The Toad-Kisser’s Guide to Wine: Your 5 “S”s of Tasting

Hello, fellow toad-kissers. Over the last couple of years I’ve gotten a bit rusty in my wine tasting knowledge. I used to have a small wine tasting business where hosts would invite me into their home to teach friends about wine and food. While PC and I enjoy wine together, I’ve forgotten many of the fundamentals in the art. Yesterday, my autumn wine club shipment arrived from Paoletti Winery, so I thought I might start brushing up on my wine etiquette. While I do, how about if we learn together. A little bit of wine knowledge comes in handy in the dating scene.

When we taste wine, we enliven our senses. We use the 5 S’s.

See – Wines have vivid colors, but when you see you look for quality. The ideal wine glass is clear instead of tinted for visual clarity. Hold your glass up against your white napkin and take in the color. If the wine appears cloudy or murky, sending the bottle back is appropriate. If you see gorgeous, clear red or gold move on to the next step.

Swirl – Why do we swirl? We swirl to get oxygen moving through the wine that has been corked up tight since bottling. We swirl to awaken the flavors. Have you been intimidated by watching an expert create a beautiful whirlpool by swirling the stem? So have I, so allow me to give you a perfectly appropriate cheater. Holding by the stem, set your glass on the table for stability. Place the stem between your middle and your pointer fingers, and move the glass in a circular motion. Gorgeous whirlpool! This is a great way to start knowing how the rotation feels to get that gorgeous whirlpool effect. In time, you will swirl like the experts too.

Sniff – Don’t be shy – get your nose in the glass. Absorb the aromas of chocolate, tobacco, pear, or berry. Smell is subjective. Finding blackberry in Cabernet doesn’t mean the winemaker added blackberries, and it doesn’t mean you are wrong if someone else smells raspberry. It means that the scent in winemaker’s artistry reminds you of the that fragrance. The earth, the vine and the season brought the berry flavor out of the Cabernet grape, and you were able to recognize the subtleties. This is a great conversation-starter for your date.

Finally, Sip – Hooray! Get a hearty sip. Allow the wine to coat the different areas of your mouth. Is the wine sweet and fruity? How about dry – does the sip leave you thirsty? That is my favorite – a deep, dry red.

Now the final “S”. I’ll bet you think I’m going to say spit., right? Heavens, No. Savor the excitement as the wine awakens your taste buds. Swish it around your mouth. Feel the weight as it lingers. Would you describe the wine as heavy? Bold? Light? Maybe delicate? This is known as the body.

Enjoy the wine’s finish – this is the taste that is left behind for you to enjoy – the aftertaste. How long does the finish linger? This is known as the length. The longer the finish, the higher the quality of wine. If the experience leaves you as soon as you swallow, you might comment that the wine was rather flat.

Most importantly, wine is subjective. You don’t need to know how to choose an expensive label to enjoy the grape. With a few basics, the mysteries of wine become intriguing rather than daunting. And the vulnerability of learning to share wine can be quite appealing to someone who wants to get to know a little more about you.

Cheers,

Heidi Lee

Early Holiday Gift Exchange – for each of you

Good morning friends. I’d love to ask for your help today as I look towards finding the holiday spirit. You see, until this year I’ve always been surrounded by people and scents and sounds as the holiday season started approaching.

This year is different, though. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. But this year I’ve gone through many life changes that have planted me smack dab in the middle of a home office. I don’t have friends or co-workers at my desk to talk me into doing the dreaded office Secret Santa games; no potlucks where I could bring my favorite Salsa Cheesecake; no Holiday Happy Hours that I can drop in on after a hectic day of driving my team to hit their numbers before year’s end. And with having my foot surgery, I can’t even get out to the Malls to see the children lined up with letters to Santa.

Nope, this year I am at home, and my holiday spirit has to come from within – and from the Hallmark commercials.. So I’d love to ask you each for a story to help me find my Holiday spark 🙂 I’d love for you to share  your favorite Christmas gift – whether you were the giver or the receiver. And in return, I’ll share with you my covete recipe for Salsa Cheesecake – sound good?

OK, I’ll start with my favorite present – it was from my Mom. Ever since I was high enough to reach the kitchen counter with a stool, I loved to be in the kitchen with Mom. She taught me to cook and to bake and to believe in my talents. And she taught me that Betty Crocker was the Queen of the Kitchen. Throughout my childhood, some of my fondess memories involved pulling out the 1970 edition of Betty’s recipes and my brother and sister, and we would choose which Christmas Cookies we wanted to make based on the pictures.

Needless to say, this cookbook got a lot of wear and tear over the years. The binding took a beating, and the pages were stained with coffee and cocoa from the clumsiness of youth. And I loved this cookbook. This particular edition of Betty Crocker, I must say, has the most luscious recipe for banana cake that I’ve ever encountered.

Three years ago, pre-PC, Cole and I went back to Virginia for Christmas. I took him to visit Mom and Slats and my sisters Kelly and Gina. We saw the National Christmas Tree and the holiday nostalgia of Olde Town, Alexandria. And we spent a Christmas together. When Christmas morning arrived, I found myself in my childhood home. I rushed to the tree with my son and my family, and we all opened our gifts.

When I began to unwrap my present from Mom, I saw a strange silverish-grey corner to what seemed to be a book. As the paper pulled back, I noticed that Duct Tape had replaced the worn binding on Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1970 edition. It was falling apart, tattered and faded. But when I opened the pages, the photos of the cookies reminded me of childhood. And I thought to myself, this is the best present ever.

OK, your turn. Would you please share your favorites, or a favorite memory? What inspires you most about the holidays? Perhaps we will find some fun gift ideas from each other to make holiday shopping a little more fun.

And, as promised, the recipe for my Salsa Cheesecake…..

Warm Regards,

Heidi Lee

Dating’s Gone Digital! A Smart Phone App for Singles?

A friend recently forwarded me a New York Times article, With an App, Your Next Date Could Be Just Around the Corner. The concept: “I’ve just finished up with a long day at the office and could use a relaxing drink with a charming man. Crap! No handsome man in my life right now!”

If I’m not curled up in front of my home computer, I may not have access to a readily available Little Black Book. No worries; I’ve got my 4G technology.

Yes, there’s an app that can act as a Little Black Book full of potential blind dates. Sites like OKCupid Locals and HowAboutWe allow for flirty singles to meet up in the spur of the moment. The app delivers recommendations based on geography and timing – a list of singles in a 5-mile radius right now. A couple of quick scans over profiles, and I could send a “How about we…” invitation to another trendy mobile-dater nearby.

Reading the article, I couldn’t help but thinking about a handful of my friends. Many have asked me about the various traditional dating sites like Match.com and eHarmony because I found Prince Charming online.

Wait, did I say “traditional” as if to mean “old school”? Yes, I suppose that I did. If I look at how I met PC a little over a year ago, I am reminded of the thousands of Singles Profiles I scoured during my digital dating days. Reading this article I felt as if my once oh-so-progressive approach to Happily Ever After may now be considered somewhat dated by the younger generations. The 20-somethings might gravitate towards this new spunky way to meet a match, or at least to have a date for a Friday night.

I thought about my single-and-seeking friends as I continued reading. Who might I recommend use this type of dating service? Clearly both the old-school online and the new-aged cellular sites have credibility. Here is what I came up with:

Sites such as Match allow singles to take their time and to get to know people before they actually meet. Singles even have the opportunity to speak to each other using and anonymous Call Me tool. They don’t have to divulge a personal phone number, a last name, or where they might be found. I think these sites are perfect for my friends who need a little caution and security in their lives while also wanting a touch of romance.

The thirty-something single or divorced Mom, for example, can cautiously multi-task through laundry, dishes, and Match-surfing. She can build up a nice little stash of men who may be available at the same time as her babysitter. Single moms and dads probably have the roughest time actually meeting like-minded people, so online dating is a perfect social channel.

I ran into many single dads online – I found many good guys who took a more private approach to meeting Ms. Right. Many of the men were dating online because they didn’t feel they were meeting the right women during bar crawls with their single, child-free buddies. Other men were simply motivated professionals who sought women outside of their existing social and professional circles. Yes, I met a few “creepy, wish I could roll back the clock” sort of men. All-in-all though, the men were vulnerably putting themselves “out there”.

Some of my younger friends are a bit more adventurous. A last minute suggestion for grabbing a martini might be just what they need after a long day at work or in school. I’m sure that a quick invitation from a handsome stranger could put a little kick back into a fallen step. A missed deadline, a failed project, or perhaps a celebration of a tiny personal conquest might be all the reason someone needs to reach out and spin the wheel. Whatever the reason, I think the App is aimed towards instant gratification rather than long-term commitment.

As long as the singles follow a few rules for safety, either sort of blind date could be a load of fun. I have 2 rules that clearly apply to both channels, but even more specifically to the Mobile App.

  1. Always meet out in public until you are comfortable that you are not dating Jeffrey Dahmer. If your gut check tells you not to go back to his place, your gut is really
    smart.
  2. Cash – not credit! A lady always knows when and how to pay for her own drink.

While the first rule may seem self-explanatory, please allow me to elaborate on Rule #2. None of these sites give away your personal identity – you shouldn’t either. Men and women both should always carry cash-on-hand. Paying for a drink with a credit card can give the other person the opportunity to glance at your last name – something you don’t want if your date seems to be sizing up your body parts for a coffin in the basement. Keep a spare $20 or two in your purse or wallet, and use it wisely. One day you may find yourself grateful to have listened to your mother’s advice to tuck a $20 away just in case – this advice comes from experience.

But have fun – enjoy – be creative. Most importantly, be safe.

Happy Dating!

Heidi Lee

Reference: Jenna Wortham. With an App, Your Next Date Could Be Just Around the Corner. New York Times. November 2, 2011.

Kitchen Blunder transformed to Wonder: Southwest Sausage and Peppers

Oh, for the love of MUFAs! I miss being in my kitchen. For the last week and a half I’ve been resigned to bed rest. I’ve been at the mercy of the men in my household to bring me food and drink. Just try getting someone to bring you a glass of Merlot to wash down your Percocet – impossible!

The care and feeding of Heidi Lee has no doubt been a challenge for PC as well as for my son, Cole. I love to cook and I can be a little picky/snobby with my flavors. My poor PC has been a bachelor for 46 years and has gotten, how shall we say…. well, very creative with his culinary skills. I was able to detour him in his misguided attempt to slush canned tuna and applesauce together onto a plate by strategically requesting that he make a pot of his Chili. A big pot goes a long way, and every guy in the world swears by his own Chili recipe.

Yes, I’m sharing this strategy with you proactively should you ever find yourself in my position. Play it safe and ask for the chili.

Cole, on the other hand, brings me candy bars and licorice. Good kid.

Lately, though, our gallons of chili has begun to run dry. I find myself moving around a little better though. Last night I hobbled off my lazy duff and finally got back into my kitchen. A bit of a struggle scooting between the stove and the refrigerator, wearing my orthopedic boot makes me feel like I’ve got a 10 lb bag of flour strapped to my leg. No worries, though. I was successful.

I had been craving sausage and peppers for a while, and I could almost smell the fresh basil and garlic dancing around my drugged up nose for over a week. I had grabbed Italian Sausage from my freezer earlier and set it out to thaw.

When it came time to cook, I teetered my way through my cupboard pulling out all of my standard ingredients. As I grabbed the sausage to begin slicing, I realized my challenge. The Italian sausage I thought I had grabbed turned out to be a Southwest smoked chicken sausage I had never used before. Ok, so a change of flavors on the fly. Cool, I’ve got this. Basil and garlic became chipotle chili powder and smoky cumin – throw in a little paprika to boot….Voila! Perfection.

My hodge-podge of a throw together turned into a delectable variation on the traditional Italian Sausage & Peppers. I’d love to share it with you as I am certain I stayed within the requirements to make it a Flat Belly Mufa Meal. The best thing – this meal was my first adventure with a new favorite ingredient – Johnsonville Chicken Sausage with 50% Less Fat! (coupon) I can tell you the sausage was full of flavor. I was very impressed, and PC couldn’t tell that it was actually chicken.

Now to the meat of my post 😉 A little bit of kitchen magic:

Southwest Sausage & Peppers

  • 2 tbsps olive oil (Mufa)
  • 1 pkg Chicken Sausage with Cheese & Chipotle Peppers, cut into bite sized slices
  • 1 large yellow pepper, cut in thin strips
  • 1 large orange pepper, cut in thin strips
  • 2 large green peppers, cut in thin strips
  • 1 med yellow onion, cut in thin strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (you can substitute with minced garlic in a jar if you want)
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup dry red wine – Leave enough in the bottle for drinking. You be the judge.
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato sauce (I believe these cans are ~ 4 oz)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Whole Wheat Spaghetti, prepared

Pour a 5 oz glass of the red wine – set aside for drinking. See, now I’m back in charge!

Fill a pasta pot with water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, using a 5 quart kettle, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add sausage. Sauté until lightly browned. Add in the vegetables and the garlic, and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes. You want to keep the crispness of these peppers in the sauce, so don’t over-cook.

Enjoy a sip or two of wine and again, set aside. You need to pay attention to adding the tomato paste so don’t let the wine become the activity for right now. If you do this next step right, you get an added surprise in your meal of a rich, sweetened tomato sauce – mess up and your paste turns the whole dish burnt and bitter. So no gulping down the fruit of the vine just yet, k?

Add the tomato paste to the meat & veggie mixture and toss until the paste begins to coat through. You will begin to see the paste start to get a little gloss to it – this is the time to add in the wine and stir until the paste and wine begin to blend. Perfect! Nicely done.

Throw in the rest of the ingredients – not art to this part. Just be careful to toss gently through your sauce rather than to vigorously disturb your lovely veggies.

Set aside to simmer for about 20 minutes – and enjoy that glass of red while the aroma starts to fill your house. Be sure to offer a glass to your own Prince Charming while you are at it.

With about 10 minutes left, remember to start your spaghetti (my favorite wheat pasta). Add a little salt into the boiling water, and add enough of the noodles to feed your family. You may even want to prepare a little extra to take leftovers to work for lunch tomorrow. This meal tasted is even better today.

Guidelines for serving size to make this a Mufa Meal – 1/2 cup of pasta and 3 oz of sausage (1 link is 3 oz). You’re getting your Mufa from the olive oil. However, the wine throws the allowed calories off track – be sure to refer to The Flat Belly Diet recommendations about adding alcohol with a meal if you are attempting the diet plan.

Stop back by and let me know if you liked this recipe. Also, feel free to share a variation if you come up with any.

Cheers,

Heidi Lee

A Tribute for our Veterans

Hi to All! Please allow me to write this story in gratitude to my PC and to all of our Nation’s Veterans. My PC, you see, served on a submarine during the Cold War in the 80s. I am fortunate to be surrounded by stories of military respect and admiration, and I am often honored to be able to decorate VFW Floats for local parades.

Crew of the USS Aspro, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, 1988

I am proud that my PC serves as the Commander of the Oconto VFW Post, and that he is an active member of the USSVI – SubVets organization. He, and now we, are active supporters of Veterans issues, and we are humbled often to be in the presence of heroes from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and now into the modern wars. Since I truly wish to express my gratitude, I am posting a day early. I think that our Soldiers and Sailors should be honored every day.

For my tribute, I’d love to share a romantic little “just because I love you surprise” that PC found for me this week. You see, this week has been a surgical recovery for me – I believe my foot is coming along nicely, thank you. PC decided to find me the most wonderful gift to help my healing.

Not to delay in sharing my surprise, but I’d first like to tell you about one of our favorite mechanical toys. Alright, alright…stop 😉 I’ll tell you, your minds can sink low rather quickly. Not that kind of toy – that is for someone else to blog about.

Our favorite toy is a vintage home jukebox from the 1960s – crafted with rich woods and bringing a sense of nostalgia to our cozy little cottage on the Bay. The jukebox sat, unused for many years while PC was a bachelor. He had picked it up at a yard sale for $20 and thought he might tool around and get it working someday. Eventually he realized that he didn’t possess the ability to manage the repairs, so the music box rested all this time gathering dust.

This past summer, we found a gentleman in Chicago who specialized in this type of repair, so we loaded the dinosaur into the back of the Ford Pickup Truck and took a 3-hour tour down to the Windy City.

Just over a week after we left our baby in the care of this jukebox artisan, we got a call to come and bring her home. Shiny and new, she had a voice that could bring tears to a WWII Veteran as he would sit in memory of how the music could heal his war wounded heart – if only through the end of Side Two of the record.

Since she came home, we’ve tinkered a bit to get her back in shape. After all, she is about 50 years old, and she sat dormant for a couple of decades. Now, however, she is at full strength, and she fills our little home with the cracks and pops of albums from the generations who knew how to get off from the couch and flip the record to the other side without a remote.

Now that I’ve shared a newly rediscovered passion, I’ll share my gift from PC. PC, you see, is an eBay king. He loves finding old treasures: jewelry, antiques, books, you name it. This week, a package came in the mail, and he couldn’t wait until Christmas came to give it to me. He wanted me to be able to use the music to help in my healing, and he knows how I think I become more brilliantly focused with classic tunes of the legendary crooners.

With that, my present is 5 albums from my absolute favorite, Frank Sinatra. I’ll leave you with a couple of lines from his poetry, and I’ll let you in on who I get to listen to now in the way his voice was intended to be recorded – on black vinyl that pops and crackles with wisdom and truth. This morning as I write to you, I put the jukebox on all-play. I have the joy of this debonair gentleman singing me his sultry lullabies all day as I work.

His voice trembles through the walls of my home, reminding me to love who I have become:

But now the days grow short. I’m in the autumn of the year.

And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs,

From the brim to the dregs, and it poured very clear.

It was a very good year.

Hmmm… Those lyrics have me thinking, “Self, treat yourself to a deep red Cabernet tonight. Yes, self, enjoy a very good year.”

And for all of you, my friends, join me. Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. Please, if you raise a glass, raise it high to our Veteran’s. Thank them for keeping us safe.

And raise a glass to the Oldies but Goodies. We can find so much purity in their messages. Like a fine wine….

Thank you to Fire Control Technician First Class, PC. Thanks to my Father-in-Law, Pa; and thanks to Ponch. Thank you to Floyd and to Scott and Laura. Thanks to Tim, Eric, Kevin, Jim and Dean. Thanks to Zach. Thank you Elmer and Cliff, and Uncle Gigs and Uncle Allie. Thank you to our Wisconsin Military that is actively deployed. Thank you Bear who served in our Air Force, and thank you to all of our Veterans, and to our military personnel who are actively serving. Thank you, and here’s to you all! And thank you to the Military families who also sacrifice. Remember the wives, brothers, sisters, children and parents who give their most precious support. THANK YOU!

Please feel free to post a thank you to the Veterans in your life. We’d love the chance to thank them as well.

With Warmest Regards and Humble Gratitude,

Heidi Lee

Confidence Booster from Robin Roberts

“When I started I was 19 and scared. Today, I am 44 and….Fierce!”

Photo Credits: ABC John LeMay

Wow! What a statement. The sentiment that has taken me 25 blog posts to try to convey, Faith Hill summed up the story with a Finish this Sentence interview question posed by Robin Roberts.

This dynamic 44-year-old country singer and mega-star has evolved into a person who can feel comfortable in her own skin. To me, that is the most admirable trait about her. Yes, she has sold over a gazillion albums. Sure, she has managed an endearing character or two on the big screen. Definitely, she found her own devastatingly handsome PC. They seem to have a family life that we all would hope to emulate. But, WOW, she is comfortable in her own skin – greatest accomplishment to date.

Photo by Donna Svennevik, courtesy of ABC.

Last night, PC and I watched In the Spotlight with Robin Roberts where she interviewed several of Country Music’s biggest stars. For me, Faith was clearly the one to watch. I wouldn’t normally blog about celebrity gossip – I have no interest in Baby Bieber’s possible baby. But when someone stands up and says something so seemingly honest, I take notice. Faith’s statement took guts, but the words came so naturally to her. I want that feeling for myself, and I wish that type of confidence for each of you as well.

With that being said Ms. Roberts, may I borrow your interview question and ask my friends to complete this sentence? Your interview inspired me. I’d say this particular sentence is a strong Confidence Booster without needing any additional props.

Ladies and gentlemen, please complete this sentence:

When I started I was 19 and scared. Today I am (age) and _________! I’ll start.

When I started, I was 19 and scared. Today I am 41 and Formidable!

Photo courtesy of My Mom! MBA Graduation

Ok, everybody. Your turn! Let’s see what you’ve got.

Kind Regards,

Heidi Lee

Avoiding Warts at Work: How to Kiss an Office Toad

Well hello, and Happy Story Tuesday to all of my Dear Friends.

Yes – You can Order this MousePad 🙂

Today, I hope to introduce to you the Other Heidi Lee who you have not yet met. This Heidi Lee is the ass-kicking dynamo who takes Business and Industry by the horns. She is as comfortable running the show in the Board Room as she is fighting the lady in the shoe store who just grabbed the LAST pair of Sz 7 Red Kitten Heels during the Midnight Madness sale at the local DSW. She can do it all, and what she can’t – she learns. That is how Heidi Lee is seen in her professional life – TODAY.

It took me years of Toad Kissing to earn that badge, so I wear it with pride.

Until now, you’ve seen my romantic yet realistic outlook on happiness within personal relationships. I hope you’ve enjoyed my somewhat purist views on love, dating and romance. I, however, have been described as quite the Dichotomy – sort of a “Touched by an Angel meets Red Shoe Diaries” personality. Today, I write to you as my alter-ego, a Business Sophisticate who happens to be proud to have been called, “One Smart Broad” by more than a couple; A professionally savvy women who has jumped in bed with many amphibious critters to get ahead of the rest of the pack.

Ok, ok…. I know where your sordid minds went right away. You may be thinking, “Oh cool, Office Smut and Sleeping your way to the Top”. Come on, raise your hands if slinked into that gutter….its ok, we all do.

On the contrary, Professional Toad Kissing actually has a very different meaning – one with which we can all relate. We have all worked or reported to people who wanted to hold us back. We’ve been in situations where people with more power than we had actually had control of our destinies. We’ve buried our tears into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Pistachio Pistachio because someone less qualified got the promotion that we felt we deserved. And we’ve had to bend over and smile right through it…without the Toad even having the courtesy of giving us a reach-around.

Sound familiar? I’ve lived each of these scenarios – many times over – so I’ve learned to plant wet, juicy smooches dead center on the Lips of the Toads who I described above. Remember, kissing toads is a necessary learning process that we all go through to find our Happily Ever After. Mastering the Art means that you have become Confident with who you are – that you may be happy on your own or with another person. You don’t rely on another man or woman to complete you. So of course, kissing toads also applies professionally. And professionally, you have to be able to live with the decisions you make.

I’d like to start our journey into the pond of professional toads with an important lesson that I used to guide my communications, my actions and my interactions throughout my career. My professional journey began working in Retail, and I take you back to a time where I worked my way up to the management levels of a retail giant.

Professional Lesson #1: Yes, you CAN learn from every kind of leader – even poor leaders teach lessons.

What? How can I learn anything from a bad leader Heidi Lee? What could he or she possibly teach me? I know the business better, and I know my project like the back of my hand. This person simply doesn’t have a clue. His/Her leadership is taking us down a bad path….. What do you mean by suck it up and learn?

Thank you, I’m glad you asked. Let me share a story…..

Long ago, and far-away, there was a small village where incompetence had overshadowed productivity. There was no longer color or creativity. The villagers had fallen slave to Princess Melissa the Inept, and they were sad.

Princess Melissa was a new Princess who took over our village as a gift from her betrothed. Princess Melissa sat on her throne day after day, and she issued orders on how to sow her land. She never took the time to learn our climate, our growing seasons or our rocky patches. The Princess did not value ideas from her people, and we villagers were often punished for trying to speak up when the tools she gave us did not allow us to produce enough grain to feed her Court.

All of the Kings and Queens watched the young princess, and they thought how pretty she looked sitting in the monarchy. They loved how she was able to control the masses, and they saw that her people did exactly as they were told. They also saw that Melissa had plenty of grain to make cakes and breads and other foods, so they assumed Princess Melissa’s bounty was plentiful.

Meanwhile, in the fields….Heidi Lee of the House of Hood was the most tenured indentured servant in the village. She had seen locals tried, imprisoned and even beheaded for speaking against the Monarchy. Yet somehow, she survived. And while she didn’t prosper, she had enough grain to feed her own family while sometimes giving a hungry neighbor a morsel or two of bread.

Heidi Lee of the Hood was a wise young surf. Cunning and bright, and believed that helping her village meant also helping herself. While not all of her thoughts we pure and right – some maybe even slightly selfish – she seemed to always have the right answers on how to survive.

Heidi Lee of the Hood would often protect the younger, more vulnerable peasants and help them to become more productive. She would teach them ways to grow more grain with less land, and her creative ideas for getting wheat to grow often worked even in barren lands. Our young Hood would figure out how to make the tools work that she was given – teaching herself and others new ways to turn a butter knife into a shovel during the Harvest.

And over time, Heidi Lee of the Hood gained the respect of the feeble-minded Princess Inept. The Princess saw that when Heidi Lee was around, work got done. She even began to allow Heidi Lee into the castle for private meetings about how tilling the land really worked.

Princess Melissa noticed that publicly, Heidi Lee never spoke against the Princess or the Kings and Queens. She noticed that Heidi Lee would speak to her quietly behind the castle walls. With the draw bridge lifted so no one could cross the moat to overhear, Heidi Lee of the Hood would teach Princess Melissa about the land, the seasons, and why the tools that the peasants were forced to use did not deliver the abundance the Kingdom could really have. Heidi Lee helped Princess Melissa learn that her village could be wealthier than All of the other lands if only Princess Melissa would lead her people by listening to their needs and ideas.

And Heidi Lee of the Hood learned from Princess Melissa as well. Heidi Lee learned that Princesses may be put into positions that they aren’t ready to take on – whether from Bedding a Dozen princes or by inheriting Dear Daddy’s kingdom. She understood that just because one is a Monarch does not mean that they understand how to lead a kingdom. Sometimes even, a spoiled princess may be given a village just to stop her whiny and naughty behavior.

And Heidi Lee learned that publicly supporting the Monarchy while showing the peasants how to be successful helped our heroine to earn the respect from above as well as below. She learned that she could build teams around her by earning the respect of the peasants. And she understood that her ability to lead was powerful – strong enough if she needed to lead a revolution.

Most importantly, Heidi Lee learned that she never wanted to be a Leader like Princess Melissa the Inept. Our fine Ms. Hood studied closely what NOT to do so she could learn what should be done. After all, Heidi Lee of the Hood met her friend Cinderella at a local tavern one day and found out that some princes really do fall in love and give kingdoms to slave girls.

Ok, so in this situation, Melissa is the Toad. We had to kiss her. She has the power whether we like it or not. So how did we start to win her over while helping the poor peasants who needed their own Robin Hood? We taught the people who looked up to us how to be good followers while we respectfully and privately helped the inept leader to understand the true possibilities – when finally she was willing to listen.

The most important thing for me was that I kept my dignity and maintained personal integrity. I never sought to hurt people to get ahead, and I tried to speak up for what was right. Sure, that mentality didn’t fast track me by any means, but I like who I have become because of it. And I rose up – slowly but surely – while curiously managing to avoid the raging case of warts I secretly suspect kept Princess Inept so unhappy for so many years.

The rest of the story….

Over time, all of the Kings and Queens envied Princess Melissa and they exhalted her to Queen of all the Land, and Heidi Lee of the Hood was still a peasant………

Ok, so not the Happily Ever After you expected, right? Nope, not yet – still plenty of toads hopping around that need a little tongue…But don’t you worry – I get to visit Cinderella in her castle often over my years. And if you’ve ever seen #EverAfter with Drew Barrymore as Cinderella, you know what kind of kick ass broad our Fairy Tale Princess really was.

Hope you enjoyed story time. I’d love to hear from any of my other peasant friends out here if you’ve ever worked for Princess Inept. What did you learn from her? Post your comments, please.

Your Friend,

Hood!