Aiming to keep my dirt-dwelling life simple, special and sweet

Thanks for Love

"I was one of those fortunate individuals who grew up in a large, passionate, demonstrative Italian family where we were taught to love as naturally as we breathed and ate giant bowls of pasta!" - Leo Buscaglia,


I was taught to love with small dumplings in chicken broth, buttered noodles, fried eggplant, pancakes with Karo syrup, and chocolate chip cookies (or rather, being allowed to sneak dough from the mixing bowl). Love traveled through learning how to paint ceramics, crochet blankets, going to the pool, and always being allowed to rock hard in the rocking chair. 


I believe we learn about love by those who show it to us. I've been lucky to come from a family that loves a lot in many ways. There are always good celebrations, cards in the mail, picture albums ready to look through, and hugs and kisses on the cheeks after a long time apart. My family does love right and for that I'm grateful. 


Happy to be home this week, I am seeing my grandma who has been in my life for 31 years but living well for almost 94. I think about all that she has seen and been through in her life, especially the not-so-good times. She faced hardship, doing without, and I'm sure, uncertainly about her future. Yet, to this day, she is loving and loved by all of us. I don't know whether or not she really knows how much she passed to her children, who then have passed it down to us (her seven grandchildren). We live our lives today the way we do because of what we received. 


I think it's important to think about how we live each day. I love Leo Buscaglia because he left behind a lot of knowledge and think-abouts for love. Love isn't a feeling, it's an action. You do it. That's true - think about people who say they love you but then forget to show it. It's the love actions that show how we feel, and Leo gave us a checklist to see how we are doing - The Love Quiz:


Asking yourself questions and answering them honestly is a good path to self-knowledge. In keeping with this idea, I'd like to propose a few end-of-the-day questions for each of us . . .

· Is anyone a little happier because I came along today?

· Did I leave any concrete evidence of my kindness, any sign of my love?

· Did I try to think of someone I know in a more positive light?

· Did I help someone to feel joy, to laugh, or at least, to smile?

· Have I attempted to remove a little of the rust that is corroding my relationships?

· Have I forgiven others for being less than perfect?

· Have I forgiven myself?

· Have I learned something new about life, living or love?

. Have I gone through the day without fretting over what I don't have & celebrating the things I do have?


If you are not satisfied with your answers, take heart. Tomorrow you get to start all over again! If you will it, this is one quiz you can never fail.


How well are you showing your love to the important people of your life? If you're not, remember that you can try to tomorrow. Maybe just one thing. I think it's a good thing to consider doing. I'm proof that it matters. My grandma never missed a birthday, holiday, important school-event, and created the day in which I hopped off of the school bus at the end of my street instantly smelling the chocolate chip cookies that were baking at my house. Still today, at 31, this one memory makes me feel so incredibly loved (maybe even more than it did as a child). 


I'm proof that love is remembered and appreciated. It matters. And I thank my grandma for teaching me this.

Grandma and my grandpa with my dad :)

I believe that this was before they were married.

With this one, I see where my nose came from.


Street Names Make Me Wonder

Each morning and night, as I walk my dog, I giggle when I see the street signs: Otter Drive, Beaver Creek, Snow Leopard Lane. I imagine the long cherry table at which dignified planners sat, sharing possible names for the streets of my subdivision. Names, I'm sure they said, are important. The names of the streets must match the neighborhood theme - Woodland Park - and have a welcoming feel. 

I just think its funny that the names of our streets pay homage to animals that we do not have in our neighborhood (and maybe never did). No otters or beavers as there is not a creek in which they could swim, and even in the snow no leopards stalk the streets. 

Nope - no snow leopards in my neighborhood

Each time I walk, I remember one of my favorite poems by Billy Collins and how much I laughed when I was lucky enough to hear him read it aloud in person. I was at the National Writing Project meeting in 2009. If you have 38 minutes, spending it with Billy Collins is so worth your time - I promise:   

Yet, here is the poem I remember when I walk on my funny named streets:

The Golden Years by Billy Collins 
 All I do these drawn-out days
is sit in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge
where there are no pheasants to be seen
and last time I looked, no ridge.

I could drive over to Quail Falls
and spend the day there playing bridge,
but the lack of a falls and the absence of quail
would only remind me of Pheasant Ridge.

I know a widow at Fox Run
and another with a condo at Smokey Ledge.
One of them smokes, and neither can run,
so I’ll stick to the pledge I made to Midge.

Who frightened the fox and bulldozed the ledge?
I ask in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge.

Stovetop Beans

I believe that I could eat tacos, fajitas, burritos, or enchiladas every day of the week. The mixture of sauce, spice and crunch is perfect. I love using refried beans as a foundation to burritos and tacos, yet haven't enjoyed thinking about all of the junk that is probably in that can. So, I was very happy and excited when I was successful at merging a few recipes for cooking beans. My recipe is below, and the product was delightful on a tortilla with salsa-baked chicken, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.

Health Note:
Canned foods are exposed to BPA, a toxic chemical used when sealing cans. I've learned that when buying food, glass containers are the best way to go. For more information on BPA:  Next time, I'm going to try my hand at soaking beans from a bag overnight, then cooking up the beans.

One canned food alternative is Eden Foods (company located in Clinton, Michigan which is near my hometown of Brooklyn, MI)- 

Eden Foods cans foods without BPA, and also has a wide range of toxin-free and organic foods. Here in Maryland, I can find some Eden products in my local grocery store. If you can not, request that your store begin stocking their shelves with these good products, or you can order them for your family using the link, located above.


1 can of either kidney or black beans, drained
2 cups of water
1 chicken bouillon cube
Garlic powder equal to 2 cloves (should say on the back of your container)
3 Tb. basic salsa of desired heat
Optional: 1 small onion and 1 Tb. butter

  • If you like onion, start with cooking the chopped onion with melted butter in a stovetop pan (big enough so it can hold all of the ingredients). Cook until soft, about three minutes.
  • Place the bouillon cube with water in a microwaveable glass container (I use my measuring cup) and microwave for three minutes. Afterwards, stir to dissolve the cube. You now have a broth.
  • Add (or begin) drained beans to a stovetop pan along with the broth and garlic powder. Stir it up and cook in high heat until boiling.
  • Once boiling, lower heat and simmer uncovered until almost all of the liquid has boiled away, about twenty minutes or so. Keep an eye on this so you don't let the beans burn in the pan.
  • With just a bit of liquid left, remove the pan from the heat and begin to mash the beans with your spatula (and do so until you have your desired "smashed-ness"). I like to leave some beans semi-intact.
  • Scoop out all of the smashed beans and place in your desired container. Add the salsa, stir up, and serve.

The end of the world is a good opportunity....

I just found out today that this Saturday, 21 May 2011, is what many believe will be the beginning of the end of the world. There is math involved with this prediction, so some who are not so math-comfortable may succumb to it is difficult to disprove math at times. 

I really hope that Saturday is not going to be the end of things. I like Earth, and many things about my life. Also, my husband is out of town and won't return until Saturday evening, and I'd like to spend some more time with him.

Word on the street is that a powerful earthquake is going to ripple from the International Date Line and eventually destroy my part of North America around 6 p.m. Earthquake, rippling.... I'd like to take the end of the world seriously because it would be a very serious thing. Yet, earthquakes do not ripple (as I understand them now). Earthquakes are caused by plate movement: converging, diverging, submerging. My science background trumps my lack of math. 

Whether or not the world ends this Saturday, it's a good opportunity to make note of what I'm blessed to have and what I've enjoyed while I've been here. Truth is, each of us is very lucky. There is always going to be someone with more and there will always be many with less. Here's what I'm thankful for:

My husband

My dog

My parents

My siblings

My country and marina

Friends and family .... and drinks with them!




Making things


Perfect moments

Funny people

Chicken Paprikash - like you can get at the Hungarian Kitchen in Wyandotte

Sweet creamer with really strong coffee

The start of summer

Good ideas

Exceptional musicians

Great expectations (I'm sure this show will be fantastic)

Colorful pens

The best movies

Ending the day with a glass of Moscato and my feet up

Dogs Aboard

This is the gentle beast that meets us when we walk the pier to our boat. 
 And this is him checking us out as we motored past his boat:

Laundry, revisited

Saturdays have become the day of duty. Laundry needs to be done, vacuuming, gardening, shopping, etc. Midway through yesterday, my most recent Saturday, I realized, "here I am, taking care of things." I don't want to just take care of things on my weekend and I really don't want to accumulate many things that I have to take care of. I subscribe to the opinion that, "eventually your things own you," and I felt a bit, yesterday, that my things were taking my time. Up here in my office, I spied out through the window and noticed my neighbors: mowing lawns, cleaning cars, unloading stuff and taking it into houses, etc. I saw myself in their actions and remembered that many use the weekends to "catch up" on what needs to be done at home. Yet, we work all week then spend all weekend taking care of what we've bought with money we've earned from working. Work, work, work, it all life becomes.

Before I told my husband that I was done with the house (my over-exaggerated response to this realization) I tried to put my negative feeling into perspective. I wondered whether or not emotions make a difference; meaning, if you love your things and your things give something good back to you then maybe working on them is worthwhile? And possibly, when taking care of things feels too much like work is that when there's a problem? By problem I mean that one has way too many unnecessary things?

On the boat, before we made a purchase, we asked ourselves two questions: (1) what will we regularly use it for, and (2) where will it be kept? We've kept this mantra in the house and successfully we've limited the stuff that we've purchased and used for decorating. Our house is simple, and creates echoes when I talk on the phone, but it contains things that are important and useful. When I discussed, with my liveaboard friend Kelly, the possibility of a Pier 1 Papasan chair, we decided that although comfortable, it probably wasn't the most necessary purchase. It just didn't fit with a required answer for both (1) and (2) above. 

Papasan Chair - one of Pier 1's great items that I just can't justify.

My friend, Kelly, lives with her boyfriend aboard their boat and the boat takes up a lot of their time for maintenance. Yet, both of these friends love living aboard, enjoy the lifestyle, and the boat is what gives these pleasures. Taking care of her, a beautiful 35 foot sailboat, is worth their time because of the enjoyment she provides to both of them. Yesterday, the boat left the slip and my friends spent their breezy sunny spring afternoon on the water - fishing, relaxing, and enjoying. The boat, a thing, is worth their time and work. It really gives a lot back to them and creates a richer life. 

Now I also think that it's important that we also take the time to recognize what it is that the things (which we have specifically chosen to include in our life) give to use. For my friends, the boat gives calm and adventure, and something as simple as my laundry gives me a feeling comfort each day. Maybe we move too fast somethings to really think about the value of what we have - often, we're always rushing to find more.

As I did my laundry yesterday,  I kind of had a moment where I was okay with the work. I've decided to forgo usual use of the dryer and instead dry my clothes using the breeze that enters my upstairs windows. It may sound funny, but realizing that I was utilizing a natural means of energy to complete a household task brought a bit of satisfaction. Even this morning, as I did two more loads of laundry, when I opened the windows, set up my drying assistants and hung my laundry among each, I enjoyed it. Truthfully, I do not think that I enjoy doing laundry, but the process has now gained more meaning than before. I'm using something provided to me by Mother Nature, a gift if you will, and it feels good. And the smell that fills the upstairs is priceless. The smell of fresh, hanging laundry brings back memories of my backyard in spring when I was a little girl. 

What I've come to understand, is that there are things I do need to do with a house; but how I do them and with what I use can turn the chore into something more meaningful. I'm taking care of my home, which provides me and my family with shelter each day and night and also a place for us all to gather, spend time, and enjoy one another. My home is worth taking care of, and when I take care of her in a way that mutually respects my larger home, our planet, there's a good feeling that comes with that.

I've been reading Sophie Uliano' book, Do It Gorgeously, and enjoyed her website yesterday -, which all serve to help ladies live lavishly while respecting the world and its resources. There are so many good things that we have here on Earth, and they are readily available. I've started to feel good about conserving my resources, keeping life simple, and utilizing natural energies and materials. On Sophie's site, she gives these think-abouts to help us keep it simple and green:

I invite you to simply become a little more aware of the way you live your life. As you walk through your day, think about the following:
  1. Are you and your family making a concerted effort to conserve water?
  2. Are you and your family trying to cut down your energy usage this season and how?
  3. Have you thought about the air quality in your home and how you can minimize your exposure to pollutants?
  4. Have you included at least a few organic items in your weekly shop?
  5. Are you growing anything edible in your garden this year?
  6. Do you air-dry your laundry?
  7. Have you ever visited a hazardous waste facility?
  8. How many bags of trash do you throw out a week?
These are just a few questions to just get you thinking. Don’t guilt-trip yourself – just walk through your week thinking a little more deeply about how you can perhaps reduce you and your family’s impact on the planet?