, tree blossoms of apple, peach, and lilac begin to perfume the air. The mountain air is still sharp and cool, but the aromas hint at the warm days of blossoms and ripening fruit to come.

My favorite way to enjoy these California Sauvignon Blancs is after hiking by the creek or at the lake. My best friend Tsa and I hang out with my daughter, the dogs and a picnic. Though the days are still cool, everything hints to the  promises of summer. For me, the lush mouth feel of the fume blanc, the weight from oak aging, balanced with the bright acidity from the Sauvignon Blanc and the note of ripe peaches is another hint of the summer to come. For me, drinking this wine is this time of the year, but in a glass.

2017 Hourglass Estate Sauvignon Blanc
Appellation: Calistoga, Napa Valley
Varietals: 91% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Semillon
Treatment: Stainless Steel Tanks (40%), seasoned oak barrels (45%), new French oak (15%)

Tasting Note (paraphrased from the website): Primary aromas of lemon and lime zest, orange blossom and Granny Smith apples are followed on the palate with a layered blend of limeade, cut hay, white peach, pineapple and vanilla bean, wet stone minerality. The mid palate is a balance of creaminess and crisp vibrancy.


Red Wine – 2015 Blueline Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

One day, after doing a particularly heavy day of tasting, See Wee and I reviewed our notes. Now, for the record, when I am tasting wine, I am very academic about the whole thing in order to get the most unbiased thoughts of a wine. Only after I have tasted everything and evaluated each wine equally do I  actually think, “I like this” or “I don’t like this.”

After this day, reading through my notes, my friend, a scientist by training, said to me,

“Kristen, you like your reds young, not too young, but right before they are ready to drink or at peak.”

As wines age, the aromas we perceive will change. The tannins will soften and create a smooth feel in the mouth. Brighter berry flavors will morph to riper and more dried fruit flavors. The herb or greener qualities may change to more muted earth tones. Imagine eating the fruit off of a cherry tree at the start of the harvest and again at the end of the harvest. Flavors in a bottle change in a similar way.

I was thinking about our particular exchange while stuck in Houston traffic, imagining the beautiful wine that I selected. I realized that this preference could be likened to the anticipation of sex. Perhaps the anticipation of great sex is better than the reality of not quite satisfying sex. Unless the sex you are always getting is amazing, explosive, out-of-this-world, your partner has you crying for mercy again and again, I gather for many, it’s like the analogy I heard in college.  Sex is like pizza. Sometimes it’s really great, sometimes it sucks, but you always eat the pizza.

2015 Blueline Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Calistoga, Napa Valley
Varietals:  86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot
Treatment: 21 months in 100% new French oak Bordeaux barrels

Tasting Note (truncated from the website): Opulence and richness are the hallmarks of 2015 vintage, and the Blueline Cabernet Sauvignon demonstrates this in spades. The aromatics are a mingling of dense fruit scents, with cassis and blackberry bramble, a hint of barrel toast and crushed graphite that echo on the palate. The mouth feel is lushly textured, with a bright nervy minerality in the back mid-palate, a characteristic that defines our Blueline Estate wines. The tannins are sleek with a wide palate impression, and the wine has a long, arching finish.

Part 2 – Unexpected Snowbird – Bleak House

Dad and me on my 21st birthday

It was New Years and nothing was as it was supposed to be. SB and I recovered from the flu that we caught around Christmas but Allan was still sick. The flu that started with SB the week before, hit him and wouldn’t let go. Allan would go onto having fevers and chills for the next seven weeks.

Mom and Dad’s house was usually festive, bordering on garish, during the Christmas season. They used loads of shiny Mardi Gras beads as garlands around the tree. The multiple crèche that were usually strewn with colorful blinking lights that played carols, sat unadorned. However, all the decorations were still in brown boxes that lined the upstairs hallway. Dad pulled everything from storage days before the fall, but Mom would not move forward without him.

On New Year’s Eve, Allan raced from Clarksville, TN, hoping for a happy reunion. He was determined to spend the new year with SB and me.

However he was so ravaged from the flu he had no appetite for the meal I cooked and no interest in popping open the champagne. He fell asleep about an hour before the year turned. Then awoke about 15 minutes into the year very sad that he missed it.

Though it was no matter because I was a mess. I rang in the New Year with my best friend in New York by phone an hour before. I was terribly homesick and I was preoccupied with why I had not seen Dad as yet, among other things.

And when I finally got to visit Dad on New Year’s Day? Dad wasn’t happy to see me. He wasn’t unhappy to see me.

The First Visit

On Monday, New Year’s Day, Mom asked for the umpteenth time, “Do you want to see daddy?” To which I said as lightly as I could, “Of course – I’ve traveled all this way, haven’t I?”

Mom instructed us to come to the hospital in the afternoon. Dad was scheduled to be finished with his rehab sessions. He was in acute rehab for most of the day.

Allan being ill, did not want to potentially spread his illness to Dad who, at 80, was already at risk for infection.

I left Allan at the bookstore while SB and I went to the hospital.

After leaving the car with the valet at CHI St. Luke, I took the elevators to the 17th floor. The doors slid open and Mom met us with a box of masks in hand.

“You have to wear this!” She was aggressive as she thrust a mask in my hand and tried to put on one SB. SB was scared – she had never seen mom with as mask on. She squirmed and cried.

Dad’s room faced east. It was 4 PM. The sun was setting and the city lights were coming up. The darkening twilight blue sky and the twinkling lights might have been magical were it not for the fluorescent lights humming at full force.

SB still refused the mask and I could sense mom’s frustration. I know Mom just wanted to keep Dad healthy and on the road to recovery but SB was scared. Gone was the friendly grandma face from FaceTime. All SB saw was worried eyes on top of a mask. Mom told me earlier about the family room, so I suggested that she take SB there.

I walked into the room.

“Hi Dad! I’m here,” I said as cheerfully as I could giving him a kiss and a hug while trying not to jostle tubes and needles.

I kept thinking, Smile with the eyes and people can hear a smile in your voice.

Mom had said before that Dad did not like the hospital food. However she didn’t prepare me for the sight of him. Dad had a gray pallor. His complexion was ashen. He was too skinny. His weight was written on the board – 114 lbs. I hadn’t been 114 since I was 12 years old.

There was a line of hand held urinals marshalled on a nearby counter. A portable toilet was at the foot of the bed. The toilet was attached to a walker – like the one we got for my Grandma when she lost mobility at age 91 a few months before she died.

I purposefully picked the closest seat to him that I could – as if to tell him, or myself, your frailty doesn’t bother me.

I tried to carry on a conversation, but it was hard. Dad wasn’t conversant.

After telling him about recent travels, work and some current events, we sat silently letting the TV fill the space. MSNBC was on, but Dad provided none of his usual side commentary. He looked at the screen as if it were an alien.

About 30 minutes later, Mom and SB came back. SB ran to me, hid in my side and cried. Mom was insisting on the mask now that she was back in the room. I argued, that she was fine and under my scarf which already had a host of other cooties on it. I moved away and let her rest buried under the dark teal colored cloth on my lap.

Soon, the orderly came with dinner. Dad became animated for the first time during my visit. He was grumpy. Mom lifted the lid off the plate. Dry chicken, limp veggies, iceberg lettuce with a cherry tomato, some grated carrots and a Sysco food service light Italian dressing packet. To drink, there was a cup of watered iced tea. The highlight of the tray was the individual packet of Mrs. Dash. Mom unpacked a can of Glucerna from the cabinet with her personal belongings. Dad accepted help to sit up and move his legs over the side of the bed. He fed himself about half of the chicken, dusted w/ Mrs. Dash with a chaser of Glucerna. No wonder he was only 114 lbs.

After the visit

I left dad’s room with mixed feelings. I was glad he was ok. I was upset that he was more engaged by the bad food. I was hurt that he was more interested in SB wearing the mask than actually talking to her.

I picked Allan up from the bookstore. He was hangry. I was bewildered. SB was the only happy one, relieved to be away from the room with the masks.

It was solidly rush hour in Houston. There was no way to get back to the other side of town quickly. So we drove to the only other place we knew – The Mall.


That night I lost myself in a bit of retail therapy. I bought a yoga mat and some workout clothes. I don’t know what I had been thinking when I left New York. I had packed for Christmas at Mom and Dad’s – going out to their favorite places, visiting their friends and going to mass. I wasn’t packed for sitting around an empty house all day.

When Mom asked me to come for a few weeks and that Dad would really appreciate it, would he really? This first visit made me doubt it.