Thanksgiving…my favorite holiday!

 

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The original Thanksgiving serving table…to die for!
The first two arrived last Saturday….the other two on Wednesday.  Both of my children and their fiancés came to SoCal from NY/NJ for the Thanksgiving holiday and I’ve been in heaven ever since.  There is nothing like the comfort of having a full house, lots of activity, mayhem & games…and more food consumption than one person can handle! I also got the extra bonus of meeting and spending time with my future daughter-in-law’s entire family throughout the week….who are all wonderful, fun people to hang out with.

2012 Beachy Thanksgiving on the porch
2012 Beachy Thanksgiving on the porch

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It is not attached to any organized religion and it revolves around family, food & gratefulness.  The year was 1992 and we had just moved into our new home.  About 15 days after moving in, we hosted our first of what would be nineteen years of unforgettable Thanksgivings.  We always had around 35 to 40 people, three turkeys and an amazing assortment of mouthwatering sides made by all who attended.

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the beautiful new setting

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the chefs

 

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Cichetti/Brennan homemade raviolis and sauce

The torch was passed last year to my younger sister, JoAnn (check out her blog) and her family.  This year we started the feast with homemade fried raviolis & marinara sauce that had been made by my future daughter-in-law’s family that morning…yummmo!  JoAnn had brined the 28 lb. turkey & two large turkey breasts, for over 24 hours before baking it to a golden brown….which was then carved quite skillfully by my older sister, Mariellen.  There were 27 people this year enjoying the delectable turkey and the abundance of side dishes….stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, bleu cheese mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes with browned marshmallows, broccoli/cheese casserole, cheesy potato casserole, green beans, cranberry/pomegranate sauce, pumpkin Irish soda bread & tasty pretzel challah with olives.  I get stuffed all over again just writing that list of food.

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The feast!

As if that wasn’t enough, my brother, Tim, & his wife, Ann…along with a few others…made scrumptious desserts.  We also had the fabulous new additions of a game of flip-cup, family trivia… a-la-Jeopardy, and a family slide show, all courtesy of my brother-in-law, Doug, and my three computer savvy nieces, Goldie, Bun Bun and Miss T.  I get so much joy from decorating the tables…the flowers, the candles, the tablecloths & seasonal decorations….and thankfully my sister is more than happy to indulge my creative side and let me continue this portion of the prep.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but that is never truer than at the Thanksgiving feast.

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the desserts

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I am extremely grateful for my children, Austin & Taylor, and their loving fiancés, Kate & Dan, who fit in so comfortably with the whole family; my extended family, as well as the addition of my future extended families, the Brennan/Cichetti & Collerys; my fun, creative siblings & their families; and my amazing, warm, supportive, friends.

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Now that’s a beautiful view!  How was your Thanksgiving this year?

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

Comfort Food….Whole Roasted Lemon Chicken

One of my favorite “go to” meals is a whole Roasted Lemon Chicken.  When the kids were growing up it became the meal I’d make every Friday for Shabbat.  I liked the smell that wafted through the house as the onions started to caramelize and the chicken started browning.  It just felt like home to me and I loved the familiarity of the smell and that it meant “Shabbat.”  It has since become my go to meal that I deliver to friends and neighbors in their time of need, whether a joyous occasion like the birth of a baby, or a friend who’s going through a hard time and just doesn’t have time to make dinner for the family.  When delivered to their front door it is usually accompanied by rice pilaf and salad…and maybe a bottle of wine.  Even though I live alone now, I still make it for myself at least once every two weeks and the leftovers last for days, providing many additional meals.IMAG2805

Here’s the recipe….

  • One whole roasting chicken (usually around 4-5 lbs)
  • One sweet onion (Vidalia or Hawaiian), sliced
  • One to two lemons
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Garlic salt
  • White pepper (I almost only use white pepper because I prefer it to the large pieces of ground pepper)

Preheat oven to 400.  Spray a pan with nonstick spray.  Layer the sliced onion on the bottom of the pan. Place the whole chicken, breast up, on top of the onions (this way the skin doesn’t stick to the pan.)  Quarter the lemons and squeeze over the chicken and then place in the cavity of the chicken.  Season all over with poultry seasoning, garlic salt and white pepper.

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Place in oven and baste every 15-30 minutes or so.  Depending on the size of the chicken it usually takes around 1 hour to 1 ¼ hours and skin should be perfectly browned and the onions will be nicely caramelized too!  Let it cool a bit and then carve into pieces.

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So easy…and the leftovers can be used for other dishes during the week.  I’ll post some of those at a later date.

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I love the wings! …and I made cauliflower au gratin & salad to complete the meal.
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Don’t forget to let the wishbone dry out and then grab someone to make a wish with!
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yummy leftovers!

 Variation…I’ve also done a whole chicken using soy sauce, sesame oil & sesame seeds in place of lemons & poultry seasoning (I always use the garlic salt) to give it an Asian flair.

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

I Love Paris in the Springtime

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I love Paris, and every quintessential Parisian cliché there is…warm baguettes, brie, Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, The Louvre, Musee de’Orsay, croissants…the list goes on.

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…But the thing I think I love most about Paris is getting lost in the little back streets, hidden promenades & gardens.  I went to Paris by myself in April of 2012 to get away from my life at the time (cut to the scene in “The Sound of Music” where the Reverend Mother tells Maria something like “you can’t run away from your problems, you must face them!”).  I just needed to get quiet, read our book club choice, “The Paris Wife”, continue my new-found love of journaling and really get away.  Some thought I was crazy, but I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I did for myself at the time.

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I wandered the streets endlessly, sometimes leaving my apartment at 10 a.m. and not returning until 10 at night.  I was alone with my thoughts and I walked & walked & walked…and it was Heaven.  It’s an incredible walking city, much like New York City or San Francisco.  If you take the metro/subways or taxis you miss out on quintessential Paris.  Walk along the promenade on the Seine!

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Let’s dispel a myth, shall we…the French are not rude (in my humble opinion!).  I found the Parisian people to be lovely & warm.  The important thing is to make an effort to at least say “Bonjour!”  (You gotta get that lilt in your voice just right). Whether you’re walking into a store or restaurant it is expected that you greet the shopkeeper or host.  Sure, they may start speaking to you in French, but a simple, sheepish “Parlez-vous Anglais” and they’ll probably graciously switch over to English if they are able.  Bonjour!…I don’t think that’s too much to ask…do you?

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But, I digress….back to Paris!  Relax in the endless cafes and people watch.  The Parisians will let you linger for hours.  Read and meditate in the Tuileries.  Take a cooking class on the Seine at La Cuisine Paris.  See the winged victory at The Louvre.  Get a hot chocolate at Les Deux Magots. Check out the charming Ile St. Louis across from Notre Dame.  …and  make the trip out to Versailles…it’s memorable!

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But always leave a little time to get lost in the beauty & charm of the back streets of Paris…you’ll be so glad you did!

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

An Ode to Martha’s Bookstore

(Let me start by saying that I should have ‘pre-loaded’ each category on the blog with a couple of posts before launching, but I didn’t, so I apologize if you get quite a few posts in the next few days loading up your inbox.  I hope you’ll come back here at your leisure and read any or all that interest you)

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 I’ve had the unenviable task of moving three times in the last three years.  So, this last move was back to Balboa Island on my final leg of a full-circle journey back to where I started.  I had to find a place pretty quickly and landed a little studio (240 sf + kitchen/bath) above the book store that is owned by my friend & teammate, Kathy & her sister, Stephanie.  So, I move in and get settled and figure it’ll be fine for 10 months.  The kitchen is adorable…all beachy aqua and the oven looks like an easy bake oven..so cute!  But, let’s face it, it’s really small!

Small, yes, but I live on Balboa Island and that, in itself, is awesome…but living above a book store has been an unexpected, magical bonus.  Martha’s Bookstore was opened by these two sisters 25 years ago and named after their mom, Martha Smock, who had a love of books and reading, had six books published and edited Daily Word magazine for 35 years.  You walk through a quaint brick courtyard to get to the entrance of their adorable storefront.  There are greeting cards, puzzles, & a ton of books.  The inventory has changed over the years…there was that beanie baby craze back in the 90’s…but the focus has always been on the books.  Every day around 10 am they turn on classical music on their outside speakers and I get to enjoy it all day.  Right now they’re playing Christmas music and I love it! Sometimes it just feels like I’m on a movie set.  Whether I’m reading a favorite book or just sitting at the computer, it’s kind of dreamlike to have the classical music playing in the background.  When you walk in you’re asked “would you like some tea or chardonnay?”…who does that anymore…awesome!  Around 5:00 the amazing smell of garlic starts wafting in from Amelia’s, a cute Italian restaurant across the street, and I know it’s just about closing time.

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Kathy & Stephanie decided a couple of months ago that it was time to sell the store.  It has been purchased and the new owners will maintain it as a bookstore, albeit exclusively for children’s books, I think.  Come down before November 30th for incredible discounts before it briefly closes for renovations.  I just hope the new owners keep the classical music, tea & chardonnay…and retain the charm that everyone who stops by relishes and what makes this place so special.  I’ve renamed my place the “bookstore tree house.”

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

Divorce, Choices and Daily Affirmations

 

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I’d like to share a little of my history, which includes my divorce, however, this will be one of the few times I reference it because this is a positive blog and there’s not much positive to say about divorce.  Two & a half years ago my husband moved everything out while I was out of town for the weekend, picked me up from the airport, and, well, we never slept in the same bed again.  It was extremely painful.  We tried for several months to work things out in therapy, but at some point it was clear that my 27 year marriage was over.  Now I had to make a choice.  I could choose to wallow and feel sorry for myself, or I could choose to be grateful for the 33 years (and two great kids) we had together.  Of course, family & friends are the main reason I got through it, but daily affirmations & choosing happiness went a long way in making it easier to navigate.

In order to try to lift the fog from my life I started journaling, which I’ve never done before.  It was so incredibly helpful to get my thoughts down on paper and out of my head.  I highly recommend it when you’re at a crossroads in your life.  I also started collecting daily affirmations.  One of the first things I did was to put the serenity prayer on my desktop wallpaper…. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference….Reinhold Niebuhr”  I, literally, read it and said it every morning when I sat down at my computer… and it’s still on here today.  Very powerful words!

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In choosing to be positive I had quite a revelation when friends, & family, questioned the end of our relationship. If it could happen to us, a very PDA couple, what about them? My answer was, & still is…”I hope you are lucky enough to have 33 great years with the same person…and two amazing kids. Some people have terrible marriages that last less than 5 yrs.” We weren’t just lucky; we worked at it, as you have to do in marriage.  We had a great long run, but in the end choices are made that change the trajectory of lives.  My kids are both healthy and in very happy relationships of their own….and for that, I am very grateful.

In the end it’s how you choose to react to life’s changes (along with some help from the daily reading of positive affirmations) that become your own self fulfilling prophecy…at least that’s how it worked for me.

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Here are two of my favorite daily affirmations… “If you’re grateful for what you have, you’ll always have enough…unknown.” and “You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails….Albert Einstein”   I’ve accumulated so many positive affirmations they could probably make for a really long blog post, but instead, I’m going to just randomly post them under the “daily affirmations” heading above and I truly hope that they strike a cord with you and help get you through some of your own crazy times.

PS… I’m new to the blogging world, so most of the categories above don’t have any content…YET.  They will…as soon as I get some more posts going….stay tuned!

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

I like sharing…I like change!

 

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I like sharing….and I like change.  Sometimes both of those get me in trouble, but most of the time I enjoy the adventure they take me on and the things I learn along the way.  So, I decided to start a blog! I’ll share my love of rowing, photography, entertaining, cooking, travel, positive thinking (affirmations) and just the basic musings of my life as I go along.

I truly believe in the power of positive thinking, daily affirmations and the choices we make in life.  I’ll be sharing some wacky things that have happened to me and how I got through them and also some great adventures I’ve had..some old, some new.

I come from a family of seven, two parents and four siblings.  I can honestly say that I had the most idyllic childhood…probably because I’m the fourth of five and by the time our parents got to me & my younger sister they said “just raise yourselves, we’re tired!”  We paid attention to how they raised the older three and tried to learn from their mishaps, their manners and their example.  It’s weird how five people growing up in the same household can have completely different recollections of the same event…and I’m sure some of my “fabulous” memories will be disputed by my siblings as well!  But I love our family stories and hope you’ll find some of them amusing too.

I also love photography…the composition you can get from looking through a lens and the moment in time that you can capture.  I will share some amazing sunrises that I am honored to witness (by getting up at 5am to be on the water to row at 6am) and which so few get to enjoy.  I’ll also be posting travel pics from my adventures around the globe.  I’m not as well traveled as many, but I aspire to get there…and I’ll take you along for the ride.

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One of the greatest joys I have in life is sharing my home with family & friends.  I love cooking and entertaining, whether it’s just a friend dropping by for a quick chat and a glass of wine, or a dinner party for 12 or more.  I’ve felt this way whether I’ve lived in less than 500 sf or almost 3000 sf.  People coming together to share a meal and conversation is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves….and our friends.

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Travel…aaaahhhh travel!!!  The anticipation of a place never visited is almost too much for me to comprehend. When I’m going to a new destination I love trolling the internet for all the information and “tips” I can get about a city/country.  Some might say that it takes the spontaneity out of a trip, but I plan & get the lay of the land, and I always leave time to wander aimlessly through back alleys to discover unchartered territory that you can’t find in a guide book.  I LOVE living like a local and almost never stay in a hotel…preferring a VRBO apartment or a home exchange to really feel like I belong.

Rowing! …an amazing sport…. ballet on water…the feel of water rushing underneath you….I could go on and on (as my teammates & I do incessantly), but I’d like you to come back and read more posts so let’s just say that there will be at least one or two entries that include rowing…some coupled with travel & life lessons learned on the water and some just as the sun is rising in my own backyard.

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Okay…so that’s my first blog post…YAY!!  Come along as I delve & explore these and other topics that  life throws my way.

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