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We just finished a great weekend with our kids – well, our son and his wife.  We were sorry our older son, Aaron could not join us.

Many years ago (36 now) I had the extreme good fortune to marry an amazing woman.  Today, I can express great pleasure at seeing that my younger son, Jake, has accomplished the same thing.

This four day Labor Day weekend was terrific!  I don’t know what you usually do when family comes to visit – but Sherwoods usually relax and share great conversation.  For us it’s all about the relationships we’re building or continuing to nurture.  Such is our growing relationship with Elif, our son’s wife and newest family member.  For Mary and me Elif is the daughter we’ve never had.  She is as precious to us as our two sons.

This reminds me of a story…

Seven years ago when Jake and Elif were dating, Mary, and others, made innocent (I guess) remarks leading Jake to feel pressure to propose.  Of course he called me for fatherly advice.  I suggested he would know when the time was right and no one could make that decision for him.  Several days later the phone rang and a stranger asked for Paul Sherwood.  After acknowledging I was he – the stranger – without preamble – started in on how he and his wife had gotten to know Jake and loved him as their own son.  He said that Jake had asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage and he wanted to know whether Mary and I would accept his daughter into our family on the same terms.  I can tell you – I have never been so completely surprised and touched by anything in my entire life.  Whether traditional in the Turkish culture or just something Elif’s Dad wanted to know – that question said a lot about the quality of the relationship between that man and his daughter – and especially about the depth of his love for her.

It has been my privilege to get to know this young woman – and to love her as though she were my own daughter – which, of course, now she is!  It has been my joy to see my son and his wife together – the love they have for each other is as obvious as is, I hope, the love Mary and I have for each other.

My thanks and appreciation to all four of my family for loving me.


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Zucchini Bread Gone Awry!!!

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This is a red letter event!  You are not going to believe the picture.  Mary (our beloved) decided she was making zucchini bread – after she was too tired to try.

Now, do any of you know about zucchini bread?  The list of ingredients is a mile long! So Mary decides, after having dinner with good friends, to proceed with the planned baking effort.

The first thing that happens – and should have been a warning sign – she couldn’t find the recipe (she shoulda stopped there).   Then she couldn’t find the beater for the mixer.  Right there in the drawer – well, the next one up from its usual residence – but…right there!

I’m at the lap top and the next thing I hear is an expletive (not something I usually hear from her).  Upon looking up, Mary is over at the sink, bent over, resting her head on her arms.

What do I do?  Run for the camera!!!  There won’t be many more of these opportunities in my lifetime!!!!!!! Below is what I saw!

The question for you is…did Mary scrape everything back into the bowl and proceed??  (I’ll never tell – I haven’t been successfully married for over 35 years and failed to learn anything at all!)



zucchini bread, mixer, baking, recipe,

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The Secret Unwrapped at Lake Gaston

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The time has come for me to speak out!  I have been taking more heat than is fair over gift wrapping!!!!

Now, as you all know, we offer complimentary gift wrap at our store.   Normally, Mary or Autumn handles all of the wrapping (and I will admit they have raised gift-wrapping to an art form) but I too can wrap – and with good results.  Nonetheless, Mary and Autumn usually handle wrapping for a couple of reasons.  One is that I am color blind and don’t really recognize which colors go together.  The other is that I’m basically at the entry level of gift wrap – “if wrapped at all, gifts are perfectly well concealed by left-over newspaper”.  But, since we are in the business of how things look and I have that male perspective, we have all agreed that I will not be wrapping.male gift wrapping, gifts, ribbon, gift wrap, gifts, gift tag

HOWEVER…recent events have caused me to review the acceptability of the continual reminder of my short-comings!   Not too long ago Mary and Autumn were both away at market so…yup you guessed it…I wrapped…successfully!  Now, and this is the part that has me fried…the customer, very pleased with the wrap-job…called Mary to let her know that I do indeed wrap.  As any guy will readily understand – I have carefully guarded the secret of my wrapping skills for many years.  Now, this customer has “un-wrapped” my secret and told Mary what a great job I did.  (As you can tell, this is a secret I can guard…no longer.)  Later on, yet another customer wanted something wrapped and, highly satisfied, offered to send my boss an e-mail extolling my accomplishment :).

Just what am I to do?!?  There is no winning formula here!  If I unveil and let my skills shine – not only will I be required to wrap way more often, I’ll risk showing up the two artists!!!!  (I think a nice long motorcycle ride will help me clear my head!)

Mary Sherwood Lake Living

“Working with you to create your lifestyle!”

Categories : Paul's Rants, Showroom
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grapes, wine, terrior, locally grown, relationships, Rosemont Winery of VAToday’s thoughts are all about wine.  Recently, we did a food/wine pairing at David’s – a local eatery in Roanoke Rapids.  Almost 50 of you kind souls turned out.  We had a wonderful time.  Of course – the excellent wine from Rosemont Winery in LaCrosse paired with the superb product of David’s kitchen did nothing to hurt the evening.

In this economy many are looking for value-priced wines.  But the wines Justin and his dad, Stephen Rose, are producing are quite elegant and are worth your time. They’re Bordeaux varietals which have been hardened by being grafted to some California systems then returned to the East coast.

You might not know a lot about producing wine.  I certainly did not.  The industry speaks of the terroir of the grape.  There is an article just published by the Wall Street Journal discussing the meaning of this French word in the context of its discussion of Chablis.  It means the environment in which the vine is growing.  The nutrients in the soil are directly responsible for some of the flavors the grapes develop.  There is a whole science around the notion that the flavor of the wine can be adjusted by changing the terroir.  Consequently, especially in Europe, nose, palate and finish of wines change neighborhood-by-neighborhood.  Some vintners grow grapes in the valley and also 1000 meters up the mountain.  The differing terroir as well as the changes in available sunlight change the flavor and intensity of the grape!

But the part I like best about wine is the friendships it engenders. I had met many of the guests at the tasting at Mary Sherwood Lake Living.  Now we are closer because we joined in the fun at David’s.

As a sidebar – my blog started as a discussion of what it’s like to work for my wife.  At the tasting she was at my side – lending 100% support.  There just can’t be anything better!  Mary and I frequently comment to each other about how lucky we are.  What a privilege – living and working at Lake Gaston to say nothing of working together every day!

So, does anyone out there have any experience they’d like to share regarding terroir?  Maybe you’ve travelled in Europe and can relate a particular distinction you found between two similar bottles.  Or maybe you’ve found a magic formula in working with your life partner – here at Lake Gaston – or elsewhere.

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Women’s English vs. Men’s English

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The other day I ran across something funny entitled “Women’s English vs. Men’s English”.  Taken from  the website these “definitions” resonated with me.
Guys, we’ve all been trained in the following – usually painfully…

When a woman says: Yes She really means: No
When a woman says: Maybe She really means: No
When a woman says: We need She really means: I want
When a woman says: I’m sorry She really means: You’ll be sorry
When a woman says: We need to talk She really means: You’re in trouble
When a woman says: Sure, go ahead She really means: You better not
When a woman says: Do what you want She really means: You’ll pay for this later
When a woman says: I am not upset She really means: Of course I’m upset, you moron!
When a woman says: You’re very attentive tonight She really means: Is sex all you ever think about?

What’s really entertaining and challenging about the above alternative language is knowing when it applies and when it does not.  You see, God wasn’t content with just giving us a whole other language to contend with, He also fixed it so the alternative language only applies – sometimes.  And, just to add that little special zing – there isn’t any system of use.   None of us males will ever figure out just exactly when the alternative language goes into use (hence the pain mentioned above).

Having been married for over 30 years, I am hopeful, nonetheless, that I have internalized these definitions.   You can imagine my angst when Mary became very supportive of my efforts to sell wine.

So, here I am planning a trip to visit a winery to discuss a working relationship.  For both parties there are risks and rewards.  He wants the widest distribution possible for his product.  I want a product I can successfully market, sell and place re-orders.

Last week, when I announced plans for the trip I hear, “Oh!  You are?”  (Uh oh!)  Immediately, I go to the calendar to see if there is something on my schedule I should have remembered (nothing there); look through project notes to see if I should be handling something (no).

I went to the winery today and we reached a semblance of agreement.  Our conversation eventually focused on what kind of contract we should put together.   My host said he liked doing things with a handshake as an alternative to a written contract.  And he wanted to know how I felt.

So our questions for today are:  Is this alternative suitable in today’s environment?  Do any of you have an experience you will share about gentlemens’ agreements?  Do they work?  How effective are they?  What are the failures out there?  Should I depend on this fellow’s handshake as a basis for getting in to business?

Let me hear your thoughts.  Next we’ll talk about what I should do.

Paul… signing off from beautiful Lake Gaston.

Categories : Paul's Rants, Wine
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winery, California winery, wine barrel,

Visited San Antonio Winery, est 1917, in the heart of Los Angeles

Last time we left you with a question – should a husband and wife who work together undertake a working vacation together. The answer is “Yes!” I am happy to report that we did quite well together. All of that leads me to think about all the wine labels we sampled and all the decisions that could be considered in trying to expand the company’s portfolio of wines.

I’ve done a lot of thinking and reading about wine lately. As you may know, there is a virtually unlimited supply of comments about the nose, palate, finish, points, flavors, etc. ad nauseum available out here. Almost no one reads wine blogs. So what am I to do? I’d very much like to blog about wine. Recently I visited a wine site dedicated to drinking wine – as opposed to all the blather most of us don’t understand.
Last night we had dinner with Nancy and Jack (and Nancy’s mother, Margaret). Of course, I brought a wine we had picked up out west. Also, since Nancy is my main taste tester, I took a wine accessory – the new Vinturi – a device to “open” the wine you are pouring.
So what does “open” mean? Part of the tradition of wine is to decant the bottle before pouring it into wine glasses so that it has a chance to breathe…this to improve its flavor. When a bottle is first uncorked, wine tends not to have it’s full flavor, know as being “closed”. Decanting allows the oxygen to begin to interact with the wine – a little of which is good (and a lot of which is bad). The Vinturi effectively exposes the wine to oxygen. Both Nancy and I were impressed with the impact.
Here is the link:
Buy it through Amazon, the best deal I could find.
The device seems to work quite well with reds as a wine decanter. There seems to be a different wine accessory developed to do the same job on whites, I haven’t tried it yet. Will let you know when I do.
Would you like to continue hearing more about wine? Do you have some interesting knowledge or information about wine you would like to share? I would love to hear your comments. We’ll try to keep this wine discussion interesting and pitched at a level we can all enjoy.
Although I had a great time in CA, it is definitely good to be home at Lake Gaston!

Categories : Paul's Rants, Wine
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Peace and Harmony in Wine Country

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Wine, wine country, romance, harmonyI’ve talked a lot about transitioning into this business and the related challenges, but there is another side…the fun of being involved in a productive endeavor with my wife and partner.

You have read about my color blindness and should infer some challenges marketing to women.

Someone said “No I haven’t heard about your colorblindness… so here goes a thumbnail: You all know how into color Mary is. As newlyweds I was not (and still am not) aware of color. As a child in grade school, every year I was tested with color perception plates along with my friends. As far as I was concerned it was all pretty silly since all those plates were completely BLANK! It wasn’t until well into our marriage that I had an opportunity to see the key to the color plates. Even with the key – they are completely blank! The silver lining is that Mary and I no longer fight over color 🙂

So read now about how cool it is to work different ends of the same gig. In business we’ve found that we each gravitate to areas in which we have a comfort level. Mary does all the design and manages initial contacts and sales. I handle some of the installation, trouble-shooting, logistics, and finances.  We share marketing and development.

Even in my gig there was much to learn. Years ago, when Mary was first getting started, she set up in our living room. Shortly, she rented a commercial spot.  When she told me of the selected site – upstairs from a hair salon – I advised that an upstairs location might not be the best for traffic! She offered the hair stylists (downstairs) a break on any merchandise they wanted for personal use if they would send their clients upstairs to her shop while their “do’s” were drying. Instant traffic! (Sadly, I never figured out a way to use that model in the hospital business).

Since then, Mary has consistently demonstrated an understanding of marketing and promotion which has allowed her to develop an outstanding business model.

Now, with her acumen and my abilities at installation and troubleshooting we make a good team! On top of that, how many couples figure out how to work AND live together all (mostly) in harmony?

What I think will be interesting is how we will react to each other as we head off on vacation this week. I predict a little tension. The vacation part will be fine but we’ll also be working part of the time – working the wine market in southern CA for my new wine business. Mary will, of course, be everywhere with me and offering her perceptions on everything. It remains to be seen whether I’ve grown enough to accept all her comments with good grace!!

What do you folks think? Should a husband and wife that work in her business together, go off on a working vacation and then work his business together?

Send your thoughts, and when we get back, I’ll share how we made out.


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MAN, WOMEN MEN AND WOMEN WORKING TOGETHER, HUSBAND, WIFENow, whoda thunk I needed to figure out how to deal with women!!!  Really!  My first job in a hospital was in 1962 – continuously employed in one from 1970 through 2005 – working full time in a world populated primarily by women – so how come this new job at MSLL was so difficult??

A little background…

Ever since I was a very little kid (I think my first heart throb was in the second grade – Bonnie Richards) I always thought women were pretty cool.   Not only did they look good, they also had the personality traits we all seem to value the most (when they are being good, that is) love, nurture, support, etc.

But, when suddenly I was thrust into an office where I was the only guy – and no one felt any changes were needed on account of me – whoa!

Let me tell you – as a husband it’s a big shock to find that sweet and gentle woman you love and who is your partner is clearly bipolar!!  I had never seen the business-side of her.  Not being critical here.  Just had never seen it – and it was definitely a dash of cold water.

First day – in the morning – I use the facilities only to be told that I lacked proper etiquette! (Followed by several suggestions as to how I could improve the situation).

I was looking around for evidence of having fallen into the Twilight Zone. (Trust me – I figured the bathroom etiquette out in a hurry.)

Not so with many other situations!  Take for example my doomed-to-failure efforts to help with the merchandising of the showroom.    I mean, how hard could that be?  All you have to do is figure out what you like in a store and duplicate it– right?   Wrong! It seems that the organization of the car parts store and the lumber yard had little applicability in my new world.

Talk about rocks in the road of marital bliss!

Needless to say, we both survived.  Four years later and I’ve learned to appreciate the differences between the way women think, and make decisions and what is natural for me.  In learning that, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the woman who is my partner.  And that, as they say, is a GOOD THING!

So then, how do women make their purchase decisions?  Well, that’s a whole other adventure.  Later my friends!


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Kicking and Screaming

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So, after 26 years of working as an administrator in a hospital, I lost my job. 🙁

But, that’s not where the story starts.  Actually, I guess, it starts back in 1962 when a fellow saw this young high-schooler (eldest of 11) working at a school fair and offered him a job in his restaurant.  With lots of twists and turns (and I promise you – some of them were wild and wooly!  Maybe more about that later), and the help of a very good woman, I’ve become what I was always probably meant to be…an entrepreneur in business for myself.

Fast forward from 1962 to 1987 when Mary started her business in the living room (little did I know what that would eventually mean)!   I was hard at work at an impoverished hospital as one of its administrators (tilting at windmills) and trying my best to be the kind of father from whom my boys would benefit.

Now, I don’t know how it is/was for most guys but, for me, my wife’s business had been nothing but a headache!  Early on, I had to spend my off time doing her books.  Later, I got called in when there was a crisis of some kind – financial or otherwise.  Since I was never there for the fun, you can imagine, it didn’t seem like a particularly good deal.

I can remember this one conversation – during extreme distress – where I told Mary that either she had to start making money or we were shutting it.  (I look back on those times, now, and just shake my head.)

Time went by — the call-ins became fewer and fewer.  During those same years my work at the hospital became less and less satisfying.  The hospital was not breaking even and no one would tackle the problems.  Then, my boss retired.  I was supposed to get his job but was seen as too much of a clone.  The Board of Directors (rightfully) wanted a new direction.  The new guy took 4 months to decide he didn’t need me any longer.

I took one afternoon to drown my sorrows, sucked it up, and looked forward to the rest of my life.

(Phase 1 – Novice in a World of Women” in my next edition).

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