Merry Memories from My First Christmas in Sacramento, California

 

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My kitchen chalkboard says it all!
Christmas Lights
Our new neighborhood is decked out! 
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Our home is decked out!
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The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is 130 years old and beautiful.
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I love It’s a Small World in Disneyland; my daughter made sure I’m ready for my next visit!
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Chanel No. 5’s red edition was a thoughtful gift from my husband.

Hope you’ve made some lovely memories, too!

 

 

The $1,400 Gingerbread House

“Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”

From the 1983 classic A Christmas Story

Dear Reader:

I absolutely LOVE Christmas. I love it all…the carols, the movies, the trees, the egg nog, the presents and most especially the fun of assembling and decorating a gingerbread house with my daughter. We’ve been creating in candy and frosting since Natalie was four years old.

This year within days of her return from college, we set up our decorating station at the kitchen table in our new home. It was such fun. Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time adjusting to the move. But, as soon as my girl arrived, my mood improved. We simply need to make memories in our new home…I thought. And, a gingerbread house was the perfect start.

Two days later, it was time to celebrate Natalie’s 22nd birthday. We’d do whatever she wanted. Turns out it was a simple request. Pizza on the couch while watching one of our favorite seasonal movies: A Christmas Story.

We’ve got a bigger house this year so I placed Nat’s birthday gifts in our living room under the tree. As we left the family room, I checked to make sure all the plates and pizza scraps were removed from the coffee table and shut the adjoining door as our three doxies are not welcome in our formal living room.

It’s funny how you develop a sixth sense about these things when you own dachshunds, but I knew something was wrong the second we returned to the family room.

Where’s Winnie?! I quickly answered my own question when I discovered her on top of the kitchen table gorging on our gingerbread house. The next thing I knew I was slipping on my boots and throwing a coat over my p.j.’s while my husband googled emergency veterinary services. Luckily I thought to toss the half empty bag of Navitas cocoa nibs into my purse.

The veterinarian was not particularly concerned that Winnie had consumed about 10-15 milk chocolate chips (see the empty bowl up top) or large quantities of coconut and frosting. But the cocoa nibs that we surrounded our house with, because they so resembled dirt or gravel, necessitated a call to the Animal Poison Control Center .

About an hour and a half after we checked in, we were called into a room to consult with a vet who looked too concerned for me to be comfortable.

“We’ll need to keep her tonight,” she began. “She’ll be put on an i.v. and her heart rate and vitals will be monitored.”

There was more rather serious conversation until I finally asked if her life was in danger.

“Well, the experts at the ASPCA are very concerned about the cocoa nibs. That’s straight chocolate and she had a large dose for an 11 pound dog.”

“She can’t die,” I said. “Today’s my daughter’s birthday.”

“She probably thinks Nats is eight,” my husband whispered as we left.

“All she had to do is look at me to know our daughter is not eight,” I replied. “But, no one wants their dog to die on their birthday no matter how old they are!”

As you can see, Winnie lives! She spent two days in the ICU at a cost of $1,400. She’s asleep in my lap now. There aren’t too many things nicer than having your daughter home for the holidays and a sweet, small, warm creature to warm your heart and home. And I’d say that we made a memory!

I’d like to challenge anyone to show me a more expensive gingerbread house.

Michele

P.S. The cocoa nibs are excellent in yogurt, but I’ll never buy them again!

Home for Thanksgiving

My Neighborhood
The view down the street from my new home on the day we fell in love with it. Today, the Sycamore leaves are golden and crisp and falling like the rain.

Dear Reader:

So much has happened since I last wrote. But, I must start by wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving, if it’s a holiday that you celebrate. If not, well…everyday is a day to be grateful. It goes without saying that I’m most blessed by the people in my life: husband, daughter, friends and neighbors.

But this year, I’m thinking about my home. I moved from Carmel, California to our state’s capital Sacramento on November 7th. I began unpacking boxes just as the fires broke out in Paradise which is a mere 88 miles from my new neighborhood.

As of today, nearly 14,000 people have lost their homes. As I work my way through each box to create a beautiful, functional, relaxing environment, I can’t help but think of those people who have no place to gather today.

I’ve always been a homebody who dreamed of living in beautiful spaces. When I was a teenager, I’d spend my hard-earned babysitting dollars on books and magazines. In addition to Tiger Beat, I’d often purchase a copy of Architectural Digest or House Beautiful. I’ve been blessed to live in several wonderful neighborhoods and my husband and I are poised to begin another adventure in a lovely 100-year-old home in a bustling area of town.

I’m so grateful for the roof over my head and so sorry for the victims of California’s fires. I hope you are happy, warm and snug in your home tonight.

Michele

Aunt Bessie’s Tablecloth!

Aunt Bessie's Tablecloth!

Dear Reader:

Let me introduce you to Amy. She’s wearing her Aunt Bessie’s tablecloth, and she’s so happy that I noticed just how magnificent it is!

I had an amazing sandwich at a tiny little neighborhood restaurant in Sacramento last week. Despite how very hungry I was when I walked through the door, the first thing I noticed was that dress and the woman who wore it so joyfully.

I never hesitate to compliment people…why should I…that’s my thinking. I see it…I like it…I say it! And, sometimes I am rewarded with a great story, as I was on this day.

“Excuse me,” I said as she hurriedly passed me. “But, I must tell you that I adore your dress.”

“Oh, it was once my aunt’s Christmas tablecloth and I inherited it!”

Well, that’s not something you hear everyday, I thought. But it helped explain the great happiness that I felt emanating from this woman. Her aunt saved the bright red, hand-embroidered cloth for just a single day each year. Her niece remembers it fondly.

“I wasn’t sure what to do with it,” she continued. “Then one day my friend offered to turn it into a dress so that I could enjoy it all year long.”

Now that’s a story to love! I’m still smiling!

Michele

Vacation Mode!

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Dear Reader:

I’m on vacation, which is unusual as I’m retired! My fitness journey has completely reshaped my life. When I made a four-day a week commitment to Zone Fitness, I’m not sure I realized just how big a chunk of time that would take out of my life. There’s travel time and shower time not to mention the actual sweating time!

When my trainer announced that he’d be closing for several days to observe the holiday, I felt a bit excited…a gift of time! My husband and I took the opportunity to hit the pool at Carmel Valley Ranch. I enjoyed a spa cocktail (think Jonathan would approve)…vodka, lime, cucumber and seltzer water and a caprese salad.

It was a lazy afternoon punctuated with a few laps up and down the pool for good measure! As I said, I have made a lifestyle change!

Hope you’ve enjoyed the holiday,

Michele

Independence Day; Fireworks or Not

 

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Shaver Lake circa 1982 with Bart

Dear Reader:

I have one really vivid Fourth of July memory. I was about ten years old…so that was 48 years ago! It was also the year that I fell out of love with sparklers! Since then Independence Day celebrations have been pain-free and carefree.

During the late seventies and early eighties, my husband (then just a boyfriend) and I enjoyed spending time at Shaver Lake at his family’s cabin. We spent the Fourth floating on the barge just like any other summer day. Fireworks were not legal, but they weren’t missed. The evening was spent on the deck of the cabin perched among the trees drinking and eating.

After we married and had our daughter, firework shows were de-rigueur. But, perhaps because of that early experience with a burn, I’ve never really needed the light show to make the holiday special.

Hope you have a glorious day!

Michele

If Donuts Are Wrong, I Don’t Want to Be Right!

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Enjoying my favorite, a maple bar, at San Luis Obispo Donut Company (SLODOCO)!

Dear Reader:

I’ve lost twelve pounds since I began my journey to strong seven months ago and people are starting to take notice. When asked for my “secrets,” I am happy to share the diet of my own creation. I call it the “Donut Deny Myself Anything Diet.” I’m not into deprivation; I’m an “eat drink and be merry” Italian with a passion for pasta, wine and donuts. And, I’ve found that I really can have it all…in moderation. Here’s my plan:

    • I employ the 80/20 or 90/10 (I’m not good with math) rule. In other words, most of the time, I eat clean.
    • I refuse to give up alcohol, but I drink in moderation. I sip slowly.
  • When I want a treat, I have a treat and it’s usually the real thing, not a faux, low-calorie knockoff. The idea is to feel truly satisfied.
  • I am 100% committed to weight training and regular cardio.

This brings me back to donuts…

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  • Donuts are a destination! I do not keep them in my home; I travel South* every couple of months and I always enjoy wine and a donut or two along the way!

As Michelle Pfeiffer put it:

“Eat well, exercise and get lots of sleep but make sure you indulge occasionally. At my age I think, what the hell, and eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut.”

My new approach to eating allows me to maintain a healthy weight without giving up two of the great joys in life: celebrating and eating. I’ll never be the woman who goes to a birthday party, but skips the cake. I’ll always ring in the new year with bubbly.  Pasta will always be on the menu in my home once a week. And, I’ll just ignore sexy Sue at the gym when she yells, “No Donuts!” before my trips to San Luis Obispo. That’s just how I roll.

Michele

P.S. Even Winnie loves a good donut!

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*A trip from Northern California to Southern California would be a real waste if it didn’t include wine tasting and other treats!

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Dear Reader:

My favorite people are the people who begin conversations with a question…this question: “How’s Natalie?” This gives me the opportunity to communicate straight from the depths of my heart. And, it immediately puts a smile on my face, because my daughter is my favorite topic.

I remember a strange encounter at Noah’s Bagels when Natalie was about four years old. I noticed a man at a nearby table watching us enjoy our cream cheese covered  indulgence. On his way out, he looked at me and said he thought it was nice to see a mother and daughter so obviously enjoying each other’s company.

“Oh, she’s my greatest joy, ” I remember answering.

He corrected me. “Well, your husband must be your greatest joy or you wouldn’t have her.”

If I ran into that man today, I’d tell him the same thing. Indeed, I love my husband, still. But as Alice Thomas Ellis so succinctly put it:

“There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters*. Hamsters don’t love anyone; it is quite hopeless.”

Being a mother is, at once, both the most humbling and the most rewarding experience of my life. I will never consider it anything less than a miracle. It will always be the choice I am most proud of. It will always be the responsibility that drives me to be the best person that I can be.

It’s so easy to go on and on about what makes my daughter special, but I’ll just say that, despite all of her accomplishments, it is her kindness and generosity that I am most proud of. As I’ve watched her grow into an adult, I am so comforted to see her display a quiet, resolute strength and a deep understanding and acceptance of herself and those closest to her. She is a young woman who I both enjoy and admire.

I’d like to thank her for letting me “drop by” to enjoy a donut with her and her roommates. There is no place I’d rather be today than sitting across the table from my girl at SLODOCO dipping a maple bar into my latte.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear readers!

Michele

* When I repeat this quote, I change hamster to dog. Kids loves dogs and dogs DO love them back!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Dear Reader:

What has 460 calories, 14 grams of fat and 63 grams of sugar? Unfortunately, it’s a small  Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. It has 35 different ingredients…35 for a milkshake?! The first ingredient is low-fat milk…that’s promising, but the remainder include chemicals, preservatives and sugar, in all of its many forms.

I spent the 70’s enjoying this sweet treat as often as I could during the month of March. (It was great to be a skinny kid!)

I still love milkshakes and peppermint, but I just couldn’t enjoy any small beverage that takes around 40 minutes on the arc trainer to work off.

So, I created my own green treat and my hubby and I found it to be delish!

Michele’s 6 Ingredient Shake

One pint vanilla ice-cream: I used Dreyers (7 grams of fat, 13 grams sugar (every once in a while!)

1/4 cup low-fat milk

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. peppermint extract

3 drops of natural green food coloring

whipped cream: you decide how much!

Blend and enjoy!

Michele