Forever Young

Have you ever read something (other than politics) that just pisses you off?

I read a post on Sunday by a fitness guy I follow who said “what do you think of when you think of the average 62-70 year old? Shuffling along, stooped over, looking down at their feet to see where they’re going so they don’t trip, right?”

I’M INSULTED! After reading further, I realized that his ultimate point was that our bodies are designed to be strong and capable well into old age, but only “IF you never stopped moving, playing, lifting, climbing, and running… from childhood on.” Our society has become too sedentary, thus, too unfit and unhealthy too early. But, not us, right?

MY FIRST WAY to stay “young” is to stay strong and flexible. If you are playing, chasing, lifting and entertaining your Grands, do it as much as you can. If they wear you out, don’t start sitting on the sidelines, get stronger – for them and for yourself.

There are so many ways to accomplish this. What is my routine? I’ve done Nia Classes taught by my dear friend Holly (http://hollynastasi.com) for more than 20 years. Now I do them on Zoom with people from all across the world!
I also walk briskly 2-3 times a week, do crunches after walking, Plank daily, yoga stretches and crawling/playing on the floor regularly.

FLOORPLAY – MY HAPPY PLACE

While walking is great, it doesn’t engage your whole body; add some Yoga, Chair Yoga, Nia, Pilates, Zumba, Bicycling, Water Aerobics, Light Weights training, or Kettlebell. Just find something you love and go for it!

THE SECOND WAY to stay “forever young” is to develop intergenerational friendships. I have been very lucky to have friends both much older and much younger than myself.

The young stylists I met at work were a tough crowd, LOL. We could have easily dismissed each other because of our age, but they teased me into learning the latest technology, fashion trends, and music, while showing me a lot of respect for my life-skills . They are what I most miss about no longer working in the beauty industry.
Other friendships were formed over a love of good food, photography and art, and mutual admiration. These talented young women have been willing to include me in their lives. I am honored.

My older friends guided me with nurturing, encouragement and the benefit of their life experiences. Two set great examples of being young at heart, and were certainly stand-ins for my Mom after she passed in ’98. They were always generous, engaged, and active.

Nancy became client in the mid-1980s, and we became fast-friends. She was a little-bit coastal-grandmother – her family had a large Victorian summer-home on Rhode Island – and a little bit hippy. She hiked for years, and did yoga into her 90’s. She read widely, had been a librarian. I loved her style, her thoughtful way of speaking, her comfortable cottage in South Austin. We lived near each other, and I especially enjoyed being invited to lunch at her home.

We shared a love of blue & white Asian bowls, and on one of our last visits, I photographed these on her sunlit shelf, creating this watercolor.
She was always open-minded, curious, and inclusive. I miss her terribly.

NANCY’S NEW CUT (that bone-structure!)
Nancy’s Bowls

I met Lee at BookPeople in Austin, when we attended a book-signing for three women we both knew. She “took me under her wing,” became my friend, and was always a steadfast cheerleader as I wrote my book and struggled to regain my health. She is the first person I acknowledged in my book, and I don’t know if I would have finished it without her checking in on me.

Lee and I shared a love of hair and fashion, and Lee loved being right in the thick of things, in the spotlight if possible. Being shy, I admired that quality a lot!

She was a successful public speaker, who left Exxon to pursue her own career, then created a school to train hundreds of others to do what she did. Lee’s 90th birthday party (below) was an amazing gathering of all the people whose lives she had touched. She pledged that night to have another for her 100th, but passed away last year, 4 years shy of her goal. I really miss our annual birthday lunches, and her bright, cheery voice!

Lee’s 90th Birthday Party
Lee @ 93 Our Annual Birthday Lunch @ Cheesecake Factory

I came across this photo the other day which I’d saved, and it’s a reminder to myself after I found myself thinking, “what does it matter if I go out looking like this?”
This is the THIRD WAY to stay youthful, and this picture really is worth a thousand words.

We’ve gotta live like we’ve got lots more life ahead of us, because we may have. What we do today will affect our tomorrows.

Thanks for being in my life. I loved all of your comments!
XO Donna


KINDER AND GENTLER

IF you’ve noticed I haven’t shown up in your mailbox for a while, it’s because I have had Covid.

Yes, despite being vaxxed and boosted, and wearing a mask everywhere indoors, I got it anyway, as did my sweetie. I gotta say, I never had any doubts about my need for the vaccine, and I am grateful that so many people worked so hard to make one… I can’t imagine not having the vaccine – it knocked me on my ass, not gonna sugar-coat it. Today is the first day out of the last 14 that I have felt a bit like myself again. But I could sure use a nap. LOL

Let’s magically go back to what I began to write 3 weeks ago:

I am making a quiche for my son. It’s one I made all the time when he was growing up and it is dependent on perfectly-ripe farm-fresh tomatoes. I bought a few at our farmer’s market this morning, along with some onions, and I can’t get the memory of this Tomato & Onion Pie (what it is called in this cookbook I’ve had since the mid-1970s) out of my mind. A chunk of Jarlsberg, a few eggs, some half & half, and it will be heavenly!

Much used, well loved.

This cookbook was published in 1972, a year after my son was born, but I didn’t buy it until three years later when I began my first hairdressing job. There was an incredibly beautiful woman who owned a shop half a block from the salon where I worked. She was my boss’s client and we would always talk as I shampooed her hair.

Her shop – The Jade Garden – just around the corner from our shop, was full of airplants in stunning seashells from all around the globe, suspended everywhere in the delicate macrame hangers she made. Acrylic pedestals in varying heights featured whimsical terrariums she constructed. She was fascinating and exotic to me: she’d been to India, where she’d been given her name by her guru. She ran her own very chic business, something unimaginable to my twenty-five year old self. Her jewelry! And, she was a vegetarian.

I never really enjoyed meat, but I had no idea there were options other than what I had been raised with. There was a small health food store within walking distance of my shop – frequented by all the people coming into town from NYC to catch the ferries to Fire Island. We walked there together for lunch one day, and I was hooked. Down the veggie rabbit-hole I went!

I bought this book there. I had a Bohemian heart, and this book with it’s sweet stories of sharing good food which has been lovingly prepared struck a chord within me. Growing up, dinner was something to be “fixed” and on the table on time every night. Usually it was a very stressful event, to be endured. Not something to be enjoyed. This book presented a better way for me raise my son and enjoy our meals together.

These illustrations appealed to my Bohemian heart.

Between this book, and it’s follow-up, AnneMarie Colbin’s book, “Food and Healing, ” and James Beard’s book on bread – plus all the wonderful vegetarian friends I met when I moved to Austin a lifetime ago, I’ve always eaten well. Often on a tight-budget as a single-mom, but always well. Going back to my hippie roots always makes me happy. Food should be delicious, made with healthful ingredients, and beautiful. I am happy I made this quiche before I got sick; it made me feel better knowing that my son was enjoying it!

It is beautiful, no? if any of you are interested in the recipe, please leave a remark in the comments – I will gladly send it to you. It’s fabulous with a nice salad, a glass of buttery Chardonnay, and pears or peaches for dessert. And just as good when reheated in a toaster oven the next day!
XO Donna

Tomato and Onion Pie, oh my!


SYNCHRONICITY

Isn’t it odd how someone you haven’t seen for years can suddenly float into your mind, and then, bam! you run into them in a place you would never have imagined?

I live 35 miles NW of Austin, Texas… and my dentist, and quite a few of my doctors, are there.
I’m completely unwilling to go to anyone else, so I usually plan a few things around medical visits when I am going to be in town. Today was a twice-rescheduled dental cleaning and new x-rays. Then off to get bloodwork done. Last stop, visit my son to sit in the shade to enjoy lunch with him.

I parked on the street in front of the big old brick home where he rents an apartment. It’s a beautiful neighborhood close to the university, lots of tall trees and still has un-metered parking. He has a tiny brick patio under those tall trees, and that’s where we always visit.

When we said our good-byes, I climbed into my now very hot car, got my purse settled, and was waiting for the A/C to cool the car. I was just about to fasten my seatbelt and leave, when I saw a man walking towards the car parked in front of me.

It couldn’t be… I was thinking about him and his wife just yesterday, remembering their swimming pool, with its dark bottom, shaded and made private in the middle of downtown Austin, by bamboo. I wished I was in that pool, and hoped they were well.

Side-note: our friendship ended about seven years ago – when she and I fell-out.

I got out of my car and called out to him, never stopping to wonder if I’d be rejected, and was greeted with a warm hug, and a nice conversation.

I always do my best to forgive and move on. Sometimes the ending of a friendship is wistful, you wish it had gone down differently, you miss them. Other times, you chalk it up to a lesson learned, and that person becomes “just somebody that I used to know.” You know?

This fell into the first category. I don’t know if anything will come of this, I expect nothing. But I finally got to say that I am sorry for the way our friendship ended, and let him know that I think of them often, fondly. He said they felt the same way, too.

As he was walking back to his car he turned to me, “Your birthday is still November 6th, right?”

I’m amazed at everything that conspired to make this happen – 30 seconds later and it wouldn’t have. I feel like I am finally getting my mojo back!

XO. Donna

PS – Speaking of Mojo – everything in my Etsy shop is on sale half-price. They make lovely gifts. Link below. XO

etsy.com/shop/FairviewPhotos


M-M-M is for Macaroons

I trust you all had a lovely Passover, or a beautiful Easter. Maybe you were lucky enough to celebrate both, as I did. Life is short, holiday food is wonderful, celebrate everything!

I wanted to bring a special dessert to our hostess for Easter Dinner – she’s allergic to eggs – so I decided to make coconut macaroons sans eggs. I love experimenting, and after reading quite a few eggless versions on Pinterest, I created my own.
It varied from all the others because I feel that using sweetened condensed milk AND sweetened coconut flakes is just TOO much sugar.
And, since I’d be eating them, I also made them gluten-free.

Egg-Free Coconut Macaroons

I chose to use unsweetened coconut, and let it soak in the sweetened condensed milk for 15 minutes because these flakes tend to be a bit drier than typical commercial shredded coconut. Then I added the remaining few ingredients, and using two spoons, scooped blobs onto my parchment lined baking sheet. With damp fingers I pushed them together and mounded them.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler:

  • 10 oz. bag Bob’s Red Mill coconut flakes (Whole Foods, Amazon, maybe even Trader Joes)
  • 14 oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/2 Cup gluten-free Cup-4-Cup (or similar) OR all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 almond extract
  • 4 ounces chocolate chips, or any other semi-sweet chocolate, chopped for melting and drizzling over top.

First: I let the coconut sit in the condensed milk for 15 minutes. Then I added the two extracts, stirred, and sprinkled in the flour and salt. Stir this all till thoroughly combined.

Second: Using a cookie scoop, or two tablespoons, place mounds of mixture on prepared cookie sheet. Dampen fingers and press up into mounds.

Third: Bake 18 – 20 minutes until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit 5 mins on cookie sheet, then gently move to wire rack to cool completely. You can eat them now, as is, but I think they were better the next day after softening-up a bit.

OR: You can melt the chocolate in the microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring each time creamy and liquid, maybe a minute. Using a teaspoon, I filled it with the melted chocolate and let it fall off the edge of the spoon as I’d wave the spoon back and forth, zig-zagging it onto the cookies while they were on the wire racks.

It took a couple of tries to get them looking the way I envisioned them. ( I ate all of the messy evidence of my learning curve! LOL)

All Mixed Up

And here they are fresh from the oven! If you put chocolate on them, put them back on the cookie sheet and in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden the chocolate. Then plate them and cover with plastic wrap. These keep in a Ziploc type bag for four days, if they last that long!

Perfectly Baked

It is always nice to find simple treats to prepare for friends and family that can accommodate multiple food allergies and taste so good that everyone enjoys eating them. Maybe you can make them for Mother’s Day? And if you do, please let me know what you thought.
Thank you for reading, I appreciate you!

XO Donna


ODDS & ENDS

I know it’s been forever, but I haven’t had much to say until two great things came along to share.

After writing the above title, I realized that Odds & Ends was the name of the first salon where I worked upon graduating from beauty school in NY in 1976. It was my first, but unfortunately not my last, experience with a drug-addled boss. That’s a story for another post. On the positive side, I began my career with some lessons in “what not to do,” and realized I was capable of running things.

I’m having a hard time deciding whether to tell you about my fan-girl crush on an actor, or about a new-to-me book; “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Make Your Loved Ones’ Lives Easier and Your Own Life More Pleasant.” But, since we’re here, let’s do this.


I love the simplicity of nature-inspired Scandinavian style, and the way they have a concept called hygge (h(y)ōōge) to explain it: finding comfort, pleasure and contentment in simple things, such as a cozy atmosphere and the feeling of friendship.

So of course I would find the ideas in this book right up my alley. Margareta Magnusson’s book picks-up where Marie Kondo’s leaves off, by taking it to the next step – that when we reach a certain age, we need to think our mortality and what we will leave behind.
Will it be an orderly and uncluttered space, or will it be disarray?

If anyone brought up death or dying when I was growing up, it was quashed, and quickly! But what is the point of ignoring the fact of our death one day, when it is the natural conclusion to life?

Is this just a thing in our country, as it appears to me to be?

Magnusson says her book about Döstädning, or death cleaning, is a permanent form of organization that can make our lives run more smoothly by eliminating what is unnecessary, and in the process, we are doing a favor for those that survive us.

Our generation grew up with both the means, and the ability, to have all that we wanted. Yet, I noticed after downsizing three times since 2014, that the less stuff I had, the freer I felt, because there was less to take care of. Even after three times, there are still things we seem to be stuck with (for sentimental reasons) that we don’t use. And we are both aware that our kids don’t want any of this aside from a couple of antiques. I’m sure you’ve seen all of the articles in the papers and magazines recently touting that as their headline!

I know contemplating this isn’t for everyone, but it appeals to me. After all of my father’s threats when I was young to send me to a convent, the absolute simplicity of such a lifestyle has a certain appeal to me.

You may not know this, but I love British crime/detective shows, so much so that I subscribed to BritBox. I don’t watch series that are too gory, too cute, or about serial killers… but I love a well-scripted, well-acted series, and gorgeous countryside and unfamiliar locales make it all the better. I’ve watched tons, and my fave show so far, hands down, is “Shetland. ” Yes, the Scottish actor I have a crush on.

Douglas Henshall plays Jimmie Perez, a man with a strong sense of family and duty. He’s an honest cop, a loving father and loyal friend. Picture a Clint Eastwood character, but with a really big, gentle heart. Picture Walt Longmire. Now throw in a knock-out Scottish accent, (sub-titles really helped on this one) and put it all on the island of Shetland. When you finish that series there’s a great movie called “Doors Open,” also starring Henshall, a few years younger. Fun romp. How have I just now heard of him? LOL

If you have something that thrilled you, please let me know below. I feel like I’ve watched everything worth watching!

I’m wishing you all a Peaceful and Happy Passover and Easter.

(P.S. 20% off everything in my Etsyshop through Sunday.)

XO Donna


A KIND ACT

Did you know that there is a “Random Acts of Kindness Day?” I didn’t know, but there is, and it was last Thursday, February 17th.

I remember the idea of Random Acts of Kindness being put forward in a workshop I did way back in the late ’80s. It was a nice, and novel, thought. Then it became a bit of a trend and all of my friends and I cultivated the habit of making donations to causes we supported, and randomly doing nice things for strangers, expecting nothing in return. Just because. And also because it was good Karma.

I loved the rush I got from putting extra money in my parking meter, leaving time for the next person. Or surreptitiously paying for a stranger’s coffee. Or leaving flowers on a friend’s doorstep anonymously because I knew it would cheer them up.

As it turns out, that “rush” I got is because being altruistic stimulates the reward centers in our brain, releasing oxytocin and giving us what is called “a helper’s high.” Not only does spreading kindness help others feel good about themselves, it contributes to our overall sense of belonging and community – which has become so sadly divided in the last few years. It also boosts our energy, happiness, and health. In study after study, it has been shown that:

  • Volunteering improves depression, reduces stress, and lowers our risk of cognitive impairment.
  • Making donations to charities lowers our blood pressure and improves heart health. Think, “Open Hearted.
  • Giving to others deactivates our pain centers leading us to feel more comfortable and at ease.
  • Committing a variety of kind acts throughout our week leads to improved happiness.
Write a nice note to someone. FairviewPhotos

Our random acts can be either anonymous or visible. We can plan them ahead of time or just go-with-the-flow and follow a spontaneous impulse. You can do something as easy as giving a heartfelt compliment. You can mail a handwritten note to someone you haven’t seen in a while. Write a positive review. Donate a couple of books to your local library, or pick up a little litter on your walk. Drop your judgements for a whole day, all of them, even (or especially) the ones about yourself.

I’m sure there are as many ways to show kindness as there are people to do them, but in case you need new ideas, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has lists of wonderful ideas to try. I know I’ve been more inwardly focused than in the past, but that’s going to change.

Remember, giving kindness to others is also a gift to yourself. Let’s make Kindness contagious, in a good way!

XO Donna


HODGEPODGE

I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been home so much, only going to the grocery store or to visit my son and bring him home-made baked goodies, but I think my brain is beginning to turn to mush.

I’ve actually enjoyed my reclusiveness, but just when I started to feel comfortable thinking about going out again, vaxxed and boosted, both a dear friend, and my sister (also vaccinated and boosted) caught the Omicron variant.
They are well again, but it was not “like a cold” for either. They were lucky enough to be able to get a monoclonal antibody infusion.

Like Punxatawnie Phil the Groundhog seeing his shadow today, I am perfectly content to go back underground for 6 more weeks!

I’ve been irregular in my posting, but not being out-and-about I’ve felt I had nothing of import to share, then it occurred to me that lots of us probably feel that way these days. Lots of us are struggling a bit to overcome our boredom, after all, it’s winter and it’s difficult to get out and exercise, which always helps me. Here’s when we can get by with a little help from our friends.

So, it may be a hodgepodge, but I’m going to share what’s been getting me by: movies, books, blogs, etc. and I’ll bet you will find something new that strikes your fancy!

Let’s start off with movies – two that we’ve loved are “The Tender Bar” starring Ben Affleck, and “Don’t Look Up” with an all-star cast. As my sister Elizabeth said, Ben Affleck is better in The Tender Bar than anything else I’ve seen him in. Set in 1972 on Long Island, NY (my home) it’s about a young boy looking for a father figure, which he finds in his Uncle Charlie, a self-educated and worldly-wise bartender played by Affleck. Perfection.

And if you need a zany spoof of everything right-this-moment, “Don’t Look Up!” is just the comic-disaster to deliver it!
Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio play astronomers who discover a comet that’s headed straight for Earth… and total annihilation, but can’t get anyone to take it seriously. An indictment of our current world. With a karmic ending.

On our to-watch movie list are “Eye in the Sky,” “Two Faces of January,” and “Jean of the Joneses.”

I signed up for BritBox after talking to a neighbor who also loves all-things-British when it comes to TV. I especially enjoy legal thrillers and detective series. After Midsomer Murders finished, I was lost – but now I’ve become hooked on a new-to-me series called “Vera.” It’s formulaic – always opens with a murder that’s always solved in 90 minutes – but that doesn’t make it boring. I’ve fallen in love with the main character, Vera, a wise woman who is fearless, dependable, earthy, ruthless in her pursuit of justice for the deceased, but still has a capacity for tenderness in spite of all she sees.

I’ve only read one book lately, because I’m having trouble trying to focus right now. Thus my escape into murder mysteries, and why I think my brain is turning to mush. But, I follow a blogger who I think you will also enjoy. It was her recommendation that led me to “Reading in Bed,” by Sue Gee
about two 60-ish women, friends, one married and one single. It was sweet, honest, poignant, and well worth the read. I may reread it because all I can remember is how it made me feel, but not the details.

The blogger is Sue Burpee, and her blog is ‘High Heels in the Wilderness.’ https://highheelsinthewilderness.com

It’s beginning to rain now. We are expecting the cold front that most of the rest of the country is experiencing right now – with temps in the 20’s for a couple of days. Not our usual Texas weather. Whether our power-grid will hold up this year remains to be seen. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and I’ve got flashlights, candles, blankets, and bottled water just in case. Who knows, maybe I’ll even read a book by candlelight if our power goes out. Stay warm, y’all!

XO Donna


AND HERE’S TO YOU

“Mrs. Robinson. Jesus loves you more than you will know… “
No, wait! That’s not what I meant to say, but now you’re humming it too, aren’t you?

Here’s to you, 2022, because you’re going to be a great year!

I believe this wholeheartedly, and the fact that I accomplished two major goals last year, and turned 70 to boot, gives me a foundation for my belief.

My first goal was to have what turned out to be a life-saving surgery. Now, almost seven months later, I feel so much better that I can look forward to a healthier, exciting year. My cardiologist is thrilled with my improvement – I saw her Tuesday and she reduced my meds because my blood-pressure is now too low – because my heart is working properly again!

My second goal (and I went right down to the wire accomplishing it) was taking an idea that came out of a therapy session, and turning it into a reality. I’ve opened a shop designing/selling greeting cards on ETSY. The cards are made from some of my favorite photos and professionally-printed for me on lovely card stock.

Maybe it’s my age, although I’d rather blame it on anything else, but the learning curve to get the thing up-and-running was an absolute bear! Have you noticed this, too? Does everything seem more complicated?
It took me months to get all of my ducks-in-a-row, but it opened with a bang on December 31!

Here’s the link to visit: etsy.com/shop/FairviewPhotos

It is so exciting to sit here working, surrounded by packages of beautiful cards in shiny wrappers, imagining all of the loving notes that will be written and received.

Flower Power

Naming the shop was a challenge, but I set an intention one night before bed: I would know what to call it when I woke in the morning. And I did: FairviewPhotos is named for the only street where all of the O’Klock sisters lived together.

It was just me, Terry, and Lynn when we lived in Bohemia, a little town on Long Island, in the mid-50’s. Then, new baby sister, Andee, joined us in Sayville in the 60’s while a new house was being built. When the Bayport house was ready, we moved in, and Elizabeth (whom you met in my post in August) was born. All five of us on Fairview Avenue.

There are two other reasons I believe it will be a good year – and yes, they are “airy-fairy,” but, I study Tarot and Numerology a bit, and last year was a chaotic “5” year. (2+0+2+1 =5) all about personal freedom in all it’s forms – and look what that turned into!

This year will be a “6” year, (2+0+2+2 = 6) and the preponderance of twos is also good because they are about partnership, diplomacy and love. Yes, THANK YOU!

The number “6” is about taking responsibility, with an emphasis on relationships and equilibrium. This year may be more about “What’s good for ALL of us?” and less about “Me, my rights, and what I want.” With this mindset there is room for an emphasis on growth and healing, cooperation, and service to others.

I read that 2022 is also a magnetic year; meaning that you can attract things more easily, both good and bad. Focus on your goals, and think BIG. Stay positive, drop judgements toward yourself and others. And drop guilt. Who needs more of that?

The icing on the cake for me, is the Pantone Color of the Year 2022, is VERY PERI. It’s not quite blue and not quite violet, but it is the color of the Sixth chakra, our Third Eye. It’s the color of the Vitex flower, above.

Last year’s color was Ultimate Gray… if that tells you anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love grey. This chakra, and it’s corresponding color, relate to self-responsibility and the ability to see things from a higher viewpoint, rather than satisfying your own ego. It also gives us the experience of being part of the whole.

The gift of this chakra is seeing AND understanding.

Let’s have faith that things are improving, let’s focus on what’s good. It’s a magnetic year, after all.

Let’s decorate our home with indigo-colored flowers, or better yet, plant some iris, lavender, and periwinkles in your garden. We planned to plant a Vitex tree and lavender bed this spring – I knew there was a reason I was focused exclusively on purple plants for my garden!

Frankincense, Lavender, Neroli and Juniper are all supposed to be beneficial for the Third Eye Chakra – they are available as incenses and oils, which I love and my sweetie hates. Relationships and equilibrium, huh? I’ll get back to you on the incense.

Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.
XO Donna


LASAGNA

Lasagna is a special occasion dish: Easter, Christmas, maybe a big birthday. All of the hours of preparation and assembly are done step-by-step with a sense of duty, tradition, and love. An obligation willingly accepted. It is understood that no matter what is happening – good or bad – a lasagna will always make it better, and the family gathered around the table to share in the deliciousness was the best thing of all.

This I learned from my in-laws.

Growing up, we didn’t eat lasagna, my Mom didn’t know how to make it until I’d married and my in-laws taught her. Our family’s go-to for special occasions was a ham… but most of our holidays were, well, not very special. My father’s anxiety and frustration increased as the hours ticked by, and by dinnertime everyone was wound-up so tight that nobody was really hungry.
My Mom may have made a perfectly delicious meal, but as good as it was, there was very little room for fun or conversation at the dinner table.

I met my future husband when I was just sixteen. My first invitation to dinner at his home was a revelation. They were a three-generation family under one roof, only the second I’d ever met, and everyone was working together, music was playing – probably opera – and when we sat to eat, there was lots of talking around the crowded dinner table… and a lasagna. One mouthful and I felt I had gone to Heaven!

Although my marriage didn’t last because we were too young, we always stayed friends. Or friendly, depending on the year. Lucky for me, my relationship with my in-laws DID last, for more than 40 years. When I think of Christmas dinners, it’s always theirs that comes to mind. Theirs that was the exemplar. From my father-in-law’s delicious French onion soup, to my MIL Dot’s multi-course extravaganza, and finally to her mom, Gram’s pleasure in asking, “Whatsa matter, isn’t it good?” when compliments weren’t immediately forthcoming because our mouths were full of her delicious lasagna.

I am sad that those days are only memories now, and happy that I got to be part of such a family.

This year I am going to make a lasagna for Christmas Eve. I haven’t made one in at least 7 years, since I had to quit eating wheat products. When I learned that Barilla makes good no-boil lasagna noodles that hold their shape, I knew it was time. I have had enough experience with gluten-free cooking that I believe I can make this work.

And yet, I’m a little nervous, doubting myself. For some reason, I feel the weight of all of those delicious memories bearing down on me. Will I get it right? Here’s where the rubber meets the road: all of my years of absorbing their experience and wisdom added to my years of cooking, plus the very best ingredients I can find, will, of course, add up to a wonderful lasagna. My version of lasagna.

What do I have to be nervous about?

I will serve it proudly to my Sweetie, my son, and his Dad – we are all sharing a meal this year, and even if it’s not like the old ways, they will all love it.

Here’s hoping that everything you cook turns out perfectly, and fills both bellies and hearts. And here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and love-filled New Year!

Gratefully,
XO Donna


SAME OLD?

It is funny how things change, but yet, they really don’t. I’d say it’s more of an unfolding, or evolution, rather than being another Big Bang!

I turned 70 since I last posted, and as those of you that have preceded me know, it’s no big deal. More of a societal issue, actually.
We have all been conditioned to think of 70 as old, (hell, women dread turning 40… can you imagine?) but I still feel years younger than my chronological age. I’m still l learning new things, still doing Nia, and still having fun. But there is one change I have noticed – I would dearly love a nap most afternoons! I’ve decided it’s because I am still recovering… because I’m certainly not old yet!

I had a lovely birthday – I got to speak to all three of my sisters, AND they all sent me beautiful gifts. My 93-year-old father called me and we had a very upbeat conversation. I thought he wouldn’t remember, but he did. And my sweet son posted a playlist for me on Facebook, then called, and we had a nice conversation, too.

My long-time friend Mike came over for a joint Birthday supper, and whipped up some very complicated, but utterly delicious cocktails to go with a tray of chicken enchiladas verde. Isn’t Mike’s shirt fun? And our drinks were even gin-based!

For dessert, I made my first rustic apple tart and “tweaked it” to compliment the enchiladas by adding finely minced jalapeño, raw sugar and cinnamon, and topped it off with toasted piñon. I was surprised by how simple the crust was to handle, and how light and flaky it turned out! A win worth duplicating for Turkey Day, sans jalapeños.

But, just so I didn’t get too cocky with my pastry success, the Kitchen Gods intervened and the next morning I boiled-over my oatmeal and had a mess to clean-up before my first cup of coffee!

It seems that some things never change, and microwaving oatmeal continues to elude me, so back to the stovetop.

Never get cocky!

Besides time in the kitchen, I’ve spent lots of time poring over photos, ordering cards, and getting everything ready for my Etsy shop. I know you’re going to love it! I finally settled on the perfect name for it – Fairview Photos. Fairview Avenue is the only address where all five of us O’Klock sisters lived together. It was a great house, although with six gals and only one-and-a-half baths, it was a squeeze.
No wonder my poor outnumbered Dad was usually overwhelmed. Its location was ideal – the Great South Bay was just at the end of our street. Lots of kids our age, school was only a few blocks away, and we had amazing neighbors. So many great memories there, so the name suits me to a tee.

Speaking of memories, these mailboxes are among my favorite photos from Santa Fe, shot in 1995. I always smile when I come across these pictures. I always assume that Larry was their friendly local mailman. Can you imagine actually knowing your mail carrier these days? I wish I did, and I’ll bet some of you do.

Gentle Spirit, indeed.

This is just some of my art that will be available on Etsy. Some details are still unfinished, but, in less than two weeks it should be ready for its opening and you will be the first to know!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and a bright and meaningful Hanukkah. While many things around us are changing right now, there is always so much to be thankful for. Goodness, love, and light – that Gentle Spirit – are what I am most thankful for!

With my love and heartfelt respect,

XO Donna