Happy Hannukah!…Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot (Mandel Bread)

Mandel bread (or mandelbrot) is a cookie, made mostly by Eastern European Jews…and something I remember making for Hannukah each year. It’s very similar to the Italian biscotti, although this recipe is not as hard as biscotti. The word mandelbrot comes from mandel/almond and brot/cookie…so it’s essentially supposed to be an almond cookie…except in this recipe the almonds, or any nuts, are optional. I don’t use them because back in the day my kids only wanted the chocolate chip variety. I had some a few weeks ago and thought, “I have to get my recipe out and make some of those again!” It’s Hannukah…so, no time like the present!

This recipe comes from the was-band’s grandmother who came over from Budapest during WWII. The kids called her Bubbie and she had some great recipes to share. These cookies are super easy to make, yield quite a few cookies and are NOT low-fat, as the recipe calls for 1 cup oil. I know, seems weird, but they’re awesome!

Here you go….

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
3 eggs
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 ounces chocolate chips
1 cup nuts (optional)
cinnamon/sugar combo

Beat up the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla (yup, that’s exactly how she told me the recipe “beat up”, which is how I wrote it on my recipe card). Mix together flour baking powder and salt and slowly add to the sugar/oil mixture with a spoon. Mix until completely blended. Add the chocolate chips (I don’t measure, I just add a bunch) and nuts, if you’re using them.

Spray a cookie sheet with Pam and form into two loafs…long and skinny or short and fat, whichever you prefer.

Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until golden brown. Let it cool just a bit and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar. I like to cut it before it gets too cooled off…it’s just easier.  Enjoy!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Motivational Monday…Ecstasy

the sunset last night from my backyard….ecstasy!

“I find ecstasy in living — the mere sense of living is joy enough.” — Emily Dickinson
(great quote…but interesting coming from such a recluse as Emily Dickinson)

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!


A Visit to the South….Charleston, Savannah & A Wedding

I arrived in Charleston early on a Tuesday, after a weekend visiting A&K in NY, and since we weren’t meeting as a group (9 of us) until dinnertime, I decided to take the opportunity to take part in one of my favorite activities….wandering. I wandered the streets of Charleston for a couple of hours, walking along the waterfront, taking in the amazing architecture and making a stop for lunch at a place I’d seen recommended online, Pougan’s Porch. I’d never had catfish before, so went with the catfish sandwich…delish! Cute place…I sat outside…I’d recommend!

catfish sandwich with crunchy house made potatoes

We stayed at the Belmond Charleston Place in the historic district and it was an amazing hotel…friendly staff; really great restaurant, Charleston Grillwhere we dined on the biggest rib-eye and rack of lamb befitting of our Southern locale….everything’s bigger in the South, right?! …And for some reason we were upgraded to the concierge floor, which included breakfast and a cocktail hour. Go figure!!

Charleston Grill

Every meal had already been planned for us by our fabulous cruise director, Sharon, each one better than the next! Pictures, with captions, tell the story best…here’s Charleston….

up early on Wednesday to watch the sunrise and walk along the water
palmetto fountain…S. Carolina is known as the Palmetto State

The others went on a guided tour, while I roamed the city on my own, reading all the historical information on the plaques that are everywhere…documenting the city’s historical figures, places and architectural significance . The architecture and trees are amazing!

quintessential Charleston along rainbow row

Lunch at renowned restaurant, Husk, where we shared the best baked cheesy grits (not that I’ve ever had grits, but those who had said they were top notch…and I completely agree) So, we’re in the South and I’m going to try some weird things…hence, my choice of Crispy Pig’s Ear lettuce wraps, buffalo, marinated cucumber and red onion. C’mon you know you want to taste crispy pig’s ears in a lettuce wrap! Just as good as they sound.

A few others had their famous Husk burger (they grind bacon in with the beef) with crispy fried potato wedges or the also famous Husk fried chicken with an apple/cucumber salad. I also found out that there’s a Kentucky whiskey called Rowan’s Creek….took a pic & sent it to Taylor. We had some great laughs at that meal….”What’s Husk?”

We went back to the hotel to rest up before we reconvened for another fabulous meal at Magnolia’s, my personal favorite of the trip. We started with THE BEST fried green tomatoes. We had them at quite a few places and these were voted the best by the group. I shared a beet salad and cedar plank salmon…also delish.

fried green tomatoes with white cheddar/caramelized onion grits, country ham, tomato chutney

Thursday meant lunch at Slightly North of Broad…aka SNOB…where we dined on their award winning shrimp and grits, more fried green tomatoes, and jumbo lump crab salad w/avocado toast…to name a few…before hitting the road on our way to Savannah. 

I’m sure at this point you’re wondering how much weight we all gained?…rest assured, there was an equal amount of walking through the different areas of Charleston and Savannah, getting a lay of the land, shopping and taking in the individual beauty of each charming town, to offset our over-indulgence and Southern fried foods.


I, personally, preferred Savannah to Charleston. The moss hanging from the trees just seemed magical to me….as well as romantic. The grid of squares is charming and I love the neighborhood feel that each square evoked.

We stayed at the Brice Hotel, a Kimpton boutique hotel that was so quaint, with staff that exuded Southern hospitality. It happened to be the annual SCAD-Savannah Film Festival, so the place was all abuzz (apparently the cast of La-La Land stayed here last year when they were in town for the festival).

We took a few pedi-cabs to dinner at Collin’s Quarter, an adorable, and tasty, corner restaurant overflowing with ambience. I’ve seen pedi-cabs on my travels to NYC and actually took a rickshaw once in China, but it seems so weird relying on someone else’s legs…as opposed to a taxi…to get to your destination, but, honestly, it was sooo cool and fun and the guys who took us to dinner were entertaining as well. Again, another good call by our organizer extraordinaire, Sharon. We continued our evening with cocktails on the river at a rooftop bar, Rocks on the Roof, that someone had recommended….followed by a lovely evening stroll back to the hotel.

I, of course, decided to wander on Friday morning, meandering through this charming city. I think one of the things I love about wandering anywhere very early in the morning (even at home) is the sounds of birds chirping, the deafening quiet before a city comes to life and new discoveries around every corner. It’s like you’re the only one who decided to get up and stroll. A few shots from my meandering…

my phone camera kind of sucks, so I couldn’t get the feeling of the ethereal moss hanging from the trees, but I had to try and capture it anyway.

Even though they said they were booked, Sharon walked into The Olde Pink House and snagged a table for all of us for lunch…Score! The Olde Pink House is one of those iconic places that you’re told to you must go….supposedly haunted. It is a cool building, but we were more excited to get back for drinks before dinner at the cool bar in the basement. We all continued meandering the squares of Savannah and then back to the hotel.

…had to try the peanut butter and chocolate bomb for dessert…8 spoons please!

We took a short horse drawn carriage ride/tour on our way to dinner. Our driver was so interesting, giving us some great information and history on Savannah
cool basement bar complete with Diana in Savannah at the piano ….we stopped in for a drink before dinner

On to dinner at Vic’s on the River, where we sang along with the amazing piano player while we waited for our table. It was a fun night with another ridiculously rich and satisfying meal.

braised short ribs

The main reason for our trip was the Kahn wedding celebration in Atlanta….a fun, beautiful, romantic end to a very memorable adventure.

southern girls in pearls

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Motivational Monday…YOU!

Ever loved someone so much that you’d do anything for them? Well, make that someone yourself and do whatever the hell makes you happy…(thanks Taylor)

(…weird coming from a single person? without being narcissistic about it…when you take care of yourself , your better equipped to take care of those you love..)

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

New places, restaurants…and baby watch…in NYC

So, as you know from previous posts, I love visiting A&K in NYC…first and foremost to see them and just hang out enjoying their company….but also to roam the city and discover something new. There’s always a new exhibit or restaurant to try and this weekend trip was no different.

I came in, as usual, on the redeye and the plan was to head up to a cool sculpture park up North called Stormking. So, we hopped in the car, the gps took us through the city and it ended up taking 3 hours and by the time we got there they had just closed it due to capacity limits. UGH…what to do now?! We decided to make the best of it and stopped up the road for a quick drink overlooking the Hudson….then moved on to another cute place for lunch…and then back to the city. A little adventure, with some beautiful leaf-peeping. We’ll get to Stormking another time!

My niece, Erin, just started her freshman year at Barnard and I’d heard it was a gorgeous campus. We had reservations for dinner and a play, so instead of heading back to Carroll Gardens, A&K indulged me and took me past Barnard (which is closely tied to Columbia University) to walk around a bit. What a gorgeous quad and it really feels like a college campus in the city…whereas, I think NYU just doesn’t have that “campus” feel. I love that she’s going there and so proud that in her first month of college, she was selected to join the staff of The Spectator, Columbia’s newspaper.

It happened to be parent’s/family weekend at Barnard, so my sister was in town too…bonus! We had tickets for a show and there was a restaurant I’ve had on my list for awhile that I wanted to try.

My new favorite restaurant in NYC is RedFarm. The core of the menu is Asian influenced, but the array of sauces and combinations are mind blowing…and so creative! Since we were going to the theater, we went early to the upper west side location. Our waiter gave us an exhausting, fast talking, run-down on the menu and the chef’s concept in creating the menu. We needed a nap after listening to him! Here are some pics of our yummy dinner….

Katz’s Pastrami Egg Roll…c’mon, ridiculously good!
“Pac Man” shrimp dumplings…yes, they looked like little pac men
Great Peeps!! Love them all (except the strangers at the end…it was a communal table)l!!

….then it was on to see Desperate Measures, starring Conor Ryan, the son of a friend of mine. It was a fun, lively, production at the intimate York Theatre…and the play has been extended twice. He’s awesome! Go see it if you’re in NY before Nov. 26th….the ticket price is so reasonable compared to other shows.

Sunday was an early visit to the Morgan Library ’cause they had an exhibit of “Master Drawings…” from a bunch of famous artists…Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Cezanne, and many more…that I really wanted to check out. Didn’t disappoint (on view until Jan. 7th). Next, back to Brooklyn to meet Kate, the great, for lunch at a new place called DeKalb Market. It’s reminiscent of the Grand Central Market in downtown LA or the European markets, like Copenhagen Street Foodalthough it’s in the bottom of a mall, so a little different environment. Great vendors, like Katz’s deli, a cheese shop, charcuterie, paella, boulangerie, frites…and more. Cool vibe!

imagine having this library…with secret staircases to get to that second level!!

We went back to A&K apartment, where Austin built a rip-roaring bbq fire, grilling steaks and vegies, while we sat enjoying the beautiful evening and yummy food.


Monday was my day in the city…subway into the city with A&K, roaming and reading in my favorite spaces in Central Park with some beautiful fall foliage here and there…and then playing a game of mah jongg with a very large group of ladies. It’s another thing I’ve had on my bucket list “Mah Jongg Mondays”! It was fun and I look forward to playing the on one of my future visits (it’s a commitment of 12-4, but Linda was nice enough to let me drop in, play a game and see what it’s all about….I’ll be back for a full session in the future!)

this was only one of the two rooms where mah jongg games were goingThe highlight of the trip, by far, was going to the doctor with A&K and seeing a sonogram of the baby…the Dr. would only show the head area, so I still don’t know the sex…but I offered to bribe her…she wouldn’t budge! It was amazing!

dinner on the patio at La Lanterna di Vittorio
…had to get a final “baby bump” pic in our jammies

As always, a great visit with A&K, experiencing city life through their eyes and day to day life. I love their joie de vivre and sense of adventure…and can’t wait to see that little baby in 6 1/2 weeks…give or take a few days/week.

recent pic of “pizza monday”…matching outfits with Rowan (as my friend, Val, says “what pizza, matching outfits…I only see a cute baby!)

(next stop, Charleston & Savannah…)

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Motivational Mondays…Gratitude (again)

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings…..William Arthur Ward

(my favorite motivational quotes remind me to always be grateful…so, yeah, there have been a few gratitude quotes these past three years…and there will be more! YUP…this months marks three year’s of blogging for me!)

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!