2020 – a pivotal year, one that tested us all well beyond our limits – a global pandemic, an unprecedented number of wildfires in California, continual poor air quality, shelter in place orders, facing racial injustices, wearing of masks, world leaders incapable of leadership, Saturn & Jupiter as close as they’ve been in 800 years, grocery store employees classified essential workers, no sporting events, hoarding, so.much.misinformation and the list continues…. This was the year we collectively lost our smile which was covered by masks the few times we actually ventured out. Everyone blended together into a non entity.

When I saw the initial horrific coverage of the deaths in Italy I began to mourn and knew my life would never be the same again. I felt I was reading a science fiction novel and viewed our world as an observer. The future seemed bleak and dystopian.

I realised I had to stop doing puzzles, staring at my plants & wishing the days away. I needed a plan. My life changed enormously and yet remained the same. I still wore hats and lipstick, asked tons of questions and continued to do ‘most’ of the activities I loved. I just did more of them and I did them solo. I learned to love and appreciate myself more – it was empowering. I lit a lot of candles! Deliveries were eclectic ranging from mezcal from Mexico to yarn from the Hebrides; if I couldn’t travel why not bring the world to my doorstep. I’ll try to do a followup post about the fun things that were purchased which may be of interest to some (the custom hats in this post are from Six Hand Hats).

I was heartened to see so many people turn to cooking as an stress reliever as I believe nourishing yourself is the pinnacle of self care.  I enthusiastically embraced cooking and baking  and ordered several new to me cookbooks which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Fresh spices were ordered – my go to source is Whole Spice. While y’all were stockpiling disinfectant I was quietly hoarding Rancho Gordo heirloom beans.

I read a lot of books – if you are on Goodreads let me know and I will follow you. I love book suggestions. Knitting is a source of calmness and meditation for me as well as a wonderful creative outlet. I seemed to concentrate on knitting sweaters using heavier weight yarn this year; did I foresee snow in my future?

Our county never left the bottom tier phase of reopening and a lot of businesses were required to open with limited services. Gyms were one of them. I found the one thing that kept me sane was getting outdoors every day to exercise. Nature truly does heal. If you cannot find a nearby trail perhaps there is a park or an aviary in close proximity. Take deep breaths of fresh air and just keep moving!

I feel very fortunate to have friends from all parts of my life even all the way back to childhood (that’s a looong way!) and I realised for the first time I was communicating with all of them the same way as I couldn’t see anyone in person. This was a moment when total strangers became friends; the spirit of community was immense. I fully realised the importance of connections and the conduit friends have to my history. I certainly don’t say it often enough but I appreciate all of you for just being present and hanging in there with me. I thank you for your continued support, thoughtfulness and humour. We will get through this and be with our families again soon. And, be able to HUG each other!

The good news: Humans are an adaptable and resilient species filled with lots of hope. How can 2021 not be fabulous when the fashion Pantone colours of the year are grey & YELLOW. I am beginning the new year with stillness and continuing to surround myself with the best. My thoughts – stay safe and indulge!

It’s been a long, long road this year!

Back to Basics

back to basics

I have a love / hate relationship with my cell phone.  After the accident, I was focused on having it with me at all times – just in case!  Yet, the constant use of the phone is overwhelming.  And, I am not talking about what others are doing, but my own use.  I have less than the minimal amount of apps on my phone, but I have found that texting has gotten out of control.

Remember, the simple days when you could actually think about what you wanted to say and write a letter.  I learned never to write in anger or frustration (yet it is those emotions that texting seems to bring out) and to sleep on that sort of communication before mailing it.  It was often torn up the next day and the relationship was miraculously saved!  Today everything is about instant gratification which can be totally irreparable.  And, I haven’t even mentioned the auto correct feature which is another mind boggling experience which involves yet another text saying you didn’t mean that.  I find texting exhausting and tedious; even voice texting which results in an inordinate amount of time correcting the message.  There is no margin for error since no nuance of emotion is being exchanged; the simple raising of an eyebrow, giggle or shoulder shrug that gives the message a completely different tone is not there.

I know of relationships that have ended with a text – goodbye ‘Dear John’ letter. It seems to me that a lot of integrity was lost in that particular kind of text as well. I think the recipient could breathe a big sigh of relief (after the shock has worn off) that this person is no longer in their lives – unable to call?  Really?  I wonder if marriage proposals are done by text as well. 

I have read about ‘internet relationships’; I think this is called make believe at its worst; those days are best spent by children in their fantasy stage.  Digital interactions are not real; relationships that don’t progress to an eventual getting together are simply not normal and resisting the meet up is a sure sign of something amiss.

I recently received for my birthday the most beautiful hand crafted fountain pen from a life long friend and my intention is to put it to good use this year.  Please don’t be surprised if you receive a missive in the mail from me or better yet, a phone call! 

Beautiful Memories

I have the Christmas music up full volume as I write my Christmas cards with my  favourite fountain pen! The only thing absent is the snow and this is the only time I miss it!!  I love everything about December. The decorations are so very festive, the lights are twinkling and jingle bells are ringing. Oh yes, the Christmas trees! It is also my birthday month which means every day is a joyful celebration.

Sonoma Historic Plaza

Yet as I write these cards I am filled with nostalgia as I remember each person and what they meant to me at various stages in my life. A few years ago, I visited a friend I hadn’t seen in a very long time.  We picked up our conversation right where we had left it so many years ago and the reunion was filled with much laughter.  I thought about all those years of not seeing her and realized I didn’t have regrets. I’ve learned to appreciate the ebb and flow of friendships. As much as I would have liked to remain frozen in a certain phase of my journey, I am so grateful I didn’t.  I am thankful for every person I have met along the way and of their influence in my life.  I admit though that I am surrounded by an emotion of wistfulness thinking of days gone by and my youth!

However, it is important not to get caught up in excessive self reflection, have unrealistic holiday expectations and dwell in the past.  Staying focused and centered and living life to its fullest in the moment is the only way to create memories.  Remember my maxim “Keep Moving” and put it to use.  Sitting in front of a TV or computer for hours at a time probably isn’t the best way to create meaningful memories.  Get out there and engage with the world.  There is something to be said for the Kona beer tagline: “ One life right?  Don’t blow it.”

Keep moving and start creating those beautiful memories right now that you can look back on with fondness. For those of you living in snow territory build a snowman  or better yet live dangerously and make an angel in the snow and think of me!!


Union Square San Francisco

Martini Fun!

Our last Martini Fun party of the year!  As usual lots of fun and many thanks to all of you that attended; it was great seeing everyone again (and we missed you if you weren’t here!).  Doug, of course, was the hit of the party once again as was his special drink, “The Jeannette” named after our very own, Jeannette Fung.  Are you looking for treats for your feet?   Sox Appeal, her new retail business, located near the historic Sonoma Plaza has just opened and you are invited to visit her.  She would love it!

We decided to go retro as well this time and the second drink served was the Manhattan (it is such a perfect fall drink).  Paraphrased from the Williams-Sonoma Bar Guide: This cocktail made its debut at New York’s Manhattan Club at a banquet party given by Lady Jenny Churchill for Samuel Tilden, the lawyer who prosecuted the infamous Tweed Ring in the 1870s.  Unlike the Dry Martini, the Manhattan is a challenge to mix becaue its ratio of whiskey to vermouth is absolutely critical.  Results also depend on the type of whiskey you use – straight rye or bourbon will produce a superior beverage to blended Canadian whiskey.

Speaking of retro – We thought it would be fun going forward to have one of our drinks be something from the past.  So please post your desires, but you know Doug will have the final say.  After all, he IS the bartender.  I am thinking a Singapore Sling would be fun – it has been decades since I have had one!  Don’t forget to post.

Now for the recipes.  I included one here for the chili as well. I try to make all my soups in clay pots and this batch was made in a large black clay pot from La Chamba, Columbia affectionately called the Missionary Pot.  Happy eating and drinking!

2.5 oz. bourbon
1.5 T sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 marachino cherry for garnish (I used Morello cherries; love them)

Pour the whiskey, vermouth and bitters into a mixing glass 2/3 full of ice cubes.  Stir well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with the cherry.  Make a pitcher full; much easier!

2 oz. Tangueray Rangpur gin
1/3 oz. Grand Marnier
1/3 oz. simple syrup make from Billington’s Natural Demerara Sugar (and you thought this was simple)
2/3 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 oz. St. Elizabeth’s Dram (which is an allspice Dram)

Pour all the ingredients into a shaker filled with ice; shake and pour into a chilled martini glass.  Enjoy sipping the wonderful mix of flavours!

The day before you make the chili, prepare the beans.  I use heirloom beans (1 lb.) and mix several varieties for chili and love the ones from Rancho Gordo located in Napa.   Their preparation and cooking of the beans is excellent. I highly recommend following their directions for cooking of the beans.  You could cook more than needed  to use in another recipe. I add lots of beans and you can experiment with the quanitity made.  I more than doubled this for tonight!

The day you assemble the chili:
Saute 1 pound of ground turkey, chicken or beef with chile powder, Mexican oregano and cumin (I used turkey: half dark and half white meat) or you can leave this out if you want a vegetarian chili

Saute the following  in a few tablespoons of olive oil until soft:
1 large onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
orange and yellow peppers, thinly sliced
3T finely chopped chipoltes in adobo sauce
1T Mexican oregano
2T hot chili powder
1-2 t cayenne pepper (if you want it hotter)
1+T ground cumin (I love cumin so adjust accordingly)
Salt to taste (I never salt)
1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes with their liquid
beer, optional
masa harina, optional

Gently simmer over low heat, covered for about 1 hour  and then add the cooked beans with their broth.  Continue simmering, covered for an additional 1/2 hour or until beans are tender.  If you need more liquid I add beer and I thicken the chili with 1-3 T of Masa Harina dissolved in hot water. At this point I cool and refrigerate over night allowing the flavours to totally blend and then reheat and serve with yogurt, grated cheese, onion, jalapenos, tomatoes or cucumber.  A very rich satisfying chili mostly because of the flavourful Rancho Gordo heirloom  beans.  Serves 8