Bare Necessities

Our Mexican Riviera vacation didn’t go quite as I had planned, but you’ve heard the old saying, “You want to hear God laugh, just tell her your plans!”

The trip was easy; the flight is a little over 2 hours from Austin to Cancun. Our pick-up at the airport went much better than usual, too – no wandering around looking for a driver who should be looking for us. We found our ride quickly in the melee, and we were the only passengers in a brand-spankin’ new Chevy Suburban… I felt a bit like a celebrity, tinted windows and all.

We arrived at the hotel with plenty of time to unpack, change clothes and meet our friends for dinner. It is such a delight to be with friends for vacation, isn’t it?  Have you noticed how easy it is to pick-up right where you left off, as if you’d just seen each other a few weeks ago, rather than a whole year ago!

Lesson #1: Like fine wine, friendships grow richer and more special with time.

The next day dawned bright and sunny. We had each reserved a poolside lounge, so we donned swimsuits, dropped our towels, sunscreens, and books on them, and headed to the breakfast buffet. What a day: lounging, chatting, reading, and being waited on the whole time! I even managed to pry myself off of the lounge and make it to the gym to work out! Dinner was especially wonderful because our friends from Montana, whose flight had been scrubbed the day before, had finally arrived. Dinner that night was a dressy affair, and the gang – all 10 of us – were there!

Everything was heavenly… until it wasn’t.

I woke with a torturous stomach ache at 2:30 a.m. I was curled into fetal position praying it would pass, and trying not to whimper and wake my fiancé. It didn’t pass… For the first time in 30+ years, I had gotten the dreaded “turista.”  I’d never heard of anyone getting sick here… lucky me.

For the next 60 hours I never left my room. The first day was wretched, but by evening I was able to relax. And like Greta Garbo, I wanted to be alone. Please dear, get me some ginger ale… and then Go. Have. Fun.

I slept most of the second day, and that night I was finally able to enjoy some fruit and pot of mint tea. The view out my window was great, day and night. My sweetie kept checking-in with well-wishes from our friends, and I kept thanking him, then shooing him away again to enjoy himself..

Lesson #2 – Even though I was sick on my vacation, I was still on vacation.

I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, or my trip was ruined. It wasn’t what I would have wished for, but it was what it was. I practiced “Being Here Now.” (RIP dearest Ram Das). And, did I mention that the view was great?

 

The next day I felt well enough to join everyone again. A sunrise stroll before breakfast let me dip my toes in the Caribbean. A swim in the pool and lots of lounging, and I felt ready for our final dinner together before everyone began leaving the next day.

That is when I learned the last lesson of the trip.

Lesson #3 – When packing for a vacation, pack everything you think you’ll need. Come back later and remove about half of what’s in your suitcase!

I thought I needed lots of options, but too many options = too many decisions, and that = stress. Especially when I have to drag my baggage, literally, through airports.

I brought too many clothes, shoes, books, toiletries, make-up and hair goop. I could barely lift my little carry-on.  What I wore: two jersey dresses, one bathing suit, two sarongs, tights, a tank top and sneakers, a pair of heels, a baseball cap, and flip flops.

The truth is that everything I really needed, other than a few bare necessities, I carried with me in my heart!

Thank you all for being here and reading and commenting. I appreciate you! Happy Holidays and a Healthy, Loving and Abundant New Year.

XO Donna

 

 

 


Walking on Sunshine

I studied with a wise business mentor who always said, “If you’re on time… you’re late.” 

It was a great way to drive home the necessity of being early, and made more of an impression than my mother’s, “The early bird catches the worm.” 

I’ve certainly never wanted to catch worms, have you? However, having all of my ducks-in-a-row is a wildlife metaphor I can subscribe to. So much less stress-inducing than a last-minute mad dash to get everything done! Both my mentor and Mom would be proud of me this year, I’m ready way ahead of schedule.

Just like Santa, I made a list and I’ve been checking things off as I go.

This year I had my heart set on creating my own holiday cards using a photo from our travels. I asked my friend, Maria, (who teaches creativity workshops ) how best to do this. She said that she’s had success with Walgreens personalized cards before, and she was right. I unleashed my inner-artist by uploading a special photo, choosing a design template and a card stock, then even created envelopes with our return address printed on them. They were ready 24-hours later, and with a 50% discount coupon I found online, they were very reasonably priced.

Since it all seemed too easy – I worried whether they’d be worthy of being mailed out? I’m happy to say they are!  I’m addressing them today, and tomorrow they will be dashing through the snow. 

They had to be ready, because Thursday morning we leave for our much-anticipated Christmas gift to ourselves – five nights at a quiet little resort we love on the beach in Mexico. 

There have been days when I wondered if I was actually going to make it… 

For two weeks I’ve been organizing my clothes and now they are stacked on my dresser with care.  They only need to be fitted into a carry-on, along with the small arsenal of health & beauty products a woman of our age requires.

Speaking of products, I visited a friend’s shop last month for a Consuela sale. I needed a makeup bag that could stylishly survive a leak or spill while traveling. I found the perfect one: it’s roomy and lined with sparkly spill-proof vinyl that reminds me of my aunt’s 1950s Formica table-top. Made in Mexico, with lots of styles and designs, her website is consuelastyle.com 

Sunshine, delicious food that I didn’t cook, (meaning no dishes for my sweetie to wash) and a pool surrounded with palm trees. What more could anyone want? 

Since you asked, the highlight of the trip is that we are meeting four other couples there. We are all of a certain age, and have had enough life-experiences that we don’t take friendships, or precious time spent together, for granted.

I feel like a kid, excitedly counting the months, then the weeks, and now it’s down to counting the days till we all are officially on vacation.

XO Donna


Well Read

 

Like most of the country, we’ve had weird unseasonal weather down here. Last time I wrote you, it was so hot we were eating salads for dinner. Now it’s definitely autumn, with a freeze or two thrown in for good measure.

One day it’s flip-flops, and the next it’s boots and a puffy jacket. Ah, Texas.

I am grateful that I can choose not to go anywhere when the weather is beastly… and stay home and spend the day reading. As a friend recently said, “We’re retired, every day is Saturday!” Now that I can focus enough to savor a well-written book again, I want to share what I’ve recently read and loved. I think all of these would make great holiday gifts for the readers on your list.

  1. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – I am a big fan of all Ms. Gilbert’s work, although my favorite is still The Signature of All Things. This newest book creates an immersion into the sexy and fast-paced 1940’s show-biz, club scene with a coming-of-age tale that will sweep you up and take you along for the roller-coaster ride!
  2. Educated by Tara Westover – This New York Times best-seller is a stunning, insightful memoir that reads like the very best fiction. The author was born to survivalists in the Idaho mountains. Her family distrusted both the educational and medical systems, and lived with their own skewed code of ethics. Teaching herself enough to get into college, she went on to graduate from Brigham Young, Harvard and Cambridge Universities.  An eye-opening read about a young woman’s courage and conviction to get not only an education, but a better life for herself.
  3. Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs – Another memoir, this one is by Steve Jobs’ daughter. I will say, I alternately hated him, wanting to quit reading, and felt sorry for him. It felt voyeuristic to keep reading at times… and my heart broke over and over for the author. The book gave me some perspective on Steve Jobs, being told by a wise, insightful, and talented writer that wanted to love him, and be loved by him in return.
  4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Also a N.Y.T. bestseller, and it’s very easy to see why! This story – of a fiercely independent young girl living alone in the marsh, leads up to a suspected murder that takes place in 1969, the year I graduated high-school. I found it easy to empathize with, and admire, the main character. I know I could not have had the courage to live as she did. I also appreciate that this is the author’s first novel, and she just turned 70. If you love nature (and Barbara Kingsolver’s books) you will absolutely love this book!
  5. Sand & Water by Michael Hoerning – Who knew a romance story could also be a can’t-put-it-down-page-turner?  I’m not a fan of the romance genre, but this engaging and well-written debut novel won me over. Romance, friendship, personal growth and spirituality, this book has it all. And, the icing on the cake… Michael is my cousin! I am very happy that his work is so good, and hope he writes another book soon.

I’ve also been re-reading my own book: Sick and Tired & Sexy, Living Beautifully with Chronic Illness. I find that it’s good to remind myself of what I know… taking my own advice, so to speak.

All of the books here are available at Amazon.com. Now, I need your help: have you read a great book you’d like to recommend? I need a great vacation read. One that will distract me on the plane, and amuse/entertain/educate me poolside. Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Thank you in advance,

XO Donna


Nice Nicoise

My Tuna Nicoise

 

 

Our weather has been a roller-coaster here in central Texas. After record-breaking non-stop heat, I believe we had 45 consecutive days  of triple-digits, now we are in our normal fall pattern of hot-cold-hot.

One day it’s in the 60’s, the next it’s in 90’s. Two days ago I wore a sweatshirt, jeans and boots… this afternoon, I’m going over to the pool. We have a saying here, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute… it’ll change!”

We’ve passed the mid-way point of October, and although I couldn’t wait for the heat to end, (I was beginning to doubt that it would) now that I know with certainty that it will, I am savoring these last few days of summer.

It was too hot to cook one night, so I kept it simple by preparing a hearty Salade Nicoise.  (In case you haven’t head of it before, it is pronounced “ni – swaz,” meaning in the style of Nice.) I knew it was a town in France, but what I didn’t know was that it’s on The Riviera; famous for it’s perfect sunny climate, spectacular views, aqua water, and stunning beaches. Think Cannes! Monaco! Bond!

This salad makes perfect sense coming from a place where food is made from what is locally and seasonally available at their markets.

From Shutterstock.

 

I first had it years ago prepared with seared tuna atop crispy Romaine lettuce and veggies. I thought that was how it was supposed to be served.

After delving into it’s gastronomic history, I found out that ain’t necessarily so.

At it’s simplest and most traditional – it’s lettuce, green beans, beautiful black olives, capers, fresh anchovies and a dressing of virgin olive oil, vinegar, and fresh garlic, basil, salt & pepper. It usually accompanies fish or chicken. Just a salad.

Workers made it into a hearty lunch by adding boiled potatoes and a soft hard-boiled egg or two.

I sear either Ahi or Yellowtail tuna outdoors on the grill. Indoors, I do it with the vent-fan on in a very hot skillet, and it has “pride of place” on top of my salad. You can also use tinned tuna from Italy –  it’s very different from ours. Otherwise, just use good albacore tuna from your grocery store.

You needn’t get too hung-up on ingredients, use what fresh ingredients you have on hand and enjoy it!

Sometimes I will eat the potatoes, sometimes I choose not to – staying true to my Primal Lifestyle diet, which has really helped reduce auto-immune disorder aches and pains.

I have yet to add anchovies, but may buy some jarred ones and after rinsing and patting-dry, give them a try. Do you have a favorite meaty, not-too-salty, brand I can try?

Here is my favorite dressing, a simple vinaigrette from Martha Stewart:
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBL fresh lemon juice
3 TBLS wine vinegar
2TBLS Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBL fresh chopped basil
1 TBL fresh chopped parsley or dill

Whisk it all together. Let me know your thoughts, send in photos with a comment – I’d totally love that! And let’s enjoy these last few days of summer together, over a meal.

XO Donna 



NO JOKE

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On April 1, at 4:30 in the morning, I had a stroke. Correction, I had two strokes. It wasn’t until a week after I was released from the hospital that I realized this happened on April Fool’s Day. 

For the first time in my life, I feel vulnerable, rather than bulletproof.

I know what the warning signs of a stroke are, but apparently I didn’t know all of them. I knew what my risk factors were, but again, I didn’t know all of them. Now I do, and I want to be sure you do too. 

I wrote about it yesterday here: 1010ParkPlace.com  For brevity’s sake, I left out some details that still have me shaking my head in bewilderment. Tell me what you think.

THREE MONTHS AGO I began working on a new novel. I’d had bits and pieces of it for a long time, but suddenly, it all came together. It’s about an attractive, successful woman, early 50’s, who has a stroke. 

Her prognosis is for a full recovery, but after more than a year, she still can’t speak. She loses most of her business, many of her friends drift away, and her marriage falls apart. 

Make no mistake, she will triumph over all of this.

ONE MONTH AGO, on Friday evening, March 22nd, I went to a “Pots and Plants Party” to help them “plant” 1,000 pink flamingos. For those of you who have been in Austin for a while, these are the folks who always had the “flock” of flamingos at the corner of Bee Caves Rd. and Capitol of TX highway.

AAE19564-8B79-48A9-823B-17C1C4EE4B03Although I was feeling exhausted and had just driven an hour home, for some unknown reason I felt compelled to change clothes, con my sweetie into coming with me, and drive another hour back to this gathering. 

We met the owner of the compan. I told him I missed seeing the flamingos, and asked him why he had closed his business. He told me he’d had a stroke back then, but you’d never know it! I told him about the book I was writing and he enthusiastically recommended a book by a woman neuroscientist who had a stroke.

I bought it the next day, and my hair stood on end when I read that the type of stroke the neuroscientist had, was the same type of stroke I’d created for my protagonist!

NINE DAYS LATER I had my strokes. Do you think I haven’t stood out in my yard and yelled at the heavens, “Is this some kind of sick joke?” 

As I think about it more and more, I marvel at the coincidences… and wondered if they were all preparation for me to know that like the neuroscientist, “flamingo man,” and my fictitious character, I will be fine.

Again, please read, it’s important: 1010ParkPlace.com

XO Donna


Don’t Tread on Me!

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I was greeted yesterday morning, over a delicious cup of coffee NOT made by me (since I’m clever enough to sleep an hour later than my darling) by the news that our neighborhood newsletter was warning more about snakes needing to be removed from people’s homes.

Do you remember the scene from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones is hanging over a pit full of writhing serpents and says, “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”

That’s exactly how I feel about them, and to hear about this before I’d even finished my coffee.  Arrrggghhh!!  

So what’s a gal to do?  Since we live in a city, (we’re out in the country, but it’s still within a city) a shotgun is out of the question. Not that I’d ever kill one, no matter how afraid I was.  Education (as with most things in life) is the answer!

Having been horrified when I moved here, upon learning that there are poisonous snakes everywhere in Texas, I took advantage of an avid herpetologist friend’s knowledge  to learn everything I could about snakes.  I wanted to be able to recognize the ones I needed to worry about…  instead of worrying about them all.

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As it turns out, any snake will try to bite us to defend itself, even a little green garden snake.  The State of Texas is home to 15 potentially dangerous snake species or subspecies. 

Despite this, each year, there have been more deaths in Texas attributed to lightning strikes than to venomous snakebites. The four poisonous snakes species here: rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and coral snakes.

By not hanging around the banks of rivers, streams, and brooks, I can avoid water moccasins. Copperheads? Rattlesnakes? Out here, in the woods… and I’m not a hiker through uncharted trails. Nope, thanks.

Coral snakes are small with little-bitty mouths, usually only biting fingers when we stick our hands somewhere without looking first. I don’t garden without gloves, don’t reach into trees or bushes or woodpiles without looking first. 

 Snakes tend to be accidental house crashers. You might find one curled in a corner on your patio looking for coolness in the heat of the summer. Or in your garage… seeking the same. 

The good news? Rattlesnakes will usually signal if you’ve startled them by rattling or buzzing their tails,  giving you an opportunity to pee in your pants then run in the opposite direction! 

I’ve lived here for 41 years, and have never seen a dangerous snake anywhere besides my herpetologist friend’s house! More good news – they are as afraid of us as we are of them! 

The newsletter shared common-sense tips for living where there are poisonous snakes: turn on a light and have a look around before stepping out on your patio at night, or into your garage. And even look around first before stepping out on your patio during the day. Mindfulness, that’s all.

If you encounter a poisonous snake in your garage, on your patio, or in your garden… run away, and call wildlife management. Or, if you live out here, you can call the group of “snake wranglers” who will come fetch them. 

XO Donna

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