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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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Happy Birthday to the Love Bug! Five years ago today I was sitting in a waiting room at Vandy, stewing in a mix of fear and hope and awe. My very own baby girl was about to give birth to her very own baby girl, and because history often repeats itself, the Love Bug had settled into a breech position. Only the Groom could attend her birth in the OR. The look of pure joy on his face when he carried that baby over to us I ‘ll remember for eternity.

The official Bug Birthday Party will be Sunday; a certain Disney heroine who struggled to learn to sail in the Pacific Islands thousands of years ago will be its theme. I’ve thought about the young Bride’s Fall birthday parties in the Berkshires. Clowns, balloons, bean bag tosses, Strawberry Shortcake, the works.

I was a pretty crafty mom back then, in my other life, and I could write at home. I wasn’t juggling night shifts in an ER, that was Bob’s domain.

The Rocker’s mid-Summer birthdays were always at the beach when we washed up on the Jersey Shore. Fun and easey peasey. One summer I collected small rocks, painted them gold, and held a treasure hunt. We didn’t worry about his new class list only inviting his summer friends for an afternoon of swimming and “action and adventure!”

Last night the Bride and Groom celebrated Bob’s birthday (the day before the Love Bug’s) by taking us out for a swanky dinner. It was a most beautiful evening – the weather clear and almost crisp, the latest bistro that was minimally elegant and not noisy (so we could actually talk), with a menu of succulent seafood. Each perfect dish was meant to share. We could see the kitchen from our table filled with women. The Bride told me the executive chef is a woman, and so is the owner-manager.

Nashville-native chef Julia Sullivan opened Henrietta Red to honor her grandparents and feature her spin on “Carolina Low-Country hospitality.” It’s no wonder Bon Appetit voted Henrietta one of America’s Best New Restaurants of 2017!   http://www.bonappetit.com/city-guides/venue/henrietta-red

Next up will be my new Daughter-in-Law Aunt Kiki’s birthday on the Left Coast, the Rocker’s Bride! She shares a September birthday with me and my daughter. I like to call all of us Christmas babies, because… well, you know why!

There’s no time to dawdle today. Tonight we’ll have a family party. I ordered new rain boots from the English countryside for the Bug with unicorns romping on pink soles. I’m pretty sure she’ll like them. And I’m pretty sure time has been speeding up lately, so I’m determined to slow down and enjoy this birthday weekend!

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Another day, another market. For me this is the best way to travel; visit vintage and farmers’ markets, climb up medieval cobblestone hills with lavender wind in my hair. No laundry, no cleaning, no schedule and three cooks preparing delicious dinners every night. 

Bob just jumped into the pool because the sun has returned. Provence is warming up, the rain has stopped and it looks as if Liberty Egalite and Fraternite will win this election – the French people are voting today for inclusion, for freedom, for Macron! Tonight we will all eat cake because it’s Catherine’s birthday!

Catherine is a recovery room nurse with a golden retriever at home, who looks just like our villa dog Flash. Only Flash is a brilliant black with a white stripe down his chest. 

Tomorrow is cooking class! Ratatouille and bouillabaisse are on the menu along with an evening of wine tasting in Luberon.  I’ve never actually had to cut up a whole fish, head to tail, so wish me luck. 

And desserts? Mais oui for lunch and dinner! I’m afraid I may never eat another American strawberry again, they are so sweet here. I’m also afraid to get back on a scale when we return home. Our fabulous tour hosts are Marco, Claudio and Suzanna of https://www.whatscookin.it/

They pamper us, they drive us, they delight us every day. Barbara is teaching me about truffles because I’ve always wondered what the whole mystique is about; the smell, the tree roots, the dogs. And I’m proud to say we had some freshly grated on eggs this morning because this area is actually truffle heaven. 

I bought a couple of grams in a small shop that looks like an abbey – they are dried December truffles that smell like chocolate. I’m hoping my cousin Kenny the chef will give me a recipe or two. I was thinking of maybe sprinkling them on a white pizza? For now I must hide them from fearless Flash. 

We will light a fire and turn on the TV tonight to see the official results. Macron needs more than 60% to govern well. I am falling more in love with France every day, the language, the people, the cuisine! 

Maybe I can talk Bob into buying some inoculated filbert trees for growing truffles? I hear that TN terrain is ripe for the special symbiotic relationship it takes to create such a gastronomic delight. I wonder if Ms Bean could be trained…

Cheers to learning new things! And to my French friends for fighting fear and voting for Love. We needed them during our Revolution and we still do! 

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I hear small pieces of news from the states, like a dream I cannot remember all the pieces. Did Mika and Joe get engaged? Did Congress actually dismantle the ACA? Did somebody win the voice?

But I woke and forgot these snippets of memory to listen to coffee being ground and birds singing. My back is still tender, so after a rainy, magical walk around Aix yesterday we have decided to hang by the pool today and worship the sun. There is a medieval city across a field of wild thyme, and depending on our mood, we may take a stroll after lunch. 

Some people travel to live, and some live to travel. Like food, one can let it consume your life. And I have never been a good traveler, I’m more of a stay-at-home, non-traveler type. Maybe it was Nell and her agoraphobia, or maybe it was my semi-homeless upbringing, never feeling at home with one mother or the other, always between two families.

But our new “family” for this trip is a happy and healthy bunch staying in a secluded villa. It all started on Facebook with one of the Big Chill’s sister. Barb is a retired physician and organizes groups of friends who love food (check), love to cook (check), and love to hunt fungi (um no). Well at least I’ve never gone foraging for mushrooms, and wouldn’t know a real one from a poisonous one, but this group does. We are eleven Americans, nearly half in health related fields.

This is a different kind of trip. No traipsing through the forest on a fungi treasure hunt, just visiting open-air markets and sightseeing in the South of France. At the end of each day, our chefs have prepared fabulous meals with local ingredients. For instance, this area is known as Luberon and it is famous for wine of course, and melons! Last night we had melon ice cream for dessert and it was the freshest most delicious ice cream I’ve ever tasted in my whole life!

We are too early for the fabulous fields of lavender- that happens the end of June and early July, so as Bob likes to say, “We must return.” Because soon Bob will be getting his wings back, and I know he will want to fly away whenever and wherever the Mistral wind blows him. 

Today we miss the flower and farmers’ markets, the Roman ruins and the wine tasting at Chateauneuf du Pape. Maybe tomorrow we will be ship-shape for our trip to Avignon. I will stretch and I will swim, getting stronger every day. But right now, reading by the pool would be divine. On Sunday the French will decide their future, so who knows? Maybe Bob and I will be stranded here in Paradise. 

I had better brush up on my French, n’est ce pas?  

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Here we go again. Last night our administration did a 180 on Syria, the whole America First thing was a sham, a synonym for Wall Street First. As a famous general pointed out this morning, we are now fighting a “proxy war,” It’s happened before – a tactical missile strike – in 1986 when Reagan bombed Libya, and last night. It’s a classic “Let’s you and him fight” scenario. We are backing the royal family of Saudia Arabia in the region, as usual, and Russia and Iran are backing Syria’s Assad regime.

And this morning all the pundits are talking. On Twitter, a Brian Williams hashtag took off because it appeared as if the network couldn’t trust Rachel Maddow to report Breaking News. In this house, I was watching Huck try to escape a sinking car on Scandal. We had been under a tornado watch, so trees were still creaking and the wind was moaning. I’d been furiously cleaning and occasionally “cooking” for Passover, which begins Monday night.

Jews everywhere will be preparing a Seder and reenacting the Exodus at their dinner tables. I am a novice Seder-maker, a maker-of-haroses for many years, but never the principle player. There will be half the number of people at my Southern table, and I won’t be making certain fried delectables in chicken fat that nobody eats. Lucky for me Ada and Hudson will be here early, so I will be tutored in the art of making perfect matzoh balls for the chicken soup!

Just as we will detail all the plagues that finally convinced a Pharaoh to let our people go, to leave slavery behind and wander in the desert, let’s examine what led up to our tactical tomahawk missile strike last night.

There was a chemical attack on innocent people, and we saw the pictures in living color. Civilians have been dying and fleeing Syria for years now, but the immediacy of watching “beautiful babies” suffer must have been Mr T’s red line. And he is a knee-jerk reactor as we know from his Twittersphere.

This last week we discovered more connections linking Trump with Russia:

  1. Eric Prince (founder of Blackwater and brother of Betsy DeVos) met a Russian official in the Seychelles with a crown prince of the UAE;
  2. Jared Kushner met a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, in NY, and hey, he’s willing to talk about it;
  3. Carter Page (ex-policy advisor on energy to T’s campaign) met a Russian spy, Victor Podobnyy, in NY.  http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/05/politics/trump-associates-russians-meetings/

But let’s not forget that St Petersburg was recently the target of terrorism…and that Secretary of State Tillerson is cozy with Putin…and that we called Russia to let them know we were going to strike that air base. Is that something you would do to your enemy? I can’t help but think that behind the scenes, even though Putin must publicly decry our actions, something else is going on in this proxy war. I wonder if Mr T asked his “friend,” China’s Xi, down at the Florida palace what he would do now? #WWXD?

What we know is that instead of talking about trade with China, this airstrike has taken precedence. “One of the most urgent issues for the US is North Korea, which is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the west coast of the US with a nuclear device. It fired a medium-range missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday, the latest in a series of launches.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39517569

I wonder what North Korea is thinking this morning. That is truly our existential crisis. I’m living in a whirlwind of Seder preparation and packing, sometimes it feels like I’m sinking inside that car Huck was trapped in, bleeding and hallucinating. I wanted to wake up this morning and think it was all just a nightmare…what US president would bomb a country without notice against international law? Like Asia and Kim Jong-un, we are dealing with an unpredictable leader who travels from the Hill to the links at his Mar a Lago resort, treating his presidency like a lark.

I can only hope for our sake that Tillerson and Putin are fighting a fair proxy war, and that chemical weapons will never see the light of day again. Ask yourself four questions, Mah Nishtanah – 1) How was last night different from 1986?  2) Why did we only warn Russia of the attack? 3) Why is a chemical attack worse than a bomb? 4) Is this just another ploy to distract us from the Russian Connection?

And will somebody tell the South that a Passover section in the grocery store should NOT contain anything with flour! I’m going to try and make kugel muffins, with matzoh meal or potatoes. Wish me luck!  wide-spinach-kugel-cupcakesjpg

 

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Don’t you just love it when scientists prove some theory you’ve held your whole life, contradicting years of previous recommendations? Bob’s reaction yesterday to the news about peanut allergies was mixed, but mostly he was annoyed. Here is the gist of yesterday’s news from pediatricians:

“The new guidelines say most babies can try a little peanut paste or powder — never whole peanuts — at home. High-risk infants are defined as those with severe eczema or an egg allergy. … “That’s a whole generation of children who never have to develop this allergy.”

The Love Bug still has to bring only a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich to her preschool. This news is too late for her little classmate who couldn’t eat one of her cupcakes on her birthday. I felt so sorry for that little girl, who knew Publix made their cupcakes in a factory with peanuts? I truly believe labeling is disabling. When we learned that the Bride has a severe allergy to cats, we just tried to screen which house was suitable for a playdate.

But this new study makes perfect sense. Introduce peanuts early, like mixing some powder into baby’s yogurt around four months of age, and your offspring will gradually build their immune system. It makes sense, if having a dog in your house (ostensibly bringing more dirt and germs inside) helps build a child’s immune system, why shouldn’t this work? When I kept getting poison ivy as a child, I eventually landed in a doctor’s office getting shots with guess what? Small doses of the poison ivy compound to build my own natural immunity!

Bob was naturally smug yesterday. He didn’t actually say, “I told you so,” but you could see it around his eyes. He is partial to free-range parenting. If it fell on the floor, the 5 second rule applies. The baby finds an old piece of quesadilla behind the Christmas tree while you’re dismantling it, sure go-ahead and take a bite! What’s a little dirt? Bob has felt this way his entire life, whereas I am a hand-washing maniac. The Bride’s style takes after her Dad, the Rocker leans more toward hand sanitizers. And strangely enough, my son is just fine with cats!

“Childhood peanut allergies in the U.S. have increased dramatically over the last decade: In 1997, 0.4 percent of children reported an allergy to peanuts, and by 2008 that number was 1.4 percent, or more than 3 million people.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/guidelines-babies-peanut-allergies_us_586eab12e4b099cdb0fc3947

While in Nashville, serving apple slices dipped into peanut butter, I downloaded a little learning App on my Ipad. PopBob was trying it out with the Baby Boy, who is now a hefty two year old who eats just about anything. I could hear Bob complaining about computer programmers who don’t think like a child; I also heard them laughing and bonding. After that, we went out on a walk to collect pine cones, and rocks and bottle caps. So go ahead people, kick off your shoes, get outside and play in the dirt this year. And don’t forget to pack a PB and J!

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