Hibernation As Covert Preparation

by Christine

Do you remember the Hannah and Barbera cartoon character, Yogi Bear? Yogi was a meddlesome bear who was always into something that required Ranger Smith's attention. In a moment of exasperation Ranger Smith said to Yogi:

"Come on, Yogi. Would it really be so hard to be a regular bear?
You know, to forage for food, to walk around on all fours...
to hibernate a little, or a lot."

To which Yogi replied:

"If nature had meant for me to be a regular bear...
it wouldn't have given me such a good thought-cooker, sir."


Yogi hibernate, NEVER! I get it. He's a bear that makes things happen and why waste a minute of time resting or being inactive? Carpe Diem baby! 

All my life I've been like Yogi but as much as I want to siege the day, this winter I've felt the need to hibernate. I don't think it's so much that winter calls for me to embrace a period of rest and reflection as it's a response to the series of losses and changes in my life. My mother's death and my son's accident are just two life altering events that I refused to let slow me down. This past Christmas though, I said enough. I tossed out my to-do list, put aside the blog, dusted off my reading list and started chopping winter vegetables for soup. I now have lunch with friends. I started a book club. My neighbors come over for good conversation and food and drink on these cold, dark evenings.

The result? I am laughing more and have spent time with some really good people. I tell stories about my Mom and Dad without sadness gripping my heart. But most of all, I feel the stirrings of "what next?". There is an excitement when I think of the months ahead. There's happiness in being a "regular" human. 

Growing up, summer in Florida was similar to a period of hibernation. During the brutally hot months of July and August, my parents would take us to Lake Brooklyn for a water vacation. We would swim and water ski until our arms and legs were wobbly. Mom called for rest time after lunch so I would float in the water watching the clouds morph from kittens to trucks to witches with long, hooked noses. In the shade of the porch, I would read biographies of famous Americans one after another until my mother suggested I give another genre a try. This was a period of rest that gave way to action when school started in the fall. As Ralph Ellison wrote, hibernation is a covert preparation of a more overt action.

I'm giving my "thought-cooker" and body a rest. The knowledge that this period of time is brief and will give way to spring soon is ever present. The benefit of slowing down during this leg of the journey is renewed energy.




Overcoming Resistance

by Christine

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That's why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there'd be no Resistance. -Steven Pressfield


Seriously, Lighten Your Load

by Christine

In 1979 Joan Didion published her packing list in her book The White Album. Didion included her must haves for young professional women who traveled extensively. Since I am forever trying to compile the perfect packing list, I immediately sought out her list. The list reads:

To Pack and Wear:
2 skirts
2 jerseys or leotards
1 pullover sweater
2 pair shoes
nightgown, robe slippers
bag with: shampoo, toothbrush and paste, Basis soap, razor,
deodorant, aspirin, prescriptions, Tampax, face cream, powder, 
baby oil

To Carry:
mohair throw
2 legal pads and pens
house key

Didion's list is compact with only what would be considered bare necessities by today's standards. I do love the idea of a skirt over a leotard but candidly isn't that what Chico's is all about...stretchy fabric for the 50 plus crowd.

I consider myself a minimalist when it comes to packing and yet, I always travel with more than Didion's allotted two pair of shoes Didion. I pack a pair of running shoes, flip-flops (Are they really even shoes?), a pair of casual shoes and a pair of dress shoes though I don't travel with a pair of robe slippers.

I was amused to see that she traveled with her own bottle of bourbon and that she had to remind herself to take cigarettes. Today, the TSA won't let you carry any receptacle containing more than 3 ounces of liquid through security and smoking on all domestic flights has been banned since 2000.  I did smugly chuckle to myself when I read she lugged around a typewriter when traveling until it dawned on me that I travel with an iPhone, an iPad, a camera and my computer for writing. 

As I age my priorities have changed. I don't carry a big suitcase any more even if it has wheels. Once on a trip to Portugal, I took my largest suitcase. The thing was so big that it wouldn't fit in the trunk of my small foreign rental car. The case rode upright in the backseat like an uninvited chaperone, mocking me the whole trip. Aging bellman struggled to carry this dresser size case up multiple flights of stairs since none of the quaint places I booked had elevators. I was mortified in my belief that the Portuguese were laughing at me behind my back. 

Unlike in the past, I am not opposed to wearing the same thing twice if I have access to a washing machine. Additionally, when I was younger I would travel with my own shampoo and conditioner because well, because my hair was special and I needed special hair care products. Today, I use what's available and if necessary, make a quick run to the store to get what I need. As you can see my specialness wore off with the creation of the TSA and the increased cost of checked luggage. 

In addition to losing the items already mentioned, I would leave behind the mohair throw, the legal pads and files. My flies are on Drop Box, my legal pads are electronic and a mohair throw is a romantic notion that would end up being "just one more thing" to keep up with in the airport. I would add to her list a bathing suit. I take one no matter where I am going because you just never know. 

My biggest tip...keep it light and fly on Tuesday or Wednesday. Oh, also ship your gifts to loved ones early and avoid carrying anything other than a good book on the plane. Don't let struggling with luggage, gifts or mohair throws make the journey stressful. Take a page from Baloo, the bear, from The Jungle Book Look for the bare necessities/The simple bare necessities/Forget about your worries and your strife. Lighten your load both in life and when traveling and you will enjoy your journey more. 




by Christine

As I was leaving the theatre Friday night, an attractive woman behind me began an effusive apology. She said over and over again, “I am so, so sorry.” In an uncharacteristic move, I turned away from her without blurting out the traditional, “that’s okay”. I was not being rude, honestly, I was just confused as to why she was apologizing and needed time to think through my response.

This morning I am still in need of clarification as to why she apologized. If I could speak to her today, this is what I would ask.

Did you apologize because your child kicked the back of my seat for an hour and 15 minutes of a 2 hour performance and the only time you required him to stop was when I or one of the other audience members on either side of me turned to look at him.

Or because you clearly brought your child to an event that was not age appropriate for him and expected him to sit quietly for 2 hours during a show that held no interest for him.

Or because your husband and you interrupted Renée Fleming’s prayerful musical performance as you threatened your child with never being taken any place on the planet again as he giggled maniacally and twisted in his seat doubling the force with, which he kicked the back of my seat. (On a side note:  he would be fine with never going any place again in the future.)

Or were you apologizing because you failed to remove your child from the theatre as a show of respect to the performers or other audience members because a) you paid good money for these tickets and weren’t going to miss the show or b) your child has to learn how to behave and a live broadcast event was just the place to start.

Least you think I am not sympatric to parents trying to raise healthy, happy individuals, who are a positive addition to society, let me share this with you. On Friday, Marty and I were in Home Depot purchasing one more string of holiday lights when a young boy about 4 darted between us in his excitement to get to the next isle. I laughed as his mortified mother apologized as she chased after him. I said, “that’s okay” as I stated I have 7 grandchildren. That was all that needed to be said between a mother and a grandmother.

But here is the difference for those who think I am being too subtle. We were in a well-lit Home Depot, in the Christmas department with sparkly things displayed all around while cheesy holiday music played in the background. This place is designed for kids to giggle, twist and jump up and down. The Town Hall in New York City is not. 

New York City theatre is abundant in its entertainment choices of age appropriate shows for children where children can learn to behave in a theatre and enjoy a show.  I took my granddaughters to see Cinderella and my #1 granddaughter could hardly contain herself during the show. Of course every other 5 year-old girl could hardly sit still with singing and dancing princesses, fairy godmothers and pumpkins that became chariots on stage.  Seat kicking, talking and giggling was expected and dealt with in a good-natured manner.

So parents in the future when you make the decision to blurt out an impromptu apology, I encourage you to be specific. In my case dear one, I didn't know if you were apologizing because your child behaved badly or because you behaved badly? 




Fabulous Fall Dessert: Pumpkin Pound Cake

by Christine

As winter's snow and ice coat the Thanksgiving landscape here in New York, I will share one last autumn recipe...pumpkin pound cake. Nothings says fall like pumpkin. Okay, maybe lots of things say fall but pumpkin pound cake is one of the tastier ones. A baking pumpkin pound cake makes the whole house smell like your very best fall day. For me the aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger triggers memories of my mom and the spectacular holiday meals she prepared when I was younger.

This year I served this cake for Thanksgiving to my friends and family with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. Fabulous! If you want to hold on to the smells and memories of autumn for a little longer, this is the cake to make that happen. I hope you enjoy.


Pumpkin Pound Cake


1-1/4 cup of butter
1-1/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1-15 ounce can of solid-packed pumpkin
3 cups of all-purpose flour
3 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 cup of chopped pecans


Preheat the oven to 350°
Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan

1. Bring butter and eggs to room temperature.
2. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, allspice and ginger together. Set aside. *
3. In large bowl, cream butter and sugars.

4. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each egg.
5. Beat in pumpkin.
6. Add flour mixture.

7. Stir in pecans.
8. Pour batter in to tube pan and bake for 90 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.**
9. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

* I use salted butter so I don't add additional salt. 
** Check the cake after 75 minutes so you don't over bake. 

I served my cake with cinnamon ice cream but if you would like to change it up a bit, try this butter-rum sauce.


1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1-1/3 cup of water
3 tablespoons of cubed butter
1/2 teaspoon of rum extract


1. In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch.
2. Over medium heat, gradually stir in water.
3. Bring to a boil and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. 
4. Remove from heat and stir in butter and rum extract.
5. Serve warm.







Poetry That Speaks To Me

by Christine

I admit it; I struggle with understanding poetry. I want to. I believe that really, really smart people understand and love poetry and I want to be one of those people. There is one poet who when I hear his words, I feel his meaning. Shel Silverstein is that poet. I hope Silverstein's poem from Where the Sidewalk Ends touches you too. 

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!



The Games We Play

by Christine

Good food and good company are standard fare at Thanksgiving but how about good conversation and fun. I'm not talking about the quick comments made during half time or as the family takes a minute to stroll around the block after each football game. I'm talking about making eye contact and laughing out loud. There are many board games and puzzles that can entertain for hours but how about a game that gets people talking and stimulates the imagination while getting the creative juices going. 

Here are three games that will do the trick. The first one is 100 questions. 100 questions stimulates ideas by asking meaningful questions that leads to great conversations. You can play for fun or keep score by voting on the best answers. 

Next is Two Truths and a Lie. Each person shares two true personal facts and one that isn't. The lie must be as good as the truths they tell. The fun begins as everyone tries to figure out which one's the lie. 

Third is Snap Shot Stories. Gather old family photos or current images from a magazine and put them in a bag. Have each person draw a photograph and tell a story about what is happening in the picture. 

These games are intergenerational and requires minimal setup from the game organizer. The ultimate goal is to connect with people you care about and have a good time. 





Ode To Turkey Soup

by Christine

Next Thursday is a blue ribbon food event in the United States. Families and friends will gather to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner; a meal where all cooks who love preparing food will channel his or her favorite chef, recreate mom's signature dish or embark on creating a culinary journey of their own. Beginning this weekend, culinary craftsmen will be shopping, chopping, mixing, stirring, basting and baking until their Thanksgiving masterpiece will be displayed on the good china in the dining room. Success will be measured by the number of times these words are spoken, "I am so stuffed. I won't be able to eat for a week." Of course, everyone knows that's not true because in an hour or so those same people will meander back into the kitchen to sneak another piece of pie or munch on a small bowl of stuffing. 

But today, I am thinking about the day AFTER Thanksgiving. You put your heart and soul into preparing the perfect Thanksgiving meal and the next day, you got nothing. I mean who wants to go near the kitchen on Friday after spending hours the day before putting together a gigantic feast. A feast whose cleanup alone is a testimony to the effort required to pull it all off with taste and style. Plus Christmas is on the horizon and the Black Friday sales are calling your name. Well, I got two words for you...turkey soup. 

Yes, I know that turkey soup is usually reserved for the left over spot a week after Thanksgiving but I beg you to reconsider. Soup is nurturing, calming and in the case of this recipe easy. All you need is a crock-pot and a few basic ingredients so that you are free to shop, lounge or work on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This is a great tasting soup that will remind your spouse and family that good food does mean love. Give it a try and let me know what you think.


Slow Cooker Turkey Soup


2 stalk celery, diced
1 cup of diced onions
4 cloves of minced garlic
4 bay leaves

2 cups of peeled and cubed potatoes. 
4 peeled and sliced carrots
1 teaspoon of white pepper
Kosher or sea salt to taste
4 cups of chicken broth
2-4 pounds of leftover turkey


1. Add all ingredients except the turkey to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
2. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until the carrots are tender.
3. Add left over turkey 30 minutes before serving and cook until thoroughly heated.  

**I told you this is easy and it is but if your arms aren't sore from all the Thanksgiving preparing, you may add an additional step by sautéing in 2 tablespoons of olive oil the celery, onion and garlic before adding it to the crock-pot. This adds a few calories and takes another ten minutes but I think it brings out the flavor of the vegetables particularly the garlic. 

***If you and your family enjoy a touch of spice, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon of crushed pepper flakes.