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


Thank Full

I learned a long time ago that if you look, you can always find something to be grateful for. These days, we don’t have to look far at all. A roof over our head and food in our pantry. Health, both our own and that of our loved ones – be they near or far this year. And a couple of extra dollars to donate to the local food bank.

And gratitude for friendships.

Thank you all for being here – or out there in the Ethernet. Thank you for your comments, for your advice, support, for sharing this blog, and for reading; giving me some of your time. Wishing you a delicious Thanksgiving!

XO Donna


Everything is Energy

Have you ever wondered, “What if this is as good as it gets?” Or, “What if things don’t get better?” What if the big love we’re wishing for, or the fame and fortune, or the perfect figure, or the miraculous healing never happen?

Should we wait, with the Pause button pushed, until everything lines up and we get just what we wanted to hit Play and begin living fully?  

Here is the bad news: It doesn’t work like that.
Here is the good news: It does work.
And it works like this: “For things to change, FIRST I must change.”

“Oh, damn! I hate change!”   I’m sure you can see the conflict inherent in this situation; you hate change, but you want the condition you are unhappy about to change so you can feel better.
“Yeah, that’s about right.”

LampOnWhat if the only thing you had to change was your mind? That’s easy, right?
Okay, here’s the formula:

“Everything is energy and that is all there is to it . Match the frequency of the reality you want and you can not help but get that reality.”
– Albert Einstein

Rather than focusing on what you don’t want; on the loneliness, the lack of fame & fortune, your body, or the health condition. . .ignore those things and simply decide to feel better, which will cause those circumstances to change.

Focus on what’s going right in your life, on what is good, and be grateful for what you do have, and what isn’t going as well as you like will come into alignment.

Simply changing our mind, as easy as flicking on the light switch, will cause everything else to change.

I think of the Stones song, “You can’t always get what you want,” and that’s probably a good thing.
By deciding to change our mind and be happy, we will get what we need.
And when we are happy, we attract more things to be happy about.

It all starts with a decision.
XO Donna

 

 


Please Choose

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I know this for a fact: the secret to happiness is twofold .
First, you choose to be happy. And you keep choosing it, over and over.
Second, you make time to practice being grateful every day.

“Well, if I had something to be happy about, I would.  If I had something to be grateful for, I would. ”
Aha, the age-old conundrum: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Here’s the deal, you can always find something to be happy about and grateful for.  Then you will be both happy and grateful.


“Not having the best situation, but seeing the best in your situation is the key to happiness.”
 – Marie Forleo

For example, let’s take Austin’s notorious traffic. You can be stuck in it and get angry and frustrated. You can curse all you want, honk your horn, even gnash your teeth. But, does that make you happy?
Or….you can take responsibility, acknowledge that traffic is a part of life here, and plan for it. Spend your time in transit listening to a book, some beautiful music, or a TED Talk. Make the choice to be happy.

Now for part two: spend a few minutes each evening reviewing your day and find three things you are grateful for.

My sweetheart and I used to do this aloud before we went to sleep at night. Now I spend time before bed writing about everything I am grateful for. And here’s the kicker – since what we focus our attention on is what we get more of in our life…this isn’t being altruistic at all. I’m being rather selfish, actually. I want more good things!

Let’s bring this plane in for a landing – if you choose to be happy, and focus on what you are grateful for, you will become happy and have even more to be grateful for. Simple, no?

Do this consistently (I learned last night that 40 days is the magical number) and your life will change for the better.
I guarantee it, or your money back!

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.”
– Melody Beattie

I’m counting on more,
XO Donna


Slow down…

For five months our house was on the market. We probably picked a bad time, putting it on right before all of the holidays: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s, but it’s what we did. Finally, the thing we have waited for has happened.  We have an offer on our house, the inspection is tomorrow, and if we reach an agreement they want the house on May 2. Just five weeks from now.

A dear friend has been joking for months, “Hey, I love ya buddy, but you’re the only one of my friends I’d like to see become homeless!” He meant it as a wish for our house to sell, of course. Now, it feels as if we could become homeless;
the apartment we want isn’t available on the date we need to move.  We could always down-grade, of course. Or we could upgrade to a bigger and pricier unit. Or I could dig into my endless reserves of airy-fairy optimism and just…trust.

roadrunner keysAs I said last week, I haven’t ended up like Wile E. Coyote yet, so why would it happen now? I have always been able to create just exactly what I wanted/needed every other time in my life. And although there have been some sketchy moments (that’s a whole ‘nother post!) they always lead to something even better than I had imagined.

Call it God, Karma,  the Universe, call it “the field of infinite possibility”…I know from experience that when I ask for help, and demonstrate gratitude ahead of time trusting it will show up (and do my part, of course) it does.

I had a decadent lunch with my 90-year-old friend today. A statuesque, vivacious woman, she still works as a motivational public speaker and coach. Yes, at 90! She’s a font of wisdom, experience, and inspiration. When I told her how I was feeling, she reminded me that we often let fear get the best of us. We worry, and in doing so we sell ourselves short, down-grading our desires. Life is too short to play small, she said. Expect BIG!

So, Universe, you’re on notice! I expect everything to work out perfectly. In all of the “hurry-up” we will sell the furniture we need to sell, we will find new homes for the beautiful items we no longer need, and the right apartment will become available to us.

Beep! Beep!

XO Donna


Warmest Wishes

I send you my warmest wishes as 2014 draws to a close…

What a treat that this falls on Christmas Day. No matter what you have planned, I hope your day is wonderful and both your belly and your heart are full.

I am grateful for another year of your readership and support.  As Joe Cocker said, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Thank you, friends!

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XO Donna


You Can Go Home

It’s the time of the year for one of my favorite Thanksgiving movies – “Home for the Holidays,” starring Robert Downey Jr, Holly Hunter, Dylan McDermott, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, and directed by Jodie Foster. I see elements of my own family in it, and it used to make me both laugh…and cry. Even though it’s nine years old, most of the elements are still (maybe even more) timely.

I’m going to let Roger Ebert’s November 3, 1995 review tell the story…

‘There is a point in Jodie Foster’s “Home for the Holidays” where a brother and his brother-in-law are fighting on the front lawn while their father tries to break it up by wetting them down with a garden hose. Looking across the street at the neighbors gawking, the father snarls, “Go back to your own goddamn holidays!”

The movie, which is about the Thanksgiving family reunion from hell, is not exactly a comedy but not a drama, either. Like many family reunions it has a little of both elements, and a strong sense that madness is being held just out of sight.

Have we not all, on our way to family gatherings, parked the car a block away, taken several  deep breaths, rubbed our eyes, massaged our temples, and driven on, gritting our teeth? That is not because we do not love our families, but because we know them so well.’

imageHere’s what I have learned about family this past week.

  • When we go into situations with expectations and assumptions,  we will probably get to be right.
  • When we go somewhere/do something because we choose to, as opposed to doing it out of obligation, everyone wins. So if you really believe you MUST do something…choose it. How you view it makes all of the difference.
  • Stay present. Forget what happened in the past. Be Here Now.
  • Strive to be part of a solution, or a process, that results in the best possible outcome for all involved.
  • Focus on everything you have to be grateful for.

You’ll be surprised how much fun you can have and how well you can all get along. All you need is love. And some bourbon and eggnog. And this great movie.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving next week!

XO Donna


Not Just a Country Song

imageI woke up this morning trying to remember the lyrics to a song that friends were singing at a birthday party two weeks ago. All I could remember was the refrain: “Younger women, faster horses, more money and older whiskey.”

Today’s my birthday, and I realize that I can’t be a younger woman – but I am happy right where I am. I can certainly be young-at-heart and in body/mind/spirit!  As my delightful friend Lee (she just turned 90) said at our lunch on Tuesday, “Honey, you can be old at 30 or young at 90. Your choice!”

Faster horses speaks to the need for excitement and adventure in our lives. I know too many people who have no sense of either. Too bad.  You can always expand your horizons and try new things, go new places. My sweet friend, Nancy, took up Tai Chi and Qui Gong in her 80’s.

More money…well, yeah. There are ways to do that, I leave it to you to find one that works for you. Get inspired. There are lots of books on how to create/allow more money into your life. There are many ways, many teachers.

Older whiskey, indeed. I’ll drink to that! I believe that as we get older we can grow to appreciate the finer things in life. We value quality over quantity. Or, we finally realize that we are worthy of them!

Oscar Wilde said, “I’m a man of simple tastes. I’m always satisfied with the best.”

Think personal best here, and don’t settle. When my Mom used to visit, she always loved the delicious, fresh-ground coffee I made in the mornings. However, when she returned home, she would never give herself permission to spend the money. She settled for inexpensive, canned coffee.  Let yourself have “the good stuff” you love. Scrimp on something else. You’re worth it!

On my 63rd birthday I know for sure that it’s not about the years in your life, it’s about the life in  your years! It’s about living in the moment, being grateful for the life you’ve created, and realizing that you are special…just because you ARE HERE!

All of that from a country song…

XO Donna


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