First tasting generates smiles, not just due to wine

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I attended the first wine tasting of Mt. Town Wine Club last night, the group I launched recently on behalf of Jim Holton, owner of Mountain Town Station in Mt. Pleasant. The gathering was small, but a big success. Every one of the 10 people attending left feeling happy … and not just from the wine! The smiles were a reflection of exceeding expectations.

Luckily my task was only to promote the event, helping encourage people to come mostly through the Facebook Group page, and other various social media channels. The details associated with ensuring the event was a smashing success were the job of Hillary Williams, and she hit it out of the park with our first event. From the informative tasting placemats, the generous pours, easy to fill out wine order forms and the outstanding appetizer spread … everything was above and beyond.

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Together Hillary and I have partnered to gather a community of wine lovers, generate conversation and camaraderie, offer opportunities to come together, get to know each other and learn about and drink wine. The Facebook Group community is our chance to communicate and share interesting, fun things related to wine. These tastings are our chance to actually meet each other face-to-face, expand our knowledge and share a glass.

Last night Wine Club members gathered around a table inside Camille’s on the River with a shared love for wine. an interest in tasting some new varietals and becoming a bit more educated about wine. We introduced ourselves as we took our seats and we raised a glass, sharing a toast as the inaugural Mt. Town Wine Tasting group. Sommelier Belinda Ladouce of Fabiano Brothers walked us through the four wines and shared her wealth of knowledge about winemaking in Washington State as well as all things wine. The intimate setting allowed for lots of questions and conversation.

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From the exceptional selection of wines to the incredible spread of appetizers, which paired beautifully with the wines, everyone walked away happy to be part of the inaugural Mt. Town Wine Tasting group, and looking forward to the next tasting. Here are just a few of the take aways from last night’s event (some wine related, some wine club friend related):

Wine Notes:

  • There are more than 600 wineries in Washington State, it is the nation’s second largest wine producer with 50,000 acres planted.
  • Washington has 13  American Viticultural Areas (AVA), federally designated wine grape-growing region in the United States all but one located in Eastern Washington.
  • Washington Ranks 2nd nationally in premium wine production.
  • White Riesling among most popular wine produced in Washington.

Wine Club Members Chatter:

  • Red wine lovers surprisingly liked the Riesling from Ryan Patrick Vineyards. “Who knew we could like a sweet white?” “Light … nice for summer.”
  • The grilled Halloumi cheese on top of piece of grilled biscotti, followed by taste of the Chardonnay described as “an explosion in your mouth.” (it really was yummy, my first taste of Halloumi cheese ever. I loved it.)
  • Best for last … the 2009 Red Wine from Shining Hill was definitely worth the wait. “This tops off the night.”

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4 tips from the self-dubbed family photographer

I recently uploadeda photo album to my Facebook page highlighting the many smiles and laughter shared during our annual summer family gathering. The album includes photos snapped by me and my father-in-law throughout the holiday weekend. As the kids whip out their iPhones to capture moments, we reach for our 35 mm digital cameras (mine a Canon Rebel, dad’s a Canon Sureshot). The younger generation could view us as outdated, but instead they greet us with happy grins when asking them to smile and pose.

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Granted smartphones offer an easy option to photography these days. And the many editing apps available allow for a whole new level of creativity in online photography.  I also whip out my iPhone 5 often to shoot, upload, edit and post to social media. But there’s still no replacement for a photo taken with a real camera.

My love for cameras and photography is something I inherited from my dad, who in turn got it from his dad. Grandpa spent his career surrounded by the latest photography equipment of the day as a camera buyer for the former J.L. Hudson Company. We grew up lining up and squeezing together for group photos at every event and blinded by the bright lights of the old movie cameras while blowing out birthday candles.We moaned and groaned in counting to three and saying cheese for what seemed like a million times at every family gathering. However, to this day the photo albums filled with these pictures are the favorite things when visiting my parent’s house.

Following our family get-togethers my dad was known for dashing off to Walmart to get his photos developed and quickly placed in an album to show off the latest activity. He even had a numbering system where the back of each photo was marked so the matching negative could be identified, in case someone wanted copies.

Nowadays those photo albums lined up on my parent’s fireplace hearth have been replaced with digital photo albums posted online. I feel as though I’ve stepped into my dad’s role as our family’s chief photographer. I’m armed with my camera and snapping pictures at our many life events and activities and then hurrying to upload, edit, post and share them.

Luckily the task no longer requires a trip to Walmart for processing. As the family photographer there are a few tricks I’ve learned about capturing moments, editing photos and posting and sharing. Perhaps these four tips will be helpful to other family photographers. If you play the role of photographer in your family, I’d love to hear any tricks you’ve learned.

4 family photographer tips

  • Capture smiles in action: perhaps it’s a result of all those years lining up, squeezing together and saying cheese, but I tend to avoid forced group photos. I opt for a bit more spontaneity and go for a stop in the midst of action shots.

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  • Less is usually more:  I find photos with two to three people turn out better and are preferred over photos with larger groups. You can just plain see a couple people’s faces, expressions and emotions better when there’s just a few in the photo.

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  • People are preferred: I use the term “peoplize” in working clients to create content. My point … include people always (or as often as possible). People prefer seeing people in photos. Test this theory yourself, look at a collection of photos and see which ones your eye is drawn to. I’m betting on the people pics.

 

  • A little editing goes a long way: I recently discovered picmonkey.com and I run every photo through the easy-to-use online editing suit before posting. Regardless of how perfect the shot, I’ve found a dash of color and a pinch sharpening can enhance any photo. If you haven’t tried a photo editor, picmonkey.com is free and very user-friendly. If you’re a Mac user, it compares to iPhoto. Can’t say enough about photo editing.

5 habits for personal happiness every day

With all of content related to being happy hitting my radar lately, I’m feeling prompted to write about happiness. I’ve come across a few bloggers who’ve selected a “word for the year.” Perhaps happiness should be mine. I shared a … Continue reading

Art Reach’s Festival of Banners — one small step towards collaboration

I don’t typically have to look far to find something that makes me smile in our community. A quick ride throughout downtown Mt. Pleasant and up and down Pickard Street in Union Township causes me to grin these days as I admire the artistic talent of community members displayed on light posts, part of Art Reach of Mid Michigan’s third annual Festival of Banners.

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Ryan Backus - "Milo & Mini" - ArtReach of Mid Michigan's Festival of Banners

This year I experienced a close-up view of the banner project as our youngest son and resident family-artist submitted a design for the festival. I now have a stronger appreciation for local artistic talent after accompanying Ryan to “paint day”, where he spent several hours recreating the masterpiece he submitted on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper onto a 30-by-60-inch canvas, almost twice the size of him.

Ryan Backus - Festival of Banners "Milo & Mini"

Our family artist Ryan Backus proudly displaying his masterpiece for Festival of Banners

Ryan was one of 365 children, students, residents and artists to have their creativity displayed throughout Mount Pleasant and Isabella County. Watching local artists mix paint colors and bring their visions to life in vibrant color, I was in awe at the incredible amount of talent we have here in our town.

An interesting and unintentional outcome of the Banner Festival this year is collaboration. Who knew such an event could generate goodwill between community entities that have not always worked from a “we’re in it together” mindset in the past.

Union Township, Isabella County and the City of Mt. Pleasant have come together in the Festival of Banners. The event received rave reviews in its first two years as a City of Mt. Pleasant-only project, prompting Union Township and Isabella County to both voice an interest is expanding the project. As a result, banners are now hung throughout Union Township, Shepherd and Winn.

Considering the current push at the state level, from Governor Snyder himself, to encourage and reward collaboration within communities, I’d say the effort to join forces in the Festival of Banners is a small, but perhaps significant step, in the right direction for our local governing bodies.

As I see it, the door is opened … what other initiatives can we come together on to enhance and move our community forward?