Happiness Lives in the Space of Novelty

existentialism pic

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

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.

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.”

taylor quote
love the quotes that Taylor randomly sends me

taylor quote2


  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!

Bus affectionately known as the “dirty 30”
burger bar
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.


union square tree
Union Square
coit tower with full moon
st peter.paul
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!

limo gamine
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
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.

Lombard…quite a hike to get here!


cafe on lombard

sf art institute
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!

buena vista1
gotta have Irish Coffee at Buena Vista


buena vista2
the waiter was being a little “artsy” with his composition
dads bench
my dads bench on the Marina Green

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

Lighthouse Love

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…New South Wales, Australia


Chatham Light…Cape Cod
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!  

Book Review…The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the boat by Daniel James Brown

I know, I’m a rower, and you’re thinking “Really, you’re first book review for your blog is going to be about rowing!”  No, actually, I’m going to review an amazing book that’s been on the NY Times bestseller list for over 25 weeks, most of the time in the top 5 in differing categories.  It came out in hard cover in the Spring of 2013 and I downloaded it on my Kindle that summer after seeing a write up in Parade magazine.  The book got all of this acclaim primarily through word of mouth.  No big media blitz, just rowers and others sharing it with friends and family.

As the subtitle conveys, it’s the story of “Nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.”  I knew I’d probably like it due to the subject matter, but I had no idea how much I would LOVE it and learn from it.  I’m not a huge history buff, but I learned so much from this book about what went on in Nazi Germany leading up to the 1936 Olympics…fascinating.  One of the great things about the book is that it not only touches on the inhumanity of the Nazi’s, but it also teaches about perseverance and getting through life struggles in a positive way…with a little bit of physics thrown in too.  Brown has such an incredible way of writing that his book keeps you captivated throughout. When I was done reading it, I went to my rowing team practice and told everyone, “We’re having a one-book, book club and everyone should read this book.”  I was so excited for all of them to read what I had read.  I’ve always been drawn to non-fiction, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, kind of books, but this is one of my all time favorites.

team pic

There’s one part of the book where they are going to go to the Poughkeepsie regatta and as soon as I read it I was so excited!!  My daughter went to college at the beautiful campus of Marist College on the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY.  For parents weekend her sophomore year (2009) they decided to do a re-enactment of the Poughkeepsie Regatta.  Well, at the time I was just looking forward to seeing rowing on the Hudson and their newly renovated Cornell boathouse (it’s gorgeous, by the way!).  Little did I know at the time that I’d be reading about the importance of the original regatta four years later in this book.  So cool!

Here are a couple of quotes from the book that I really liked…

“Physiologists, in fact, have calculated that rowing a two-thousand-meter race – the Olympic standard – takes the same physiological toll as playing two basketball games back-to-back.  And it exacts that toll in about six minutes.”  Now, we masters rowers take a little longer to get down a 2K course, but isn’t that an amazing statistic.  I mean, my team totally ROCKS!!

The main character, Joe, says, “It takes energy to get angry.  It eats you up inside.  I can’t waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead.” …to that I say “AMEN!!”  You have no idea how much I love that quote!!

I’m not exaggerating that I have over 10 excerpts highlighted on my Kindle from this book…and that’s probably because I exercised some restraint in my highlighting and didn’t want to totally bore my book group.  My book club read it this past July and, although skeptical at first, everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and agreed that it’s not just about rowing.  It’s been called the nautical “Chariots of Fire” by Publisher’s Weekly and the Weinstein brothers are working on a script, directed by Kenneth Branagh, for an upcoming movie.

If you’ve read it…let me know your thoughts….and, if not, read it before the movie comes out (…and then let me know what you think!)

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




Catfishing: The phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships (over a long period of time).

Okay, so I’ve been dipping my toe into the online dating scene….and not very successfully.  Sure, I’ve had a few emails & a couple of coffee dates, but it seems so forced and un-natural for me.  I know quite a few couples who have met online, so I’m not dissing online dating by any means.  I know it works and is awesome for many, but I’m just not sure it fits my personality.  I may eat those words someday, but right now it’s new and just a little weird.  I equate it to playing dodge ball in 3rd grade and I’m a captain. There are guys out there that are also captains…and you’re all saying “pick me, pick me!!”  Sometimes you’re bummed that you didn’t get picked by one of the captains and sometimes you’re bummed you did get picked by one of the captains….and sometimes you pick someone and they say “no, not interested in being on your team!”

So, a few days ago I got an email from a guy early in the morning.  I checked out his profile…nice picture, lives locally, some things in common, same age….so I emailed him back.  We email a few more times and by the end of the day he asks if he can have my phone number to text me.  Sure, what the hell!  We text back & forth, then I have to go for dinner with a friend.  When I’m done, I check my phone and had received another text.  We text back & forth…and this is still the first day!  The next morning I wake up to “Good morning, how are you doing?”,  which is a nice way to wake up, right?  We go back & forth for a couple of hours, asking questions, basic getting- to-know-you type questions (he works for the NSA!) ….then he asks what my favorite flower is, which is a little weird, but, again, what the hell.  So, I tell him peonies & hydrangea.  Okay, then he asks for my home address because he wants to send me flowers…he says he’s so “appreciative of my time and it’s his way of saying thank you”…REALLY?!!  I say, no, and we banter a bit more.  Now remember, it has barely been 24 hours since he emailed me the first time (first flag gets me a little suspicious.)  So, we text back & forth and, honestly, it’s pretty fun & innocent.  He starts calling me “babe”…”hey babe, how’s your day doing?” It’s a little odd, but he doesn’t have any real info on me and then he asks if he can call me tomorrow, ‘cause by now it’s a bit late.  I say yes. When he calls it’s a really weird ring!  Have you ever had a phone call on your cell that’s not your normal ring? (second red flag) When I answer it sounds like an almost synthesized voice and crackly connection.  I hang up quickly and immediately get a text “what happened?”  I say “weird connection” and he tells me to call him.  I call right back and it rings at least 10 times, so he’s obviously not waiting for my call…3rd red flag…I’m now thinking Catfishing.  I hang up & text him that maybe it’s time we meet for coffee, to which he replies “sure! I have no problem with that.  There is something going on in your mind…can you tell me what that is?”  I just said “nothing, let’s plan to meet this weekend, goodnight.”  The next morning he texts me at 11am…it’s very stilted and not the “good morning babe” of the last two days.  I didn’t answer him and didn’t hear from him again.

catfishing cell phone

Well, the whole thing lasted 3 days and was, honestly, kind of fun.  The banter was cool & non-threatening…until it wasn’t.  I’m a very secure person, with a lot of social interaction, but it was just a different kind of interaction.  I’m also a little cynical and suspicious so it was easy to see the conversation take a turn….starting with him asking for my address.  I averted any true threat, though, cyber or otherwise, by asking him to meet in person.  I can totally see, though, how someone…. a lonely, or bored, person, looking for that connection….could get swept away by someone you never actually meet….think Manti Te’o.  I remember going in to see the movie “HER” thinking it was kind of a stupid premise, but it was up for some Academy Awards, so I thought I’d go.  Well, it was very weird how I, and others I know whom I’ve discussed the movie with, got sucked in to believing the operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansen, was human.  Go see it!

It was a fascinating social experiment for me personally that, thankfully, only lasted three days.

….And I learned that I kind of like being called “babe!”  It seems kind of sexy!

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

Rowing…Ballet on the Water


morning row…newport bay

Mention that you’re on a women’s masters rowing team and the questions ensue.

“Why rowing?”

“Oh, did you row in college?”

“Do you go out in cold/rainy weather?”

“What time do you get up?”

I started rowing when I was 47.  I’ve always thought of myself as a ‘water’ person.  I was on the swim team growing up and have always felt a certain pull towards, and energy from, the water…whether it’s looking out upon a crystal clear lake, a mesmerizing waterfall, the vast beauty and majesty of an ocean or just our backyard pool.  On a side note…I also drink over my required 48 oz of water a day.  There’s just something that I LOVE about water!

2012 long beach
2012 long beach regatta…before the storm

So, when I realized I needed to “get a life” I happened to see an article in the local newspaper about a women’s masters rowing team not far from my home.  I took a few private lessons, went to the “learn to row” camp and was then invited to join the team.  I’ve also always been a morning person, which definitely helps.  Yes, it was hard at first getting up at 5 am to be down at the boathouse by 6, but eventually it just became my normal waking time.  ….and the sunrises, oh the sunrises!!  It is honestly hard to put into words the awe, excitement and energy I get from sunrises.  Most of the time I arrive at the boathouse in the dark, with the boat bays barely illuminated from within.  The wash deck starts to come alive as the sun starts to rise above the mountains in the distance….and if there are clouds involved it is spectacular!  Just this morning I said to everyone, “Think of all the poor people still sleeping right now and we get to, not only enjoy the sunrise, but also the magnificent water!”  The purples, oranges, pinks reflected on the glassy water is something I cannot adequately describe in words…so here are a few pics.

nac sunrise
nac sunrise

Okay, back to rowing!  Yes, it is great exercise, but more than that I like to refer to it as ballet on the water.  Eight people moving in unison, working together to propel a 200+ lb shell through the water, making it look effortless….ballet!  There are a multitude of things you have to remember when you’re rowing….relax the slide; square up sooner; chin up, chest up; arms, body legs, legs, body arms; tight core; you’re skying; the dreaded ‘crab’….I could go on & on, but I’ll leave that up to the coaches out there.  I rowed for 4 years until it was pretty clear that I didn’t have the mental toughness to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” as we’d been instructed.  My time on the erg (the rowers term for that machine you use at the gym) was always slower than most, I’m only 5’ 1” and most of my team members are over 5’7”, and I just couldn’t get past that mental part of going & going when you wanted to throw up, which some have done after a race.  But I loved everything about rowing and our team really needed coxswains, so 2 ½ years ago I switched to the role of coxswain.  I still work out on the erg a couple of days a week for exercise, but mostly I sit in the stern of the boat, Madonna mike attached to my head, and, with instruction from our coach, steer and guide the team through practices and ultimately races.  I may not have the mental toughness to get through the physical part of being a competitive rower, but line me up next to a row of competitors and I get a fire in my belly.  Just imagine being lined up at the starting line, looking left and right at your competition, the starter yells “ATTENTION”, blades lock in the water and the flag goes down.  The adrenaline is indescribable, as we battle other teams, hearing the shouts and encouragement from the shore as we all accelerate towards the finish line.  I get excited just envisioning it!!

after practice boat washing

Again, I literally could go on and on, but this would be a ridiculously long post and you’d get bored…but, suffice it to say that if you’re ever with me and I happen to be with or meet another rower, we will talk incessantly about a sport that we love and the feeling we get from a good morning row.  If you want to try it yourself, find a local boathouse at USRowing.org

me cox …to be continued…there will be more rowing posts!

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

Thanksgiving…my favorite holiday!


Thanksgiving 2011 090[1]
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.

the beautiful new setting


the chefs


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.

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.

the desserts

Thanksgiving 2011 012[1]

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.


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.


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.


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

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


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.


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?


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!


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!