I have a pretty small family.  When you put all of us together in a room at, say, Thanksgiving, there’s only 15 people there.  And that’s counting significant others.  We try to make the most of our small number though, and we are one of the few families that celebrate literally everyone’s birthday with a full-on, cake-and-ice cream, cards-and-presents party.  I don’t just mean the children – aunts, uncles, grandparents…everyone gets a party.  So we’re pretty close.

The kids are pretty close in age, too.  On my mom’s side, they’re closer to my younger brother’s age, and on my dad’s side, closer to my age.  Growing up, my cousins and I didn’t have a boatload of stuff in common: they danced, sang, and did theater, while I am literally tonedeaf and cannot sing a note.  They played softball (which I quit because, frankly, I sucked) and soccer (which I never played because, as I once told my father “it was too much running” – I’m still eating those words after consequently deciding to play field hockey for nine years), and I got my black belt in


karate.  And then we all went away to college, in three different states, and only saw each other a few times a year.  And then I graduated.  And my cousin came to my graduation.  And met my friends, who told her every embarrassing story she could ever hope to hear about her “perfect” cousin, who now seemed none too perfect.

It was probably one of the best things that could’ve happened, because while she’d always been my cousin, after that graduation weekend, she also became one of my best friends.  I have her to thank for meeting Boyfriend (at her Memorial Day party last year), and for letting me into her circle of friends so that I’m not tragic and bored now that he’s moved away.  She never fails me when I call her at all hours of the day, bored, demanding entertainment, and she has allowed me (and, occasionally, Boyfriend) to drunkenly crash on her spare bed more times than I could ever possibly count.  In short, she’s a keeper.

Also, she knows me too damn well: two months ago, she asked me to go to a wine festival with her and I said yes immediately, knowing not one detail.  I didn’t have any idea where it was, who was going, what time of the day it was, or how much the ticket was.  She didn’t either, but she knew I’d say yes without any of that other information.  And, of course, she was right.


So yesterday, the big day, we took some folding chairs and our $14 tickets down to Valenzano Winery in Shamong, NJ.  Do not ask me where Shamong is.  I don’t know, still.  I didn’t drive and didn’t honestly care.  All I can tell you is that it was south.  I’m not even honestly sure I can pronounce the name of the town correctly.

Anyway, apparently, $14 got us a seat in one of the VIP (yes, we are very important) tents and unlimited wine of all varieties.  There was a blueberry champagne, a cranberry champagne, reds, whites, and the bottle I wound up purchasing – cranberry red.  Delish.  Needless to say, we skipped the wine tasting portion and went straight to the wine drinking portion.  In the sun.  In the middle of the day.  Outside.  Man – it was the life.

And really, as I sat there with Cousin in the unseasonably hot weather, sipping my wine and munching on cheese cubes, with Boyfriend sending me periodic football updates (In case anyone’s wondering, my fantasy team is 1-1.  And no, Maurice Jones-Drew is decidedly not helping me win.  Admittedly, he’s doing more than Wes Welker, however.), there was honestly no place I would rather be.