Add Meditation to your Repertoire!

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It’s no secret that my life was a bit stressful a couple of years ago, with the end of my marriage and the death of my mom occurring in the same year.  There were a lot of frantic and anxiety ridden days to get through.  I had made the choice to be happy, not bitter, and I needed some tools to achieve that goal.  Besides daily affirmations, which were my first and very important tool, I also decided to try meditation.  I’ve never really thought about meditating, but my mind was going so fast all the time that I NEEDED something to quiet it.  I have many friends that swear by yoga and I did give it a try, but the classes were just a bit too long for my brain to handle.  I wanted a break from my thoughts…but not that long of a break.  I think a yogi would probably tell me that is exactly why I should practice yoga & take that longer break, but I found meditation to be the perfect alternative.

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My friend, Kelly, a yoga teacher, helped me pick out a guided meditation tape by Dana Conley that’s been just the right fit for me.  There are seven tracks on the CD, but the first guided meditation, Breath Awareness, is only 11 minutes long and it’s the one I do the most.   I’ve tried the Progressive Muscle Relaxation, which is 17 minutes, and the Healing Waterfall Imagery, which is 12 ½ minutes, but that 11 minutes seems to be the perfect amount of time to relax my mind & body and rejuvenate me.  There were times back then in the middle of the day when I’d be at my home computer and literally stop what I’m doing, lie down on the floor, plug-in my earphones and just get lost.  Eventually, after some practice, you get good enough at quieting your mind by closing your eyes and taking in some deep breaths, wherever and whatever you’re doing (except maybe driving!).  Sometimes that’s all it takes to get you through that moment…until you have time to actually lay down and do the guided meditation.  At the beginning I tried to do it every day and it helped tremendously in so many ways.  I highly recommend it! If you need a little bit more convincing that you should meditate, check out this article at the Huffington Post ….  or, for more scientific proof, this one over at Medical News Today

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Last year I slacked off a bit and probably only did it once a month, but I’ve decided that 2015 is the year I get back at it at least 2 or 3 times a week, or more. Why don’t you join me….this weekend is a great time to start!

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

Is Chivalry a possibility?

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I think it’s a pretty natural thing after being single for three years to think to yourself “what are the qualities I’d look for in a new guy in my life?”  Of course there’s the obvious…kind, good person, family oriented, has to LOVE my kids.  But then there are some fun, frivolous qualities that come to mind…it is my fantasy!?

So…here goes!  It would be great if he likes watching football, LOVES the adventure of traveling, reading the Sunday paper together and the interesting conversations & banter that go along with that….and chivalry.  I’ve never really been one for chivalry, but I’ve been watching a couple of newlywed friends my age and my brother-in-law with their spouses and I’ve become a fan!  It’s no surprise that I’m pretty independent and I can just hear myself saying in my head, “I can open my own door” or “I can carry my own bags.”  The lack of chivalry in my marriage was my own doing….but this is my “fantasy” guy, so I can change that and hopefully change myself in the process.  Isn’t that what adjusting the sails is all about…making choices to change when it’s needed.  It’s okay to let someone do something nice, even if it’s just holding a door open now and then.  I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now!!  I know I can’t change my independent spirit, nor would I want to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t embrace these small gestures that make one feel taken care of and allow you to rely on someone else.  It’s the little things, right?

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Okay…so it may be a stretch to find someone who’s chivalrous in this day and age (..and it wouldn’t be a deal breaker), but a girl can dream, can’t she??

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

Funky, Fun Interior Design

Have you ever been over someone’s house and you can’t even imagine where they came up with some of their incredibly creative decorating ideas?  I was over my friend Kym’s house during the holidays and left there in awe of her and her home.  She’s one of those people that just changes things around in their home on a whim and it always looks so darn cute and cozy…and did I say creative!!  Now I’m sure you’re dying to see what I’m talking about!  Enjoy….

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The first thing you notice when you walk in the front door is that the old entryway closet has been converted….to an English telephone booth…SO cute!  Check out the stacked vintage suitcases on the overhead shelf.

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It’s too bright to see, but that’s a lighted “telephone” sign above the bench.

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…and who would think of painting an old iron hall tree and hanging old phones on it?? Kym!

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Then you look up and this is the chandelier!  Ridiculously creative!

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The first bathroom…a little lamp with neckties for a lampshade and tied around the base.

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Turn to right in the same bathroom and this fun clock is affixed to the wall.

IMAG3113Continuing down the hallway to the first bedroom dressed all in white…look at those lights that illuminate from behind the curtains…that’s a statement headboard!

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….and the bedside tables can always be used as chairs if necessary.

IMAG3116This is creative bathroom #2 with a couple of trees crafted from paper and a window jutting out to the side yard over the bathtub.

IMAG3117yup…this is the view from the toilet of the paper tree.

IMAG3118This is another bedroom with faux fireplace…black, white and green motif.

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Office/library/exercise room #3 is wallpapered in maps….I should have taken more pics of this room….she made a Christmas tree out of stacked books and lights sitting atop an ottoman…

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On to the kitchen….more adorableness!

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a mirror in the bar area surrounded by fruits and vegetables…yes, they’re fake, but so realistic.

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Signature Holiday Sangria…the tablecloths were black chalk paper…everything on the menu was written on the tables.

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Kitchen Christmas tree….a tree in every room.

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Twinkle lights in the kitchen fireplace give the illusion of a fire…without the mess.

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over the door to the backyard

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On to the living room…an old pew…re-imagined…spectacular!

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extra chairs at the ready up on the wall…with more Christmas trees of course!

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This picture does not do this piano justice….decoupaged, with faux TV on top holding an ipad that plays music (a new kind of “player piano”)  The sheet music holder has been yarn bombedand behind the piano is a iron headboard holding a Merry Christmas garland. So much going on in this pic!

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a little closer view.

IMAG3115Let’s step outside…this is the cozy side yard with fountain, twinkle lights and seating.

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Step through this arbor & small bridge to the summer veggie garden (out of sight on the left).

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…and what would an adorable backyard be without a softly lit gazebo?

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Hope you’ve enjoyed the tour…there’s so much more to see in this gem of a home…I’ll have to go back again with my camera!

Thanks for letting me share your little slice of heaven Kym!  You are an amazingly creative person and I always love seeing the treasures you’ve transformed in your home!

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

Motivational Mondays…it’s alright in the end!

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Golden Gate Bridge with fog

(oops…I scheduled this for Monday delivery, but I guess forgot to “save” that, before clicking “publish…Happy Sunday everyone!!)

Everything will be alright in the end….if it’s not alright, it’s not the end!….Patel, Hotel Manager, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

This quote actually helped me as new snags were thrown into the mix throughout my divorce process.  Basically, as your life is falling apart just know that it will get better and everything will be alright in the end!

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

Motivational Mondays

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The Beauty of Great Hosmer Pond, Craftsbury Common, VT

 hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny…C.S. Lewis

…or a similar sentiment

sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together…Marilyn Monroe

What better way to start each week than with a daily affirmation, quote or just happy, positive thinking….Motivational Mondays!  They’ve pulled me through some really tough times and I truly believe that if you keep them in your thoughts, or the back of your mind, they can become your self-fulfilling prophecy…..and quite possibly change your life for the better.  I hope they help you start your week in a positive way.

Some of my favorite photographs will accompany the sayings…all taken with my phone, never using enhancing filters.

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

Quivering in Quebec City

 

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Okay…not the greatest use of alliteration, but it was chilly in Quebec, so the title seemed appropriate…although maybe it should be shivering?!  Besides being on my bucket list, part of the reason I chose Montreal and Quebec City is because I really felt like having a European experience during the holidays, with all the twinkle lights hung between buildings, old architecture and cobblestone streets….but I didn’t feel like going that far.  These two cities are the next best thing!  I arrived in Quebec City just in time to have dinner in the hotel restaurant and rest up for the following day’s adventures.

It was bitter cold on New Year’s Eve but I bundled up and braved the elements to see the very European Quebec City.  Old Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America and the only two remaining fortified city in North America…the other is in Mexico.  Quebec City sits on the St. Lawrence River, where the fortified walls have stood for over 300 years.  As you walk the ramparts of Old Quebec, you’ll encounter numerous cannons and other vestiges of wars past that protected the area.   The city is divided in two, lower town and upper town, both quaint and worth seeing.  The jewel of Old Quebec is Château Frontenac, the majestic hotel that lures you to upper town…accessible via the funicular…or just hiking up the winding streets.  Rue St. Paul, in lower town, where my hotel was located, has the charm of inviting antique stores & art galleries.  Place Royale, also in lower town is reminiscent of an old town square with the highlight being Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, the oldest stone church in North America (1688).  I think the best way to describe this quaint European city is with pictures….

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Place Royale…old towne square
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Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church
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interior Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church
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view of the St. Lawrence river from Place Royale


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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love cozy passageways
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view of the Chateau from lower town

 

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quaint stores
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European feeling

I had a yummy lunch at La Cochon Dingue…which was on everyones “best of” list…amazing fries!

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gotta love a red door!!
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Croque-monsieur…with amazing fries!

Strolled the city at night to enjoy the beautiful lights…..but didn’t quite make it to midnight …heard the fireworks show from afar….

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another Notre Dame… Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec…in upper town and much larger than the other one

Gotta have fondue when you’re in French territory…. this was dinner!

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The beauty of the Chateau at night

New Year’s Day was a bit warmer and snow was in the forecast!  I decided to just wander, and in doing so came upon an outdoor ice rink, right at it started to snow…and they had Irish music piped in for the skaters.  What a way to start out the new year!!  It was really magical!

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Parliament building
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cool architecture
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lower town in the snow
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let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

My final half-day in Quebec City included the most amazing meal of my trip…brunch at the revolving restaurant, Ciel, with a bird’s eye view of the city.  I had “Bacon frais,
œufs au plat, rösti et champignons” which translates to…. a side of braised pork (it was two beautiful chunks of bacon that had been slowly cooked overnight to a mouth-watering crispy outside and soft ham/bacon-like on the inside), two fried eggs atop hash browns and sauteed mushrooms.  Yeah, heart attack on a plate!

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Ridiculously rich & yummy!
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bird’s-eye view of Old Quebec

…..and then it was back on the train to Montreal for my final evening, where I took a final stroll through Old Montreal

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sunset on the train
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Hotel de Ville…changes colors about every 5 seconds

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 Goodbye Montreal & Quebec City…I’ll be back when it’s a bit warmer!

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

Meandering in Montreal

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Love this idea from my friend Marsha…you can do it just about any place in the world

I’ve had Montreal and Quebec City on my travel bucket list for awhile and decided it was time to check them off that list.  2015 will be happily busy with all things wedding related, so ending 2014 with a great solo trip sounded like the perfect idea!

Why these cold cities in December you ask?  Well, I live in the land of palm trees and hot weather, so right about now I’m ready to don some boots, gloves, scarves and down jacket for a change….and boy, was it a cold change!  I arrived at the apartment in Montreal that I’d rented on the VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) website on December 27th at around 6pm.  I had called the owner before I left the airport so he could be there waiting when I arrived.  As I waited 10, then 15, then 20 minutes in the cold with my bags I momentarily panicked that maybe this would be the first time a VRBO rental might be the scam I’d only heard about…and my cell phone didn’t work in Canada.  It was only a momentary panic (I calmed myself and realized I could get a hotel if I had to..not the end of the world) when a nice neighbor allowed me to use his phone…just as the owner walked up….thank God!  Crisis averted!  The place was just as described and in a perfect location.  When traveling to a large , unknown, metropolitan city and trying to figure out where to stay I usually use New York City as my guide and barometer…i.e.I love the Upper West Side in NYC, because it’s quieter, more neighborhood-like, but still within walking distance, or a quick subway ride, of great restaurants and attractions.  So in searching for a place, I asked a couple of Montreal “destination experts” on Tripadvisor where I should stay and they recommended the “plateau area” based on the above preferences.  They were spot on!  On a side note…the “destination experts” can be found on the “Forum” pages of Tripadvisor on the right side of the page.  They’re usually locals and have been helpful to me on numerous trips I’ve taken around the globe.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to them.

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I had done the usual exhaustive research on my destination, so I knew to go out of my apartment, turn left and there would be myriad choices of restaurants right around the corner.  I walked over to Prunelle, which had great reviews and also recommended by my friend, Carlin, and it did not disappoint.  I got the Menu Degustation, or prix fixe menu, which included an appetizer, main course and dessert with a palate cleanser between the first & second course.  Here’s what my meal looked like….Warm Saint-Maure goat cheese salad, marjoram honey, shallot vinaigrette, raspberries and hazelnuts; Rack of lamb with green olive paste, celeriac and Parmesan ravioli, almonds, juniper sauce and green grapes; and finally Soft cake of chocolate truffles.  Did I mention I was hungry after a long day of traveling?!  Here’s a pictorial journey of my mouth-watering meal….

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Sunday, December 28th, was my 54th birthday and I’d need all the fuel that last night’s big meal afforded me for a long day of walking and wandering in Montreal.  My day started at 9:30am with a quick stroll over to St. Viateur for what I’d heard was a better bagel than any I’d had in NYC….hard to believe, but ultimately true.  You can watch them baking in their open, wood burning, oven…then served warm and not as doughy as their NYC counterparts….delish!  I continued up Avenue du Mont-Royal to hike up to the triple peaked hill where Montreal got it’s name…Mount Royal.  The park was designed by the same architect as New York’s Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted.  I started to climb the many, many stairs up to the perch at the top, with it’s birds-eye view of downtown Montreal, but only made it three quarters of the way up because my fear of heights kicked in and I just couldn’t go any further…what a wuss!  I got a picture through the trees….

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I only got this far!

My journey continued down the other side of the hill towards downtown Montreal and the next stop of the day…Musee Des Beaux-Arts De Montreal (The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) where they were having a Van Gogh & Kandinsky exhibit.  I got the added benefit of their Paris in the early 1900’s and Warhol exhibits too…what a treat!  As I strolled past McGill University and along Rue Sherbrooke towards the museum I was enthralled by the beautiful architecture.  It struck me how the art of architecture can captivate just as much, and sometimes more, than a formal display of art in a museum.

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Amazing architecture

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Warhol too!

I continued my journey through Downtown Montreal, Chinatown, past Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal and stopped to rest my weary feet (by now it was 3:00 and I’d literally been walking 5 1/2 hours) at an adorable bistro in Old Montreal, Bistro Le Modavie, situated on Rue St-Paul.  I dined on yummy French Onion soup, scrumptious beet salad, plenty of water and a cold glass of chardonnay.  Rejuvenated, I wandered the cobblestone streets of quaint Old Montreal….caught the tail end of some NFL football at a sports bar, stopped in at an adorable, eclectic shop/bistro on the waterfront called Magasin General, before making a full circle back to my apartment by 6:45pm.  I did a quick wardrobe change for the evening and walked up to St-Jean-Baptiste Church, where I was treated to a stunning 30th anniversary celebration concert by Cirque du Soleil.  What a way to cap off the day…amazing birthday!

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Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal

 

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I love sepia…makes everything look old and quaint
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Cirque du Soleil

I set  personal record Monday morning by sleeping until 10:00…woohoo, must have been all that walking & fresh air  the day before! It was ridiculously cold (10-12F), so I lingered a bit in the apartment before making my way to the Mile’s End neighborhood, a meal in Little Italy and a stop at the Marché Jean-Talon….an indoor produce/cheese/artisan market reminiscent of those in Europe.  On my way down Rue St. Denis I made a stop at a chic eyewear/optometry store to see if they could fix a contact/glasses problem I had.  I just want to give a shout out to Henri Cohen, owner, who was so warm & generous, remedied my problem and sent me on my way without charge.  Thanks Henri!!

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have you ever seen these gorgeous carrots?
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cool street art

 

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more cool street art

Tuesday was just as cold, if not colder, & windier than Monday, so I just walked a block to an inexpensive bistro that the owner of my apt recommended for brunch & packed up my belongings for the train ride to Quebec City. Even the train station in Montreal was festive & has an amazing array of food offering.

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train station decorations
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Yes…this was at the train station

Next stop…Quebec City!!…..stay tuned!

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

California Coast…A Spur-of-the-moment drive

 

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I loved old boats…a view of Morro Bay

Nothing more fun than a drive up the California Coast with the top down!  This past summer, my friend, Val, texts me out of the blue on a Sunday morning saying she saw an article about a really cute coastal town up near San Luis Obispo called Los Osos and did I want to take a drive up Highway 101.  Well, coincidentally, my brother-in-law’s sister, Beth and family live in Los Osos and I’ve been meaning to visit for years.  So…just one of those serendipity  things that was meant to be.  I make sure they’ll be in town and Beth graciously tells us to come up & stay with them….which we do, 3 days later, top down on the convertible.  I love spur-of-the-moment trips!

bugWe leisurely drive up the coast, stopping for some amazing cinnamon rolls at Old West in Pismo Beach, a little town just south of Los Osos.  We roll into Los Osos mid day and Beth meets us at their amazing home, that her husband Bob built…with a gorgeous view of the nature preserve across the street.  We go for a lovely walk around the neighborhood, check out the preserve and just relax until it’s time for dinner.  Now, some people would just drive over to the local restaurant for dinner…not Beth & Bob.  The four of us got on some Stand Up Paddles and take a gorgeous paddle up the little inlet, pull up to a dock and have dinner overlooking the water.  Now that’s the way to go!  …but then we have to paddle back to the car…in the dark!  Lucky for us, Beth and Bob know this waterway like the back of their hand, so Val & I stick closely to the two of them and make it safely back to the car.  What a fun dinner adventure!

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amazing cinnamon rolls in pismo beach
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nature preserve with a view of Morro Rock

The next day is all about walking around Los Osos, checking out the shops in nearby Morro Bay and gathering drift wood on the beach.  In the evening we head into San Luis Obispo for their incredible farmer’s market.  The sights and sounds of a farmer’s market and a community coming together is such a step back in time, enjoyed by young and old.  This farmer’s market is an exceptional one that takes place every Thursday evening year-round and includes everything from the farmer’s offerings to local artist’s booths.  If you’re going up to SLO, try to plan your trip to include a Thursday evening.

beautiful vegies outdoor market
Thursday night market in SLO

On the way home we made a little video, singing with the top down…but I couldn’t figure out how to upload it here or onto youtube, so you’ll have to look at my FB page to see it….hope this link works…   (Thanks to my friends Christine & Ginger for the fun video idea!)

Can’t wait for the next spur-of-the-moment road trip… sooo much fun!

A lovely New Year’s thought from cestchristine  …..”May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art–write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” -Neil Gaiman

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

Mushroom Gorgonzola Soup

fireplace Aahhh…soup in the winter!  It just evokes warm feelings of sitting by the fire, cup of soup in hand, just enjoying the cold weather.  …or just trying to fool ourselves that it’s cold outside here in Southern California.

I have an elaborate mushroom soup recipe called Wild Mushroom Cappuccino that I got from the, now closed, Ritz restaurant in Newport Beach.  I used to make it every year at Thanksgiving, but it’s quite expensive, with six different kinds of mushrooms, 3 cups of red wine and an abundance of other ingredients.  It’s an amazing soup, but, besides being costly, it also takes hours to make, what with all the chopping and “cooking to reduce and thicken.”   ….but I really like mushroom soup, so I decided to come up with a simpler version and it only takes about 20 minutes to make.  Here you go….

1 container sliced mushrooms

½  container crumbled gorgonzola or bleu cheese

1 to 2 cans chicken stock or broth

1 tsp dried rosemary…crushed

garlic powder

butter

(cream optional)

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Melt butter in a sauté pan, add mushrooms and sprinkle with rosemary and a bit of garlic powder.  Cook until the mushrooms have “sweat” and are a nice dark brown color.  Throw in the ½ container of gorgonzola…sometimes I add more than ½…and cook until the cheese is mostly melted.  Let it cool a bit.  Take about ¾ of the mushrooms and put into a blender or nutra-bullet (my new personal favorite kitchen toy!)  and add 1 can chicken stock/broth.  Puree.  It will thicken as you puree, but if you want it thinner just add more chicken broth.  Add back in the remaining ¼ mushroom pieces from the pan and voilà, you’re done.  Heat up in the microwave.  Sometimes I add a bit of cream if I have it.  I add salt to almost everything when cooking, but the gorgonzola makes this plenty salty, so no need.

The elaborate Wild Mushroom Cappuccino is really delicious…message me if you want the recipe…but this one is so easy and sooooo yummy with the addition of the gorgonzola.

…OR for a really simple soup, just pick this up at Trader Joe’s in the freezer section and pop it in the oven..SO GOOD! I’ve been enjoying a lot of traditional French onion soup here in Canada..but this is a good stand in!

Trader Joe’s frozen French Onion Soup…SO GOOD when it’s done…this is just the before in it’s frozen stage!

Bon Appetit!

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

A Year of DISCOVERY

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In December of 2013 my friend & teammate, Maggie, told a bunch of us about an idea where you pick a word for the coming year.  It’s your inspirational word that you kind of live by and go back to and just see where it takes you.  I think she might explain it differently and it might include some cards, but I interpreted it simply as “pick a word.”  So, at the beginning of 2014 I printed out the word “DISCOVERY” in big letters and pinned it to my bulletin board.  Sure, I’ve gone back and looked at it every now and then and tried to think about what I was “DISCOVERING” but mostly it was just in the back of my mind as I wrote in my journal or went about my daily life.

Also in December of 2013, I bought a little book called One Line A Day, a five year memory book by Chronicle Books.  The idea is to write one sentence a day, every day, and then at the end of the year you start over.  You do it for five years and have a simple history of what’s gone on in your life.  Well, we’re at the end of 2014, so I think it’s a good time to take a look at my year of “Discovery!”

year of discovery

The first page, January 1, 2014, starts in a lovely way.  Apparently I must have been talking to my childhood best friend, Mary Kay, and we were talking about the little cottage I lived in.  My sentence from her was “It lives large…it wraps you!” meaning that even though it’s a tiny place, my cottage was warm, inviting and homey.  Now that’s a nice way to start the year!  Thanks MK!!  Day 2 brought the word “patience” because I’d need to have patience in order to realize my goal of “Discovery.”  I’m, obviously, not going to go through every day with you, but after reviewing my little book here are some of the year’s highlights….

  • Taylor, my daughter, got engaged to Dan
  • Austin, my son, got engaged to Kate
  • so many great trips and celebrations with friends…book club, birthdays, mahjongg, road trips and great new extended families
  • two really great, discovery trips to New York City…new museums, new cute towns, wedding dress shopping & engagement celebration
  • lots of amazing sunrises that I never get tired of viewing
  • tried online dating…pressed the “enroll” button at three sites, but ultimately discovered it’s not for me
  • took a “basic home repairs” class and discovered that I CAN DO IT!
  • tried indoor rock climbing, curling, & sailing…all really fun, but discovered that rowing will always be my true passion
  • discovered that quick decisions are sometimes the best decisions
  • discovered that Pizza Mondays, Duffy rides, writing and reading never get old
  • started this blog and discovered that I really love to write, share, and document this great life in pictures

Next year will be all about weddings, but as I leave for a solo trip to Montreal & Quebec City I’ll be discovering my new word for 2015!  Thanks Maggie!

Happy New Year!  If you haven’t heard this version of Auld Lang Syne check it out!

What will your word for 2015 be?

2015 (1)

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