Wine Tasting at the Agua Dulce Winery in Santa Clarita, CA

Hello everybody! I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. While I enjoyed three long days off, I was bummed that my first weekend without any freelance projects ended up being spent in bed… sick. I felt the token scratchy throat on Wednesday but refused to believe I was getting sick… until Thursday night when the feverish flush and general “Oh Nooooooo” type exhaustion started setting in. I did get to do a couple fun things despite being all germy this weekend, and one of them was touring the beautiful Agua Dulce Winery in Santa Clarita, CA.

Sipping zinfandel in front of $3,000 barrels!

Sipping zinfandel in front of $3,000 barrels!

My husband and I had a LivingSocial deal and even though I felt crummy, I was determined to use it before it expired. We drove the 35 minutes north of Los Angeles into a quaint little desert town called Agua Dulce, or “Sweetwater”. We began our tour by learning about the types of barrels used for winemaking. Did you know that oak wine barrels can cost between $3,000 – $5,000 EACH?! The flavor, grain and texture all drastically affect the taste. Our awesome tour guide Steve explained how Agua Dulce’s barrels came from Hungary, France and some other place I can’t remember. Wild, right? Most wines chill out in the barrels for three to five years.

Inside this immaculate and chilly warehouse were racks and racks of fermenting wine and gigantic, steel machinery. These machines are used for blending the wines and mixing all of the spirits together. All of the gigantic tubs had ladders running up to them and I couldn’t help but think that this place was like the grown-up version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Wine made here!

Wine made here!

We headed outside to see the grape presses, but I was more enchanted with the gigantic bins of waste leftover from pressed grapes. They had a yummy winey smell to them, and it was pretty interesting to see how small wine grapes are in comparison to table grapes.

These grapes have seen better days

These grapes have seen better days

One of my favorite wines we sampled was actually a port, which is a red wine mixed with brandy. We got to try the port with some dark chocolate chips, so despite only being able to taste about 50% of it thanks to my cold, it was enough to know it was sweet and GOOD! If I had a glass of that, maybe I would have been feeling better… but lo, and behold, I was the DD and had to stick with my Dayquil buzz instead of wine, so I got sips to taste only.

Enjoying some port and chocolate. Note the tissue in my hand. Blech!

One of the coolest parts of the tour was getting to taste wine straight from the barrel. Our guide used a glass tool called a “thief” to suck out some of the wine. I didn’t catch all of the nuances in the taste, but it had a really fiery, intense “oaky” flavor. It was really neat to imagine how as time progressed the flavors would mellow and blend together to become more of the smooth tastes we’re accustomed to today.

Matt gets to taste wine right from the barrel with the "thief"

Matt gets to taste wine right from the barrel with the “thief”

After the tour, we had yummy sandwiches, homemade chocolate chip cookies and cucumber salad provided from the winery out under their gazebo. It was a hot Santa Clarita day, but it felt really good to get out of my bed and get some sunshine on my face. I’m pretty sure I needed it as I’ve been quite a zombie this weekend, logging an astonishing 13 hours of sleep last night. WHEW!

Enjoying the sunshine!

Enjoying the sunshine!

This trip made me even more excited for the upcoming Fitcation, a three day women’s blogging retreated hosted by the fabulous online community, Mamavation. I’ll get to hang with people like Kenlie from All The Weigh and try numerous wines from Sip the Good Life in Paso Robles, along with sporting some fancy new shoes thanks to Earth. I can’t wait! There’s nothing like having fun and blogging about it 🙂

If you’re ever in the Santa Clarita area, definitely stop by Agua Dulce! The people were really friendly and in addition to delicious wines, they had a cute little store filled with country clutter and wine gear. My friend Feeling Vine would love it!  Despite my husband’s reluctance, I bought some really cute mason jar lid coasters with pigs on them and a Christmas gift for April. Ah, retail therapy!

So now you know some of what I did this weekend, tell me what you did, too!







Friend Makin’ Monday… on Tuesday!

Hey Folks! The inspiration fairy has not visited me for tomorrow’s post, so I decided to go back to an old favorite – Kenlie’s Friend Makin’ Monday!

If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

Ten Questions

1. Describe the kind of home you would live in if money were no object.  I think location would definitely be Malibu – and I’m seeing a large, colonial or Cape Cod style home with amazing natural light, a huge yard with space for a garden and fences high enough to let the cats explore, an in-ground pool with a diving board, and gigantic bay windows looking out to the sea. Oh, and the kitchen would be HUGE with a granite island and a Viking range with a massive stainless steel refrigerator. I’d also like a secret garden bursting with blue and purple hydrangeas, climbing vines and a romantic wrought iron table set up next to a trickling waterfall where I could have my morning tea. Yup. Sounds good.

2. Are you more conservative in your actions or more rebellious? This is a hard question for me because I can be a goody-goody in a lot of ways, like I hate being late, and will bite my tongue rather than provoke a conflict over something petty, but I’m rebellious in that if I know something is WRONG I will stand up for what I believe, even if that means attracting negative attention. I’m also rebellious in that I work hard to always be my authentic self; on my blog, at work, with my friends, with my family. I have a pretty outgoing personality and I’m not shy about expressing myself, which some people would say is rebellious because it sometimes means making an ass of myself. I’m also very blunt and have been known to shock with my crude sense of humor and blatant honesty – in that way I’m a great friend to have because I never blow smoke up people’s arse, and it makes me a good employee because I can’t tell a lie to save my life!

3. Would you go to Mars even if it meant you could never return to Earth?  Haha. As much as I’d love to see Mars, I want to stay on Earth for now. Until intergalactic travel is FDA and FCC approved, I’ll stay on this Planet. 😉 Isn’t Mars the really, really hot planet anyways?

4. Name one song that makes you want to dance every time you hear it. “The Bird Song” by Florence and the Machine. It’s actually a pretty morose little song about a bird, but I always put this on when I’m unloading the dishwasher and boogie around.

5. Share one thing that you wish you could go back and do differently in your life.  I wish I would have learned about nutrition and health much earlier in my life, as I believe I’d have an easier time losing this weight if I had been more aware of a proper diet and fitness. It’s shocking to me that the girl who I am today never orders french fries on the side and spends at least every other day in the gym – and at one point this girl regularly ate pints of Ben and Jerry’s and wouldn’t know a transfat if it poked her in the eye. This did a lot of damage to me – one I’m going to spend years undoing.

6. Share at least one accomplishment that people wouldn’t expect you to be proud of.  I’m learning to say no. This is a weird one for me, because I love to help people, and I’m a very nice person. However, the past few years, constantly saying yes started to affect my stress level because I was always taking on too much. In the past year I’ve been so fortunate to have been approached with SO MANY opportunities, but I’ve also been fortunate to learn when I’m biting off too much. I now recognize that when I’m at my max capacity I don’t put out my best effort – and to me, not giving something 110% is really frustrating. Finishing my master’s degree, running this blog, working full-time, writing for freelance clients and trying to get healthy, all while trying to maintain friendships and a relationship, has not been easy, but I’m learning to navigate “no” much better than I used to.

7. Describe one delicious thing that you’ve eaten lately.  BUSTED! My mother-in-law will be here tomorrow night, and it’s her BIRTHDAY! Happy Birthday Shirley, I love you! Anyways, I made her some delicious chocolate cupcakes with a peanut butter buttercream. I’m not gonna lie, I definitely licked the bowl out more than I should have. Hey, nobody’s perfect. 😉

8. If you had a theme song that would play every time you entered a room, which song would you choose?  “Somewhere over the rainbow” by Iz, because I walked down the aisle to it and it’s sooooo pretty and is all about dreams coming true and living a calm, happy and centered life. And the line “where troubles melt like lemon drops”, isn’t that just perfect? Don’t you want your troubles to melt like lemon drops? I do!

9. Had technology enhanced your life, or has it over complicated your life? I think the answer to this is honestly both. I’m a child of the Internet, and I looooove the Internet, but I definitely grapple with the irritation of social media crises erupting at 3 AM, or when my iPhone decides to crap out in the middle of recording an important interview. I love technology and would never, ever willingly get rid of it, but I have to say, it does cause a lot of trouble! But on the flip side, I’m lucky enough to have a tech-focused career, and the industry itself is fascinating, fast-moving, and always ripe for adventure. So if I had to lean more towards one option, I’d say enhance.

10. If you could get paid to do any job, which job would you choose?  I’d be a writer, which makes my heart happy, because I do get paid to be a writer. Writing has always been my “safe place”, and I find that words can do so much – inspire, inform, entertain, persuade, disappoint, excite, aggravate, convince, compel… You name it, words can do it. When I got my first copywriting job at a toy company writing instruction manuals, my first thought was “How lucky am I? People all around the world are going to read my words. So what if they’re words about how to put together a toy car?! I’m getting PUBLISHED!”. My long-term career goal is to become an author, and I’m hoping the little old Double Chin Diary turns into my first book. 🙂

Ok – that was FUN!  Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions!  Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, pick one question you like and answer it in the comments, I’d love to know more about you.  Thanks for reading! <3

“You’re Real! – In which I meet other bloggers I admire. FitBloggin’ Part 2

Me and Kenz!

One of my favorite things about being a drone of the internet webs (in day job and blog life!) is that you make some amazing connections online. I still remember the first time I met “blog friends” in real life – I was meeting up with Kenlie from All The Weigh and Alexa from The Curvy Nerd. I got lost on the way there and my frazzled nerves were all worried about “Will we have awkward silences? Will they judge me if I eat bread? What if I want seconds at the salad bar? Do you think I can reveal my sarcastic sense of humor?” Of course, once I met them and we eased into conversation, it was so much fun – and they were both exactly like the people they were online. No big sweat. I got to see Kenlie again at FitBloggin’ and she was her usual sparky and enigmatic self. Isn’t that a fabulous dress on her?!

Skinny Emmie and Double Chin Diary rock!

I also got the pleasure of meeting Skinny Emmie – a weight loss blogger who’s lost over 100 pounds and works in social media. She’s very charming in real life and has a sweet little Southern twang. Aren’t we cute? Emmie petted my shirt, claiming that she loves textiles. It is a nice shirt, if I do say so myself – soft, stretchy and flattering to those with large… erm.. parts.



Me and Tara from Media Remedial

I also met Tara, from Media Remedial on my first day at the conference. I was jet lagged and disoriented, and after I got my lunch, I felt like a grade-school student looking for a place to sit in the cafeteria. All around me people were busy having conversations and eating their quinoa with gusto, so I felt a little lost. Tara cleared off a seat for me, looked up at me with a big smile and invited me to sit down. She’s a genuinely warm person and I was so happy to get to meet her and hang out with her through out the weekend. (Bonus points: Like me, she’s also a crazy cat lady and harsh media critic. It was love at first sight.)

Alyssa and Fat Girl Vs World Duke It Out

I was also lucky enough to meet Robby, from Fat Girl Vs. World. Robby and I have been Twitter pals for quite some time, and I actually started following her because she did boxing. At the time when I started boxing for fitness, I felt like not many females did it, so it was fun to find somebody who shared my enthusiasm. She always provided me tips on posture and hand position, so that’s why we’re “duking it out” in this pic. As usual, my wrists decided to go back to flute-player style, so I’m workin’ on that. Robby was super nice and funny in person – just like her blog.

Alyssa, Shelly and Beth

Two more lovely ladies I met were Shelly, or “Egg Face“, and Beth, from Melting Mama. I also met Nikki from Bariatric Foodie, but I didn’t get a pic with her! I first met the awesomeness that are Shelly and Beth because I was live blogging a session and Beth referred to now-skinny people as “former fatties”. As someone who uses humor to blog daily, I found her sassiness refreshing, and like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to her! I’ve already conversed with all these gals several times since the conference, and they’re the perfect example of why I need to attend conferences like this. It’s all about finding people with common interests who can help you remember what’s important – and for me, that’s losing the weight in any way I can, even if it’s slooooow like molasses. I’ll get there! 🙂

How about you? Have you ever met blog or internet friends in real life? Would you? I still have a few on my “must meet” list,  one of them being KJ Pugs!


Weigh more, pay more. What makes you too fat to fly?

Flying, while a miraculous and very useful invention, kind of sucks. It sucks because the cabin of the plane perpetually smells like stale body odor and farts, you always get stuck next to the crying baby, and now they even charge you money to check a bag. Don’t even get me started on the sassy flight attendants, the chalky peanuts or the airlines that charge you for a can of soda! Flying is uncomfortable because the usual rituals of “personal space” that we abide by every day are grossly broken. Whether it’s somebody’s knee pressing against your back, a toddler kicking your seat, or a fat person sitting next to you, it’s not comfortable to fly, no matter what your size. (If you always fly first class, please stop reading here: The cattle call of coach doesn’t apply to you, kthxbai.)

My friend Kenlie, at All The Weigh, is suing Southwest Airlines after being publicly humiliated after being told by gate agents that she’d need two seats to fly. The problem in this is that she flew with them several times before, never needing to purchase a second seat and fitting just fine. Kenlie said in a recent blog post, “The problem I have with Southwest is not that they may want me to purchase two seats. It’s that sometimes they want that, and other times they don’t. I don’t know about you, but I fly a lot. And paying double because a gate agent may or may not have something against overweight people is not realistic…nor should it be necessary.” By the way, did I mention she’s lost over 100 pounds? So I’m pretty sure this isn’t a “fat acceptance” law suit, if that’s what you’re thinking. Oh, and this happened to Kevin Smith, awhile ago too.

I’m obese, but I still fit into an airplane seat. I’ve never needed a seat belt extension, but not a single flight goes by that I don’t scuttle through the aisle, hoping my seatmate isn’t looking up at me and thinking, “Oh great, I’m sitting next to the fat person.” Airplane seats are not generous. At 17″ across, they’re small. I’m not small. The vast majority of Americans are not small. But if I fit in that seat, and the belt buckles, and the arm rest goes down, I’m not paying for an extra seat. I can’t even imagine how Kenlie felt the day that the gate agent publicly denounced her size, rudely. Weight, like illness, dandruff, bad breath, panty lines, break ups and layoffs, should be discussed privately and tactfully. How would you react if a gate agent said to you in front of a line full of people, “Well, look at you. Obviously you need two seats.” ?

This is obviously a controversial issue, and I see many sides to it. On one hand, sure, why should somebody have to sit next to somebody much larger, if their personal space they paid for is being encroached on? Nobody wants to be pressed up against someone else’s roll of fat. On the other hand, if toddlers and infants fly free, yet can kick seats, drool, scream and jabber on their parent’s laps, isn’t that encroaching in my space? I want to eat my dusty peanuts in peace, damnit. How about the guy whose 6’5 and whose legs press up against my seat? Better yet, how about that asshole we’ve all sat behind who ALWAYS leans his chair all the way back within the first five minutes of take off? And oh, don’t forget about the classic in-flight drunk. He’s five vodka tonics in and we’ve all heard about his ex-girlfriend and that one time in Cabo before the “fasten seatbelt” sign is turned off.

Here’s my opinion, and yes, it’s biased because I’m fat. If obese people are required to purchase larger seats or double seats because they clearly do not safely fit, that’s fine, fair and logical. But along with that, let’s make a standard of purchase for other “special” types of passengers as well. I want babies and kids in a sound and smell proof chamber. I want people who don’t believe in deodorant in the back, with the air vents on full blast. I want the drunks anywhere but the emergency exit aisle, preferably next to the emo kids with headphones on, and they can pay a little more for those extra four inches of leg room. And while we’re at it, I expect a $3 refund from the airline if my inflight magazine’s crossword puzzle has already been played. Because you know, that’s part of what I paid for, and if they get to charge me for a glass of water, I get to charge them for having to count the dandruff flakes on the head of the person in front of me. This is all unreasonable, obviously, so it points to the bigger problem. The communication. It is unfair, unjust and unconstitutional to not establish the guidelines of “persons of size” and what or what not constitutes your ability to fit in one seat. If we need to have one of those gate side “You must be this big to ride on this ride…” signs, so be it. Just make it more discreet than a “Well look at you. Obviously you need two seats.”

What are your thoughts on this issue? As more and more Americans become “too fat to fly”, this issue will emerge much more frequently in the media – and it’s sure to get heated. What do you think? Should fat people always have to pay for two seats? Should there be a better, universal standard of measurement? Here’s a deal for you. Next time I fly, I’ll make a little more room in my seat by wearing Spanx. In exchange, you wear deodorant. It’s that simple.

Belly Dancing – In which a large bottom and hips are awesome.

Sometimes in life, there’s those rare instances where you end up pleasantly surprised that something you’ve always thought to be bad is… good. Despite being obese, I have a very curvy, womanly body – one that embarrassed me in high school when my full hips lead my band teacher to loudly declare in class that I had “child birthing hips”. I’ve got junk in my trunk, and that’s fine, because in instances like tonight, I know how to use it! (I was also secretly psyched to be fat when I got my first Weight Watchers Points Plus Daily Target. More weight to lose = more points = more to eat. Appetite… I haz it.)

Julie and I strike a pose in Belly Dancing class!

I go to CSUN, and they built an amazing student recreation center this year. There’s a huge rock climbing wall, hundreds of machines, and lots of classes. And did I mention it’s included in my tuition? I finally took advantage of this service and started working out there this week, and today, I took a belly dancing class with my pal Julie! Julie is somebody I hit it off with instantly – and you would, too. She’s charming, ferociously intelligent and a great belly dancer!

The class was deceptively hard, because it’s all based on hip, glute and arm movements. My rump, which normally seems a disadvantage in fitness classes due to its heft – was an ASSet in belly dancing – I can’t even really explain it, but somehow its size seemed to help me with undulating moves like the snake shimmy and figure eight hip rotations. I was excited to have discovered a new, fun type of fitness – one that didn’t really FEEL like exercise, but got me sweating, laughing, and most importantly – smiling- thus helping me shake off the stress of the day.

It was good. 🙂

This week I’ll update you on a big change in my weight loss plan – I met with the wonderful CSUN nutritionist today, and she gave me some great insights into what’s going on with me and Weight Watchers. We also have a giveaway coming up for an EatSmart Food Scale! But most importantly – please head over to my friend Kenlie’s blog, All the Weigh, to read my guest post on her blog about low-fat cupcakes! Kenlie’s lost over 100 pounds, and is one of the people who inspired me to start blogging about my journey.

I hope you’re having a great day!

Sweatin’ it, Simmons Style

When I found out that Richard Simmons teaches classes at his studio, Slimmons in Beverly Hills, that are open to the public for $12, I knew I had to go. Not only would it be a great blog post and an excellent workout, but it would fulfill a dream of my grandmother’s, as she always loved his buoyant personality, dolfin shorts and puffy fro of reddish-brown curls. I was lucky enough to be accompanied on this journey by my friends Merrie and Hilda, two lovely ladies whom I work with and work out with! In addition, some wonderful blogger ladies and gents like All The Weigh, The Curvy Nerd, Finishing the Hat and Keep It Up David were there, too! (They’re regulars!)

Me, Richard and Hilda. Yes, he's eating her hair!

As soon as Richard came in, that Southern sense of hospitality kicked in. He flitted around the room like a butterfly, greeting everybody with hugs and kisses. I was wearing pigtails and he walked right up to me, gave my pigtails a gentle yank, and embraced me in a big hug. It was surreal. (Hilda is blessed with a lovely svelte figure – Richard told her he’d eaten ribs bigger than her! LOL)

As the music kicked in, Richard screamed that it was Beatles night! His tank top bedazzled with colorful busts of Ringo and Paul should have clued me in, but I was psyched as techno versions of “Hello” blared through the speakers. The first few songs were SO FUN, as Richard bounced around the room shouting praise and encouragement as we marched and kicked and squatted. I had a big goofy smile on my face at the silliness of it all – me, in Los Angeles, a girl from the suburbs of Chicago, working out with a major fitness star, Richard Simmons! I also was mildly star-struck when I learned I was working out next to Ellen Degeneres’ Mom, another regular.

We proceeded to bounce and jump and jiggle through an hour of cardio. Near the end, Richard created a huge circle and started picking sets of two to go in the middle of the circle and do the moves with him. Merrie and I were “summoned by Simmons” and laughed as we did arm thrusts, knee kicks and other moves in front of 50 people, alongside Richard Simmons. (Rumor has it he posts videos online – as soon as I see it I’ll share!)

After cardio, we did thirty minutes of weights and then sit ups and push-ups. I was quite proud of how well I kept up through out the class. Other than the usual disorientation about following aerobic patterns, I used five pound weights for all the reps and didn’t need to take any breaks. I remember distinctly thinking, “Yes! Finally! All this exercise is catching up with me!” It as an awesome workout – I was drenched!

Check out his Beatles shirt!

The cool thing about Richard Simmons is that he’s not just a “personality”. You can tell in his classes that he’s the real deal, and he honest to God cares about what he’s doing and teaching. When I worked out alongside him in the circle, he looked me square in the eye as we trotted across the studio, and he had this passionate intensity coming directly from his pupils – the kind of self-confidence and drive that looks at you dead-center and says “This is all me, and it’s AWESOME.” He’s also freakin’ hilarious and had many dirty quips and jokes. I think what I really liked about his class was that it took the SERIOUSNESS out of exercise. Exercise is serious business, and I get it, just like being obese – but I’ve always been the type of person to try and find something to laugh about, to have fun with, which is where this blog’s name came from. It’s all about taking something difficult or hard and learning to find the light side, and Richard does that so well.

He graciously stuck around after class to take pictures, and when it was my turn to pose with him, he again yanked my pigtails and said “Well, aren’t you just the cutest thing?” I have to admit – that was cool to hear from a celebrity, albeit someone as effervescent and sparkly as Richard Simmons.

I can’t wait to go back, and Merrie and I are thinking we’ll try and make it a monthly goal to trek to Slimmons and sweat it out with Simmons. Now – Next time, who’s coming with me?