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.


The Objective:  To organize and pack all of the clothes, shoes, and toiletries needed for a 6 night motorcycle trip that includes San Francisco, Carmel, Cambria, and Napa.

The Suitcase:  A 13″ x 20″ x 7″ saddlebag on a Honda Goldwing. Yes…just one for me.  And, it’s about 6″ bigger than this grocery bag.image

The Packing List: Since a picture is worth a thousand words, what you see below has got to fit in what you see above. Except the boots, I’m wearing them on the plane. Each time we do this, I try to be a little more Zen, a bit more ascetic. I get all “Martha Stewart” on my suitcase. But I know there’s always a tiny piece of real estate in a corner of the saddlebag, or top-box, that I can claim. (Full disclosure: We have a large suitcase to check that contains our riding jackets, rain-gear, my chaps and helmet, and his boots.)image

The Emotional Baggage:  My perfectionistic desire to pack the “right clothes” haunts me. I lie awake at night worried that I will forget something important. Or that I’m being too practical, too simple, and not feminine enough. Then I remind myself that we are going to be on motorcycles…not front row at New York Fashion Week. I also worry that I won’t get enough rest…it’s hard to keep up with this bunch!

The Mission: This ride is to celebrate a couple of Big Birthdays in our group. It’s spending time with 5 other couples who are good friends. Taking time to wine-and-dine, to ride amazing roads, and all enjoy a full-on sensory experience. We’ll be creating memories and great stories to laugh about and tell, and retell, later on.image

The Big Question Mark: Lots of people have asked me, “Don’t you worry about everyone getting along?” I’d have to say no, not really. Our “gang” has been together for 15 years. We’ve (almost) all taken turns playing the fool, but ultimately we know it’s important for us to support each other.

I’ve noticed that when something comes up, men handle it quickly – they call each other on it. Women have more trouble doing this. Our feelings get hurt. This is the only time I’d agree with Dr. Doolittle’s query, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”  Well, that, and when we’re out in the middle of nowhere and really need a restroom!

In less than 48 hours we will all be meeting-up in San Francisco. I have to get my packing zipped-up by tonight. If I didn’t know that I’d done this last year, I’d be really stressed out about it. But, I got this.

XO Donna

P.S. – No blog next week while I’m on the road.


Help Along the Way

(I have to give credit for the title to Anne LaMott – a writer who always inspires me.)

I got to spend the morning brainstorming, laughing, and dreaming with my friend Gina. She always gives me much-needed help with my writing, and always inspires me with her writing/food/photography. We are both working on books. Today was both work and play, the best kind of day.  We seem to have the gift of being able to open doors for each other. Actually, that’s what all of my friendships are based on – the inspiration we offer each other.

Here’s a nugget from Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad: “Always hang out with people who inspire you.”

imageI met Gina a couple of years ago on Facebook – she reached out and introduced herself, and we’ve been friends ever since!  With our children grown and on their own, we are both moving into a new phase of our lives. We are pursuing the dreams that were put on hold while we were raising our kids, running our households, and working. (Notice the Wonder- Woman bag to our right, in the window?)

With our dreams tempered by years of life-experience, it is now our job to get them out into the world. And that was our focus today.

Here’s another nugget, this one from Insight Seminars: What you focus on…you get more of.”

I have friends that inspire and delight me daily, and I’ve never even met them in person. I feel this is one of the best things about Facebook, say what you will. Sure, there’s lots of rabid politics, righteousness, and negativity to be found there, but that’s where you get to choose what you’re going to focus on. With the push of a button all of that can be out of your life instantly – unlike a bad boss, incompetent co-workers or certain family members.

We focus on our goals, and dream big – but we’re not too attached to how it shows up. Gina and I ended our visit grateful for some friend-time, for everything we have in our lives (because on some level, we’ve created it) and grateful for how much fun we are having with the people we love.

Oh, and for our sanity!

XO Donna


Moderation in all things…

Isn’t it wonderful when you visit with a friend and sit laughing over a latte the whole time? 

WaterlogueI met with my friend Sheri this week. We needed to catch up, and she has generously agreed to read through my book proposal for me, to help me look smart in front of an agent! She definitely has the background for it, and she’s learning to become a coach right now, so I feel lucky to have her input!

It was the first day of summer-hot weather here, and I was envious of the lovely sleeveless dress that she wore: it flattered her bombshell figure, and showed all of the work she puts in at the “Y,” and the outfit was topped off with a very stylish fedora.

I joked about being pale and needing a bit of color…I grew up with a surfboad-loving, Beach Boys music, California-girl fantasy. And Sheri lived in California, so she understands! I’m fortunate that both of my parents have genetic backgrounds with skin that tans effortlessly, and no skin cancer anywhere in my family. If it weren’t for the damned wrinkles….

We talked about kids, careers, about a mutual friend who’s a yoga instructor and just had rotator cuff surgery. (Hugs!) We can’t wait for her to heal, be out-and-about, and teach class again. We spoke of all the stuff that makes the world go round. But mostly,  it was wonderful to feel connected, understood, heard.

As she sat there picking half-heartedly at a gluten-free pastry, the conversation turned to food. I have been primarily “Primal” for almost two years now, and Sheri is beginning to explore alternative ways of eating. I was giving her ideas. She joked about being raised by “a fat family who spent all of their time in the kitchen.”  I responded that I spend all of my time in the kitchen, too…”it’s not being in the kitchen that’s the problem, it’s what you put in the pan!”  After we got done laughing, we decided it’d be a great topic for a blog…but, alas, I’m not a food blogger. Maybe one day you’ll see that article here.

Here’s where I went with that though – we all need to take responsibility for ourselves. If we know we need to change something to become healthy: eat differently, exercise, control our diabetes, cut out foods or alcohol to reduce inflammation, when we aren’t doing those things, we need to ask ourselves, “WHY NOT?”

Mostly, because it’s not easy.

It takes intention and attention to thrive. And it takes follow-through. Commitment to stay on the path 80% of the time. And that’s what keeps me on the straight-and-narrow…knowing that it’s ONLY 80% of the time. And, I love the results I get! 

More than twenty years ago, a holistic teacher told me that I could do anything I wanted 20% of the time, as long as I ate well and exercised the other 80%. It has been my motto ever since!  It certainly seems to be a better approach than “all or nothing.”

As Oscar Wilde said, “Moderation in all things, including moderation!” 

XO  Donna

Gumbo Meditation

I have never been able to sit on a cushion and stare at the wall. I’ve tried, trust me…over and over again. I thought it “would be good for me.” Finally a teacher told me that there are many ways to meditate, many ways to practice mindfulness. Perhaps I would do better with a moving meditation?

I haven’t sat still since!

I used to bake fresh bread as a form of relaxation and meditation…kneading the dough until it was as supple, smooth and soft as a newborn baby’s ass. The whole kitchen smelled of yeast, honey and love! I’d set aside a whole afternoon, it was like a vacation day for me. Then I developed a wheat allergy, and all of that was out the window. (deflated sigh)

Last Tuesday I was at my friend Gina’s house for lunch and a confab, and while we talked, she made Gumbo. I have never made it…ranking it up among the things I deemed too difficult; like an elegant Crown Roast or a Buche Noelle. I have lived this long without needing to cook any of them…and then I tasted her gumbo.  Holy Gina Marie Lucia! Gumbo

I had been watching closely, asking questions and taking notes as she cooked. And as she did, we sipped wine and caught up on each other’s lives (yes, we were day-drinking…but it was wine. Doesn’t count) and when she finally put a garnished bowl in front of me – I was hooked on gumbo. This stuff is the ‘Crack’ of the soup world!

This Tuesday, I made my first pot of gumbo. I overcame my fear, and when it was finished and ladled into bowls with some fresh steamed rice, I was thrilled!  (I had to substitute a gluten-free baking mix for the flour in the roux, yet it was still delicious.

I realize that I am rewarded every time I take steps to overcome a fear. And I’m  reminded that cooking is a lesson in staying present, a form of mindfulness meditation. From organizing the shopping list; remaining patient through all of the cutting, chopping, and measuring; and slowly, slowly browning the roux. The payoff  is not just in experiencing a delicious meal, but feeling both love and gratitude as I sit at the table and eat.  Gratitude that I have such healthy, delicious food to eat. Love for the partner I prepared it for (who adores gumbo), and for the dear friend who shared her expertise with me.

I can’t wait to make another batch!                   Want the recipe? Let me know in the comments!

XO Donna

California Dreaming…II

Coast at BixbyI re-read my blog from last week, and it’s more notable for everything I didn’t say, than for what I did say.  It seemed as if it were my first essay written for English class after school had resumed. “What I did on my summer vacation.”

The stuff that fills me now, are the small moments spent closely with loved ones on that trip. I’ve thought a lot about the trust I placed in my dear partner as we rode those twisty roads for hours every day. And his acknowledgement of that trust;  his respect for the fact that I hold him (and his riding skill) in high enough esteem to surrender control and sit back there. He said that he couldn’t do it.  I’ve started a short story called “Ridin’ Bitch.”  I’ll let you all see it first!

I loved the fact that even though we are adults, there is still a child-like joy in sharing places and things we’ve discovered with each other.  I couldn’t wait for my friends to see this stretch of ocean (above) leading away from Bixby Bridge.  We knew the hotel in Carmel, having “scouted it” last time we were there, dreaming of returning on our bikes.  Randy knew of a “joint” in San Simeon that had a delicious lunch, that was worth waiting in line for, and another place on the way to Carmel for amazing raw oyster shooters. I’d love some right now!

Twisty redwoods

My second-favorite thing about out trip (tied with the ocean ) was riding for hours on twisty-turny roads through old-growth redwood forests.  Randy has been lovingly nick-named by our group –  and depending on who’s talking about him, he’s either Stinky, or RandyMcNally. ..named after the road atlas, since he has an amazing memory for roads, rides and shortcuts. 

He got us lost this time!  Out in the middle of who-knows-where in a primeval forest, with no cell reception…all we needed was a dinosaur or two. I loved it.  But, I had to pee!  So I got to do something I haven’t done in a hundred years….wander into the woods, among ferns curling waist-high, and moss forming a velvety carpet, and visit Mother Nature’s restroom. My sisters and I (well, maybe Lynn never did) used to pee in our woods all the time as children, rather than run home…it’s one of the great joys of a country life (if you overlook the poison ivy). 

But, my favorite memory of the trip was the time spent sitting in a patch of grass, having a cocktail and watching the waves crash ashore just across the street.  The guys had headed out to the market to get something, and Denise and I made drinks and headed straight to the chairs we had spied upon Denise and Squirrel checking-in. They were in a small semi-circle of grass in front of the inn, separated from the street by a low hedge.  The grass was very different from the kind we have here; much denser, softer, more inviting.  And there is no grass at all where Denise lives…so, shoes off, toes wriggling, breeze blowing, we sat there talking until a spotted squirrel ran up to us. A mutual friend had sent out a rather obscene photo of a male squirrel saying, “Helloooo, ladies!”  weeks ago.  The moment the squirrel appeared, Denise and I looked at each other,  and howled with laughter!  He  was soon joined by a girlfriend, and then a mouse joined the party…more timid than his friends, he’d dart out, see us, and dart back into the hedge, only to make a run again a couple of minutes later, and another retreat.  And another. And another. The critters were all still there when the guys joined us…and that camaraderie, those small moments shared with friends, are really what the ride’s all about. No matter how you get there…

XO Donna