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October 30, 2006

October 2006 Slow Travel Desert GTG

As a perk of premium membership on Slow Travel. I get this cool blog! Travel, planning more travel, especially to Italy, reading about travel, cooking, eating, entertaining, jewelry-making, scrapbooking, and endless hours on Slow Travel/Slow Talk, keep me busy enough. I also am a licensed Marriage, Family Therapist, and I supervise a number of interns who are working toward their license.

I have no idea how to begin a blog, so I will jump right in with a major event, a Slow Travel Desert GTG at our home in Palm Desert.

As I had such a good time attending my first couple of GTGs and meeting other Slow Travelers face-to-face, Brad and I decided to host on October 28. Preparations began when we returned from Italy in September. I posted the idea, set a date, and soon I had over twenty people saying they would attend. I planned the menu, and asked guests to bring an appetizer or wine/prosecco.

I had lots of fun thinking up creative ways to decorate for this fall party, using fall colors Italian dishes, and the Slow Trav logo whenever possible. I painted pumpkins for the table with nametags, and set three tables for dinner in the back yard. There was the “Sunflower Table”, the “Lemon Table” (the first dinner served on the Positano tabletop!), and another sunflower themed table for six.

I decided we needed something “extra” to do for fun. We planned a Slow Travel version of “People Bingo” as a game, I wrote new words to old songs for entertainment, and when I heard that Kathy Wood was able to fly in from Tennessee, the idea of a “Mystery Guest” evolved. Everyone could guess who would be attending that was not local, and it would be a contest with a prize.

Now, about those songs! I didn’t want to get up in front of everyone and sing by myself. I needed backup girls! I asked Kathy (Teachick), Kathy (Kaydee), and our neighbor, Diana, to “sway” behind me, and sing the chorus. Gail flew in for the party, and made the perfect fourth, and at our first (and only) rehearsal that morning, Palmabella and the Slowchicks came about. Kathy B. choreographed the group, I provided blue and green scarves, we all wore ST hats, and taped the letters S-L-O-W on the backs of the “Chicks”.

The party was a great success, with great food, a wonderful group of fun people, and Pauline’s video camera to introduce the Slowchicks to the world!

Party photos

href="http://www.slowtrav.com/about/slowchicks.htm">http://www.slowtrav.com/about/slowchicks.htm

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December 4, 2006

December 2006 O Christmas Tree(s)

The weekend after Thanksgiving, and it was time to put up all our trees. Last year I "settled" for four, and launched the "Sunflower Tree" to match my therapy office in the casita. This year, a new tree evolved from my collection of "shopping" ornaments.
We started in the Great Room with the gold/green/bronze tree with lots of jeweled fruit.

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Next after Brad added the red and green lights, I decorated the "Italy Tree" in our Master Bedroom. Here is a link to a photo album:

http://http://www.slowphotos.com/photo/showgallery.php?cat=4029

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The Casita has the "Sunflower Tree". Next year I need to work on a treeskirt for this.
Maybe an Italian tablecloth would work!

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Our biggest and most traditional tree is in the dining room. There are ornaments on here that are more than 30 years old! Each year we love adding a few new ones, and Brad and I exchange a special one every Christmas.

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The new tree this year is the "Shopping Tree", with shopping bag ornaments from Nordstrom, Gumps, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Bloomies, Gucci, and assorted gift cards.
I need an ornament that says "Chico's"! How appropriate that my "shopping sister", Joy, will be sleeping in here next week!

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December 5, 2006

Deck the Halls

The trees are all up, but there is more decorating to do! I get a little carried away, but the Christmas theme continues throughout the house. The Great room mantle has bronze, gold, and green ornaments and poinsetta added.

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I added Holiday silk flowers to this topiery basket on the coffee table.

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Santa is 54 years old this year. I got him on my first Christmas. His hat has lost its pom-pom, his beard is yellowing, he's as bowlegged as ever, but I still love him with his sock reindeer.

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The entry hall has a lit forest.

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Three "wine bottle Santas" preside over the kitchen bar.

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The Hummel Nativity Scene is in the hall, but I can't find the star to light it!

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This musicbox was sent to me on my first Christmas, by my wonderful Godmother, Grace. It still plays "Jingle Bells".

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These are a few favorites. Of course, even ther bathrooms get a hint of Christmas.
And that's just the INSIDE of the house!


December 12, 2006

A Slow Travel Holiday Letter

Today I posted an edited version of our Christmas newsletter. They do seem to get longer, but this year included two trips to Italy! Reading back on the poem really strikes me as how important this community has become to me.

I have made so many new friends, some still virtual, some of whom I have met, and continue to look forward to meeting! Though I have learned so much about travel, and found out about places in Italy I might not have ever know to visit, it is the daily banter on the boards, and the GTGs I love! In a little over a year, I have met too many to list, and have formed friendships with Kathy, Leslie, Diana, Kathy, Gail, Jane, Sheena, Terry, Judy, Marcia, Nancy, and so many more! I have gotten to hang out with Pauline and Steve, Shannon, Mods Colleen and Chris, Wendy and Rob, and in February, I will get to meet Krista, Marian, and reconnect with Eden and Kathy at the Paso Robles GTG!

This summer in Italy, we hope to see Jane, Ken and Casey, meet the Dusis in Montalcino, see Diva (Judy) if she is in Florence, meet Barb and Art, and see Judith in Umbria! What a fabulous experience!

Here is the ST version of our Holiday Greeting:

Happy Holidays Slow Talkers!
My Slow Travel Holiday Card:
(excerpts from my Holiday Newsletter)

It’s that time of the year for our annual letter;
Here’s another that rhymes, they get longer, not better!
During 2006, we were blessed once again,
With good health and good friends, and a trip now and then.
Back in March, Brad and I took a weekend retreat,
Where our first group of friends from Slow Travel we’d meet.
www.Slowtrav.com
Cooking class for fresh pasta we both took in Sonoma,
From Chef Judy, the “Diva”, oh ,the taste and aroma!
Sipping wine, then some shopping, with cool, rainy weather,
But we met some great folks at our first get-together!

On the 18th of May, I flew cross the Atlantic;
I started in Palm Springs, and ended at Gatwick.
Just a brief stop in London, where I spent the night;
Then met my friend Ida for our short Pisa flight.
Ida’s village, named Vico, is tiny and sweet;
Aunts and uncles and cousins of hers I did meet.
Local towns we explored, and the food was so good;
I managed some shopping, was there doubt that I would?
We went down to Pienza, at ‘L Olmo we stayed;
We stopped at St.Antimo, in Montalcino we played.
The following week, practicing Italiano,
I shopped the whole day, back in San Gimignano!
I really missed Brad for these two weeks away;
On my Italy cell phone we spoke twice a day.
Travel without him was stressful, I think ;
If you want some more details, you can copy this link:
Trip Report
A big thank you to Ida, her home she did share;
I’m glad I was able to visit her there.

The summer flew by as we lounged by the pool;
The weather was hot, so we tried to stay cool.
To a Slow Travel picnic, I am so glad I went;
Such a fun afternoon under redwoods we spent!
Friends, old and new, meeting Steve and Pauline;
Sharing great travel stories about places we’ve seen.
What a wonderful visit with good friends I had!
But I was way past due for some travel with Brad!

In Vancouver, Washington, we both did appear,
For our week with the Wolf’s that we take every year.
The weather was perfect, around 80 degrees;
And at night on the patio, a lovely cool breeze.
Cannon Beach for two nights was a part of the deal;
We relaxed by the sea and had wonderful meals.
Did some shopping in Portland, lovely dinners each night;
A nice bead store, some naps, the whole trip was just right!
Only two weeks to wait ‘til the first of September;
This year’s trip to Italy we’ll always remember.

We flew into Milan, had a quick cappuccino,
And in less than 2 hours, Brad drove to Torino.
Our hotel was quite charming, we walked everywhere;
Nice piazzas, great food, we were one happy pair!
We had fun at the market, then stopped for some wine;
In the cinema museo, with its’ views we spent time.
It’s a wonderful city, we’d love to come back,
But our weekend flew quickly, it was time to repack.

We drove on through Piemonte, every hilltown had towers.
We arrived at our B&B with a bouquet of flowers.
We met Micha, Diana, and Max, all of the Baurs;
Got acquainted, like old friends, sat talking for hours.
Our first night we enjoyed a great meal with our hosts;
Several bottles of wine allowed multiple toasts!

Our guest room was amazing, all the comforts of home,
In a picturebook setting, lots of places to roam.
We took daytrips to Asti, Barolo and Bra;
Lots of photos we took of the places we saw.
We wandered the streets by the sea in Camogli;
We ate wonderful pastas, some like ravioli.
Barbaresco, Nieve, La Morra, Mombaruzzo;
The vineyards were gorgeous, we drank vino with gusto!
Every day we set out, did whatever we’d please.
We might stop for gelato, or some wine with more cheese.
Our home base was so magical, we loved puppy Max;
It’s the most perfect place to explore or relax!

The Baurs arranged a wine tasting, perfetto,
At an organic winery with the greatest Dolcetto!
We topped off our stay with an “endless food” meal;
And a pot that I made on Diana’s pottery wheel!
Seven days was just right, and with tearful good-byes,
We drove off to Bologna under clear, sunny skies.
Bologna, we found was a wonderful city;
We explored several neighborhoods, all of them pretty.
The food was incredible, the shopping divine;
We continued to have such a delightful time!
In Ferarra, a castle, complete with a moat;
And the fashions I bought really “floated my boat”!
Ravenna’s mosaics were stunning to see;
We’re so glad we discovered this part of Italy!
Our whole 18-day trip, we had wonderful weather;
But the best part for us was just being together.
Perfect Piemonte and Bella Bologna Trip Report

All vacations must end, we flew back to L.A.
Reality is hard, when it’s more work than play!
I needed an outlet, something big I could plan;
So the Slow Travel party preparations began.
Let me try to explain what’s this group means to me.
It is not just a website where we talk “Italy.”
These people all “get it”, the passion we share;
It is quite a community, people who care.
I am now quite a “regular” part of the crowd;
Posting daily on travel or food, I am proud.
There’s a book club, a chat room, and oh ,so much more:
Slow Photos, Slow Talk and…well, you get the score!

So back to this party, I planned and I shopped;
I painted, and decorated, I was “over the top”!
I made nametags and placecards, I cooked and I froze.
I had prizes and gimmicks, it was fun, goodness knows!
Appetizers,and pasta, dinner, and wine,
Prosecco, dessert, chairs and tables to dine.
Entertaining we love, Brad helped out with the rest.
We even had our very own “Mystery Guest”!
I then wrote new words to old songs just for kicks;
An idea came to life, and the birth of “Slowchicks”.
I needed backup singers, every fool needs her pals;
And soon I had four funny, fabulous gals!
Kathy, Diana, and Kathy and Gail;
Choreographed to the smallest detail!

The “BIG weekend” arrived, and on Friday we all met.
For dinner at Tommy Bahama’s, we were set,
‘Til our Mystery Guest’s plans changed, when she missed her flight! Gail arrived from Atlanta, she was such a delight!
We went back to the airport,‘cause the guests couldn’t wait;
They waited for “Mystery” at our house until late!
We got back at 11, with “Mystery” in tow;
Chris and Sheena won prizes, guessing Kathy (Kaydee), you know.
On Saturday, last minute details were done,
And at 3:30 guests started joining the fun!
We ate appetizers, and had a great time.
We laughed and we drank our Prosecco and wine.
By 6:30, we rounded up all of “the team”;
And the Slowchicks emerged in their scarves, blue and green.
The first number brought lots of laughter and joy;
Pauline captured it all with her new video toy.
A quick “costume change”, and the Slowchicks returned;
All the cameras were flashing, the applause was well-earned!
We had dinner and games, and dessert, and more wine;
We all agreed we’d had a very good time!
We’re all looking forward to meeting again;
It doesn’t much matter where we’ll go or when.
We just know that Slow Travelers as a group are quite hearty;
And seem to be ready to plan the next party!
A whole year away, a BIG ST weekend we're planning,
The Great Gathering in Savannah will be quite enchanting!


Thanksgiving, to Oakland, we flew on Southwest;
With no cooking for Palma, just a happy houseguest!
At 8 a.m. Friday, we rode in on BART;
To join shoppers at Bloomie’s, we must do our part.
Met my friend, Joy, at Nordstrom, shopped some more, took a break; By noon on my third pair of shoes my feet did ache!
We met all the others at Kuletto’s for wine;
This is such a tradition, it’s now Christmastime!
Crate & Barrel, then Neiman, a latte, then Gumps;
How do these women walk all day in pumps?
“Charge and ship” all the ornaments, then Union Square;
At the St. Francis we gathered, all meeting up there.
We had cocktails and rested, they lit the big tree;
It was really a wonderful day there for me!
We took off in three taxis, to North Beach we went,
And our Italian dinner was quite an event.
Saturday, Ferry Building market and shops;
A bakery, a deli, the cheese store was tops!
A quite special evening on Saturday night,
With dinner at Boulevard, a “foodie” delight!

Back at home it was time to put up wreaths and lights,
To sit by the fire and write cards at night.
Five trees shining brightly with baubles and balls;
I made lots of goodies as Brad decked the halls.
We look forward to sharing good food and good wine,
With those that we love during holiday time.
After Christmas, more guests will arrive at our door,
For some laughter and cheer, and I’m sure a lot more.
Now the gifts are all wrapped, and the baking is done.
The tables are set for some holiday fun.
The cookies are iced, and the candles are lit;
We think back on the year, take a moment to sit.
Entertaining and travel are the things we love best;
Throughout 2006, with both we were blessed.
Again, it is time to reflect on the reason,
As we gather to celebrate this holy season.
Whether it's Chanukah, or Christmas you do,
May this season be wonderful and happy for you!

We have fabulous plans for this upcoming year;
And we hope to see all of our friends, far and near.
Buon Natale, good health, love, and joy we wish you.
And may all of your ‘07 wishes come true!

Palma and Brad


December 17, 2006

A Holiday Dinner Party

On December 16, we had friends, Louise and Dave to dinner. Louise is an MFT intern I supervise. She is a pre-licensed therapist for Family Services for the Agua Caliente tribe of Native Americans. We meet weekly for two enjoyable hours, and discuss her clients (as well as a few minutes about office personalities, shopping, and our lives!) This dinner was the first time we met each other's husbands.

We started with lively conversation, prosecco/pomegranite spritzers, and brie with fig jam and almonds.

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The table was set with jeweled fruit and the Lenox Holiday dishes.

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Everyone loved the jeweled nametags and new stocking silver holders!

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The primmi piatti: Crab lasagna with guryere cheese and bechamel.

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The next course was a salad of baby greens, red pears, blue cheese, candied pecans, and cranberries with a pear-gorgonzola vinigarette.

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The entree was veal saltimbocca and grilled asparagas.

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We returned to the great room for coffee and dessert: Cream cheese pie with raspberry sauce.

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It was a delightful evening, great company, and an easy dinner menu!

December 19, 2006

An Inspiring Christmas Client

In 2005, I agreed to facilitate two men's domestic violence groups for Family Services of the Desert. Men are referred by Probation, Parole, or Child Protective Services, because there was a reported incident of domestic violence. Besides jail time, a felony record, and a disrupted, or sometimes ended relationship, many lose their children, and are only allowed supervised weekly visits. Domestic violence has a HUGE impact and serious consequences for those involved. These men must attend 52 weeks of 2-hour sessions, or they will return to jail for a violation of probation. I did these men's groups from May, 2005 to May 2006.

This year, I agreed to substitute for 2 weeks, as the group facilitator, was out having surgery. The first week, There were still seven of the guys I knew from my old group. I was greeted warmly with hugs, and smiles, and a huge "Welcome Back". The men that were new to me, seemed to trust that I was "OK", given the easy relationship I had with their peers. I learned why the "newer" group members had done to get there, and found out what my "old clients" had been up to for the last seven months.
I was especially happy to find that one group member had reunited with his wife, and it was going well, and to learn that another group member had gone through a residential treatment center, and was now sober! After check-in, we drew genograms, (a therapist word for a multi-generational "family tree"). I collected these to continue the lesson the following week.

When I returned to the group last night, after discussing everyone's holiday plans, cultural and family traditions, I passed out their genograms and 4 felt pens per person. They made a "Key" or "Legend", like on a map, and circled family members with the following: hereditary health problems, difficulties managing anger or an incident of violence, alcohol or drug abuse, and other "Mental Health" issues (depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, etc.). During this process, a group member (who had been absent last week), began to act out. When I said, "Circle anyone with a history of anger or violence in the next color", he became very sarcastic.

Group member: "Can we circle our ex"?
Palma: "Anyone, male or female with anger problems"
Group Member: "Oh, it's is MIRACLE! It's a WOMAN, admitting women have anger
problems!"
Palma: "Many people, of either gender, can have problems managing their feelings,
especially anger."
Group member: "I can't believe she is admitting women are violent too!"
Palma: "One of the things you are here to learn is to respect women. Tonight, you can practice that with ME. You may speak respectfully, and only when you are called on, if you would like to stay in this group tonight. You are also in this group to learn how to take responsibility for and deal with YOUR anger problems, not to blame them on your ex. If there is a question somewhere in your comments about women and viloence, I will tell you that we also have women's domestic violence groups. They also learn to take responsibility for their past poor choices, deal with their consequences, and stop blaming their spouses and children for their lack of control."

The group member was well-behaved for the next hour. When I asked the group to share how it felt to look at patterns of behavior in their family, he made another inappropriate comment.

One of my "old guys" had lost his young son last spring. He has made incredible steps and gone from homeless, and jobless, raising three young children, to sober, employed (with a recent promotion), and appropriately dealing with his grief. He shared that he felt quilty looking at his family tree because he was circled in three colors: anger, depression, and substance use. He shared occasionally smoking marijuana to "chill out" after work, but said he didn't do it in front of his kids, and has cut down on his use, and wanted to know if I thought he had an "addiction".

The acting out group member said, "Like it matters to you what she thinks...!"

Before I could even open my mouth to respond, my client turned to him and said,
"You have no idea what she taught us!" Then he looked at a couple other of my past guys who had been with me in May. "Do you remember those things she gave us?
(On my last night, I gave each group member a small pewter stone with a word etched on it, talked about their strengths, how they had grown during their time in group, and I told them my hopes for them in the future.)
He contnued, "Mine said, "HOPE". I had very little, but I put in in a frame above my bed. I look at it EVERY morning, and remember the faith in me that Palma had. I carry her card in my wallet, and two weeks ago, my wallet was stolen. It was a hassle to replace my driver's license and a credit card, but I was most upset about losing her card, because someday, I want to call her and tell her that I have changed all the negative things that were in my life!"

I was speechless for a second, as the others said, "I still have mine too." I gave the client a new card, answered his questions about addiction, and others shared their experiences looking at their family tree. I brought them Christmas cookies, and the group ended. As they were leaving, the "acting out client" walked up to me and shook my hand, saying, "Merry Christmas. I'm sorry I was a jerk."

We never know, what impact we may have on a client, a family, a friend, or even a stranger. It is the season for HOPE, for PEACE, and hopefully for these men, a new year ahead without violence.

December 24, 2006

Another Dinner Party???

Yes, last night we had friends Fiona, Steve, May, Diane and Marti to dinner. We began with appetizers of hot artichoke dip and filo tarts with brie, fig jam and almonds.
Our first course was a re-run of freshly made pasta made into crab-guryere lasagna.

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Here is the production line with me in the kitchen plating salads.

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Diane, Fiona and Brad look like they are having fun!

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Our main course was a Fillet mignon strip encrusted with herbs and parmesano cheese, Cheddar-zucchini bake, and Carmelized figs with honey and seasalt.

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Back to the kitchen to plate dessert!

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This lovely creation was a diagonal layer of pomegranite jell with vanilla bean panna cotta, garnished with fresh currants and figs.

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I also made a 6 layer flourless chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache. No one had room to put another bite, so I "donated it" to Fiona's Christmas Eve party tomorrow night!

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After dinner, we opened 25 presents! Marti and May had Ego by them all night.

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Fiona LOVED her Italian purse, and Steve was quite pleased with Brad's selections of Brunello and Barbera!

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Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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Christmas Eve 2006

True to form, Brad spent a couple hours today wrapping my gifts. I put away dishes from last night's dinner party, relaxed, made an appetizer to take to Fiona's, and made a necklace to wear tonight. We even had time for a two-hour nap!

Fiona and Steve's party was lovely. Her kitchen table was filled with appetizers, and the dining room table held the dinner entrees.

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We hunted for that great ceramic set all over Tuscany, and she finally bought it in Orvieto! I think I need one. Sssssssshhhhhhhhh...don't tell Brad I said that!

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The dessert table was set up in the living room, and was stunning. Recognize that chocolate cake?

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I get SO excited at Christmas. We must go home, and get to sleep!

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December 25, 2006

Christmas Morning 2006

We were up early, and as excited as children for Christmas morning! After coffee, and some eggnog, in our new pj's, we were ready to see what Santa had under the tree!

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Brad had quite a haul of gifts to open: He got books, a 24 game, 6 bottles of Italian wine, 2 shirts, a Santa martini ornament, bar tools, a year of TIVO and more...

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I did quite well myself! I got an ornament, Ginger-Almond kitchen soap, diswashing liquid, candle and lotion; a Chico's gift certificate, Deruta salt and pepper mill, Deruta lasagna server and serving spoon, a beautiful Christmas tree candle, a large Le Cruset dutch oven, and more...

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We took hours to open our presents. We took a brunch break at 1:00 for Brad's Eggs Benedict.

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It was happy, lazy, Christmas Day. We napped, read, played with our presents, and snacked that evening.


December 29, 2006

A Pleasant Surprise

The phone rang, and it was my good friend, Louise, from the Bay Area. I have not seen her in at least three years, and she was in Palm Desert for a couple of days, on the way to Las Vegas, with her new beau, Mike.

We had a house full of company, but we decided she MUST stop by for at least a drink!

I first "met" Louise during one of my early classes in Grad school in 1991. She came to our campus to recruit interns for her agency, Project FOCYS. Four years later, I was at my interview for an internship at Project FOCYS, and Louise came in announcing to staff that she had passed her second oral licensing exam, and was a full-fledged Licensed Marriage Family Therapist! That day, I thought, I want to be like HER when I grow up!

I was selected as one of 10 interns at Project FOCYS that school year, and has an opportunity to work with and develop a friendship with Louise. She was like a "big sister" or mentor to me during my time as an intern. The following year, I was hired as a paid staff member, and we worked together again. Then Louise left the agency, but we stayed in touch.

During my second year on staff, I became the "Family Group Program Coordinator". I encouraged Louise to come back a few hours a week, to do a "Grandparents raising Grandchildren" group in my program.

My third year at Project FOCYS, I passed both my licensing exams, and during an insane moment, agreed to be the Director of the agency. Louise had been so supportive and encouraging during my countless hours of studying and preparing for my tests. She even gave me a "mock oral exam" a few days before my real one.

Funny how life works, sometimes. I was now director, and hired Louise back to be a supervisor for MY group of 10 new interns! I was technically now "her boss", but continued to learn from her on how to be a good supervisor. She did "Group Supervision" in my office every week, and I sat in, until I had been licensed the required two years to do supervision myself.

Louise came by this afternoon, we enjoyed meeting Mike, and had a great, if short visit, catching up on life!

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5 Houseguests

On December 28, a houseful of company arrived: Sorority sisters Connie and Joy, Connie's dad, Frosty, Connie's new boyfriend, John came in one car from Fresno. Casey, my 29 year-old Godson, arrived first from Carlsbad. He and I had a chance to visit for over an hour before the crowds arrived.

The first night, we had a lovely formal dinner. We began with a hot crab dip appetizer while waiting for Brad to arrive from Pasadena. Dinner was pesto lasagna (from the freezer), pear/gorgonzola/cranberry/pecan salad with pear-gorgonzola vinegarette, and pork loin with fig reduction sauce. For dessert, we had chocolate ganache cake.

On Friday, we had a big brunch:cranberry-orange bread with Grand Marnier Glaze, cherry-almond bread with Amaretto glaze, fruit salad, and Harry's Eggs (requested by Joy)!

Friday night we began with hot artichoke dip appetizer, pumpkin ravioli (from the freezer), Italian sausage, and Cheddar-Baked Zucchini. For dessert we had a Slow Travel Favorite: Tina's Cajun Bread Pudding with vanilla ice cream and Rum Sauce:

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Bartenders Casey and Brad also made up a few batches of Chocolate-Peppermint Martinis:

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We played a new game called "Would You Rather?" It gives forced-choice questions like, "Would you rather live in a country governed by supermodels or professional football players?" When it is your turn, you choose a question, write down your answer, then the rest of the group has 90 seconds to reach a unanamous choice, and you get a point if you match their answer.

When the "food coma" hit, we decided to postpone the present opening until the next morning.


December 30, 2006

Another Family Christmas

Saturday, December 30, we all got up early, as the presents were to be opened at 8 a.m.. Casey had to leave at 10:00, and Joy and I had shopping plans! I put out fruit and breadfast breads, and in varying states of dress, we gathered in the Great Room and Santas Brad and Casey passed out gifts.
I had another huge pile to open!

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Ego was sniffing out his new treats and toy!

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Frosty generously bought us all tickets to the Palm Springs Follies tonight. He was quite happy with his six new decks of Italian playing cards with scenes of Tuscany, beautiful new socks, and a gift card to Barnes and Noble!

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Casey opening Joy's gift is hoping what feel like golf balls are NOT heavy socks!

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Connie and Joy like their new ornaments!

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One of our traditions is when opening gifts, you must find a way to WEAR each ribbon. We all use ribbon (no purchased bows), so you may find yourself with a headband, thigh bow, "bracelet", upper arm bow, or even a "toe bow". Then we set the camera timers for the annual group BOW PICTURE! This year's is a great one!

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At 10:00, Casey left, Joy and I headed to the bead store and shopping, and the rest of the group took turns showering, getting dressed, and watching the Navy football game!

We picked up Connie at noon, and my "sisters" took me out for a lovely lunch. Brad took Frosty and John out for burgers. We had to be home and dressed by 5:00 for cocktails before the FOLLIES!

A Night at the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies

Frosty generously bought us all tickets to the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies! This is an unusual show that is a Palm Springs institution for over 15 years and 3300 performances. It is a 3-hour singing, dancing comedy review with the twist...the cast are "seniors". The youngest cast member is 59, and many are in their 70s or even older. The women are gorgeous, and have firm, buff, voluptious bodies that anyone decades younger would be proud of. It is quite a fun evening's entertainment!

http://www.psfollies.com/index.php

We were ready for Pomegranite martinis and appetizers at 5:00.

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Another sorority sister, Tammy, and her husband Dennis, were in town for a week of golf, so they joined us for the pre-show happy hour. Just think, we were all college roomates in 1970! That is...THIRTY-SIX years ago!

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After the show, everyone, including Connie's cousin Sharon and her husband, Jack, returned to our house for dessert. The caramels were a hit along with more chocolate ganache cake, bread pudding, cookies, and toffee.

I got to bed at 2:15 a.m.. One Tired Puppy!

January 1, 2007

Happy Quiet New Year!

Our guests left on New Year's Eve at 11:00 a.m.. We cleaned up the kitchen, ate some lunch and looked at each other. We both said, "NAP?" We slept from 1:30 p.m. until 6:30. We skipped dinner, and ate leftover artichoke dip while watching "The Devil Wears Prada". I was asleep by 10:30. This may the the first New Year's Eve as an adult I didn't make it until midnight (our usual bedtime).

New Year's Day wasn't much more energetic. We had breakfast, put away holiday dishes, and I was ready for a nap ny 11:30. My cold is back, my arm hurts, and I still need sleep! Brad washed 5 sets of towels, 3 days of dinner napkins, and lots of sheets! I missed the Rose Parade, and slept through a football game.

Here is a photo of Saint Brad and I before we crashed over New Year's. He has put up with all the trees, shopping, schlepping, shipping, entertaining, houseguests, dinners, and work they all entail. Maybe I can keep it a little more simple in 2007?

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No resolutions, as I never keep them. They would be the same as every other year:
Lose weight
Exercise more

Instead, I will post some January goals:

Schedule some medical appointments/tests I have been putting off and dreading.
Eat healthier after a quick start week of soup.
Catch up on paperwork.
Clean out/organize my closet
Go for walks

YUCK! Right there are 5 reasons I HATE January every year. And it is cold!

On the brighter side, I look forward to our Las Vegas trip at the end of the month, and following that is the Slow Travel Paso Robles GTG which will be a blast!

I look forward to making lots of new jewelry from all the beads I bought in Orange County.

I look forward to a new season of 24 and American Idol.

I look forward to winter and spring Slow Travel GTGs and our Italy trip this summer!

I just have to make it through JANUARY!


January 15, 2007

Colder than...HELL

I am an 80's and 90's girl! We are talking temperatures (farenheit), not the decades.
My comfort level BEGINS at 68 (sweater weather). It goes up considerably to the high 90s, or even low 100s, but anything below 64 degrees is NOT OK! That is one of the reasons we live in the southern California desert, and don't travel much in the winter.

The past few days and nights here have been unbearable. I want to stay under the covers in my 70 degree house, and not get up until spring (or 70 degree NORMAL days, which ever happens first).

Here I am on Saturday night.

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This was to walk out the door to have a cigarette, since I don't smoke in my house, but can't go more than a couple of hours (unless I'm asleep) without craving a smoke.
This is especially true when dieting, so this was double hell. It was 33 degrees. WHERE AM I?

I am wearing socks over tights, leggings, a turtleneck, sweatshirt, cashmire jacket, hat, scarf, (neither of my two pair of gloves matched...) and I am sitting inches away from one of our outdoor fireplaces. I am screaming "OH MY GOD" it is cold. Saint Brad is shivering next to me as I am blocking most of the heat from the fire.
BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

On Sunday night, we were scheduled to have dinner with good friends who were not at their desert home during the holidays. It was a post-Christmas dinner and gift exchange. I had to leave the house and venture out...low 40s at 5:00.

I walked into the bar dressed as Nanuck of the North. Jan said I looked like the Pillsbury Dough Girl. Les asked if the seatbelt fit around me. I had on socks, UGGs, cords, a cashmire turtleneck, a heavy wool sweater, my warmest coat, scarf, and gloves. (None of my hats matched, and my ears and nose were ice cubes.)
No alcohol on the diet, so I drank coffee...lots of coffee!

I hear it is going to be like this all week.
I am a whining cold whimp. I am in HELL!

A January Table

The diet started last Monday with "Magic Muffins" and a pot of chicken-vegetable soup.

I lost FIVE POUNDS!!!

Last week was a pretty strict "quick start" program, with little room for cheating. I was VERY GOOD! (The therapist part of me is screaming, "Do not measure your value on what you eat!" Oh well...)

I ate a muffin every morning, two fruits a day, soup three nights for dinner, salads daily, and fish twice. I ate nothing fun. I felt determined and motivated.

Today begins week two. I love changing dishes and decorating my dining room table. I do it AT LEAST once a month. There will be no dinner parties in January. I do not do low fat healthy meals for entertaining (well, I HAVE, but it is not my preference, or usually a request of my guests). Friends who come for dinner figure they are going to eat well.

After the Christmas stuff was put away, my dining room table looked sad and empty.
I decided on a bronze, copper and gold theme, as I wanted to use my new table runner.

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You may notice there is no silverware. That is because this is strictly decorative. Accessorizing tables is like "house jewelry". The table reminds me that I need to stay on my diet before there can be wine in those bronze glasses, food on those gold and silver dotted plates, or ANYTHING cleared off those copper chargers.

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This week, I will continue with the muffins and two fruits. I am adding broccoli, meat one night, fish again, and chicken to the menu. Every other day, I may have one ounce of cheese for lunch instead of yogurt. Coffee is free. I have two weeks before our weekend in Vegas. I can behave there. The following weekend is the Slow Travel Paso Robles Get Together. That weekend, I will taste decadent food, and drink wine!
I can't wait! And JANUARY will be OVER!

January 22, 2007

Puzzled!

It is still January! I'm cold, bored, slightly depressed, and cranky. I'm dieting! I'm waiting...for upcoming weeknds away, warm weather and Spring!

I have a number of activities I do when I am hibernating. I'm NOT a big TV watcher, I do love to read, shop, cook, and entertain. So we know I am on "Shopping Probation", I'm back on the diet, which eliminates most cooking, and I spend a lot of time on the Slow Talk boards, or reading trip reports on Slow Travel. I STILL have time on my hands!

Though our summer Italy trip is six months away, I have gotten out all my books on Umbria, and I am starting to print out restaurant reviews for Florence and Tuscany.
Working less than 20 hours a week, I still have time on my hands. This blog takes up a few hours more. Email, voicemail, snail mail, a few more hours pass.

During the January hibernation, we can add daily naps and my annual jigsaw puzzle blowout to the schedule. Two weeks ago, I did this vineyard scene that was a Christmas gift:

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Last week, I completed a Tuscan looking stone house with green shutters and pots of flowers. The good news is it is a distraction from food. The bad news is I need another Italy puzzle!

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February 6, 2007

The SLOW BOWL: Weekend in Paso Robles

Last Friday, I packed and loaded up (10 trips to the car), picked Brad up in Pasadena, and we headed north to Paso Robles for a Slow Travel wine weekend GTG. We arrived at the rental cottage, and unloaded clothes, ice chest, scrapbooks, food, etc. and settled in to our lovely room. We had a large bedroom with a fireplace and bath! (I forgot to take a picture!)

Our housemates were Shannon, Colleen, Marta, George, Beth, Marcia and David.
Shannon had shopped for everything we needed for the weekend for breakfast and snacks. Others arrived, and a pizza party was underway. Kathy, Sue, Joan, Fred, Marian, Jill, Kate, Gloria, Angie, Luisa, Sheri and Sharon joined the party!

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Joan and Fred were busy with a pizza production line! Fred worked hard and turned out 7 different pizzas to try.

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Colleen, Sue, Dave and Linda arrived late in the evening. It was really fun to see old friends, Kathy, Marcia and David, Shannon, Colleen, Joan and Fred, Sharon, Luisa, Gloria, Dave and Sue. I loved meeting and chatting for the first time with Marta, George, Jill, Kate, Marian, Angie, Sheri, Sue and Beth!

We were off to an awesome start, as we headed downstairs to sleep!

February 9, 2007

A Lovely Luncheon

I attended a lovely luncheon in honor of my friend Fiona's mom's birthday. May arrived for her annual visit in December, and will be visiting Fiona and Steve until the end of March. Her home is in Wales, so she is enjoying our mild winter climate! I know this is hard to believe, as she is peppy, fun, lively, and quick, but May is celebrating 88 years!

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Fiona used a Valentine's Day theme for all of the festivities. Here are some gorgeous appetizers.

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21 women enjoyed the lovely luncheon. Champagne flowed freely, and the weather was 76 degrees, so, some of us ate on the patio. The menu included salad with pine nuts and mandarine oranges, quiches, chicken salad, fruit, couscous, smoked salmon, and asparagas! The Valentine theme made a fun buffet table!

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The heart-shaped quiches were a hit! The first was artichoke, and the second was corn, and red pepper!

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Dessert??? Of COURSE!

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May, Happy Birthday, and many, many more visits to the desert!

February 10, 2007

Valentine's Tables and Napkin Folding 101

It's February, and as many of my friends know, I get bored easily with table settings, and change them constantly, in both my kitchen and dining room. Here is the kitchen table right now.

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For the centerpiece, I took a vase, filled it with candy conversation hearts and a candle in the center. The boy bear sings "My Girl", and the girl bear sings, "My Guy". Silly, but fun. I found the large hanging glitter heart two years ago, after Valentine's Day!

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On to the dining room! I decided on a romantic theme, as I am hosting my book club lunch this month, and in honor of Valentines Day, we read (or re-read) "The Wedding" by Nicholas Sparks. I wanted something formal, but with fun Valentine's touches to go with my menu. (You'll have to wait til the 22 for that blog!)

I used a silver/gold damask runner, with silver beaded placemats, and my silver/gold glass plates. I found silver and gold glittered candles (at Bristol Farms, of course), and took out my gold brushstroke goblets for water. Simple, but elegant.

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The beaded hearts I tucked into the napkins were actually Christmas ornaments from Crate and Barrel. The red heart-shaped "marbles" were $1.00 a bunch at Michaels last year.

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Now that I added the red accents, I don't like the flowers! They were on sale at the grocery store last week, but this table is still a work in progress. I will come up with SOMETHING before the luncheon!

How to fold a napkin into a "Bishop's Hat":

1. Fold a napkin in half diagonally.

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2. Bring each long point to center, making a square.

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3. Bring bottom point up to about an inch from the top, and crease.

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4. Fold down point even with bottom.

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5. Turn napkin over, overlapping points, tucking one inside the other.

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6. Turn napkin over to front, and pull down both top points, tucking them in to bottom "envelope".

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7. You have a Bishop's Hat! Depending on stiffness of fabric, these should now stand up on their own, OR you can tuck something (an ornament, flower, even silverware) into the "envelope". Here is mine with a beaded heart ornament.

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February 11, 2007

Romance

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Love is in the Air! Or is it Valentine's Day hype? This commercialized holiday is this week. I hate all those commercials on TV with the ugly diamond jewelry, the piles of chocolates in every store, and the roses everywhere. Many women (and young girls) wait to see what "they will get". I have had clients say, "I can't break up with him until AFTER Valentine's Day!"

I teach couples that come to counseling about "Palma's Triangle" of a healthy relationship/marriage. Picture an equalateral triangle (I don't have a scanner to show you my handout.) One corner is "FRIENDSHIP", one is "PASSION", and one is "INTIMACY".

The friendship side is the "I LIKE YOU" part of sharing with each other, enjoying just being together, laughing, having fun, enjoying common interests and activities.

The passion side is the "I LOVE YOU", and includes romance, a physical chemistry, sex (I wrote "sex" on my blog???), closeness, touch, and connection on a both physical and spiritual level.

The intimacy side is the "I TRUST YOU", and is about honest communication, respect, and being vulnerable with each other. This is the person (or should be) you can be the "safest" with to be COMPLETELY yourself...the good, the bad, and the ugly. They accept you the way you are, and you are "completed" when together. And Vice-versa! (Brad's definition of intimacy!)

I am blessed in my marriage, so it feels like "Valentine's Day", all through the year. It would take too many blogs to give examples of the "romantic things" Brad and I have done for each other! But here are a few examples from the most simple to some over-the- top gestures!

When we were dating, Brad said the lyrics to the old song, "Once in a Lifetime" perfectly reminded him of how he felt shortly after we met. ("Once in a lifetime, a man knows a moment - A wonderful moment, when fate takes his hand. And this is my moment - My once in a lifetime - When I can explore a new and exciting land. For once in my lifetime - I fee like a giant, I soar like an eagle - as though I had wings. For this is my moment - My destiny call me, And tho' it may be just once in my lifetime - I'm going to do great things.") I found the sheet music in an old music store, and had it matted with a heart-shaped photo of us. It still hangs in the hallway to our bedroom.

Brad writes the most amazing words in his cards to me. He is a good writer, and writes beautiful (but not sickening) words about our love. They are very personal and sweet. (For example, he has written in an Easter card, how I remind him of the colors of spring, and how, like the symbols of spring in the life cycle, our love is renewed, and changes during the seasons.) WHile we're on the subject of cards, we NEVER give each other just ONE card. For every occasion, we give each other several. Sometimes they are handmade (raid the scrapbook supplies...)!

I always know I am in Brad's thoughts when we are apart (and we are apart three days each week!) Last week, he was in a Pasadena bookstore, and saw the new issue of "Tastes of Italia". He picked it up for me, as he hadn't seen it around the house yet!
Thoughtful! Another week, he brought home an Italian newspaper to help me practice reading in Italian.

One trip to Italy (our honeymoon), we invented a different kiss in each town. We had the "Venice Kiss", the "Rome Kiss", the "Positano Kiss", etc. THAT was fun!

I probably create special meals (or desserts) for Brad as a way of showing affection. They are loving gestures, but not usually good for the diet! I am safe when I make him chocolate desserts, as they don't tempt me at all!

Over-the -top examples include our very first Valentine's Day when Brad planned a whole surprise weekend to Mendocino at a charming B&B, with a fantastic dinner, and walks on the beach. For his 50th birthday, I packed, took him to the airport, didn't tell him where we were going, and faked which gates we might be departing from up to the last second. We finally had to board, and got on a flight to Orange County. He thought, "Disneyland". I kept driving, and he was quite surprised when we arrived at the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Nigel, and checked into a suite on the concierge floor that was filled with flowers and champagne!

That reminds me of a Saturday in the Bay Area, a few years ago, that my single friend, Joy, was visiting us for the weekend. The three of us went into San Francisco for a "marathon shopping day" around Union Square. Brad stuck it out through Nordstrom, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Crate and Barrel, a "girly lunch", a coffee break at a Maiden Lane cafe, and finally we ended up having a drink at the Saint Francis Hotel.
It was a little after 4 p.m.. We were leaving the bar ready to go home for the day. As we were walking out, Brad said he was "stopping at the rest room", and would meet us outside. We waited, and waited! It seemed like a long restroom stop (about 10 minutes). Finally he came running around the corner with two gorgeous bouguets of flowers wrapped in cellophane with streaming ribbons! There were white Casablanca lilies for me and pink Stargazers for Joy. He had "run" two blocks each way to a street stand we had passed earlier!

Maybe the way Brad treats my girlfriends is not "romantic" to others, but I love how he is with them. He totally respects our "girltime", joins us when invited, and then carries our bags! He is a gentleman, welcoming, accepting, and enjoys their uniqueness and even their quirks. Though I never met his mom, I'd sure like to thank her on her lessons during his youth about, "how to treat a girl".

Travelling together is one of most romantic things we do! We love exploring a new Italian hilltown, or taking a weekend away near home. We are both fairly easy-going, and enjoy seeing new places. We seem to talk non-stop on car trips, or can snuggle quietly and happily beside each other for an afternoon nap or some "downtime" to read our books.

Though Brad allows me lots of room to plan our days, we both try to include things we know the other enjoys. Brad is my shopping SAINT, and I occasionally attend an Air Force Academy football game, or spend a day wine tasting, or going to a music event of his choice. Brad has put up with countless scrapbook stores, bead shops, and even whole day Bead and Scrapbook Expos! We both love the beach, pool time, and FOOD. We also like just hanging out at home. It's SO EASY!

Wow, this is getting LONG! Let me cut to the chase. It's the simple stuff that is most important. The backrub when one is tired or sore, the cup of coffee waiting when you get home. There is no magic formula for love and romance. Be yourself, enjoy your partner. Trust, respect, laughter, honesty, kindness. That's it! Keep the flame alive.

February 13, 2007

Valentine's Fashion

When I first moved to the desert from tha Bay Area, I owned five Valentine's sweaters. Each year or so, I get rid of one. This last one will be put to pasture tomorrow!
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Since I started with this silly topic, I might as well continue.
This "holiday wardrobe" collection started during my teaching years. Don't even ASK about Christmas sweaters. Yesterday, I wore black pants, and a red top. Today, I am wearing a black skirt and a red/black top. Brad is not here to take my photo. I have on heart earrings. What shall I wear tomorrow?

How about my "heart" skirt, and a black top?

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If we were going out, I could wear this:

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If we were going out somewhere dressy, I could wear this:

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Valentine's Jewelry?? Of course!

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What does one do for a Valentine's purse?
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Oh ye of little faith!


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I will finish with my last clients at 7 p.m.. By the time Brad gets home for dinner around 8:30, my bet is I will be in my black jeans, and a comfy red top!

Have a Happy Valentine's Day. Be loving to YOURSELF too!


February 16, 2007

Slow Travel Friends and GTGs

Just two years ago I was planning our trips to Italy with a stack of guidebooks in front of me. I was led to a site called slowtrav.com a couple of years before I actually showed up on the scene and "investigated" it for myself. I had occasionally "browsed" the AOL Italy boards, but found their format confusing and non-user friendly. I didn't know how to download our digital pictures, and had little desire to learn. Brad would download, and I would print them for scrapbooks, sharing those only with good friends who "put up with" looking at our vacation memories.

Slow Travel changed a lot about how we travel (a longer time in each place, staying in an occasional rental house or apartment instead of a hotel, etc.), how we plan our trips (pages of wonderful recommendations for restaurants and out-of-the-way places, GTGs), and added a wonderful perk to our travel: the possibility of getting together with friends from the Slow Talk message boards! We have met over 70 people so far at ST Get Togethers!

We began to meet Slow Travelers last March at our first GTG after Diva's pasta class in Sonoma. Gloria and Alex hosted a lovely pot luck at her home, and we met 16! I met Alessandra in Cortona, and attended lunch for 12! We met Nancy and Bill in Montalcino. Teachick and I began our weekend visits by my pool! I attended a wonderful picnic in the redwoods in July, 2006, meeting Pauline, Steve, and many others for the first time. Then Brad met 11 in Santa Barbara. We hosted the Desert GTG in October, and had 21 attend. I met "Vegas Ms" and her mom for coffee at the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas in January. The Paso Robles SLOW BOWL brought us back together with 19 "old friends", and we met 21 new ones!

Coming up are lots more opportunities to visit with Slow Travel members! February 24, 10 of us will meet for lunch at Mozza in Los Angeles. "Love Italy" is visiting Palm Desert for a few days in March, and we will have dinner. March 21, I will meet my "twin", Jerry for dinner in Pasadena! In April, I will get to meet Sheena and her husband, Terry, when they visit the desert, and the whole Southeast gang in Brevard!!!

This summer, we will be able to see many ST friends in Italy. Jane, Ken and Casey will still be in Greve while we are visiting Chianti, and we will meet for dinner. I hope to connect with Alessandra and her family, Tania and Keith while in Cortona. As luck would have it, Janet is hosting a GTG in Umbria with Pauline and Steve as her guests. I may get to meet much of the Italy gang including: Barb and Art, Judith, Judy, Letezia, Giulia, KimC, Corinna, Anne, Diane...and who knows, by July?

Internet friendships are fascinating to me.

After communicating with Diana for almost a year through the Slow Talk message boards, or PMs (private messaging), I felt like I knew her. When we finally met the day we arrived at her B&B in Piemonte, it felt like we were old friends. The same has been true for other Slow Travel members I have become friends with. In this community, people seem to be just as they represent themselves on the boards...REAL!

The first time I met Kathy (Teachick), was when she arrived at my home for the weekend! I had friends of mine say, "How do you know she's not some whacko?" "How do you know she'll be safe?" Kathy had similar warnings. "You don't even KNOW this woman or her husband, and you're going to stay at THEIR HOUSE??? Are you crazy?"

We knew. We just knew with 99% certainty that we would "click", and it would all be OK! And it was even better than we had hoped!

I know the same thing will happen when I meet Jerry in March, Sheena in April, Jane in July... new, but ongoing friendships!

Tomorrow...another example of a Slow Travel friend , and exciting news about our future collaboration!

February 17, 2007

Serendipity: Gail's Great Escapes

There are so many little crossroads in life!

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I joined Slow Travel.
I went to some GTG's.
We hosted a GTG.
Gail H. knew Kaydee was my "Mystery Guest".
Gail had some FF miles, and PM'd me with a last minute idea to come from Atlanta.
I'll be "in Gail's kitchen" in Montisi, Italy in May 2008!

Gail and I met when I picked her up at the airport after her delayed flight. By the time we got back to Palm Desert from the Palm Springs airport, we knew lots about each other's lives. We "bonded instantly", felt like we had been friends for years, and we both shared a deep understanding of how Italy fills our souls. We have kept in touch since that GTG, and are so excited to see each other in April, when Brad and I travel to North Carolina for the Brevard Slow Travel GTG!

Here are Gail and Brad on her first night in the desert:

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Gail instantly became a Slowchick the next morning at "rehearsal"!

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Gail has been leading groups in Italy, with her husband, John, for six years. These groups used to stay at a farmhouse near Montisi. In 2008, she will move the groups to a beautiful villa right in town.

http://www.gailsgreatescapes.com/

When Gail offered me a very generous proposal to come help her cook a few meals during the week in the villa's GORGEOUS kitchen, I was speechless. Well speechless, except for a loud and clear YES!

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Brad and I are so excited! There will also be time in Cortona, and we will get to cook in Alessandra's kitchen too! The Slow Travel kitchen tour! It sounds like a wonderful week in a wonderful place with wonderful people!

Don't you all want to join us?

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February 20, 2007

Tuscany Friends

On Saturday, we had a wonderful afternoon with our friends, Ubaldo and Dennee. We first met Ubaldo at L'Olmo, our lovely Tuscan home for our first visit to the Val d'Orcia in 2003. Ubaldo took great care of us, from recommending restaurants and wineries, to overseeing great breakfasts, finding me coffee at odd hours of the day or night, to keeping the grounds beautiful, and locking the gate when we came stumbling in late some nights.

Around the time of our visit, he met a lovely woman, travelling alone, and their beautiful love story began.

We saw Ubaldo again on a Tuscany visit in 2005. New Year's Eve, that year, we had a surprise visit at our home when Ubaldo and Dennee visited Eidlewild, a tiny nearby mountain community, and came over for a glass of wine. We were able to meet Dennee in person, and immediately see why they make such a great couple!

I again stayed at L'Olmo for a couple nights on a brief visit last summer, during my trip with Ida. Dennee was visiting Ubaldo, and I spent an evening with them, sharing local vino.

Saturday, we filled them in on all our most recent Italian adventures, shared photos of our Piemonte trip (Ubaldo is Piemontese), and picked their brains about great food and restaurants all over Italy. It really is a small world. We shared our plans to visit Montisi, on "Gail's Great Escapes", and they knew everyone we mentioned! Here we are after lunch:

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Later Saturday evening, we had friends over for a drink before going out to dinner, and I made Jerry's "Prosciutto-wrapped Pears with Blue Cheese Cream" recipe.
Perfect with a glass of wine or two!

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February 22, 2007

February Book Club Luncheon

Today I hosted our monthly Book Club Lunch. Even though Valentine's Day has past, I kept the theme, as we read a love story for February: "The Wedding" by Nicholas Sparks.
My table was set with gold and silver, with red Valentine touches. Each guest got a "party favor" of a pink Murano glass heart pendant.

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We started our "meeting" with prosecco and an appetizer of cherry brie with sour cherry preserves on crackers. We discussed "The Wedding", and decided on next month's book of "Beach Music" by Pat Conroy.

Time to eat and visit! I tried a new recipe from Slow Talk's food board. Dana posted this Asparagas-Gruyere Tart a while back. It turned out to be a delicious crust, and an attractive meatless entree! I also got to use my "new" pizza pan that I bought at the market in Acqui Terme!

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Here is the recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/104744

Along with the tart, we had Mango-Shrimp Salad, assorted breads, and a green salad with pears, pecans, gorgonzola and dried cranberries.

For dessert, I made individual tiny almond-Amaretto cake bites, mini lemon curd cheesecakes, and served frozen strawberries stuffed with vanilla ice cream and strawberry truffles.

We had a lovely afternoon, and here are more pictures of food and people!

http://http://www.slowphotos.com/photo/showgallery.php?si=&limit=&thumbsonly=2&perpage=12&cat=4074&ppuser=0&thumbcheck=1&page=1&sortby=f&sorttime=999&way=asc&cat=4074

March 2, 2007

Italian Linens: Pretty as a Peach!

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Last summer on a daytrip to Cortona, I visited "Il Girasole", a lovely shop owned by Slow Travel friend, Alessandra Federici. http://www.il-girasole.com/ There were several delightful things that happened that day. The first was getting acquainted with Alex, and her directness, warmth, and wonderdul sense of humor. I walked into the shop and she said, "You are PALMA! I know you from your photo!"

Another highlight was the lovely lunch she arranged at Osteria del Teatro with other Slow Travel folks who were also visiting Cortona. There were 12 of us for this impromptu GTG, and the food was outstanding!

Finally, some wonderful shopping! I chose a set of linens for my dining room table. I bought a runner, and 6 placemats and napkins. Alex shipped them to me when the order arrived. Here they are with a set of Fitz and Floyd china and coordinating floral accent plates. I think they are as pretty as a peach!

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Thanks, Alex! We'll see you in Cortona this summer!

March 8, 2007

Oh Happy Day!

I haven't posted much, because for the past 8 days, I've been dealing with a health scare.

The world almost stops, and it is hard to think of much else.

The word "fears" takes on new meaning.

You just WAIT, go through the day, WAIT, try to get some sleep, and WAIT some more.

I'm ALL GOOD! Nothing is wrong! I'm FINE! Whoo Hoo!

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Thanks to my friends and wonderful husband who kept me sane (mostly)! These tulips are for you! Thanks for your love and support!

March 20, 2007

Dinner with Jerry in Padadena

For several months, Slow Travel friend, Jerry, from Canada and I have joked about being "twins separated at birth". We both enjoy travel to Italy, cooking, baking, shopping, entertaining, and seem to think alike on various topics. Around the holidays, several people pointed out these similarities, and we coincidentally both started blogs, besides sharing recipes on the Food Forum. It is always fun to meet a Slow Travel friend in person, and find that they are exactly the way you think and hope they will be from your message board, trip report, chat room experiences. Today I had the pleasure of meeting Jerry in person.

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I drove to Pasadena right after work, to the Westin Hotel, across the street from where Brad works. Brad checked us in, unloaded the car (I had wine protectors for Jerry, and three scrapbooks to share), and returned to work. Jerry met me a few minutes later in ther lobby, and we talked non-stop for the next two hours, barely coming up for air! He brought a wonderful "Canadian Goodie Bag" full of treats, maple syrup, and even Ice Wine! Soon, Brad joined us after work, and we walked to the Heratige Wine Bar/Wine Shop.

We met Marcia and David for a glass of vino, and just as we were leaving, we were joined by Kathy as we walked a block to Cafe Bizou for dinner. We arrived at 7, and "closed the place", at 11 p.m.. Three bottles of red wine were enjoyed by everyone but me, the token white wine drinker. David shared a favorite from Paso Robles, Jerry brought a bottle from Canada, and Brad shared a Pinot Noir. I drank a wee bit too much Pinot Grigio, passing my two glass usual comsumption!

Our food was wonderful, but the conversation at the table was even better! We laughed, told travel stories, discussed past and future GTGs, and talked about our favorite obsession...Slow Travel, that brought us all together!

What a delightful evening!

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Check out more photos of us and our entrees!

March 28, 2007

Happy 50th Fiona!

We attended a fabulous 50th birthday party last night, for our friend, Fiona. Her husband, Steve, offered her a trip ANYWHERE instead of a party, but she wanted a bash for all her friends, and a grand PARTY, she had!

It was cold (59), and windy, last night, so a shawl wasn't going to cut it for me! I dragged out my "killer gold leather coat" from the back of our hall closet, threw on my "Acqui Terme glitzy top" with a black skirt, and we were off!

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70 of Fiona's friends arrived close to 6 p.m. for an open bar and passed hors d'oeurves cocktail hour. A fabulous band played dance music all night. A buffet dinner followed by a big pink chocolate cake with "shoe ornaments" adorning the top were served later in the evening. This group loves a good party, and Fiona's wish of plenty of drinks and dancing for all came true! We wore neon pink "disco necklaces" to go with the theme.

As you can see, good friends, lots of laughter, and cocktails flowed throughout the evening! Here we are enjoying the festivities with friends, Jan and Les.

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March 30, 2007

Spring Table

Easter is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the happy bright colors, the flowers, eggs, chicks, bunnies...ALL of it! The marblized blown out eggs on my table are still unbroken from when I taught 4th grade in 1978! Amazing!
We are going to Easter dinner at Fiona and Steve's, so I won't be cooking this year, but I HAD to set an Easter table! That lovely fabric down the center is actually one of my Italy shawls. Why not??? I'm not wearing it this week, so my table might as well get accessorized!

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April 7, 2007

Purging...my closet! Part 1

I have WAY TOO MANY CLOTHES! No argument from me. I shop, shop, shop, then I accessorize!

I decided it was time to EMPTY, and then ORGANIZE my crowded closet. I started last weekend. In two hours, I got rid of (oh this is embarrassing...)15 pair of shoes, 68 tops, 38 pants/capris, 3 skirts, 4 jackets, 16 sweaters, and 6 old nightgowns/p.j.s! It was wonderful and freeing!

The next thing I did was organize my shoes. I still have about 10 pair on the floor that don't fit on these shelves! And the top four shelves are not even shone in this photo!
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Then Ida told me about some new "space-saving" hangers she bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I dragged Brad there during our Saturday errands. I really liked the hangers in the lime green color. $9.99 for 10. If you buy the box of 50, they are $39.99, but they only come in black. Brad said, "Try them first, to see if you like them".

Like them??? I LOVE THEM! I went back and bought 4 more boxes. I am now into this for $238.00 (I had a coupon)! I have completed the switch in 5 and a half of the 10 sections of my closet, and yes, I am OUT OF HANGERS! I also want to use them in my coat closet! According to my calculations... I need about 200 more! I am nuts!

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I will post some photos of this ongoing project as I make a little more progress. I HATE spending another$160 for hangers, BUT everything now fits (and most of my clothes fit ME as well...), and I can find what I want! The next challenge will be my purses and then the jewelry!

The lightweight jacket section is done! (I moved the wool blazers, winter stuff to the guest room closet where Brad's whole wardrobe resides.)

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April 8, 2007

Buona Pasqua

Happy Easter!

Brad and I had a light breakfast and opened our Easter cards.

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I did some food prep, making 4 salads for tomorrow night, and frosted a Limoncello Torta to take to Fiona and Steve's this afternoon.

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Fiona had a lovely Easter spread. We started with numerous appetizers, then a big dinner with a delicious ham, and lots of side-dishes. My lemon cake was appreciated by all.
http://www.slowphotos.com/photo/showgallery.php?cat=4115" Click here for the party photos!

April 9, 2007

Salad Supper with Sheena

Sheena, Nikki and Jen came over for a very casual outdoor supper of salads. We began with a couple bottles of prosecco, and some parmagiano with Italian lemon honey. We moved out to the patio for dinner. We took NO photos, as we were too busy talking all evening. I will "borrow" this photo from Wednesday night.

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Meeting Slow Travelers is like seeing old friends you have known for years!
Here are the evening's recipes.

Curry chicken salad:

4 chicken breasts, cubed
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
one large bunch red seedless grapes
cashews (add just before serving)

Dressing: combine mayo with a splash of Worstershire and curry powder to taste.

Pasta Salad

Rotini pasta
shredded zucchini
grape tomatoes (cut in half)
mozzarella balls marinated in red pepper, garlic and olive oil

Toss all of the ingredients with some basil pesto mixed with a large spoon of sour cream.

Broccoli Salad

1 bag of broccoli slaw OR chopped broccoli flowerettes
1 "chunk" of smoked gouda, grated
4 slices of bacon, crumbled
1/2 a red onion, chopped
dried cranberries (or raisins)

Dressing: Mix together: 3/4 c. mayo. Add 2 T red wine vinegar and 3T. sugar. Toss with above ingredients.

Fresh Fruit

Paula Deen's Fruit Tart

Crust:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and sliced
Filling: 
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping: 
Fresh strawberries, kiwi slices, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, or whatever fruit is in season.
Glaze: 
1 (6-ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate, thawed 
1 tablespoon cornstarch 
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Whipped cream, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust: In a food processor, combine the confectioners' sugar, flour, and butter, and process until the mixture forms a ball. With your fingers, press the dough into a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, taking care to push the crust into the indentations in the sides. Pat until the crust is even. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until very lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
For the filling and topping: Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. Spread over the cooled crust. Cut the strawberries into 1/4-inch slices and arrange around the edge of the crust. For the next circle, use kiwi slices. Add another circle of strawberries, filling in any spaces with blueberries. Cluster the raspberries in the center of the tart.
For the glaze: Combine the limeade, cornstarch, lime juice, and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until clear and thick, about 2 minutes. Let cool. With a pastry brush, glaze the entire tart. You will not use all of the glaze.
Keep the tart in the refrigerator. Remove about 15 minutes before serving.

April 11, 2007

A Lovely, Windy Evening

Sheena, Nikki and Jen came to dinner on Wednesday night. With our prosecco or wine, we munched on appetizers until Brad (our BBQ chef) came home at 8 from Pasadena. We had quite a lot of wind, but it seemed to calm down around 7, so we decided to eat on the "Positano Table", outside.

Look at Sheena and Nikki's mother-daughter smiles!
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Here are "the blonds": Palma and Jen

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Here was the menu:

Hot crab dip
Brie-prosciutto-fig jam tarts
cherry brie with dried cherries and crackers

Salad with pears, blue cheese, cranberries and candied walnuts

Artichoke-Gruyere Lasagna
Lamb kebobs (marinated in olive oil/rosemary/garlic

Lemon-Blueberry Trifle

After our salad, the wind came back, cooling thigs down considerably. I brought our a shawl for all the women (matching, of course), and we moved inside for dessert!

Brad enjoyed his evening with "all the lovely ladies".

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May 5, 2007

Lemons and Roses

Our friends, Fiona and Steve, hosted a wonderful dinner party to celebrate (a week early) my birthday and Brad's birthday. The theme for the table was "Lemons and Roses". Fiona gets very creative with her fun tablesettings, and this one was quite festive.

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There was a center glass of citrus and yellow roses, with large ceramic lemons down the center of the table, lemon napkins, candles, and party favors at each placesetting. The boys got wine stoppers, and the women got tiny photo frames.

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To keep with the theme, we began with refreshing champagne flutes of prosecco with some lemonade, and smashed sour lemon candies rimming the glass.

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May 6, 2007

Pre-Birthday Dinner

There were eight friends in attendance for our pre-birthday dinner at the Altman's. We all share a love of travel. We spent 3 weeks in Italy with Fiona and Steve in 2003, and are returning with them next year, where we will be their "tourguides" in northern Italy. Here are our gracious hosts, Fiona and Steve:

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Jan and Les were there to share in the fun. We travelled to Italy with them in 2005 and have another trip plannned for September 2008.

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Sue and Russ joined in as two more who love travel.They will be vacationing in France this summer.

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Dinner began with a platter of imported cheeses, salami, and red pepper spread with lettuce wraps. Brad and I volunteered to make individual artichoke-lemon lasagnas for the first course. They were a big hit, and Brad thought it was his best dough ever!
Fiona prepared a juicy grilled salmon, marinated in raspberry beer. There was asparagas with dried cherries (soaked in Ouzo), rice with cashews, and a Caesar salad. Delicious!

May 7, 2007

Let Them Eat Cake

Jan and Les provided dessert for our "Pre-birthday Party". Brad, the chocolate lover, was thrilled with his double chocolate creation (ALL the guys picked this choice.).

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I was just as happy with my pretty white cake, bursting with berries and an almond marzipan topping.

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The gift portion of the evening was outrageous! Our friends are much too generous, and have great taste! We were SHOWERED with an array of perfect presents. Brad received Italian wine, an Italy travel video, and a joke book about sex over 50. I received a necklace, a book on wire beading, Tuscany scene note cards, and a beautiful painted box with scenes of Tuscany on all sides. Both of us were given a lovely gift certificate to one of our favorite Italian restaurants in the area. Our friends certainly "get it" that we love Italy! It will be an amazing trip in 2008 to have all of us there together and drinking some great vino!

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Thank you Fiona, Steve, Jan, Les, Sue, and Russ for a wonderful birthday celebration!

May 10, 2007

Brad's Birthday

I left for Scottsdale at 7:30 a.m., and arrived at our Marriott Suites by 11:30 (with one Starbucks stop). After checking in, I hit Nordstrom and bought two skirts and a pair of black sandals. From there I visited favorite shops in the Borgota (a shopping center modeled after an Italian village), Seville Center, and the Marketplace. It was 105 degrees, and by 4, I headed back to my room and cranked down the air conditioning. After ordering a snack and a drink from room service, I joined the Slow Travel Thursday chat, then took a nap. I got a phone call from Brad at 6:15 saying he had missed his flight to Phoenix! (This happened two years ago when we also came to Scottsdale for our birthdays.) He would be on the 7:30 flight, which was running late! So much for our 8:30 dinner reservation. I settled in by the pool with a diet coke and my book (after Googling restaurants under "late night dining"). Brad also did some research, and came up with plan B for dinner. He arrived at 9:50, and we were at "Twisted" by 10:15.

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Twisted has been open only three months. We ordered wine, and were brought a complementary pretzel appetizer.

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Our appetizers were both great. I had ravioli gnudi in basil olive oil, and Brad had a spicy gazpacho with "Pueblo pesto".

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Our entrees both could be categorized as "jazzed up comfort food". Brad had "Pepper, Coriander Crusted Pork Tenderloin" stuffed with goat cheese and cranberries, with carmalized sweet garlic green apples and pomegranate red wine reduction.

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I had "Rocky Mountain Range Meatloaf". At the bottom of the stack was a thick gorgonzola stuffed crostini, served open face with a large serving of meatloaf of organic buffalo, lamb, and wild boar; with Serrano bacon and Creole Sauce.

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Brad cleaned his dessert plate of a Triple Layer Ancho chili chocolate cake with chipolte chocolate mousse and dark chocolate ganache. I had one of his berries and coffee! It was after midnight, and I was in a food coma!

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Even with the delay, Brad had a very nice birthday!

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May 11, 2007

Bead Shopping

After coffee, we set off for Scottsdale Bead Supply, one of my favorite bead shops! It has an almost overwhelming selection of beads, stones, pearls, crystals, clasps, and beading supplies. An hour goes by so quickly there, and even Brad wass entertained with the choices and variety.

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By 11:00, we were off to shop at Hilton Village, Gainey Village, lunch and another bead shop. We stopped at the Borgata where I bought cards and a gift for another friend with a May birthday. Naptime was quickly approaching, but first, a stop at the gelato store near our hotel. The Almond-Snickers and carmelo were as good as real Italian gelato.

May 12, 2007

Birthday Gifts

Brad is a wonderful shopper, and I "help" him, by giving him a list of ideas for things I'd like. This year, he bought me a new Mary Francis handbag. Doesn't it look just perfect for the Amalfi coast or Liguria? I can see carrying it next year on our trip to Portovenere!
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He also surprised me with this lovely pendant to use with some citrine beads I bought earlier this year in L.A.

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We had a lovely birthday dinner at Maestro's, one of the best steak houses in the Scottsdale area. A lemon drop, chopped salad, ribeye steak, and loaded potato was my dinner of choice. I passed on the chocolate cake, and held out for a scoop of passionfruit gelato later in the evening!
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May 17, 2007

CAMFT Conference

I attended an annual professional conference in San Jose, put on by the California Association of Marriage Fammily Therapists. On Thursday, all of my workshops were on couples therapy, and given by Terry Real, LCSW. He had some great techniques on Relationship Enpowered Therapy, on how to work with clinets in crisis, and discussed, " The New Rules of Marriage". I also attended workshops on Multiple Addictions and Helping Couples on the brink of divorce.

What was most fascinating to me in the Addiction training, was how our brain's level of dopamine increase by various activities. Dopamine gives us a "happy feeling". A good meal increases our levels by 50%. A drink, or an orgasm increase dopamine levels by 100%. A cigarette increases it by 150% (no surprise to the smokers), and meth amphetamine increases it by 1100%! It is any wonder there is such a HUGE meth problem?

Sort of makes you want to have a great meal with a glass of wine, followed by sex and a smoke afterwards! He didn't mention a nice cappuccino!

I enjoyed my two days in San Jose, attending some of the same workshops with my friend and colleague, Louise. I enjoyed a visit with my friend, Roxanne, on Thursday night, lunches and dinners at the restaurants in the conference hotel, and seeing friends who live in the Bay area.

May 21, 2007

Inspiring Women

I was one of two guest speakers at a luncheon called, "Inspiring Women". The first speaker spoke on "Women Managing Money", and my topic (during dessert), was "Women and Relationships".

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Women in our mothers' and grandmothers' generation, for the most part, wanted a "Companionable Marriage". They hoped for a good guy, who would earn a living, help raise children, and as long as he didn't beat them, or blatently cheat on them, they stayed forever. (I know this is a gross generalization.) Women today (who choose to marry) want an "Intimate Marriage"... a partner, a best friend, a lover, someone who communicates, shares feelings, and someone they can trust to be their most vulnerable selves with. We're not asking much!

We have changed, and men have not. We have been "liberated", empowered, are less dependent, and have redefined what we want. We have also been confusing men with what we want for decades. Remember "Happy Days"? Did we want responsible, nice guy, Richie Cunningham? or funny Ralph? or cute Potzie? NO! We wanted the FONZ!
We may have grown up watching "Father Knows Best", Ozzie and Harriett, and Ward and June Cleaver, but now we'd like our partners to be a cross between George Clooney and Jack Baur! The group cracked up when I said we may have closer to a Fred Flintstone on viagra at home! (not MY Brad, or course!)

I gave examples of what women try, or do when they are frustrated with a relationship, as well as several strategies that are more effective. Then I had ten minutes of anonymous questions from the audience collected in a box during lunch.
It was a very well-received talk, and quite fun to give!

Here is the lovely lunch:
chicken, salmon, spinach and fruit salad
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Dessert Sampler:
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May 28, 2007

Ego's Floatie

Ego has always loved being in the pool. It used to be difficult to get him out. He loved to dive, swim around the edge, barking with delight, and had to be "dragged out" when it was time to dry off on his towel. Alas, he is getting old! At 14 1/2, he is not as active as he once was. Two weeks ago, at about 10 p.m., I was outside reading, and heard a splash. Ego had fallen in the the pool in the dark. He swam to the steps and climbed out, and I didn't think much of it. He swam with me last week, but was back out in about 2 minutes. Friday, he went in the water with me, but seemed to be struggling, and spending WAY too much energy, just treading water to keep his head up. He returned to the steps, and climbed out. It broke my heart to seem him struggle to do what was once his FAVORITE daily summer activity.

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I asked Brad to see if the pet store had something to help. Ego LOVES his new "Fido Float". He is swimming around the edge again, with no problem (once we coaxed him into it for the first time, and set him in the water...)

June 22, 2007

Physical Therapy

Yesterday was my last visit to my "home away from home", Palm Desert Physical Therapy.
I have been going there three times a week since the beginning of April. What a GREAT group of people!

From left to right, physical therapists: Danny (the head honcho), Jessica, Andre, Brandy, and Office Manager, Barbara, on the phone:

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Last October 28, I hosted a party for Slow Travel friends. I tried to lift a HUGE heavy pan of 14 dozen ravioli in sauce to pour it into a chafing dish. I felt a crunch in my shoulder, and got Brad to pour the contents of the pan for me. On November 1, 2006, my shoulder started hurting. I thought I might have pulled a muscle, so I waited for a few weeks to see if it would go away. Then it was Christmas, and a busy holiday time. In January, I began TRYING to get an appointment with my doctor at Kaiser Permanente (THAT is a whole other story...). The pain got worse in February, and I was FINALLY seen by a doctor on April 2, 2007. I was diagnosed with "frozen shoulder" and immediately began physical therapy.

The treatments include an hour and 15 minutes of supervised exercises, stretching by one of the therapists, and then a treatment of ice, heat, or ultra sound, and eletronic stimulation.

Here is Brandy, STRETCHING my arm after an ultrasound treatment.

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When I started therapy, I could raise my arm only 30 degrees (90 is straight up like raising your hand in school). I am now at a painful 86 degrees, and 91 degrees out to the side. I have a ways to go. I also have a routine of exercises and stretches to do at home each day. I can now close the trunk of my car, put coffee in my high microwave, and shut the door of my top oven (all simple things I couldn't do for a while). Drying my hair and hooking a bra behind my back are still TOUGH! The biggest problem has been SLEEP! I am not a pill person, but once or twice a week, I need an Aleve or three Advil and an ice blanket to get to sleep. I have packed a stack of pain patches for our Italy trip. When we get back, I will battle the doctor/insurance for either a cortizone shot, or an MRI to see where we are with treatment.

June 25, 2007

Where Do You Keep All Those Beads?

I have been asked about storage for my hobbies. When we moved to Palm Desert, I got rid of all my old dollhouse/miniature supplies/ tools (Although I still have a HUGE 3 story Tudor dollhouse in the garage that is as big as a sofa...).

In my last house, I had a "Scrapbook ROOM" with all of my art/craft supplies, and a large desk/shelf/drawer area that filled a corner and two walls of the room for my scrapbooking. It doubled as a second guest room. In our current house, that all got condensed to our second guest room closet, where my supplies for scrapbooking and mosiacs still reside.

When I began beading, I knew I could get myself in trouble. A few beads are no big deal, but then you start buying more, and MORE, and...you get the idea.

The smaller beads go into these nifty plastic containers with dividers:
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I organize my beads by color:
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I found this handy dandy bead storage/travel bag on our April trip to Brevard, NC.
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All four bead boxes fold up securely into a tote the size of a 9x12x6" bag.
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No, this does NOT go to Italy with me!

July 24, 2007

Re-entry

We're home, and I survived a long day at work. I am very jet-lagged, and having major Italy withdrawal and Brad withdrawal, as he is back at work in Pasadena. We had such a wonderful trip, and I wish we had another week or 10!

As efficient as I am about packing for a trip, I totally flunk unpacking. I've done two loads of laundry, and the rest of the stuff can sit there for a week for all I care.

It is great to be back with Ego. He missed us a lot, and apparently was a good boy for our dogsitter. The house was nice and clean when we returned.

My feet are still fat! I'm drinking lots of water, and walking as much as I can. I am elevating them in bed, but I can only get on the Italy flip-flops.

Warning: don't look if you have a weak stomach!

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Where did my ankles go?

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I'll spare you the blister photo! It's better, but not healed yet.

I want gelato, or pasta, or risotto. I want cheese. I am eating fruit and yogurt. I want salami, and pecorino with honey. I have melon, but no prosciutto. Did I mention gelato?

I've been up since 4:30. I need a nap. Reality/re-entry is hard.

July 26, 2007

Back to "Normal"

The Italian music is on the Ipod, I've been printing my favorite sunflower photos (obviously going to have to stock up on yellow ink cartridges for my printer), and I'm getting back to "almost normal". Tonight I may begin scrapbooking our trip since I have now unpacked the beautiful photo album I bought in Florence.

The first box of ceramics arrived today from Orvieto.

I love my Cinghale Bianco pitcher with some tiny blooms from the yard.

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These crappy sunflowers from the grocery store don't look ANYTHING like the girasoli. Why is that?

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I am so at peace in Italy. I am not stressed out at home, but I am certainly more restless. I must figure that one out. Is it just being on vacation? Or is it really more to do with Italy itself?

I've been googling recipes. This weekend, we will have an Italian dinner. I need a "fix".

July 27, 2007

A Beautiful Gift

There were so many wonderful people we met in person on our Italy trip! I like to think of them as "new old friends". It is an interesting phenomenon to correspond with people on Slow Travel, read about their life, maybe follow their blog, and have an on-line relationship. Finally, you get to meet in person, but feel like you've known them for a long time.

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We met Judith in her charming town of CItta di Castello in northern Umbria. Judith picked up and moved to Italy without looking back. She is a gutsy, talented woman with style, pizazz, and an appreciation of art, fashion, and food. An accomplished chef, she is also a designer, a mom, and a lovely friend.

If you haven't already, check out her blog and her website:
http://judithgreenwood.com/thinkonit/
http://www.judithgreenwood.com/

I've already written about our day with Judith, our LONG lunch, chosing custom shirts for Brad (the cute model on her website), and we were able to visit with her again at the Umbria GTG at Villa Rosy. Judith has a warm heart, and a generous spirt. Forgive me, Judith, but she also has an impish sense of humor that is quick and to the point.

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Judith gave us this lovely bowl from a local crafsman. It looks like an eutrscan artifact, and is safe for food. I encased it in my pillow in my carry-on bag to protect it on our way home. I like how it looks in my kitchen with ripe fruit, and I think of Judith every day when I see it!

July 28, 2007

An Italian Evening

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We've been home a week. My body is on California time, my ankles are "normal", and I have survived a week of work and usual errands. My heart, soul, and most of the time, my brain, remain in Italy. Brad is as bad as I am in his Italy withdrawal. Normal things annoy us that didn't used to...like drivers, like competitiveness, like neighbors who don't say hello.

Friday night, Brad got home late, so we went out for a quick bite at 9 p.m.. As we were leaving the restaurant at 10:00, we looked at the traffic on a busy street. There was a tattoo parlour open, on the block where we parked our car. There were fast food restaurants on two corners. We both got the same sad look in our eyes. I said, "Let's go to the piazza. Oh, there ISN'T one!" No passiagiata for us. We went home and talked about some of the things we missed: the attitude, the beauty, the simplicity, the people, the warmth, the fresh local food, the sharing, the wine, the families out at night... I could go on for pages.

OK, so we live HERE! I decided to have an Italian evening at home on Saturday...and Sunday. I need to stop whining!

We had a truely lovely meal. We sat on our "terrazza" by the pool, with soft Italian music, wine, and twinkling lights in our olive trees. We made strozzapreti together (recipe to follow). We had a wonderful watermelon salad with watermelon, mozzarella, fresh basil, red onion, drizzled with Mauro's wonderful Umbrian olive oil. We drank wine. We laughed. We smelled the rosemary bushes next to us. We planned future trips. We sat outside until we had enough room to eat panna cotta with fresh peaches soaked in Ameretto. We WERE Italian.

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August 2, 2007

Scrapbook Frenzy

Tuesday I began scrapbooking our rercent Italy trip. I have been an enthusiastic scrapper for 7 years. This project will take over the kitchen table for a couple of weeks, as we took lots of photos. I kept a journal during my trip, which when typed, becomes a trip report on Slow Travel. This year I also blogged along the way, though blogs were usually an abbreviated version of my journal. The point is, each day of the trip has text as well as photos to paste into the scrapbook. Then there are the background papers, captions, stickers, adornments, etc. for each page layout. The bonus is that when my scrapbook is finished, my trip report will be written too.

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I usually start scrapping around 7 a.m. (after sufficient coffee), and do it on and off all day, between clients, laundry, meals, phone calls, and computer time, until 11 or 12 at night. Except Mondays, when I work 9 hours straight, I can usually figure one day for each day of vacation. I think on this trip, I need to add an extra day or two just for sunflower photos. This is only my third scrapbook day, and I'm on our third day in Florence (page 16 of the album). I print my photos as I go along, so depending on the layout, I can decide what size each photo needs to be. I print most at 5x7 inches, but some at 4x5, or occasionally an 8x10.

This year, I bought a beautiful red leather album at Livium (recommended by Colleen K. in her "Florence Shopping Notes"). There is a watercolor of Florence on the cover. Most of my Italy trips have taken 3-4 albums (volumes) to complete. I will probably have to order another one on-line. I bring an empty folder to collect ticket stubs, maps, brochures, business cards, postcards, etc. to use in my scrapbooking layouts. Then when someone asks me, "Where did you buy...?", I can go back and look.

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It should be no surprise to those of you who know me, that when I am in the middle of a project (beading, scrapbooking, baking, party planning, etc.), I tend to obsess. Believe it or not, I have forgotten to eat dinner on nights that Brad is not home. I used to call it, "The Scrapbook Diet".

Back to the kitchen table I go (But I MAY have lunch first!)

August 3, 2007

Happy Friday!

The weekend has officially begun.

Brad will be home tonight, and we're having pasta with zucchini.

The clouds and humidity are gone.

The scrapbook is going well.

I get to read Harry Potter this weekend.

I got "SCHMOOZED"! (More on that soon!)

We saw this car on a walk in Montalcino. Have a great weekend!

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I'm a "Schmoozer"!


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Valerie, a Slow Travel friend I met in person two weeks ago in Italy, has bestowed me with the honor of a "Schmooze Award"! Valerie and her husband, Bryan moved from New Mexico to Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 2006. Her blog, 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree is a well-written journal of her new life in Le Marche.

Here is the definition of a "Schmoozer".

"This award goes to bloggers “who effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship.”

My "nominees" are the following:

1. Jerry, my friend, who is affectionately referred to as "my twin" has a great blog for recipes, rants, and other fascinating information. Every night is a dinner party in his kitchen! Jerry is coming to visit me in October, and we are looking forward to a week together in Montisi next May. Jerry's Rants, Musings and Recipes

2. Kathy, or "Teachick", another Slow Travel friend and I have whiled away many hours by my pool with wine, prosecco, tea and coffee. She loves yoga, travel, her cats, and of course, tea. She's a chick who is not afraid to say what's on her mind! Her new blog is definitely worth checking out! Persnickity Tutu

3. Sandi, a southern gal, is always cookin' up something good in her Alabama kitchen. Known as "Bugalu" on Slow Travel, she loves to cook, bead jewelry, and travel. I met Sandi and her husband (Brad's twin) in Brevard last April. She will be joining the group in Montisi next May, so there will be zuccherino in the kitchen at the villa! Whistlestop Cafe Cooking

4. Leslie is my Slow Travel friend from "down under". She teaches computing and third graders in Canberra, Australia. She loves to travel to Italy, play with her cats, and shares beautiful photos and stories of her journeys to bella Italia. Kaleidoscope

5. This Kathy is known as "Kaydee" on the Slow Travel boards. I met Kathy last fall when she flew to Palm Desert and was my "mystery guest" at a Slow Travel Get-Together. Kathy and her family have traveled extensively in Europe, but if you love France, here is a blog for you! She takes groups to the Luberon during the year, and is currently spending the summer with her family in France with fabulous photos of beautiful villages. She may even get me to take a "not Italy" trip someday! The Trail's Our Thing


If you’ve been schmoozed above, here’s what to do:

1. Write a post with links to 5 blogs that have schmoozed you into submission.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the award.

3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Power of Schmooze Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.
* I'm working on this one...I'll post the award as soon as I get the link!

August 4, 2007

Crime Scene!!!

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This morning at 8 a.m., Brad and I were having coffee by the pool when our gardner arrived and said there was a woman's purse on the side of the house near the gate where the garbage cans are.

It is true that I have WAY too many handbags, but I have not yet had to store them outside! We looked, and found this scene:

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The contents included a SS card, but no wallet, money, or credit cards. There was some broken glass on the street a few houses away. We called the police.

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A Palm Desert Police officer arrived promptly, and took a report. Within a half an hour, she called back saying the purse belonged to a guest of our neighbor. She had left it in her car. Someone had broken in to her car, stolen the purse, taken what was of value, and tossed the remains...into our yard. The owner was glad to get her purse, SS card, and photos back!

Crime in suburbia! So much for the "safe gated community".

August 5, 2007

No Reservations

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Most movie critics were not impressed.

Melissa Anderson of Time Out NY slams Catherine Zeta-Jones:

"in this fatally bland star vehicle, CZJ is piquant no more. Based on Mostly Martha, the 2001 German diversion, No Reservations has Welsh Spice playing control freak, awkward maternal figure, insecure suitor—and queen bee in the kitchen of a Bleecker Street bistro. Chef’s whites are not this extravagant diva’s color. Nothing in No Reservations (directed by Shine’s Scott Hicks and written by first-timer Carol Fuchs) allows the actor to bare her fangs à la Joan Crawford as the pie-baking Mildred Pierce. In fact, nothing that comes out of the actor’s mouth sounds even passably like authentic speech. Worse, CZJ and slab of meat Aaron Eckhart exhibit no chemistry (only Little Miss Sunshine registers as a plausible sentient being). But there’s hope: CZJ has been busy lately dismissing rumors that she washes her hair with caviar. If she wanted to save her career, she’d keep mum."

Victoria ALexander of FILMSINREVIEW.com calls it "inconsequential and predictable".

Lou Lumenick of the Washington Post calls it "a soufflé of a romantic and family comedy that stubbornly refuses to rise."

Yet, I thought this was a PERFECT PALMA MOVIE!

Take a sweet love story between two chefs, (who happen to be gorgeous), lots of photography of upscale food, add a cute (and sometimes annoying) precocious child, foodie conversations throughout, and throw in a therapist for good measure. These were the indregients for a delightful, if somewhat predictable, "feel good movie". I thought it was great to see Catherine without makeup, low-cut dresses and bare thighs. I'd like to see a lot more of Aaron Eckhart.

Brad and I enjoyed the movie. It won't win an Oscar, but it was cute and entertaining. We found the "secret" to "Kate's" signature saffron sauce. My favorite part was when perfectionistic "Chef Kate", brought a complete meal to her therapist's appointment. Wonder if any of my clients saw it?

For more reviews, click here.

August 10, 2007

Mi Chiamo Palma

You know how kids and some adults love junky stuff with their names on it? Souvineer shops sell all kinds of mugs, notepads, magnets, holiday ornaments, bracelets, etc. with common names?

I NEVER see my name on anything. Except in Italy!

Yes, Palma is my REAL name. I get asked this a lot. It has nothing to do with living in Palm Desert. I did not make it up. My maternal grandmother was "Palmina" (little Palma). I have two first cousins named Palma or a derivitive. One goes by Polly, the other, is sometimes Pam at work, Palma in the family.

In Italy, my name pops up... on signs, funeral notices, doors.

This attorney is in Montalcino:

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In Montefalco, we found a notice of this Palma's burial service:

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Diva sent me a photo of this door in Torino:

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Now, about how I came to live on Via Venezia...

September 18, 2007

An Anniversary Suprise!

Sunday was our "real" anniversary (7 years), and relentless taskmaster that I am, I kept Brad in the kitchen all morning! He had made pasta dough on Saturday, while I zested lemons, grated 6 bricks of gruyere, and made lemon-artichoke pesto/ricotta filling by the bucket! Sunday, I made a GALLON of bechemel, and we were ready to assembly line lasagna! Brad rolled sheets of fresh pasta, while I layered ingredients across the kitchen island. We were done by 12:30, where he got a break to watch Tiger win another golf tournament. The lasagnas are "happily napping" in the freezer until October's GTG.
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After an afternoon nap, we headed to Aqua Caliente, our favorite local casino for a couple hours of 25 cent video poker. We do this 2-3 times a year, and I was feeling lucky! I must interject a story of our last "lucky casino day". It was Easter Sunday, 2004, and after a nice bruch out, we decided to have a stop at the casino. I was "feeling lucky" that day too. I asked Brad during brunch if he wanted to share winnings. I suggested, "I'll give you half if I win, and you give me half if you win." He said, "Nah...how about 25%?" I agreed. It was with some glee, that I handed him $500 an hour later, when I hit a Royal Flush, saying only, "You could have had $1000!"

Sunday, after 20 minutes of play, Brad walked up to me and handed me several bills. He was back an hour later with five more hundreds and a big grin. He got his first Royal Flush... in HEARTS, and shared HALF! Oh what fun!

September 23, 2007

Pigeons

I'm taking a brief break today from my usual blog topics of food, travel, and Italy. I thought I'd share the strange thoughts that struck me yesterday at an odd moment.

Brad and I were running typical Saturday morning errands. On our way to Costco, we stopped at the cleaners for the usual weekly drop-off and pick-up. I waited in the car while Brad went in to the cleaners.

I noticed lots of pigeons on the roof of the building. Actually, there were 57 of them. I was bored, so I counted them. In this moment of observing nature, I noticed a couple of things. The pigeons seemed to be clustered in groups, and some in pairs. They shared the rooftop space. Most of the pigeons were some shade of grey, some with more, or less, black or white feathers. Some were light, some were dark. There was one RED pigeon. Its feathers were the color of a carrot red-headed child with freckles. It stood alone the whole time. Pigeons came and went, flew off, and others joined the group. But no pigeon EVER came near the red one. For some reason, that made me sad. Was he/she lonely? Sick? Did it have a "personality disorder"? Was it ostricized because it was different? Was I just projecting human feelings on these birds? Before I could decide, an interesting thing happened.

ALL 57 pigeons began flapping, and flew off! They scattered in every direction. Then I saw the huge hawk. One of the white pigeons had flown south, and the hawk followed it. In seconds, 56 pigeons returned safely (no, I didn't count them again), but all stood alertly on the peak of the roof, watching toward the south. The red-head was back, and stood off by him/herself, also looking toward the south. They stood like that for a couple of minutes, and then a few went back to their naps, while the majority "stood guard".

By then Brad had returned with our clothes, but I asked him to wait. After another minute or so, I saw the hawk circling back from the north, but all the pigeons were still looking south! The hawk flew past the roof, high above it, on his way to wherever hawks go, as the pigeons continued to face south. The red-head was still alone.

As we drove away, I shared with Brad what I had seen, as well as my thoughts about how it reminded me of a metaphor for our country's "War on Terrorism". We all take our shoes off at the airport, and are not allowed water bottles before passing through security. Maybe we should also look around in other directions?

Anyone know a red-headed pigeon who is looking for a meaningful relationship?

October 16, 2007

Nothing New Here...

I have nothing to report. I am SO ready! This must be the lull before the storm. My house is clean (except the windows will be done tomorrow). My yard looks nice. The weather is perfect. I bought every cippolini onion in the desert. I haven't run out of fridge space YET. Tomorrow I get to start cooking. Two potential disasters have been solved.

Potential disaster 1: One of my kitchen helpers flaked out. The other, Nina, found me a replacement, and even talked me into a third helper during the dinner "rush hour". Sure, why not? They will get more dishes washed before they leave, and we can party on into the night. (Actually, she asked if the famous "Slowchicks" were performing.)

Disaster 2: Brad and I decided since this has become an ANNUAL event, we might as well invest in buying 48 dinner forks, salad forks, and knives, instead of renting them every year. I ordered some from a restaurant supply company on the internet 2 weeks ago. They confirmed shipping charges, and said 10 days. I hadn't gotten a package yet, so I called their Customer Service # today. Not only have they not shipped, they don't HAVE them, and won't for 3 weeks! Their "automatic email" was not sent to let me know. I told them they had to fix this NOW. They did. We found a similar pattern, IN STOCK, and THEY paid for 1 day air Fed Ex from Colorado. I will have them Thursday morning. Allora!

All is good. I am going to take a nap. Brad will be home tonight. We are excited. OK, I am actually OVER THE TOP CRAZY excited! No more caffine until ...later. I LOVE parties!

October 22, 2007

I'll Blog Tuesday

Monday has been a VERY long day. I am tired. I worked 8 hours, then 2 more. I will have more coffee and time at home on Tuesday. I will sleep well tonight!

October 24, 2007

Acqua Pazza

We met for dinner at Piero's Acqua Pazza at "The River", an upscale movie, dining, shopping complex with lots of water features.
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Everyone seemed pleased with their menu selections. I didn't take food photos, but saw LOTS of pear-gorgonzola salads and seafood at my table, and many fontina and pancetta stuffed artichokes at Brad's table.

As we left, some of the ladies jumped on the "Babe Wagon" for a photo.
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You can view more photos from Acqua Pazza

October 25, 2007

Saturday's GTG

ALl the GTG photos have been posted on Slow Photos. You can see them here.

The "Something Italian in a bag" mixer was fun. People were very creative! I'll try to remember what people brought. We had olive oil, balsamic vinegar, 00flour, Pocket Coffee, Italian catfood and chocolate with chili pepper, an Italian I.D. card, a story about walking through Italy with a bunion (you had to be there), nail clippers, Italian cough drops, photo of an Italian ghost, an Italian bell and clothespins, a gorgeous liquore bottle, photos, miniature books on Florence museums, a mousepad, Italian comic book, autographed copy of "Best selling Chow Venice", photo of a pizza oven, authentic copy of Columbus' ship, Sue's Italian roomate, Piemonte brochure, Shannon's spray grappa, and many more creative items. Brad wore his Italian shirt, and I shared the secret photo of my pagent in Greve this summer:
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October 26, 2007

The Morning After: Sunday Breakfast at Keedy's

How we could eat agin, I'm not sure, but we all met at Keedy's at 10:30 for breakfast.
Keedy's is a Palm Desert Favorite for breakfasts and lunches in an old diner setting with formica tables and a soda fountain counter from the 50's.

Here are the photos from Keedy's.

John and Brad seem to be having fun!
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After breakfast, we all split up. Kathy and Terry took jackets up to the Palm Springs Tram, and found it to be 45 degrees and windy.

Gail, Sandi, Jerry, and I went to the College of the Desert Street Fair for a shopping fix, and then took Jerry on a field trip to Trader Joe's. Brad and John came home to nap in front of a football game. I took a much needed 45 minute power nap.

After a quick back yard/champagne flutes clean up, we dragged out ALL the leftovers for a very CASUAL last supper together. It was an evening of merryment, wine, paper plates, and much laughter. I love my Slow Travel buddies! We made some GREAT memories!

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October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

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I have always loved Halloween! I remember dressing as a young child in a VERY politically incorrect costume as Aunt Jemima (I thought she was all about pancakes), and I loved my mask. Later, I remember being a ghost, a witch, an Oreo cookie, and a California dancing raisin!

Our neighborhood doesn't have too many kids (I think there were 9 or 10 last year), so I give the neighbor kids that I know, full size Snickers bars, and have a bag of mini size "just in case" (Brad is always hopeful they'll be his by 8:30).

My mom always fixed a special Halloween dinner, so I have continued that tradition. The menu varies each year, but dessert ALWAYS is something apple!

Tonight's Menu:

Mango martinis
Stuffed Veal Chops
Pumpkin Polenta
Roasted Acorn Squash with cornbread, chicken-apple sausage, apricot stuffing
Cheddar-crusted Apple Tart

Photos and recipes tomorrow. Have a fun, spooky night!

November 14, 2007

Love These Veggies

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Every fall, I take out these favorite vases. In November, as "season" begins, and all the snowbirds return to the desert until spring, flowers are planted eveywhere in mass. The roses are in full bloom, along with gazillions of pansies, geraniums, snapdragons, impatients, Asian poppies, and the bouganvilla is quite happy! New lawns are at their greenest, and the palm trees flutter in the breeze. No fall color here. It looks a lot like spring. For those beautiful fall hues check out Mary's gorgeous photos on her blog from Umbria. These are the fall scenes I dream of:

Autumn colors in Umbria

I cut roses every day, and love to put a single flower in my "eggplant". One bloom works in the "pattypan squash", with Asian poppies that look like tissue paper in the "zucchini". Pansies look like little smiling faces in the yellow "crookneck". Yes, it is still 80 degrees here. I'm looking forward to some cool fall San Francisco weather for Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2007

Rampini Dishes Arrived!

Christmas came early when the Fed Ex man arrived with two large boxes! The Rampini ceramics I purchased in August arrived! They said it would be 3-4 months, and I was hoping to have them for the Desert GTG, but they are here now! Woo hoo! As they match my yellow chargers, I bought 8 plates, 8 salad plates, 8 pasta/cereal bowls, a platter, and a pasta serving bowl.

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How cute are these bowls in my glass door cabinets?

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The platter is so much fun, I might need to leave it on display all the time!

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December 2, 2007

Garage Sale

I REALLY hate garage sales. Only thing worse than going to a garage sale is HAVING a garage sale! I had one three years ago when we downsized homes. We are not allowed to have one in our gated community, so we rented a truck, and moved everything to a friend's garage for the weekend. I swore I would NEVER do it again, but here I was yesterday, up at 5, and hauling boxes our to the driveway at 6:00 in a very cold wind!

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Our gated community decided to do a "one shot deal". 10 Families participated (each in their own garage or driveway). It went from 8-12. We had people there before 7:00. Hey, I'm all for getting up early to SHOP, but that would be only for a day at Nordies or if Saks had a blowout! OK, I'd go to Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, or William-Sonoma if they had a 50% off thing going on too!

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We sold almost half our stuff in the first hour, much more by 10:00. The wind was killing me. By 11:00, we packed up the few things that were left for charity, took our $432 profit, and went in where it was warm! The truck arrived to take our leftovers at noon, and my garage is HALF empty and ready for a car!

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A couple friends asked me home much stuff did I buy at other houses? I never even looked at other people's yards. I have enough stuff of my own. OK, while I didn't walk to any garages, my friend Diana, brought a couple of boxes of things over and sat with me. I traded her a game for a great grapevine cheese basket!

December 23, 2007

No Snow

While I have enjoyed seeing all our east coast and Canadian friends' snow photos, I couldn't do it...not even for a gorgeous Christmas (well, maybe in Italy...).

It has hovered in the low 60s here, and at night and early morning it is in the 40s. This is way crisp enough for me, and I love wearing my cashmere turtlenecks, holiday sweaters, and wool jackets.

At this time of the year, we seem to have brilliant blue skies with gorgeous sunsets every night! There is still some of the frozen white stuff at the top of our nearest mountains. That is close enough to snow for me!

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January 1, 2008

What We REALLY Did on New Year's Eve

We spent a lovely evening out to dinner with friends and good food on New Year's Eve at The Chop House.

I began the evening with a Pomegranite "Martini".
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My appetizer was a delicious plate of escargot!
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I was able to eat half of my rack of lamb entree!
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Brad polished off his WHOLE veal chop and the mushroom risotto!
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I passed on the chocolate dessert shared by the table. (I don't do chocolate!) But I do love those square plates!
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Here are Brad and Betsy:
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Les and Palma:
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I apologize to Mike and Jan, but trust me, you would NOT have wanted your picture posted!

We toasted to a Happy and Healthy 2008 with a luscious bottle of Veuve Clicquot.
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We are looking forward to a great 2008!

January 3, 2008

No Resolutions

I don't like New Year's Resolutions becuase mine always start out with "lose weight".
It seems like a set up for guilt. Of course there is always hope, and the annual soup diet!

This year I decided to just write the three things I KNOW I want to do:

1. Go on as many trips as possible.
2. Drink more wine (I am a lightweight.).
3. Bake more bread and pretty cakes.

I have a good start on #1.
January: Las Vegas
February: Slow Bowl in Paso Robles
March: Arizona weekend with Roxanne
April: Savannah Gathering
May: Rome and Montisi
September: Three more weeks in Italy (Liguria, Piemonte, Lake Como and Bologna)
November: Thanksgiving in San Francisco

I love being home in June, July and August when it is very hot. I mostly live in the pool, and can be rested and relaxed for Italy. October I'll be busy with the THIRD ANNUAL Desert GTG, and December is always busy with holiday fun. I just need a break from Christmas trees right now!

I hope everyone has a healthy, exciting and memorable 2008!

January 4, 2008

January Musings

January has always been my least favorite month of the year. It is COLD. The bustle and company of holidays and celebrations is over. Spring is a distant wish. I often get bored.

This year, there will be no chance for either boredom or that mild winter depression. I am feeling pretty good about January. I have many fun "duties, tasks, and responsibilities" that need to get done for the Savannah Gathering to keep me occupied.

We are looking forward to a great weekend with Ida and Bill in Las Vegas later this month. The Slow Bowl is just a few weeks away! Italy is just a few months away!

January is traditionally a time for reflection. Yesterday, I spent quite a while pondering life and counting my blessings. I have so many blessings!

I have a loving, supportive spouse who puts up with my flaws and encourages my strengths.

We are both in relatively good health.

I have FABULOUS close friends who are like family.

I have a job that doen't feel like working, and I have amazing clients and eager interns to supervise.

I have people in my life who "get" how Italy fills my soul, and we will have not one, but TWO "fixes" this year!

I have a sweet, loving, dog, who at 15, still thinks he is a puppy.

I live in a safe, comfortable home that I am able to share with friends.

I have good food available to me, and MANY new recipes to try in 2008.

I have values that allow me to like and respect myself, my honesty, and my integrity.

I continue to work on eliminating a few things from my life: negativity, those who are judgemental, those who put down others to make themselves feel better, and those who misrepresent themselves. I cherish people who know they can just be REAL, and are not afraid to do so. I continue to work on "not sweating the small stuff".

I have learned as a therapist, that (though this is a HUGE generalization), most people's greatest fears are being abandoned, or being vulernable. Sure, there are many other fears in life, but most fall into one or the other of these biggies.

This weekend I am very grateful for my sorority sisters/old college roomates. We have stayed close for 38 years. One of our close knit "family" lost her father in December. We will all gather in Fresno to support our friend, and to celebrate her father's life at a memorial service tomorrow. We will then gather over food and wine, and give Tammy's dad a wonderful send-off. We will cry, and I'm sure, laugh together, as we have done with each other for 38 years. We are all so blessed to come together in happy and sad times.

I think January 2008 will be just fine!

January 6, 2008

A Beautiful Good-bye

It seems strange to say that is was "uplifting" to go to a Memorial service for my friend, Tammy's dad, but it was such a lovely celebration of his life!

As we entered the funeral home, we were given a red, white and green "Italian Ribbon" to wear.
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Pete loved fast cars and boats. A family friend had flowers made into a sports car.
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He loved music, and a few of his favorites were played throughout the service:
"Fly Me to the Moon", "Natural Man" by Lou Rawls, and the service ended with Sinatra singing "My Way". A fantastic slide show was put to music and made into a video with photos from Pete's life with his family and friends. We laughed and we cried at the beautiful tribute.

A few years ago, I made our close group of sorority sisters a photo bracelet with six tiny photos of us circling each wrist. Connie wore hers and , though we were right behind the family at the service, she put it on Tammy's wrist to remind her, we were right there with her, enbracing her with our love and support.

After the service, Tammy's mom and family welcomed all those who attended to a fabulous lunch reception at a favorite Fresno restaurant. There were huge platters of antipasti, salad, fruit, pasta, chicken, zucchini, and Italian sausage. There were dolci and plenty of red wine.

Tammy's mom, Ann, was beautiful and gracious. Her parents had been married for 58 years. The day was a truly wonderful tribute to Tammy's dad. Here we are with Tammy.
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Peter Sciaroni has been well-loved, and will be missed by many.

January 17, 2008

100 Things About Me

Several blogs I read have recently posted "100 Things About Me". A first I thought it would be very difficult to think of that many things. It has taken me a couple of days to complete my list, (and they were BUSY days) but here we go:

1. I was born on my father's 65th birthday.
2. I am an only child.
3. I grew up in Fresno, CA
4. I was in drama and on the debate team in high school.
5. I majored in Child Development at CSUFresno.
6. I am an Alpha Xi Delta (alumnae).
7. My favorite color is green.
8. I am passionate about Italy (and all things Italian).
9. My first car was a '68 Camero.
10. I taught 4th and 8th grade, and was a Vice-principal.
11. I currently drive a green '97 Seabring convertible.
12. I met Brad in 1997 at a beach party GTG with a group from an AOL Divorce chat
room.
13. We dated for 3 years, and married in 2000.
14. I love to cook and bake, because
15. I love to EAT! (Obsessed with food is more accurate.)
16. I live in a "Tuscan" looking house in Palm Desert.
17. I make beaded jewelry.
18. I enjoy scrapbooking our trips and GTGs
19. I hate most exercise except swimming, shopping (hey, it's a sport...), and I walk
A LOT in Italy. When I force myself to exercise, I do feel virtuous afterwards.
20. I am in a book club (and love to read).
21. I like oldies, pop, classical and smooth jazz.
22. I have a 15 year old cockapoo dog named Ego. I miss his brother, Id.
23. I love to dress up, but live in my jeans or capris at home.
24. My favorite places are Umbria, Piemonte, and the Amalfi coast.
25. Favorite Italian cities are Rome, Bologna, Venice, and Florence (in that order)
26. Favorite smaller towns in Italy are Pienza, Montefalco, and Acqui Terme (soon to
add Montisi)
27. Favorite U.S. cities are Palm Desert, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and
Scottsdale, AZ (Guess I need to explore farther east!)
28. I have always lived in California.
29. My favorite comfort food is Mac and Cheese (mine).
30. I wear yellow gold jewelry.
31. I'm pretty much a girly-girl.
32. I watch very little TV, but DO watch the following: 24, American Idol, Top Chef,
Grey's Anatomy, Desparate Housewives, The Practice, the Food Network, Project
Runway, and the Travel Channel and PBS.
33. I love to entertain.
34. I like jigsaw puzzles.
35. My shower/hair/makeup routine takes me 15 minutes, and I hate to primp.
36. My favorite holidays are Christmas and Easter.
37. I change my dining room table settings at least once a month.
38. I have a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology.
39. As a licensed therapist, I specialize in working with couples.
40. I have great vision, lousy teeth, and bad feet.
41. I hate cauliflower, beets and all beans except green beans.
42. I love any cheese.
43. I drink only white wine: mostly Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and am hooked on
Brachetto di Acqui. I am a lightweight, and don't drink very often.
44. I get up early, stay up late, and love naps.
45. If I can't be in Italy, I love the beach and warm weather destinations.
46. I have never been on ice skates, skis, roller skates, a skateboard, or rollerblades.
47. I have been to the following states: Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington,
Colorado, Louisiana, North Carolina, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Conneticut,
Massachusets, Pennsylvania, Alaska and Hawaii.
48. I drink LOTS of coffee.
49. I own a beachfront condo in Maui with my ex-husband.
50. I've never eaten a pickle, chili beans, or an avocado.
51. I love to sing!
52. I am tender-headed, and my feet are ticklish.
53. I will spend a total of 37 days in Italy this year.
54. I am an extrovert, but sometimes shy.
55. I have always struggled with my weight.
56. I don't like chocolate.
57. My favorite desserts are panna cotta, caramel things, lemon things and gelato.
58. I love snorkeling, especially with turtles.
59. I have never had a massage (except by spouse), pedicure, or facial.
60. I love to play board or card games.
61. My current favorite is "Catchphrase" (regular, or musical version)
62. In Las Vegas, I play 25 cent video poker...for hours!
63. My favorite places to shop for chothes are Nordstrom, Chicos, and a small local
boutique called "Complements".
64. My favorite children's book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No
Good, Very Bad Day
by Judith Viorst.
65. I love mysteries and psycological thrillers. Every once in a while I read a "girl
book".
66. I loved the Harry Potter books, and the Chronicles of
Narnia
.
67. Some of my other favorite authors are: James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, Jodi
Picoult, David Baldacci, Steven King, Dean Koontz, and oh so many more!
68. Pet peeves: People who are inconsiderate, very negative, or judgemental.
69. I cry at sappy movies or even commercials.
70. Once I taught a water aerobics class.
71. I have two phobias: rodents and falling. (not heights, as I love scary rides, tall
buildings, and airplanes, but don't like balance beams, standing on ladders, or
climbing rocks. I like to be IN SOMETHING if I am more than a foot off the ground.
72. My favorite flowers are daffodils, tupips, and Casablanca lilies.
73. I don't like RED roses. I really like coral, yellow, and leonidas (our wedding) are
my favorite.
74. My favorite junk food is Cheetos or Hawaiian chips.
75. I would rather have NO popcorn, than popcorn without butter.
76. My only surgery or stay in the hospital was when I had my tonsils out at age 12.
77. I can hit a golf ball straight, but not very far.
78. Unfortunately (at times), my motto is: "If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing."
79. I love Merry-go-rounds.
80. Sometimes life is like a Merry-go-round!
81. I am organized about things I like: parties, Christmas, trip planning, my closet,
my house. But I hate paperwork, and I have no idea where last month's phone bill
is (maybe in that stack on the desk?).
82. I have been told I am very flexible.
83. I love surprises!
84. I collect Italian ceramics, and I have WAY too many sets of dishes. I like them.
85. One of my favorite charities is Gilda's Club (support for cancer patients and their
families).
86. Once I LITERALLY bumped into Candice Bergen walking down the street in San
Francisco.
87. I love to read on a raft in my pool (with sunscreen).
88. As a child I had crushes on Spin and Marty (Micky Mouse Club), David McCallum
(Man from U.N.C.L.E.), "Jeff" on Donna Reed, and I pretended Annette Funicello
lived in my room. I also had an imaginary dog named "Buster".
89. I display unusual martini glasses on our bar.
90. I have 41 evening bags.
91. My birthday is May 12 and Brad's is May 10.
92. I grew up and lived in Fresno until age 33, spent 18 years in the Bay Area, and
have lived in the desert since May, 2000.
93. I have always lived in a suburban neighborhood.
94. There was a time when I loved cruises. (That time is over.) I've been on 19.
95. I've lived in 7 houses (and two apartments, and a sorority house) in my 55 years.
96. I've worn Shalimar scent for 35 years.
97. I like watching basketball. I can do without football.
98. I speak Italian enough to get by, and keep getting better.
99. I've only seen snow (close enough to touch), 5 times in my life.
100. A perfect day would include: a warm sunny day in the Italian countryside,
overlooking a vineyard, a picnic with Brad, and some paint supplies. Later there
would be pasta.

January 19, 2008

PalmaBELLE? Probably NOT!

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Ok, I admit, I have always been somewhat Francophobic. It must be genetic. I respect all cultures, but France is NOT a place I have ever yearned to visit. I have NO desire to ever see Paris, and I'm afraid if I ever went to Provence (and I'd probably love it), I would be wishing I was in Italy instead. French food is good. Italian food is wonderful. My friends who love to travel to France insist I need to give it a try. The language, though many think is the most beautiful romance language in the world, makes my skin crawl, and I don't think I could stand a visit for that reason alone. If Brad wants to REALLY bug me, he can scrape his nails on a blackboard, or speak a few words in French. The result is the same. I do give the French credit for good bread, cheese, and croissants.

Here I am in Las Vegas. I am actually feeling very French-friendly. This is good, because we are at the Paris Hotel! Our corner room (can't beat the $57 deal we got) is really lovely, and the view is wonderful. This is what we can see from our bed:
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The other window:
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We slept with all the drapes open, so this was the first sight I saw when I opened my eyes today:
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I've been a Caesar's Palace girl for over 30 years. We have also frequented the Venetian, when we had enough points for a comp room. I love the Bellagio. The Italian -like surroundings, while done in "overdone" and sometimes even tacky Vegas style, work for me. So do the Forum Shops.

The gambling at Paris has allowed me to play for a long time and stay within my daily budget. That is always good! The shopping was weak, at best, but I did manage to find two pair of sandals. This month my book club got me to read a mystery set in the Jewish ghetto of Paris. (Murder in the Marais by Cara Black) I enjoyed the book. Maybe some champagne will help adjust my no-France attitude?

Nah...there's always Prosecco.

I took this photo, as it is not likely that I will ever see the REAL DEAL.
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January 21, 2008

Breakfast at the Wynn

We had breakfast Saturday at the Terrace Restaurant over looking the pool at the Wynn.
Those sunny yellow cups are a great way to start the day. Ok, obviously, since I was dressed and walking, it was my FOURTH cup of coffee.
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Then we had a great breakfast.
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After breakfast we walked around by the pool.
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We threw away $20 each into the video poker machines, and I went shopping. In 10 minutes, I had a VERY cute new bathing suit in a Wynn shopping bag.
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Then we found the "Parasol Lounge". Giant parasols hang from the ceiling, but the view looks through a three-story glass to a lake with a huge marble wall of water cascading into it. The picture doesn't do it justice.
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January 24, 2008

Video Poker

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When in a casino, I ONLY play video poker. I have my own "system" and rules for myself.

1. I have a $100 limit (per day in Las Vegas), or per evening when we go to a local casino, and I do NOT go over this. We go to Las Vegas once or twice a year, and to local casinos 3 or 4 times a year.

2. I never drink alcohol when gambling. I nurse a diet Pepsi, or I would get sleepy and stupid.

3. I can usually play at LEAST 2-3 hours on this limit.

4. If I lose my money, I leave, or go do something else until Brad is done.

5. I always place the maximum bet. I play 25 cent machines, so it costs $1.25 per deal.

6. I play in casinos where I will get "points" for future stays, comps, or other "deals".

7. Brad and I both play under one name. For example, at the local casinos, we both play as Brad. In Las Vegas, when at Caesar's Palace(or any casino in the now Harrah's conglomerate), we both play as Palma. At the Venetian, we are both Brad. This allows a couple to combine their play for points.

8. I play for 4 of a kind, I almost never hold cards for a straight, unless I get a "feeling". I am often dealt a straight. I always go for 4 towards a flush. I expect to get 2-4 Four of a KInds in an evening.

9. Now we get to the part that is irrational, and has no logic, except "Palma logic".
If $100 is my limit for the day, I expect, and am prepared to lose it by the end of the evening without disappointment. However, if at the end of the evening, I then have $150, (in reality I have WON $50), I feel like I have WON $150 (having $150 more than I planned). Now $150 goes into the category of "free shopping money"!

10. Brad and I have a deal. We can individually win up to $100. If we win over $100, we split our winnings with our spouse. Two chances to win big. The first time I proposed this, was an Easter Sunday a couple of years ago. We had a nice brunch, and then went to a casino. I proposed the 50% split, and Brad said, "No, let's do 25%."
I won $2000 that day with a beautiful royal flush in hearts. I laughed as I handed him five $100 bills. Then we changed it to 50% for the future!.

On another visit to Las Vegas, we were gambling at Caesar's Palace. Brad won $700 at a machine right behind me. He handed me $350. I pulled my card out of my machine, cashed out, chugged my diet Coke, and grabbed my purse. He asked where I was going. He barely heard me say, "Duh....the Forum Shops, and I know EXACTLY what I'm getting." I was back in 10 minutes with my beautiful Stuart Weitzeman gold sandals (and change).

On a serious note, I am a responsible gambler, but understand the "rush" of winning. Gambling can be a serious addiction. It is quite a problem here in the desert. There are 6 Native American casinos close by. There are lots of retired seniors. Buses pick them up and take them to the casinos. It can be quite a compulsion, leading to financial ruin. Gamblers Anonymous has 20 question "test" to determine is someone's gambling is an addiction. Here is the link.
Other info and how to get help for compulsive gambling is available on their website here.

January 25, 2008

The Palazzo

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The new "Palazzo" Hotel opened in Las Vegas last Friday, and we visited it on Saturday. It is the newest luxury property on the Strip, next to it's sister property, the Venetian Hotel and Casino. We apparantly missed the VIP Grand Opening extravaganza, complete with star-studded events, music, fireworks, light show and a concert hosted by Wayne Brady, with performances by Seal, Andy Garcia, the Cineson All-Stars, the cast of Jersey Boys (permenantly playing in the theater) and a performance by Diana Ross. Our invitation must have been lost in the mail.
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The hotel is designed to resemble an Italian palace. European ambience and luxury amenities are featured in the spacious suites. There is a stunning atrium, a two-story waterfall, a three-story Barneys New York, and 20 upscale shops and stores (connecting to the existing Venetion Canal Shoppes).
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While I have no delusions of paying to STAY there, the restaurant choices are quite spectacular. Featured restaurants include CarneVino by Mario Batali, CUT by Wolfgang Puck, Table 10 by Emeril Lagasse, and Restaurant Charlie by Charlie Trotter!

The Palazzo also has the world's largest Canyon Ranch SpaClub, Jay-Z's signature 40/40 Club, and even the Strip's first Lamborghini dealership.

Rates for two nights in May in a room with a view would run around $900. The cost of a weekend would buy us several nights at a lovely accomodation in Italy. It is a beautiful property, but a no-brainer for our travel budget.

January 26, 2008

Defending the Cave Man

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We first saw this one-man Broadway hit, by Rob Becker, ten or eleven years ago in San Francisco, when free tickets were given to all Marriage Family Therapists for a premiere performance. The theme is male-female differences. My jaw hurt from laughing. I went back and saw it again with friends.

We attended a Sunday matinee performance last weekend in Las Vegas, and it is still very funny. The Las Vegas production is performed by comedian, Kevin Burke.
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The show has been updated, but is still a "feel good" hour and a half of humor, pointing out some of the reasons men and women have been different since the time of the "hunters and gatherers". You will see couples in the audience poking their spouses and looking at each other like, "Yeah, that's us!" Kevin, while following the script, still interacts with audience members. The description of a couple shopping always has me howling.

Though of course this is a comedy, it may hit very close to home for many couples, allowing us to laugh about gender differences, chuckle at the over-generalizations, and appreciate both our own gender and the opposite sex more than when you walked into the theater! The show is traveling around the country. Go with your spouse, partner, or a group of same-gender friends!

January 28, 2008

A Little Sunshine

Happy Monday! This is a busy week...four work days, then we are off to the SlowBowl weekend in Paso Robles. For anyone living where it is stormy, cold, wet, or snowy, here is a little sign of spring and sunshine! Brad often runs Saturday errands, coming home with a non-caloric "treat" for me. He says it's "Just 'cause you deserve them!"

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January 31, 2008

Dinner Party

Last weekend we had a wonderful evening with our friends Fiona and Steve. Also at dinner were Richard and Ted. Some of you may have seen Richard the past two seasons on American Inventor. Richard designed and marketed his product, My Therapy Buddy, a theraputic doll that hugs you and says, "Everything is going to be alright."

Fiona always sets a spectacular table. She used black linens, gold cherubs, TONS of red candles, and a Valentine's theme. Notice the placecards, "crackers", and party favors at each placesetting. After appetizers, we began dinner with a heart-shaped plate of salad with raisins and goat cheese.
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Our entree was rice and chicken curry.
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I brought dessert, Gina's three cheese tart, with Jerry's Meyer Lemon-Blueberry preserves, that I made that morning. The wine flowed. The conversation and a "party mixer game" were lots of fun!
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February 1, 2008

Red Heart Day

Today, February 1st, "National Wear Red Day", is the kickoff of American Heart Month.
We can help build awareness that women are at-risk for heart disease, BUT we can take steps to live healthier lives, and learn more about reducing the risks of heart disease.

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The Red Dress is the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute is sponsering all kinds of events this month.

Wear something RED today!
Take a walk.
Eat some oatmeal.
Read this free booklet:

Here is a great reference, the Healthy Heart Handbook for Women.

Here is a quote I liked from the Handbook:
"The Heart Truth means taking care of yourself and your heart-inside and out. It is a long-term committment and goal to live a healthy life, one that is harmonious."
-Orlinda

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My work deals more with the "broken heart", the "lonley heart", and sometimes the
"cold hearted", "chicken hearted", or life's "heartaches".
While you are being "heart smart" by watching cholesterol levels, and eating good food, it is also important to remember to take care of our mental health and "have a heart".

Call a friend you miss and tell them you miss them.
Say "I love you" all the people you want to know that.
Make 5 people smile today.
Tell someone why you appreciate them.
Hug yourself and at least three others.
Say "I'm sorry" to anyone you think should hear that from you.
Thank You for reading my blog!

February 9, 2008

A Bouquet of Friends

I know this is "old news", but we had such a wonderful time at the Slow Bowl, I wanted to give everyone there a bunch of flowers, so here they are, from my yard. I appreciate every one of my Slow Bowl buddies, and here are some of the reasons why:
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Shannon: REAL, funny, crazy, and so utterly herself and comfortable in her own skin, it is always refreshing! Besides her talents of organization, and gracious party hostess, Shannon is in the dictionary next to the word COOL (without trying to be).

Deborah: What a delightful treat to meet (again) Deborah's infectious laughter, generosity, and warmth is unparalleled. The "hootch" and gifts were frosting on the party cake. A St Louis GTG will be a must!

Sue and Dave: My "outdoor buds" and always a delight! Dave inspired me to make eggplant parm after 30 years of not eating any of my mom's. Keep cooking! The duckfat fried Mac & cheese, was a kick, (but I only got a bite, because I SHARED the last piece!).

Jill: I am really enjoying Jill's blog, and look forward to introducing her to some of my southern Slow Travel friends in Savannah!

Eden: My pre-ST friend, you are inspiring, encouraging, and always fun to see!

Judy and Bill: I love Judy's wit, dry humor, and I LOVE it when she speaks to me in Italian!!! Bill is just a sweetheart!

Wendy&Rob: The camera twins! Enthusiasm doesn't begin to cover it! I was touched on the ride home from the wineries, at how Wendy spent a good deal of time explaining the Slow Travel community to our trolley driver, Charlie. Friendly and welcoming!

Jerry& Paul: What can I say? I love my nutty bro! He brought me lattes at ungodly morning hours, shared treats and sweets, and it was a pleasure to meet gentle Paul, a wonderful balance to my "naughty twin".

Marcia and Dave: Always fun to know if I'm at a GTG, there will be time to relax and hang out with constant, easy-going friends! We will never run out of stuff to talk about!

Kim & Chris: WooHoo! I finally met Kim and Chris. Some people, though you have just "met", you feel you've known a long time. I enjoy Kim's quick retorts, enthusiasm for fun, and ability to be at ease with anyone. I also enjoyed a late night chat with Chris about the desert, and possible places to live.

Sharon: I love Sharon's smile. It gets even bigger and cuter with wine! She is also a fabulous cook, and we can count on amazing things coming from the kitchen when Sharon is around!

Gloria and Alex: If I was ever feeling lousy about myself, Gloria is who I would call. She ALWAYS makes me feel like a million bucks! It was nice to have Alex join the crowd this year.

Marcie and Pete: Fun, friendly, helpful, (Pete, I saw you do that sink full of dishes!), and I had the treat of seeing the darling cherub-faced kids in the parking lot of Melody Ranch!

Joan and Fred: I love to watch the way Joan and Fred are with each other. They are such a great example of a healthy, loving marriage. We should all watch their easy, calm, thoughtful attention to each other. We will have more fun together at the Gathering!

Colleen: She is SO thoughtful. (I will share on another blog the perfect little gift she brought me!) Fun, tactful, open, and empathetic...all perfect for a Mod!

Beth: Enthusiastic and so happy to be out and about with this group, and a real Slow Travel fan!

Marian:Our Slow Travel Matriarch: I enjoyed having more time to get to visit with Marian this year and also our time at Pasolivo. Thanks for the great cheeses.

Chris and Frank: I enjoy Chris's constant smile and calmness (and of course her yummy baked goods!) I had more of a chance to enjoy Frank and learn about his joy of reading in a discussion of favorite books and authors. I LOVE how he keeps track of books he has read!

Cathy T: What a delight for Brad to find that he and Cathy were classmates from the same high school in Daly City in 19__, well...enough said! We both enjoyed the walk through memory lane with Cathy!

Angie: Great to see you again with your charming guy!

Marta: Friendly, calm, easy Marta. She is always helpful and kind! I love counting on seeing her at the Slowbowl. Marta knows a lot about a LOT of things! I missed George this year.

Luisa and Rose: My closest "neighbor", so why do we only see each other at GTGs? I really enjoyed sipping wine and "hoarding the chair" with Louisa and Rose during our before-dinner chat!

Krista & Steve: Can it be that we met only one year ago at the SlowBowl 1??? They sure FEEL like old easy friends. Krista is a fabulous baker, a helpful friend, and Brad and I love to spend time hanging out with these two friendly "tech savvy" STers!

Darci:Funny, easy-going, and a contagious good mood!

Nancy and Joanne: Sweet, soft-spoken, thoughtful Nancy and Joanne brought me a delicious bottle of fig syrup. The apple salad was the BEST batch ever (and I've sampled three).

Cheryl: I love to listen to Cheryl talk...especially about Italy! Her natural warmth is always evident, from a hug hello, to a quiet conversation.

Charity & Bill: Interesting, curious, and great mixers! I was amazed I was able to resist taking that whole dish of brie and fig preserves to "disappear" into a bedroom somewhere. YUM!

Kathy (Teachick): Our zany "Yoga-Guatemala Girl" always has an adventure to share, a man in pursuit, and is guaranteed to entertain us.

Susa:It was fun to hear about Sue's recent Puglia adventure, and sneak outside in the rain on Saturday.

Stephanie and Greg:Brad and I both were able to enjoy a nice amount of time with Stephanie and Greg, in fun conversation. How cute are their dogs? We'd HAVE to get together when they are in the desert!

February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

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You guessed it...we go all out around our house for this day. In reality, I feel like every day is Valentine's Day. Brad and I have learned to show our love for each other in a way that keeps us constantly aware of how we complete each other, and we both appreciate how special that is and how lucky we are.

It's not ALL luck. Sure, we have our spats, disagreements, tired or irritable moods, and occasional hurt feelings. We handle them pretty well, and we learn from them. We were both blessed with families where we felt loved as children, and learned a lot about what a healthy relationship looked like from our parents' marriages. We weren't ALWAYS this "love smart", but we WERE both in long term first marriages that ended, and we learned what DOESN'T work.

What I teach my couples in therapy about healthy relationships is what we try to live each day. (THAT is at least a weeks worth of blog topics for sometime...) In a nutshell, I believe that there are three key areas in a great marriage:
1. Having a solid friendship: common goals and values, laughing and having fun together, enjoying some of the same things (and respecting different interests or passions), appreciating each other's strengths and accepting each other's limitations, easy companionship and joy of being together.
2. Passion and Romance: Attraction, romantic love, sex, playfulness
3. Intimacy: Trust, respect, communication, being able to feel safe - even when most vulnerable. Intimacy is knowing that you get to be completely yourself (the good, the bad and the ugly), and your partner will still love you, and vice versa.

*In contrast, what will KILL a relationship is criticism, contemptuous looks, blame, control, manipulation, disrespect, dishonesty, lack of responsibility, mistrust, withdrawing attention and affection, and avoiding difficult issues.

Nurture your love. Pay attention to each other. Think about what is good for the "us".
Love yourself. Appreciate. Share feelings. Air problems in a respectful way. "Fight" fairly. Take responsibility. It's really easy!

So lets get back to Valentine's Day festivities!
We give each other numerous cards, with beautiful, "mushy", heartfelt love notes written inside. We exchange a gift. We eat a lovely dinner. We are affectionate. I'll leave the rest to the imagination.
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We had our "Valentine Dinner last night, as Brad is home on Wednesdays. I will post photos and recipes of it tomorrow. I promised Valentine food all week, so here is a preview of dessert:
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Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

February 18, 2008

La Spiga

Last weekend, we went out to dinner with our friends, Fiona and Steve. We tried a new, upscale Italian restaurant in Palm Desert called "La Spiga". The building itself is beautiful, and looks like a lovely Tuscan villa.

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We started with a cocktail in the comfortable lounge near the cozy fireplace. They made a great pomegranate martini.

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We were seated for dinner on the terrace. It was quite comfortable, as the daytime high was 77 that day, and there were heaters on the patio as it cooled off. The restaurant has a huge "back yard", complete with Italian fountain, covered "smoking area" by an outdoor fireplace for cigar lovers and diehard smokers, and a large herb garden and lawn.

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Brad and I shared an appetizer of the "house" homemade Italian sausage. It was spicy, and quite good. (Sorry about the blurry photo, but that was right after the martini and a glass of wine.)

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Brad had the seabass, and enjoyed the preparation.

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My veal medallions, topped with prawns, topped with mozzarella were fabulous!

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Price per couple with a drink, wine and tip: $156.

February 19, 2008

Together Again

We gathered just last month at another father's funeral. Yesterday we were in Oakland to say good-bye to Kim's dad.

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Kim has been my friend since 1971. We were sorority sisters, roommates after college, and I was maid of honor in Kim and Ed's wedding 28 years ago. During our college years, and later, I often visited Kim's parents' home in Orinda. Kim's dad was always a joy to be around. He was bigger than life, a handsome businessman and ex-FBI agent, who welcomed Kim's friends and always had good stories to share. I have very fond memories of visits to Kim's family's home.

I was looking forward to a "mostly" day off yesterday. I booked just a couple of clients since the agency where I work on Mondays had the President's Day holiday. When I learned the funeral would be on Monday, it only took a few phone calls to rearrange the day. I booked flights in and out of Ontario to Oakland, cancelled clients, and called my other "sisters" to arrange pick-up and drop-off at the Oakland airport.

It was a long day. I left my house at 5:15 AM, drove to Ontario, and flew to Oakland. Joy picked me up at the airport, and we met the rest of the gang at the church. After the service, there was a very nice buffet lunch, and we had some time with Kim. I was back at the Oakland airport by 2:45, and got a 4 PM plane back to Ontario. I was home in the desert by 7.

I am SO glad I was able to be there for Kim. Our presence meant a lot to her. She was very close to her dad, and always a wonderful daughter to him. After a long illness, he is at peace and at rest. Our loyal group of sorority sisters are "the family we have chosen". We are there when one of us needs support or has an occasion to celebrate!

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February 20, 2008

"The Girls"

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I was hooked completely after reading the first paragraph of Lori Lansen's book, The Girls:

"I have never looked into my sister's eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I've never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. I've never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. or a solo walk. I've never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I've never done, but oh, how I've been loved. And, if such things were to be, I'd live a thousand lives as me, to be lived so exponentially."

The Girls was recommended to me by a friend. All I knew was that it was a story of twenty-nine year old conjoined twin women. I bought the book, but I was reading something else, and I like to read only one book at a time. I "snuck a peak" at the first page, and wanted to fling the book I WAS reading out the window, and read The Girls cover to cover!

This is the bittersweet story of the amazing relationship of twin sisters joined at the head. As I quickly finished my bookclub's mystery so I could get back to The Girls, I kept trying to imagine all the physical limitations this would create. How would their individual personalities and be effected by this genetic rarity? I found that the physical issues, while fascinating to imagine, were NOT what was so compelling about the story.

Ruby and Rose's relationship was unique and as close as any two individuals could physically or emotionally be. Their childhood was at times, heartbreaking. They were raised in a very special family and encouraged to pursue their different interests, use each other's strengths, and always to love each other. They grew up to be remarkable young women.

I laughed, I cried, I read parts aloud to Brad, and I was mesmerized by the amazing writing. I had to keep reminding myself that this was fiction, and NOT a memoir, yet the story was so believable, and so wonderful, you just FELT that it was based on real people. The balance of Rose and Ruby's "togetherness" and "individuality" was very well-done. Family members "Aunt Lovey" and "Uncle Stash" were also brought to life in their tiny farm community and on their stressful trip to Slovakia. The Girls was truly a novel about love, courage, incredible patience, acceptance and being "different". It is a book I will not forget.

February 22, 2008

Rain

It is raining today! It's a warm spring rain.

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The flowers are happy.
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It is such a rare event in the desert, that everyone gets very excited. People here (except those natives of the Pacific Northwest) seem to be clueless about how to drive when it is wet. We all have to figure out WHERE is that windsheild wiper knob thingy on the car? I put socks and closed-toed shoes on! (rarer than rain)
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The flowers are REALLY happy! Spring is coming! I'm SO ready!
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Weekend forecast. Rain gone and mid 70's. 80's by next weekend!
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I THINK there is an umbrella somewhere in my hall closet. The last time I used it was sometime in 2003... (in Florence!)


February 25, 2008

Oscar Night Party

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We attended a fun Oscar Night party last night. A group of about 16 gathered for a great pot luck dinner. We all filled out our ballots, voting for our favorites in each category. We began with wine and appetizers at 5 PM, but the hosts had the TV off (taping) during this period, in order to give guests time to chat, eat, and mingle. Dinner was served, and we began watching the awards without commercials.

I sat in "the peanut gallery", and we had a running commentary on EVERY outfit and actor or actress. I defended the women who were called "too fat to wear that dress", commented on the "poor emaciated skinny waifs" (thank goodness Nicole Kidman was pregnant this year, and looked slightly healthier than usual), the over-abundance of pukey grey dresses, the over or under use of jewelry, and worst outfits of the night. That award went hands down to Tilda Swinton!

Favorites were those is red gowns: the beautiful Anne Hathaway, stunning Katherine Heigl, darling Miley Cyrus, and regal Helen Mirren. I also loved Jessica Alba's gown.

We ate great food, and there were a few surprises. I have a list of movies I want to see. The BIGGEST surprise of the evening was that at 9:10, we had "caught up with the tape" in real time, but the hosts had set the timer until 9 PM, thinking it would be over by then, and Barbara Walters would be on. We were just about to hear who won "Best Actor", when the tape ended!!! We missed "Best Actor", "Best Director", and "Best Movie"!!! Our host quickly ran to the internet to announce somewhat (anticlimactically) who had won these last top categories. The crowd was NOT gracious!

Desserts were a hit at the party, and those who were disappointed by the "abrupt" ending, could have another piece of cake!
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February 26, 2008

A Six Word Memoir

This blogging EVERY DAY in February is a challenge. I am out of ideas, and I haven't cooked anything for a couple of days! I did read several blogs last night, and loved this meme from Krista's blog In and Out of the Garden.

This meme was started by bookbabie, and is based on the book: Not Quite What I Was Expecting: Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.

I didn't think for more than a minute. I wrote my six words impulsively:

"Loving, laughing, passionate, Italian traveler, Palma"

It works as: Loving, laughing, passionate Italian traveler, Palma
OR as: Loving, laughing, passionate, Italian, traveler: Palma
OR even: Loving, laughing, passionate Italian, traveler, Palma

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Brad suggested: "A warm, witty, wise, wonderful woman". (He said that during our wedding vows.)

If you would like to try it, sum up YOUR life in exactly six words.
Post it on your blog, and link to the person you got it from as well as bookbabie.

February 29, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Yesterday was this month's book club lunch. We had a great spread for lunch.

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You may remember my post of the asparagus tart around Valentine's Day. This time I tried it with zucchini and crumbled Italian sausage.

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This month we read a fascinating memoir. I am not terribly fond of most non-fiction (except cookbooks), but this is an amazing story of Greg Mortenson's campaign to educate the children of Pakistan.

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David Oliver Relin writes the story of Greg Mortenson, an American mountain climber, on a trek to K2, the most difficult mountain peak in the world. Greg became lost in the Karakoram mountains, and was finally rescued and nursed back to health in the tiny village of Korphe. He wanted to repay the kindness and generosity of these very poor villagers, and saw a young child trying to educate herself by writing with a stick in the dirt. Greg Mortenson vowed to return to build a school for the children of this village.

The remainder of the book tells the incredible story of Greg returning to Berkley, CA, selling everything he owned, and finding a way to fulfill his promise. His mission went from one school to a new career of building more than 55 schools in areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mortenson's challenges were many! At first he deals with physically getting funding and building materials to this remote mountain village without bridges, transportation, through avalanches and freezing weather conditions. But these problems and the difficult terrain were the least of his challenges. He just wants to help these kids learn. He lived among the people of the region that gave birth to the Taliban and sanctuary to Al Queda. He was kidnapped and held hostage. He believed the road to peace was fighting ignorance and poverty through education for boys AND girls, one village at a time.

As his mission grew, and especially after 9/11, he met with negativity from many Americans for "helping the enemy". His relationships and endless cups of tea with Islamic village elders continued to build peace during a time when the U.S. talked of our "war on terrorism". Greg Mortenson fights the hatred and prejudice that are the causes terrorism by giving young Muslim children a chance to receive a balanced education rather than join an extremist group. He shows readers the spirit of the mass of peace-loving people in the Muslim world. He gives us a way to help too. Absolutely INSPIRATIONAL!

Greg Mortenson was in the desert a couple of weeks ago, and seveal of my book club friends attended his presentation at a local library. Someone in the audience challenged him by saying, "The suicide bombers in 9/11 were educated." Greg smiled and said, "Yes but their mother's weren't." He feels strongly about education for women, and how much influence the mothers have in the culture of these Muslim people. Check out more about Greg Mortenson and his projects!

By the way, dessert was a BIG hit!

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March 1, 2008

How I Spent My "Extra" Day

We only get a leap year day every four years. What did YOU do with your "extra day"?
I have been going 90 miles an hour all of February with a couple of big projects, and a very busy time at work! I've been averaging 5 hours or less of sleep a night...not QUITE enough. I haven't had a day off since the Slow Bowl! I FINALLY had a free day!

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6:15 AM: Morning Coffee

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7:00AM: Time for blogging. I actually blogged EVERY DAY in February! Phew!

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8:30AM: Showered, dressed, and ready for the day. It is a beautiful morning. Right now it is in the low 70s, and heading for 81 degrees. THIS is how I like my snow!

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9:20 AM: A Slow Travel Fix: I was SO VERY SAD and upset at a new announcement!
The PMs are flying!

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10:05AM: A quick stop at Trader Joe's

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10:30AM: I also needed a few things at the grocery store. What to have for dinner? Then I mailed a package at the mailing store next door.

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11:30AM: The flags are flying on EL Paseo, our main shopping street.

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11:35AM: Nothing like a shopping fix when you are upset!

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12:17PM: Not a bad laser strike at Chicos! Now I'm home and need to unload the car!

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12:35PM: LUNCH! Glad I bought those strawberries! YUM

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1:05PM: Ego contemplated a swim, but the water is still too cold! We read in the sunshine for a while instead.

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2:04PM: I better give some water to my thirsty tulips!

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2:14PM:Naptime! Ego spends most of the day like this, but I REALLY took an hour and a half "in bed, under the covers, down for the count, sleep"!

3:55PM-5:20PM: I worked on the centerpieces for one of the venues in Savannah. No sneak preview!

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5:25PM: Prepping dinner. Crab cakes and broccoli slaw, but Brad won't be home for HOURS on a Friday.

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5:45PM: A break at sunset. I'm STILL drinking coffee!

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8:50PM: Brad is finally home after slow Friday night traffic. Time to relax with some wine by the fire! We had Blue Castello cheese, and pecorino with lemon honey.

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10:15PM: We completely lost track of time. We had such a delightful conversation, sharing about upcoming fun events, our reactions to today's disturbing announcement, and looking forward to our May time in Rome and Montisi. We forgot to eat dinner! We were content with our cheese and vino. So we popped open another bottle, continued our conversation, and then had dessert at around 11:30PM. Those crab cakes in the fridge will be there tomorrow!


March 2, 2008

Bring on the Green

It's March! I love March as it is the beginning of "springy" things and colors!
I have always thought, "Thank God I'm Italian", but if I couldn't be Italian, I'd choose to be Irish. I already have the freckles and coloring for it! Let's bring on the green!

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March 4, 2008

For My Blog-reading Friends

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Enjoy an excerpt from one of my favorite childrens' books, If I Found a Wistful Unicorn by Ann Ashford and Bill Drath:

"If I found a wistful unicorn, and brought him to you all forlorn...
Would you pet him?

If I took an empty midnight train across the country in the rain...
Would you meet me?

If I picked a little flower up and put it in a paper cup...
Would you smell it?

If I found a secret place to go, with you the only one to know...
Would you be there?

If my cricket coughed and got the flu, and needed warmth and comfort too...
Would you hold him?

If my rainbow were to turn all gray, and wouldn't shine at all today...
Would you paint it?

If my soul were feeling all alone and wasn't near a telephone...
Would you write to it? (PM, email or text???)

If my clock developed nervous strain, and needed help to "tock" again...
Would you fix it?

If I were to dance for you, as hard as that would be to do...
Would you watch me?

If my pet turnip turned on me, and bit me fiercely on the knee...
Would you bandage it?

If my nightingale were a monotone and much too shy to sing alone,
Would you hum with him?

If all that I would want to do would be to sit and talk to you...
Would you listen?

If any of these things you'll do, I'll never have to say to you...
Do you love me?"

If everyday I blogged for you, and you liked to read it too...
Would you leave a comment?

March 9, 2008

Technology for Palmabella

Two years ago I didn't know what a blog was. Last year I couldn't download my digital camera into my computer without waiting for Brad to do it for me. Once there, I could size photos for printing (only because I HAD to learn Photoshop Elements for my scrapbooking). I have come a long way in the past year. I've learned to blog, and add links to my sidebar. We now have an i-pod, so I've learned to spend money on i-tunes. I'm better at manipulating photos. Now I know how to do special things with my digital camera (must be time for a new one). I have learned PowerPoint, i-MovieHD, and how to do fun things with my fabulous photo printer. I can even change the ringtones on my phone. We shop, plan trips, chat, find recipes and LIVE on the internet. I hate email, but read and answer 20-30 Private Messages a day on Slow Talk. We have a Garmin Nuvi 370 GPS I know how to use, (and keep the voice of "Parlabella" in Italian). I can talk to people on other continents for free with SKYPE with my very own headset and microphone.

I am still behind. My "filing system" on my laptop leaves a lot to be desired. It is only recently that I discovered that EVERYTHING on my computer doesn't have to live on my desktop. I can make FOLDERS and subfolders and keep them in places called things like "Documents", "hard drive", or "Palma's Stuff". Stop laughing. I am too old, and they didn't teach personal computers when I went to school in the olden days.
I have a "back up thingy box" so I don't lose anything (Brad calls it an external hard drive. I call it another friggin' thing on my desk.)

I don't know how to "burn a cd". I still haven't tried TIVO. We have an antique VCR (4 years old) I can't program. I still can't figure out how to get photos off my phone into the computer. I think I need an i-Phone.
Don't you think???

March 10, 2008

Spring Color

I love daylight savings time! I am a sucker for flowers at the grocery store. I treat myself about once a month, and couldn't pass these up. Tulips and daffodils are my favorite sign of spring!

Now I'm off to work on a busy Monday!

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March 14, 2008

A Spring Garden...Anywhere!

Click HERE.

Click your curser anywhere and see what happens. Even better, click and drag it!

Then have a very happy day!

March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

Of course at my house we call today "Palma Sunday"!

Palm Sunday, the last Sunday in lent, marks the beginning of Holy Week and is always the Sunday before Easter. It marks the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem, and the crowds met him waving palm branches, and covering the path in them. The palm fronds represented victory and triumph.

As a child, my family celebrated Palm Sunday as my "feast day", since there was not a saint's day close to my name. There was a big dinner in my honor, and it was like having another birthday. Brad always honors the day for me with a card and small gift.

In the desert, all you have to do is go outside, and look up, and you will see various kinds of palm trees. I love being surrounded by the bright blue skies, sunshine and all kinds of palm trees.

Here are the four most common:
Date Palms
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Queen Palm
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Fan Palm
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and my FAVORITES: The Royal Palms
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March 18, 2008

Weekend Visit

I had a lovely weekend visit with my friend, Roxanne, and her parents, who were visiting the desert to escape the winter snow of Wisconsin. We enjoyed the nice weather, some shopping, and lots of good food!

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My meal was as good as it looks! Audrey and I both had Filetto Gorgonzola:

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Dave enjoyed this variation of veal saltimboca:

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Roxanne raved about her linguini with shrimp and scallops in a pink sauce.

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It was cooler than usual over the weekend, and dipped back down to the 60's and 70's. Today we will all enjoy a more typical low 80's week! The desert wildflowers are blooming!


March 22, 2008

A REALLY Good Day!

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I had quite a nice day on Friday. During school holidays, I always miss those "teacher holidays" like 2 weeks at Christmas, "Spring Break", etc. and I was thinking, I needed a real day off! I decided to take one! No clients, no big cooking for Easter, as I am just making a cake to take to Fiona's for Easter dinner, no long "to do" list, and my house was clean.

I lazed around most of the morning, (usually bustling by 6:30), and didn't even get dressed until 10! This is VERY rare for me! I had coffee, played on the internet, read my book outside, and really did nothing. By 11:00, I decided to look for shoes. In 40 minutes, I was home with 2 new pair of Cole Haan sandals for Italy! I even got $50 off from a promotion they were having. Those Nike Air soles are so comfy, I bought them in black and white!

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I came home, had lunch, and took a two hour nap! Guess I was tired!

Then my friend Maria called, and came over to bring me a two lovely surprises: a Chico's "Friend's and Family" coupon for 25% off your entire purchase this weekend.That, together with my 50% off your most expensive item coupon will require a visit to Chico's on Saturday! Oh darn! Maria is quite an accomplished artist, and she brought me the beautiful watercolor Easter egg pictured above. She painted it on a HARD BOILED egg, so I will not be able to keep it forever, but it is an exquisite desert scene on an egg!

Maria and I shared a bottle of wine. As we were sipping some Pinot Grigio on my patio, the doorbell rang, and another amazing gift was delivered. Look at this beautiful edible arrangement of fruit and chocolate-covered strawberries from a wonderful couple who recently finished a few weeks of marriage therapy. They sent it to thank me for "saving their marriage". I promise you, they did ALL the work to make that happen! I just gave them a few tools to get them back on track. It was a LOVELY thank you gift, and I will share it with friends on Sunday!

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Soon Brad was home, I didn't feel like cooking dinner, so we made tuna melts, finished the wine, and had a delightful rest of the evening!

March 30, 2008

What Looks Like Crazy

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I needed a quick, fun, "beach read", laugh out loud, girl book! My tastes range from psychological thrillers, to murder mysteries, courtroom dramas, historical fiction, memoirs, and what I call "pool books". Pool books include anything by Janet Evanovich, the Women's Murder Club series by Patterson, and anything else (usually paperback) that can risk getting slightly damp with salt water.

I have perfected reading on a raft in my pool. From YEARS of tanning, I have wrinkles, a few EXTRA freckles, and the ability to read on a raft (while lying on my front OR back comfortably). I have not yet submerged a book!

What Looks Like Crazy by Charlotte Hughes was the perfect book to read in 2 days while doing last-minute obsessive things for the Savannah Gathering! She has written a number of books with Janet Evanovich, and this one was right up my alley. It is a romantic comedy about a clinical psychologist in private practice with a crazy family, eccentric secretary, "interesting" clients, and a soon-to-be-ex-husband (a gorgeous firefighter who is almost perfect except when he keeps running into burning buildings and scaring her) she is still in love with. Our heroine is threatened, and herself "over the edge", while trying to treat her challenging clients. Perfect for Palmabella!

Here are two of my favorite quotes (which will not ruin the story line, so go ahead and enjoy them):

First paragraph of Chapter 1:
"As a clinical psychologist, I've spent most of my time trying to convince my clients they're not crazy. The truth is, everybody is a little bit crazy; it's just a matter of degree. Take me, for example: I'm not exactly the poster lady for mental wellness, and I'm the one treating these people. I find that scary.
Even scarier is the well-dressed thirtysomething guy threatening to jump from the rooftop of the ten-story North Atlanta building housing my office. He's a new patient, referred to me by a psychiatrist I once dated."

Another chapter that had me chuckling out loud, (I could SO see myself in the character) was when Kate decides she needs to "live a healthier lifestyle" (exercise and diet). She heads to the grocery store with good intentions to eat better, and maybe even become a vegetarian:

"With my list of wholesome foods in hand, I drove to the grocery store and loaded my cart with fresh fruits and vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, baby carrots, nice purplish asparagus spears that were ridiculously over-priced, and plump, ripe tomatoes. I added bananas, a container of giant strawberries, Red Delicious apples, and a plastic bag filled with seedless grapes.

I found a box of cereal that promised to lower my cholesterol, prevent heart disease and cancer, and provide me with enough nutrients that I would never again have to worry about taking my multivitamin tablet before I left for the office.

At the meat counter, I turned my nose up at the steaks and tossed in a pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

I bought skim milk, whole wheat bread, and olive oil that wore a seal of approval from the American Heart Association. I figured that at this rate, I was going to live until age 110.

I headed toward the front of the store to check out and skidded to a dead halt when I saw the "buy one get one free" offer from Ben & Jerry's ice cream. I gave myself a mental smack on the forehead. What was I thinking?

It hadn't occurred to me that the healthy new diet and lifestyle I'd planned might be a little extreme. Extremes don't work, especially when it comes to diet and exercise. You can have the best of intentions, but if you're not at all flexible, you can sabotage your best efforts and set yourself up for one huge failure. Which leads only to low self-esteem, of course, and maybe even an eating disorder, I reminded myself.

There are times when it helps to be an expert in human behavior. I promptly turned my cart around and headed for the freezer section."

From April through October, I will be on my raft for an hour a day. It is my reward for swimming laps and doing pool exercises. I look forward to the sequel, Nutcase.


March 31, 2008

Blooming Desert, and an AMAZING TALE

We went for a ride up Highway 74 to see the desert flowers in bloom. It was loveliest about 3 weeks ago, but still a pretty drive.

Desert plants are in bloom.

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Even the rocks look like they are blooming.

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AMAZING STORY
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Then we met Ubaldo and Denee for brunch in Palm Springs. I LOVE the story of this couple! We met Ubaldo in Pienza when we stayed at L'Olmo in 2003. He did everything there to make guests comfortable: help with bags, breakfast room, coffee, concierge, pool, grounds, etc.

Ubaldo, an Italian originally from Torino, met Denee, a lovely California guest, who was traveling alone. He helped her with dinner reservations for Easter Sunday. They talked in the lounge afterwards, and, well, they fell in love! A year and a half later, on New Year's Eve, we had a phone call at our home in Palm Desert, saying they were in town. They came over, we met the lovely Denee, Ubaldo was on a vacation while L'Olmo was closed for winter, and of course I wrote about it on Slow Travel.

Fast forward: The couple's relationship grew and they could no longer live on two continents. Ubaldo began the LONG task of getting a "green card" to come permanently to the U.S.. We have gotten together with Denee and Ubaldo each year since then, either in Italy, Palm Desert or Los Angeles.

I just love happy endings! Ubaldo is "legal", he and Denee were married last summer, and are coming up on their first wedding anniversary. They live in Los Angeles. I invited them to the October Desert GTG.

Here is the corker: In order to prove their "story" with Immigration, they used all of my posts and photos on Slow Travel! This verified the dates on Ubaldo's passport stamps, and "proved" that their love story/relationship was legit!

Moral of the story:Keep blogging and posting! You just NEVER KNOW!


April 14, 2008

Out to Dinner with Amici

Saturday night, after the official opening of "Pool Season" (I got raft time today, and oh, it feels SO good to be in that 87 degree water!), we gathered at Fiona and Steve's with Jan and Les to watch the Slow Travel movie. I am sure we will have four more Slow Travel members soon! They wanted to know when the next GTG is?

Jan and Les are going to Savannah in May for their anniversary, so, we gave them the full report of everything they MUST do and see there. I can't wait to return to Savannah, but it was fun to bring them maps, brochures, and recommendations!

Then we all went out to dinner. We began with a large Greek salad for the whole table:
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I ordered halibut, and Brad had sea bass. Both were great!
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We always have a good time with this bunch! We have also traveled to Italy with both couples. Fiona and Steve will be exploring northern Italy with us in September, and Jan and Les will be on the maiden PalmabellasItaly adventure!

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Dessert was so huge, the six of us shared one apple strudel!
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April 16, 2008

Fiori

Yesterday, Sandi made my day with this:

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Spring is a beautiful time for flowers. As I save for Italy, I have to FORCE myself to walk by the gorgeous flowers in the grocery store. Sometimes, I give in and by some daffodils at Trader Joe's fro $1.29 a bunch. Sometimes I just cut roses from my yard!

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Sometimes, my camera is with me, and I snap a shot of some beautiful blooms when I am out and about.

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April 18, 2008

Chuckle of the Day

This just makes me laugh. It is true. I don't have a "nothing box", but Brad does!

April 23, 2008

Domestic Violence Awareness

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Did you know:

It is estimated that nearly one-third of all American women have been hit, beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused during her lifetime.

30% of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.

Women of all races are equally vulnerable to abuse by an intimate partner.

One in five high school girls report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.

In a national survey, 50% of men who frequently abused their wife, also abused their children.

Studies report that between 3.3-10 million children witness some sort of domestic violence annually.

For more startling facts, see endabuse.org.

What can we do?

Teach children early about violence, and how to express anger appropriately.

Be there and listen. Encourage children to express feelings of frustration, anger and hurt (walk it out, talk it out, or take a "time-out")

Be a role model. SHOW boys how to respect women. SHOW girls how to be assertive.

Support local Domestic Violence prevention programs, and shelters. Educate yourself on what is available in your community.

I supervise a community Domestic Violence Program at Family Services of the Desert. We have several groups for both victims of domestic violence, and male perpetrators of domestic violence and child abuse. These are people JUST like you and your neighbors. The problem crosses all socioeconomic, racial and age boundaries.

Friends often ask me, "Aren't you afraid to work with those guys?" I am afraid NOT to!

These clients are regular men (and women) without the skills to control anger, and express feelings. They are not sociopaths. Often, alcohol or drug use was a factor. Often they witnessed domestic violence in their own families while growing up. They CAN and DO break the cycle, after completing their 52 week mandated counseling program. They learn what a healthy relationship can look like. They learn to respect women as equal partners. They learn how to change manipulative, controlling behaviors and how to show respect, and empathy toward their partners and children. They learn to communicate their feelings, listen, and build (or rebuild) trust and intimacy. Victims learn to be assertive instead of passive. They learn to keep themselves and their children safe. Some marriages are "saved", and families remain together. Others lose everything that was important to them.

If you know someone in this situation (I bet you do!), let them know help is available!

April 24, 2008

More about Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence

I'm still on the soapbox, but I really think these are important graphic videos on an important topic. I will go back to food, fun and travel tomorrow.


Continue reading "More about Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence" »

April 25, 2008

Lunch with Nancy

I enjoyed lunch with Nancy on Wednesday. She came to my house first to watch the Slow Travel dvd, and then we enjoyed salads at a close-by golf culb, Desert Willow.
We had three hours to catch up on Slow Travel, Savannah, and everything else in our lives!

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I had my favorite pear, gorgonzola, pecan salad with chicken (and the other half last night for dinner).

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Nancy had chicken salad in a papaya with nut bread.

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May 1, 2008

Couple's Therapy

Tonight I am giving a training to new or unlicensed therapists (we call them Marriage Family Therapist Interns in California) on how to work with couples. It is a two-hour training at my house.

My handouts are printed, I have lots of good info for them on assessment and treatment, techniques to build communication, manage anger and build intimacy with couples, and how to work with couples on the verge of divorce. We will also discuss how to "end well", if a couple decides to split up.

Here are the four things guaranteed to harm a marriage:

criticism
contempt and lack of respect
defensiveness and blaming
Ignoring issues by avoiding them

There are "solutions" to all of these!

The big question is what will I bake to serve for dessert?

May 3, 2008

A Nest of Your Own

Have you ever longed for a special spot, a quiet retreat, a relaxing hide-away? I remember building a "secret fort" with neighborhood friends (right there in my neighbor's back yard), when I was a child.

In the desert, many homes come with a "casita", intended as a detached guest room with bath. My casita is my private practice office where I see clients for therapy. I have often fantasized how it would look as my "art and craft studio" instead. My friend often sends her husband to their casita, when annoyed with him! That is desert lingo for "in the doghouse".

We were in Redlands, CA today, and passed this home in a quiet residential neighborhood. How cool is this tree house? I wonder if it is for the kids, the grandchildren, or a spouse's private spot to get away from the world?

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May 7, 2008

Favorite Cocktails: Part 1

I don't have a cocktail very often, but when I do, I have a couple favorites.

If I'm not drinking wine, I prefer something light and tasty, but not too sweet.

My all time favorite drink is a Lemon Drop. Here is my recipe for a PERFECT batch:

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1/2 c. Citron vodka
1/2 c. Triple Sec
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. Sweet and Sour
a splash of 7-up of other citrus soda

Rim glass with sugar (I use lemon sugar), Shake with ice, and pour.

I also love what I call a "Buona Sera" (very similar to a pomegranate "martini", but lighter, bubbly, and with fewer calories).

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1 shot of Pomegranate vodka
5 oz of Trader Joe's Sparkling Pomegranate Juice
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

After dinner drink? I usually go straight to coffee after dinner. Once a Las Vegas bartender made me one of these: (I call it a "Buona Notte")

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1 shot Vanilla Vodka
1 Shot Kahlua
Coffee or espresso

Stay tuned tomorrow for the drinks we "created" for the gang in Montisi.

May 8, 2008

Cocktails: Part 2

When I am cooking in Montisi for Gail's group, Brad is happy to take on bartender duties. Last Sunday, Brad and I created some cocktails with our friends in mind.

The "Great Escape":
1/2 ounce Amaretto
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce orange juice
Fill glass with Prosecco

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How about a "Bella Bugalu"? Fun and "slightly twisted"!

1 oz. Grand Marnier or other orange liquore
1 oz. cranberry juice
fill glass with prosecco and twist of orange

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Jerry was more of a challenge. I know he likes rum and gin. Brad decided since we would be in Italy, Campari would be in order. So.......... "Le DeQuetteville":

Dash of gin (or vodka)
2 dashes Campari
Top with 5 oz. of Prosecco. Twist a mint leaf and discard. Garnish with a twist of orange and lemon.

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Continue reading "Cocktails: Part 2" »

May 10, 2008

Brad's Big Birthday!

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We have lots to celebrate! Today is Brad''s 60th birthday. We leave for Italy on Friday, and Brad accepted a wonderful job offer in the desert this week! Beginning June 9, he will no longer be schlepping his bag and laptop back and forth to Pasadena, and renting a room. He will be home by 6:30 every night, and be off on Fridays!

SInce we have lived in the desert, (8 years this month), Brad has always worked in another place. He has commuted to both the Bay Area, and Pasadena, and now, first the first time, he will "live at home" 7 days a week!

Some of my friends think I had the perfect deal. They'd love their husband "out of their hair" three nights a week, and no dinner to cook. We still miss each other. I'm actually hoping Brad will fix dinner once a week, as he is becoming quite a good cook. I really don't think it will be much of an adjustment. We see a wonderful summer ahead, evening swims, walks, and all those three-day weekends!

Tonight we will celebrate our birthdays at a special dinner out. The rest of the celebrating will happen in Rome and Montisi.

May 12, 2008

A Favorite Italian Joke

An 18 year old Italian girl tells her Mom that she has missed her period for 2 months. Very worried, the mother goes to the drugstore and buys a pregnancy kit. The test result shows that the girl is pregnant.

Shouting, cursing, crying, the mother says, "Who was the pig that did this to you? I want to know!" The girl picks up telephone and makes a call.

Half an hour later, a Ferrari stops in front of their house. A mature and
distinguished man with grey hair and impeccably dressed in an Armani suit steps out of the of the Ferrari and enters the house. He sits in the living room with the father, mother, and the girl and tells them:

"Good morning, your daughter has informed me of the problem. I can't marry her because of my personal family situation but I'll take charge. I will pay all costs and provide for your daughter for the rest of her life. Additionally, if a girl is born, I will bequeath a Ferrari, 2 retail stores, a townhouse, a beachfront villa, and a $2,000,000 bank account. If a boy is born, my legacy will be a couple of factories and a $4,000,000 bank account. If twins, they will receive a factory and $2,000,000 each. However, if there is a miscarriage, what do you suggest I do?"

At this point, the father, who had remained silent, places a hand firmly on the man's shoulder and tells him ..

"You a gonna try again!"

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May 13, 2008

Celebrating

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Saturday, we celebrated Brad's birthday all day, and had a combined birthday dinner. I LOVE birthdays, and Brad's began with cards, a small gift and coffee!

He was quite excited (more about his new job, and leaving for Italy on Friday than about his new age...).

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We had a relaxing afternoon in the pool and then went to Wally's Desert Turtle for dinner.

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Continue reading "Celebrating" »

June 26, 2008

Magnolia

A few years ago, I volunteered at a mentoring program in Indio, called "Hermanas Intimas", (Intimate Sisters). After completing the screening process, because of my experience as a therapist and teacher, they gave me "their most challenging" mentee, a then 12 year old girl named Magnolia. She was in 7th grade at the time. There were about 20 girls and 20 mentors. I was the only non-Hispanic mentor.

Magnolia was the youngest girl of seven siblings. Her mother had been killed in a car accident when she was ten. Her dad worked two jobs as a bus boy, and was single parent to a handful of teens, all of whom had problems staying in school, or involvement with drugs, gangs, breaking the law, or teen pregnancies. They wanted to "save" Magnolia from repeating the mistakes of her older siblings.

The program was clear that we were to invest time, not money in our mentors. I saw Magnolia weekly, or we spoke on the phone. We went to the library, we went swimming, we baked cookies, we scrapbooked, we went to free places in the community, or out for ice cream or a burger. We read books, worked on homework, struggled with algebra, writing and geography. I went to school meetings with her dad, and got to know her principal and counselor. Magnolia had a temper that got her in trouble. She got in fights, but managed to stay away from drugs and sex...THAT year. She was a little "spitfire"... all 4' 10" of her.

The mentor program honored me at a luncheon as "Mentor of the Year". They lost funding, so they no longer monitored the program, but Magnolia and I continued our almost weekly get-togethers. Eighth grade was a challenge. She moved to an alternative school with fewer students in each class. She smoked pot. She asked lots of questions about sex. She hated school, and liked boys. She was caught with drugs. Her dad sent her to a tough love rehab program in Mexico for 6 months. She was "scared straight" by the staff there, and returned home drug-free.

Magnolia had a pregnancy scare, and wanted to run away from home. I made at least 25 phone calls to local agencies to find her a safe place to go. I finally found "Safe House" in Riverside that had space, and would take her, but it was an hour away. For personal liability reasons, I would not transport her, so I tried to get the local police department to help. They wouldn't take her, but they would buy her a bus ticket, knowing the staff would be there to receive her at the other end. She was allowed to bring a few clothes, and all personal items would be provided. She could have $10 for candy bars, and stamped envelopes to write letters, and a phone card to call me once a day. I finally got her to agree to meet me at the bus station (two blocks from her house). All was going well, until the police car drove up to give me the bus ticket. She got scared, and ran, as her boyfriend had told her to do in the first place. I didn't see or hear from Magnolia again for almost 2 years.

At age 16, Magnolia was pregnant, away from her family, alone much of the time, and not going to school. She was living with the baby's father, out in the middle of the hot desert, with few resources, little money, and soon, a new baby. She herself was still a naive child with few skills. She called me after the baby was born. I had created some distance, and wasn't getting sucked back into the same relationship we once had, but I did listen, and give her some advice. I had been hurt and angry after she took off. I set new boundaries on our relationship, but did want Magnolia to have someone she could talk to when she needed it. She began to call every couple of months when she was especially stressed, or had access to a phone. Our contact was, at best, sporadic.

In January, Magnolia called with a new big problem. Her boyfriend had been violent, drunk, and hit her. She called the police and he was charged with domestic violence. His family was pressuring her to drop the charges, and say it hadn't happened. He might be deported. After a few long conversations, I was able to help her make the right decision. It would happen again, and she could lose her child, as in California, if there is a minor in the home, Child Protective Services will remove a child from a home if there is violence, and the MOTHER (victim) can be charged with "failure to protect". Magnolia was strong, and refused to drop the charges. After the court hearing, her abusive partner was deported to Mexico, she moved home to live with her dad and her son. She went back to school and worked very hard to finish her high school requirements.

Shortly after we returned from Italy, Magnolia called to invite me to her Continuation High School graduation. The school is aptly called, "La Familia". I attended the ceremony on June 11, and met Magnolia's 17 month old son. Her sisters were all there with their babies. Her dad has 11 grandchildren. The graduation was unlike any I have ever seen. There were 60 graduates, many with babies in attendance. Some walked up to receive their diplomas with an infant in arms. I have never seen so many kids under 4 in one place in my life. There were over 100 toddlers in the room.

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I am very proud of Magnolia's courage and perserverance. She has had many challenges and faced difficult situations. She has learned coping skills. She will be attending junior college in the fall. She will call me when she needs to talk.

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June 28, 2008

Post Birthday Party

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Since we were leaving for Rome shortly after our REAL birthdays in May, our good friends postponed the big 60 birthday celebration for Brad until early June when we returned from Italy. They went all out for both of us, and took us out for a wonderful dinner at Rancho Mirage restaurant, Bing Crosby's.

After a round of cocktails, and a variety of salads we ordered dinner.

Les had his usual...a big juicy New York steak!
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Jan had the roasted herb basted chicken with sugar pie pumpkin sauce, root vegetable ragout and red wine reduction.
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Fiona enjoyed the paella.
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Steve had veal scaloppini with lemon caper sauce with a roasted tomato, polenta napoleon and a parmesan crisp.
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Brad had a special of blackened swordfish with fava bean risotto and asparagus.
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I had Bing's signature dish of a grilled filet mignon with black truffle demi-glace, braised haricot vert and spinach with crispy potato cannellonis!
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We consumed three bottles of wine with our dinner, then the waitress appeared with a dessert sampler to share, complete with birthday candles.

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Continue reading "Post Birthday Party" »

July 1, 2008

Casey and Sarah

Another delayed celebration, postponed at our house until June, was a "Mother's Day" visit from my Godson, Casey and Sarah.

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I was showered with the perfect "Fairy Godmother" card, and a coffee mug...JUST MY SIZE!

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The most exciting news, however, is that Casey and Sarah are engaged! We met Sarah for the first time last year. I immediately knew, and hoped she would end up being my "Goddaughter-in-law"! What a happy couple. It was 118 that weekend, and we stayed in the pool for hours on both Saturday and Sunday.

Casey has been trying to coax his dog, Nero, to swim for two summers. NOT interested. We all tried to entice him into the pool, but he wouldn't. He DID learn that standing on the large top step, was cooler than the burning cement!

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Soon, Ego went for a swim. That seemed to be what it took! Ego taught his new buddy to relax in the water and swim joyously too! Good boy, Nero!

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Continue reading "Casey and Sarah" »

July 14, 2008

"Red Hot Invitational Video Poker Tournament"

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We needed to be in Vegas for a surprise birthday celebration for Casey. We are saving money for Italy, which is tough enough since I quit my job last month. I am still paying for the last Italy trip on my credit card!

I get monthly offers in the mail from the Harrah's group of casinos: Caesar's, Paris, Bally's, Rio, etc. We needed a cheap room! I usually start at the top, and call Caesar's first, as I have been an "Empress" and a Caesar's fan for over 30 years. At somewhere around $350 a night... NO WAY! Next, I called Paris, as we had a wonderful time there last January. Their offer was $180 on Friday, and $150 on Saturday. This was better, but still not in the budget! Moving down the list, I decided we could "slum it" at Balley's if we had to. I called, and they said we could have THREE FREE nights if I played in the video tournament at the Rio. Sign me up!

I've never been in a tournament. We arrived late Thursday night, and were given a really lovely room at Balleys! There were room for three king size beds, as well as our sitting area. We got points for gambling (next door at the Paris). Friday, we hit the Fashion Show mall, and I had coffee with Beth at the Nordstrom Cafe, before finding EXACTLY the walking shoes I needed for September's Italy trip. After some gambling at Caesar's, we attended Casey's surprise party, but more on that later.

Saturday, we arrived at the Rio to register for the tournament. I was assigned a 1:30 play time on both Saturday and Sunday. You are assigned a machine, and given 850 credits you must play in TEN MINUTES! You must use all the credits. Your fingers are flying! That means you must deal, draw, and complete one poker hand every 3 and a half seconds! You are racing the clock, and it is an INTENSE ten minutes! I flew, and had a very good score for my first session. I had great cards, and scored over 1000 points!

Sunday, I was excited for the next round. I had lousy cards, but was able to monitor my time even better, and had an average score. We drove home, and called the number when the winners were posted. First prize was $3500. The next nine won $350. But the top 20% won a $100 prize, and I was one of them. We were also given two small gifts for being in the tournament, and $50 in food vouchers! Not bad for 10 minutes a day! Sign me up for the next tournament! THAT was fun!

Palmabella in hell? No! It is Red Hot Video Poker!

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July 16, 2008

Casey's Surprise Party

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Sarah pulled it off with the help of her soon-to-be brother-in-law, Corey, and his wife, Chaudra! Casey's 30th birthday surprise party in Las Vegas was really a surprise to him. The two couples went to dinner, but family and friends were gathered at their suite at the Luxor Hotel and Casino.

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The room was decorated, and filled with people, liquor, and party snacks. We gathered at 9:00, and started the celebration while we waited for the guest of honor.

Here is Casey's arrival. The hardest part was keeping us all quiet when Corey sent a text message that they were coming up to the room!

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Here are BOTH of my Godsons, Casey on the left and Corey on the right.

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Continue reading "Casey's Surprise Party" »

July 28, 2008

Mama Mia!

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Trailer:

If you need a lift, a huge smile put on your face, grab someone you love, or a friend, sister, neighbor, child, and go see Mama Mia...now! This movie version of the ABBA musical is a brilliant with an all-star cast.

Meryl Streep rarely disappoints, and is able to play any role with grace, but as "Donna", she gets to come out to play and really show off all of her stuff. Singing her way down hillsides of a Greek island village, with all the local women following her to the sea, mid-air splits off a mattress with her old girlfriends, an emotional version of "Winner Takes All" sung to former lover (Pierce Brosnan), and a heart-tugging

Streep plays a middle-aged mom of a spirited daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who is getting married at their run-down inn on an idyllic Greek island. She has invited her two former sick-kick friends, practical, down-to-earth Rosie (Julie Walters), and lusty, rich, divorcee, Tanya (Christine Baranski). Sophie has always wondered who her father is, and find's mom's diary with entrees about three possible candidates: mom's former lovers from a summer 20 years ago (Pierce Bronson, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgayrd). Sophie secretly invites her three possible dads to the island. From there the fun and lots of music and luscious Mediterranean scenery take the ABBA hits to a life of their own.

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I haven't had so much fun at a movie since, well, I can't remember. I thought the transition of the score from the on-stage version was BRILLIANT. My friend told me, "It is the kind of movie that you leave, and want to get right back in line and see again." I agree! It is a delightful 108 minutes of fun. I DARE you not to walk out with a grin on your face (humming "Dancing Queen")! BRAVA!

Continue reading "Mama Mia!" »

July 31, 2008

The Dog Days of Summer

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According to Wikipedia, the phrase "dog days of summer" refers to the hottest, most sultry days, usually between July and September, depending on the region. They describe a time that is "very hot and stagnant, or marked by dull lack of progress."
(Hmmmmmm, that could describe LOTS of my days in any month!) The term "dog days" was used by the Greeks and ancient Romans (days of the dogs), after Sirius, the "dog star". The ancients believed Sirius was the cause of the hot, sultry weather, and would even sacrifice a brown dog at the beginning of this period to appease the star.

Popularly believed to be an evil time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies" - Brady’s Clavis Calendarium,

Extreme heat can cause heat-related illnesses, or even death. Normally, we cool our bodies down by sweating, but in very extreme conditions, our bodies can lose the ability to regulate our temperature causing heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is a milder condition and occurs with prolonged exposure to heat and not enough body fluid. This condition often effects outdoor workers, the elderly, and people with high blood pressure.

Here are some tips to stay cool this summer:

Drink lots of water and non-alcoholic liquids. Don't wait until you are very thirsty. By then you are already dehydrating!

Pace yourself when working or playing outdoors. Find shade!

Wear light weight clothing, sunscreen and a hat!

Seek moderate air conditioning.

Take cooler showers of spray yourself with cool water.

Use common sense! Don't leave children or pets in a hot car. Use a windsheild protective screen, and be careful when getting into a hot car. Metal seat belt clasps become "branding irons". Crack your window when parking in the sun. (I know of two windsheilds that cracked shattered while parked last month in the heat in Palm Desert.)

My addition: eat more gelato!

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Stay cool!

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August 7, 2008

How Many of Me?

I saw this on Maria I's blog and am passing it on.

How many of YOU are there?

Check this out. I was unable to post the actual meter, but you can go here and enter your name to see how many others have your name in the United States.

I first entered "Palma" and my professional/maiden name.
There is only one of me. I was not surprised.

I WAS shocked to see that there are 4,572 Palmas in the U.S.!

When I entered "Palma" with my married last name...there were TWO!

There are 52 people with Brad's name in the U.S..

There are 115 people named Harry Potter. That cracked me up!
There are 511 people named George Bush. Can you imagine?
There are 1307 George Washingtons.
There are 300 people named John Doe and 23 Jane Does. I am assuming they are alive.
Three people are named Frank Sinatra.

I can see playing on this site for WAY TOO LONG. I must go get something done.
Have fun!

August 22, 2008

Summer Books

Believe it or not, I do not spend EVERY moment in the kitchen baking or cooking! Between pool time and several hours of work a week, I have enough time to read.

In July, I read these, and a few more books I have passed on to others.

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One of my book clubs is off for the summer, but the other read this last month:
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I really liked Double Bind, as it is a novel that deals with psychological issues, with quite a twist at the end. There was a very lively discussion at our book club, as there are three therapists and a psychiatrist in the group!

This month we read

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This was a novel about a bi-racial east coast family, with quite interesting characters, that I also enjoyed.

Of course I have been thumbing through these, before our Italy trip!

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And I always hoard up a few books I really want to read to take to Italy with me. I figure I can get through these in three weeks and two long flights! Brad will pack two to save the weight in my luggage, and two will be in carry-ons.

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Right now I am half way through Simple Genius by David Balducci.
It's got something of interest for both Brad and Palmabella... murder and CIA/military secrets for him, and a mental institution and an autistic child for me.

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Happy reading everyone!

August 29, 2008

Still Learning

I've been painting since our LAST Italy trip, and now it is time to PACK the paints and leave again!

We will start our vacation in Varenna, on Lake Como.

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We hope to see some of the beautiful villas on the lake.

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I'm working on a view of the Gulf of Poets right now, as we will be in Lerici for 5 days.

Then a week in Piemonte, where we will see the grapes just before the harvest.

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I haven't painted anything that reminds me of Bologna (FOOD is what always comes to mind), but I'm sure we'll see a church or two! I plan to take lots of photos of porticos to paint when we return.

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Yesterday, I tried to paint my own back yard!

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I think I learn one tiny new thing with each painting I do. I'm learning about water, reflections, layers of leaves, what to paint first or last in a scene, or different uses for different brushes. My paintings aren't much better yet, but I really relax when I paint, and it keeps me out of the shops and the fridge! Lessons are definitely in the works for this winter!

September 24, 2008

We're Home, Darn It!

We arrived after our 24 hour travel day, last night at 8:30PM. All of our luggage arrived, and Brad was awake enough to manage the drive home from LAX. We stopped for milk for my lousy American coffee this morning (YUCK!), and Brad decided he needed Italian bread, cheese and salami with some wine. After the snack, we were asleep by 10, and up at 4:30 AM. Not too bad for jet lag. I can't usually sleep more than 6 hours at a time.

I had a short work day, and I'm waiting for one more client. I could use a nap...maybe when they leave.

I was a BAD blogger, and having so much fun in Italy, once I stopped writing, I never started again, but I at least continued to take photos and kept up my journal.

I have decided to start at the beginning, and go back and date my blog entries on the real chronological dates, so when I'm done, I will have an accurate story of our trip.
This way I can also continue to blog recipes, ice cream, and anything else worthy in the next couple of weeks. We left for Italy on August 31, and arrived on Sept 1, so I will begin there. Just click on the 1 on the September calendar.

September 25, 2008

Whoo Hoo...My New Job, and a Blog Award!

It's a good day!

I started my new one day a week job at Sacred Heart School in Palm Desert. I will be doing school counseling with students K-8th grade on Thursdays in addition to the supervision of intern therapists I already do for Catholic Charities. It is a beautiful school campus, and I will start meeting students next week.

I have unpacked (mostly) and done a few loads of laundry.

I got this cute award from Kate's blog.

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I am blogging the beginning of our Italy trip on the actual dates of each experience. The easiest was to get there is to click on "SEPTEMBER" under Archives in the sidebar.

Today I posted photos of Villa Balbianello. Before leaving I painted a few scenes of Lake Como. Here is the opposite view of this side of the villa from my painting. I have LOTS of material I want to paint from this trip!

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September 29, 2008

What Can You Bring Back for 14 Euro?

Italy travelers return to the U.S. with leather jackets, handbags, shawls, artwork, ceramics, jewelry, wine, and olive oil. I have brought home all of those. But what can you buy for under 14 Euro? TREASURES from the grocery store!!!

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For just under 14 Euro, I have 8 cans of tuna in olive oil (for tonnato sauce), two tubes of triple concentrated tomato paste, two jars of noci sauce, and two bags of 00 flour!

I am as excited about these purchases as I am about other items I bought. I packed the rest and carried that flour home on the plane!

Other food items I bought on the trip seem to fall into two categories: salty and sweet.

I bought truffle paste in Alba, a salt-spice blend in Portovenere, and pink and blue sea salt in Bologna.

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On the sweeter side, I have coffee with adorable little Bigaletti sugar packets, tiny hard candies, and soft amaretti from Mombaruzzo. We also ended up with two bottles of Brachetto in Brad's luggage.

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November 4, 2008

Today's the Day!

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I woke up at 5:05, and made coffee. Sunrise was gorgeous, with pinks and orange streaks in the brightening sky. I am hopeful, excited, and only a little anxious.

We arrived at our polling place at 6:45.

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We were 34th in line. This is good!

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There were seven voting booths, and we were done at 7:40. Starbucks is giving out free coffee to voters, but I came home, and Brad went off to work, an hour later than usual.

We stopped to cheer on a neighbor in his golf cart, who is trying to protect his rights.

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I thought about voting early, but there is something that feels so good about getting that sticker on election day!

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Now we wait, watch CNN, check the internet, chat with friends, distract ourselves for a while, and hopefully later tonight, we will celebrate. This day, we are making history!

November 5, 2008

Election Thoughts

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It was definitely the MOST exciting election day in my life. My television went on at 2:30 PM (the last time the TV was on during the day was after 9/11). I don't even watch cooking shows, or Oprah! I spent from about 5:00 until 10 PM alternating between CNN, MSNBC, various internet sites, while sharing comments and emotions in two live chat rooms with friends from around the world! As someone said, it was like we were completely over-caffinated: gittery, anxious, then more and more excited as polls closed and more results and predictions came in. What an amazing, emotional and historical night!

Last night I was thinking back on my "addiction" to the television show "24". During the early seasons, Dennis Haysbert played the character of President David Palmer.
In this role, he was not only the first African-American president, but everything viewers wanted the REAL president of the U.S. to be: smart, honest, calm, strong, ethical, and good in a crisis. Haysbert is a huge Obama supporter, and feels his role on the popular TV show, helped pave the way for President-elect Obama.

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"As far as the public is concerned, it did open up their minds and their hearts a little bit to the notion that if the right man came along… that a black man could be president of the United States,” Haysbert, who believes that Obama is the “right man,” said in the January 21 issue of TV Guide.

I pray for President-elect Obama and his family, as they look toward what lies ahead. Together, we all have some work to do. It is so exciting to see Americans full of hope!

November 6, 2008

Air Show

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Last weekend we attended the Jacqueline Cochran Air Show in Thermal (25 minutes east of us). Brad mentioned wanting to go, but assumed I wouldn't be interested. Are you kidding me? Do you know how many scrapbook shows, scrapbook stores, bead fairs, gem shows, bead shops, and HOURS of shopping in Italy, San Francisco, Scottsdale, Las Vegas, South Coast Plaza, Nordstroms, etc. he has put in? Well, you get the picture. A few hours at an air show were not going to kill me. We will soon be at the Stanford Mall and in Las Vegas later this month where he can return the favor. LOL

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We saw many historic planes!

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We saw lots of stunt flying:

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We saw several different helicopters:

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There were even a rainbow of colorful corvettes!

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Tricks from this jet were amazing!

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But my favorite moment was when Brad boarded a C-17 cargo plane. He flew on similar, but even larger cargo planes beginning in 1972 as a U.S. Air Force navigator during the Vietnam war. Of course I didn't know him then. I was naively working on an undergraduate degree in Child Development in Fresno at the time.
While I was attending sorority and fraternity parties, and going to classes in my safe little world, he had graduated from the Air Force Academy and was serving our country. I pictured a young man far away from family and friends in a world I had no real understanding of. I thought of the many young men and women who are now fighting in deserts far away. I was moved to tears. May they safely return home to their families, and some day be able to attend an event where they can share their experiences with those they love.

Here is my lovable "Soldier Boy".

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Did I mention it was 96 degrees? We just couldn't get enough water. We both got sunburned. By 1:00, we were on our way to a great lunch, and Brad thanked me all day for going to the air show!

November 10, 2008

A Relaxing Weekend

We purposely made no social plans for the weekend, as we both needed some down time. This time of the year in the desert is beautiful. It has cooled down to the 70's, so there is a sense of fall (though we will be back in the mid 80s by Wednesday). The golden morning light always reminds me of Italy, and flowers that bloom in spring everywhere else, are in full splendor now.

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We made a Costco run, watched movies, (finally saw "The Bucket List"), napped, and I did a jigsaw puzzle I was given last Christmas!

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Meals were simple. We had a salad bar dinner, went out on Saturday, and had leftovers on Sunday. My only kitchen time was spent on our coconut ice cream and cupcakes!

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Saturday, we did some shopping. I hit a great Talbots sale, and we bought a couple of kitchen toys at Williams-Sonoma.

The next few weekends will be busy and hectic, so we thought we'd take a break while we could!

One of our finds at Williams-Sonoma was a drink mix called "The Remedy". It is a blend of lemon, ginger and honey. Just add vodka or gin. It was a lovely way to relax on Sunday night.

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November 12, 2008

The Great Southern California Shakeout

Tomorrow, Thursday, November 13, at 10:00 AM, southern California is having the biggest and most extensive earthquake drill ever. Schools, offices and businesses will be participating in the Great Southern California Shakeout!

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I have watched a couple of videos, and the information on the nightly news, and apparently, the area where I live is LONG overdue for the BIG ONE! This drill will simulate and prepare us for a 7.8 earthquake and its aftermath. Deaths, extreme damage, fires, broken gas lines, explosions, and no power, water or gas for days or even weeks. Communication would be difficult. It sounds VERY SCARY, and is starting to freak me out.

Having grown up in California, I have experienced several earthquakes, the biggest being the '89 Loma Prieta quake in the Bay area. We have an "earthquake kit" in the garage, but need to refresh batteries, add more water, and I'm sure we could survive for quite a while out of food in my pantry. I ALWAYS sleep with shoes by my bed, but apparently if an earthquake hits when you are in bed, you should stay there. You should NOT go to a door way, but go to a sturdy desk of table (not glass,,,DUH), get under it and hold on! If you are outside, go to an open space away from buildings, power lines, or traffic. If you are driving, avoid, bridges, overpasses, etc, pull over, and put on your parking break. This drill is a good idea, and it does make us proactive.

Check out: video

For more tips, go to: http://www.dropcoverholdon.org/, and play "Beat the Quake".

November 13, 2008

Watercolor Class

Tuesday I spent a lovely morning learning some watercolor painting techniques. My friend, accomplished artist, Maria Hunt, invited me to join her sister, Dorothy, another friend, Elizabeth, and the four of us had a great time around Maria's kitchen table. I learned the importance of good paper (what I have been using was on sale, and crappy), good paint, (I need to upgrade when I use mine up), and good brushes (mine were fine, but there are two sizes I should add to my collection).

We all painted the same scene from one of Elizabeth Cochrane's notecards.

I learned to paint "wet on wet" to let the colors of the sky blend, and how to mix colors. We learned some tips of shading, and I tried to "let go" of my need for details, and start with light colors, adding darker shades for depth. In about an hour, we all had scenes of Tuscany we were happy to take home, and even frame!

Check out Maria's work here. Her grapes are WONDERFUL!

I will keep practicing! I have many, many scenes of Italy floating around my brain!

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November 24, 2008

Why I Skip Thanksgiving

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That fateful day in 1621 is remembered so that we may give thanks for all of our blessings. Believe me, I am grateful every day for all that I have, but I have found other ways to "celebrate" this holiday. I'm sure if those pilgrims and Native Americans had repeated the feast year after year, stress, negativity and family dramas would have eventually become part of the scene. I hear many stories from friends and clients: There's the annoying, brother-in-law, who wears sweats and dirty shoes to the table you spent days decorating, Uncle Harry, who is sloshed before half-time of the first game, Aunt Martha, who greets you with, "I see you put a little weight on this year".

Before I stopped cooking turkey dinners in 1988, I used to go all out. I set a gorgeous table. I put out elegant appetizers. I made a beautifully browned turkey, delicious stuffing, wonderful side dishes, and pumpkin cheesecake. I did mounds of greasy dishes, and ended up with turkey soup and a bad headache.

Just two or three Thanksgivings with my ex-mother-in-law cured me of participation in this holiday ritual. The first year, I had a number of guests, had done as many food items ahead as possible, and had put in the turkey for an early afternoon dinner. The guests were happily eating appetizers and drinking cocktails, when I noticed that lovely turkey/butter scent was no longer coming from my kitchen. There I found a COLD oven, with a "pre-salmonella" temperature uncooked turkey sitting there. No, it was not broken, my MIL had somehow turned off the oven! I whipped up a couple unplanned hors d'oeuvres, and we ate three hours later than planned. Thank goodness we had plenty of liquor! All she said was, "I don't know how that happened." That was also the year she put my beautiful red cashmere sweater in the washer and dryer and it came out looking like something between a potholder and a lap blanket for Barbie!

The first year we lived in the Bay Area, we had moved into our beautiful new home 10 days before Thanksgiving. I worked day and night unpacking TWO moving vans full of stuff into our spacious house. Everything was decorated, my fabulous kitchen was organized and looked like a magazine spread. When my MIL arrived the night before Thanksgiving, I gave her a kitchen tour. I showed her where everything was, and how to work the oven, microwave, and dishwasher. She knew I had done most of the cooking and baking already, and asked if she could "please put in the turkey and make the mashed potatoes and gravy" so I could "relax". I agreed. Since it was just the three of us for dinner, I bought a turkey breast instead of a large bird. The stuffing and side dishes were done ahead, and just had to be heated, so I thought, "Sure, why not!" We discussed what time to put in the turkey breast, and I preheated the oven.

My husband and I had one large painting left to hang in our bedroom. MIL said, "I'm going to put in the turkey, ok?" I said "Sure, do you need anything?" thinking "butter, salt and pepper are out, and the roasting pan is next to them on the counter. She can't mess that up." WRONG.

Fifteen minutes later, when I returned to the kitchen, smoke was pouring out of the oven, and as I entered, the smoke alarm went off. My husband was right behind me. I opened the oven door to see the turkey breast in a PLASTIC zip lock bag with NO PAN, and melting plastic oozing on to my brand new oven element. I screamed. My husband stabbed the smoking, melty, object with a meat fork and carried it to the sink. I turned on cold water, and peeled off the "plastic coating" in one quick pull (like removing a band-aid quickly). We looked at each other. MIL remained silent. What the ____ was she thinking? I believe she eventually said something about thinking it was an oven roasting bag. Did it SAY oven roasting bag??? Even if one could accept this lame excuse, the roasting PAN would have been nice. I washed the turkey breast, started over, and we opened all the windows to get the nice "chemical smoky scent" out of my new home.

A while later, I returned to the kitchen to make mashed potatoes. She said, "I will do the potatoes." Would YOU want this woman in your kitchen at this point? I glared at my husband behind her back. He took me aside to the living room and said, "Please let her help. It makes her feel useful." Her "feeling useful" was how come I still didn't have a new red cashmere sweater! By then she had found my largest soup pot, and filled it with water to boil potatoes. I took out a more appropriate pot, saying, "There are only three of us." She said, "My son loves them, and we'll have leftovers." She grabbed a ten pound bag of potatoes from the pantry. Whatever... I'm sure that is when the scotch came out of the bar.

I noticed she was throwing potatoes...LOTS of them, into the boiling water. I asked quietly, "Don't you peel them first? and cut them?" She said, "It is easier to peel them when they are cooked." News to me. By then, I really didn't care much about dinner. I figured a bowl of cranberry relish alone in my room would be fine. I took out butter, and a large serving bowl, and was just putting the blades in my hand mixer. As she was pouring out the water from the huge pot of potatoes, she asked where my hand masher utensil was. I told her I didn't have one, that I used the hand mixer. I turned two steps to the fridge to grab the cream, when I heard the mixer. No milk, no butter, just potatoes flying around my new kitchen wallpaper. Did you know potatoes can make it to 14 foot ceilings? She was fumbling with the ON/OFF slider on the mixer. How hard is THAT? Unplug the damn thing, moron! More potatoes were flying past my head.

I walked out of the kitchen. I stayed in my room. This was the beginning of my PTTD (Post Traumatic Turkey Disorder). I solemnly vowed, I would NOT cook another Thanksgiving dinner, NOR would I ever let her "help me" cook again. I spent an hour trying to figure out HOW she gave birth to a Mensa member. My husband did a great job of cleaning the ceiling, walls and windows. She never said a word about the potatoes or took any responsibility for the TWO kitchen disasters that day. She always said, "Palma is a wonderful cook." Apparently, it is 20 years later, and she STILL occasionally says "Palma is a wonderful cook" in front of her new daughter-in-law. Hehehe.

Since we have no family members in California, we alternate years between spending Thanksgiving with friends in the Bay area, where I send flowers, and am a pampered guest, or taking a long weekend in Las Vegas. This year it will be Vegas. I do not have to watch football. Friday shopping day is MY sport, and I no longer dread this holiday. It is a safe bet, there will be no turkey on my plate.

I will admit to craving some stuffing, so I whipped up just a tiny bit with some dried cranberries and apricots, and stuffed two chicken breasts. We had them with roasted butternut squash baked with olive oil and a little grated parmigiano. We were so eager to eat, I forgot to take a photo of the inside of the chicken!

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Happy cooking this week to all those who celebrate a traditional Turkey Day!

January 1, 2009

Happy New Year 2009

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Happy 2009! I am ready for a new year to begin. While 2008 had some wonderful highlights, I am excited about 2009.

I wish all of you a year of good health, good food, good times with family and friends, and safe and happy travels.

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January 7, 2009

All About Me Meme

I saw this meme on Marta's blog, "Postcards from the Trail" , and thought I would answer it here. Pass it on if you'd like.

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Yes, my maternal grandmother. So were two other first cousins.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
Yesterday, I was teary when hearing a client's childhood experiences in a therapy session.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
Yes, I still write like a 4th grade teacher at a Catholic school. I'm great on chalkboards!

4. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
No.

5. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
You bet.

6. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
Probably too much.

7. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS
Not since age 12.

8. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Not in this lifetime.

9. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
Raisin Bran

10. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
Most of my shoes slip right off.

11. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
I think I am strong emotionally and spiritually. Not so much, physically.

12. FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
Salted Butter Caramel

13.WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
How open they are (friendly, sincere...)

14. RED OR PINK?
Red

15. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
My weight.

16. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
My mom.

17. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
black

18. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
Pomegranate sorbet

19 WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
The whir of my computer.

20.IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
Yellow

21.FAVORITE SMELLS?
Bacon, cheese melting, cookies/cakes/bread baking, popcorn, fresh rosemary

22. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
My friend, Roxanne

23. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
If I have to...golf or basketball.

24. HAIR COLOR?
Blond

25. EYE COLOR?
Brown

26. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
No

27.FAVORITE FOOD?
Any kind of pasta, any kind of cheese, therefore, Mac and Cheese is pretty high on the list!

28. SCARY MOVIES OR SAPPY ENDINGS?
Sappy endings. But I do like good suspense.

29. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
Mamma Mia

30. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
It's 6 AM! A red robe.

31. SUMMER OR WINTER?
Definitely Summer

32. HUGS OR KISSES?
Yes, lots of each.

33. FAVORITE DESSERT?
Anything caramel, panna cotta, lemon tart

34.WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
The Reincarnationist

35. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
There's a touchpad on my laptop. I don't have a mouse pad.

36. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT?
The Mentalist

37.FAVORITE SOUND?
"Welcome to Roma", and the sound of waves breaking on the beach.

38. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
Definitely the Beatles

39. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME???
Italy

40.DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I have empathy and good intuition. I am creative.

41.WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
California

January 8, 2009

Pantry Makeover

My pantry was completely cleaned out in October. Then during the holidays, when I did lots of cooking and baking, it became a disaster area. OK, it is not just during the holidays that I love to bake. It is a year round addiction. (I haven't baked yet this year.)

The two areas of greatest concern seemed to be related to baking. There was the shelf with flours and sugars. It should be simple enough to organize flour, but I seem to have acquired quite a variety: all-purpose flour, Italian 00 flour, whole wheat, cake flour, bread flour, vital wheat gluten (what the heck is that, and what did I make with it?), pasta (semolina) flour. Then there is the regular sugar, baker's fine sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, and of course, everyone has some turbinado sugar, right? I really should have taken a "before photo", but I forgot.

Let's talk about nuts! We have almonds, (whole, sliced, slivered and ground), pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios (whole and cleaned), dried cranberries and cherries, lemon peel, candied ginger, raisins, chocolate chunks (the chocolate chips live in the freezer), and I made Brad take the cashews and peanuts to work!
Lots of clips and ziplock bags! YUCK

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I got some wonderful air tight containers with pop lids (made by 0X0) from Santa.
I organized the flours and sugars and went back for more. Why not make it easy to see my polenta, risotto, orzo, and several other kinds of pasta?

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Hey, I bet these will work well for other stuff too!

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Nuts? No problem!

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Oh how I love a clean pantry. Now I feel like baking!

January 13, 2009

BIG Kitchen Disaster

The other night, Brad was kneading pizza dough. I walked into my pantry and put away a box of foil. Then I heard a crash, like glass breaking. I walked over to see what it was, and there on the floor was a river of a priceless liter bottle of new Umbrian olive oil pouring toward me.

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I was helpless to stop the flow, backing away from it yelling, "Oh my God", about twenty times in horror at the loss. Brad grabbed the dog and threw him outside, so we didn't have little Ego oil prints all over the house, on top of the current mess. I grabbed the camera, as only a blogger would do at a time like this. My beautiful, delicious, EXPENSIVE, and worth every penny oil from Mauro...gone. Look at that gorgeous green color. Believe me, I did THINK about ringing it out into another container to try to save some, as my floor was pretty clean before this happened. It was only the hundred shards of glass that kept me from doing so. Yes, there were tears over the loss. It is not like I can go to the store and replace it. Wine lovers, this was like a priceless bottle to me! Those of you who purchase oil from Le Case Gialle know what I mean.

The cleanup was pretty awful. Three towels, a roll of paper towels, half a bottle of stone cleaner, four rinses, and 50 minutes later, we had my travertine marble floor back to normal. It was a slip and slide of a mess, as the whole doorway of the pantry was eventually blocked by oil. My shoes are still outside. I have two precious bottles of oil left. They are safely stored in stryofoam packing material in the garage.

In the big picture of life, this isn't the end of the world. Brad's 1998 Lexus also died a violent death this week. It had over 180, 000 miles on it. It would need a $7,000 new engine to go another step. We do NOT have money for a new car in the budget. He is in a rental car for the week. The timing of this really sucks.

If I am honest, I feel worse about the oil.

January 15, 2009

Blogging Ahead and Blogging Behind

My poor laptop needs a tune-up, so my goal today is to blog ahead for a few days, and use the "Scheduled" feature to insure blogs will be posted for the next week if it takes the Mac gurus that long to fix my baby. That is my INTENTION. If you don't see me for a while, they are taking longer than estimated...or worse. I will not be able to POST comments (but can receive them), until I get my computer back.

What I have been working on for the past two weeks is "back blogging". I began blogging daily last February when a group of Slow Travel bloggers decided to challenge ourselves to blog every day in February. I just never stopped the every day habit, EXCEPT for a lag during our last week in Italy in September '08. I promised to go back and finish that record of our trip. It seems, I left things hanging just before our anniversary dinner in Acqui Terme. There are lots of blog posts, as we did so much during our trip. I just couldn't allow myself to get any farther into 2009 without completing my blogging for 2008!

As soon as I hit the "Publish" button, you may click on the "Archives: September 08" on the right header, or use the links below. The remaining posts on our adventures in Bologna will be here tomorrow.

Anniversary Dinner at I Caffi

Fontanile

Last Night in Piemonte

To Bologna

The Market in Bologna

Gelato for Lunch

January 23, 2009

Nerd Test

This was floating around blogland a couple of weeks ago. If this entry posts, it means my laptop is still in the shop! That would be BAD if I have to live without it for a week!

Brad's score:


NerdTests.com says I'm a Cool Nerd.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and talk to others on the nerd forum!

Palma's score:


NerdTests.com says I'm a Cool Light-Weight Nerd.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

January 26, 2009

Welcome Home Laptop

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My laptop is home. It has been hell having it gone to the Mac shop for 9 days! Take my car, or my TV, or my phone away, but PLEASE not my computer! There were 429 emails waiting for me. I have deleted all but 293, but by then I was feeling insane, so the rest can wait. The best news is that I can blog again!

Ok, it wasn't that I had to do completely without the internet...

I was able to use Brad's old laptop. First of all, I am not a PC girl. I have always had a Mac since 1987. I do not do "left click-right click". Weird.

His machine gave a whole new meaning to the word S-L-O-W. Maybe it is me, but I think 45 minutes is a long time to sign on to Slow Talk!

So I WAS able to post on Slow Talk, and send or read private messages. I was not able to blog, or get to my recipes, photos, or read blog comments! My crack fix each day!
Those of you who comment, God Bless you! Do you know how lovely it is for the blog author to read those each day? I need to post more comments on the blogs I read! They are part of what keeps us blogging!

And how was it that I chose last week to be without my laptop. I think it was because I was tired of the "issues" my baby was having. It was also because I had blogged ahead for 7 days, thinking, "surely it will be back before Friday!" What was I thinking?
I wanted/needed my computer to re-watch details of the inauguration!

I also wasn't able to post anything on Inauguration Day. I was glued to the TV as much as possible. I was happy, proud, and very emotional. OUR President is awesome. The First Lady is lovely, and a great mom. It will be fun to watch Malia and Sasha grow up in the White House. What an amazing day in history! God Bless this new administration!

If you have not yet visited the new White House website, check it out. Fabulous!

This was our special treat during the "Neighborhood Ball". I baked "Obama mini-cheesecakes with raspberry sauce".

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Oh, I'm so happy to be back to the land of blogging!

January 27, 2009

The Dark Clouds are Lifting

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I had a cheery recipe and photo all ready to go. I decided not to post it today. I am taking a big risk here, instead. I will be vulnerable.

The title of my post is not referring to any weather report. I am talking about my January mood. Since January 2, I have been depressed. I have always hated January, but this year has been the worst ever. I used to think it was the post holiday blahs. I thought it was about cold weather. This year I figured out that I grieve in January. I have cried most days, and slept at least 3-4 hours a day more than normal. I was considering medication. I keep thinking about that Cymbalta commercial that says, "Where does depression hurt?" EVERYWHERE.

Here is a list of depression symptoms from the Cymbalta website:

*Sadness
*Loss of interest
*Emptiness
*Guilty
*Worthless
*Restless
*Trouble sitting still
*Hard to concentrate
Hard to remember
*Hard to make decisions
*Trouble falling asleep
*Waking too early
*Oversleeping
Lack of appetite (I wish!)
Weight loss (yeah, right...)
*Overeating
*Weight gain
*Irritable (just ask Brad)
*Fatigued
*Lack of energy
*Vague aches
*Vague pains
Thoughts of death (it wasn't THIS bad!)
Thoughts of suicide (no way, I'm a good Catholic girl!)

I marked the ones I've been having with an *. I guess (OK, I KNOW, remember, I am a therapist...) having 18 out of 23 symptoms is bad.

This January, I figured out I needed time to grieve losses...lots of them. Bad things have happened to me in Januarys past. I have been grieving losses of people, of dreams, of expectations. I miss my parents. I miss the babies I lost. Each year I think, I would have/should have had a 16 and 21 year old. My life would be very different. This last Christmas was tough, and not joyful. Just about veryone I know had reuinions with children or grandchildren, or siblings, or nieces or nephews, or parents. Grown kids were coming home for the holiday visits. Family traditions continue. Brad and I are childless orphans. While I certainly know all families are not happy at the holidays or at other times, it sure seems wonderful if you don't have one. Family events, birthdays, weddings, babies... We go to others', but don't have our own. I worry about the future and being older and without family.

Maybe I needed my own pity party. The economy sucks. I am making less than half of what I earned a year ago. I definitely know money does not buy happiness, but it does help distract! I have cut back on every discretionary expenditure. Pretty crappy time financially.

Most days, I tried. I got up, got dressed, and did what had to be done. I slapped a weak smile on my face. Other days, I didn't do as well. I took 4-5 hour "naps". I didn't take a shower if I didn't have to work or go anywhere. I didn't want to see people. I avoided social interactions. I bitched and moaned if I had to go somewhere. I bitched and moaned if I had nowhere to go. The smallest tasks and errands seemed too much. I rewarded myself with sleep or food. I did not share with friends. They chalked it up to "January Blues". Friends can mean well, but get uncomfortable, and don't know what to say. They want to change the subject, or make you laugh, or have you "get over it" and be your usual cheery self. Sometimes they can even unintentionally make it worse by a lack of empathy. Dark moods seem contagious.

Now that I read back what I have written, it sounds worse. I did not miss any days of work, my house is clean, and everything got done. I painted some watercolors, went to my book clubs, and we had dinner every night. I have a sense of humor. Life goes on. If you saw me in January, you probably wouldn't know anything was wrong. You might think I was having a "bad day".

I think/hope the worst is over. Every day, I count my blessings. I have a wonderful, supportive and very patient husband who understands. I have great friends, and a cozy comfortable home. I am healthy. We are going to Italy in June. I am very happy with our new President. I have everything I need.

I know I am a strong person, and I can "snap myself out of this". I needed time to mourn in order to heal a little and move on. I can see, though, how people with little support and fewer resources and coping skills can be overwhelmed by depression. It also has a chemical component, and we know it is a very real disease (that is treatable).

I also know this is temporary. I know what I need to do. I need to get some exercise and eat healthier (all the usual New Years stuff that I am a month behind on...). If I don't feel better soon, I am not afraid to ask for help. I know all the right people.

I have started another project, and I am painting. Yesterday, I helped rescue a lost dog, and helped a friend. I need to get over the "all about me" of being sad, and go back to seeing what I can do for others. I got my haircut (finally). I am very excited about the upcoming Slow Bowl weekend. I think a good dose of friends and hugs is just what I need. The weather is warming up. The flowers are blooming. Spring is coming. The dark clouds are lifting. Now I will be brave and hit the "publish" button.

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January 29, 2009

Television Habits

I'm not a huge TV fan. I think my ex-husband ruined me for television. He was General Manager of a TV station, so our world revolved around it. We had one in every room, including the bathroom, and they were almost always on if he was home (except during dinner). Of course he had to watch his own newscasters, his commercials (his clients), and all the competition. He used a remote, like no one I have ever seen! Television was like "the other woman" in our marriage. After our divorce, I didn't watch TV for 4 years. Then Princess Diana died, and I had cable hooked up so I could watch the coverage.

Right now, I am watching more than usual (about 10 hrs a week). Except for Election Day and the Inaugaration, my TV never goes on until about 8 PM. Here is my schedule:

Sunday:
Desperate Housewives

Monday:
Bachelor
True Beauty
(sad but true)

Tuesday:
American Idol
The Mentalist
Chopped

Wednesday:
American Idol
Lie to Me
(I love this new show!)
Top Chef (or Project Runway off season)

Thursday:
Grey's Anatomy
Private Practice

Friday:
(rarely) Lipstick Jungle

Saturday:
none...it is date night

This list is rather pathetic for two people with Masters degrees, but, the purpose is entertainment and distraction, right? Occasionally, we watch Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, or something on the Food or Travel Channel. Once in a while we watch a movie.

I have never gotten hooked on Survivor, Dancing With the Stars or Lost. I will admit to an episode of The Housewives of both OC and NY, but can't do it on a weekly basis.

I absolutely love 24, but must watch them recorded without commercials, usually several episodes at a time in marathon fashion, because I cannot wait a week to see what will happen.

I still miss Tony Soprano!

February 6, 2009

GO RED!

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Support Heart Health for Women and wear red today. Increase awareness of heart disease and stroke!

Eat healthier
Exercise
Support the American Heart Association

Take the Red Heart Checkup.

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For those of you who like to take tests, this is a really good one. It is free, and takes about 10 minutes. It will measure how fast you are aging, based on your answer to questions about your current health, your daily habits, relationships, diet, fitness, and genetics.

Your Real Age

February 12, 2009

A Little Romance

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The year we met, Brad gave me a piece of sheet music in my Christmas stocking. He said it was the song that reminded him of us. That Christmas he also gave me/us a well thought-out romantic weekend trip to Mendocino for the upcoming Valentine's Day weekend. I had the sheet music framed with a photo and gave him that as a Valentine's Day gift.

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I googled "Once in a lifetime lyrics" and got pages of songs I didn't know, by artists I had only heard of about four of. What can I say? I am old! I found lyrics from Keith Urban, Beyonce, Talking Heads, Dragonforce, Freestyle, Sarah Brightman, Michael Bolton, Craig David, Enigma, Gregorian (in Spanish), Edyta Gorniak, Gary Moore (thought he was an old game show host!), Malpraktis, Gazpacho, Oleta Adams, Ronan Keating, .38 Special, Alabama, and more... What the ____?

FINALLY, on page 6, I saw Bobby Darin's name, (someone I KNEW!) and lyrics I recognized. Go figure! I am out of touch with the twenty-first century, living in my "oldies" world. I am happy there! My sheet music lists "words and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley".

Lyrics:

Just once in a lifetime, a man knows a moment
One wonderful moment when fate takes his hand
And this is my moment - my once in a lifetime
When I can explore a new and exciting land.
For once in my lifetime, I feel like a giant
I soar like an eagle as tho' I had wings
This is my moment, my destiny calls me
And tho' it may be just once in my lifetime,
I know I can do great things.

Check out Brad's head of hair and my skinny face 11 years ago! Who are these people?

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February 17, 2009

So Much Still to Do!

THERE'S STILL THINGS I WANT TO DO

I found this meme at Just a Beachkat. Pass it on, February Bloggers! I've done those that are marked. Thanks, Kat!

*Started your own blog
*Slept under the stars
Played in a band (does singing in a talent show count?)
*Visited Hawaii
Watched a meteor shower
*Given more than you can afford to charity
*Been to Disneyland/world
Climbed a mountain (I won't even get on a step stool...)
*Held a praying mantis
*Sang a solo
Bungee jumped (not at ALL likely!)
Visited Paris
*Watched a lightning storm at sea
*Taught yourself an art from scratch
Adopted a child
*Had food poisoning
Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
Seen the Mona Lisa in France
*Slept on an overnight train
*Had a pillow fight
*Hitchhiked
*Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
Built a snow fort (I've only SEEN snow 4 or 5 times...)
Held a lamb (I'm guessing not a LEG of lamb...)
*Gone skinny dipping
*Been to a Broadway show in NY
Ran a Marathon (well, I'm guessing NOT)
Been in three states at once
Ridden in a gondola in Venice
*Seen a total eclipse
Hit a home run
*Been on a Cruise
Seen Niagra Falls in Person (When Jerry has that GTG...)
*Visited the birthplace of your Ancestors
*Seen an Amish community
Taught yourself a new language
*Had enough money to be truly satisfied
*Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
Gone rock climbing
*Seen Michelangelo’s David
*Sung karaoke
Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (does a drink in a bar count?)
Visited Africa
*Walked on a beach by moonlight
Been transported in an ambulance
*Had your portrait painted
Gone deep sea fishing
*Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
*Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
*Kissed in the rain
*Played in the mud
Been to Grace Kelley’s grave in Monaco
*Gone to a drive-in
*Been in a movie
Visited the Great Wall of China
*Started a business
Taken a martial arts class
*Swam in the Mediterranean Sea
Visited Russia
Served at a soup kitchen
*Sold Girl Scout cookies
*Gone whale watching
*Gotten flowers for no reason
*Donated blood, platelets or plasma
Gone sky diving (right after I bungee jump...)
Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
*Bounced a check (it wasn't my fault, really)
Saved a favorite childhood toy
Visited the Lincoln Memorial
*Eaten Caviar
*Pieced a quilt
*Stood in Times Square
Toured the Everglades
Been fired from a job
Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
*Broken a bone
*Been on a speeding motorcycle
Seen the Grand Canyon in person
Published a book (I really am working on one!)
*Visited the Vatican
*Bought a brand new car
Walked in Jerusalem
*Had your picture in the newspaper
Read the entire Bible
Visited the White House
*Killed and prepared my own meat (if boiling a live lobster counts? LOL)
*Had chickenpox
*Saved someone’s life
*Sat on a jury
*Met someone famous
*Joined a book club
*Lost a loved one
Had a baby
Seen the Alamo in person
Swam in the Great Salt Lake
Been involved in a law suit
*Been stung by a bee

February 19, 2009

The Letter "C"

This meme has been going around the "neighborhood". Barb C from Follow Barb's Bilss tagged me with the letter C.

1. Crayons

This was the very first word I thought of! I still love crayons. Remember the thrill of a brand new BIG box? The smell? My red ones and yellow ones were always the shortest. I was good at staying within the lines.

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2. Cooking

No surprise here! I love to cook, and have gotten even more ambitious in the past couple of years. If I had a penny for every recipe...

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3. Capri

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I have visited this magical island four times, and am ready to go back at a moment's notice. Yes, it can get crowded with day trippers. Yes, it is expensive. I don't care! It is beautiful, calming, stunning, luscious, extravagant, and lures me back time and time again. In fact...I'm about due for another visit. It has been almost three years!

4. Cheese

Clearly my favorite food! My mom said I used to sneak chunks of blue cheese into the shopping cart when I was just a toddler. Favorites are gorgonzola dolce, smoked gouda, sharp cheddar, brie, robiola, and pecorino. Could I cook at ALL without cheese?

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5. Caesar's Palace

Sorry, Disney, but this is still my "Magic Kingdom". Though for the past few visits we've been staying at cheaper digs down by the Eiffel Tower, for 30 years, I have hailed Caesar a couple times a year. My favorite time to be at Caesar's is summer, when the crowds are down, the weather is hot, and I stay sealed in the AC of the casino or Forum Shops. I have spent many happy hours (and "happy hours") floating in the pool with a forzen vodka lemonade! I have a favorite video poker machine that has been very nice to me as well.

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6. coffee

I am an addict. No doubt about it. I have gone from 3 pots a day to two. Do not expect whole sentences before my second cup. With skim milk and Sweet & Low in the morning, an occasional latte, black or espresso with dessert, please. In Italy, you will find me in a cafe for an average of 6-8 cups a day! I have no problem sleeping after a double!

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7. Caramel

Well, if you have been to my house for dessert, you know I can find plenty of ways to indulge in this creamy, buttery substance. You chocoholics can have the dark stuff. I'll take gooey, buttery caramel in any form!

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8. ceramics

I have been know to frequent ceramic shops in Italy (or anywhere). I love the colors, fruit, flowers, designs and quality of Italian ceramics. I have pieces from San Gimignano, Vietri, Positano, Capri, Lucca, Radda, Florence, Ravello, Orvieto, Montefalco, and Deruta. It scares Brad when the sales staff at several shops know me by name!

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9. Chicos

I was going to say clothes for this one, but to be even more specific, many of mine come from Chicos. Easy, casual, affordable, and I don't ever have to try anything on! Look what I got in my Valentine's card. I have been very well-behaved since before Christmas, and I sense a shopping trip soon! This snazzy sweatshirt will be coming home with me.

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10. computer

Of course, I love my laptop computer! How else would I be able to blog daily, save photos, stay connected with my Slow Travel friends, chat, file recipes, surf the internet, etc.? Blogging has become a daily routine that I enjoy. I not sure about some of the social networking stuff yet, but I recently joined both Twitter and MySpace. I obviously have too much time on my hands!

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March 3, 2009

Watercolors Update

I had lots of time to paint last month! I thought I'd share a few more of my paintings.

After Paso Robles, I had grapes and the wine country scenery on my mind.

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This is the road to several wineries and Pasolivo.

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Then my brain went right back to Italy! I had a "Venice week".

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From Venice, I went to Rome. It was difficult going through my Rome photos to find something I thought I could try to paint. I chose this photo:

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Then I went back to Tuscany. I think I am wishing for warmer weather, and decided that a few poppies were just what I needed for my sunset.

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Finally, I looked back on our visit to Locanda dell'Amarosa, near Sinalunga. I used this photo of the terrace to remember some lovely morning coffee times.

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Here is a classic view of the lovely grounds.

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I made two of these! One for for a birthday gift for my friend, Jan. I liked it enough to make myself one too!

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March 9, 2009

Fabio Fever

Fabio Viviani, a "cheftestant" in this season's Bravo TV hit, Top Chef, has won the hearts of American viewers. Each week, a chef is eliminated from the show after a series of cooking challenges, but we did NOT want to see Fabio leave. Before Top Chef, you could find Fabio working hard at his Moorepark, California restaurant, Cafe Firenze. He made it to the top four contestants, and when he was eliminated, the fans were quite disappointed.

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According to Fabio, the next day he received over 2 million emails, which caused the need for a new server and internet provider!

But Fabio has a lot to look forward to. According to his interview with Bravotv.com, he says:

"Lately, i've been crazy busy with the business. I am getting tons of request for licensing my image to some big company. So far I got Ducati, the company that produces all Italia motorbikes, I will launch as a spokeperson for Dr. Oetker, a new line of frozen high quality pizza all over United States. I also got a huge deal with Pellegrino water, and Gail Simmons from Food & Wine. I will be with her launching the national campaign "The Sparkling Life," plus I'm dealing also with Red Bull and Don Q Rum, and on top of this I've been requested to do all kinds of talk shows. It's overwelming the love and interest that I'm getting from everybody. I've done Ellen DeGegeneres and The Bonnie Hunt Show so far, and I have several more in line waiting, plus we are also thinking to do a possible TV show with me involved (just thinking). Without counting that I'm opening two more restaurants in the Ventura County area in the summer and i'm starting a 14-city book tour in all the major book stores around the United States in April and May for my Cafe Firenze Cookbook, and i'm working on my second book. My son is on Google: Recipes and Memories from an Italian Mom. I'm doing this with the help of my mom off course. She will tell America all the funny and sad stories and recipes that made her happy or cry since the day that I was born, so as you can see I don't have much time left for hang out with my buddy Stefan and i miss him a lots!!!! Ohhhh I forgot, I'm also almost ready to launch my Web site www.kidshealthcafe.com, in order to promote good nutrition and wellness for kids."

Why is this 31 year old, Italian chef so popular? Well, of course he is adorable. Look at this Italian face full of fun and mischief!

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But for me, the charm is Fabio's "Italianess"! He seems to be very real, open, playful, warm, and appreciative. You can see how much he enjoys people, and has both a sense of style and a sense of humor. Fabio is not only charming, but he is confident, and hard working. He is positive, and believes, we should "BE HAPPY". Life is good. It is a winning combination to have a passion for cooking, and a passion for life! This attitude, his personality, and good food have taken him far in the two and a half years he has been in the U.S..

Fabio has shared a little about his background, growing up in a poor family in Italy. He began working at a young age in the back of a restaurant. As a teenager, he learned to cook at his restaurant jobs, and eventually owned two restaurants in Florence, which he sold to come to the U.S.. Clearly he is not afraid of hard work, and deserves the "American Dream" and his new success.

Like any good Italian son, he speaks warmly of his mamma and his nonna and their basic, healthy and delicious recipes, made with fresh ingredients. His simple roasted chicken won him praise from Lidia Bastianich as her perfect "last meal". His Top Chef creations looked good to me. It was NOT too much pesto on those ravioli! I could almost taste it.

I was already a fan of Top Chef, but Fabio added another layer of fun to Top Chef season 5. His good looks, adorable accent, banter with his buddy Stefan and the other contestants made this season my favorite so far. Each week his witty comments were quoted around our house. Some favorites: (insert a very cute accent)

"I am 31 years old and sleeping in a bunky bed."
"This is Top Chef, not Top Scallop!"
"Sometimes you can get kicked in the ass with your own shoe."
"Why would you eat just vegetables when you have good meat and fish?"

I am not alone in appreciating Fabio! Of course I am Italian and a foodie, so I cheered him on from the first episode of Top Chef. His fans are everywhere!
Fabio now has 2,482 "friends" on Facebook!

Well, I am older than his mother!
Yes, I will definitely drive 3 hours to Moorepark to have dinner at Cafe Firenze.
You bet I will buy the cookbook, (signed, of course).

I wish this young man all the best, and I feel sure he will stay real and not let all of this attention go to his head.

Do you have your "I love Fabio" t-shirt yet? They ship out on March 19. (from bravotv.com)

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Check out kidshealthcafe.com, a website dedicated to good health, nutrition, fitness and mental health for kids!

Buona fortuna, Fabio! We will see you at your "Fan Favorite" Festa on March 20!

March 13, 2009

Where I Live: Palm Desert

Here is a short video of Palm Desert. Come visit us!

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March 16, 2009

Dinner at the Rovai's

We had quite a treat on Saturday night, and were invited to dinner at friends, Nancy and Rudy's home. Rudy is Italian, and cooks like a true Italian who enjoys food, loves to cook, and is the master of his kitchen. We enjoyed some crisp white wine before dinner, while chatting about visits to different parts of Italy. Rudy's family, on both sides, are from Lucca. He has never been there, and would like to see if he can find relatives, and also enjoy a week in this charming city. We are big Lucca fans, so we told him about our visits to this area of Tuscany.

Dinner began with a huge, delicious salad with pears, gorgonzola and pecans. One of my favorites!

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Our main course was a delicious Pacific cod in a tomato based sauce with Swiss chard over potatoes. As you can see, the portions were generous, but we did our best!
We managed to sip great wine with each course.

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While, Nancy was happy to turn over the kitchen to Rudy, she has her own culinary talents, and baking is one of them. She made the scrumptious dessert: apple dumplings with ice cream in a warm cinnamon sauce. A perfect ending to a fabulous dinner! We also introduced Rudy and Nancy to Slow Travel for their trip planning.

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It was a delightful evening with friends, wine, travel talk, and amazing food!

March 19, 2009

Bouganvillea

Bouganvillea LOVE sunshine, so they do very well here in the dessert. I think they are most beautiful in the spring, before our really warm weather comes. We are pleasantly in the low 80's right now, and the bouganvillea seem to be everywhere! My yard is filled with the most common color, a bright magenta.

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Everywhere you look, are solid walls of bright pink!

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But these tropical flowers come in lots of other shades. How beautiful is this orange colored wall, with a few sprigs of white and some variegated leaves?

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These coral or salmon colored bouganvillea remind me of flames! There are so many shades when the sun is directly on them!

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Now for my least favorites: the light pink and purple. Not enough drama for me I guess.

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I saved the best for last! These are much rarer to see, but I knew just where to look, and I think the simple white bouganvillea is just stunning! They remind me of a wedding.

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Their beauty makes us forget all the time we spend sweeping dropped blossoms off our patio when it is windy, or the bucketfuls that end up in our pool filter basket each year! We are lucky to have them in bloom all year long.

March 24, 2009

Dream Workshop

A while ago, one of my book clubs decided to skip a book, and do a dream exercise instead. See what happens when three book club members are therapists and one is a psychiatrist? You're thinking, "Weird mumbo jumbo, out there, woo woo stuff", right? Well I was skeptical at first myself. One of our members attended an all day workshop with Victoria Rabinowe in Santa Fe, NM. She distilled the workshop down to what we could accomplish in a couple of hours, and it was really fun!

We were told to come with a dream written down. Due to a flu bug, only four of us attended. Three of us did not write down our dreams, but just TOLD them when it was our turn. Here was my dream:

I was walking down an unfamiliar Italian street in a small Tuscan-looking town, (it looked a lot like it could have been a side street in Montalcino or Pienza). I was by myself, and happily walking along. As I approached a corner, I heard noise ahead, and turned to see a morning market scene. It was all fruits, veggies and flowers, so I began choosing some items to take home for a meal. That's when several people I knew showed up, that I was not expecting to see in Italy. Kim (from Slow Travel) was there, as was a sorority sister, (Joy), and another friend from the Bay area. None of them knew each other, and it was interesting to have them all show up in Italy, AND in my dream!

In the next scene, we were in a very pretty Italian kitchen, all working together to make dinner, and Brad was there pouring everyone wine. Imagine! I remember I was filling ravioli, and Kim was putting together a salad. Joy (who really doesn't cook in real life) was taking out food to a large table outside in a garden where there were big olive trees and a nearby vineyard. There was lots of laughter and talking. I woke up and thought, "Damn, I'm NOT in Italy?"

Back to the workshop... We each told our dream, and then were given an hour and the materials to make at least 5 "dream cards". Dream cards were small collages done on 5x7 tagboard, and then backed in printed paper, so they could be shuffled, and would all look the same on the back. Each card had magazine images and a word or phrase depicting either a character, emotion or some activity from your dream. We were told to, "Let go of your preconceived idea of the meaning of your dream. Throw yourself at the mercy of the process of hunting and gathering images for your collage cards. Include a word or phrase on every card."

Our hostess had bins of HUNDREDS of magazine pictures already cut out for us to search through. We could also bring our own from home to save time, so I had a few cut out from some of my Italian cooking magazines. Our hostess also had stations set up for us to work at with glue sticks, scissors, markers, etc., and paper already cut for the cards and backings.

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In one hour, our dream cards were all done. We returned to the table, and were told to shuffle our cards and place them face down on the table in front of us.

Our cards would now act as "oracle cards" to answer questions about our life in general. The first question was,

1. What is the force that has been controlling and ruling my life?

We all turned over the top card. Here was mine:

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Well, clearly food, especially Italian food, has a very important place in my life!

At this point in the real workshop, participants would journal what they think this means for themselves. We did not have the time to do this, but were encouraged to go home and write about this experience. (I think it means I need to "get a life" and stop eating so much...lose some weight! Is it possible that everything doesn't revolve around food?)

We turned over our second card, and were asked,
2. What obstacle do I need to overcome?

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Well, I have no intention of giving up my Italian dreams, but maybe this means I need to appreciate my good life at home even more, and stop living in the future. It probably also means, I need to pay off credit cards that still have past Italy expenses on them! I'm working hard on that!

3.What is ending in my life?

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This was interesting. I really thought about this one. Maybe this is about reducing stress by ending relationships where I do all the work, or give much more than I get back. There are a couple "friends" I can think of that may fit in this category. I also need to be around positive energy, and people who look at life in a "glass is half full" way.

4. What is beginning in my life?

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Well, there you go. I do have many great relationships. My friends are a great source of joyI am happy to add new friends to the mix too!

5. What new energy will support me?

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I thought this was very interesting, too. I have learned to ask for support when I need it. I could also look at this card literally and eat more fruits and veggies!

This was a very fun and interesting exercise! Other members also had interesting things come up as a result of this activity. Thanks to Diana for all the work and preparation she went through for this experience!

March 25, 2009

Five FabulousThings

I was awarded this "Fabulous Blog" award from Barb C. at Follow My Bliss.

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Thanks, Barb!

Here are five fabulous things:

1. A beautiful rose

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2. Cherries at the market

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3. A perfect day in Italy

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4. Fun accessories

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5. Shopping for Italian ceramics

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I am tagging these fabulous blogs:

Nancy at A Winelover's Wanderings

Susan at Shave Ice and Gelato

Marcia at Happy Trails for Us: My Reluctant Blog Happy Trails for Us: My Reluctant Blog

Janie at Panini Girl

Sherri at As the Seasons Change

April 2, 2009

A Little Travel Humor

The Other Stall:

Traveling down the interstate and needing to use the restroom,
I stop at a rest area and head to the restroom.

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I was barely sitting down when I heard a voice from the other stall saying:
"Hi, how are you?"

I'm not the type to start a conversation in the restroom and I don't know what got into me, but I answered, somewhat embarrassed,
"Doin' just fine!"

And the other person says: "So what are you up to?"

What kind of question is that? At that point, I'm thinking this is too bizarre so I say:
"Uhhh, I'm like you, just traveling!"??

At this point I am just trying to get out as fast as I can when I hear another question.
"Can I come over?"

Ok, this question is just too weird for me but I figured I could just be polite & end the
conversation. I tell them "No..I'm a little busy right now!!!"

Then I hear the person say nervously...

"Listen, I'll have to call you back. There's an idiot in the other stall who keeps
answering all my questions!

Cell phones, don't you just love them?

April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday 09

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Palm Sunday, for Catholics, marks the beginning of Holy Week, where believers remember Jesus' last supper, the crucifixion, and celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and crowds welcomed Him by laying palm fronds in His path. Catholics return from mass on Palm Sunday with a palm leaf that has been blessed.

At my house, growing up, Palm Sunday (or Palma Sunday, as we irreverently call it), was celebrated as my feast day. Mom fixed a big dinner for the whole family, and I got cards and gifts, just like another birthday. Brad has continued the tradition of making the day special.

My weekend began Friday after a 2 hour training I gave to the school district on "Stress". I had barely arrived home and changed back into my jeans, when the doorbell rang, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers was delivered!

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I have no idea what else the day has in store, except a wonderful dinner. We made a Fabio ravioli recipe yesterday, and there is a lovely rack of lamb in the fridge. So until then, here are a few more palm tree shots I took between our house and El Paseo (the main shopping street) in Palm Dessert.

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April 14, 2009

Fresno Nostalgia Tour: Part 1

While we were in Fresno over Easter weekend, I took Brad on a "nostalgia tour" of the places where I grew up. I had SO many memories flooding back!

Looking worn and unkempt, here is the house I grew up in for 21 years. We had no gate, and they have built a second floor over the three car garage, which was our "summer kitchen".

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My kindergarten playground looks about the same at Bullard Elementary school.

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My Junior High looks about the same, except it is now a Middle School and has a "Media and Computer center".

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My high school looks twice as big as it did when I graduated in 1970!

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We also visited the Catholic school where I taught fourth grade, eighth grade, and was vice-principal. It had an Easter egg hunt going on. I peeked into my old classroom window. Wow...some things never change!

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Finally, we visited the condo I lived in during my early 30s until I moved to the Bay Area in 1987. I took a peek through the gate into the courtyard.

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I had so much fun re-visiting my old stomping grounds, and sharing new stories with Brad!

April 15, 2009

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

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I need at least one more blog entry to post a few more photos of my adorable "Great Godchildren"! Cadence (Cadi) is four and Cheira had her 2nd birthday on Saturday.

Here are the happy sisters, pretty in pink:

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How much fun is sand?

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How about a slumber party?

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Birthdays are fun for everyone!
Cadi's 4th:

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Cheira's 2nd:

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And speaking of birthdays...CAKE is always a good thing! Sugar and spice and...

Decorating the cake they MADE (with a little help from Grandma Coco):

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And EATING cake:

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Easter dresses are fun.

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Palma's favorite part of the weekend was reading all the new Easter books!

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Thanks to Chaudra and Connie for more photos and Corey for the CD!

April 20, 2009

Earthquake Survivor

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AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito

We have all been feeling the sadness and loss in the days since the horrific earthquake that struck L'Aquila, Italy. I look at these images as tears roll down my face. I remember stopping for lunch in the lovely small town in 2003, on our way to the A-16. I have no photos, as that was before my blogging days.

I found the following link at Valerie's blog, Two Baci in a Pinon Tree. I couldn't stop reading this diary of an earthquake survivor.

Read this SURVIVOR'S DIARY. Help the earthquake survivors. Even if it is the cost of a cappucino. Send the displaced victims help to begin new lives. HERE is how you can help online. Every dollar will go directly to the victims.

OR

Send a check to:

NIAF/ Abruzzo Relief Fund
The National Italian American Foundation
1860 19th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009

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April 23, 2009

Party Favors

It is official. I am insane.

Two weeks ago, I made these sugar cookies and froze them. No, cookie cutter. I made a paper pattern and cut around it with a knife.

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Tuesday, I iced them (frozen) in 5 colors of royal icing.

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Now they look like flip flops!

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Then I wrote on them with edible felt pens. (insane part)

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Now they are individually wrapped and in my fridge, waiting for their ride to San Diego tomorrow.


April 24, 2009

Fabulous Friday

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Today is National
'HOLY SHIT, YOU'RE HOT' Day!
Send a message or email to someone gorgeous,
but don't send any more to me, please.
I've been getting contratulatory messages all freekin' week!!!

We're off to San Diego this morning for the shower. Should be a busy and fun weekend.
Photos on Monday! Hope you all have a Fabulous Friday and a wonderful weekend!

May 5, 2009

Days of Wine and Roses: Couples Therapy Conference

May 1-3, I attended the Couples Therapy Conference in San Diego. I spent three full days in training and workshops from 8:30-5:00, listening to some of the top leaders in the profession speak on topics concerning "Relational Life Therapy"TM, Forgiveness, Intimacy-Avoidant Couples, Erotic Intelligence, Rethinking Infidelity, Gay Marriage, and Working with Difficult Couples. It was an exciting training with some of the best in the field encouraging the work I do. It was both inspiring, and exhausting!

I managed to get in lots of fun, during the weekend as well! My friend and colleauge, Linda, and I arrived Thursday afternoon. We checked in, then hit Fashion Valley Mall (a block from our conference hotel location) before we even dropped off our luggage in our room. After our brief shopping fix we unpacked and headed to Little Italy for wine at Sogno de Vino. Here I enjoyed a couple of glasses of one of my favorite wines, Tommasi Pinot Grigio Le Rosse.

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We eventually headed next door to Buon Appetitio for dinner. I was looking forward to this menu item all week. I made it through only half of my serving, but every bite was delicious. Penne with Bolognese topped with marscapone!!! The marscapone melts and adds a fabulous creamy taste to the sauce.

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We walked around Little Italy, stopped for coffee, and headed back to set a 6 AM wake-up alarm.

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Why "Days of Wine and Roses"? The conference hotel, Town and Country, while an older convention property on San Diego's "Hotel Circle", was really a garden setting, spread out over acres which happened to be blazing with blooming roses in May.

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Continue reading " Days of Wine and Roses: Couples Therapy Conference" »

May 8, 2009

Italian Mammas

If you have, had, are, or know an Italian mother, turn off your computer and RUN to Barnes & Noble and get this book! If you have been to Italy, were ever a Soprano's fan, are a Jewish mother, or just want a few good laughs, get it anyway!

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This book made me laugh cover to cover!

Descriptions of stereotypical Italian Mammas is a good place to start.

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We have the traditional, "old school" mamma (or nonna) in the house dress and apron, who cooks a 14 course meal every Sunday (and makes you eat all of it). Dinner and holidays are a production. She wears a black dress to funerals (and goes to all of them), sensible shoes, and worries constantly about her children. Something is wrong if her son doesn't call every four hours. You will find her with her rosary beads at mass. She will always be there for you, and IF she drives, it will be a large, "sturdy" car. Her house is spotless, she displays her wedding china, but the living room furniture is "for company". She can't conceptualize life without grandchildren, and has a drawer of booties READY. She does NOT mind their own business, and may have a talent for drama.

"New School" suburban Italian mammas:Madison Avenue meets Jersey Shore

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Modern day surburban (MDS) mammas look like Connie, in The Godfather or Carmela in the Sopranos. They wear fashionable clothes, often with the words "Juicy" emblazened on their sweats, have lots of leather furniture, family photos everywhere, and drive a Lexus or other expensive SUV. They are into primping, "big hair" and spend their days shopping, having facials and manicures, or lunching with friends. They spend lots on treatments, makeup and "products". They let their husband have a big screen TV, but everything else in the house matches, as does their jewelry. These "hot babes" are into sexy and trendy.

The Super-educated mamma (SE):

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More like Lorraine Bracco's character, Tony Soprano's therapist, these women grew up with some priviledge. They dress more conservatively and stylishly, but not particularly sexy. Unlike the MDS mamma, the SE mamma's home is beautiful, tastefully decorated, and understated. She likes fresh flowers (from a florist), and marries someone of her caliber. She retains some of her Italian values. She drinks too much wine and gains weight, but knows how to seek help or therapy, and does. She is a less smothering mamma than a MDS, and knows how to cook, but does less of it than the MDS or old school mamma. She understands the Italian culture and mixes it in when she wants.

Come on, you KNOW these people! I love it. I will NOT point fingers! You know who you are!

A few real Italian mammas:

Joy Behar (the View)
Connie Sellica
Annette Funicello
Elizabeth Edwards
Laura San Giacomo
Kelly Ripa
Brooke Sheilds
Cyndi Lauper
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Madonna (Madonna Louise Ciccone)
Sophia Loren
Gina Lollobrigida
Claudia Cardinale
Susan Sarandon
Penny Marshall
Connie Francis
Gwen Stefani
Lidia Bastianich
My Mom

The list goes on and on! Next time well talk about the different types of Italian nonnas.

May 12, 2009

Vegas Uncorked: Friday Afternoon

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After lunch at Fiamma, we zipped over to Bellagio for Brad's wine class:"Wine Immersion Experience: Taste Wine Like a Master Sommelier". This event was hosted by Bon Appetit's features editor, Hugh Garvey.

There are only 100 Master Sommeliers in the country, and a record three are at Bellagio. This achievement involves a rigorous Master Sommelier exam composed of Wine Theory, Service and of course, Blind Tasting. Brad and other participants sipped on unique selections from around the world featured by Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada. Jason Smith – Bellagio Director of Wine and Master Sommelier – guided them through a behind-the-scenes look at the methodology and rationale behind blind tasting.

Brad thought the class was fun, if a little elementary. He got to blind taste four good wines: a Sauvignon Blanc, a white Burgandy, an Oregon Pinot Noir, and a French Cabernet. He did well and was in the "top of his class" on figuring out varietal grape and location of wineries.

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Meanwhile, I had an hour and a half to enjoy walking around the Bellagio, enjoying the flowers, shops and casino.

Continue reading "Vegas Uncorked: Friday Afternoon" »

May 19, 2009

Sarah and Casey's Wedding Rehearsal

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We arrived at Lake Arrowhead, Friday morning with a car full of chafing dishes, a huge salad bowl two large pans of "cheesy potatoes", and our clothes for the rehearsal and wedding. The weather was a perfect 81 degrees with a bright blue sky and sunshine.

The church, Our Lady of the Lake, was a gorgeous spot for the ceremony. It felt like we were outside in the pine trees.

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We all "practiced" our parts for the wedding. My "Grand-Godkids", Cadi and Chiera were two of the five flowergirls. Cadi went confidently down the isle with her little sister, blankie in tow, following. The five little girls were all excited and well-behaved.

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Both Sarah's family and Casey's family had rented large houses on the lake to accommodate the large wedding party and family members. I helped Connie with setting up food for the rehearsal dinner (BBQ tri-tip, Caesar salad, Cheesy potatoes, beans, and rolls).

Brad was useful in the kitchen as well.

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Both my Godsons, Corey and Casey, have given me many years of joy as they have grown up to be the strong, kind, respectful men they now are. I couldn't love them any more if they were my own sons. They also picked wonderful "Goddaughters-in-law for me to love. Chaudra, and Sarah are lots of fun to be around. Thank you to my "sister", Connie, for having shared all important family moments throughout the years.

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After dinner, many, many beautifully wrapped gifts were passed out by Sarah and Casey. (Mine is still on it's way from...ITALY! Details later...)

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Everyone got teary when Casey told his big brother what he means to him.

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Here, Sarah gives a bridesmaid gift to her new sister-in-law, Chaudra. (terry totes full of spa products)

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After the dinner and festivities, we returned to the Lake Arrowhead Resort, where we were staying, and where the wedding reception would be held.

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A carload of my sorority sisters had arrived, and we met them in the bar for some catching up. The next morning, we had breakfast in Lake Arrowhead village, and even had time for a little shopping. We are the "YAYA Aunts" for everyone's kids, and never miss an important family event.

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Soon it was time to get ready for the 1 PM wedding! More tomorrow!

May 20, 2009

Sarah and Casey's Wedding Day

The wedding was a wonderful celebration from beginning to end!
The flower girls and ring bearer made it down the isle.

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Cadi was so happy and proud!

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The bride and groom were stunning.

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The four moms (Sarah's mother, stepmother, Connie and I) were all asked to do a reading. I was so honored to be part of this!

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YEAH, Casey and Sarah are married!

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The two year olds, Chiera and Logan were ready to get out of church!

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We were all ready for the celebration!

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It was a fabulous party, with passed appetizers, an open bar, a great dinner, and a long night of dancing.

Meet Mr and Mrs Casey Wood!

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Casey's mom and dad, Connie and Jim, were proud parents.

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Corey gave a great toast, and I was so proud of my boys!

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Continue reading "Sarah and Casey's Wedding Day" »

May 21, 2009

Bahama Basil Splash

We've been off having fun the past four weekends in a row: a shower in San Diego, a therapy conference in San Diego, eating our way through Vegas, and Casey and Sarah's wedding. We will be home for a FOUR day weekend. My goals are simple. I will get some laundry done, take care of a few last minute Italy details, and the rest of the time will be spent napping or on a raft in the pool.

Here is a drink Brad tried making the other night.

Try this refreshing combination from Tommy Bahama:

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Bahama Basil Splash

3 parts white rum
2 parts sweet and sour mix
3 fresh blackberries
4 small basil leaves
4 slices fresh ginger
Splash of Sprite or 7-up

Muddle blackberries, basil and ginger in a mixing glass. Add remaining ingredients, shake well with ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with berries, basil or an orchid.

June 11, 2009

Congratulations Andres!

Brad calls us, "Palma's Portable Parties". I have to admit, I have had him hauling chafing dishes, gigantic platters, and boxes of wine glasses a lot lately. We have had several occasions where if seemed like I took half the kitchen somewhere to serve a meal to 20-50 guests.

On Tuesday evening, I catered a high school graduation party, for my friend, Paulina's son, Andres. Paulina and I have worked together as co-therapists in Domestic Violence men's groups, and I have been her clinical supervisor for the past three years. She is ready to take her exams for her license in Social Work.

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Paulina's son, Andres, is a remarkable young man. He grew up in Colombia, and came to California four years ago to begin high school. He is graduating with honors from advanced placement classes, won the local Rotary Scholarship, as well as "Student of the Year" at Palm Desert High School. He will be spending 6 weeks in Europe this summer before beginning his studies at USC.

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Paulina and I chose a "simple" menu with two appetizers, chicken, salads and desserts for the event. Most of the evening's preparations were done at my house, and brought to Paulina and Steve's home for the party. Their guests had a perfect evening of cooler than usual temperatures for June. Once the sun dropped behind the mountain, the evening was a pleasant 78 degrees.

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The party began with appetizers served at 6:30. The first photo is of "Baja Bites", and the second is ham-gruyere palmiers.

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At 7:00, dinner was served. Garlic-mustard chicken breasts with panko-parmigiano crust, grilled vegetables, corn-black bean-rice salad, and a green salad with fruit and citrus vinegarette.

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Maxi was a great help to Brad and I in the kitchen during setting up, serving, and clean-up.

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Dessert was my favorite part of the party preparations. We served a 4-tiered selection of mini-desserts: chocolate-caramel cheesecakes, vanilla cheesecakes with passion fruit curd, strawberry tarts, and coconut cream tarts.

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I wish Andres a memorable trip to Europe (he will be traveling to Italy!), and I know he will have a wonderful education and some fun at USC! Buona Fortuna!

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June 12, 2009

Fiori

Today I think I'll post some of the gorgeous flowers we saw on our last trip to Las Vegas. Enjoy!

Roses at the MGM Grand:

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Fiamma roses:

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Bellagio flower sculptures:

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Huge daffodils:

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A big snail:

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Watering cans:

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Flowers at Craftsteak:

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Enjoy a great weekend!


June 23, 2009

El Paseo Art Walk

Palm Desert has a very active focus on "art in public places". There are examples all over the city, including the public park, library, and El Paseo, an upscale shopping street, or "downtown". My friend, artist Maria Hunt is a docent who gives art walk tours. We did part 1 in May, and part 2 last week. Our book club met at 8:30 am to try to "beat the heat". We ended at Starbucks for a cold drink, and discussion of our books. Here are some of the fabulous art sculptures we saw:

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The angle of those feet make my joints hurt!

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IT doesn't move... YOU do!

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Remember those painted boxes that hold the traffic light equipment? Here is one with the artist's Old English Sheepdog.

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Here are two Maria painted with a desert scene.

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Maria is not only a talented artist, she was a great docent! Thanks, Maria!

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Which one is YOUR favorite?


July 23, 2009

Blogging Guilt

I didn't blog yesterday. Why do I feel incredibly guilty? I was crazy busy, working on a project from 6:30 am until 7 pm, when Brad and I went out for a quick dinner. I managed to blog daily from Italy (except for our last 4 days in Rome, which I will go back and back blog as soon as I get a minute...). I have blogged every day since February 2008. I know no one cares, but now it is simply a daily task, like brushing my teeth. Most of the time, I really enjoy it.

My computer is wonky. I got a whole new keyboard put in my Mac laptop in March. The space bar and delete keys used to stick. Try typing without a space bar or delete key. Now, sometimes my return key doesn't work for days at a time. Apple says, "When this happens, go to another application and come back". Great. So every time I load a photo, or start a new paragraph, I get to go out of the blog program and keep a WORD document open to cut and paste a little paragraph sign. Still I blog.

There, I just did it again twice. : ) It eventually goes back to normal. When the space bar was stuck, I did the same thing, by copying and pasting a SPACE between every word. Guess how annoying that was? Still I blogged. I need Santa to buy me a new Powerbook!

I just finished reading Julie and Julia (and loved it). Julie calls her blog readers, "BLEADERS". What a great word. So, thanks to all my bleaders for reading and commenting.

I will keep working on my "project" now. It is a movie (Like the DVD I made for the Savannah Gathering) of our recent Palmabella's Italy trip to Umbria. I am almost done! Then I will get back to more blogging! I will date this entry as yesterday, then do another blog post today. I can't deal with the guilt of missing a day!

July 29, 2009

Friends Moving

While we were in Italy, our good friends, Fiona and Steve made two rather quick changes in their lives. 1. They got an adorable dog named Rocky from the shelter 2. They bought a house in Reno! They will be spending warm weather months in their new Reno community, so they are leaving tomorrow until the end of October. They will stay in the desert from November through May.

We went to their house Saturday night to meet Rocky. He is a 1 year old Lhasa Apso mix, and quite adorable.

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After catching up on all the news over a bottle of wine, we had dinner at the Tea House Wine Bar in La Quinta. I had half of my two appetizers, orange shrimp, and crab-stuffed mushrooms. (Then I accidently left my doggie bag on the table.) Brad enjoyed his fish.

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The bad news is we will really miss having Fiona and Steve around to "play with" all year. The good news is we will visit them in Reno!

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July 31, 2009

More to Love

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Have you seen the new FOX reality show, More to Love? It is a new dating competition where FOX has joined with producer Mike Fleiss of The Bachelor where a group of plus size women compete for a relationship with a plus size man.

I have been a Bachelor fan since its first season. When I saw previews for this new eight week program, I had mixed feelings. Part of me thought, "Good! Now the REAL size ladies can have a shot." Then I immediately became annoyed, thinking, "Why can't they be on the REGULAR Bachelor?" Why point out their weight with a "Fat girl Bachelor"? Because they would be rejected over the hot thin girls, that's why! Sad, but most likely true. I imagined the pool scenes with the bikinis. Then I got perturbed that they have been selected for this new show because of their size.

I think the point is supposed to be that people who are not a size 2, or who don't have perfect model bodies and beauty are also looking for love and romance with "that special person". Great. There is a lot of controversy over this program already. Are we saying, "It is ok to be overweight, you're still beautiful"? Or are we putting heavy women on display with the premise that this is the only way these chubby girls are going to get a date?

I tried to watch the first episode with an open mind. At first it seemed like Luke is a nice guy. He complemented each lady as he met her. Many giggles and shocked looks, as most of the contestants are not used to hearing complements about their appearance from men. The women were attractive, some were quite beautiful, and they seemed to be confident and comfortable with themselves. Weights were posted as they exited the limo (from 180 to 270 lbs.). I thought, "That took some courage and good self-esteem. Good for you!" As the show progressed, the women confessed (often tearfully) to NEVER having had a date, being rejected by men, being passed over for their "skinny girlfriends" and never having been in a relationship. They expressed fears of "being alone forever", somewhat desperately claiming they "have a lot to give". Clearly the weight issues come with self-esteem issues. There was even some "thin bashing". "Who wants someone who looks like a stick?" Stereotypes and prejudice are alive and well.

I am disturbed, but want to see how this plays out. The fact that these women were chosen based on their size is upsetting. Of course they all deserve to be loved. DUH! Given the statistics of obesity in this country, obviously many overweight people date, fall in love, get married and have children. Many of us can relate to the angst of not liking SOMETHING physical about ourselves. Other reality shows like Beauty and the Geek and Average Joe focused on the "less beautiful" male contestants with a hot bachelorette dating them. More to Love will not address diet or exercise, and claims it will not try to slim these girls down. There will be the usual bathing suit, hot tub, and massage scenes in the next few weeks. I'm sure we'll also see plenty of catfights and drama.

I also question the idea that the bachelor himself is overweight. Does this imply that only a "big guy" would be attracted to a "big girl"? I'm concerned for some of the girls who seem so emotionally fragile. At the "ring ceremony" at the end of the episode, the fear in the women's eyes was more than "I might be sent home". It was heartbreaking to watch and hear their fears that if eliminated, they might never have another man look at them...EVER! We don't see this kind of fear on The Bachelor. I also question viewers reasons for watching. There are many overweight women who will relate to these ladies (I did!). There are some who will watch with pity, or worse, disgust. Some may watch to say, "At least I don't look like THAT in a bathing suit!"

The Biggest Loser is quite popular. People seem to like to see overweight people losing weight, working out with sometimes sadistic trainers who push them to their maximum potential. They are on their way to becoming slimmer, and hence healthier and "more attractive" people. Is being a "plus size" really a deal–breaker in dating? It was a question for one contestant on Dating in the Dark. (Obviously I have been watching too many reality TV shows!) Those crazy women on The Housewives of Atlanta get their own show, and these woman don't get to go out with someone nice. Go figure!

I hope that the women are not MORE traumatized and rejected when they leave the show. I hope the women realize that they are beautiful and lovable, that they can improve their health and fitness IF THEY CHOOSE TO, and that they are smart, fun, and lovely, just as they are.

I really think all of these shows need an on–site therapist. Maybe I should work out a deal...

August 10, 2009

Sisters

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Lifetime friends are such a blessing! My friend, and "sister", Connie, visited us last week. Connie and I met in August, 1970, when I was a freshman in college going through sorority rush. That was 39 years ago this month.

We have been through SO much in those 39 years. We were roommates in the sorority house until Connie graduated and got married. I was her maid of honor. I am her sons' Godmother. We've been there for each other through ups and downs, divorces, weddings, births and deaths. There has been much laughter, many tears, and occasional differences of opinions or even hurt feelings. We ALWAYS talk through it. We are just like sisters. We've lived in different cities, but usually speak on the phone once a week.

We DO have our differences. In fact, we laugh about HOW very different we are. We disagree (in a big way) on politics, religion, food, shopping, how we spend money, how we travel, even how we choose friends. So what's left, you ask?

Connie is quick, smart and funny. She is kind, generous, thoughtful and loyal. We are both talkers. She loves to be around people. She is a great storyteller. We both like to play games. We both like to eat. We have the same beliefs and philosophies of how to treat others. We can be completely honest and vulnerable with each other. We respect our differences. We laugh a LOT! We just love each other. We ARE sisters.

August 19, 2009

My Morning at the DMV

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Two weeks ago, I was awake at 1 a.m., when I suddenly sat up in bed and asked myself, "When does my driver's license expire?" I decided to go back to sleep and find out the answer in the morning.

The next morning, I looked at my driver's license (while driving in the car on the way to work...), and the answer was... it EXPIRED on my last birthday, May 12, 2009!!! I have had "Italy Brain" for months.

I know my passport is good until 2011. I didn't get a thingy in the mail. POOP! I called and made an appointment at DMV. The soonest they could take me was yesterday. I haven't driven since then, except a 4 mile round trip to the agency on Wednesdays.

Monday night I read the WHOLE 76 page Driver's Handbook, and took all the practice tests.

I arrived at 9:00 for my 9:05 appointment. I had to stand in line to tell them I had a 9:05 appointment. There were 11 people in front of me in line. I got to the front of the line at 9:10. I filled out a form, my number was called immediately. I paid $28, passed the eye exam, and was told to go have my photo and thumbprint taken. I said, "Don't I have have to take a test?" She went back to the computer and said, "No, you have a perfect driving record." Hehehe

I guess I studied for nothing. I was out the door at 9:22. I DID learn that if your windshield wipers are on, you need to turn on your headlights. Since it rains here 2-3 days a year, I hope I remember that handy tidbit.

I have gotten ONE ticket in my lifetime. It was a speeding ticket in 1970. I was 18 years old. My father grounded me and took away my Camero for two weeks. I have been very good ever since. At least I have not been caught doing anything wrong. Brad is the one in our house who has been known to drive "a wee bit fast". If I were a police officer with a quota to fill, I would just learn his schedule, or set a GPS tracking device on his car.

August 21, 2009

Cheating

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I've been thinking about cheating. No, I am NOT having an affair! I mean I've been thinking about little ways people cheat.

I remember liking a boy in 4th grade. He was the smartest boy in my class. I wanted him to like me. I was a "smart" girl, and sat across from him. Once, during a math test he motioned me to show him my answers. I scooted my paper across the desk toward him, and moved my arm, pretending to be thinking, sure he could see my paper to "compare answers". I did my own work, but still felt very guilty.

I recently went to a movie with a friend (who shall remain nameless). She walked up to the ticket window and asked for "2 seniors". I am 57. She is 59. The senior rate is for 60 years or older. I immediately jerked my head around (which was absurd, as I can pass for 60) so the kid at the ticket booth couldn't see me. When we entered the theater, I told her quietly, "We're NOT seniors!" She said at the theater she usually goes to it is 55+ for the senior rate. I paid $5 for a diet coke, and tried to rationalize. I felt badly all night and the next day.

A week later, Brad and I went to the same theater to see Julie & Julia. Brad walked up to buy our tickets and said, "2 adults." He IS a senior. I told him (before he handed the guy $21) "YOU are a senior." He repeated, "2 adults." We paid $3.50 more for Brad's ticket, and I somehow felt better, like now the theater and I were "even". Then I laughed, and said, "You can pay extra if you want, but it won't change your age. You are STILL 61."

In my high school advanced algebra class, I got a test back with no grade on it. It said, "Suspected of collusion - See Me" at the top. I was horrified. I wasn't even sure what that meant, but I knew it wasn't good. After class, another girl I didn't know and I both went up to the teacher. Her paper said the same thing. The teacher said we had the same wrong answers, and he suspected us of cheating. I KNEW I was innocent. He let us take the same test after school, at opposite corners of the room. I missed the same 3 problems. The other girl missed all the problems. I was exhonorated and got my B+.

I have another friend, a therapist, who writes off every meal she has out with friends, calling it a "business expense" (supposedly marketing her private practice). If we go out, I pay her cash, she puts the meal on her credit card, and keeps the receipt. I think this is cheating. Another therapist friend does not claim the income for clients who pay her in cash. About 25% of my clients pay me in cash. I claim every single penny as income on my taxes. Am I just stupid or am I too honest? My answer is that I have to live with myself.

Many people pay to see one movie, then stay in the theater and see another movie for free. I would rather stick needles in my eye. I just couldn't do it. I give back change if given the wrong amount (too much). The cashier would have to make it up, or get into trouble if the register was short.

There are SO many ways people cheat. I think honesty is so important. We can lose a lot of things in life and still be "okay". Integrity is not one of them.

August 31, 2009

Patience

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I was thinking about my patience, and at times lack of it.

I have absolutely NO patience with:

Tangled Christmas lights

Electronics that don't work

Knots that won't come undone

Packages that wont open

Paperwork

I have TONS of patience with:

Baking/cooking/decorating/craft projects

Friends (and people in general)

Clients trying to change

Painting

Driving

Waiting to go on vacation

September 1, 2009

Wishing for Fall

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This past weekend was HOT! 118 degrees in the daytime, and Saturday night at 9:30, it was still 113!

I am wishing for fall. I'd love to see some below 80 degree weather, some fall leaves, pumpkins, and be thinking about making an apple pie or hearty soup or stew. I am tired of salads, and a 97 degree pool.

My favorite times of the year to go to Italy are May and September. If I could stay for three months, I would shoot for September, October and November. Yes, I know it would get below my comfort zone of 70, but right now, that sounds good! Food and wine festivals, olive harvest, truffles, and the orange and red vineyards in all their glory... Next year there is a September trip planned!

Soon we will get a break from the heat, as Friday, we will be going to Portland and Seattle for a visit. After that, it will be back home for two more months of hot weather, capris, sandals and time in the pool.

Photo credit: Copyright 2009 Photographer: Roy Tennant FreeLargePhotos.com

September 17, 2009

Our 9th Anniversary

Wednesday, we celebrated our anniversary with a quiet dinner at home. Brad came home from work with armfuls of flowers, some prosecco, and a bottle of good Italian wine. We saved the prosecco for the weekend.

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We had perfectly grills steaks and stuffed zucchini with pancetta and cheese. Our lemon tart was perfect with Top Chef!

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This weekend, we will celebrate the day we met 12 years ago! Here we are at our "pre-anniversary dinner" in Bellevue:

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September 25, 2009

Flowers in Washington

Today our heat is supposed to "break" in Palm Desert. That means we may get out of our "triple digits" and down to the 90's (our idea of fall). By October, we settle in to the 80's and stay there until the "really cold" 60's hit in December and January.

During the next 2-3 weeks, all lawns and golf courses (there are over 165) are being re-seeded, and new spring flowers will be everywhere with green new grass. Until then, our yards are looking a little dry and only bougainvillea and roses are blooming at my house. I am antsy for flowers.

On our recent trip to Washington, EVERYTHING was blooming and green. Rain does that!
I really enjoyed the flowers. Hope you do too.

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September 30, 2009

September Books

These are the books I read this month:

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A serial killer gruesomely murders women in Virginia while FBI profiler, Karen Vail, and her team tries to figure out the identity of the killer. The plot thickens when Karen's family history unveils twists related to the case. A little predictible and unlikely, but never the less, a page turner!

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More Stephanie Plum fun, complete with Ranger, Morelli, Grandma, Lula, and the usual craziness. I love this series, but are the characters getting a little tiresome, or is it me? I am not laughing as much as I used to...
How about a TV series?

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I thought I had read most of Maeve Binchy's older books, but somehow missed this when it came out in 2001. Ten year old Elizabeth is sent to live with the O' Connor family in a tiny Irish town during the war, when London is unsafe for children. She grows up with also ten-year old, Aisling, and her large, noisy, Catholic family. The girls become best friends, and the book takes them through life struggles, losses and marriage problems, testing their beliefs, loyalties and friendship. This is a heart-warming book about friendship, and at times, a tear-jerker.

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TV newswoman Britt Shelly wakes up to find herself in bed with a Charleston police detective, who happens to be dead. She has no idea how she got there...
This page- turner involves a cover-up plot over what really happened involving a devastating fire five years earlier. Britt and ex-fire inspector Raley Gannon are on the run to get to the truth. There is lots of corruption, betrayal, lies, some romance, and there are enough interesting twists to keep you turning those pages!

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Stop reading blogs unless you are done reading this! Go get it NOW! I LOVED it! (Even though it took place in Washington D.C., and not Rome!) Costco has it. Go NOW!
Robert Langdon is back, this time running through secret, underground, or hidden chambers in our capitol. There are plenty of codes, symbols, and a horrible villain you'll love to be shocked by. Twists and turns in this fast-paced thriller will keep you reading all night. I didn't want it to end.

My October Bookshelf:

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
Testimony by Anita Shreve
The Pawn by Steven James
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

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October 9, 2009

What is That?: The Sparrow

If you haven't already seen this beautiful short film, take a moment to watch it now. Give a hug to your kids, your parents, and remember to be patient with those you love.
Have a great weekend, and Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends!


What is That?

October 20, 2009

Nello's Cucina

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After lots of shopping on Friday in Costa Mesa, we enjoyed a glass of wine at our hotel. Each of the tables in the courtyard, (we called it the piazza) had a different herb planted on the small pot. The result was a lovely scented courtyard with flowers as well as rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage on the tables.

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Later, we settled in for a casual dinner and some good pasta at Nello's Cucina, in South Coast Plaza.

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When it was time to order, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted, a dish I have always wanted to recreate at home, but never tried. It is called Rotelle di Pasta. It consists of a wide strip of pasta (like a lasagna noodle), rolled up with prosciutto, mozzarella and bechamel, then baked and topped with a vodka cream sauce. It is very rich and delicious!
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Brad couldn't decide between all the fresh pasta choices (although there were 20, not counting two risotto dishes). His hesitation led the waiter to suggest he "make up his own dish", so he did. He came up with linguini with olive oil, garlic, lemon, capers, feta and chicken.

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We went back to our hotel and sat in the courtyard, olive trees decked in white lights, and drank another glass of wine before bedtime.

October 22, 2009

Rogers Gardens: Autumn

This past weekend, I attended a therapist training in Costa Mesa, CA. Friday, was our pre-training "play day"!
We visited Roger's Gardens in Newport Beach. It was all decked out for autumn.

Fall flowers:

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Of course, I gravitated straight to the girasoli!

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Fall arrangements and tables:

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Even a miniature railroad display:

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But my favorite sight, were the fall leaves in the parking lot! We don't get this in the desert!

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November 5, 2009

Autumn Leaves

Fall colors are so beautiful! For me, seeing brilliant fall leaves are right up there next to poppy fields and miles of sunflowers. It is tough to do living in the California desert. I began my annual "fall colors hunt" in September when we were in Seattle! Here were the early photos I got there.

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Three weeks ago, I had a little "fall fix" in Orange County when I found these:

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I CRAVE seeing those fall colors! The weather has cooled off in the desert, so it FEELS like fall, and I am finally wearing jeans and sweaters (I know, it is still in the high 70s), cool in the mornings and evenings, but there are no fall leaves! All the traditional "spring flowers" are blooming, and it is beautiful to see lots of pansies, geraniums, snap dragons, petunias and impatiens, but where are the colorful autumn leaves??? I hit a jackpot of color on our recent visit to Oak Glen, in the San Bernadino mountains. I made Brad stop the car at least a dozen times for a leaf shot!

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Here is my FAVORITE! Isn't nature's paintbox amazing? There's an idea! Maybe I shall paint some autumn leaves of my own!

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November 6, 2009

October Books

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Books I read in October:

Plain Truth by Jody Picoult
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
Testimony by Anita Shreve
The Pawn by Steven James
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

My favorite was Peace Like a River. It was a family drama, set in the 60's, where the teenage son becomes an outlaw by shooting two boys who are bothering the girls in town, including his little sister. He runs away from the law, and his loyal family takes off across country to look for him.

November Books:

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The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Mudbound by Hillary Jordon
The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel
The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Last book club was at Barbara's. She made a great salad, and I brought the rest of dinner. I made a broccoli-cheddar quiche, and parmesan-caprese tart, and she had yummy Halloween cupcakes from Bristol Farms!

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November 11, 2009

Captive

The weather is cooling down. It is beautiful outside. Yet, I have been a prisoner in my own home for over two weeks. There is a terrorist rat in my backyard!

I have a SEVERE phobia of rodents. No sarcasm here. I really freak out, and can't even look at a picture of a mouse.

After our wedding, when we were commuting to the Bay Area, Brad had returned to his job in San Jose, and I had the rest of the week off at our home in La Quinta. The ceremony and reception had been in our home with caterers and guests in and out all weekend. On the Wednesday evening after the wedding, I saw a tiny field mouse skitter across the baseboard across the room from me. I barricaded myself in the master bedroom, stuffing beach towels under the door. I called Brad in hysterics while trying to breathe during my panic attack. There wasn't much he could do from San Jose, so he suggested calling the security guy at the main gate. The poor guy came, and searched the house for an hour, pulling out all appliances, and finding...nothing. I grabbed a change of underwear, my toothbrush, the book I was reading, and a bathing suit. The security guy brought me my purse and keys from the kitchen. He checked the entry hall again, and I made a dash to my car in the driveway, asking him to turn off lights, lock the house, and leave my key at the front gate of our community. I spent the next three nights at the closest hotel (where our wedding guests had just stayed). It took the exterminators three days to catch the little guy. I lived by the hotel pool, ordered room service meals, and read several books from the hotel gift shop.

Just about every two years, there has been a minor "incident" of some kind. There are "fruit rats" in the desert. Three years ago, we had one in our yard, but it ate bait and was dead the next morning. Two years ago, I was driving, and one crossed the intersection in front of my car. I had to stop driving in the middle of the street. I couldn't safely drive with it in my vision. Thank goodness there were no cars behind me. I sat there in the middle of the street with my eyes closed until it was gone.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a party for some Slow Travel friends. The day before, Brad moved our two pool rafts to the side of the house. That was when he saw this current unwanted visitor. He made a really wise choice, and did NOT tell me. I would have completely freaked out. 19 people in my yard, opening and closing the door, and all that food! What we don't know can't hurt us, and yes, ignorance was bliss! I was able to sit outside, drink my coffee, enjoy the flowers, with no terror. Now I am a prisoner.

A couple mornings after the party, I saw some rat "droppings" on the patio. I ran inside, told Brad, and THAT was when he told me he had seen a rat. I made him search the whole yard: under every bush, behind the pool, under the patio furniture, EVERYWHERE! He saw it again, on the side of the yard by the pool rafts.

We called in our exterminators. There are 4 bait traps. The critters are supposed to eat the poison, and DIE!. Not this rat. After a couple days, I hired new exterminators. He added bait, and also set several huge spring traps. Brad checks every day. New rat poop, but no dead body!

Last Saturday, almost 2 weeks after the party, I was on the phone in my kitchen. I happened to walk by the glass door, and the little f**ker ran across the patio right in front of me. Now I have the visual, as well as the fear!

Ego and I go outside only to our front courtyard. Even the dog has had to readjust. He has found new areas to go potty, but I miss the comfort and privacy of my back yard.

I am used to walking outside to pick fresh herbs when I cook. The other night, I couldn't make dinner until after Brad got home to go outside and pick me some sage!

I'm a therapist. I know this is "all in my head". I went to an anxiety specialist once. She said it was a very "deep ingrained phobia". There were no childhood traumas. I know I learned this from my mom. All of this insight is quite useless to me. I will not go into my backyard until one of two things happens: a dead body, or a few days with no new poop (so I can pretend he went to the neighbor's to die). This is SO creepy.

Ok, now you know what a neurotic mess I am. I am on edge, and living in what I am calling a "hostile environment". Every day, Brad wonders if we will have to move. I hope this ends soon. I have a dinner party in a couple weeks. I need a vacation.

November 18, 2009

Busy Social Weekend: Welcome Back!

First, let me say how crazy it made me that our host website was having tech difficulties, so I have not been able to blog for three days. To those who called, concerned that I had died or was in the hospital, it was just a website problem, so thanks for your concern. Ever the loyal blogger, I will go back and post what I had planned for the missing days!

Last week we had a busy weekend with friends. Pam and Carroll kicked off the season with a "Welcome Back" Party last Thursday evening. Welcome back from WHAT, you ask? Every November is when the "snowbirds" return to the desert for "season". They typically have another home is a cooler or snowy or rainy location, and spend winter and early spring in Palm Desert, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, or Palm Springs (all within 30 miles). This return from November to April or May is both good and bad for those of us who are "year-rounders". While we are able to deal with the heat of the summer, and most of us schedule our vacation sometime from May through September when it is HOT, we do enjoy the lack of crowds, traffic, and being able to walk into restaurants without reservations most nights. The change is dramatic! The city of Palm Desert alone, goes from 32,000 residents in the summer to 82,000 during "season"! The same trend is true for the rest of the valley cities, which tend to double from November to May!

Pam and Carroll started things off with a lovely cocktail party with fabulous entertainment. Marilyn and Randy of Rodeo Drive Music, sang from 4-&:30 while we enjoyed cocktails and appetizers. Then we all moved to Tea House Wine Bar for a delicious dinner! Pam and Carroll are gracious hosts who arranged every detail for a memorable evening!

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Friday and Saturday, we spend with our old friends, Lynn and Gary from Carmel. I met them 20 years ago when we all lived in San Carlos. We have spent some delightful weekends visiting their Carmel home, and they have been to the desert a coupe times over the years. This week, Gary joined his golf buddies for a week of golf, and Lynn flew in for the weekend. We had lots of fun catching up on our lives, and planning a spring weekend in Carmel!

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Sunday, we went out for burgers and beer with Jan and Les. It was quite a social weekend!

I haven't cooked for days! I need to get back to my kitchen!

November 20, 2009

Skipping Christmas

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Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I usually go WAY overboard with 5 Christmas trees, every room decorated (that includes two guest rooms, all the baths, and the casita where I see my clients), cards and a holiday poem, thousands of cookies and candies, dinners, and LOTS of presents (both mailed and under the trees). Last year I wrapped 88 gifts. I obviously also shopped for those gifts. That is pretty over-the top for people with no parents, siblings or kids!

This year, while we are not completely skipping Christmas, we are simplifying and reducing the excess from our holiday. There will be no gifts, no cards, ONE tree (the Italy tree), and I will still bake to my heart's content! That is my favorite part of December! Friends may get homemade goodies, but no commercial gifts are changing hands. We don't need a thing, and neither do our friends. All of my friends, except one, have agreed to no exchanging of gifts. I will have time to do something I've always wanted to do as a Christmas project (more on that later). We are "adopting" a family through a local charity, and providing a young family with food, clothing, and a few toys and holiday stockings to give them what they could otherwise not afford.

We have been invited to spend Christmas with several special people, but we are going to do something different there too. We're not quite sure what yet.I had hoped to spend Christmas in Rome this year, but that will have to wait for another holiday season. I am looking forward to a relaxed, stress-free month ahead.

November 25, 2009

1000 Posts

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I started blogging in November of 2006, an occasional post, with a couple of photos. Since February, 2008, I have become a DAILY blogger. Unless the website is having tech problems, or I am on an airplane to or from Italy (in which case I usually blog ahead, or quickly catch up), I have blogged every day for almost 2 years. I realized the other day that I have just over 1000 blog posts. It has become a part of daily life. Brad has been trained not to eat dinner until I get a photo. Sometimes I blog at night, but I usually post early in the morning right after my first cup of coffee. I really enjoy sharing recipes, trips, and everyday life.

We're off tonight for Thanksgiving in Las Vegas. We have free nights at Caesar's Palace, so off we will go after work. I've only had turkey on Thanksgiving 3 of the last 16 years. I plan to continue that trend. We have much to be thankful for. We wish all of you and your families a happy and safe holiday weekend!

January 3, 2010

Winter Sunsets

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There is usually SOME snow on Mt. San Jacino in Palm Springs in December and January. That is close enough for me to call a "White Christmas". At this time of the year, my east coast friends seem to miss the "pretty white stuff" (though most agree, they don't miss driving icy roads or shoveling it).

I love our winter sunsets. The other night, I glanced outside, then grabbed my camera!

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It was even better from the front yard and street!

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January 7, 2010

Love is All You Need

January 14, 2010

Orchids at Huntington Gardens

Enjoy my photos of some of the orchids at Huntington Gardens.

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January 20, 2010

A New Baby in the Family!

We can't wait to meet Noah! Sarah and Casey, you will be wonderful parents!

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January 21, 2010

Rain

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Rain is a rare thing in the desert. It's been raining for 4 days now, and that must be some kind of record. I am ready to be done, as it is not likely I will go for a walk until it stops.

I've never given much (or any) thought to rain gutters. When we were in Vancouver, WA, we noticed a neighborhood where the rain gutters were quite special. Check THESE out!

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I looked up "rain gutters" on the net and found that people have found other creative uses for them! Book storage, gardens, hiding electronic cords, and ...

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The Boy Scouts had a regatta!

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We have NO rain gutters at all! I'm sure there is an umbrella somewhere in the hall closet I need to find.

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January 22, 2010

Need a Hero? Be Inspired by This Young Man

If you have not seen Patrick's story, watch it today. What an amazing young man!

The next time I catch myself complaining about an ache, a pain, a cold, a diet, or a minor inconvenience, I will watch this again.

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January 25, 2010

Stormy Weather

Last week's rain was something else! We had a sunny Saturday and Sunday, but more rain is due tomorrow!

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January 27, 2010

January Books: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

I read several books this month:

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In addition to these, my book club just finished The White Queen, by Philippa Gregory.

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It is a historical fictional story of "The Cousins' War", and the first in a trilogy about the Plantagenets. I had certainly forgotten my history of England, and this book tells the story of "The War of the Roses", long forgotton by me since my high school days.
The book begins when young, widowed Elizabeth meets King Edward, and manages to marry him. The rest of the story is a series of births, deaths, and many battles. There is a mystical/magical element woven through the story, that I really enjoyed. It seemed that Elizabeth and her mother had some "gifts" that others called witchcraft. At times I had trouble keeping straight all of the Edwards, Richards, Georges, Elizabeths, Annes and Kathryns. Elizabeth struggles with keeping the power of the throne, and keeping her many children safe. It took me a while to get into the story, but, I did ultimately enjoy this well-written account of this period of English history, and would recommend it.

I hosted our book club this month, so I set our table for royalty. Here are Barbara and Nancy,

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and Linda and Madonna at dinner.

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Tomorrow...dessert fit for a QUEEN!

February 23, 2010

Daffodils!

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February 25, 2010

Pasta Memories

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Last weekend, in Fresno, we visited the Piemonte's, the Italian deli where my mom shopped weekly when I was a child. It has moved, and it has new owners, but I had quite a feeling of nostalgia when I walked in the door.

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There were the Italian pictures on the walls, the jars of brioche (for digestion) that my uncles used to buy, the Italian hard candies filled with jelly, and the little boxes of nougat (Torrone).

The salami case looked smaller, and the cheeses looked like nothing out of the ordinary.

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I melted when I saw the five-gallon cans of olive oil my mom used to buy! I am somewhat of an olive oil snob, but I was tempted to buy one as a $44 decoration for my kitchen, as my mom's family were from near Bari.

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I chatted with the owner about the "old days" growing up in Fresno. He walked in the back, and took something off the wall. He returned and said, "You may even remember this from the old store." He handed me an old photo thermometer from the 50's that hung in the original location. OF COURSE I remembered it! I saw it every week when shopping with my mom! What a blast from the past! It always reminded me of a picture in my catechism book.

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Now let's get to the PASTA! Every couple of months, my mom would "take orders" from her four sisters, and make "a pasta run". They bought various kinds of pasta in 20 pound boxes like these and split them up. There were NO one pound boxes of bags. These came in bulk. When you opened the cardboard box, there was 20 pounds of penne, linguine, rigatoni, or whatever shape. They purchased at least 5 or six boxes at a time, and took some of each. My mom kept hers in huge tupperware containers in the garage during winter, and in the outside fridge in the summer. They measured by "feel", dumping the right amount into the huge pots of boiling water, whether cooking for two or twenty-two! Boy, did those boxes bring back memories. Of course, they also made homemade pasta and meat sauce on Sundays. The dried stuff was for "quick weeknight dinners".

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How much pasta is in YOUR kitchen? More on that tomorrow...

March 8, 2010

Obesity in American Children

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According to the American Heart Association:

Among American children ages 2–19, the following are overweight or obese, using the 95th percentile or higher of body mass index (BMI) values on the CDC 2000 growth chart:

For non-Hispanic whites, 31.9 percent of males and 29.5 percent of females.
For non-Hispanic blacks, 30.8 percent of males and 39.2 percent of females.
For Mexican Americans, 40.8 percent of males and 35.0 percent of females.

These overweight children are likely to become overweight adults, at risk for all kinds of medical problems:high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, orthopedic problemsand many others. Along with these come body image issues, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

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The causes? Well, it is really very simple. They are eating more calories than they are burning off. We can at least blame a couple of things: fast foods, high in fat and calories, and processed and high carb foods eaten at home or school.

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The second issue is exercise. I certainly remember coming home from school, changing into play clothes, and playing outside until dark! I walked to school, and rode my bike every day. Now many children go from school to the television, computer, video games, My Space, Facebook, and texting their friends.

Chef Jamie Oliver is doing something about it! "Jamie Oiver's Food Revolution" premieres Friday March 26 on ABC. In the series, he will go to Huntington, West Virginia, the "unhealthiest city in America" to change the whole town's eating habits. He will begin with their school system. Check out the video here:

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March 15, 2010

The Morning After

What do you do after a great 4-day event? Sunday, after brunch, we drove home, unloaded the car, had wine and taralli with Jerry and Paul, and then stuffed ourselves with burgers and beer (or coffee) at "Burgers and Beer", rehashing the highlights of the weekend.

At 5:15 AM on Monday, Brad is up getting ready for work, Jerry is blogging, and Palma is caffeinating while the cinnamon roll dough is rising...

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More later, when the sun comes up!

March 25, 2010

Visit with Jerry and Paul, Jen and Chris

After the San Diego Gathering, Jerry and Paul came to visit for a couple of days. Sunday night, I was too tired to walk into my kitchen, so we had a fun, casual meal at "Burgers and Beer" (coffee for me).

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Monday, after a hearty breakfast of "Harry's Eggs" and slow-to-rise cinnamon rolls, the boys went up to Joshua Tree for a couple of hours to "see the real desert". I ran errands and bought some groceries.

That afternoon, we drove by my old neighborhood in La Quinta and met Brad for happy hour. Then we feasted on a variety of fun and high-calorie foods at the Tea House Wine Bar: Duck pizza, salads, risotto, lamb lollipops, crab-stuffed mushrooms, orange shrimp, hot poppers and crab and shrimp cakes were consumed.

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Tuesday, we began the day with Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast with Blueberry Syrup (scroll down for recipe), bacon, fruit and juice.

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The morning "tour" included the Palm Desert Visitor's Center, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Trader Joe's and Bristol Farms (highlights for foodies). After lunch, Super Target, and pool time! Don't you LOVE this photo?

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As you can see the days revolved around the next meal. We had appetizers on the patio, then Brad fixed strawberry-balsamic martinis.

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Dinner included, gorgonzola ravioli for the boys, salad with pears and blue cheese, braised short ribs with figs and honey, cheesy polenta and thyme-carrots. Dessert for the boys included mini vanilla and chocolate cheesecakes. Wine and coffee were consumed until we all dropped.

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One more breakfast for the road...ebleskivers with jam and burrata with prosciutto! I headed to work with green chocolate chip cookies for my staff in honor of St. Patrick's Day, and Jerry and Paul drove through Palm Springs, hit the Cabazon Outlets, and ended their day at Firenze Osteria. I could BARELY make BBQ corned beef panini for dinner.

Thursday was a long, busy work day, but my reward was an evening with Jen and Chris! They came over for a glass of wine, and then we all had dinner at Acqua Pazza. It was so great to have more time to visit and talk about our amazing weekend in San Diego!

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Friday, I SLEPT for 12 hours!

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Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast from Gourmet Today Cookbook

1 24" baguette
6 large eggs
2 c. milk
1 c. packed brown sugar, divided
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. vanilla
4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

Butter or spray a 13x9" baking dish. Cut 20 1" slices from the baguette and arrange in one layer in the baking dish. Whisk together eggs, milk, 3/4 c. of the brown sugar, nutmeg and vanilla. Pour over bread and soak for 10 minutes. Turn bread over, pressing down to coat slices, cover, and chill overnight, or at least 8 hours.

Remove baking pan from fridge. Preheat oven to 350 and put rack in center. Combine butter, remaining 1/4 c. brown sugar, and cream in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in pecans and pour evenly over bread. Bake 45 minutes until bread is puffed, and topping is golden brown.

Blueberry Syrup

1 c. blueberries
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1 T. lemon juice

Combine blueberries and syrup in small saucepan, and cook over moderate heat about 3 minutes until berries burst. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Try it with more fresh berries on top!

This Do-Ahead breakfast is great for company, as most of the work is done the night before. It is also delicious with just maple syrup!

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March 28, 2010

Happy Palm Sunday!

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It's my NAME DAY, or "Palma Sunday" as we call it, and in the tradition of my family, a very special day at our house. I am spending it doing things I love: some baking, time relaxing by the pool, and Brad and I are cooking a special dinner. Perfect!

Have a great day too!

April 2, 2010

Make Someone's Day

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I had one of those days where every little thing goes wrong. Nothing major, just small annoyances: printer problem (OK now), broke TWO nails, plumber came an hour late, and left without finishing installing the new powder room faucet. I forgot to bring what I needed on an errand. Tried 3 times to fax something. Ended up THEIR fax machine was having problems, wasting an hour of my time...

Finally, on my way home, I slowly approached the middle school down the street at dismissal time. I saw a chubby, awkward looking boy be hassled and teased by a couple of kids. I finally stopped at the red light as he was walking home carrying a large science project of a volcano model. It looked heavy and difficult to carry. The boy did NOT look happy (despite the upcoming Spring Break). As he passed me on the sidewalk, I rolled down my passenger window, and yelled, "That volcano is AWESOME!" while giving him a thumbs up. His face lit up like a Christmas tree and he BEAMED a huge smile back at me. It felt SO good to make him smile. Wouldn't it be so nice and so simple if everyone made someone smile every day?

April 15, 2010

Guests from New Hampshire

Last week our guests arrived for a quick visit on Thursday and Friday. Brad has known Pam and Ingrid, (and their husband/father, Glenn) for almost thirty years, and he is Ingrid's Godfather. Brad and Glenn became friends in the Philippines in 1972 when they were in the Air Force. Pam is originally from London, and the family lived for the last 25 years as ex pats in Brussels, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

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Ingrid returned to the U.S. for college, and besides three visits to the desert, she spent a week with me in my Maui condo. Her parents returned to the states 6 years ago. For the past five years they have become innkeepers at their beautiful New Hampshire Bed and Breakfast, Glynn House Inn. Check it out!

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We had a nice visit catching up, and laughing at some of their most outrageous innkeeper stories. At under thirty years old, Ingrid's passports read like War and Peace! She has visited at least 60 countries, second only to her dad's list of close to 120! We hope to visit Glynn House for a long fall weekend sometime!

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April 21, 2010

A Sunday Ride

Last Sunday was a beautiful, so we decided on a day thrip to Carlsbad. We began with brunch at Bistro West.

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SO many choices sounded good! There was even a short rib omelette on the menu. We decided to share a seafood omelette with shrimp, crab and scallops, and Brad's favorite: corned beef hash eggs Benedict! It was all tasty!

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After lunch, we visited the garden center, and I drooled over flowers, especially those that I can't grow in the desert's hot summers!

Then we walked through the acres of blooming ranunculus at the Flower Fields. They were spectacular! Hope you enjoy this album. Click on any photo for a larger shot.

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April 22, 2010

A "Goodbye" Party for Chrissy

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I made a little "Lemon Blast Cake" for a "Goodbye" Party for Chrissy, one of my intern supervisees at Catholic Charities. (That's a lemon cake, with limoncello, and filled with my lemon curd, topped with lemon-cream cheese frosting.)

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Chrissy will be leaving for a full time position with benefits! This is an exciting and rare position for a pre-licensed therapist. Luckily, she will finish up for a few weeks with a couple of clients, so she and I will still meet weekly for individual supervision.

We had a little luncheon for the staff to wish her good luck!

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We really enjoy working together, so it is difficult to lose a fun, happy member of the group.

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April 26, 2010

A Sister Gives a Wedding

Friday, we left sunny southern California to drive 5 hours up 101 for Kim and Ed's daughter's wedding. I was maid of honor in Kim and Ed's wedding 31 years ago, and the "Auntie Yayas" began arriving in Cayucas, Ca, a small central coast beach town on Friday afternoon.

We had a nice lunch in Santa Barbara on our way up the coast, but the weather was considerably cooler than my comfort level. Fifty something...I was layered in cashmere and a leather jacket and scarf!

We had a fabulous dinner at Hoppes. Who knew there we be such fine dining in Cayucas?

Brad began with grilled quail with roasted pears and Point Reyes blue cheese.

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My appetizer was a wonderful combination of seared foie gras with mangos, figs and balsamic.

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Our entrees were Brad's venison with pomegranate, and my flat iron steak with crispy onions and shaved parmigiano.

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By 9:00, three more yayas found us at dinner, and we moved to the bar for coffee, dessert and a bottle of port with Barbie and Vince (from Atlanta), Margie and Crys (from Reno), and Suzy and Kevin (from Fresno). Let the games begin! Soon, Kim and Ed were done with the rehearsal dinner, and after closing the bar, we moved next door to a very western "saloon" with my least favorite country music live and loud! Drinks were poured...

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Tomorrow: More Yayas and more wedding fun!

April 27, 2010

Ashley and Jeff's Wedding

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April 29, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain

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If you love dogs, or if you just want to read a very clever, heartwarming, funny, sad and inspiring book, run out and get this TODAY! The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, is the story of a family narrated by their dog, Enzo, who believes he has a human soul. Enzo watches TV, learns all about life from his master Denny, a race car driver, and communicates with those he loves (or doesn't like) in the only way he can as a pooch. Denny faces a series of tragedies with his wife, Eve, and daughter, Zoe, and Enzo is there for him in every way possible. If you wonder what your dog "thinks", if you will enjoy the clever and humorous narration from Enzo, and be moved by this creative and engaging book!

May 3, 2010

Trilussa: Ciao for the Summer

Last week's weather was weird. We had wind, wind, and more wind. Here, that means, sand, sand, and more sand. Everything on the patio was covered with a layer of fine, gritty sand...DAILY. If you tried to hose off the cement, or Windex the table, you got MUD, so everything had to be swept, or blown, before cleaning.

On Friday night, (as evidenced from the wind tunnel hair), we had a "Good-bye for the summer" dinner with Jan and Les, at Trilussa. We celebrated all the events we will miss (birthdays, anniversaries) until they are back next fall. Good friends and good food made us forget the wind!

My veal with lemon was yummy (although I was lusting after everyone's pasta, I enjoyed my veal and broccoli).

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Brad had a great linguine with shrimp and scallops.

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I REALLY wanted Les' carbonara as it is my favorite in the desert! He let me have a bite. ; ) I taught Les all about carbonara, and must make it for him at least once a year. (I think we are due!)

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Jan liked her chicken marsala and pasta.

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Since it seemed like a celebration at our table, the waitress brought out tiramisu to share.

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It was a great evening, and now we are in the 90s WITHOUT the wind!

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We will miss having Jan and Les to play with all summer!

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May 16, 2010

It's Not Fair! Support a Good Teacher!

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This is a photo of my Godaughter-in-law, Chaudra with her two children, Cadi and Cheira. This article recently appeared in the Roseville newspaper, The Press Tribune, written by Sena Christian:

"Stephanie Soehn couldn’t wrap her mind around the difference between DNA and another type of molecule called RNA.

The Antelope High School student had missed class for a doctor’s appointment only to hear from her science teacher she had a test the next day. Her teacher handed her notes and told her to “Google it,” but Soehn still failed to comprehend the lesson.

Then Soehn turned to teacher Chaudra Wood.

“I go to Ms. Wood freaking out for the test tomorrow,” Soehn said. “I said ‘Can you help me?’ She laughed and said, ‘I’m a math teacher. But what do you need?’”

Wood helped Soehn grasp the complicated material and the student got an A on the exam.

“That’s when I knew she was one of the best teachers on campus,” Soehn, 15, said.

But Wood may not be there next year.

On May 4, the Roseville Joint Union High School District voted unanimously to approve the layoff notices of 25 teachers. Wood, a teacher with 10 years experience, received a pink slip in March. The board’s decision means she will be out of a job unless the district rescinds the notices before the upcoming school year.

“It is truly very personally distressing to have to approve layoff notices,” said board member Scott Huber. “Our goal is finding a way to rescind the notices and keep the district financially viable because we have to balance our budget for the next three years.”

The district currently faces a $3.9 million budget deficit. Roughly 83 percent of the district’s general fund budget — of about $72 million — covers salaries and benefits.

“That’s the lion’s share of our expenses,” Huber said. “I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just the reality of it.”

The layoffs will save the district $1.3 million, said Ronald Severson, assistant superintendent of personnel services.

Huber said the district dipped into its reserves to prevent some layoffs. California state law requires the district maintain a general fund budget reserve of no less than 3 percent of total expenditures. Board policy requires an additional 2 percent reserve.

“The district will face financial struggles in the future and the only way to cover that is to have viable reserves in times of economic uncertainty,” Huber said.

The reality of the district’s budget crisis doesn’t make the layoff news any easier for the teachers potentially out of a job, nor for the students they impact.

Soehn, now a sophomore, had Wood for geometry and algebra 2. When she heard her favorite teacher might be laid off, she decided to speak out during public comment at a school board meeting in April. She wrote a speech honoring Wood.

“It’s so obvious that Ms. Wood is really good,” Soehn said. “A lot of my friends were really disappointed.”

State law requires that teachers with the least seniority in a district be issued layoff notices first, which board members explained to Soehn.

“Wow, I was mad,” she said. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’”

Wood, 32, taught math for eight years at C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento before transferring to Roseville two years ago to be closer to her home in Antelope and spend more time with her two young daughters.

“I don’t feel like a new teacher,” Wood said. “It’s hard to know I’m really experienced in what I do … I think experience should count for something.”

Her husband Corey, also a teacher at Antelope High School, kept his job — but the couple can’t survive financially on one teacher’s salary, she said. Wood will patch together tutoring jobs. She won’t take another teaching job because she doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to be rehired in Roseville.

“I’ll definitely miss (teaching),” Wood said. 'I’ve never had a job doing something else.'"

This is just not right. If 600 people gave $9.00 a month for a year to "save a good teacher", they would still have a job. Who is a good teacher? That should be decided by student and peer review. I wish I had a better idea on how to save teaching positions (other tan taking the money out of the politicians salaries). Very few people know how much time and energy teachers spend to work with their students. They are underpaid and under-valued. But a pink slip after ten years of dedication is just WRONG!

May 17, 2010

A Busy Weekend

We had a busy and fun weekend with friends. Saturday, after printing out what I need for Italy, charging the Italian cell phones, and making a Google map of restaurants in Bologna, we went out to dinner with Fiona, Steve, and a couple we knew in the Bay Area. Abby and John were neighbors 23 years ago in San Carlos. They have been in the desert for 5 years, and it was great to re-connect with them! They now are here full time!

Sunday, after pool time, last minute packing, we joined our Italian Meet-Up group. We had a great happy hour GTG with others sharing in plans for two of us who will soon be off on Italian adventures.

Then we saw Letters to Juliet for an enjoyable ending to the weekend.

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Sweet, predictable, and filled with fabulous scenery of both Verona and Tuscany. Vanessa Redgrave was regal! No violence, just a fun way to spend a couple of hours preparing all of your senses for Italy!

May 19, 2010

My Pillow

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I thought I would tell you the story of my pillow.

I got my first big pillow at age two. I slept with that pillow until I moved to Palm Desert, over 5 years ago. It was the only pillow I ever had (or wanted) for 50 years! Then I got a new pillow. It wasn't quite the same, but it worked for 3 years, until I left it in a hotel in Fresno. I got another pillow and left it in the hotel after the San Diego Gathering in March. They wouldn't mail it back to me with out me getting them a box. USPS, Fed EX, nor UPS would deliver them a box for me, so I bought ANOTHER new pillow. I thought it was the same one I had. It was NOT. It has too much down in it. It doesn't squish quite enough for me.

This morning, I cut a slit in the seam and emptied one-third of the down into my trash compactor. Make that one-sixth, as another sixth was all over my kitchen, my hair, my white pants, the dog, and the kitchen sink. It looked like it was snowing in the kitchen. The only thing worse than sweeping up down feathers, is gathering up WET down feathers. Whose feather-brained idea was that? (groan) I'm sure 1000 ducks gave their life for me.

I took my pillow to the dry cleaners, and asked if they could stitch it back up. They could have it ready by Saturday. That won't work, as I am leaving my house Thursday, and I need to bring my pillow!!!

I cook, I make jewelry, I can deal with chef tools, and craft supplies, but I do NOT sew. AT ALL. So, I found a whole new use for duct tape, or should I say, "duck tape".

It quacked me up!

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Here are a few more groans...

A duck walks into a 7-11 and says, "Give me some chapstick and put it on my bill."

Q. What do you get with two ducks and a cow?
A. Quackers and milk.

Q. What do ducks eat for breakfast?
A. Quacker Oats.

Q. What do you call a duck who plays bridge?
A. Donald Trump.

Q. Why was the duck con released?
A. Because he got credit for good con-duck.

Q. What do you call a cat that swallows a duck?
A. A duck-filled-fatty-pus

A man is driving a pick-up truck down the road with a bunch of ducks standing in the back. A police officer pulls over the driver, informs him that he is speeding and then asks him where he's going with all those ducks. The driver says that he doesn't know what to do with them anymore. The officer says, "Look, there's a zoo not far from here and that's where you should take them." The man thanks the officer and drives off with his ducks.

The next day the officer again sees the same pick-up truck barreling down the road. This time, though, all the ducks in the back are wearing sunglasses. The officer pulls the driver over and says, "I thought I told you to take those ducks to the zoo!" "I did," said the driver, "but now they want to go to the beach!"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary surgeon. As she lay her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird's chest. After a moment or two, the vet shook his head sadly and said, "I'm so sorry, your Duck Cuddles has passed away."

The distressed owner wailed, "Are you sure?

"Yes, I am sure. The duck is dead," he replied.

How can you be so sure," she protested. "I mean, you haven't done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something."

The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room, and returned a few moments later with a black Labrador Retriever. As the duck's owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then looked at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head. The vet patted the dog and took it out, and returned a few moments later with a cat.

The cat jumped up on the table and also sniffed delicately at the bird from head to foot. The cat sat back on it's haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room.

The vet looked at the woman and said, "I'm sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck."

Then the vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman. The duck's owner, still in shock, took the bill. "$150!", she cried, "$150 just to tell me my duck is dead!!

"The vet shrugged. "I'm sorry. If you'd taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan, it's now $150.00.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Three guys had an accident and went straight to heaven. When they got there, St. Peter said, "We only have one rule in heaven. Don't step on the ducks!"

They entered heaven and sure enough there were ducks all over the place. It was almost impossible not to step on a duck and although they tried their best to avoid them the first guy accidentally stepped on one.

Along came St. Peter with the homeliest woman he ever saw. St. Peter chained them together and said, "Your punishment for stepping on a duck is to spend eternity chained to this homely woman".

The next day, the second guy stepped accidentally on a duck and along came St. Peter, who didn't miss a thing, and with him was another extremely homely woman. He chained them together with the same admonishment as the first.

The third guy had observed all this and not wanting to be chained for all eternity to a horrible looking woman was very careful where he stepped. He managed to go for months without stepping on any ducks. Then one day, St. Peter came up to him with the most gorgeous woman he had ever laid eyes on. St. Peter chained them together without saying a word.

The guy remarked, "I wonder what I did to deserve being chained to you for all eternity?"

She replied, "I don't know about you, but I stepped on a duck"!

July 1, 2010

Book Club Lunch: The Girl Who Played with Fire

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I hosted this month's Book Club lunch. We are a smaller group during the summer, and there were four of us. We discussed Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played with Fire, and all agreed we liked it even more than The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. Linda has already started the third book, and I'm sure we will all read it.

We caught up on recent trips (they wanted to hear me speak Italian!), and future summer plans.

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I love fixing lunch for this group:

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Grilled cold chicken with tonnato sauce

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Salad with nectarines and peach vinaigrette

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baguette with mozzarella and anchovy butter sauce

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Mascarpone-berry cheesecake

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July 22, 2010

It Feels So Good!

35 pair of shoes
33 pants/capris
10 skirts
2 dresses
11 jackets
36 tops
17 purses

A Shopping spree? NO

I purged my closet! Everything that is left now fits in the space (and fits ME), and it is not crowded with things I no longer wear! Each rack is organized by color.

Next...the drawers!

August 2, 2010

Brandini Toffee

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I love ANY story where the motivation for reaching a goal is a trip to Italy, but this true story of two enterprising young teenagers really takes the cake... or I should say TOFFEE! Here is the amazing story of Brandini Toffee.

Four years ago, Brandon and his best friend Leah, came home from school very excited about a teacher's plans for a trip to Italy. They asked their parents if they could go, and the answer was, "Yes, but you have to earn half the money yourselves." That was the beginning of their idea to make and sell Brandon's homemade toffee. Now, four years later, they are shipping the delicious stuff all over the world.

After tasting the toffee and hearing the story at my book club, Brad and I visited their large Rancho Mirage shop, and were greeted by Brandon. I told him I wanted to write a blog about them, and he graciously took us on a tour, and told us their story.

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On their busiest days, they make up to 1000 pounds of toffee in a day with 10 employees (friends of the moms).

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Next, we met Leah, drizzling chocolate over their newest product of toffee covered popcorn "poppers".

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We met Brandon's mom, (just back from a trip to Italy). Both Brandon and Leah say, "We couldn't have done this without our parents' help and support!" In 2007, they visited Assisi, Florence, Pisa and Rome.

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Achievements: (These are just a few. The list goes on and on!)

Just last week, the "toffee kids" were on the Food Network's Chef's vs City in Palm Springs.

Desert Magazine "Best of the Valley"
Best Chocolate Shop 2009 and 2010

Brandon and Leah both were recipients of the McKelvey Foundation Entrepreneurial Scholarship for $10,000 per year for college.

They were on the Martha Stewart Show!

The made the "O List" from Oprah's magazine!

Currently, Brandon is studying business management at the University of Arizona, and Leah is studying business at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, but while they are away at school, the rest of the family keeps things running smoothly, and younger siblings are saving up for their college tuitions.

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I can't say enough about these two clean-cut, poised, enthusiastic young people. They gave us toffee to take home, and we bought some for a hostess gift (that it is VERY unlikely will go past our kitchen and tummies). They have even added a coffee bar to their shop. I will be back...again and again!

Hmmmmm... I want to go to Italy! I wonder how many pounds of taralli I could crank out a day? On second thought, I better stick to my day job!

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August 17, 2010

In Memory of Ego: 1992-2010

It was a very sad day last week when we said good-bye to our very sweet dog, Ego.
He had a long, happy life with us for almost 18 years. We miss him very much, and it is very quiet around the house. Ego was always a "mama's boy" and followed me everywhere like a little shadow. He was a sweet, and loving friend and companion. We think he has joined his brother, Id, in doggie heaven, and while Id is teaching windsurfing and other "must have balance" water sports, Ego is the swimming and diving instructor. He LOVED the pool, and just like his mom, swimming was Ego's favorite exercise. We had a lot in common: blonde, friendly, love to eat and take naps, affectionate... there were many happy years with my little buddy.

Ego's last moments were at home. He was licking my face, moments before his peaceful eternal asleep began in my arms.

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August 18, 2010

Sweet Ego Pie

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I'm really missing my little buddy. Ego spent much of his time in the kitchen...under foot. I tripped over him at least once a day, or couldn't turn on the dishwasher or get into a drawer or cabinet he was blocking.

To help me deal with my grief, I threw myself into lots of cooking and baking on Ego's last days. In his honor, I named this "Sweet Ego Pie" (sweet and a little nutty).

1 recipe of Nutella gelato
1 recipe of Frangelico gelato
1 chocolate-hazelnut crust
1 jar fudge sauce

First, I made a batch of Nutella gelato, and a batch of Frangelico gelato.

8 egg yolks
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. milk
3/4 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
1/3 c. Frangelico liquor

Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat cream, milk, and sugar until almost a boil. Pour half the hot cream mixture into the yolks, then return it to the saucepan with the remaining cream and whisk over medium heat. Continue whisking for about 7-8 minutes until mixture thickens and coats a spoon. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and Frangelico. Chill until very cold, and process custard in your ice cream maker. Store in a container in the freezer.

Crust:

Combine with a fork:
1 1/2 c. chocolate cookie crumbs
1/2 cup of ground, toasted hazelnuts
2 T. sugar
6 T. melted butter

Press evenly into sides and bottom of a 9" glass pie pan. Bake at 350 for 9 minutes.
Cool completely.

Set out Frangelico gelato for about 10 minutes to soften. spread half way up sides and along bottom of crust. Freeze for at least 1 hour. Top with fudge. Freeze for another hour. Fill with softened Nutella gelato. Freeze for an hour. Before serving, drizzle with fudge sauce, and chopped, toasted hazelnuts.

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Blogging Issues

My blog has not been working normally for a week and a half! Between Kim's magic and my persistence, the last several entries have eventually gotten on. I can't always post or see comments, and we are WAITING for the tech gurus to find the problem. In the meantime, I may be away for a few days. I am posting this in a moment when the blog seems to be cooperating, but that in inconsistent.

Please be patient my dear readers. I'll be back when I can!

August 19, 2010

Old and New Friends Make Pasta

We spent a great weekend with old and new guests!

A few weeks ago, at my 40th high school reunion, I reconnected with Jeff, a classmate from Junior High and high school, who lives in southern California. I also invited my sorority sister, Connie, down for the weekend.

Out came the garganelli tools, with Brad rolling out lots of pasta dough.

I put everyone to work on Saturday afternoon in the kitchen...

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Connie, really got the hang of it right away!

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Jeff was determined, and also got the rolling motion down.

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They were on a "roll", and soon had plenty of garganelli for our first course for dinner. I think wine helped!

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We all enjoyed the results of our labors!

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August 26, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

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Well, I loved the book, and I really enjoyed the movie! Julia Roberts is wonderful in her portrayal of Elizabeth Gilbert's year of travel to Italy, India and Bali to "find herself".

The scenes in Rome are delicious, and I loved her Italian friends. It was no surprise how HAPPY she became and BLESSED she felt in Italy. She even had a "relationship" with pizza. The spaghetti scene is great. I could relate to all of it! I read from the food stylist in Bon Appetit, that she was eating FAKE gelato, because it was so hot the day they were filming, that the real stuff kept melting, so she is eating some kind of whipped edible foam.

The lessons learned in India were important, even though, I had no desire to join her there, and Bali was.....beautiful and sensual!

My book club read the book a while ago, and saw the movie together. I think I'd like to see it again with Brad.

After the movie, my book club had a great Italian dinner at Linda's home. Yum!

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September 26, 2010

Exciting Family News

I interrupt the Veneto travel photos for exciting family news!

Noah (and his mom and dad, Sarah and Casey) sent me these photos.

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April will bring Noah a new baby brother! Whoo Hoo!

October 8, 2010

Just a Bite

I loved the bakery a block from our hotel in Bassano because all of their desserts were miniature. You go go get just a cookie, or a tiny tart, or even a baby panna cotta. It was perfect for a snack without guilt, or just "a little something" to have with a cup of coffee.

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a couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with my friend, Janie. We shared a sandwich and talked non-stop about Italy! Then we had "just a bite" (or two) of dessert!

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October 11, 2010

A Touch of Fall

I am usually the first one up. I LOVE morning. After a lovely sunrise and a couple cups of coffee, I took a walk around Fiona and Steve's neighborhood. I saw a huge coyote on the hill behind their house. Just a few minutes later, I saw a woman hiking where that coyote had just been. YIKES! I stayed on the nice flat, paved streets with houses! They have a beautiful clubhouse/gym/pool/activity center.

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They also have a wine bar, convenience store, dry cleaners and bistro within the community! It is all pet-friendly, so you can certainly see why Fiona, Steve, Rocky (the dog) and Trinket (the cat) like living here in the summer!

What I was most hoping for were some fall colors. They are just beginning, but I was VERY happy. We don't get these leaves in Palm Desert! It was a nice crisp fall morning too!

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October 13, 2010

What's Next?

Amazing!

October 15, 2010

The Big Scare

May:

Before I went to Bologna in May, I had what appeared to be a tiny pimple on the crown of my head. I could feel it when I shampooed my hair, and my hairdresser noticed it when I had my hair cut. Brad looked at it. No big deal.

June:

It seemed a little bigger and wasn't going away, so I decided to have a doctor check it out. Not as simple as you may think. We have Kaiser Health Insurance. I HATE to go to the doctor. Aside from my annual mammogram, I haven't seen a doctor in 2 years. I called to make an appointment with my GP, and learned she has left Kaiser, or the desert, or whatever. Fine. I'll get a new doctor, because God knows I can't see a dermatologist without a referral. Appointment made for July.

July:

See new snippy GP who says, in 2 seconds, "Oh, that looks like skin cancer. You need to see a plastic surgeon in Fontana." (Fontana is 1 hour and 15 minutes from here.)
May I point out that there is a plastic surgeon on EVERY CORNER in the desert. There are more facelifts, etc. done here than ANYWHERE except Hollywood. (She says a regular dermatologist can't do it, because head bleeds a lot, and you'll need a surgeon to "stitch you up".) Appointment made with plastic surgeon in Fontana in August.

I am freaking out, will not go outside in the sun, only swim after dark. Who puts sunscreen on their HEAD (except bald guys)?

August:

I buy a hat in San Diego at Pinot and Ponies. Wear it whenever I am outside. HATE it. It makes your head sweat, and have "hat hair"!

I drive to Fontana to see the surgeon. He is kind and patient and answers all my dumb questions. He says it is NOT Melanoma, and we can wait until I come back from Italy to do a biopsy. They will give me shots in my head to numb it, then take a sample, stitch it up and wait a week for the pathology report.

I might as well interject how I feel about having my head TOUCHED AT ALL!
I won't let my hairdresser shampoo me or blow me dry. It is torture enough to blow my own hair dry each day. I HATE doing it! I won't let Brad touch my head. No one touches my head. I would rather go to the dentist than have my hair CUT!

Then he explains EVERYTHING that COULD happen.

Best case: basal cell carcinoma

They would do the shots in the head to numb me, then cut it out and stitch me up. I could do this in a "procedure room" and be awake, OR in the O.R. with an IV to make me loopy, or they could put me completely out with general anesthesia. I need a valium just THINKING about it!

More serious: squamous cell carcinoma

Then they need to cut a BIGGER, DEEPER margin. He showed me the size of an egg with his fingers. Then the hair doesn't grow back, and there is a permanent bald spot.
Scalp skin doesn't stretch that far, so they would take skin from my NECK, and do a skin graft. YOWEEEEEEEEEE!

September:

I go to Italy and wear the damn hat in the sun. I have "hat hair" at dinner. I hope for rainy, cloudy days. I try not to think about the upcoming biopsy when I get home. I eat well and drink plenty of wine. I have a great trip, but the thoughts are there daily.
I light candles in every church in the Veneto I am near. I try not to be scared, but I AM scared.

September 24:

7:30 a.m.:The doctor's office calls and says he is out sick today, but his PA, Brittany, can do the biopsy. The voice says Brittany is very good, and very gentle, and everyone loves her. She says Brittany did a biopsy on HER. OK, I want to get this OVER WITH! Brad drives me to Fontana at 1:00 They won't let him come in with me. I have two therapy "stress toys" with me: a heart and a brain. I could squeeze the hell out of them. Did I mention that I've never had surgery? (except my tonsils out at age 12).

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When I got there, my blood pressure was 165/98! (when I left it was normal)
Brittany WAS a doll and she was very gentle. They covered my eyes with a towel for the bright lights pointing at my head. The shot wasn't my funnest moment, and it burned, but I was fine. My head was numb, numb, numb! The rest, I didn't feel, and the whole procedure took 20 minutes. We went out to lunch. My friend, Roxanne, came that evening and I was sore and didn't sleep well, but no bleeding, and I felt better in the morning. It was great that I had a distraction, and we ate well. I had goopy, greasy, antiseptic junk in my hair for a week while I waited for the results.

October 1:

I had to go to an all day training in Riverside. There were lots of "team-building exercises" (relays, charades, dancing, etc.). I kept my phone on ALL day. In the car on the way home, my phone rang, and it was Kaiser with my results. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Hansen, but the biopsy was INCONCLUSIVE. We will call to reschedule ANOTHER BIOPSY!" WTF?

I tried to speak with the doctor, but he was at a conference in Toronto. I tried to speak with Brittany, but she was "on sick leave". Great. We were back at square one, and STILL don't know a thing. After speaking to 2 advice nurses, and 3 scheduling people, I got an appointment for another biopsy on October 19. I had my stitches out.
I had them print me out my lab report. It said, "NO signs of carcinoma." "No malignancy". I asked everyone WHY I had to have another biopsy? They all said, "They will go deeper this time".

I rescheduled clients for next Tuesday. I rescheduled all my interns' supervision. I worried some more. Didn't we start all this in JUNE? Why do we still know nothing in OCTOBER? It FELT like life was on hold.

October 13

Yesterday, the nice surgeon called.

He said, "Mrs. Hansen, I see we have you scheduled for another biopsy next week."

I said "Yes".

He said, "I'm sorry, but I have been away at a conference. I just got back and am reading your lab report. There is NO CANCER. We don't need to do another biopsy. How is your head now? "

I said, "It is fine. Just a little scab where the stitches were."

He said, "Come and see me in 3 months, or call if you have any problems or questions. I am canceling the biopsy. I'm sorry they put you through this. I'm sure it was no fun the first time, and you don't need to do it again."

I LOVE THAT MAN! WHOO HOO! Santa can cancel the wig shopping! I am SO relieved!

November 5, 2010

NOW WHAT? Announcing a New Endeavor

Well, let's see...

I've been

a teacher (4th and 8th grades)
a vice-principal
a travel college instructor
a therapist at a non-profit
Director of a mental health agency

Currently:

private practice therapist
supervisor of interns in training
consultant to a local school district for mental health services for Early Head Start
part-time Italy tour leader

and now in my SPARE TIME...

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Here are my offerings for Fall/Winter:

Take out items: (Minimum order: 4 servings of any item)

Appetizers: (*Hot Appetizers)

Cheddar-Rosemary Shortbread “Cookies”
Stuffed Belgian Endive gorgonzola OR cream cheese-chutney
Mini Caprese Picks
Palmabella’s Chicken Liver-Apple Pate with Crostini platter
Italian Cheese Board with Strawberry Balsamic Peperocino Jam and Honey (serves 8-10)
Charcuterie Board with Olives and mustards (serves 8-10)
*Ham-Gruyere-Honey Mustard Palmiers
*Sausage Tarts
*Brie-Fig-Prosciutto Tarts
*Hot Crab Dip
*Warm Fennel Dip with breadsticks

Soup:

Fennel Soup
Leek-Asparagus Soup
Italian Wedding Soup with Meatballs
Cider-Cheddar Soup

Pasta and Risotto (serves 8-10)

Apple-gorgonzola-pecan risotto
Butternut Squash risotto
Baked Risotto with Spinach and Parmigiano
Pesto-chicken baked pasta with fontina
Baked Sausage Pasta
“Not Your Mom’s Mac&Cheese”
Pesto Lasagna
Butternut Squash Lasagna
Lamb Lasagna

Hot Entrees 

*Stuffed-Herbed Pork Loin with Fig-Brandy Sauce
*Citrus Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin
*Stuffed Flank Steak with Italian Salami-Fontina Stuffing
*Normandy Chicken with Apples and Onions
*Chicken Thighs with Fennel, Onions and Pancetta
*Chicken-Spinach Triangles in Puff Pastry
*Phylllo Chicken Pie with Gruyere and Pancetta
*Asparagus Tart
*Pistachio-Crusted Tilapia with Pomegranate Reduction
*Short Ribs with Fig Glaze

Cold Entrees 

Chicken-Pesto Roll ups
Cold Chicken Breasts with Tonnato Sauce
Curry Chicken Salad with Grapes and Cashews

Hot Side Dishes 

*Pumpkin-sage polenta
*Fennel-Mushroom Bread Pudding
*Italian Scalloped Potatoes with Sage
*Corn-Leek Pudding
*Cheesy Polenta with Sage and Gruyere
*Glazed carrots with Thyme and Honey

Cold Side Dishes and Salads:

Rice-Corn-Black Bean Salad   
Foraging the Forest Salad (baby greens with fruits, nuts and berries in citrus vinaigrette)
Orange-Fennel Salad with Blood Orange Dressing
Fig-Gorgonzola Salad with Fig Balsamic Dressing
Tortellini salad with tomatoes, garlic and brie
Grilled Veggie Platter with Spicy Aioli
Broccoli-Bacon Slaw with Gouda 
Lemon-Garlic Orzo Salad with Grilled Squash and Zucchini
Marinated Asparagus 

Desserts:

Chocolate-Hazlenut Panna Cotta 
Apple Crumb Tart with Cinnamon Gelato 
Gingerbread Cheesecake (Fall or Holiday themed)
Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato with Fudge Sauce 
Butterscotch Budino (Italian Pudding) with Caramel Sauce and Creme Fraiche Topping
Trio of Mini Cream Cheese Tarts: Lemon, Berry and Chocolate 

Holiday Cookie Trays: Assortment of 6 Dozen cookies:
Taking orders NOW for December Delivery! Makes a great GIFT!

Lemon Curd Bars
2-Tone Cinnamon Cookies
Chocolate Ganache Espresso Tarts
Red and White Peppermint Sandwiches
Holiday Cream Cheese Oreo Truffles
World’s Best Cookies (all-time favorite cookie EVER!)
Lemon Glazed Tea Cakes
Chocolate-filled Turtle Bites
Chocolate-dipped Shortbread with Toffee Brickle
Holly-Iced Sugar Cookies
Hand-Painted Wreath Cookies
Red and Green Pinwheels
Peanut-Chocolate Bars
Butterscotch-Toffee Cookies
Cranberry-Pistachio Cookies
Chocolate-Dulce de Leche Sandwiches
Hazelnut-Chocolate Heaven
Raspberry Gems

Pick up or delivery

I'm starting very small. It's all word of mouth, homemade flyers and business cards. I have three friends anxious to "promote me" to their friends. I have different circles of friends to hand out flyers to. I have arranged my therapy and supervision schedules to give me big chunks of "cooking time". I'm EXCITED, a little nervous (that I could be too busy?), but we shall see!

Since I wrote this blog post, YESTERDAY, a few flyers have gone out. I ALREADY have orders for several cookie trays (for both Thanksgiving and Christmas), and a few dinners. One woman called and asked if I would "do her Thanksgiving". I said, "NO" to the turkey! "How about some sides and a pie?" I referred her to one of the local grocery stores for Thanksgiving dinner. LOL I'll be baking cookies all weekend!

November 7, 2010

An Interesting Perception

THE SITUATION
In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . .

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

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November 23, 2010

What I Have Learned in Two Weeks: Palmabella's Cucina

So I thought I'd report in on what I've learned after 2 weeks of cooking/baking for people.

1. There are start-up costs. I must SPEND money to MAKE money.
If I am going to be cranking out dozens of cookies a day, I needed a couple more
good cookie sheets, so I can have 6 pans going at a time. I also needed a couple
more large cooling racks, and a few other small items.

I ordered "disposable" catering trays and lids for my Holiday Cookie platters.
Ditto for aluminum foil baking sheets with lids to deliver appetizers. Ditto for
disposable baking pans. No "business discount" if they deliver to a residential
address.

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I made 8 dozen mini appetizer tart shells one day. Ok, I only have ONE of these pans. That meant for every 12, I had to roll out dough, cut it into squares, press dough into pan, and then CHILL pan for 30 minutes before baking for 10 minutes. Then let them cool for 5 minutes before making the next pan full. Yes, that took about 7 hours. Of course I did other things during those chilling times, but the oven went on at 6 a.m. that day, and off at 9 p.m.! I am ordering two more of those pans.

2. Time Management: I am pretty good at this, but I am experimenting. Slow Travel friends have been talking about their lists. I have "Stickies" (like a sticky note) on my laptop in the kitchen, a legal pad on my patio table where I take my coffee breaks (LOTS of them!), shopping lists for Costco, Trader Joe's, and my regular grocery store on the desk to add to, and a daily "to do list", and a weekly list for all my cooking orders.

I have tried two different ways of organizing my time. For example: one day last week, I JUST baked cookies with two ovens going. I get two pans in, and while they baked, get the next two pans ready. I REALLY had to pay close attention to the oven timers.

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The next day, I used one oven. While the cookies were in (and the next three pans were ready, I could really multi task. I baked 10 dozen cookies, a pan at a time, but also grated cheese for appetizers, iced and decorated cookies from the day before, chopped onions, washed dishes, unloaded the dishwasher, blogged, and did a couple loads of laundry, getting another task done during each pan of cookies. I think I like this better! I'm not sure which is more energy efficient: one oven on for longer, or two ovens on for a shorter time.

3. Storage: My guest room bed is a disaster! There are supplies, containers, trays, cookie tins, lids, decorating stuff, and a dozen new pasta/soup bowls!

Where does one store 60 dozen cookies? My freezer is full, and the garage fridge is almost there. I'm thinking another freezer is on my list for 2011!

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4. I FUSS: for example, Someone ordered a gingerbread cheesecake. It just looked like a cheesecake, so since I was making cookies anyway, I decided to make some mini cookies to decorate the top. This is the creative part that makes it fun for me.

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5. Clean up:I ALWAYS clean as I go, even if I am making dinner for the two of us. However, I have been washing my mixer bowl and Cuisinart 4-5 times a day!

6. Thank Goodness for:
DOUBLE OVENS!
My Cuisinart, and my Kitchenaid
Cookie scoops (in all sizes), and sheets of parchment paper already cut to fit a
1/2 sheet pan!

7. Brad: He IS a saint. He is "Brad'll Do It":

"Could you please stop at Costco on your way home and get 8 more pounds of
unsalted butter, 2 cases of chicken stock, and a large pork loin that you can
butterfly tonight after dinner?"

Two hours later: "Dinner??? You want dinner?"

8. I still must have a life.I will be out of town one weekend in December, a wedding in January, and Slow Bowl in February. If I can't take on a job or a party, I will say NO, or "I am already booked up for that weekend."

9. Responsibility: I want the customers to like their food, and have their guests like the food. The first meal I prepared, I had a dream that her oven went on and off all during the cooking time, and the whole meal was ruined. In my dream, I said, "What about dessert?" She just said, "The whole THING was a disaster!". My real friend enjoyed her dinner party, as did her guests!

10. Is it worth it? So far it looks like this:

Expenses: Catering Supplies: $317.83
Food Costs: $354.77

Income: $389

Net: -283.60

BUT: I think I have EVERYTHING I need for the 60 dozen more cookies that have been ordered SO FAR for December. I have already baked 73 DOZEN! I have another friend who is having surgery, and wants several nights of dinners when she comes home.
I should be close to breaking even next month. LOL

All in a day: Today I delivered Thanksgiving cookie trays, made a HUGE pot of Italian Wedding Soup, did supervision with my intern, and baked three kinds of cookies (21 dozen). It is 7:40 p.m. Now to fix dinner... leftovers! Tomorrow night is SOUP!.

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November 26, 2010

Un-Thanksgiving

The Un-Thanksgiving

There was no scent of turkey, no souffles for puffing,
There were no cranberries, gravy, no yams and no stuffing.
There were no kinds of pies, and no family to gather,
There was no celebration, no holiday blather.

The calendar said, “25th of November,”
These two only children were at home to remember.
It was Thanksgiving Day, and although we are grateful,
Just another day at our house, nothing much fateful.

I did 5 loads of laundry, the fridge I cleaned out.
I busied myself, and I tried not to pout.
I turned off my oven, no cookies I baked,
I took the day off, ‘cause my back really ached.

I tried to take a nap, but I couldn’t relax,
I felt kind of sad, and I thought of the facts.
No children or grandkids, no siblings at all,
No parents, just us, it makes holidays small.

I went for a walk, on this lovely fall day,
There were grandpas with strollers I saw along the way.
Children outside were enjoying the weather,
Lots of houses with families all gathered together.

We had a nice dinner, watched saved shows on the telly,
We really enjoyed eating crispy pork belly.
No wonder we normally go out of town,
I said to myself with a sigh and a frown.

Today is Black Friday, I won’t be out shopping;
I spent all my cash in Las Vegas, restaurant hopping.
So I ordered my last two Christmas gifts on-line,
And I won’t think of sales, and I’ll try not to whine.

I think that next year, we’ll make Thanksgiving travel
Part of the plan, so I do not unravel.
I have no one to blame for my false expectations,
I will try to plan trips for some holiday vacations.

It's almost December, and I'm feeling behind,
Some holiday spirt, I'm trying to find,
When the house is decked out and the tree is aglow,
I'll get into it soon, as I'm sure you all know.

January 5, 2011

SNOW?

There is a reason we live in the Southern California Desert. I like HEAT! Even those over 100 degree months that drive many away in the summer don't bother me, and I rarely complain about heat (without humidity). What I hate is COLD! Despite this we are going to a very good friend's daughter's wedding next weekend in YOSEMITE!!! I am DREADING the whole thing, but I'm sure that once we get there, I will have fun with my sorority sisters, and the bride needs all her "Auntie Yayas"!

It is an 8 hour drive, and we need CHAINS! Chains should be gold and worn around one's neck!

I've been cold HERE the past few weeks with daytime temps in the 50's and lows in around 35ish. Don't you just love Accuweather? "Low: 26. REAL FEEL: 16." Those aren't temperatures! Those are the answers to, "How many cookies can you eat in a row?"

THIS is as close as I want to get to snow: my driveway!

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With the recent east coast storms, several Slow Travel friends have posted photos of their yards blanketed in white. All I can think of is BRRRRRRRRRR! It looks terrifying to me. I think it is crazy, and wouldn't leave my house all winter! Even those idyllic holiday scenes don't do it for me. I shudder at the thought! Give me a sunny beach or a warm spring, summer or early fall vacation in Italy, please. I can't stand looking at those photos of Florence and Venice covered in snow. OMG, THAT is why we don't go to Italy for Christmas!

The last time I was in snow was sometime in the 1970's, when my ex-husband and I went with some friends to a ski resort. I fell down three times from the parking lot to the lodge, where I planted myself for the day drinking warm alcoholic drinks. My ex-husband took a begginer's ski lesson on the bunny hill where he knocked down a whole row of children, domino style, during the first few minutes of the lesson. We decided we were not snow people.

Back to the wedding, let's talk about clothes! I bought a down parka on sale after Christmas from Land's End. I'm sure I'll get lots of wear out of THAT! Maybe Slow Bowl in Paso Robles in February... So all of you readers who live in frozen lands east and north of me, don't laugh. Help me out here. Does this seem reasonable?

Friday:

TWO pair of leggings, wool socks, UGGS, a silk underwear top, turtleneck and fleece sweatshirt under my parka. I'll bring jeans to wear inside, because once we get to the hotel, I'm not leaving until the wedding Saturday! Did I mention, a hat, gloves and two scarves? Lots of wine will be consumed.

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Saturday:

Black tights, cashmere socks, black pants, cashmere turtleneck, dressy top over the turtleneck, UGGS to walk from the car to the chapel, and my black cashmere long coat with fur collar, fur hat. Pretty fashionable, except for the UGGS, huh? My friend said, "You need a fur coat!". Well, I don't HAVE a fur coat! Nor would I ever wear one in the desert!

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I will be the one who either looks like Nanookabella or Svetlanabella!

The HARDEST part of the weekend will be leaving Luigi at home with the dogsitter! I'll be calling her OFTEN!

January 10, 2011

Snow Scenes of Yosemite

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January 11, 2011

Surviving the Snow and Haley's Wedding

We arrived in Yosemite at about 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon. It was COLD! We checked in at the Yosemite Lodge, and found that our room was in another building, just down the road and across the street from the main lodge. We parked in the snowy parking lot, after being given "the talk" about bears, and food in cars or in rooms. Oh oh! There were two HUGE trays of cookies in the back seat, two grocery bags of wine, sandwiches, cheese, salami, bread, snacks, and a jar of peanut butter in the trunk, an ice chest, and the remains of our lunch in the car. Brad left me in the car (as I am useless walking in ice and snow.), and he made 7 trips to the room to unload the car. No bears came for my cookies.

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Well, it took me 15 minutes to walk the 100 yards to the building. The room was fine, a bit rustic, but hey, I WAS in the wilderness, except there was no coffee pot, or even hot water. I cranked up the heater, and kept my parka on. That was when I first called the place my "prison camp" for the weekend, as I was NOT walking anywhere in that snow and ice again until I HAD to on Saturday for the wedding.

Brad got us coffee to warm up, and I could go stand on my patio to smoke, as it wasn't much colder outside than inside!

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As I watched people walking by, and only saw ONE guy slip and fall in the snow, I realized that many people come here ON PURPOSE! OMG! I cannot imagine doing this again unless at gunpoint! But I love my sorority sister, Kim, and her daughter, even if I thought this was INSANE.

I decided people who are used to cold must think this is pretty because they have never been to Tuscany, or the Amalfi coast, or Piemonte, or Umbria, or, well...you get the idea!

I was settled in for the night. I considered skipping the ceremony at the chapel in the SNOW, and drinking GOOD coffee at the Ahwahnee all morning while waiting there for the reception (NO snow if Brad picks me up at the road, and there's valet parking at the Ahwahnee). My sorority sisters, Joy and Connie came to our room with more food and wine, and we played games and ate and had a great evening. I survived DAY 1!

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Saturday:

I wore leggings and socks under my flannel pajamas, and the bottom half of me was warm. The top half of me shivered for two hours after Brad fell asleep, and my nose resembled a red ice cube. After some more crappy coffee, I tried to take a shower. The water was either SCALDING, or ICY! I tried four times to get all the way in the shower/tub, but there was no temperature that was bearable. I finally stood outside the tub and managed to get the shampoo out of my hair, and only flooding the bathroom a little.

As I sat on my patio for a smoke, I noticed a small child in a red jacket and green ski hat in the snow. She was there a LONG time, and there were no adults with her. 30 minutes later, I looked, and she was still there, but still no parents. I was ready to call the front desk, or even CPS, when I squinted and realized that SHE was a fire hydrant.
See what happens when I am cold and have only one cup of BAD coffee?

The wedding was at 11. At 9:30, Brad and I were dressed and ready, so we took off and drove to the chapel a good 45 minutes early, because I thought it might take me that long to get in through the snow/ice from the parking lot. The chapel IS very charming and looks like a Christmas card.

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I managed to hang on to Brad with a death grip as we walked the icy path to the steps in my UGGS. The woman in front of me had on high heels. How stupid is that? In the snow? My goal was to stay vertical, and I did! Much later, the rest of my friends arrived.

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I have never worn pants to a wedding (let alone three pairs at once), but my goal was to be as warm as possible, so there I was in tights, TWO pair of leggings, socks, UGGS, long underwear top, turtleneck, dressy jacket and THEN the big black coat, hat and gloves. I was comfortable. Judith, I did NOT sweat!

Photographs were not allowed in the chapel, but I snuck one of the bride and groom on their way out.

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I also "borrowed" a couple from Facebook: Can you say STRAPLESS and SLEEVELESS?

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Tomorrow...the recption and fun with the sisters!

January 12, 2011

Fun with My Sisters

When with my sorority sisters, we have been told, "You guys ARE a party!" Haley and Rory's wedding reception at the Ahwahnee Hotel in yosemite was no exception! We always have so much fun together. We are always there for each other to celebrate life's special moments or to survive the hard ones. Here are Kim and Ed, proud parents of the bride:

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Here are a couple shots of my sisters:

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The bride and groom looked so happy during their first dance:

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There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Hayley danced with her dad.

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A tradition at a sorority sister's wedding, (Kim's daughter, Haley is also an Alpha Xi Delta) is to serenade the bride. We are GOOD at this!

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By request, we also did "Sweet Caroline", complete with motions. We have quite a repertoire of oldies with our own choreography!

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A great time was had by all!

January 17, 2011

Noah's First Birthday!

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January 21, 2011

The LONG Day

Our power company, Southern California Edison, notified us three ways (phone, letter, and a note on everyone's gate) that there would be an "interruption in service" on Thursday, January 20 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.. What do you do all day wit no electricity?
The answer is: NOT MUCH!

I got up at 5:00, to make sure there was COFFEE, and to have time to blow dry my hair. Thursdays, I am free all day, and usually at home, except for a client every other week. It is the beginning of my weekend. It usually means, cleaning the house, cooking or baking, and a nice, relaxing day.

I bustled around until everything went off and the extreme QUIET began. I have lots of natural light in my house, so I thought, it would be no big deal. Brad left for work at 6:30, and there was a beautiful "moonset" outside.

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It was still a little dark in the kitchen to do the jigsaw puzzle on my kitchen table, so I did some paperwork. By 9:00, I moved to the patio, and read my book.

10:00 I took Luigi for a walk.

11:00 heated up cold coffee on gas stove using BBQ lighter. Is this what camping is like? No internet, no computer, I'm getting restless. Oh, wait! I have 3G on the i-phone!

12:00 lunch

1:00 Another walk with Luigi. Time for a nap! Can't sleep. Work on jigsaw puzzle.

2:00 Read another 100 pages of my book.

3:00 BORED!!! Play with Luigi. i-phone almost out of power. Everything I thought to do required power! Laundry...NO, cook dinner... NO, blog...NO, Fall asleep reading on the sofa...YES!

4:00 Another walk. Visit neighbor. Get mail. Read mail. Now what??? Thinking of 40 things I want to google! Need to answer emails!

5:00 countdown. One more hour! House is dark. Light candles everywhere. Phone is dead. Get flashlight. I can do this!

6:00 still dark. Luigi is barking at everything.

6:30 still dark. Getting cold.

7:00 Brad comes home with fully charged i-phone, reads SCE's website. Time has been changed to 11 p.m. Says, "Those ****ers!" Brad walks Luigi with flashlight on dark streets.

7:30 Lock Luigi up in the dark with candles in the kitchen. Go out to dinner and charge my phone in Brad's car. Poor little guy.

8:45 Come home and sit in dark and play with Luigi. Feel CRAZY.

9:30 Go to bed and read by flashlight.

12:30 a.m. POWER comes back on turning on house lights, yard lights, clocks flashing everywhere.

I'm back! YEAH!

February 2, 2011

A Lollapalooza Headache!

Some of you may remember my scare last year of a small growth on the crown of my head. It was biopsied in September with negative results for cancer. Well the little sucker came back, bigger and creepier than ever.

On Monday, I had an outpatient procedure to remove it and have another biopsy done. This time a large chunk of my scalp was removed and 7 stitches sewed me back together. First I was given 3 LONG shots in my head to numb the area. Then my doctor cut and cut and cut out an area about an inch by a half an inch. Then he sewed me up. The whole thing took about 40 minutes. They plastered my head with triple neosporin antiseptic and we were on our way.

The procedure was finished at 4:00, and I felt fine for the next 11 hours of so. I went to bed with my head and feet elevated. By 3:00 a.m. I worke up with the mother of all throbbing headaches! OOOWWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEE! A Tylenol with codine took a little of the edge off, but I could not go back to sleep, so I got up at 4:00, made coffee, and tried to read with Luigi snuggled with me on the couch. Every 4 hours, I get another pain pill, and am comfortably asleep for a couple of hours!

On Tuesday I had a two hour group to do in the afternoon, cancelled the rest of my clients. I also have quite a lovely hairdo (bed-head with lots of neosporin added). I will be a fashionista in sweats and a hat for my group. Wednesday, my interns are coming to my house for supervision from 9-1. I can lay on the couch in my sweats.
Then I plan an afternoon nap before one client at 5.

Thursday, I will get to wash my hair! Whoo Hoo!

The photo shows my funny and wonderful nurses with my very kind surgeon on the phone in the background! They were great. It's a good thing, as this is just the beginning of a likely 4 more surgeries, skin grafts, etc. YIKES!

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February 21, 2011

Cold

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Friday and Saturday were windy and rainy, but the views were worth it. The sun is back, but temperatures will be at least 10 degrees below normal all week. We have highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. Brrrrrrrrrrr! Waiting for the spring weather to come back!

February 22, 2011

What We Can Learn from Geese

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It is Tuesday, so I thought I'd share another "lesson" from my "Call to Care" group for caregivers. If you have heard this before, it is a good reminder on how we cooperate with our co-workers or family members. We are practicing communication skills, empathy and good self-esteem this week.

Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that follow. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.
Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3:When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.
Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other's skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4:The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Lesson: We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one's heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.
Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

March 2, 2011

Control Tower Humor

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While many disgruntled passengers are paying more taxes and fuel charges, paying for extra luggage, waiting longer in security lines, and spending more money or miles for travel, it is nice to know that the pilots and folks in the control towers are still amusing themselves while doing their jobs to keep us all safe!

These are actual exchanges between pilots and control tower