Wine Review: California Red Wine Blend, Firefly Ridge

Firefly Ridge California Red Blend, Dry Heat Photography

After drinking Gin for most of the summer, the Fall Equinox seemed a good time to renew my relationship with wine.

Firefly Ridge California Red Blend is normally about $10 but was on sale at Albertson’s in Los Lunas for $5.99. Wine can become an expensive habit, you know, so I say save money were you can.

I was pleased with my half price bottle of wine.

The label doesn’t offer up much information but I would guess the blend to be Cab, Syrah, and Zinfandel.

Very rich and smooth with a nice chocolatey, oaky-ness about it. Before I knew it, I had finished my third glass and went to bed at 9:50pm on a Saturday night because I know how to party like I’m 42.

Other pertinent info: 13.5% alcohol. Before bed, I felt the possible beginnings of a red wine headache but 3 ibuprofen and eight hours of shut-eye later and my head is just fine.

In other news, Los Lunas is overflowing with yellow Clouded Sulphur Butterflies. They love the purple flowers that grow wild in my yard and these are the same flowers that in the photo with the wine above.

Yellow Clouded Sulphur Butterfly.

Yellow Clouded Sulphur Butterfly

The Unknowable Alternate Outcome


This isn’t a post about drinks.

Two weeks ago today, I was driving home from the store and a teenage girl rear-ended me at a traffic light. She wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and neither was her 14 year old brother. His head broke the windshield.

Two weeks.

Since then she and her family have refused to cooperate with their insurance company. They won’t return any phone calls or make an official statement.

Officially, I am not a fan of these people.

Because of this, her insurance has not accepted liability for the accident.

I have sent photos and the police report.

I have called, and called, and called…

I have tried being nice, polite, professional, patient, condescending and sarcastic, demanding to know in what universe any of this makes sense and to speak with a manager.

No matter what I say or how I say it, they won’t accept liability until they speak with the driver. They’re not trying very hard to contact her, and even if they were, I saw on Instagram that she’s been out of town – living it up at summer girl’s camp.

That’s right, her parents still let her go to summer camp after she destroyed a vehicle and damn near killed her brother. Apparently she’s the favorite of the two.

I didn’t see anything in her IG feed about that.

No photos of her brother’s bloody face or the wrecked front end of her truck. No video of her hysterical crying, no photos of the citations.

Just goes to show, you shouldn’t believe everything you see on social media.

Two weeks.

Her insurance won’t even look at my car. They won’t help me out with a rental, they won’t cover the repairs to my camera. (I was driving home from a wedding before I stopped at the store and my camera case was in the trunk).

In the meantime, I’ve still had to make my car payment. You know, the payment on the car I don’t have and can’t drive because somebody was careless and now can’t be bothered to make a phone call.

And about all this, I am really pissed off, but irresponsibility and injustice are not the point of this story.

Incidentally, my insurance has stepped in and they’re taking care of things now, though I may possibly end up having to pay my deductible.

But what if what I’m describing is only part of the story and there is another force at play here that is unseen?

There is a thin veil between blessed and cursed. It’s called the Unknowable Alternate Outcome.

I wasn’t hurt in the accident. To the contrary, I had less neck pain after the accident than I did the day before the accident. Call it an unfavorable way to get a chiropractic adjustment but it worked.

I love my car but the truth of matter is that it’s expensive. I bought it in January of this year and then promptly quit my day job. Since then, I have found other work and am making the payments but it’s often a stretch.

Stay with me now.

The main reason I wanted to trade in my old car, a 2010 Hyundai Accent, is because I found out that the safety ratings on it were really bad. I mean, like, if a 1989 Ford Ranger driven by a careless 16 year old girl plowed into me at 35 mph in that car I might be dead right now, bad.


On the other hand, the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze is a very safe car. I absolutely believe that the safety engineering of Cruze is what kept me safe in the accident. If I had still been driving the Hyundai, things may have turned out much differently.

Could it be the whole reason I bought the Cruze in January was to save my bacon at 2:30 in the afternoon on July 27, 2018 in Los Lunas, New Mexico?

But wait, there’s more.

On the day of the accident, I had photographed a wedding in Albuquerque in the morning and was planning to have a little dinner party with adult beverages and pizza at my house that night. On my way home from the wedding, I stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up the aforementioned adult beverages and pizza. Wal-Mart is on the other side of Los Lunas from where I live so to go there meant taking a different way home.

So may times I thought, “Why didn’t I just go straight home?”, “Why couldn’t I have just gone to Albertson’s instead?”, “Why didn’t I stay at the wedding for just a few moments longer?”

What if I wasn’t in that exact place at that exact time?

Well, what if, indeed?

When the truck hit me, I was the eighth car in line at a stoplight. The truck hit me so hard that I hit the car in front of me. It was a rickety old Hyundai sedan, several years older than the one I had recently traded in. I didn’t hit it hard, just a little tap that didn’t cause any damage. In contrast, there was two feet of intrusion into the back of my car.

Two feet of crushed steel and body panels, lights and electronics. My license plate was bent in half.


The car in front of me was driven by a woman and there was a two year baby girl in the backseat. The baby was fine, belted into a child seat but even so, it would’ve been no match for a speeding truck, it was a minimal child seat and it was facing the wrong direction (forward instead of backwards) for a child that young.

What if I wasn’t in that exact place at that exact time?

What if the truck hit them instead of me?


A mother loses her baby daughter and a 16 year old girl is charged with vehicular homicide.

How lucky we all are that my car was in the middle and there was no one in my back seat.

What if I had taken a different route home and been in an even worse accident that my car couldn’t protect me from?

Instead of pushing up daisies this morning, I got to wake up next to my husband safe in my bed. I got to see the sunrise, feed the hummingbirds, and to play with my dogs. I got to hang out with my family yesterday and photograph lightning last night.

I got all of that and all I can do is bitch and whine and complain to everyone I know about the injustice of it all.

Can’t know the alternate outcome but it’s reason to reconsider.








Gin Days Of Summer: Lemon Lavender Gin and Tonic


Lemon Lavender Gin and Tonic
Doesn’t this look good?

Gin and Tonic, the quintessential summer cocktail, made famous by Ernest Hemmingway and rumored to prevent Malaria.

It doesn’t, but nothing refreshes the soul at the end of a hot day on the Dark Continent like a Gin & Tonic .

Hemmingway drank a Gin & Tonic and he killed himself on a Sunday in Idaho. There may have been a different reason why.

What’s in a Gin & Tonic, you ask?

Well…. Gin and Tonic. See there, that’s an easy one.

But wait, what if this self explanatory cocktail could be improved upon?

I present for your consideration the Lemon Lavender Gin & Tonic.

Hemingway would never daisy-up his liquor with girly things like Lemon and Lavender but no one asked him. You know, because he’s dead.

Follow the flowchart: 

In an empty glass, muddle a sprig of fresh Lavender with a good size slice of lemon. I did not add sugar to the mix, but you could if you wanted. Incidentally, Tonic Water usually has quite a bit of sugar in it already.

Fill the glass with ice.

Top with Tonic Water.

Either serve with a cocktail straw or stir with a spoon. All the good stuff is at the bottom.

Garnish with a lemon wedge and a sprig of Lavender, preferably one with flowers.

Fresh homegrown lavender.
Home grown Lavender, fresh from my yard.

This flavor set may not be for everyone, but I found it to be nice. Earthy and fresh. Drunk on aromatherapy, you could say.

Lemon Lavender Gin and Tonic Summer Cocktail

Grown-up Dessert: Orange Cream Bourbon Float

Orange Cream Bourbon Float

It’s like party punch from the church basement but with an evil twist.

Now, you could use standard issue orange sherbet but I think my option is better; Dryer’s Orange Sherbet / Vanilla Ice Cream blend. It’s got the orange and the cream all under one roof.

Follow the flowchart:

Sherbet/Ice Cream goes in the glass first. Use as much as you like. I say pile up the scoops to the top of the glass.

1.5 oz shot of Bourbon. Pour the bourbon directly over the sherbet. I used Jack Daniels but feel free to use any kind you like.

Top off with Orange Cream flavored seltzer water. Pour slowly and down the side of the glass because it will foam, a lot.

Garnish with a slice of orange and fresh cherries.

Jack Daniels Ice Cream Float


Gin Days Of Summer: Lemon Rosemary Cucumber Collins


Rosemary Lemon Collins Gin Cocktail

The Lemon Basil Collins was exceptional, and I do love me some Basil, but…this Lemon Rosemary Cucumber Collins smells and tastes like Heaven’s Happy Hour. Like Castiel swooped down in his trench coat and said, “Here, drink this to exorcise demons. You’re welcome.”

Like the Basil, the Rosemary is also from my yard, which makes it just that much better.


Organic Rosemary, garden grown in New Mexico
Rosemary growing in my yard.

This drink is more savory than sweet, for those us who don’t always like our alcohol to taste like candy.

Follow the flowchart:

In an otherwise empty glass add one slice of lemon, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and one sprig of fresh Rosemary.

Muddle muddle muddle… the more you muddle, the more flavor is released from the Rosemary. Muddle muddle muddle.

On top of the now muddled mess of Lemon, sugar, and Rosemary, add several slices or chunks of cucumber and fill the glass with ice.

Add 1.5 oz shot of Gin.

Top off with unsweetened Lemon flavored seltzer water.

Stir, cause all the good stuff is at the bottom.

Garnish with a Lemon wedge and another sprig of fresh Rosemary.

Buckle up for some serious yum!

Lemon Rosemary Collins Gin Cocktail ingredients


Gin Days Of Summer: Lemon Basil Collins


Lemon Basil Collins Gin Cocktail

The Lemon Basil Collins, it’s truly a magical creation.

But you have to understand, I love Basil. I mean, I love Basil more than most people. Like, wwaaayyyy more.

This cocktail is bright, crisp, and refreshing. Absolutely perfect for a hot summer afternoon in New Mexico.

Fresh organic Basil, garden grown in New Mexico.
I even grew the Basil in my yard.

Follow the flowchart:

At the bottom of an otherwise empty glass add:

1 slice lemon

1.5 teaspoons sugar

Several Basil leaves.

Muddle until the Basil leaves show signs of bruising, which will release the flavor from the leaves.

On top of the the muddled lemon, sugar, and basil, fill the glass with ice.

Add 1.5 oz shot of Gin.

Top with unsweetened lemon flavored seltzer water.


Garnish with a slice of lemon and a sprig of fresh basil.
Lemon Basil Gin Cocktail


Gin Days Of Summer: Orange Cream Collins


Orange Cream Collins Gin CocktailYou really can’t go wrong mixing Gin with most any type of citrus. Although the traditional Tom Collins is not a sweet drink (being only Gin, lemon juice, and club soda), thus far my drinks have all been pretty sweet. My series of Collins-ish cocktails was born out of an effort to make Xavier happy. He’s a fan of sweet and he told me he was on a mission for the “Perfect Tom Collins”.

I may not have mentioned it previously but in my younger days, I spent three years working as a bartender in Las Vegas, Nevada. I even attended a private bartending academy so I could be grossly overqualified for deflecting pervy old men, opening beers and pouring shots in my local neighborhood bar.

All that wasted mixology knowledge, sitting around collecting dust for the last twenty years, has finally found something to do.

I couldn’t say if I prefer the Cherry Limeade Collins to this Orange Cream Collins, as they’re both terrific, but here’s the recipe for the Orange Cream Collins.

In a glass of ice, mix the following in this order:

1.5 oz shot of Gin.

2 splashes of lime juice.

Top off with Orange Cream flavored seltzer water.

Stir. Don’t do anything else until you stir.

Garnish with a slice of orange and two maraschino cherries.

Pour in about a teaspoon of cherry juice from the jar (or Grenadine). The cherry juice will sink to the bottom creating a pretty layered effect.

Orange Cream Collins Gin Cocktail ingredients

P.S. It is not necessary to break the bank on these drinks. As you can see in the pictures, the cherries, lime juice, and seltzer water are all Wal-Mart house brand and are pretty inexpensive. The Gin came from Wal-Mart too and cost about $5.75 for a 750ml bottle. Obviously, there are higher quality Gins on the market but Caliber London Dry Gin is not bad for making mixed drinks where there are many other flavors at play.