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.

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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!”

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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!  

Balboa Island Holidays

Just wanted to share the magic of the holidays on Balboa Island with pictures….

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carolers outside my window

 

festive doors
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a real snowman!
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this way to the north pole

 

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boat parade

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a hannukah house too
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Happy Hannukah!
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my favorite house…my sister’s!
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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

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

 

Pizza Mondays

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Only in SF…Pizza Orgasmica

I started a tradition on Monday nights when my son was probably a freshman or sophomore in high school and my daughter was in 6th or 7th grade, so about 12 or more years ago, called “Pizza Mondays.”  All my children’s friends would come over and everyone would make their own personal pizzas.  It’s been such a fun family tradition that when my daughter had to write the essay portion of her college applications she picked Pizza Monday as her theme.  Here’s the opening paragraph of what she wrote….

“It is almost six o’clock on any given Monday night and my family and I are setting up for our weekly tradition of Pizza Monday.  My mom started this tradition, which has lasted for over three years, because she did not want to be interrupted while watching her favorite television show, Monday Night Football.  So now, every Monday, the flour is sprawled across the counter; the pile of risen dough waits impatiently to be seized, squished and flattened; the sauce, well, sits there; the numerous kinds of cheddar, mozzarella, goat, marinated, bleu, and feta cheeses take over half the counter; the pepperonis; the mushrooms; the chicken; the capers; the pineapples; and any other possible topping imaginable is set out for all to make their own delicious hand-rolled pizza.”

She went on to describe a special one that she had with her temple youth group and the activities that took place.  How cool is that, that she chose a family tradition as the basis for an essay that might help her achieve her goal of going to college.  I really did start it so I could watch Monday Night Football, but it grew to be so much more than that over the years. (side note…growing up my mom usually made steak on Sunday nights for dinner and then the leftovers were made into French dip sandwiches for an easy dinner to watch in front of MNF…my siblings might remember the whole thing differently…but this was the impetus for my own MNF tradition) The kid’s friends all joined in and sometimes neighbors & friends too.  At times there were over 20 people that would come, but, since there was no invitation or formality, every now & then it would be just the four of us.  It never mattered because the dough freezes beautifully and I could always use some of the leftovers for another meal later in the week.  When the kids left for college I continued the tradition and neighbors and friends continued to come.

If you’ve ever lived far away from your family, you’d know how hard it is to see everyone…family & friends…in the short time you have when your are visiting.  Now, when the kids and their fiancés are in town I try to fit in a Pizza Monday…or some other day of the week…so they can reconnect with their friends in one evening and hope that alleviates some of the running around they have to do.

So…how do you start your own Pizza Monday?

  • Take the dough out of the freezer in the morning and let it thaw in the sink (…or just buy fresh at Trader Joe’s, but leave enough time for it to come to room temperature)
  • Place the pizza stone in the oven or on the bbq (it has to heat up with oven/bbq…you can’t place it on after it’s hot)
  • Turn the oven up to 500 or light the burners on the bbq…including the back burner if you have one. (it takes about 15-20 minutes to get it to the maximum heat….30-40 on bbq in winter…and it will be really hot!)
  • Set up your counter like the picture below… Basically going around the counter…the dough/flour, the pizza paddles w/ cornmeal on them to make the pizza slide onto the bbq or stone, sauces (I do regular & pesto…sometimes bbq and/or ranch) and then cheese(s) and toppings.  Then…off to the oven/bbq.  The cornmeal makes it easy to slide onto the stone…and it only takes around 3-5 minutes to cook depending on the heat.
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flour with dough, pizza peels, sauces, toppings and cheeses

Some fun ingredients to try….

  • Prosciutto
  • Goat cheese
  • Bleu/Gorgonzola Cheese
  • Carmelized onions
  • Fried garlic
  • Fresh basil (put on after pizza is cooked or it burns)
  • Kalamata olives
perfect pizza
Your masterpiece!

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Buon Appetito!!

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

Happiness Lives in the Space of Novelty

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A few years ago I was doing some research on existentialism  on the advice of a therapist I was seeing at the time.  In doing the research, I decided to look for daily affirmations that related to existentialism.  I found a great article by John Tsilimparis over at Huffington Post that explains existentialism pretty clearly and also had the following daily affirmations…

  • I will accept that I will be forever changing and creating myself and that I will never be a “fixed” or foregone conclusion.
  • I will use mindfulness and active awareness skills to make conscious meaning out of life’s experiences. I do have some control over my thoughts, feelings and actions.
  • I will take full responsibility for all the circumstances in my life by doing what I can to make them better today. There is no one to blame anymore.
  • I will be more aware of the choices I make today and accept that I alone, am the author of my destiny.
  • I will remember who I am in relation to others and be an authentic separate individual. I will differentiate myself from others and let them experience the uniqueness of who I am.
  • I will use the rest of my time in this life wisely and accept that the prospect of death is a concept that actually helps me live life more fully.

I know, deep, huh!!  They’ve been on my bulletin board ever since.

morning in ballycotton

Somewhere along the way during my research I stumbled upon this AWESOME YouTube channel called “Shots of Awe”  and I’ve been a subscriber ever since.  I’ve showed it to a few people and some think it was way too weird and out there….and some think it’s very interesting.  Honestly, there are some I don’t even understand, but most are so fascinating to me.  I just love the passion that Jason Silva brings to whatever topic he’s talking about.  Today he uploaded one called “Happiness Lives in the New” and I thought…Oh, that’s why I love change and travel and new things!!  I don’t understand the quote at the beginning of the video at all, but the video itself was great.  Check it out…just had to share!!

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

Impracticality and Life Experiences

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Sunday…coffee and the NY Times…aaahhhh

I’m not usually one to clip articles out of newspapers, although I do love how much information and thought provoking topics I get from reading the Sunday NY Times.  Well, there was an article in the Nov. 30th, Sunday Review edition titled In Praise of Impracticality” and again this morning, Dec 14th, also in Sunday Review titled Abundance Without Attachment.  Both of them resonated with me for almost the same reason….make your experiences matter more than your stuff.

In “…Impracticality” author Bill Hayes says that “Every life-altering decision I’ve ever made has seemed…misguided, misjudged or plain foolish – and ultimately turned out to be the opposite:…”  He goes on to tell his story of moving to NYC with no real plans, or money, except that he wanted to be a writer and he made so many so called ‘impractical-mistakes’ but all of them led him to discover new things about his new adopted city…and about himself along the way.  The article this morning on “…Attachment” by author Arthur C. Brooks details his journey to visit a hipster kind of monk in India.  In asking the question of the monk, “…is economic prosperity a good or a bad thing?” the monk replied, “It’s good….There is nothing wrong with money, dude. The problem in life is attachment to money.”  So, Hayes continues “….abundance without attachment.”  Who doesn’t like nice things, but I think it’s saying, ‘Enjoy them, just don’t make them what makes you happy and fulfilled!’

Here’s how I think they’re somewhat related.  The first says basically to make mistakes, be impractical, you’ll learn something…sure you may regret some, but basically impracticality, and I think the related spontaneity, can keep your life moving, and adventurous.  The second says that some of those impractical things you’ve done can lead to great life experiences, not material things.

Okay, so where am I going with this?  As an example, in the summer of 2013 I felt the need to get a place to call my own, with an extra bedroom for when the kids visited and I wanted it to be by the beach.  So, keeping within my budget, I decided, against what many thought was a crazy idea, to purchase a small cottage on leased land….and I did it pretty quickly.  It was adorable, had a view, two bedrooms and basically everything I needed…but you only own the building, not the land, so you’re still essentially renting.  Well, not to bore you with the details, but this past summer, 13 months after buying it, I made the spontaneous, rash decision to sell that place (there was a weird real estate bubble going on in the neighborhood) and it sold before it was officially on the market and I made a profit.  When I told my son he said, “But Mom, you love that place!”  which was true.  Buying it was impractical and selling it was a really quick decision because, although it was my home…it was a material thing…and in the end I’ll be going back to my family home, which I love…a great, impractical, spontaneous experience all around.   Brooks continues the article explaining three practices, but the first is my favorite..”Collect Experiences, not things.”  He goes on to back up this statement with studies that have been done on the subject to support it…so interesting.  You’ll have to read the article for the other two practices.

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impractical choices….meaningful adventures

Brooks does make note that “for those living paycheck to paycheck, a focus on money is understandable.  But for those of us blessed to be above poverty, attachment to money is a means-ends confusion.”  …or in other words, didn’t I make this money to get stuff?  That’s the “confusion” he and the monk are trying to get us to understand.  I CAN say, that even when I was young, newly employed or newly wed and didn’t have much disposable income, it was always the experiences I had that made me happier than any of the stuff. Sometimes it was even the adventure of the hunt at garage sales and flea markets to buy those things for our first home that made those “treasures” even more special.  If I had to choose my favorite material “thing” it would probably be my red convertible bug.  It’s fun to sing at the top of my lungs with the top down (yeah, I’m one of those weird people you see at the stop light singing away…oblivious that you’re laughing at me,) but if it was taken away tomorrow for some reason I’d be bummed, but I’d be fine….because I have a great family, great kids and great friends and that is the abundance I strive for.  Traveling makes me happy and those are the experiences I treasure and remember most…whether it be the road trips the seven of us took in the station wagon when I was a kid, the Weekend Without Borders with my girlfriends, my adventures in New York City with my kids, or just being on the water with my team in the morning.  I’m proud of my spontaneous, sometimes impractical spirit that allows me to enjoy “abundance without attachment.”

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love the quotes that Taylor randomly sends me

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

Weekend Without Borders

 

It was o-dark-thirty when we crammed nine women, our chauffer, Barry, and multiple suitcases into a Suburban (totally illegal) and raced off to the airport for our two-day sojourn in the city by the bay, San Francisco.  While waiting in line for our departure, our resident greeter, Sandi, struck up a conversation with a guy and after explaining that we were nine women traveling together to eat, drink & be merry, he dubbed it “The Weekend Without Borders.”  Perfect theme for our trip!

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Bus affectionately known as the “dirty 30”
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Burger bar sliders and fries

We dropped our suitcases off at the apartment I’d found on Telegraph Hill in North Beach, in the shadow of Coit Tower,  then hopped the #30 bus on Stockton & Columbus, to set off for our first, of many, meals.  We needed to re-fuel for the start of our marathon holiday shopping excursion.  It may sound boring, but we dined at The Burger Bar

in Macy’s on Union Square because it’s really good, basic food, convenient, and has a nice view overlooking Union Square, where they’ve installed the annual holiday ice rink.  After being sufficiently stuffed, we headed in all directions to start our shopping, agreeing to meet up at 5:30.  Some of us were done shopping early and decided to have a cocktail next to the rink and just take pleasure in the beautiful weather and Union Square, with it’s majestic lighted Christmas tree & wreaths in the store windows.  When it was time to leave, we decided to walk back to our apartment so we could take in the cool weather that we’d all been starving for…it’s been a really hot Fall here in SoCal.  We strolled up Stockton, through Chinatown, crossed Columbus and were treated to the evening splendor of North Beach landmarks, Coit Tower and Saints Peter & Paul Church, both illuminated by a spectacular full moon.

 

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Union Square
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coit tower with full moon
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St Peters and Paul Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the girls had lingered in Union Square and were joining us a little later.  When they arrived back at the apartment they said they had secured a ride for all of us to our dinner that evening at Gamine on Union Street.  At 7:40 a slick black limo arrived in front of the apartment…what a fun surprise!  We all piled in and enjoyed a luxurious ride to our destination.  Because there were twelve of us (my niece, Clare; Patti’s daughter, Caroline; & my best friend since first grade, Mary Kay, also joined us), we were given a back room that was the perfect size for our large party.  The food was divinely French with bottles of wine, beef tartare and an amazing baked cambozola with roasted garlic and toast points, to name a few.  We even had an impromptu question/answer session that Sharon started asking about our favorite and least favorite things. So many laughs and spirited, great conversation.  I’d recommend Gamine!

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These girls know how to travel in style!

The next morning Jerry and I were out early for a walk and a cup of coffee at my favorite old haunt, Caffe Puccini.  On the way we saw lots of the locals, in organized groups, in Washington Square Park practicing their tai chi, dancing and doing slow choreographed movements with large swords…which seemed a little dangerous!  The baristas at Caffe Puccini are not quite the cute little Italian ladies and men that I remember from my SF days, but the coffee & lattes were still great & the ambience perfect.  As the others rolled out of bed, two by two, they decided to go right around the corner and get in line at Mama’s for breakfast.  What an adorable place and there is ALWAYS a line outside!  Highly recommend if you have the time to wait.

cafe puccini
Caffe Puccini…perfect way to start the day!

Now that we had our energy back it was time for Day Two and Union and Chestnut Streets for shopping.  Both Union and Chestnut streets are lined with boutiques, chock full of some great, unique, inexpensive finds….as well as some not-so-inexpensive places. We refueled midday at a little place on Fillmore, between Union & Chestnut, called Sabrosa….upscale Mexican that was quite delish.  After our afternoon shopping, our evening was to be at Caroline’s apartment, where she had prepared a nice appetizer spread and had plenty of wine waiting for us.  What a great apartment!  We ordered some really good wood-fired pizza that was delivered and just sat around chatting for hours….then it was back to the apartment where we stayed up and played (Ellen DeGeneres created app) Heads Up.  It’s a fun game to do in a group…and you just download the app!

caroline apt
Carolines adorable apartment
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the whole gang

One of the things I’ve noticed in the short time I’ve been writing this blog is how much I’ve enjoyed how it makes me stop and be in the moment.  I lived in San Francisco for 5 years in the early 80’s and walked in North Beach many times, but I noticed more things and took more pictures on this trip than ever before.  Here’s a few from my walk up Lombard on the last morning of our trip.

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Lombard…quite a hike to get here!

 

cafe on lombard

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San Francisco Art Institute

The final stop for the group was the iconic Buena Vista Restaurant, where we toasted the end of an amazing trip, celebrating friendship & the holidays.  I keep reliving the weekend in my head and it makes me smile.  Same time next year with these amazing women!

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gotta have Irish Coffee at Buena Vista

 

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the waiter was being a little “artsy” with his composition
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my dads bench on the Marina Green

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

Lighthouse Love

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Montara Lighthouse…Hostel south of SF….cried the whole way here after dropping my son off at college and stayed the night

I love lighthouses!  I’m not sure why, but it may have to do with the proximity to the water, which is always a draw for me, or the romantic notion of standing and looking out to sea as a light keeper, warning & guiding ships along the shore.  I’ve been lucky enough over the years to have traveled to quite a few coastal locales and I’ve made it a point to capture the local lighthouse.    Here’s a pictorial journey of lighthouses from my travels….

Hornby_Lighthouse
Hornby Lighthouse…New South Wales, Australia

 

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Chatham Light…Cape Cod
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Nauset Light…Cape Cod

After a day exploring Sydney and dining near Bondi Beach…we took a bit of a trek along a winding trail to reach this lighthouse out on South Head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two lighthouse pics were taken on a week-long girl’s getaway with my sister, cousin and best friend to Cape Cod…what happens in Chatham, stays in Chatham!

 

 

Little Red Lighthouse

Thanks to my new friend, Christine, over at C’estChristine for this little gem!  I’ve been to New York a million times and never knew this Little Red Lighthouse (officially Jeffrey’s Hook Light) existed on the far Upper West Side, in the shadow of the George Washington bridge.  I’m so glad I ventured up there on the subway this past year.

palos verdes

Point Vicente lighthouse…This lighthouse is in my own backyard, about 45 minutes north in Palos Verdes, Los Angeles.

Point Cabrillo lighthouse

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse…Mendocino.  I was here over five years ago & this picture makes me want to go back!  Visit this adorable seaside village and stay overnight in one of their lightkeeper rental cottages …about 3 1/2 hours north of San Francisco.

…and last, but not least….Miniature lighthouses on the “little island” of Balboa Island.  I’m sure they’ve been here for a long time, but I just recently noticed them and took pics.

BI.4 BI.3 BI.2 BI.1

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lighthouse journey as much as I’ve enjoyed finding them.  There are SOOOO many more out there that I need to see and explore!

What’s you’re favorite lighthouse?  I’m making a list of them to visit!

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