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


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


COWGIRL UP!

I got to spend the morning on my friend Barbara’s ranch a couple of weeks ago. Her ranch manager was out of town, so she invited me to come along to check-up on her livestock.

Lookout Cow

She’s an orthopedic surgeon who’s been taking care of my shoulders for years now. You know… those pesky rotator-cuff issues most of us have from years of slinging around ridiculously heavy purses, lifting bag upon bag of groceries, hoisting our kids to our hips, and now hoisting grandkids, if we’ve got them.
I don’t have any “grands”, but I had my arms raised for years cutting and blow-styling hair.

Barbara is also an accomplished horse-woman. And a wonderful singer/songwriter/storyteller. And a lot of fun!

After a 90-minute ride through rolling green land east of Austin, we pulled off the main highway and turned onto a long dirt drive to her property. I was expecting something more rustic, but the land was beautifully fenced and mowed, fields green, and her farmhouse was charming cottage.

We checked on things inside as she showed me around, and after having a drink of water, we made the short walk from the cottage to the barn, with its adjacent henhouse and the fields where the horses and cows were anxiously awaiting us.

Thanks. But, no, thanks! Picky chickens.

Barbara had mentioned that her hens liked scraps, and if I wanted to bring them some, I could. As I recall, my Grandmother threw everything to her chickens, her philosophy being, “eat it or go hungry.” But when I proudly presented my leftover goodies to these gals, they looked at me like I was stupid. Grumbling as they went, they moseyed off.


The cows, on the other hand, were not at all picky. Quite the opposite, they were curious and bold. It was a bit frightening coming face-to-face with a 1,200 lb. creature, if truth be told! But I “cowgirled up” and shooed the cows away like an old hand, as I dumped piles of grain from a sack on the back of the Gator, walking behind it as Barbara drove. What an experience!

Too close for comfort

After the work was done, we drove the fields checking on the hay bales as big as Volkswagens. They never look that big from the road.
We checked fences and then rode the trails through the woods. There was even a cove with a few large pieces of Petrified wood! I wish I’d planned ahead for better photos, but I am glad I grabbed a few fun shots to share.


It was a morning well spent – I came away with a dozen beautiful eggs, courtesy of the girls, and a reminder of how hard our farmers and ranchers work to bring us all food.

Look like Easter eggs!

As my dear friend, Karen, always says, “If you have food to eat… thank a farmer.” Indeed.

XO Donna


endless summer

Stevie Wonder’s album, “Hotter Than July” generally describes our Texas weather to a tee! It usually becomes unbearable by now, but it has been a great year for being outdoors, for a change. So, I’m walkin’, yes indeed, I’m walkin!

Mark’s Daily Apple, a health/fitness blog I have been reading for years, had an article on the benefits of having a walking routine. As did CNN, calling it the “most underrated form of exercise.” I gotta admit, I love it when I’m ahead of a trend!

And to make things even better, my youngest sister, Elizabeth, came to visit for eight days! She lives in Wisconsin, and pretty much hates the weather there ten months of the year. All she wanted to do while she was here was go for walks and lie by the swimming pool each day.

So, that’s exactly what we did, sometimes walking twice a day! We also went out riding in our golf cart most evenings – and we were generally able to talk my sweetie into chauffeuring us around.
We saw lots of deer and their still-spotted fawns everywhere. Loved it.

Elizabeth is 14 years younger than I, but of all my sisters, we are the most alike. We both share a love for hair and makeup, healthy foods and fashion. And we both have a warped sense of humor… that certainly goes a long way right now.
Take this photo, for example – I have so few photos of us together, and just when I thought we’d finally have one, she licked me!

I planned a special dinner while she was here, and invited my darling friend Mike for dinner. His new hobby (he’s already mastered being a barista) is mixology. Lucky us! We told him our planned menu and he made us a special cocktail to go with it, the base of which was freshly made watermelon juice, made from a Pecos watermelon! The best of Texas, for sure!

Can you believe I was too busy having fun to take any photos?!?

Elizabeth loves feta cheese more than anyone I know. I’m talking obsessed with feta. And a week or so before her arrival I found a Bon Appétite recipe I had to make for her – a Spinach Feta Tart with an almond-flour crust. Is your mouth watering?

She can’t eat wheat, either, so it was perfect for us, and came out better than we could imagine! Again, no photos. BUT, I will make the tart again and post photos and the recipe. I promise.

Unfortunately, vacations end and she had to return home and go back to work. Still wanting a nice photo of the two of us, I told her to act right. She told me she thinks she always looks awful in photos.
I told her the same thing I’ve said here before – if we think we are going to look awful, it will show.

I coached her a little bit, told my sweetie to give us a count, and lo-and-behold, a great photo to remember our week by!

XO Donna

P.S. – If you haven’t noticed the new button on the right side of your screen yet – the book is a link directly to Amazon where you can purchase Sick and Tired & Sexy! Cheers, y’all.


ErroR notiCe

I had a nice (well, at least I thought so) post ready to go… but a glitch with the new, and infuriating , WordPress editor wouldn’t cooperate.

The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men often go awry.

Robert Burns

Hopefully, I will rise to the challenge and have the issue resolved quickly!

XO Donna


Comfort Food

Now that my sweetie and I have had both of our vaccines, we celebrated by having a very dear friend, who has had both of his vaccines, too, come to dinner. I cooked a “comfort food meal,” and for dessert I made a delicious carrot cake with a light glaze of cream cheese frosting. Like many of my favorite recipes, this one has a story attached, the story of me.

When I moved to Austin, TX in 1978, I found out there was no reciprocity for my hairdresser’s license here. Although I had been working as a hairdresser for two years in NY, I had to go back to beauty school to earn more credits for a Texas license. This was not what I expected!

To make ends meet, I worked evenings at the Austin Opera House slinging cocktails and buckets of beer. The music was good, the tips were great, and I made my first friend there, Terry. Her husband was a musician and her sister worked at Austin Public Library – she’s the one who told me about a part-time day job in the Children’s section of the library.

I was hired, and I was in Heaven. I worked with amazing people in a beautiful new library. Books everywhere! About six months later there was an opening next door in the Central Texas Library System film department that offered a few more hours, a little extra money, very interesting work, and another group of interesting and creative people.

Many of us were working towards something – a masters in library science, a masters in archival studies, degrees in public administration, library management, or creative writing and theater. I was working my way back toward enough credits for my cosmetology license.

Along the way, I developed wonderful friendships and became part of the tribe that made up the Austin arts and music scene in the 80’s. The early Capitol 10K races! Carnival Brasiliero! Liberty Lunch! Whole Foods! Armadillo Christmas Bazaar! Fiesta! at Laguna Gloria, Spamarama! Zilker Hillside Summer Musicals!

Soon, I was happily divorced, had earned my cosmetology degree… and began cutting hair at my kitchen table, or in good weather, out on my patio. A year or two later, and I was cutting most of the Austin Public Library staff’s hair, and a bunch of the local artists, artisans, actors, writers and musicians. That’s when I decided it was time to open my first salon. Many of the friends made then remained my clients for my whole 30+ year career.

This recipe was given to me by my boss, Biruta. She was a beautiful woman who looked very much like Ali Macgraw. She was an exceptional hostess, and a delicious cook, whose whole lifestyle exuded what is now being called a “Scandi” aesthetic: simple beauty and naturally elegant furniture and textiles. None of this was what I had grown up with at all – and I admired her style tremendously.

This is her carrot cake recipe… the original copy she handed me, jotted in her neat handwriting from 40 years ago, now stained, wrinkled and splattered from many great cakes.

You have the option of more white flour than whole wheat, but I always make it equal. I grate my carrots in a Cuisinart now, rather than by-hand using a box grater. My cream cheese frosting is just one 8 Oz. package of Neufchâtel at room temp mixed with enough powdered sugar to make it sweet, but not disgustingly so – about 1 Cup – and a teaspoon of vanilla. My electric oven baked it in 30 mins. Check with a toothpick for doneness. Let cool to room temp before frosting, then chill in fridge to set icing. 12 servings, more or less.

Bon Appétit!
XO Donna


1,000 PAPER CRANES

Every day since I joined the Breast Implant Illness and Healing group on FB in August, I spend 15 – 30 minutes reading posts and sending well-wishes to the women having their surgery that day or the next. Looking at their photos I see my own exhaustion, sadness, fear, and hopefulness mirrored in their eyes, and I say a quick prayer for an easy surgery and a speedy recovery for each of them. These are the things I wish for myself.

A few nights ago, while spending some time checking-in on the site, I had a “flash” of an Origami crane. According to legend, creating a Senbazuru by folding and stringing 1,000 paper cranes gives you an opportunity to make a special wish come true.

Traditionally the crane is a mythical creature believed to live 1,000 years. In Japanese, Chinese, and Korean culture it represents good fortune and longevity, and throughout Asia it represents happiness and eternal youth. The Senbazuru is created by stringing the origami cranes on 25 strands of 40 each. It is then given to someone who is seriously ill as a wish for their recovery. These are usually done by friends, classmates, co-workers, or as a collective effort in the community. They are a physical manifestation of prayers, becoming a symbol of hope and healing during a challenging time.

When I wrote my blog Coming Out, I had been involved with the BII group for about two months, and at the time there were 127K members. In these past five months, that number has risen to 136.7K, with new members daily .

According to Japanese tradition, anyone with the patience and commitment to fold 1,000 cranes will be granted their most desired wish because they have shown the crane’s famous loyalty and have recreated the beauty the cranes are know for.

Through this group, I found the perfect surgeon for myself in Dallas, Dr. Surjit Rai. My consultation with him in February was nothing short of amazing, even my cardiologist is impressed with him after he called to talk to her! My surgery date is being scheduled for early May, I will know exactly when soon… the details haven’t been ironed out yet with the hospital

I am ready, and both nervous and excited. I look forward to feeling better, having energy again, and feeling more comfortable in my skin. I want what everyone who undergoes this surgery wants, a return to health! What I realized the other night when I envisioned the origami crane, is that my daily well-wishes to the women in this group about to have their surgery is not different from my folding a thousand cranes… one good wish at a time. While it began altruistically, I am keenly aware that I want this for myself, too. And I will continue to “fold my cranes,” as it has become my daily practice.

I believe that my patience, commitment, and loyalty will pay off… and I will get my most desired wish.

XO Donna