I hope all my friends and relatives had a wonderful holiday. Here’s what’s been happening in the tropics.

As usual, I planned on getting an early start for the holidays. Did I mention I live in my own fantasy land? I purchased my Christmas tree on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. A neighbor assisted me in getting the tree in water on my backyard deck, so it would remain fresh until I straightened the living room and pulled out my decorations.

Due to a family emergency, I left town the next day to return the following Friday. On my return, I found a toppled tree begging for water. I righted it and added water, but sadly many needles were brown and falling on the deck. I carefully moved the tree into the living room, losing branches and needles along the way.

As you can see, the shape of my tree is beautiful; but many of the branches are the color of my Cuadrado Mexican tiles rather than the verdant pine hue I was going for. I figured once decorated, it would be fine. That’s when a newscaster suggested that lights on a dry tree might set it on fire. “But,” my right brain said, “it’s near the sliding glass doors, so I could easily drag it outside.”

My left brain jumped in and said, Whoa, let’s use some logic here. The door is locked, and to open it, you would have to go around a burning tree.”

Forget the lights!

The only trimming of the tree was in cutting off portions that were very dry and brown. I was losing my enthusiasm for decorating the tree. In the end, I had a “slightly trimmed but (one could say) undressed” Christmas tree.

I was not feeling the cheerfulness and joy of the season, so I turned to several Christmas movies to get myself into the holiday spirit. My favorites are A Christmas Carol (the one with Alister Sim), A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street. As the days progressed, I settled into a happier mood.

And then Christmas arrived! While we didn’t have a white Christmas in Miami, we did have a cold front drop our temperature by about 30 degrees. Miamians take on the characteristics of iguanas when confronted with temperatures in the 40s. We don’t venture outside because we fear our bodies will become cold-stunned and we will collapse on the ground in a catatonic state. Not a pretty picture!

Back in November, ABC presented a Diane Sawyer special about the 20th Anniversary of the film “Love Actually, written and directed by Richard Curtis. It’s not actually a Christmas movie, although the story takes place at that time of the year, and I decided to watch it on Christmas day.

The film opens with Hugh Grant (who plays the British Prime Minister) giving a monologue. It started, “…general opinion is we live in a world of hatred and greed.”

Apparently, not much has changed in the last 20 years. Since 2019, we’ve endured a pandemic and isolation, the nation is polarized, and the evening news gives us front-row seats to a devastating war in Ukraine. Dysfunction is what sells in the news world. “Newsworthy” requires high drama, often seen in violence, murder, and other aberrant behavior. At the end of the day, I find myself weary of it all.

“But,” says the PM, “love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there-fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

Wouldn’t you like to see the biggest headline or lead story on the news read like this?


Ah, well, one can dream.

The holidays are over, and the great crystal ball dropped in Manhattan. It’s time to get on with 2023. I hope the new year brings you happiness and joy.

If possible, a bit of love wouldn’t hurt. I hope you find that as well.



Raise your hand if you’re in agreement.

Think about it. As social animals, we seek out each other. That interaction helps us maintain our well being. When isolated, we find it challenging to deal with stressful situations; we become depressed, anxiety rises, and making simple decisions can appear impossible.

So, here I sit isolated amid a rising pandemic, during a critical election year. The news of increasing Covid cases, and OMG, hearing those omnipresent duplicitous political ads. Pandemic fatigue is settling in.

A week ago, a friend called and suggested that another girl pal and I come to her house (both of them had been out of Miami since March). We could wear our masks, socially distance, and sit out on her patio. A small gathering, but it felt as if I was being invited to a major event. I was absolutely giddy about the idea. I could see my friends — ACTUALLY, not virtually. It was Friday, and we set the meeting for Sunday.

Also, on Friday, Tara, her husband, and I all got our annual flu shots. Tara’s husband had no reaction, Tara had a sore arm, and I felt great — that is until Saturday morning. I awoke with a 100+ fever, every muscle and joint in my body ached, and someone disconnected my energy plug from the wall outlet. Walking from the bedroom to the bathroom left me feeling as if I’d run a marathon. Our small gala was canceled.

I’m happy to say my reaction lasted for only one day. If a dead virus could cause such results, I can only imagine how I would have reacted to getting this particular strain of the flu. In retrospect, I’m glad I got the shot.

We’ve rescheduled for Sunday (only a few days to go). Now, if our tropical “dry-season” finally kicks in, we can gather on Tara’s patio. Wish us luck!

Cooking 101

Cooking 101

In these days of pandemic and self-isolation, I received an email from a friend, suggesting we add a twist to an old idea — the recipe exchange.  It’s called the #QuarantineCooking recipe exchange.  What fun!

The most saved shows on my DVR are cooking shows.  I love to cook, and for a “home cook,”  I’m not so bad.  However, looking back on my initial kitchen encounters, I wasn’t adept when it came to food preparation.

One of my first attempts involved surprising my parents – and I must admit, they were surprised.  I came up with a plan to fix “breakfast in bed” for mom and dad.  The menu wasn’t complicated.  It consisted of toast with jam, coffee, and juice.  I was old enough to manage the toaster, and pouring juice was no particular problem.  It was the coffee that got me!  I didn’t know how to work the electric coffee pot.  How many grounds should I put in?  How much water?  Does it really have to heat up?  My parents were grateful for the attempt, but it was their first taste of chewable coffee.

My second foray into cooking involved baking.  Baking requires precision.  One must have exact measurements, cooking times, and temperatures.  I loved Toll House cookies, and the instructions were on the side of the package of chocolate chips.  The recipe called for 1 tsp baking soda.  I looked in the cabinet with mom’s pantry items and found baking powder.  I couldn’t find baking soda, but I’d seen it before.  It was a white powdery substance.  I opened the Baking Powder.  It was white and a powder (hence the name).  I figured they must be the same.  Of course, I was wrong.

It’s also helpful to understand the terms used in recipes.  Why do they call it “creaming” the butter?  How much cream should you add?

But I digress.  What was I going to use for #QuarantineCooking?   When you’re isolating and limiting trips to the grocery store, you hopefully have a pantry filled with staples and spices.  I generally have some meats or fish in the freezer.

A couple of weeks ago, on the Food Network show, “The Kitchen,” the cast did a segment on Quarantine Cooking.  Jeff Mauro presented his recipe for Crispy Skin  Salmon Provencal with a Red Cabbage Salad.  https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jeff-mauro/crispy-skin-salmon-provencal-with-charred-red-cabbage-salad-8553405

It looked outstanding.  The salmon part of the recipe had a total of six ingredients:  salmon, olive oil, butter, herbes de Provence, Dijon Mustard, and lemon.  I had everything for the salmon.  I didn’t have cabbage in the house, but I did have brussels sprouts (aren’t they like little cabbages?).

Check out Jeff’s recipe.  If you aren’t interested in the crispy skin, remove it.  You don’t have herbes de Provence.  Try using dried thyme or Italian seasoning — you can rename it, Salmon Italiano.  My sister-in-law doesn’t like mustard.  If I would fix it for her, I’d simply swap mayonnaise for mustard.

Brussels Sprouts do very well when roasted.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut off the woody ends of the sprouts, and tear off any dried outer leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil, making sure the oil is on all of the sprouts.  Place on a sheet tray (cover the bottom with foil for easier cleanup), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning them once about halfway through.

So there you have it with suggestions for “swaps” if required.  Follow Jeff’s recipe for the salmon and mine for the side dish.  Voila — you have dinner.  If you’re doing the Provencal version, “Bon appetit,” or the Italiano version, “Buon appetito.”  Whatever.  ENJOY!






Once upon a time many years ago, two little girls were growing up in a magical place called “Chicagoland.”

They were friends throughout elementary and high school and, although they went to different colleges in different states, remained close.    After college, they returned home and began working.  One day Rina asked Shari, “If I can get a job teaching in California, would you move there with me.”  CALIFORNIA!!!!  OMG!!!!  And so the adventure began.

Rina was offered a job and a few months later a caravan of three cars, Rina’s mom and dad in one, Rina in her Mustang and Shari in her Barracuda headed to the girls “promised land” — Palo Alto.  They quickly found an apartment not far from where Rina would be teaching.  It was nice, but renters downstairs, didn’t like them walking around after 8 pm, so they ventured out and found The California Oaks, in Mountain View — their new home.

The Oaks was great.   All the residents were in their twenties or thirties, as were hundreds of renters up and down California Street.  Yep, Mountain View was the place to be.  Every weekend there was a party somewhere.  And, when the girls weren’t in town, the two nomads traveled to Monterey, Santa Cruz, Napa Valley, Pebble Beach, went sailing at the UC Berkeley Yacht Club, and were spectators at the Laguna Seca races.

A favorite for them was Nepenthe in Big Sur, where they could be found  sitting outside at the fire pit,  enjoying a spectacular view of the Pacific.  And then there were the people!  Once, Rina pointed out a woman knitting a little chin cap for the man with her (yes, that was a little cap that fit over his chin!).  He was dressed in leather and appeared to be directly descended from Eric The Red.  At one point, he stood up, looked out to sea and bellowed, “The sea is calm.”  No one knew why, no one cared, it was part of the charm that is Nepenthe.

Their first party at the Oaks was nerve wracking.  It was, as all the weekend parties, BYOB.  The party started slowly.  They  wondered if people would show up.  However, within moments of that thought, they were surrounded by a huge crowd!  Where did they all come from?  The one-bedroom apartment was large, but OMG….there had to be over 75 people in there.  The girls didn’t have a clue who they were, and they were everywhere….in the bedroom, on the deck, in the kitchen.  You  couldn’t walk through a room without everyone having to shift.  Finally the party began to thin out.  Their first question was, “where are the knobs to the TV?”  The second was, “why would someone take the knobs to the TV?”

The next day they  found the TV knobs in the bedroom, and enough bottles of liquor (hidden in cupboards and closets throughout the apartment) to open their own bar.

Just up the freeway, there was the beautiful City by the Bay –  San Francisco!  They listened to bagpipers at the Edinburgh Castle, while drinking beer and eating Fish and Chips from Old Chelsea’s ‘round the corner; or had dinner at Ghiardelli Square, afterward heading to the Buena Vista for Irish Coffee.

During this time, Rina met a Navy lieutenant, Matt,  from nearby Moffett Naval Air Station.  After a couple of years, he was transferred to NAS Pensacola, Florida and shortly after moving, he proposed.  The girls adventure was coming to an end.  Rina left for Chicagoland where she and Matt were married. Shari went back briefly,  then went on to Europe before returning to California.  Later they flip flopped, with Matt and Rina going back to the Bay Area, and Shari moving to Miami, Florida.  In spite of the distance, a telephone call was all it took to start up just where they left off — which is how it works for best friends.

As you may have guessed this is, in part, my story.  A few weeks ago, Rina passed away.  There are so many places, people and events that have been tucked away in my mind which are flooding to the surface. I recall the little girl, the teenager, my “roomie.”  Mostly, I’ve found loosing a BFF leaves an overwhelming hole in ones heart.  Fortunately I’ve found magnificent memories to fill it.

So to my Best Friend, “Thanks for the Memories.”