Create Goosebumps (The Good Kind) By Choosing A Winter Wedding

The shorter days and the unpredictability of the elements make winter the least-popular season for weddings, with the vast majority of couples opting for summer or fall nuptials.

But more and more couples are finding the idea of tying the knot in the winter season romantic, cozy and unique ­— and also convenient in terms of booking venues.

While winter weddings can magical, they don’t come without their share of problems. It’s vital to think of every weather contingency, and to think of your guests: Will they have to walk along an icy path to get to the ceremony? Does the reception hall get chilly due to all the large windows? Or, conversely, does the room lack ventilation and get too warm and stuffy? Should a valet be stocked with umbrellas so no one gets drizzled on getting in and out of their car?

Following are tips to help create a winter wedding wonderland:

COLORS

Rich seasonal colors make this a great season for weddings, but overdoing the reds and greens can make the ceremony more holiday-oriented than you intended. Consider a less-is-more approach to your color palette: Silver and white with crystal accents can add some glamour to the proceedings. For the ceremony, try a white velvet aisle runner trimmed with white satin ribbon, or decorate the altar with a crystal curtain backdrop adorned with hanging strands of elegant white orchids.

FASHION

The first potential pitfall for weddings in most parts of the country is obviously the chilly temperatures. Be sure to dress your wedding party weather-appropriate. You can still choose strapless dresses or bridesmaid dresses with shorter hems, but consider incorporating wraps in an accenting color or even opaque tights if they will be spending a significant amount of time outdoors.

As for the bride, the long-sleeved wedding dress trend is gaining more and more favor, with brides everywhere rocking tons of new styles. From plaid toppers to lacy sleeves and modern minimalist long-sleeved dresses, the diversity in this style makes it a no-brainer for many winter brides.

DÉCOR

While you probably won’t want to plan an outdoor winter wedding reception (especially if you live in an area that gets plenty of snow and ice), there are still lots of ways to bring the beauty of the season indoors. Hang garlands of greenery or icicle-like crystals to highlight your dance floor or cake table, and incorporate plenty of candles, pinecones, and glittery details into your centerpieces. Another way to create a cozy reception is by using plenty of lush, soft textures — such as velvet, chenille, or tweed —into your decor. If you want to heighten the drama, bring in the icy outdoors with ice-carved vases on your reception tables.

FOOD AND DRINK

Serve soup shooters during the cocktail hour, hearty comfort food during the dinner, and pass out shortbread cookies and spiced cider for your late-night snack. When it comes to the cake, have the baker play up the season with a white, vintage-style cake, dusted with edible silver powder. For accents, why not add a white sugar ribbon and crystal drops cascading down one side of the cake.

For later in the evening, a decked-out hot chocolate and churros station will warm everyone up. As far as favors are concerned, send your guests home satisfied with small packages of chocolate-covered cranberries or roasted chestnuts.

A winter cocktail hour calls for warm, comforting drinks. You really can’t go wrong with hot chocolate and warm apple cider, but why not serve up white hot chocolate in small espresso cups as the guests arrive.

Winter Wedding Inspiration Part II

FLOWERS

Red roses, calla lilies, and amaryllis are decidedly winter wedding flowers, but if you think outside the flower box, you’ll find a variety of options for winter blooms. Consider fuller flowers, such as white hydrangeas and soft ranunculuses. White boutonnieres can be handsome when they’re accented with greenery, but they also look great with a simple white ribbon.

MUSIC

A classical pianist playing during dinner is a sure way to create an elegant ambience, but consider a more unexpected accompaniment. For a musical twist, hire an a capella quartet to sing background music at the reception. If you’re into a more classical sound, hire a cellist and ask that Vivaldi’s “Winter” be included in the repertoire.

  In the end, don’t sleep on winter. It holds its own magic and can help create goosebumps (and not just from the chill in the air).

Aroma Wheel Helps Us Find The Descriptive Words To Describe Wine

Famed author Ernest Hemingway once said: “A person with increasing knowledge and sensory education may derive infinite enjoyment from wine.”

In wine tasting, wine is always smelled before being drunk in order to identify some components of the wine that may be present.

It is through the aromas of wine that wine is tasted. The human tongue is limited to the primary tastes — acidity, bitterness, saltiness and savoriness — perceived by taste receptors on the tongue

Conversely, the human olfactory bulb in the brain interprets a wide array of flavors, and in wine that includes fruity, earthy, floral, herbal, mineral and woodsy.

Hemingway, of course, was a man of many words. For others, though, it’s difficult to accurately describe the wine aromas swirling around our nasal receptors. We just can’t find the words.

That’s why Ann C. Noble, now a retired professor from the University of California at Davis, invented the Wine Aroma Wheel — a tool to enhance one’s ability to describe the complexity of flavor in red and white wines.

Initially, most people can’t recognize or describe aromas, so the purpose of the wheel is to provide terms to describe them. The wheel has very general terms located in the center (such as fruity or spicy), going to the most specific terms in the outer tier (such as strawberry or clove). These are not the only words that can be used to describe wine, but represent ones that are most often encountered.

Noble designed the wheel to enhance the whole wine experience.

Fortunately, we can all easily train our noses and brains to associate descriptive terms with specific aroma notes in wine. Using the wheel during wine tasting will facilitate the description of the flavors we perceive. More importantly, users can begin to easily recognize and remember specific details about wines.

After earning her Ph.D. in Food science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Noble arrived at UC Davis in 1974 to work in its sensory research program. After studying the techniques and application of wine tasting, Noble discovered that there was no objective framework or widely agreed upon terminology that a wine taster could use to describe things such as “earthy” aromas or the different smells of various fruits that can show up in a wine. In 1984, her research led her to develop the Aroma Wheel. It provides a visual graphic of the different categories and aroma components that one can encounter in wine. It uses standardized terminology for use by both professionals and amateur wine tasters.

The wheel breaks down wine aromas into 12 basic categories and then further sub-divides them into different aromas that can fall into those main categories.

  • Chemical: Includes aromas like sulfur and petroleum
  • Pungent: Aromas like alcohol
  • Oxidized: Aromas like acetaldehyde
  • Microbiological: Aromas like yeast and lactic acid
  • Floral: Aromas like geraniums and linalool
  • Spicy: Aromas like licorice and anise
  • Fruity: Aromas like blackcurrant and apricot
  • Vegetative: Aromas like eucalyptus and artichoke
  • Nutty: Aromas like walnut and hazelnut
  • Caramelized: Aromas like butterscotch and molasses
  • Woody: Aromas often imparted by oak like vanilla and coffee
  • Earthy: Aromas such as mushroom and mildew

Noble retired from Davis in 2002 and in 2003 was named Emeritus Professor of Enology. Since retirement she has participated as a judge in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Her famed Aroma Wheel can be purchased from the website www.winearomawheel.com.

Having A Common Interest Creates That Needed Connection For Couples To Create A Spark

When it comes to relationships, having different interests is not always a bad thing. Happy couples require very little common ground. All they really need is a shared desire to make the relationship work and a willingness to accept one another’s differences. However, sharing one deep passion can create an immediate connection, and draw two likeminded people together.

Tom McIntyre and Talia Ibargüen never would have fallen in love and gotten married if not for their rare shared interest in wildlife.

The two met in college at Northeastern University in Boston. “We were both in the same major (wildlife biology),” she said. “We went on an accidental first date.”

That accident happened because the wildlife biology department received free tickets to attend an early screening of a nature documentary.

“No one was interested in going except Tom and me,” she said. “I baked a lot of cookies thinking there would be more people.”

Tom ate all of the cookies … and the couple fell in love.

When it came to the proposal, wildlife again entered into the picture.

“Tom and I had been discussing marriage for a bit,” Talia said. “We took a trip back to my home in Alaska, and while sitting on the beach across the bay from my parents’ house, Tom proposed.”

Witnessing that proposal was a pair of “curious young sandhill cranes who kept creeping up and peaking at us through driftwood.”

Tom and Talia were married in June of 2015 and chose Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley as the venue. The couple took a month-long road trip from Alaska through the West and Southwest, and had “very fond memories of our time in Carmel,” Talia said. “We knew that the weather would be reliable in the summer for an outdoor wedding!”

The wedding was the first among the children’s generation on both sides of Tom’s family, so everything needed to be perfect.

“They are all from the East Coast, and if they were going to make the trip to California, it needed to live up to their California vineyard expectations.”

It did.

“It is a gorgeous location. We loved that everything was included! The landscaping is all so beautiful that we didn’t feel the need to get a bunch of flower arrangements. It was casual and allowed the natural setting to be the focus of the wedding, not just some disposable decorations.”

Because neither family is ultra-religious, the couple knew they did not want to wed in a church, but outside among nature’s beauty. Holman Ranch fit that bill perfectly.

“Tom’s family is Irish Catholic by inheritance,” Talia said. “We weren’t going to get married in a church, but we did have some of the bridesmaids carry Bells of Ireland flowers down the aisle. It was enough to make Tom’s mom cry.”

The one thing the couple will never forget about their wedding day is arriving at Holman Ranch the day before the wedding and seeing the stand of Matilija poppies right behind where they planned to recite their vows.

“We had only seen Holman when they weren’t in bloom so it was a huge surprise,” Talia said. “They are my favorite flower and it complemented our wedding perfectly.”

The couple plans to put off a honeymoon for now. “We have the rest our lives for adventures,” she said.

Thanks to a common interest.

Other Vendors:

Caterer: Five Star Catering

Photographer: Wanderlust Photo Co.

DJ/Band/Musicians: Steve Ezzo & the Monterey Allstars

Bakery: Kara’s Cupcakes

 

Finding The Right First Horse Means Searching With Your Eyes Open

Buying a horse can be both emotionally and financially draining. It can take months to find the perfect steed — only to have your heart broken when it doesn’t work out for one reason or another. Before you trot down this road, it’s vital to understand that owning a horse is a life-changing event, and you need to proceed with your eyes wide open.

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Gather your thoughts

First and foremost, it’s important to determine exactly what you’re looking for in a horse. You may want to go so far as to write down some qualities that you expect in a horse. The basic features of size, height, breed and sex are excellent starting points, but you need to be more specific. For example, do you want a show horse or a horse that you can ride on the weekends? Are there certain characteristics that are deal-breakers, and what imperfections can you accept? Once you’ve organized your thoughts you will have a better description of your horse.

Dreams vs. reality

It’s critical that you don’t let your horse dreams blur reality. Many times horse buyers don’t think through their requirements and jump right away at a flashy horse they see friskily moving through a corral. It’s important to look at your riding ability to make sure the two match up, and realize that the dream of owning Black Beauty was a childhood fantasy.

Horses have personalities

Above all else, temperament may be the most important factor to consider when choosing a horse. You can always educate a young horse or tune up an older horse, but it’s hard to change a horse’s temperament.

Temperament can be evaluated both by asking the seller questions, as well as your own observations. If you are a more experienced rider, a bad attitude may be a factor that can be overlooked. It all comes down to finding qualities that are acceptable to you.

Observe your prospective horse

  It’s also important to observe the horse’s general appearance: Is he relaxed, does he stand square? Look for obvious disfigurements, check for balance and look for overdevelopment on one side. Does sudden movement or sound distract him? Look for a horse that is bright, alert and responsive.

  Observe the horse’s movement and attitude under saddle. Watch the horse for attentiveness: Is he relaxed or tense? Watch for head tossing, which could indicate resistance or mouth problems. At the lope or canter look for smooth rhythm and make certain he/she takes the correct lead in both directions easily.  

Get an expert’s help

Once you have found a horse and are ready to hit the buy button it’s important to get a veterinarian’s opinion about the horse. Although a horse may appear healthy it doesn’t hurt to get a professional’s opinion. A seemingly healthy horse can fail the vet exam in the first five minutes if the vet checks its heart rate and finds out it has a heart murmur. Vet checks can range from well horse exams to comprehensive exams that x-ray all the leg bones and joints.

 At this point it may be time to make a decision. Say your new dream horse is showing signs of joint wear and tear: Are you willing to spend money to manage its health and upkeep? Remember maintenance care doesn’t have to be a deal breaker when it comes to buying a horse, you just need to get all the facts and make sure it’s a match made in horse heaven.

Create Fancy Flavors By Infusing Olive Oil With Herbs, Aromatics

We all know that olive oil is great all on its own. After all, it’s a healthful, all-natural product made simply with one ingredient — pressed olives.

Flavored vinegars and oils

But making your own infused olive oils is an equally simple DIY process to put some pizzazz into your kitchen. Look no farther than your pantry or produce drawer for everything you need to create a personalized, inexpensive food product. Olive oil can be infused with dried herbs, spices, aromatics, citrus, even nuts. The end result is fantastic for making special salad dressings, drizzling over a dish of pasta, or simply as an appetizer with chunks of fresh, crusty bread. Making it is easy — and the end result is a great gift to share with friends.

Start with the best ingredients you can find or afford. Using good quality olive oil, fresh herbs, and organic ingredients will give you a cleaner and stronger flavor in your finished olive oil.

Wash all the ingredients going into your oil and let them dry completely — preferably overnight. Bacteria can’t grow in the olive oil itself, but it can grow in the water left on the ingredients going into the oil, and carelessness can lead to potential foodborne illness.

Here are some general tips:

  • Always keep flavored oils refrigerated. Infused oils last about 1 month when stored properly.
  • Allow flavored oils to sit out at room temperature for approximately 20 minutes before each use.
  • Don’t use flavored oils for deep-frying because leftover particles will burn.
  • When gifting flavored oils, include storage instructions as well as serving suggestions.

Choose your flavoring

Use one or two ingredients for a simple blend or a variety for a complex concoction. You will need about 2 tablespoons of flavoring agents (in total) per cup of oil.

When it comes to spices, you can flavor oil with either whole or ground spices. (If you want to use ground, buy the spices whole and grind them at home for the freshest flavors.) Some of the more popular infusion spices include cloves, curry, star anise, cardamom, mustard, cumin, fennel seed and paprika.

There are two ways to infuse spices into oil: on the stovetop or in the oven. Once the oil is infused, strain it using a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth, then funnel the liquid into a bottle.

On the stovetop, heat the oil in a medium saucepan with the spices for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is lightly bubbling. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely before straining.

Or place the oil and spices in a small pot on a baking sheet in a 300-degree oven for about 40 minutes. Remove the mixture from the oven and allow it to cool completely before straining.

Infusing olive oil with herbs

The most important rule for making your own herb-infused cooking oil is always to use fresh herbs: They have a purer flavor than their dried counterparts, and will give your oil a more vibrant color. Thoroughly wash and dry your herbs before getting started.

Soft herbs such as basil and cilantro should be blanched, shocked, drained, and blended with the oil in a food processor before being heated. Blanching the herbs will give your finished product a much more vibrant color than if you just blend them. Woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme can simply be heated directly in the oil to infuse their flavor. Warm the herbs and oil in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the oil is lightly bubbling. Remove from heat and let the oil cool completely.

Flavoring with aromatics

Oil infused with garlic, onion, or other aromatic fruits or vegetables is delicious for both dipping and cooking. It’s important to thoroughly wash and dry your aromatics, even after you’ve peeled them, to remove all traces of dirt and impurities. Help release their flavors and fragrances by roasting aromatics before heating them in oil. Then, in a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the aromatics in the oil for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is lightly bubbling.

Unlike herbs, leaving the aromatics in the oil after bottling will not result in cloudiness. In fact, they will continue infusing the oil, and their flavors will grow stronger over time.

Go nuts with olive oil

To make a nut-infused oil, start with nuts that are raw and unsalted. Save time by buying nuts that have already been skinned or blanched. Cooking the nuts in oil will impart a rich, savory, roasted flavor, but keep in mind that the resulting infused oil will taste different from actual nut oils, which are created by pressing oils out of crushed nuts.

Whatever infusion method you choose, the end result will be a tasty, aromatic alternative to regular olive oil — and perhaps a unique gift for the upcoming holiday season.

There Are Plenty Of White Wines That Deserve A Place In Every Cellar

It’s an age-old tradition: Buy a fine red wine from the famed regions of Bordeaux or Burgundy, and store the bottle on its side in a cool, dark place for a decade or so. This aging process sheds the tart and tannic astringency, replacing it with a mellow complexity that is coveted the world over.

Age-worthy reds typically gain longevity from tannins, the astringent substance that most red grape stems and skins impart. White wines, on the other hand, have little contact with the stems and skins and will have little tannin (though some can be gained through barrel aging). Therefore most white wines don’t age well, and even the ones that do get better with time will not last nearly as long as their red cousins.

Proper Balance Is Key

The concept, if not the actual practice, of cellaring age-worthy wines starts with a wine’s good balance between fruit and acidity. A wine that’s fat and flabby in its youth is more likely to fall apart than improve with age in the bottle. A wine that’s overly oaky or buttery isn’t likely to age gracefully either.

White wines need to rely far more heavily on acid and/or alcohol levels to allow them to reach a ripe and agreeable old age. That being said, aging white wines is still dependent on the same three factors as aging red wines:

  1. Is it the type of wine meant to be aged? One of the most age-worthy wines in the world is dry Riesling. The higher acid content allows Riesling to continue to improve over a 15- to 20-year span. Many New World Rieslings are much sweeter, which almost always means less acid. Chardonnays that are aged in new oak will pick up more tannins than other white wines and can also improve for 10 to 15 years. Crisper and fruitier whites will quickly degrade over just a few years.
  2. How was the wine made? If the white wine was made for mass appeal, it probably had much of the acid removed, so it shouldn’t be aged at all. If the wine was made to allow the fruit and the acid to balance, there is a good chance to improve that white wine with age (for at least a couple of years).
  3. What is the ideal storage temperature? Aging any wine requires that the temperature be stable. Wide temperature swings will move air in and out of the bottle causing it to oxidize quickly. Lower temperatures (mid 50s to very low 60s) are best, but at least find a spot that doesn’t have a lot of temperature fluctuations.

Exceptions to the rule

Most white wines are made to enjoy while they are young, but there are a few noteworthy exceptions; fine Rieslings, especially the best German examples from the Rhine and Mosel; the best white Burgundies, including top Chardonnays from California and Australia; dessert wines based on white grapes, such as Sauternes, late-harvest Rieslings, and Tokaji; top-end vintage Champagnes (although they tend to lose their fizz and take on “cork-aged” aromas). Many of these whites can age for a decade, and the best can go for 20 years or even longer. Sauternes from the 1950s often fetch record prices at auction.

When red wines are perfectly stored, the excitement of opening a 20- or 30-year-old bottle of a wine that was made to be aged this long offers some of the most exciting moments in the life of a wine lover.

The fact is, few white wines are ever stashed away by wine collectors, which is a shame, since a perfectly stored older white wine is, in some ways, more of a miracle and worthy of our patience.

The Five Elements Every Bride Should Carry With Her On Her Wedding Day

We all know the saying: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.”

Many brides have scrambled at the 11th hour of their wedding countdown to find just the right items to keep true to this old English tradition. The five elements are considered tokens of good fortune for the bride to carry on her wedding day. Originating from a charming Victorian rhyme, these small personal treasures are typically unique to each bride and rarely obvious to anyone but those who know and love her most.

The meaning behind the symbols

Something old represents continuity; something new offers optimism for the future; something borrowed symbolizes borrowed happiness; something blue stands for love, and fidelity (usually in the form of an item from a friend or family member in a good marriage); and a sixpence in the bride’s shoe is a wish for good fortune and prosperity.

Most modern brides happily keep up this tradition, because they still value vintage items and ideas. This may be partly due to a desire to hold onto something timeless, to grow together as a couple while creating their own timeless mementos.

As is the case in many wedding traditions, this one has its roots in superstition. Even if you are not a believer in luck, this tradition is a fun one to follow as it allows us to think about some of the symbolism involved. This tradition also helps to bridge the generations and bring a bride into a closer relationship with friends and relatives who help provide these five elements.

Fun ideas to inspire the bride…

  • Something Old: A great way to incorporate something old into your wedding is simply going vintage. Use a vintage veil, wedding dress, or even a wedding garter. There are quite a few ‘old’ items that you can stylishly incorporate into your wedding look. Many brides keep things traditional by wearing their mother’s or grandmother’s gems on the big day as it is both sentimental and practical. Or use a photo locket to display antique photos of loved ones that are no longer with you or couldn’t attend your big day.
  • Something New:  Whether it’s a gift to yourself or from someone else, accessories are the best way to add something new to your wedding. Try having champagne flutes monogrammed with your initials and use them at your wedding to toast to your future as husband and wife. Or have your wedding invitation engraved on a plate from Tiffany’s to display in your dining room. A bride’s wedding gown or jewelry is often chosen as the “new” item, conveying the message that the couple is creating a union that will endure forever.
  • Something Borrowed: Borrowing is so easy, especially if you have friends and family with great fashion sense. To help expand it from the wedding garments, try borrowing something simple such a beautiful pen for your wedding guest book or a gift box for your gift table. Traditional church-length veils make for a wonderful “something borrowed” as they’re a good classic item that never goes out of style. For the modern bride, a vintage clutch (from a mother or grandmother) can bring a little flare and sophistication to her wedding-day look.
  • Something Blue: There are some really gorgeous wedding garters that incorporate blue ribbons, or come completely blue. Great for the bride who doesn’t have blue in their wedding theme and would like to hide their something blue. Or use blue stitching to have your wedding date and initials monogrammed on the inside of your veil or dress.
  • A Sixpence: Traditionally this was given to the bride to keep in her left shoe on the day of the wedding to symbolize great wealth for her and her future husband. Unfortunately this British coin is no longer in circulation, but faux sixpences can be ordered online from David’s Bridal (www.royalmint.com) and a handful of other sites for brides willing to go that extra mile. Instead of wearing it in your shoe, try having a hole made in the coin and thread it onto a strand of pearls to wrap around your bouquet.

Whether or not you believe in superstition, this tradition can add layers of fun and intrigue to your wedding day. Start planning early, and generate all the good fortune you can muster.

When It Comes To Finding That Perfect Wine — Yes, There’s An App For That

All wines can be organized into five fundamental groups — red, white, rosé, sparkling and fortified. But within each group there are hundreds of different grape varieties (an estimated 10,000 around the world) and winemaking styles.

It can become confusing to say the least. But in our modern world there’s an app for everything — including for wine. There are numerous mobile apps out there that can help you make sense of the most arcane terms and find the right wine and food pairings for every occasion.

Today, thanks to tablets and smartphones, we have our very own portable sommelier, wine encyclopedia, tasting-note database and price-comparison chart in our pockets.

There are literally hundreds of apps, from individual producers, importers and critics to educational apps and price-comparison versions such as the soon-to-be-released Wine Owners (wineowners.com), which allows collectors to value their wine cellar on its database.

When it comes to straight-up wine information, two San Francisco-based companies lead the way. Vivino (free; vivino.com) and Delectable (free; delectable.com) both allow the user snap a photo of a wine label and instantly obtain information about the wine, including ratings and descriptions. You can also add your own notes and descriptions.

Their follow features allow users to see (and like and comment on) the bottles others are drinking, and each has an easy portal to Instagram.

For the wine-loving restaurant fan, some apps offer everything one could possibly need to navigate their way around a wine list. Take, for example, Raisinable (free; raisinable.com ), which compares the price of a wine on a restaurant list to its retail price. Similarly aimed at the beginner, the app Plonk (free; plonk-app.co.uk) includes an overview of grape varieties, wine styles, food pairings and country guides — and offers an audible pronunciation feature.

Here are a few other interesting wine-related apps:

  • Wine-Searcher (free; wine-searcher.com) takes its wine price-comparison website and translates it into an easy-to-use app. By tracking the lists of thousands of wine merchants, it provides a reliable database for buying wine. But where it really excels is in price comparison and helping you navigate the best places to buy a particular bottle.
  • Hello Vino (free; hellovino.com) is designed to as a personal wine assistant for the everyday wine buyer, suggesting the best wines to pair with food. Users can snap pictures of their purchases and add notes to their favorites. The app’s extensive wine guide allows users to read up on wine and grape varieties as well. A new feature on the iPhone app allows users to call a California-based wine concierge for advice when looking for the best wine.
  • Drync (free; drync.com) allows oenophiles to snap pictures of a wine label to quickly bring up its availability, price, tasting notes, descriptions and ratings within a 1.7-million bottle database. Users can track their favorite wines and even order them online with the app, and discover new wines based on their friends’ recommendations or the app’s own discovery engine.

Delaying That “First Look” Can Create Magical Wedding Day Moments

The moment when a bride and groom see each other for the first time on their wedding day is fraught with emotion, and invariably leads to plenty of hugs and happy tears.

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While some couples ignore old superstitions and don’t mind seeing each other before the ceremony (this avoidance started when marriages were arranged by families as a business transaction), others still prefer to make the day more exciting and memorable by waiting.

For Austin Callahan and Ryan Ramones, their “first look” during their April wedding at Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley will never be forgotten.

“I’ll never forget when he turned around, tears filled both of our eyes and we couldn’t stop embracing one another,” Austin said. “It was one of the most intimate, magical and honest moments of my life. Also being able to walk amongst the golden fields together after our ceremony was one of the most romantic moments of my life. It was just us and the sun setting creating golden light all around us in the sky.”

When Austin and Ryan stepped onto the Holman Ranch property, they knew it was the perfect place to hold their ceremony.

“Its beautiful landscape and how it has the ability to create such an atmosphere of love and romance was all-consuming,” she said. “Carmel is one of our favorite places in the world, and we wanted to share it with our closest family and friends.”

Another special moment was when they honored Austin’s late father and grandmother and Ryan’s late grandfather by releasing a single dove. “It signified them returning home like the dove did,” Austin said.

Austin and Ryan met while working together, and quickly became friends. “We found our extraordinary love in an ordinary place,” she said.

They had their first date at Newport Beach in Southern California. “We strolled along the pier and had our first kiss there,” Austin said. “We knew this was it.”

Ryan proposed above the city of San Francisco at Twin Peaks as the sun was setting.

“My best friends took me up to the spot and when I got there my mom was at the top with Ryan, who got down on one knee and asked for my forever,” Austin said.

The magic continued into the wedding ceremony.

“Our day couldn’t have been more perfect,” she said. “We honestly walked away saying to one another that we wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

The one piece of advice they’d give to other couples? “Focus on the love that you share and that you are committing to the love of your life.”

And delay that wedding-day “first look” for as long as you can.

 

Other Vendors:

Wedding Planner: Allison Silber

Caterer: Paradise Catering

Photographer: Jasmine Lee Photography

Videographer: Josh Harney Productions

DJ/Band/Musicians: Jon Belmont Entertainment

Bakery: Freedom Bakery

Hair and Makeup: Blush Makeup Studio Monterey

Signage: Bright Room Studios

Forget The Wine Coolers Of The 80’s – You Want To Celebrate Summer With A Traditional Wine Spritzer…

A wine spritzer is a cool, refreshing and delicious cocktail to have during the hot summer months — a drink worlds away from those insipidly sweet, bottled wine coolers that took America by storm in the 1980s.

With apologies to Mr. Bartles and Mr. Jaymes, the folksy pair who appeared in those memorable TV commercials, that beverage (and others like it) was made with blends of cheap, industrial white wine and artificial flavors released by major wine houses.

The wine cooler was actually a play on the wine spritzer, the original homemade wine cooler made with white wine (a dry chardonnay or a pinot grigio), soda water and fruit.

A spritzer can be a refreshing drink for an outdoor summer party or barbeque. It’s also an excellent (and delicious) way to bluff your way through cocktail hour because it’s often light, delicate and low on alcohol.

The wine spritzer is a summer staple from a simpler time. It’s rumored that Hungarian author András Fáy invented the drink in 1842 when he combined soda water (a wildly popular drink back then) with wine from his cellar during a party.

Other historians insist that Austria invented the drink, and the Italians improved on it (by added Prosecco) during the time when Venice was under the occupation of the Austrian empire. Today in many regions of Italy, especially Venice and its surrounding areas, a spritz is a popular, light cocktail with a mix of sparkling white wine (Prosecco), sparkling water, and Aperol, bitter Campari or other colored aperitifs.

Today, the spritzer is in vogue once again, making a comeback at garden parties across the nation, and even on the TV show “Shark Tank,” where a new product Bon Affair was recently funded. And there’s good reason: When done well, the wine spritzer is one of the most perfect libations for a hot summer’s day of outdoor sipping.

Before delving into more complicated wine spritzer recipes, it’s important to know how to make a classic white wine spritzer. It’s really easy — you just mix one-third cup of club soda with a cup of white wine (a good rule of thumb, regardless of batch size, is three parts wine to one part club soda).

From there you can add fruit and/or sugar; for example mix in a cocktail shaker 5 ounces of good-quality, dry white wine with 2 ounces of soda water, along with two strawberries, a teaspoon of sugar, and crushed ice.

Following are recipes for a modern wine spritzer, and a refreshing Italian spritz from famed chef Mario Batali:

Modern Wine Spritzer

3 oz. aromatic white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling)

1 oz. club soda

Dash of orange or lemon bitters

1 orange or lemon twist

Steps: Pour wine into a glass filled with ice; top off with club soda and bitters. Garnish with orange twist.

 

Mario Batali’s Aperol Spritz

(Makes 4 cocktails)

Ice

1 cup Aperol

2 cups Prosecco

4 slices of orange

4 large green olives (optional)

Steps: Add ¼ cup Aperol to four glasses and fill each with ice. Pour ½ cup Prosecco to each glass, add orange slice and place olive on top with a long toothpick. Serve.

 

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