California Wineries



Temecula sounds like a city in Transylvania, but it’s actually a city north of Rancho Bernardo by about 45 minutes (so about 1.5 hours north of downtown).  My coworker Steve and his family live there because the houses are less expensive and the school district is great.  I was a little hesitant to accept his invite to go wine tasting there, because I’d never heard of the city before.  How great can it be if I’ve never heard of it?  I mean, I’m a pretty big wino, and I know everything, right?  Uh, no.

Eva, Steve’s wife, handed me a pamphlet and told me to pick one.  I was overwhelmed!  There were at least 25 wineries!!

“What you’re favorite?” I asked.

“Lioness,” Eva answered immediately.  “They have great fries and a beautiful view.”

So we started there.  Steve was designated driver (DD), because, “I don’t like wine.  I drink beer.”

I don’t understand it, but that’s what he said, and we had a DD, so I went with it.  He sipped his Sprite while Eva and I enjoyed flights.  A “flight” is composed of 5 glasses with a different type of wine in each.  When presented all at once, wineries (or bars) serve them on cards or in special holders.  These simple, elegant holders were the best that I’ve seen; the spiral metal spine connected rings that held the glasses.  They were so pretty, I almost didn’t want to drink the wine.

Ha!  As if I could resist!

The fries were covered in truffle oil and parmesan.  The view was of mountains and vineyards.  The company was hilarious.


Steve drove us to Daniel’s, which was little more than a tasting room and gift shop.  We weren’t impressed with the wine or the ambiance.

Wilson Creek, however, was another slice of heaven.  From the fountain out front to the little bridge over a creek, to the huge gift shop and tasting room, it was an amazing experience.

“People pay to have prom pictures taken here,” Eva informed me.  I believe it!

We ran into some penguins.  Well, they were people dressed in penguin costumes.  Why?  Why not?!

Then I found a wine purse.  What an ingenious invention!  It is a cylindrical carrier with a corkscrew tucked into an interior pocket.  It is just the right size to carry a bottle of wine, and has a convenient handle to carry it.  I had to have it.

Then Eva had to buy a matching one.

So now we’re Wine Purse Buddies!

When we returned to her house and showed her teenage daughter, I thought that the girl might pass out from her huge eye roll.  She just doesn’t understand how cool a Wine Purse is!  Especially MATCHING wine purses!

And, ok, we were a little drunk, and may have been a bit enthusiastic about our purchases.  STILL, a WINE PURSE!  Genius!


Random Penguins


Rancho Bernardo


“After you get your glass of wine, you walk down the sidewalk to the confectionary, where the proprietor will give you a piece of chocolate which pairs with the wine,” the sommelier told us.

Dad, my Stepmom, and I said, “Ahhhh!” at the same time.  Chocolate and wine?!  This place was heaven!

“This place” was the Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo, California (north of San Diego but still in San Diego County, i.e. “North County” in local parlance).  There were several buildings grouped together like a small town.  All were very rustic, made of old wood and decorated with rusting tools.  Dad and I made a game out of naming the tools and what they might do.  Stepmom enjoyed looking at the flora and trying to name them; she lamented that she would like to be a landscape designer.  There were old tractors, covered wagons, and even a small museum.

We rather enjoyed the coffee shop, where we bought a cheese and cracker plate, where they had gluten free bread for me!  Then we checked out the purse shop, the clothes shop, the housewares shop, all while sipping on wine.  These places must sell a lot of merchandise!  Think about it: pair women with wine, lure them to the shops strategically placed between them and the free chocolate, and convince them to walk the gauntlet several times – and not all the women had Dad to keep them from buying anything.  I can see where this would be a fun (and expensive!) place for a girls’ night!

In a courtyard, workers were busy setting up for a wedding.  California is so beautiful that I have seen many proposals, weddings, and places set up for weddings.  I feel like I’m living in a vacation resort!

We also checked out the restaurant.  The food was good, not great, but the ambiance was priceless.  Sitting on the patio, sharing wine, sitting in the shade and watching the people walk by – wedding guests all dressed up, couples dressed nicely for dates, and tourists like ourselves in jeans and t-shirts – this was a great day.




Ramona is a city east of Rancho Bernardo, nestled in the foothills of the mountains.  The houses cost about the same as in RB, but come with land.  Some of them come with 2 acres, some more.  Some residents own horses and dogs.  While this may sound like my native Texas, it has a California feel: there are wineries, for example.  We met our friends in Ramona and drove north to Escondido, down a winding road, through beautiful country, to get to the wineries.  Thank God I don’t get car sick.

Cordiano Winery was just as beautiful, though distinct from, the previously mentioned wineries.  We sat on a patio overlooking the mountains, eating gluten free pizza and sipping wine.  My friends were charming.  A light breeze blew.  And I thought to myself – I am blessed.

Highland Hills Winery had just a small tasting room and was family run.  An independent film, “Beyond the Impact,” was being filmed there by Jeff Patton and his crew.  The proprietor said that they used drones to film some of the footage.  How cool is it to sip wine while watching a movie being filmed?!  Ok, so it wasn’t the first time for me; I did that in Tucson while at a work conference (Jim from the Office was there!  and again in Houston (I was in the film).  STILL, it’s pretty darn cool to think that we might be watching the scene on Netflix one day.


Back to the winery.  I love that we drove through the vineyard to get to the tasting room, and that the barrels of wines were behind a window on one wall of the tasting room.

Then we went for ice cream.  How’s that for a perfect day?  Wine, friends, AND ice cream?!

My new friend Marcy Millar re-purposes corks to decorate picture frames, tables, etc.  She also used pennies, alternating dark and bright, to create a design on her armoire.  I took many pictures!  [Marcy can be reached at if you are interested in commissioning a piece.]

“I found Stu Pedasso wine,” Marcy told me, “And thought it was just the funniest thing ever!  So I bought cases of it for family and friends for Christmas.  Unfortunately, the wine isn’t that good.  People called me and said, ‘Uh, Marcy, I hate to tell you, but I didn’t really like the wine.’  Well, DUH!  It wasn’t about the wine!  It was about the name!


I laughed so hard that I almost fell off my chair.  Marcy’s a hoot.  Her art is impressive, too; gives me inspiration.  She said that I could bring her some corks and she’d make me a trivet.  I LOVE TRIVETS!!


Marcy’s Dining Room Table.  The center pattern is composed of horse shoes.



The lessons learned here are many, including:

  • All wineries are different.
  • If you have a chance to try a new winery, do it!
  • Don’t judge a winery by its location. Even if the city name sounds strange, the experience may be amazing!
  • Corks can and should be up-cycled.

Texas has wineries, too.  I regret that I never visited the ones in Grapevine (near DFW airport) or Llano (though I’ve drank many a bottle of Llano wine!).


I have a new friend named Mike.  Yes, another one!  I’ve dated Mike the Plumber, Mayor Mike (also known as Mustang Mike, before he took office), The Great Mike M., the other Mike M., another Mike M.—all three have birthdays in the month of May, Mike B., and…I’m *pretty sure* that’s all of them.


So Sally sent me this video: “Stop Naming Your Children Mike.”

I shared all this with the new Mike, who shall henceforth be known as Mike the DM, because he is the Dungeon Master in a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  My last D&D adventure was approximately 20 years ago.  I quit playing because Alan (my husband at the time) played an obnoxious barbarian who specialized in belching and farting.  I decided that I could either play D&D with him or continue to sleep with him.  I chose the marriage (at the time).

D&D aside, Mike the DM answered the video with LOLs and the comment, “I think you’ve dated more Mike’s than the total number of Julie’s I’ve known.  There’s one at roller derby, a buyer at an old job, and a girl I had a crush on in 5th grade.”

I answered, “LOL, you should have gone to school with me!  There was Julie Ann, Julie Nan, Julie Eileen, and Julie Maxine!  Plus, one Julie who wouldn’t reveal her middle name.”

Mike and I met through work.  We were both on the same conference call; he works in a different building.  He sent me an instant message (IM) about a D&D Campaign—get a few nerds in a conference call, and gaming comes up eventually—and before I knew it, we were IM’ing regularly.  Then we moved to text.  And I had no idea what this guy looked like.

“Can people be best friends without ever having met?  Too late, we already are,” I texted him on Friday.

“It happens,” he replied.

We’re having lunch on Tuesday.  Don’t expect a love connection; I suspect that he’s half my age, based on the discussion around D&D.  I’m ok with that; I can always use another friend.

Even if he is named Mike.




Valentine’s Day Memories



My Date Tonight

“Please, God, don’t let my underwear fall on the floor while I’m walking!”  I stood, smiled at my date, and turned to walk to the bathroom across the fancy restaurant.

Each step on the wooden floor moved the underwear down just a little bit.  Quarter inch here for this step, quarter inch for the next step—oh, God, would I make it to the bathroom?!  How far is it?  Another quarter inch, another step.  I turned to see if my date was looking; he wasn’t, he was checking his phone.  GREAT!  Now’s my chance!  I grabbed my underwear through my skirt and hurried the rest of the way into the bathroom.

“That’s the last time that I buy underwear on the Fredrick’s of Hollywood clearance rack!” I told myself.  “This red satin underwear with pink trim, with matching elastic garter set and bra, are not worth the stress!”

I sheepishly replied, “But it was on sale.  And it was so pretty.  How was I supposed to know that it would be half-a-size too large?”  Seeing the death glare from me in the mirror, I shut up.

“Ok, so now I need to pull this shit up, hope that it stays for the rest of the night.  Or I could take it off and stuff it in my purse.”  I looked at my purse, which was a cute little small clutch with barely enough room inside for my keys and cell phone.  Fudgesicles.

“Maybe I have a safety pin in my…purse…?” I started to say, then remembered that I only had the clutch.  In my daily, big, over-stuffed purse, I had two or three safety pins in the sewing kit.

Again, I glared at myself in the mirror.  I might have to buy myself flowers to make up for this fiasco.

I hiked up my underwear ridiculously high, held it at my waist through my skirt while trying to make it look like I just had my hand casually on my hip, and sashayed back to the table.  Smiling once more at my date, I carefully sat down, again praying that my underwear would cooperate for the rest of the date.

That was in 2008.  Thankfully, I got through the night, and was able to laugh about it later.  Much later.

Present Day

That moment when a hottie sends you a friend request on Facebook—YAY!

That moment when you realize that the hottie is just networking because he wants a job—boo!  Use LinkedIn for that, man!  Don’t get my hopes up, especially on Valentine’s weekend!

I’m playing, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” in my head.  Can you hear it?

Another song that fits well with this weekend is, “I’m a Nut.”

I’m an acorn small and round

Lying on the hard cold ground.

Someone came and stepped on me

That is why I’m cracked you see.

I’m a nut!  (knock on head and cluck tongue twice) I’m a nut! (knock knock) I’m a nut I’m a nut I’m a nut! (knock knock)

Called me up on the telephone

Just to see if I was home.

Asked me out on a little date

Picked me up at half past eight.

I’m a nut!  (knock on head and cluck tongue twice) I’m a nut! (knock knock) I’m a nut I’m a nut I’m a nut! (knock knock)

Put my arm around my waist, if I get fresh I’ll slap my face!

I’m a nut!  (knock on head and cluck tongue twice) I’m a nut! (knock knock) I’m a nut I’m a nut I’m a nut! (knock knock)


I asked myself what I’d most like to do this weekend.  Since my budget was seriously blown by my recent dental surgery and rodent evictions, I decided on cost efficient (read: FREE!) activities: hiking and visiting the museum.  Yesterday was hiking, today is the Dallas Museum of Art.  I spoil me!  < 3

Naughty Nadia Update

Nadia’s quote for the week, “That’s not a Chapstick in my pocket, that’s my dick.”

This gem was told to her while she was making out with her latest guy: a big bad biker man.  You don’t expect this from anyone, really, but a guy with a massive Harley and leather vest?  Well, it was a shocker.

Oh dear.

She wanted me to tell you, “May you enjoy VD while not contracting VD!”


Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!




No, I did not bring Broke Ass home – this time.


Mini-Vacay – Colorado 2015

Awaiting the plane at DFW, I took this pic and posted it to Facebook. Later, both Gala and I texted it to Wilson to let him know who he was picking up. Great minds think alike! What's with the photobomber? Is she a pickpocket or just really pissed that DFW is so big?

Awaiting the plane at DFW, I took this pic and posted it to Facebook. Later, both Gala and I texted it to Wilson to let him know who he was picking up. Great minds think alike!
What’s with the photobomber? Is she a pickpocket or just really pissed that DFW is so big?

“Let’s hike ‘til we drop, then party like rock stars,” I texted Gala Pear.

“Well duh!” she answered.

We were discussing what we were going to do this past weekend, when I visited her in Colorado for a mini-vacation.  I flew out of DFW on Thursday night and flew back on Sunday.  It was a much-needed vacation.  It’s been a hell of a year, starting last June.  Ya, that’s about 14 months, a little more than a year.  I’m still feeling the effects.

So on the plane, I paid way too much for a mini bottle of wine.  F it; I’m on vacation!

After we landed, I received a text from Gala.  I am now convinced she is a goddess.  The text read, “Wilson is picking you up.  Let him know if you want to stop for wine on the way here.”

Yes.  Yes, I do.

Wilson Bearberry is Gala’s boyfriend, and I’m convinced he’s perfect.  Gala tried to tell me that he snores and other trivial nonsense.  He’s in great shape, he’s studying to be a doctor (i.e. he has brains), and he’s super nice.  Most importantly, he took me for wine about 5 minutes after meeting me for the first time.

He’s a keeper!

Starting the Vacay right!

Starting the Vacay right!

Three Sisters near Evergreen, Colorado

Three Sisters near Evergreen, Colorado



Tallulah the Pig getting her belly scratched – You know you’re truly happy when you’re drooling and you just don’t care.

Tallulah the Pig getting her belly scratched – You know you’re truly happy when you’re drooling and you just don’t care.

Royal Arches near Boulder, CO

Royal Arches near Boulder, CO



So steep – just let me rest a minute (pant, pant).

So steep – just let me rest a minute (pant, pant).

Gala Pear at Gala Gardens – with Wilson Bearberry (Commerce City, CO)

Gala Pear at Gala Gardens – with Wilson Bearberry (Commerce City, CO)

There was drinking.  There was drunken Uno.  There was a hunt for an elk, which ended in hysterical laughter.  We played some pool, saw some of my old friends from high school, and hiked until I dropped.

Not a reenactment.

Not a reenactment.

I pretended not to hear when Gala turned to Wilson and said, “Let’s come back and run this trail next week.”  It’s a good thing she’s so cute, and that I can’t take my Taser on the plane.  Grumble grumble.

Just kidding!  Love you, Gala!

And your super skinny ass.  XOXO.

I’d tell you more, but what happens in Colorado, stays in Colorado.


A Bachelorette Christmas Carol: The Ghost of Christmas (and Relationships) Future

Jules, Size 2 (2012)

Jules, Size 2*

“OhmyGod—is that me?! I look so skinny!” I squealed. “My hair glows, I look FANTASTIC!! I must be a size 2!”

The Ghost of Christmas Future nodded. “Yep, that’s you, 120 pounds. You’ve been working out daily and are eating right. Lilly, Allie, and you speed walk at the mall instead of visiting bars. You have competitions to see who can drink the most water and you quit drinking wine because of the empty calories.”

We looked at each other for minute, then we both cracked up laughing. “You had me going, right up to quit drinking wine,” I said, holding my sides and guffawing.

In the blink of an eye, Future-Jules looked just like regular ol’ me, all 140-pounds worth. She poured herself a glass of cabernet.

“Is that Sally? She still looks 17,” I said.

“She still is 17. Welcome to December 28, 2014.” The Ghost looked smug.

“What? I thought you were taking me to Christmas Future? As in, 10 years down the road—2024 or so,” I said, pouting.

The Ghost laughed so hard, her belly shook. “Who knows what the future holds? This is what you have planned for Sunday, four days hence. Now do you want to see, or not?”

“Of course I do,” I said, still feeling cheated. “But 10 years down the line would have been better.”

“Deal with it!” the feisty Ghost said. Geez, she sounded like family.

I watched as Christmas-Jules (sounds like a poinsettia-shaped necklace) hugged Sally. “She was at her Dad’s house for Christmas,” I said absently. “I missed her so much.”

We sat down with Jack in the living room to start our Christmas ritual. First Sally opened a present, then Jack, then me. We went around the room until all the gifts had been opened. Santa tried to get us the same number of gifts each year; but Sally usually had the most, even if Santa spent the same amount of money on each of us. She liked unwrapping presents, so Santa would wrap everything separately. He even wrapped the candy in her stocking, much to her delight.

“Everyone’s so happy. We’re having a great time! I love spending time with my darlings. And they love the presents I got them: beef jerky for Jack and Doctor Who t-shirts for Sally. So why are we here?”

“Because you told the Ghost of Christmas Past, No matter how well a relationship starts, it always ends poorly. I wish this year was over all ready.

“Wait, these are good relationships! My kids, my friends – I love them! And they love me!”

“So you’re saying that not all relationships suck? They don’t all end poorly?”

“No, damn it! Now take me home, so that I can wake on Christmas morning. So that I can enjoy time with family and friends.”

“There’s hope for you yet! I had planned to take you to your mother’s grave and ask you how long your parents were married,” The Ghost told me.

“40 years, ‘til the day she died,” I said softly.

“Indeed. But you surprised me! Your kids were enough. Now, I hope you take time to visit Elizabeth and her family too…” The Ghost said, wagging her finger at me.

“Of course! Now, get me home before I see what Sally gave me. I want to be surprised,” I said. “Hopefully, it’s the new Megan Trainor CD. Because I’m all about that bass!”

Before I could sing another word, I was back in my bed. “No treble!” I mumbled happily.  “I wonder if my cute neighbor is still single.”

Merry Christmas!


Last minute gift idea: the gift of laughter!

For more of my wisdom, follow me on Facebook or Instagram @jules_strawberry_rules .

*The picture is from 2012.  That’s what happens when all I eat is veggies.  YOLO!  Cheers!