A Couple of Books!….and some notes

old books

I just finished two books and I always find it interesting to go back and see what I’ve highlighted/underlined…and reflect & wonder why I did so.

girl on trainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train is a psychological thriller with depth and twisted love triangles that will keep you voraciously reading until the end.  Rachel is “the girl on the train” with a vivid imagination and a somewhat depressing existence.  I was hooked from the first page and really enjoyed envisioning Rachel’s view from the train as she traveled….I love traveling by train!

The Girl on the Train marries movie noir with novelistic trickery. . . hang on tight. You’ll be surprised by what horrors lurk around the bend.” —USA Today

My highlights….hmmmmm

  • “I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.  Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing?  It is pure egotism, a selfishness to conquer all.”
  • “It’s impossible to resist the kindness of strangers.”
  • “Kamal says I have to find a way of making myself happy, I have to stop looking for happiness elsewhere.”


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies weaves the story of the draaaama that takes place at a preschool in an upwardly mobile Australian suburb…and the cattiness, lies, and not-in-my-backyard mentalities that ensue.  Moriarty explores the lives of the families, their brilliant, perfect worlds, and the struggle to keep up their facades….even as their world is unraveling.  Kept me interested from beginning to end.

“Moriarty demonstrates an excellent talent for exposing the dark, seedy side of the otherwise “perfect” family unit…. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal

My highlight…so true!

  • “You need to be friends with other mothers,” her mother said.  “You support one another! You understand what you’re going through.”

…and lastly, another bit of Jason Silva’s passion. This time on the power of stories…
Shots of Awe…The Power of a Story

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

The Lure of Travel and Wanderlust



It’s 7am and the engine noise starts.  Some here on Balboa Island are making calls to complain about the noise.  Me…I’m wondering where they’re going!  I’m talking about the airplanes from nearby John Wayne Airport that start taking off over my apartment at 7am every morning.   Whether I’m on my morning walk or just getting off the water from rowing practice the noise doesn’t bother me.  Okay, sometimes in the evening, when I’m trying to watch TV and have to pause the show I’m watching because it’s so loud, it bothers me….but when I’m driving on the 73 freeway with the top down on my way to work they literally go right over my head on takeoff…it’s so cool!  As I merge onto the 55 freeway there are planes on their approach to land and I wonder what’s happening with the people in that plane…are they coming home or just starting their adventure in SoCal?

When I was trying to “get a life,” before I started back to work and found rowing, I thought it would be fun to volunteer at the local airport as a greeter, just to help people with their travels and to be part of the excitement that happens at an airport. I had the romantic notion that I would hear about people’s travels, where they were going, where they’ve been.  I’m one of those people who really do like to see all your travel pictures and hear your stories of far off lands and adventures.  I don’t even mind the long lines at customs that much…it’s part of the adventure!  Ultimately being a greeter was kind of depressing because the only time I really helped people was when they missed their flight or their flight was cancelled, at which point I could help them find another airline.  That gig lasted 6 months.

busy airport

This past December, in keeping with holiday season, I watched the movie “Love Actually.” Great movie, but I especially love the opening scene of the arrival gate at Heathrow where everyone is excited, hugging & kissing, and you hear Hugh Grant’s voice say “love actually is all around.”  It’s so sweet and the perfect segue into the movie, but it also makes me want to travel somewhere and feel that excitement!  Why do I have such wanderlust?  Well, it may be genetic!  My parents loved to travel together…and with the five of us…and recently psychologists have identified a wanderlust gene.  Who knew!!  It is known as DRD4-7r (a mutation of the DRD4 gene) and is associated with dopamine levels in the brain.  So, scientifically I’m predisposed to love traveling and discovering new places!  I can’t help it!  Are you a wanderluster?….take this test and find out!  (I answered “yes” to every question…except #4!)

Can’t wait for my next travel adventure, which will be take me to Dewey Beach, DE for my son and future daughter-in-law’s wedding!!

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

Motivational Mondays…Anxiety & Decisions


I’ve had to remind myself of this lately….

If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience….. Deepak Chopra

Smile, breathe, and go slowly….. Thich Nhat Hanh

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

An Afternoon of Photography Love in Los Angeles

IMAG4045I was on Spring Break from my job last week and had plans for dinner up in L.A. with both of my sisters & brother-in-law at a friend’s beautiful new home.  If I’m making the hour-and-a- half trek up there by car, and not my usual fun train ride, then I like to take the opportunity to visit some new place instead of just driving through at 70 mph.  I’ve had the Annenberg Space for Photography on my “go to” list for awhile and never seem to have time to stop…but this time I did!


You should go!  There are two nice venues, The Annenberg Space for Photography and Skylight Studios, both with interesting exhibits through May 3…and both are FREE ($3.50 for 3 hours of parking on weekdays..I think it’s a dollar on weekends.)  The Annenberg was opened in Century City, across from the Century Plaza Hotel on the former site of the Shubert Theatre, in 2013 as a “cultural destination dedicated to exhibiting compelling photography.”  The current exhibit on view is called “Sink or Swim, Designing for a Sea Change” and takes you on a journey to some of the world’s coastal communities to explore how these specific populations are adapting to the rising sea levels through ingenious architectural innovations. There are some interesting stories accompanying the photographs detailing some architectural challenges and their ultimate solutions.  There’s also a short documentary that shows new design concepts that have come to fruition in the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and more new ideas in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  Lastly, there was a really interesting video in their small lecture room of a TedTalk titled “Ingenious Homes in Unexpected Places” by Iwan Baan (those TedTalks can really suck you in!)


The 5000 square foot Skylight Studios is located across a park from The Annenberg and is used for viewing short documentaries during it’s daytime hours, but it is primarily for the Iris Nights Lecture Series, showcasing the stories behind some amazing images.  The current documentary on view is titled “Inside Tracks: Behind the Lens on the Assignment of a Lifetime.” It tells the compelling story of Rick Smolan, a National Geographic photographer, and his assignment to document the gripping 9 month, 1700 mile journey of Robyn Davidson across the Australian Outback.  The photography is stunning, but the story is equally captivating.  I’d like to see the movie, based on the book.


Lounge and relax in the beautiful park between the two spaces

I initially thought I’d just stop in for a quick visit to both of these small exhibition spaces, and be on my way.  Instead, I took advantage of the beautiful park, with it’s built in benches and vignettes of bistro tables and chairs, and had lunch at one of the really yummy adjacent restaurants. There’s the pricier, nicer, Cuvee Restaurant or a few casual restaurants…I went to Sen Asian.  I arrived around 11:30 and didn’t leave until 2.  So much fun!




lettuce wraps at Sen Asian..I got three meals out of this $6 appetizer!

Both exhibits close May 3, but I’ll be back when I’m on Summer break to see their next exhibit titled “Emerging” which opens June 6th.  Maybe I’ll even be able to catch one of the Iris Nights Lectures?

I also went to see the interesting movie, Salt of the Earth, about photographer Sebastião Salgado.  It was a photography themed week!

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

We’re All In the Dance

ballroom dance


I’m a huge Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) fan!  When I was in high school I wanted to be a choreographer, took dance lessons almost every day and was a teacher’s aide in dance.  I also love So You Think You Can Dance, another dance themed show.  Anyway, one of the celebrity dancers this season on DWTS is Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player, who “came out” before the NFL draft last year.  Can I just say that I think it’s sad and weird that he’s somewhat famous for being a gay football player.  I’m sure it took a lot of courage to come out in a highly macho, tough sport, and I hope his “trailblazing” makes it easier for other young gay men and women, but I look forward to the day when someone’s sexual orientation does not dictate whether people judge or label someone.  Can’t he just be a good..or bad…football player?

michael sam

So last week’s theme for DWTS was “my most memorable year.”  All of the stories and dances were moving, some more emotional than others, but the one that Michael Sam did was breathtaking….not because it was technically perfect, but because he told a moving, sad story, through song & dance (skip to 1:38 on the video),  about telling his dad that he was gay.  His dad turned his back on him.  I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the house.  So powerful, I cried (I seem to be doing more of that lately…last week a book, this week Michael Sam dancing!)  I literally cannot comprehend the thinking that being gay makes you un-lovable & that you would turn your back on your own child.  I don’t care what religion you are… a true, loving God accepts every one for who they are….and I don’t have much tolerance for those that think otherwise. (ugh….that’s a whole other post on religious extremism and intolerance)

I could go on about this subject, especially the whole debacle in Indiana, but I won’t.  There are many interpretations of the phrase “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” but I think that it means “people who live in the bubble of perfection and judgement better hope that no-one or no-thing will shatter their perfect world.”  Who can live up to that expectation?  Who would want to?  We are all different, with our own personal challenges along this journey of life….which is what makes the world such an interesting place to be! Everyone has to dance on this earth together, sometimes leading, sometimes following, but hopefully navigating it together with grace, love and decency.  We’re all in the dance…love this song!

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

Babies, Allergies and the Five-Second Rule


My sister and I were discussing kids and the rise in allergies over the past 20 years.  We both pretty much gave our kids everything to eat and didn’t pay much attention to the “rules” of limiting certain things in our children’s diets.  I’m sure we were judged by other parents at the time, but it was just easier to give them a variety of foods…whatever was available.  ….and that usually included peanut butter.  Of course, like everything else, a new study has come out that says that…. “Feeding babies snacks made with peanuts before their first birthday appears to prevent that from happening.”   To that we both said, “duh!”

If you think about it, the vaccines we give our children are a form of the actual diseases we are trying to prevent, so it makes sense that feeding kids a variety of foods, including peanut butter, might prevent any allergic reaction they may have later.  Of course, there are real allergies, sometimes life threatening, that children are born with or develop as they get older…and even develop as adults…but why not try to expose your kids to all kinds of foods, and germs, early on in hopes that you can boost their immunity and prevent some illnesses later.


My kids loved playing in the rain and we encouraged it!  What’s better than sailing make-shift boats in the “river” floating along the curb?  I’d usually had hot-chocolate and warm towels from the dryer waiting for them when they were ready to come in.  I work in the attendance office at a high school and it cracks me up every time there’s a rainy day here in SoCal (which, unfortunately isn’t often enough).  The amount of parents who call and say their student cannot come to school, or will be late, because it’s raining, and it would be too taxing for them to walk in the rain, is hilarious.  When a student walks in late on a rainy day and their excuse is “it’s raining” my response is sometimes sarcastically, “Are you a witch?”…think Wizard of Oz. We all get a good chuckle out of it, including the students.

Dr. Spock was my parenting guru and the five second rule was in full force in my house (not that he condones that.)  My kids weren’t any sicker than anyone else’s…and possibly less so.  I will say that my son had some issues with asthma (which is just a different reaction to an allergy) between the ages of two and 6…and later on in college….but they were possibly inherited from his grandfather, as many allergies are hereditary.


So, as with everything, the pendulum will swing back and forth…coffee is bad for you, no coffee is good for you….eggs are the root of all cholesterol problems, until they’re not….low fat, high carb is the way to go, NOT ANYMORE!!  It can be frustrating, but just using a little common sense and your gut feeling goes a long way!  I’m glad scientists discovered that wine and dark chocolate are good for you…and I’m going to ignore any new studies that dispute it!

Have a FABULOUS weekend…and don’t sweat the small stuff!

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

Two Artists Create An Amazing Home

 IMAG4017Ann makes these whimsical, fun lamps from vintage toys, lunchboxes and tin cans

My brother, Tim, is an art director, as well as an acclaimed illustrator and author of over 18 children’s books (download his new e-book The Last Talking Pig.)  His wife, Ann, has been a floral designer for over 30 years…and together they are the most creative duo you’ll ever meet!  Every time we go to their home for Easter it’s a new experience…a feast for the eyes. There are always new little vignettes to see, furniture moved around and different color palettes than the last time we were there.  This year I decided to take a bunch of pictures to share with all of you!  Enjoy!


Look up as you enter their home and you are greeted to a ceiling fresco that Tim painted (he also painted a fun version of the Sistine Chapel in his bedroom growing up.)

IMAG4008Also in the entry-way is this mirror, framed with a broken china mosaic that Ann did
…not to mention the clever tin can & porcelain doll!

IMAG4005 IMAG4003Look to your left and be inspired by all the little vignettes
(like the one below) in the living room.

IMAG4004Vintage pocket watches in a vintage silver box.

IMAG4009The dining room with built in corner china cabinets

IMAG4010Humpty Dumpty really did have a great fall!
(this is from the dining room table centerpiece arrangement of teacups and vases)

IMAG4012The kitchen sitting area…with many more vignettes (see below) to enjoy!


The Pez collection with another fun lamp.


A large book atop a small metal trash can is the perfect little side
table for this vintage phone.

IMAG4024…more kitchen cuteness!


Gotta love this vintage stove!

IMAG4016The den/library.

IMAG4019Who wouldn’t want to be a guest in this inviting Shabby Chic style bedroom?

IMAG4020…more fun tin can projects coming together.

IMAG4021The charming master bedroom.

IMAG4022…with this vintage dresser, whose top has been transformed
with another of Ann’s mosaic masterpieces.

IMAG4042Love the bead-board and vintage mirror in the bathroom.

IMAG4037They converted the garage into Tim’s studio.  The bookcase is hinged on the right and on wheels…roll it out and there’s a little speakeasy in the back that their two boys created.
(Oh, yeah, their two boys are ridiculously creative too!)
That’s a bunch of my brother’s books on the shelves.


IMAG4040 IMAG4039

Artwork (mostly Tim’s), vintage furniture, a wooden rocking horse and an electric fireplace create the ambiance in the studio.

Let’s Go Outside!

from mareThe table set for thirty…with an arbor at the end (great photo by Mariellen)


Ann’s garden and greenhouse.


Drinks are served…the iron chandelier is suspended on a wire over the table.
(another great photo by Mariellen!)

mare3They built the brick around the antique oven and bbq and hung some old windows from the tree above with chains.  The oven works as a storage and serving area.
They built, and painted the puppet theater on the left when the boys were little…and now all the little young cousins get to enjoy it again. (pic by Mariellen)

IMAG4031A vintage tablecloth is the backdrop for the scrumptious dessert table. 

Okay…I’m exhausted just looking at all the creative projects they’ve done….and will continue to do.  It’s always exciting to anticipate what it’ll look like next time we’re there!  I hope some of their ideas have inspired you!


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

Motivational Mondays…Believe


I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles….Audrey Hepburn (that’s two quotes from her that I’ve posted!)
Get more at BrainyQuote.com

Believe in yourself….the possibilities are endless!

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

Prague and Budapest


Prague Castle all lit up

It’s been about five years since I’ve been to Prague and Budapest (for my 25th wedding anniversary), but I know that things move somewhat slowly there and it looks much the same now as it did back then, so thought I’d share some pics of these beautiful, historical cities.  (camera phones are so much better now…these aren’t the greatest, but you get the idea!)…


Prague is one of the few cities that wasn’t bombed during WWII and it truly feels like they took little pieces of Disneyland and set them down on the banks of the Vltava River.  Enjoy this pictorial journey…


The view from the apartment I rented on VRBO
(I’d highly recommend renting..I’ve done it all over the world.)


Pivovarsky Klub…they boast “the largest beer menu in the country”
We had nettles beer, which was green and very interesting.


The Prague Astronomical Clock…The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.
Little figures come out every hour called “The Walk of the Apostles.”


Prague’s musical history is legendary! Mozart called it home for awhile and
Vivaldi and Beethoven both performed in Prague.


I wish I had a better picture to capture the magnificence of the Basilica of St. George and the amazing concert we saw there, featuring Pachelbel’s Canon in D and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  The acoustics were amazing and intimate! (Darla you have to go to this if you can!…click here for ticket website)


 Cute little spiral staircase in a park below Prague Castle.


“The Dancing House” was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunic
with some collaboration from Frank Gehry.


Stopped by a local rowing club to buy a t-shirt…they didn’t have any,
but I got to see these two master’s women rowing…one was in the Olympics back in the day according to the director of the club.


Just a beautiful, serene scene.CIMG7114

Visiting the The John Lennon Wall was of particular importance to us.
Our daughter had just been in Prague a few months before us with her college Jewish studies class and had written her name and taken a picture of her “graffiti.”  We found the exact spot, but it had been painted over.  It was just cool to be at the same place
she was just a few months prior to our visit!CIMG7113



 We planned our trip to Budapest to visit my then husband’s paternal ancestral homeland.  We visited the apartment where his grandma and father lived before coming to America to escape the Nazi invasion.  I loved seeing and feeling the history…and having some sense of connection…to this beautiful city.CIMG7199The iconic Chain Bridge…this was the view from our hotel room.

CIMG7215Walk to the hilly Buda side, take a walk through Gellert Hill and then saunter over to Castle hill with beautiful views of the flat Pest side and the Parliament Building.

shoes on the danubeShoes on the Danube…a very moving memorial of bronze shoes honoring the
Jews that were killed here.  They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away.
It was an astonishing, haunting site.


The House of Terror museum is located on Adrassy Ut and commemorates the occupation of Hungary by fascist and communist regimes, as well as memorializing it’s victims.


Take the hour train ride from Budapest to Szentendre and have some wood fired pizza at beocafe…yummy and cute little place!!

CIMG7241Colorful door in Szentendre


hidden cobble-stoned streets in Szentendre
CIMG7179I loved this sign for an architectural firm in Budapest….so creative!

We took the train from Prague to Budapest, but I’ve heard from friends that the barge cruise down the Danube is pretty spectacular.  The history is rich and the architecture just stunning!  European vacations never disappoint!

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