Category Archives: California

Ghosts of Christmases Past

150601_10151375565712889_1640025131_nChristmas always makes me feel melancholy.  I don’t think it is a lack of presents or cookies or family or traditions – I have as much of those things as I desire. Each year when this emotional deflation occurs, it surprises me.  The unanticipated sobering, despite festive bubbles imbibed, seems to sneak up on me when I finally have met, to the best of my abilities, my holiday obligations.  The shopping, cleaning, prepping, wrapping, cooking flurry has come to an end and what’s left?  A sense of … not quite disappointment or dissatisfaction, just a slightly disconcerting hollowness.  There’s something missing.

In years gone by, I’ve been able to look to physical and mental tiredness as likely culprits for my reflective mood.  Lack of sleep and overindulgence certainly could be held responsible for my feelings.  For many years, we hosted a decadent dinner party on Christmas Eve, which, naturally, was followed by a too brief night’s sleep and a midmorning drive east to join family.  That’s not the case, though, now.   My house is quiet and a nap beckons.  The boys are gone – they even took the dog.  They’ll continue to make the drive East for the foreseeable future, a realization that makes me smile.

Last year, I flew to the desert on Christmas Day.  I spent 5 days running and doing yoga and absorbing sunshine and love from a dear friend.  It may have been my favorite Christmas ever.  Self-indulgent without being an orgy of commercialism or consumption, it was stimulating and relaxing in equal measure.  I came back to New York renewed and satiated.

Thinking about that trip makes me feel happy.  So, today, I’ll snuggle back into my flannels, close my eyes and hopefully dream about the magical desert mountains where the sand flies when my sneakered feet pass through.  When I wake up, I’ll pull on my running clothes and make the dusting of snow outside do something similar.  As I count off the miles, I will remember Christmases gone by and imagine Christmases future, but mostly I will try my best to enjoy the present of today.  Merry Christmas.

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Filed under California, Christmas, holidays, musings, running, winter

Hot Yoga

post-Bikram
Seems like everyone knows about my passion for running, but did you know I have another activity that challenges and strengthens me?  Yep, it even provides balance for the physical demands of pounding the pavement as well as an opportunity to tune in mentally to my body in a manner that running, due to the necessity of remaining aware of what is going on in my surroundings,  does not offer.  May I present one of my favorite four-letter words – yoga!

I first experienced yoga as a sixth grader.  There was an after school program at my elementary building and I enjoyed it as much as a self conscious prepubescent girl could.  I was a very active kid and remarkably flexible, so it appealed to me immediately.  I think that 12 was a little young for me to grasp the mental component, though.  Actually, that probably remains my biggest challenge.

Over the years I’ve practiced yoga with varying degrees of commitment. When my older boys were young, I took a class at the JCC in Albany taught by Cameron Thomas. (Ironically enough, she mediated my divorce last year – small world, huh?) Cameron was the perfect yogi – she was meticulous about form and taught me a lot about the poses and breathing.

I’ve told you before how much I enjoy the Sunday morning class at the Yoga Loft, but I’ve been expanding my horizons, particularly while on vacation.  For the third summer, I’ve taken yoga classes taught by Patty Renaud in Wellfleet. The classes aren’t incredibly physically challenging, but they do provide an excellent opportunity for me to mentally release.  I’ve been really close to dozing at the end of class – a true vacation.

Last winter when I was in Palm Springs (yeah, I like saying that) I found a studio that offered a variety of classes.  I managed to squeeze 4 classes in during my 5 days, two of which were modified Bikram classes.  I don’t know much about Bikram, or “hot” yoga, other than it is an ass-kicking workout, even when it is abbreviated to 70 minutes and 102 degrees.

Last week on Martha’s Vineyard I took two legit Bikram classes – 90 minutes, 104 degrees in the studio.  I wisely paid for two classes ($16 plus $2 to rent a mat) guaranteeing that I would return a second time.  Seeing as how during the initial class I was afraid that I was either going to die, pass out or puke, it was a good move.
If you are interested in a workout that stretches your muscles and relaxes your brain, I heartily recommend finding a Bikram studio.  I’ve heard good things about this place, but haven’t yet made it there myself.  This type of yoga is not for the faint of heart – bring plenty of water and move into the poses with caution if you’re inexperienced with practicing.  And be prepared to literally drip sweat from virtually every pore.  And speaking of that – apologies to those unfortunate enough to have set their mats up next to mine on Friday.  Hope I didn’t sweat any of Thursday night’s tequila on you.  I was on vacation, after all.

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Filed under Albany, California, Cape Cod, Exercise, favorites, ideas, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, running, travel

A Tale of Two Pinots

A Tale of Two Pinots

A cool follow-up to this post – I responded to a Tweet from Empire Wines inquiring about what their followers were drinking on a Wednesday. I mentioned the Talbott Logan – I was at work, sometimes I have to have a glass of wine when I’m working. Empire must have retweeted me because I got a tweet from Talbott thanking me for enjoying their wine. I responded to them and asked if the Logan Pinot was restaurant only because Empire didn’t have it available. They responded saying “no,” and offered to discount my s&h if I would like to purchase some directly from them.

And that, my friends, is Marketing 101 using social media.

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Filed under California, Recommendations, Wine

Unbroken

image from nytimesbestseller.net
I just finished an amazing book about a remarkable man. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand relates the absolutely inspiring life story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic athlete, a soldier in the Pacific during World War II and, ultimately, a man who did not allow the extreme challenges in his life to permanently break him. Or, perhaps Louie’s story isn’t so much about how to deny life the opportunity to break oneself, but is instead a story that proves that it is the way we put the pieces back together, after being broken, that truly define us.

This excerpt, from when Louie began to run seriously, moved me.  Perhaps it was my own physical proximity to where he had been decades earlier, but I felt as if I knew exactly what he had experienced.

“…he went to stay at a cabin on the Cahuilla Indian reservation, in southern California’s high desert…He ran up and down hills, over the desert, through gullies…He didn’t run from something or to something, not for anyone or in spite of anyone; he ran because it was what his body wished to do.”
I imagine it looked like this…
Get this book for athletes, veterans, WW II history buffs, and anyone struggling with personal challenges. It is unforgettable.

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Filed under Books, California, Recommendations

Blessed

image from wikipedia
I’m calling this in. From paradise aka Palm Springs, CA. There may be more typos than usual. I may be almost sipping my second margarita. I am, without a doubt,

Blessed…

1. To be alive, the ultimate blessing, but so infrequently  appreciated in a conscious fashion. Sometimes the lack of appropriate acknowledgment of what a gift life is comes from a place of ignorance, kitten eyes not yet opened. Other times it is a more conscious decision. Looking too closely can be traumatic for all involved. But, when you see that place inside of you come alive again after the drought that had been your daily life, you understand. 

2. Love. Giving it, receiving it, feeling it, seeing it, tasting it. Yep, love

3. Strength – being able to propel one’s way through life is a gift. Period.

4. The opportunity to travel and visit places both new and familiar.

5. An appreciation of beauty. In so many ways.

6. Optimism. I really do believe it is all going to be all right.  And if it isn’t, I’ve always got my strength.

7. Discipline. Not in a dominatrix  sort of way. Sorry, fellas! I just know and accept that some things have to happen. Responsibilities and commitments have to be respected. Always. 

8. Creativity. I can look into a refrigerator with 6 eggs, a hunk of cheese and some leftover ham and give you 3 courses. Easy. I can figure stuff out. I sometimes make attractive things – beyond those boys. 

9. The knowledge that happiness is good.  And possible.

10. The ability to hope. Imagine being hopeless?  That is a sad state of being.

11.  Friends who love me long and hard. No, really. In the purest of senses. Their position as last in my list is a testament to their position as a part of me. 

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Filed under California, drinking, musings, travel

Food Porn – California style

Traveling with an almost-twelve-year-old has many advantages when it comes to dining, or should I say, eating.  For instance, breakfast is really easy – bagels for him and yogurt, fruit and granola for me.  Simple, easy to find and substantial enough to hold us over until later in the day.  Another great thing about traveling with a kid is that they’re more than happy to substitute ice cream for either lunch or dinner, something we did perhaps three of our vacation days.  And, with pride, I have to acknowledge that my pre-teen is really starting to branch out in what he orders when we’re at a restaurant.  Gone forever are the days of chicken fingers and meat products always sold as “bacon” in an attempt to entice him to eat.  There’s still some work to be done, believe me, like why ordering a NY Strip Steak at TGIFs at the Atlanta airport is not a good idea, but he is coming along.  Here’s a sampling of a few of our favorite things…
Griffin’s new favorite – fried ice cream



Roberta’s matzoh ball soup



Amazing ceviche – Mariscos Chente, L.A.

Fish tacos – Mariscos Chente



Peking duck – Ocean Seafood, Chinatown, L.A.

Chinese feast – duck and Chinese broccoli
The BEST cinnamon roll – Rick’s, Palm Springs

Breakfast

My first In-n-Out Burger

Potent margarita

Roll with softshell crab, crabmeat and tuna from Fugu’s – La Jolla

Mole and fish tacos Alfonso’s of La Jolla


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Filed under California, Dinner, drinking, Eating, Food., Recommendations, vacation

Pass(ing it) Over

While on vacation in Palm Springs, I participated in my first Seder. What a wonderful experience! It was everything I’d ever imagined – filled with ritual, food based, and slightly chaotic. The perfect religious and special meal. The opportunity to enjoy a Seder dinner arose when Griffin and I visited an old friend of mine. The last time my friend, Roberta, and I had spent time together was nearly 25 years ago and it had been a bit of a disaster. If I had to sum up that 3 week visit (I know, a ridiculous length of time, but I had lived with them in the past as their nanny/project) in 10 words, it would look something like this: Joshua Tree, tequila, tears, Corona, turquoise bikini, fake i.d., regret. Yep, that’s what it was, in 110 degrees of dry heat.

This brief Passover stop over was as sweet as Kosher wine. We talked, we laughed, we told stories to Griffin, and when Griffin finally surrendered to sleep, we talked about exciting things offered by the future…lovely. I took Griffin to some places I had been introduced to a quarter of a century earlier (dramatic, huh?) and we ate the best cinnamon bun ever. As I shared these experiences with my boy, an entirely other thing was going on as Roberta and I talked about her and her daughter, the child I had been a nanny to so many years ago. The child who now had a daughter of her own, who looked remarkably the same as her mother had during the years we all lived in the same village in Orange County, N.Y. There was an incredible exchange of memories and impressions and reminiscences as we shared the impact we had each made upon each others’ lives. 
Roberta was the first person who truly forced me to accept ownership of my life and where I wanted to be.  She taught me how to make quiche and to put some distance between myself and the steering wheel when driving, and she broke me of my annoying habit of using the word “goes” in place of “says.”  You know: then she goes blah blah blah.  There are pieces of her that now reside within me and that is an amazing gift for someone to have given of themselves.  Her daughter, Leah, was less than two when I began taking care of her all those years ago.  At that time in my life I was very involved in gymnastics – practicing back handsprings and side aerials for hours in a friend’s basement.  I started teaching Leah how to do backbends and cartwheels and she totally fell in love with the sport.  The two previous trips I had made to the desert decades ago, included time spent shuttling Leah 90 minutes each way to the gym where she trained and competed.  She now owns a gymnastics gym in Palm Springs and our trip coincided with Leah’s daughter’s, 7 year-old Rachel, very first meet as a gymnast.  Wow – talk about being significant in someones life!  As a teacher I’ve often said that it is a true privilege to work with kids and I am blown away by the role I played in Leah’s (and subsequently Rachel’s) life. 
Although there was a lot of looking backwards in the desert visit, there was an equal amount of looking forward.  The uninitiated may imagine the desert as an infertile place lacking in hospitality, seemingly barren.  Believe me, nothing could be further from the truth, for me.  My soul was absolutely bathed in love, support and reminders of how some connections remain intact despite time and distance.  The recognition of the impact created when one passes on wisdom and tradition  to people one loves, paired beautifully with the Passover holiday.  Unforgettable.

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Filed under aging, Boys, California, Events, family, friends, holidays, musings, travel