Saturday, September 27, 2014

Thelma and Louise's Caramel Apple Pie Sangria

As much as we love Summer, we also love Fall!  It has to be our second favorite season, mostly because of all the wonderful aromas that go along with it. There's nothing like the heavenly scent of a fresh apple pie baking in the oven. Mmmm, smells delicious and makes our mouths water!  Knowing us as you all do, you know we love our wine, so we had to come up with something that tasted like apple pie in a glass.  Well, after some fun experimenting, we think we found it.  We love our "Caramel Apple Pie Sangria" and think you will too!  

Caramel Apple Pie Sangria

1-750 ml bottle Pinot Grigio
3/4 cup Salty Caramel Apple Vodka
3 cups Apple Cider
1/3 cup Cinnamon Simple Syrup
2-3 chopped apples
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water


1.  Make your simple syrup by adding 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water and one cinnamon stick to a small pot.  Heat until the sugar is melted.  Let the mixture cool while the cinnamon stick is still in the syrup.

2.  Chop 2-3 apples and put in your pitcher.

3.  Pour one 750 ml bottle of Pinot Grigio over the apples.

4. Add 3/4 cup Salted Caramel Apple Vodka.

5. Pour in 3 cups Apple Cider.

6.  Add 1/3 cup cinnamon simple syrup to the wine mixture.

7.  Stir and put in refrigerator to chill for a few hours.

8.  Dip wine glass rim into remaining symple syrup.  Then dip into your cinnamon/sugar mixture.

9.  Pour Sangria into your glass making sure you get plenty of chopped apples!  

**We drank it chilled, but you could also heat it gently in a mug for those chilly nights!


Monday, September 1, 2014

Thelma and Louise's White Wine Cupcakes with Strawberry Filling

If you're like most of our women friends, when you're having a bad day, or just stuck inside on a rainy day, nothing makes you feel better than a great bottle of wine or a baked treat for the sweet tooth!  Well, why not combine both?
Recently on one of those stormy days we had a bottle of chilled Riesling, so we popped the cork, poured a glass and decided to try out a simple white cupcake recipe, but add a little bit of wino goodness!  We loved the end result! 
Thelma and Louise's White Wine Cupcakes with Strawberry Filling
Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup Riesling (you could also use Moscato)
  • 2 egg whites
  • Strawberry preserves
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the wine.
  3. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Next, add the butter and sugar mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until a stiff peak forms.  Then fold gently into batter.
  5. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full. Bake 10-12 minutes.
  6. When cupcakes have cooled put strawberry preserves into a pastry bag.
  7. Push tip of pastry bag into the center of each cupcake and fill with strawberry preserves.


Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 TBL Riesling
  1. Melt the white chocolate chips. Cream together with the butter.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and white wine until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.
  4. Now pour a glass of Riesling, or any sweet white wine, and enjoy a cupcake!  Rainy day be gone!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thelma & Louise's Detour on the Road Trip of Life (Part Two)

A lumpectomy was scheduled for June 3rd, less than a month after the last surgery. The surgeon was able to remove the 4cc breast tumor completely. It was diagnosed as a metaplastic carcinoma, an aggressive breast cancer. It was no surprise to us when the doctor said it is extremely rare and less than 1% of breast cancers are this type. In fact, this cancer is so rare that there is no data about it. And, like carcinoid cancer, it does not respond to chemotherapy. Yep, that's par for the course for Thelma!

Once again Thelma was told to heal for a few days after the lumpectomy before radiation on her cervical spine would begin. A couple more trips to the hospital for a CT scan and an MRI, then a special mask was made in preparation for the specialized treatment.

The mask is made of plastic that is heated up then placed on the patient so it molds specifically for the individualized treatment. It feels a little like a nice, warm facial at first. Then you realize you can't move anything, including your eyelids. It's definitely not for the claustrophobic!

Who is it behind that mask?
It's Thelma! Swanky, huh??
So Thelma had a week's worth of radiation treatments for the spinal tumor that couldn't be removed because it stubbornly wrapped around a vertebral artery. Side effects are minimal so far. Just some hair loss at the nape of the neck (where she was shaved for surgery, so not much to lose). A little bit of sore throat. And tiredness.

Those treatments will be followed by six weeks of five days a week, radiation for the breast cancer. And in between all of those treatments will be out-patient physical therapy to build up strength lost before the cervical surgery. Using the stairs, typing with both hands, lifting arms above shoulder height hopefully will be simple tasks again!

Yep! That's Thelma and Louise!!
Something we never lost through this journey was our sense of humor. With Thelma on a ventilator, we had a fun time using sign language for a couple days! Thelma played a lot of games of charades with Louise (and did plenty of eye-rolling when Louise just didn't understand). Louise thought getting Thelma to blink her eyes to answer yes and no questions would be a good idea. Through sign language, one blink would be "no"; two blinks , "yes". Louise asked a yes/no question. Thelma blinked twice. "Hmmm...", Louise asked, "Is that yes or no?" Thelma just rolled her eyes as they laughed.

When Thelma was on the ventilator, she thought her cough sounded like a seal barking. Louise didn't find the humor, but Thelma did!

It wasn't long before Louise told Thelma that her incision was longer than planned. And that meant Thelma had been shaved from the nape of her neck to the top of her incision. Her mission was to find out what doctor cut her hair with the intent to tell them, “don’t quit your day job!”

Luckily Thelma has just enough hair
to cover this 8-inch scar
Louise told Thelma that there was enough hair to cover her scar. But, she added, "you'd better stay out of the wind. Your hair will go blowing like an old man with a bad comb-over!"

One of the nurses told us about the scare he had finding a 'dead hamster' in Thelma's medical file! The doctor kept the hair he'd shaved off of Thelma's head and put it in a baggie for safe-keeping!  Nurse Steve explained it was some kind of hospital policy that hair is kept for the patient's discretion. Steve said it just about scared the bejeebers out of him! We laughed so hard we cried!

Although it wasn't funny at the time, we laugh now: Thelma had discovered while in the emergency room that she was paralyzed. She knew she was going to get sick again, so Louise told the nurse. The nurse grabbed a basin and tried to hand it to Thelma. Ummm... hello?! Arms don't work! Louise held it instead, thank heaven.

So what else is in store for us? Well, in between the poking and prodding and radiating of body parts till Thelma glows in the dark, we're hoping to road trip to more places than the hospital and doctors’ visits! You better believe we're gonna find a way to take a few road trips to sample our Illinois wines! We love to meet new people and hear stories of friendship from those we meet along the way. 

Yep! We're gonna keep on moving as long as we can. After all, it's not how many times you get knocked down - it's how many times you get back up. You can count on Thelma and Louise to "Fight like a Girl, Drink like a Lady".

Promotional Poster for fundraiser at Inside Out, Gilman
to benefit Thelma (aka Maureen Rapier)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Thelma & Louise's Detour on the Road Trip of Life! (Part One)

Wow! It's been a long time since we've blogged about a road trip! Guess there's no wonder why y'all have been asking what we've been up to. Folks saw us at Uncork Urbana a month or so ago, our first road trip in months, and began asking questions when they saw Thelma sporting her chic Miami neck brace. "Is this what happened when y'all drove off that cliff?" We joked that Louise was smart to have her seatbelt on at the end of that trip. But we reckon it's time to fill you in. Hold on, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!

Thelma and Louise visit Uncork Urbana
and sample some of their favorite wines!
As y'all know, this past winter was one for the record books. Snow, Snow, SNOW! So when Thelma started getting some pains in her neck early this spring, she figured it was just arthritis from an old injury she got as a teen, irritated by the cold. It was time to check in with the doctor when it got so bad she couldn't sleep.

An MRI showed Thelma had a tumor in her cervical spine (back of her neck, in layman's terms) that was pressing on her spinal cord. Surgery would keep her from being paralyzed or dying. Hmmmm... too many wineries and road trips on our agenda. Let's operate!

Thelma and Louise enjoy their time with
Inside Out friends Paula & Michele on  April 25th
The neurosurgeon set the date for Friday, May 9. Never one to do things the "normal" way, Thelma got up on Tuesday, May 6th, having a difficult time walking and using her hands. When the pain was so bad that evening that she "wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy", and our son had to practically carry her to the Laguna Blue SUV, Louise knew Thelma couldn't wait till Friday.

It doesn't seem to matter what hospital you go to in an emergency, the staff doesn't seem to worry as much as you hope. When we arrived, the waiting room was filled. One lady said she'd been there for 9 hours! The only staff to speak to was a Security guard who informed Louise they took people in order of importance with trauma as the first seen. Louise made several pleas on Thelma's behalf because she could see the pain in Thelma's eyes. Two and a half hours later, Thelma's name was called. Louise wheeled Thelma to an exam "room" where we could at least get some comfort from the pain.

We really weren't prepared for what happened next. In between numerous staff members wanting Thelma to rate her pain (always a resounding 10, on a 1-to-10 scale), Thelma discovered she could no longer move her arms and legs. Then the nurse yelled to Louise, "Remind her to breathe. I'm going for the surgeon!" That's when Louise saw the oxygen levels drop and lights started flashing. Yep, Thelma was in a bad way, and it was all going to hell in a handbasket!

Thelma was told she was now "critically urgent" and was being rushed into emergency surgery two days early. Dr. Beejal Amin at Loyola assured us he would take care of this, as he comforted Louise with a gentle pat on the shoulder. Then it was Go-Time!

Poor Louise, with her short little legs, had to hold on for dear life while the hospital staff flew Thelma's gurney down the hallways from the ER to the operating room. At one point Louise got her bag caught on a door and flew back like she was bungee jumping!

Louise had a tough wait ahead of her since the surgery was scheduled to last about six hours. Our dear friend, Pastor Barbara Lohrbach, came to keep Louise company and comfort her spirit. Dr. Amin's staff gave them hourly reports about Thelma. It was five hours later when Louise was told that Thelma was now in recovery. 

Thelma woke up in recovery to hear a nurse say, "Look who's awake... and she's smiling!"  Yes, Thelma was smiling - she knew she was ALIVE!

Thelma the day after surgery -
might not be pretty, but ALIVE!
A few hours later, Thelma was moved to the Neurological Intensive Care Unit. Louise and Pastor Barbara could finally see her after waiting patiently for several hours.

Neuro checks were done throughout the night and the next couple days checking mobility in hands and feet. Push, pull, wiggle, raise. She did it all! Thelma was still on the ventilator just to be sure she could breathe. Again Thelma beamed from ear to ear when one of the doctors declared her "a miraculous recovery" only a day and a half after surgery. With rehab, doctors shared, Thelma should be practically as good as new - well, as good as a girl can get who has seen as many birthdays as Thelma has seen!

The tumor biopsy showed it was carcinoid (or neuroendrocrine) cancer, the same slow-growing cancer Thelma has had in her abdomen for 17 years. Thelma had a eight-inch scar running from just below the crown of her head to the base of her neck which had been closed with 35 staples. She now has a plate, a rod, and three screws in her neck to make up for three vertebrae that had to be removed (just call her Bionic Thelma!). And she has a neck brace to wear for 10 weeks or more. But she can move, and she is alive!

Alyssa took fabulous care of Thelma
in the Loyola Neuro ICU
After having the ventilator removed and other unpleasant tubes they give you during surgery, a move to the regular neuro floor of the hospital was a welcome relief. Some of our young'uns visited on Mother's Day bearing spring flowers. The kids were a sight for sore eyes and did wonders to lift our spirits! We had fun taking a 'selfie' to try to rival the Oscar Twitter-crasher.

Loving the visit from some of our kids
on Mothers Day
It wasn't long into our hospital stay before we were told the doctors found evidence of another tumor in Thelma's right breast which was found during the PET scan the day before neurosurgery. A bedside biopsy done about a week after the big surgery showed the tumor was a malignancy that needed to be removed soon. Lots of tears flowed when we heard that!

Although Thelma was wiggling fingers and moving her arms and legs, she had lost much of her strength. Walking was difficult, at best. Her hands were clumsy, and it was hard to grasp anything like a fork or toothbrush. So it was decided that Thelma required In-patient rehab before she could go home.

Six days after surgery, she was moved to the Rehab Unit. Yes she could wear "street clothes", but she'd pay the price. Three to four hours of occupational therapy, everyday living therapy, recreational therapy and physical therapy was written on her board everyday. Hard work would be required to be released. If no one would be at home to assist Thelma, she would be moved to a rehab facility for further therapy. That was when Louise decided she'd take an unpaid leave of absence so Thelma could go home. 

Thelma started on the Rehab Unit using either a walker or wheelchair to get anywhere. It was strange to realize how much goes into walking. Vision is a huge part of balancing, for instance; Thelma found she couldn't close her eyes while standing without falling. Walking also suddenly required thinking - heel, toe, heel, toe... swing your arms for balance...ignore other movements in the hall. Just a slight distraction from walking was enough to make her teeter. But after ten days of doing what she had to do, Thelma was going home without any apparatus. The discharge order was to get some more physical therapy for strengthening and to take some time to heal a little more before the breast surgery. 

One tumor down and one to go!

Thelma was awarded "Patient of the Week" for her hard
work without complaints and cheering on other patients

Friday, April 4, 2014

Acquaviva Winery ~ a Taste of Italy in Illinois

We were on an outing on March 15th at one of our favorite places, Inside Out in Gilman. The occasion was their monthly "High Heels & Eyelashes, Moustaches, too!" which is held on the second Friday of each month. Owner Paula Warmbir (pronounced 'warm-beer') and her staff pull out all the stops and serve some great Illinois wines ~ and only Illinois wines. This month's event focused on wines from Acquaviva Winery and Blue Sky Vineyard.

We settled on Acquaviva Winery's Bianco Bello, a soft and delicious white wine. The label notes state that it is, "Balanced and fresh, with a slightly sweet taste". Yep, that summed it up just fine!

As we usually do when we find a delicious wine, we had to find out more about Acquaviva Winery. We discovered that they are located in the Northern Illinois Wine Trail in Maple Park, Illinois. It sounded like it was time for an official Thelma and Louise Road Trip!

So, we plugged the address into the GPS and pointed the Blue SUV northwest from our hacienda. The trip took just under two hours, so it gave us time to jabber about the scenery and sing along with the songs on the oldies radio station (probably to the chagrin of our daughter, who was along for the ride). The weather wasn’t what we’d call “warm”, but at least the sun was poking its head out from the clouds on occasion…which was a welcome sight!

We knew we had arrived when we saw the 40-acre vineyard across the street from a beautiful Tuscan-style facility. We parked the SUV and took a gander at all that surrounded us. We imagined that, in the warmer months of the year, the ambiance of the outdoor area would be beautifully transformed with flowers and vines, perfect for an afternoon or evening of wining and dining. 

Massive doors with beautiful vineyard handiwork gave way to a rotunda complete with marble railings and columns, and a ceiling painted a la Michelangelo. It took world-renowned European artist Andrew Zabela-Zabelin eight months to complete the paintings alone. His talent and patience is paid off in spades with the beauty seen overhead. It is awesome and awe-inspiring!

Acquaviva is a full-service winery located in a 20,000 square foot facility. The location has a tasting bar, a restaurant, a marketplace, as well as a winemaking production center. They also have a banquet facility which looks like a beautiful location for a winery wedding! In fact, many others must feel that way, too, because every weekend throughout the summer is booked with folks getting hitched.

After we had sampled some of their delicious wines, we decided to have a late lunch in the restaurant. The menu has lighter fare of soups and salads, as well as the decadence of steak and lobster for a more substantial meal. The three of us decided to try different things so we could sample many items. 

We ordered the day’s special of a salmon stuffed with cheese and artichoke hearts served with small red potatoes and asparagus; Pollo Pesto Panini (grilled chicken on Ciabatta bread with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella with creamy pesto dressing) ; and Funghi e Salsiccio (pizza with Roma tomatoes, wild mushrooms, basil, Italian sausage, and fresh mozzarella). Everything was served quickly and was beautifully plated. And, everything was deliciously fresh and scrumptious! (The ladies at the table next to us also had a pizza which they said was delicious.) Our server was friendly and attentive, and had a great personality. Our tab was truly reasonable for the amount of delicious food we had.

The marketplace has Acquaviva Wines for purchase, as well as other items for those who enjoy wine. They are in the process of remodeling a Bed and Breakfast facility in that building, too. It should be ready soon, according to the staff.

The winery was started by Italian-born Vito Brandonisio whose grandfather had a vineyard in the ‘old country’. He started his dream of living on a family vineyard in Illinois several years ago when he purchased 40 acres of rolling property in Maple Park, directly across from the winery. Today, there are several generations working the vineyard as well as the rest of the facility. The employees who are not ‘blood’ say they also feel like part of the family, a close-knit group of people.

Acquaviva also has a Tasting Room in St. Charles, Illinois. If you're like us and want to learn all about a new-to-you winery, you can find out more at their website: You’ll find photos, an events page, as well as their full menu listed. You can sign up to receive their newsletter, too, so you can stay up-to-date. (NOTE: Due to the number of events they have booked on the weekends, it's suggested that you call before going to be sure it isn't closed to the public that day.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wine o' the Week!

May friendship, like wine, improve as time advances. 
And may we always have old wine, old friends, and young cares.
~Irish toast~

We decided that, in honor of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day celebrations, it would be helpful to give you a "Thelma and Louise Approved" Illinois wine to pair with your inevitable meal of Corned Beef and Cabbage. It isn't easy to decide which wine to enjoy with this dish since it IS beef  - typically a "Red" pairing. But the beef is corned (preserved in salt water - that's what "corned" means! :-) so we thought it called for a lighter, semi-sweet white or nice rose.

Blue Sky Vineyards ( is on the Thelma and Louise Road Trip Bucket List for 2014! It is located in Makanda as part of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trails of Southern Illinois ( We met the owner, Jim Ewers, a few months back. He is one of the nicest people you could meet! In addition to the winery, Blue Sky Vineyards has two beautiful suites for guests who want to make their visit to the Shawnee Forest wine country longer than just a few hours.

Blue Sky Vineyard owner, Jim Ewers, meets
Thelma and Louise at Inside Out.
We have become right partial to Blue Sky Vineyards wines after we were hooked up with them at one of our favorite hang-outs, Inside Out in Gilman. Rocky Comfort Red as well as the White, and Chambourcin Reserve, are among our favorites. And we were introduced to the delicious Shawnee Cream Sherry at the 2014 Utica Winter Wine Walk. The labels on their wines are always so interesting! If you're one of those folks who picks wines based on the label, like us sometimes, you'll have to check these out!

We settled on a rose to pair with corned beef and cabbage, choosing Blue Sky Vineyards Chambourcin Blush as a perfect choice! Blue Sky describes the award-winning Chambourcin Blush as: "light-bodied sweet wine is made from 100% Chambourcin grapes. A light strawberry flavor with a clean berry finish, sure to please any palate." And it pleases us just fine, and we think you'll like it too!

Blue Sky Vineyard Chambourcin Blush
(Don't you love the label?!)
Thelma has some Irish in her gene-pool that was passed on to her by her Mama who had red, curly hair. She was a fair maiden with Irish sassiness to match her German might! And Mama Mary got her Irish from her mother, Florence Margaret Gleeson ~ how's that for an Irish name?!

So it may seem natural that a traditional corned beef and cabbage meal on St. Patrick's Day would be expected for Thelma to whip up! We thought we'd share the recipe with you, just in case you wanted to have a new recipe to try. It's a recipe from "Cora's Country Cookbook" ("Cora" was Margaret Hamilton of "The Wizard of Oz" fame...hired by General Foods, circa 1977, to promote their products), and it takes a while to make. The added glaze in this recipe adds a little sweetness to the salty. It is so-o-o-o good, you'll be glad you tried it!

Glazed Corned Beef Brisket with Cabbage & Carrots

3 lbs. corned beef brisket (we prefer a flat cut)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium head of cabbage, cored and cut in wedges
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut in half

Place the brisket in a heavy saucepan and cover with water. Add the onion, garlic, and bay leaves (note: if your corned beef comes with a seasoning packet - many of them do - throw that in the water, too). Cover and bring to a boil; simmer for one hour. Drain the water and spices from the saucepan (NOTE: If you think this seems silly to do, it takes the excess salt and fat out of the corned beef...just do it!). Cover the brisket again with fresh water, and simmer it until the meat is tender - about 2 to 3 hours. 

Remove the brisket from the saucepan, but reserve the liquid. Put the cabbage and carrots into the liquid and simmer until tender (you can also add a few cut-up red potatoes and onions, too, if you'd like). While the veggies cook, place the brisket in a shallow baking pan. Set the oven at 350 degrees, then mix:

1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup prepared Yellow mustard
1 TBS prepared horseradish

Spoon half of this mixture over the brisket and place it in the oven; baste frequently for the next 20 minutes, or until well glazed. Serve the deliciously glazed, sliced corned beef with the yummy vegetables! For a real touch of the Irish, add some warm soda bread from your local bakery.

Thelma's Glazed Corned Beef & Cabbage

Oh, yeah, don't forget to serve the chilled bottle of Blue Sky Vineyard's Chambourcin Blush! You'll feel like you found the pot o'gold at the end of the leprechaun's rainbow!

Mama Mary's favorite Irish prayer

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Walkin' in a Winter Wine-derland

Wooo-Weee! We sure had a great time at the 2014 Winter Wine Walk in Utica, Illinois! The Saturday shindig was on February 8th, and has been takin’ place for seven years now. It definitely was a winter wine walk with temperatures dippin' lower than a well and the snow a-fallin' and a-blowin' to beat the band! Takin' lemons and makin' lemonade is somethin' we are good at. The "passport" for the event meant you’d get a souvenir glass and 10 tickets to be used on wine or food along the 12-stop route. Nothin' was gonna stop us from havin' a good time 'cuz there was plenty of wine to keep us warm! And to make the day even better, one of our young’uns – who is ‘of age’ – was along for the ride!

Mark Wenzel is the Illinois
2013 Winemaker of the Year
Imagine our surprise when we met the "2013 Illinois Winemaker of the Year", Mark Wenzel! He just happened to be at the Utica Community Center where the tickets and glasses were passed out. We were in awe to be in this hero's presence and were even more surprised that he knew who we were! Yep, that fella said, “Thelma and Louise? We were talkin’ about you last night at the Cave Dinner!” Now don’t that beat all?!

Mark and his wife, Teri, own August Hill Winery and Illinois Sparkling Company. In addition to makin’ some of our favorite wines, he took the traditional method France uses to make Champagne and brought it to Illinois to finagle sparkling wine with Illinois grapes! Their motto is, "Less CHAMPAGNE, More CHAMPAIGN", which we think is right clever! So, it makes real good sense that Mark received that prestigious award at the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association Conference at the end of January (Missin’ that event was the subject of one of our "WHINE of the Week" blogs).

The first stop was at the Mill Street Market to visit our friend, Jim Ewers, and his staff from Blue Sky Vineyard ( Jim grinned like the Cheshire cat when he saw us, and we were downright happy to see him, too! We sampled Shawnee Cream Sherry which was perfect for a cold, blustery day! We can’t wait to buy some for the wine fridge at home.
Louise tryin' out the
chocolate-covered bacon
The next stop was The Chocolate Shoppe. That place smelled like pure heaven and had just about anything anybody would want covered in chocolate, includin' bacon! We decided to indulge in homemade fudge, chocolate-covered coffee beans, and some of that chocolate-covered bacon before moving on out. (Note: This shop - which started at a Winter Wine Walk a few years ago - moved out of Utica this week and opened in a new location in Yorkville. 

August Hill Winery Tasting Room
was a-buzzin'!
Our Alisa Michele enjoyin'
warm AHW wine
Next, we stopped at one of our favorite tasting rooms, August Hill Winery. It was wall-to-wall people gettin' their wine on. The patio was open with heaters goin' to keep folks warm. Like we said, Mark and Teri Wenzel are the owners; they were clever and smart to have made a warm drink with their Caramel Apple wine and mulled spices to hit the spot on a cold day - it was warm in the glass and goin' down! They also had Heiland Red for tastings, and hot potato soup with bacon bits. The Wenzels and their staff sure know how to throw a shindig! To say the place was hoppin' was an understatement! (

We reckon these cottages look
more beautiful in warm weather
We tried something we’d heard about but never sampled - mead from Wild Blossom Meadery, Winery and Brewery (! But, Thelma remembers her daddy makin' up a batch or two when she was knee-high to a grasshopper! Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey with yeast. Louise was brave and tried the Pirate's Blood Mead infused with 3 different chili peppers…she said it was hotter than a two-dollar pistol! Thelma had a chocolate mead that tasted like a tootsie pop in a glass! The location for the sampling was the lovely Landers House, a Bed & Breakfast that also has four individual cottages on the property (

Illinois Cellars Winery was at Duffy's Tavern & Grill with samples of their wine. It's a good location to sit and enjoy the folks you meet, as well as enjoy the food and drink they have on their menu. ( and We bellied up to a table and dined on some juicy burgers and fries. The burgers hit the spot after so much wine samplin’.

Thelma got a little
snow on her roof!
Clark's Run Antiques ( was tryin' to put people in a good mood after they went walkin' through the snowfall by passin' out Hawaiian leis. Once inside, walkers wandered around the shop enjoyin' a bit of yesteryear lookin' at the antiques while samplin’ wines from Prairie State Winery (

The Wine Walk folks had shuttle service provided free of charge by Starved Rock Shuttle and Tour Company ( Most places on the walk were really within walking distance. On a warmer day, without piles of snow, this may not have been necessary for most people. But in the cold and snow, it was a great option! (And no danger of drinkin’ and drivin’ – the village po-po looked like a friendly bunch, but we didn’t feel like havin’ an ‘up close and personal meet-and-greet’!)

Chateau Amour from IRW
The stop farthest away (only about 3 blocks down the main drag) was Illinois River Winery ( It was a busy place, too, with people samplin' whatever wines they had available. We have friends whose favorite is Chateau Amour because it tastes like chocolate-covered cherries! Our personal favorites from IRW is their Blackberry & Blueberry blend and the Rasperry & Blueberry blend called 2 Fruits in a Bottle (ain't that name a hoot!).

Our last stop at Nonie's Bakery & Cafe was a great place for satisfying a sweet tooth. The smell of a bakery is a little bit of heaven, especially on a cold day! Tickets could be used for cinnamon rolls or scones. (

Yep, the 2014 Winter Wine Walk was one for the record books! Now officially "Thelma and Louise Approved", you better plan a road trip there for next year! We'll see you there!!