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My first, and possibly last Seder was last year in VA. Yesterday the Bride threw a fabulous feast for 14, after working the night shift the night before, and I am honored to pass the torch on to her! She makes a mean matzoh ball soup, and her charoses was to die for: Chag Sameach! Next year in Nashville with Great Grandma Ada and Cousin Anita if you’re willing and able!

My contribution was a brisket, which is actually the same cut of beef as my St Patrick’s Day specialty, corned beef. I knew the Jews and Irish could align in mysterious ways! Of course, I Googled Ina Garten’s recipe and loved the idea of adding leeks. Leeks are my Celtic heritage, I must admit I put them in everything. https://barefootcontessa.com/recipes/brisket-with-onions-and-leeks

Today we met the kiddos at Cheekwood for an Easter Egg Hunt. There were food trucks, including my favorite Grilled Cheeserie, music and lots of arts and crafts. It started out cold, almost 50 degrees, but the sun was shining and the children were willing. It made me think of my friend Polli’s Easter Egg hunts in her Rumson yard. Since we didn’t go to church Easter morning (being Jewish), we helped hide all the candy. Back then, we tossed chocolate bunnies and jelly beans around like nobody’s business.

Our reward was champagne on her porch while the children searched for treats in Polli’s beautiful garden. She taught me how to arrange flowers for weddings and not to let the Rocker miss the school bus. I miss your wisdom dear friend! Today, in Nashville, the treasure was plastic eggs with plastic toys. The times they are a changin!

Back on my porch, I read my Cville friend’s food/lifestyle blog “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You” https://www.katheats.com

Being vulnerable takes courage. She is around the Bride’s age and has a son from her first marriage. She just re-married this past year and told her readers that she’d had a miscarriage last month.

Some of you may know that I had 3 misses in one year between the Bride and the Rocker. I know what it feels like to mourn the possibility of a child. To curl into yourself and reject anyone’s help. To harbor fear and anger in equal measure, and to feel like the ground you walk on has betrayed you.

You stop driving over bridges.

I’m sending Koop my heartfelt love. Her blog has grown over the years to inspire young women to not just eat real food, but to go after their authentic selves. This time of year is all about rebirth. We clean out the bread, we prepare to tell the story of Exodus, and we talk about Jesus who sacrificed his life to bring Christians everywhere the promise of salvation.

May this sacred time find you surrounded by family. Having Easter and Passover fall under the same full moon is a miracle! The Bride will be working tomorrow, maybe I should deliver a ham to the Groom?

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Mindfulness. I’ve been reading alot about this lately, and the Bride asked if I’d like to attend a Mindful Parenting and Grandparenting course with her, “Sure,” I said, who wouldn’t?

Of course my yogi daughter practices some of these techniques, like meditation, to deal with the stress of her job. You never know what’s coming through the door in an ER, and like the life of a pilot – who is on remote control until he has to land a plane in the Hudson River – she sews up a lot of cuts until someone tries to overdose (or, insert any catastrophic event).

Saying you want to “Be Here Now!” doesn’t do it for me. I need practical tips and strategies to stay in the moment and quiet my monkey brain. This morning someone wanted to follow my Instagram, and instead of immediately deleting her, I scooted over to her page @mindfuleatsnutrition. She is a “Dietician helping people make peace with food.” Some algorithm somewhere must have sensed I was at war with vegetables, since I’m always looking up new and ingenious ways to prepare okra.

She is part of the “No More Dieting” movement. Throw away your scales ladies, listen to your inner voice and practice “mindful eating.” Don’t buy pre-packaged Nutri-System meals that taste like mush, don’t join Weight Watchers and tie yourself to counting points, or whatever it is they are counting these days. Full disclosure, I did join WW before turning 60 since I was inching towards plus sizes. But by 65 I’d gained that weight back, as dieting almost always does.

Oprah, do you really think teenage girls should start attending WW with their moms?

Great Grandma Ada kept marveling at how much weight I’d lost last week. It’s true, I’d lost some weight this year because I’m not eating cookies or ice cream at night and I’m walking around this city with Ms Bean. I tend to lose weight when I’m stressed; like in my substitute teaching days when I went on my own fractional diet, eating only half of whatever was on my plate. Moving can be a wee bit stressful. There are no good and bad foods as I’ve said before, and our weight is only half of the problem.

Physical hygiene is half of self-love; caring for ourselves enough to visit a dentist regularly, to keep moving, to eat healthy by choosing more vegetables and less protein. To adore avocados!

Emotional hygiene means caring enough about ourselves to avoid negativity. To seek out a therapist if nothing else helps. To rid ourselves of the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” complex and stop judging others. It’s been shown that people who hang around with depressed people start to feel depressed themselves, just like that study that said if your friends are always choosing fried foods, so will you. It may be time to start practicing mindfulness and you don’t have to be hippy-dippy to do it. I never went to Woodstock! I’ll be reporting back from our course in March.

You’ve got to put that plane’s oxygen mask on yourself first, if you want to get your babies out alive. It’s like the Dalai Lama said this morning:

Compassion suits our physical condition, whereas anger, fear and distrust are harmful to our well-being. Therefore, just as we learn the importance of physical hygiene to physical health, to ensure healthy minds, we need to learn some kind of emotional hygiene.

Is mindfulness your super power?

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I say “Nut Butter Salted Caramel Peanut Butter,” made by Nut Butter Nation in Nashville, TN. This local delicacy has become one of my favorite go-to breakfasts. I spread a dollop onto one toasted Nuti-Grain Eggo blueberry waffle, add a cup of coffee and I’m ready for my day. I might also add some nut butter to a bowl of oatmeal as my food blogger friend KERF taught me. I was never one for a plain peanut butter and jelly sandwich, even though that is a staple for Bob if he finds himself adrift for lunch.

A different kind of nut butter has recently produced riots in France. A nut butter I thought was French, but is actually Italian! http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42826028

The problem with Nutella started in this country when prices began to soar, and instead of hoarding it, we may have created a surplus? Maybe that’s why grocers in France decided to drop the price of a jar of this choco-nutty deliciousness from 4.50 euro to 1.50 euro…Now I never thought of the French as particularly aggressive shoppers. In fact, I like to think of Madame strolling through her market, in kitten heels, with a quaint wicker basket picking out only the choicest of delights for her family. I thought “bloody Friday,” aka the day after Thanksgiving for consumer deals, was a typical American invention.

An all American stampede through the doors of Walmart for a coveted TV, sure. But the French, mais non! However, you don’t want to mess with their Nutella crepes!

“They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand,” one customer told French media. A member of staff at one Intermarché shop in central France told the regional newspaper Le Progrès: “We were trying to get in between the customers but they were pushing us.”

Now there is nothing wrong with Nutella mind you. This dark, creamy hazelnut spread began its life as a way to ration chocolate during the Napoleonic Wars. Then a century later, a crafty Italian baker decided it wasn’t such a bad idea; after WWII ,when chocolate was again hard to find, he swirled a little cocoa into some hazelnut cream, thereby creating Pasta Gianduja, renamed “Nutella” in 1964. The stuff dreams are made of!

So it’s an Italian invention that is produced in, wait, where is it made? It seems that like beer, some of this divine delicacy comes from the original factory in Turin, Italy – and some is made for the American market! It’s even packaged differently – “Formato Famiglia” or the imported version in a glass jar vs the Canadian-made, American version in plastic tubs. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/nutella-imported-vs-domestic-is-there-a-difference/2014/05/30/3

I remember visiting Holland and being told the Heineken made there, with Dutch water, was better than our Heineken in the states. Well, there are people here who will pay more for the original Italian Nutella in a glass jar, because they say it isn’t so sweet. And did you know that next month we will celebrate World Nutella Day? An Italian-American blogger and Nutella afficianado, decided to dedicate one day a year to her favourite spread.

On February 5th 2007 “World Nutella® Day” was launched, and this schmear has been spreading ever since. One jar of Nutella is sold almost every 3 seconds throughout the world, so you can imagine how well this little family (Ferrero) business is doing.

Despite selling out of its entire stock in 15 minutes at a grocery store near Toulouse, leaving one woman with a black eye, I doubt the rioting will spread throughout Europe or the rest of the world; more than 160 countries carry Nutella on their shelves.

For my part, I’ll stick to my fancy local peanut butter. And fun facts – did you know that peanuts are not a nut? They are actually legumes grown underground. Also American kids on average will consume more than 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before they graduate high school. But they may not eat the crusts.

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And this isn’t about football.

Though we nestled inside during these last single-digit days, and enjoyed seeing GranJorja’s Insta pictures of our little cousins in Pasadena – visiting the preparations for the Rose Bowl floats and lining up for a front row view of the parade. Jorja’s first visit to the Rose Bowl was many years ago, when she and my brother Mike, the fairly new GM of the Minnesota franchise found out what winter in California was really like;

“The Vikings played in their 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years against the Oakland Raiders at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, on Jan. 9, 1977.”

And I have to admit that Bob did watch a little college ball yesterday, exclaiming about what a great game Georgia was playing against Oklahoma. I was reheating a black-eyed pea concoction I’d delivered to a party on New Year’s Eve (returning with half of it), and couldn’t care less about the game. I know, shocking!

Still during halftime, Bob paused the action to play a game of cards with me. An actual real game of cards, that are not on a device but depicted Provence in all its glory, with an “R” for the King and a “D” for the Queen and so we looked at each card carefully to see if we’d visited that market or that field of lavender… How many men would do that? Stop watching football for a game of chance?

My Daddy Jim would play Gin Rummy with me nearly every night when I was a child. The only TV show I remember being allowed to watch at night was “Father Knows Best,” and indeed, I learned quite a bit from Jim. He would help Nell clean up the kitchen after dinner, not many men did this in the 50s. He would put on the kettle for tea, open a box of ginger snaps, and get out the cards and the pennies. We played for pennies that would end up in my piggy bank aka a cigar box.

Every now and then, we’d sit at the kitchen table on a weekend morning, and roll the pennies up in reddish brown wrappers. Then he would drive me into town to deposit the  loot in my own savings account at the bank!

Maybe this is why I love games so much? I love backgammon, chess, rummikub, poker, Go Fish, and I think I want to learn Canasta and Exploding Kittens! And I really need to learn Mahjongg!! I saw a friend’s picture recently of her grandson playing a board game and the word “Sorry” just popped into my head. I recognized the board I haven’t seen in probably sixty years.

I remember playing Chutes and Ladders with my kiddos. Today, my best buddy’s retirement means he’s willing to indulge my love of games. Unfortunately, our Scrabble game is in the Pod. https://www.thespruce.com/best-family-board-games-4151145

Scrabble was the Flapper and Nell’s favorite game. It is one of my top 5 I have to admit, though you might have guessed that wordsmithy is my jam. When the Bride talked me into Words With Friends, it wasn’t the same. Call me old-fashioned, but I actually like interacting with REAL people, and so virtual gaming in any form is NOT my jam.

We got the Grands a wonderful new game this year for Hanukkah. It’s called “Silly Street”  and the Love Bug loved it! It’s not just fun, it helps children build confidence and think about their answers, and it ends with a dance party every time! http://playsillystreet.com And I’ve collected two beautifully illustrated Bingo games for our house as they get older, one with birds and one with bugs, of course.

So if you’re like me, and determined to add a little more fun to 2018, why not start a new routine with the family, a game night that doesn’t involve a device? Well, except for “Heads Up!” that’s the exception, thank you Ellen, and it’s great for travel.

Happy and Healthy 2018 Everyone! Here is our Lil Pumpkin mid-strike in our impromptu straw hockey game at a restaurant. Look out Preds!IMG_1678

 

 

 

 

 

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Oktoberfest ended with a little rain and a lot of dachshunds! And since our friend Eli was visiting with her son Leo, we all met the Bride’s family for the Annual Dachshund Derby in Germantown. Leo decided that Nashville should be renamed “Dogland,” since dogs of every variety strolled through the park with their beer drinking masters in lederhosen. Still, watching those wiener dogs race was hilarious. http://thenashvilleoktoberfest.com/dogtoberfest/

Ms Bean was delighted to sit on the front porch and watch the canine parade go by  behind the cover of a maple tree. She has staked out her territory thankfully, and the sidewalk is safe for most breeds. Corgi puppies and Great Danes stroll right by without looking up to see her eyeing them suspiciously. After all, she is a rescue mutt, origins unknown, and she’s proud of it! She doesn’t need some set of AKC papers to know she is a prey-driven lover girl!

Unlike certain people, who require validation in order to feel good about themselves. It’s not enough to be a professional for some, your pedigree must include only “The Best” schools, “The Finest” clerkships or residencies. These are the silent judges in our midst; constantly ranking others according to some inner calculation, one they are only slightly aware of and would never admit. It’s still a Dog and Pony Show world it would seem, no matter where you go.

You can usually sniff them out, the pretentious co-mingling of class and money. It’s a primal thing I suppose, as territorial as Ms Bean and my friendly mailman. Great Grandma Ada would call this person a “Noodge.” ie Someone who is a pest, an annoying critic of your every move. It’s exactly what we are currently trying to teach the Love Bug’s toddler brother to avoid – not to whine! “You’re not whining are you?” I’ll ask him. The etymology is probably Slavic, and:

likely from Yiddish נודיען nudyen ‘to bore, pester’, נודניק nudnik ‘bore, pest’, influenced by English “nudge”  http://www.jewish-languages.org/jewish-english-lexicon/words/417

Some people become lifetime complainers; their shoulders are burdened by a ton of self-generated worry. I’m sure Freud would tell us they got stuck at that two year old developmental stage, but the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics may have a different answer. Richard Thaler started applying smaller psychological theories of human behavior to influence larger changes in public policy with his “Nudge Theory!”

How do we get someone to make good decisions? Bob explained Thaler’s theory to me this way – if his company offered employees the opportunity to sign up for a 401K, he would get a small minority signing up. BUT if he automatically signed everyone up for a 401K, and told them they would have to opt out if they didn’t want to save for retirement, the large majority would participate! I guess the human species is just lazy and we all need a little “nudge” in the right direction, to avoid being a “noodge!”

As for us, the rain dampened the number of people walking into lamp posts and spilling their steins of beer. Bob only had to pick up an occasional St Pauli Girl can every morning off our stoop. Things are getting back to normal in Germantown.

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Just the other day I was talking with my brother Dr Jim and my sister Kay. We like to conference call between the Minnie Apple and the Big Apple and now the Music City. Dr Jim told us, in cleaning out a closet, he’d found the original book titled “101 Poems” that the Flapper used to read to them while they were doing chores around the house, after our Father died. There was no TV or internet, the radio was it for entertainment; that, and the human voice.

I told them how I’d recite “The Owl and The Pussycat” for the Love Bug and her brother while they climbed into a box and pretend to sail off to sea in a ‘beautiful pea green boat!’ They would look at me with wonder as the lilting, melodious words tripped off my tongue from some region in my brain that has to be reptilian. I must have loved that poem as a child, and I can imagine the Flapper after our car accident, lying on a couch with her legs post-surgery straight out in front of her, reading it to me over and over again.

Today I awoke to the memory of yesterday, to all the emotions of another terrorist act on our soil, at a country music concert. And because the gun man is white, without an apparent motive, gun nuts would like to chalk this one up to mental illness. But maybe, just maybe, this time our Congress might see through the lies of an NRA lobby, and have some bit of courage they couldn’t summon after Sandy Hook. There is NO need for our citizens to carry assault weapons that can spray death from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort. NONE.

For my morning meditation I turned to poetry. Like music, words always help me cope with the unimaginable. And I found this couplet from a 1961 poem by Philip Larkin, “Ambulances”:

Sense the solving emptiness

That lies just under all we do,

And for a second get it whole

So permanent and blank and true.

If poetry is your prescription for pain, you may enjoy an anthology by William Sieghart of 56 different poems, an Rx to help process the curve balls life can throw our way titled  “The Poetry Pharmacy.” He actually tells the reader which poem to read for which ailment – anxiety or the loss of a loved one? Or do you just need to get motivated? Maybe you’re approaching the end of life, and you wonder what it’s all about…Alfie.  http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170927-the-words-that-can-make-us-calmer

Thoughts and prayers just don’t do it for me. I’d rather read a poem and then call Congress!

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It’s an unbelievably beautiful morning in Nashville. Crisp, Fall air has arrived along with the sunshine for my birthday. Last night we celebrated under the stars with a Nutella Napoli pizza. I was surrounded by family and everything seemed right with the world.

After all, earlier in the day Bob and I attended a River Talk at the Bridge building. It was hosted by The Cumberland River Compact; for twenty years this non-profit organization has been dedicated to the health and restoration of the river basin, “To enhance the health and enjoyment of the Cumberland River and its tributaries through education, collaboration, and action.”  https://cumberlandrivercompact.org

This particular River Talk was about their latest approach to maintaining the permeable invasive and native plants on the levee. When the Compact took over this job from the Army Corps of Engineers it was pretty wild and had been neglected. After trying a couple of conventional and expensive solutions, they’ve settled on a herd of sheep! A loyal Border Collie named Duggie, slept by his shepherd Zach as we learned all about his sustainable method of property management.

“Sheep are an especially attractive option when clearing steep, rough, swampy or otherwise difficult lots that would pose big obstacles and hazards to human crews with herbicides or motorized equipment.”  http://www.nashvillechewcrew.com

Now y’all know what an animal lover I am, so I was delighted to learn something new about the natural world and how public and private funding can work together in such a beautiful setting. Bob had already met Zach and his sheep on one of his bike rides around town, he spent almost half an hour talking with him and watching Duggie work. Later he told me that I’d love it, that “…it’s an excellent solution to the need!”

Still, when I fired up Twitter this morning after Ms Bean’s walk, I learned that the USNavy Hospital Ship Comfort is still docked in port while less than half of the people in Puerto Rico have potable water. President Clinton had to urge Mr T to deploy the ship, as if he’d forgotten how to govern while Tweeting about footballers #TakingaKnee.

Since then, the call for the Comfort has come to symbolize something larger: A call for the Pentagon to send more.

More food. More water. More generators. More aircraft.

More everything.

My heart goes out to our our friend’s son whose medical education in St Martin has been postponed, to our friends in the French West Indies, and all the people of the British and American Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. To our dear friends in Houston and Florida. This is the exact right time to talk about Climate Change! Our stewardship of the land, sea and air is responsible for such frequent Category 5 hurricanes, and our leader seems to care less about science and more about ratings.

My birthday wish this year is simple. May our grandchildren inherit a healthier planet. Here is the view from the Bridge Building.

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