Being grateful at Thanksgiving is something we consciously pay attention to and verbalize around a table of family and friends….but why not do it year-round? I’ve written about it before, but I think it’s always good to re-visit the subject to remind us that it’s something we need to nurture, in order to sustain it.

It’s been scientifically proven , many times, that being a grateful person is very beneficial to your health and overall well being! Here are some reasons why…and a few ways to increase your gratitude meter….

  • Say thanks! Sure, it’s good manners to say “Thank you”, but it’s also been proven that saying “thank you” to someone makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. Well that’s an easy way to make and keep friends, don’t you think!?
  • Grateful people are healthier! They experience fewer aches & pains…and tend to take better care of their health, exercising more and having annual well check-ups at the dr.
  • Gratefulness improves psychological health too, increases happiness and reduces depression. It’s hard to be grateful if you’re always on the defensive thinking the world is out to get you, so by reducing the bad feelings, anger, resentment and envy you improve your psychological well being.
  • Gratitude journal-ing may improve sleep. I think any kind of journal-ing, whether it’s getting your negative thoughts out and onto paper or writing down 3 things your grateful for, improves sleep and your whole disposition.
  • Gratitude improves self esteem! According to a sports psychology study, athletes who had a feeling of trust from their coaches increased their gratitude over time, and in turn, increased their self esteem. Wouldn’t it be nice if all coaches knew this!?
  • Gratitude reduces stress and increases resiliency. Recognizing that you have so much to be thankful for makes even the worst of times more manageable.

Gauge where you stand on the subject in this quick 6 item gratitude questionnaire.

One more thing…A bit off-topic….but a recent study shows that singing in groups reduces anxiety and depression. Of course it does….. you’re singing and you’re with a group!! That would probably help improve your gratitude meter too. So go join a choir! …or better yet, sing with your family, like this one does… (thanks Taylor for the link)

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

Take a Walk Through the Flower Fields This Weekend!

The was-band and I had flown over the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch a few times back in the day in our small plane, but I’d never actually wandered through them. They, understandably, look much smaller from the air, and I was curious to visit them in person after seeing beautiful pics on Cest Christine’s instagram feed and blog….and Taylor mentioning she wanted to see them.

So, last Sunday I asked Taylor, Dan & Rowan if they wanted to go…”yes!” was the answer…and off we went. It’s about an hour south from me and I wanted to get there when they opened at 9 to beat the crowds. I assumed we’d stay for about 1/2 hour and just wander…how much strolling can you do through a flower field. Well, we didn’t leave until almost 11!! As one of my neighbors said, “So, it was a 2 hour photo shoot?!” and that it was!

This definitely is better said with pics….enjoy!

over 50 acres of colorful, large ranunculus in an array of colors
I’m ready for my close-up
the Victorian Roses taking some photos for their Rose Parade application…check out their website

coincidentally matching…did not plan it! Romping Through the Ranunculus with Rowan!

fun morning in the flower fields

I’m so glad we went early. By the time we left the parking lot was packed and the crowds were pretty big. It’s around $18 (incl service charge) to get in and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. What a beautiful way to start a Sunday…and the week! If you have some time this weekend, head down to Carlsbad and romp through the ranunculus…’cause they’re only open until May 13th and I’m thinking they’ll only really be great for the next two weekends and then start dying off. You’ll be glad you did!

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

More New York/Brooklyn….Hey Jude!

of course the week started with Pizza Monday BK…and baby Jude!

So, as you know, adorable granddaughter, Jude, was born on my birthday in December, so I’ll be visiting Austin, Kate & Jude a bit more often than my usual two or three times a year. As I’ve said to them before “if you can’t live closer, in California, at least you don’t live in the middle of nowhere”..and I love visiting Brooklyn/NYC! With that in mind, I try to plan a few things to do while I’m there so they have a chance to do their own thing and don’t need to worry about entertaining me…while also babysitting Jude so they can have a few date nights or just a walk by themselves away from their parental responsibilities. This is basically my way of saying that there will be even more frequent Jude/NYC blog posts, but always with something new in mind that you can discover the next time you’re in Brooklyn or Manhattan. Win/Win!!

I had a week off for Spring break and my home-exchange friends happen to be going out of town, so I booked a couple of nights at an Airbnb around the corner from A, K & J and spent the remainder of the week at my friend’s awesome place with a view of Manhattan.

…not a bad place to hang out

My sister, Mariellen, joined me on this trip and we had so much fun. My younger sister, JoAnn, was also in NY for a day, doing a whirlwind college tour with her daughters, so we met up with them at the Macy’s flower show. It’s a gorgeous display of flowers in the middle of Macy’s..including some displays on the second floor. It’s only around Easter time for two weeks, but I think it’s worth seeing their creative displays if you happen to be in NY at that time.

cool flower displays
gorgeous real trees right in the store

our girl gang…we took Jude back to Brooklyn so A&K could have the afternoon to themselves!

The next day we borrowed A&K’s car and drove to see my friends/neighbors, and their new grandbaby, from California who have moved to Connecticut for a few years. It was great seeing them in their new environment, with all the blessings of a new baby.

beautiful friends and new baby

Next, we drove over to Breezy Point, Queens, to see the area and home where my mom spent her summers at the beach. It was pretty much obliterated in hurricane Sandy, and they’ve rebuilt everything, but it was cool to see the place that was such a big part of her childhood…and we scattered a small amount of her ashes on the beach. I’m thinking she was smiling down on us.

the home my mom spent her summers…redone since Sandy

Next up…our day in the city. I saw something in the NY Times about a Downton Abbey exhibit which looked interesting. Kate, my sister, and my sister’s friend were game, so I bought tickets and we planned a day in the city.

exact reproduction of the kitchen downstairs
if you watch the show you recognize this wall of house bells
OH…the clothes!!

They just extended the Downton exhibition until September, so you can still go!

From here we went on to Bergdorf Goodman’s for lunch, with a stop at the Iris Apfel collection (unfortunately it’s over now, but I’m hoping it travels out here at some point), and then on to my sister’s friend’s apartment with an amazing view of Central Park.

We had a table with regular seating, but I love these extravagant chairs at Bergdorf’s, while overlooking Central Park.
my niece got the lobster mac & cheese in a cute little cast iron skillet!
saying goodbye to niece, Erin, who goes to Barnard College
Jude and I just hanging at my sister’s friend’s apartment…pretty spectacular!

Bye, Austin, Kate & baby Jude! We left early the next day, but I didn’t sob (like the last time) saying goodbye to my adorable peeps…because I knew I’d be back in a couple of months. I can’t wait to see all Jude’s new developments (so many changes in the first couple of years) and to spend time with her fun, awesome parents!


  • You have ’til September to see the Downton Abbey exhibit
  • If you’re in NYC in March/April check out the Macy’s flower show
  • Bergdorf’s is always an elegant place to have lunch/dinner…and look at all the stuff in the store you can’t afford.
  • LASTLY…there’s a David Bowie exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum that A&K really liked (I couldn’t get there this visit). It’s there until July 15th!

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

Motivational Monday…Flowers

The earth laughs in flowers….Ralph Waldo Emerson

Where flowers bloom, so does hope…Lady Bird Johnson

(…went to the Carlsbad flower fields yesterday…
GORGEOUS!!…more info & pics on Friday)

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

Motivational Monday….Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is not weakness….and that myth is profoundly dangerous. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change!”…Brene Brown

(ps….you should read Brene Brown’s books!)

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

Foodie Friday…Machaca Pizza

My friend Courtney’s family owned business, People’s Choice Beef Jerky, makes an array of amazing beef jerky. A while back she gave me some of their machaca to try. Machaca is a flavorful, spicy, dried, shredded beef (or pork)…looks kind of like beef breadcrumbs. At the time I used it in some egg recipes that were so good. The flavor that machaca imparts on whatever it’s paired with is awesome, spicy goodness!

So, about a month ago I wanted more protein based snacks to grab & go and decided to place an order with them. I loved their machaca, so thought I’d include that in my order…along with their artisanal sea salt & pepper beef sticksso good! Courtney had originally given me, what looked like, a medium sized package, so when I went to order I ordered two large, thinking that I could use it in a few different ways. What I didn’t realize was that I ordered 2 pounds of the delicious beef. She texted me later and said, “I can’t wait to see what you do with all that machaca!” Okay, time to be creative!

Weirdly, coincidentally, I realized a few months ago that I was allergic to eggs…which is just wrong! I used to have hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs…you name it…but things seemed to go awry when I ate them. Machaca is probably most known for pairing with eggs…for a yummy brunch dish…but that was not an option now.

As you probably know, I’m a big fan of anything on pizza and I happened to have some dough, mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese and ricotta leftover from  Pizza Monday, so decided to make a kind of pizza/flatbread with all the leftovers.

WOW….is all I can say! I texted Courtney a picture afterwards and the PC beef jerky family has since made their own version in their “test kitchen”.  As Charles Caleb Colton said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!” and I was honored that they liked the idea.

As I said, I already had everything I needed, so the only thing I really had to do was saute the mushrooms, (I reconstituted the machaca in the leftover mushroom/olive oil left in the pan) and assemble everything. Here’s how it came out….(layered… machaca/mushrooms/onions/goat cheese/ricotta…with some TJ’s everything bagel seasoning sprinkled over the top)….


…and I made an appetizer on crostini later in the week using the same ingredients…with many compliments!

Next up, I think it would be so good to use it on any recipe as a substitute for panko breadcrumbs….barbecued machaca shrimp anyone? I’ll let you know how that goes.

Bon Appetit!

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

Motivational Monday….Control

Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t….Steve Maraboli

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

Foodie Friday…Irish Soda Bread

I’ll be honest, the only memory I have of Irish soda bread is my grandma making it, with raisins or currants, and it being very dense (not really a “foodie” item…LOL). I’m not a fan of cooked fruit and as a child I don’t remember thinking it was FABULOUS…but it’s St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, so I thought I’d give it a go! I’m game for anything! Unfortunately I don’t have my grandma’s recipe, so I asked my Dublin friend, Gina, to share her recipe. Apparently every family has their version of soda bread. She had two of them…white or brown…and I made the brown one.  I think it’s a must to serve it with Irish butter and I’ll be honest, my memory of it being dense was not a lie…still pretty dense (I might have taken it out too soon?…and need to perfect my timing), but I think it was delish, made my house smell warm & cozy and so easy! Not bad for my first try!

Not only did Gina give me the recipe below, but she also added some important Irish St. Patrick’s Day trivia that you should know…

  • “If you want to be truly Irish about St Patrick’s Day: It’s NEVER called Patty’s Day for short here in Ireland. Patty is a woman’s name. It’s called Paddy’s Day!
    (no ‘St’ used) Or we say, colloquially, just one word: ‘Paddy’s’ …eg – “we’re off school for Paddy’s” “What are your plans for Paddy’s?” “I’ll be in ?? on Paddy’s” (the word night is implied there, & some venue / house)
  •  And NOBODY but NOBODY eats corned beef here on St Patrick’s Day. We barely eat it at any other time of the year either!! Ham or bacon is traditional. Beef was expensive, and the landlords would have had that. Not the rest of us!
  • Btw, don’t forget to add onto your post that Ireland will be playing England in rugby on St Patrick’s Day! (my side-note: looks like you can possibly stream it on BBC sports…or just go to an Irish pub somewhere) Every single heart will be in every single mouth – we’ve already won the 6 Nations championship last weekend (beat Scotland, Wales, France, Italy) because England is so behind in points. But on Saturday we’re playing England to win the Triple Crown (beat Scot, Wales, ,Eng) AND the Grand Slam (win the 6 Nations + Triple Crown)”

Thanks Gina!!

Brown Soda Bread (hers was in lbs/grams/liters..I’ve converted as best I could)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2 cups plain flour
1-3/4 to 2 cups whole wheat flour (called wholemeal in Ireland/Europe)
(….side-note: Her recipe is 1 lb of each flour and with the conversion I started with 2 cups and had to add a bit more buttermilk, so I’d say start with 1-3/4 cups and increase if needed)
1 level teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine baking sugar (called caster sugar in Ireland/Europe)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups buttermilk (Gina said full fat, no reduced fat here…but I went to three stores and apparently we only have reduced fat…what???…sorry Gina)

Mix the dry ingredients. Gradually mix in the buttermilk to form a moist enough dough.  Shape it into a round mound on a floured tin and cut a cross on top (this blesses the bread).

Bake @ 45 minutes…should sound hollow when tapped.


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