Thank Fullness

I’m really digging this idea of posting my gratitude on Thanksgiving instead of a recipe. At this point, you are already in the thick of cooking up a storm and a food recipe would be a bit too late. Although, I suppose this could be considered a recipe of sorts. One without food ingredients or instructions, but a recipe for living thoughtfully, gratefully and lovingly.

I usually pause daily with grateful glee, but I do enjoy looking back on a yearlong’s journey of gratitude to feel the magnitude. I count my entire family’s accomplishments as part of my blessings because they create such joy in my life. So, here goes another acknowledgement for all of life’s waves washing upon our shores.

And as always, I am grateful for family and friends, health and abundance but I like starting with my favorite bunch of achievers - my nieces and nephew.

Gabrielle Brooke

My oldest niece, with a sharp eye for design, decor, and beauty is out there paving her way and turning heads with her multitude of talents. She consistently wows and impresses at her job at Traditions, producing successful marketing campaigns and in-store events with proven, quantitative results. The owner was so impressed with the store’s overall success and increased business that she took the entire staff to Paris to celebrate. Gabrielle, amongst great works of art, furniture, culture and food. A perfect mix.

Gabrielle Brooke in chez Paris!

Gabrielle Brooke in chez Paris!

Gabrielle has garnered such great exposure that it has attracted the attention of other companies in need of marketing and social media presence. Her entrepreneurial spark was lit this year as she took on private clients, in addition to her full time job. She’s always willing to lend hand or good advice, as I can confirm since she has guided me through the social media quagmire. With a blend of kindness, poise and strength, instinct and resourcefulness, she has what it takes. I fully expect her to head up her own firm, using her intelligence, grace and charm.

And a last minute gratitude addition; she will be closing on the purchase of her first home before year’s end. WooHoo!

Holiday Sales Event at Traditions

Holiday Sales Event at Traditions

 
Social Media and Marketing Manager, Gabrielle

Social Media and Marketing Manager, Gabrielle

John Joseph
After going above and beyond, doing an awesome job at a start up company last year, John gained invaluable experience that helped him branch out and build his own brand, Sauc. He is also in process of launching a second brand, John & Tom's. From the NextGen Summit to Burning Man, he is an adventurer putting himself in places to seek knowledge. Through research and travel, he sought out experts to help him grow his company.

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But more impressive is how he grows, always thoughtful in the things he puts forth into the world. His entrepreneurial spirit soared this year, as he navigated through the business world in the most gentle, giving way. Helping others and always putting good energy out in the world. Watch out world, we have a serious do-gooder on our hands. Thank goodness.

Michella Rae

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Allow me to introduce you to the next Erin Andrews… Michella is taking every opportunity to put herself in scenarios to be seen and heard in her field of Communications and Sports Reporting. She garnered a kick ass internship with Fox Sports this summer. Normally, interns just assist, watch and learn. However, Fox Sports was smart enough to take notice and be so impressed with her abilities that they had her conducting on-camera interviews, reporting and field producing. Back at school, she is shooting, editing and conducting post game interviews for IMG Media, which covers all of Georgia’s sporting events. Michella has some of the most natural on-camera talent I have ever seen. Her sports knowledge, research ability, confidence and sheer star power continues to soar. I’m always blown away with her poise and professionalism. Check out a clip below and watch out for her on the sidelines of the SuperBowl one day!

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Gianna Marie

Big things happening for Gianna in her 3rd year at Binghamton as she excels academically and socially. She moved into her first apartment, and independent living, which also meant cooking for herself. She loves telling when she’s making one of my recipes or a pasta dish that we made together. And during her breaks home, she always finds a way to carve out a time to spend with me. Warms my heart, to no end. Her gentle soul and caring propelled her to do volunteer work with animals. She is so good at taking care of those in need, whether two or four legged. I know about the former, as she helped me big time this summer with projects big and small. She is majoring in anthropology with a minor in forensic health. Gianna took on the extra credit by working directly with her professor on an independent study of the analysis of bones. Fortunately, no real bones in this photo. CSI, leave a spot open for Gianna Marie.

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Melanie Nicole

Mel graduated from HS and received a Senior Honors Award in Foreign Language. After years of begging, she finally got the dog she always wanted. Charlie makes her smile, for sure. Tons of schools visits lead her to chose the small college of University of Scranton which has proven to be an ideal fit for her. So in August, with Charlie along for the ride, she headed off to Pennsylvania where her focus is criminal justice/pre-law. Mel immediately made a slew of new friends and is rocking her first year of college like a champ.

Nicolette Grace

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She may be the youngest in the family, but she is a big achiever in her own right. While juggling two highly intense and competitive sports, soccer and lacrosse, she also received straight A’s in her sophomore year in HS. She is a dedicated team member, a top defender and captain of her soccer team. She leads by example with her strong work ethic, making it easy to see why she is loved by her coach and peers, and by me! It’s because of her natural leadership qualities that she was chosen to take on the role of coaching the 5 year olds’ soccer team. She is bright, and funny, but more importantly has the strongest sense of morality and doing the right thing even when it’s not popular. Nicolette is driving, yes driving and doing very well, taking it as serious as she does everything she tackles.

 

My siblings and parents…

Alyssa

After decades of hard work, she is thinking about the next stage, and how to work and play at the same time. That idea transformed itself in purchasing a vacation/work-from-home place in Boulder CO. Hard work and determination paid off. So happy for her on this next chapter, where she can explore nature with a healthy work life balance.

Jill

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Traveling like George Clooney in the movie “Up In The Air”, she had some awesome opportunities of visiting more than NYC this year. Her travels took her to Los Angeles, Switzerland and Phuket, Thailand. Although more air time keeps her away from her family, she did get a chance to spend quality time with our brother, Robert, in LA, with her co-workers in Thailand, and was blessed to hang out with my favorite animal, the elephants.

 
 
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Robert
Continuing his career as a screenwriter, he finished rewrites on a script about a rags to riches true story about Fernando Montanyo, who emerged from the slums of Buena Ventura to dance in the Royal Ballet of London. Robert’s passion
for capturing stunning imagery is ever present, including location photography he shot as he gears up to make an independent feature about a murder that took place in Amish country.

He also started his own business as an astrology reader. He has deep interest in this subject and pure desire to help others navigate the celestial energizes. His research and knowledge are incredibly on point and valuable. He has guided me through some interesting astrological times, steering me in the right direction. Check out his instagram @thestarscience

 

Adrienne & Gene

This year marks one year since my Mom’s knee replacement AND exactly a year later my Dad got a new knee of his own. Talk about timing. Now, between them they have two good legs to stand on and ton of good health.
We couldn’t be more fortunate. They also traveled to Miami for their annual winter retreat, and to NC to visit Jill, Bobby and the girls. We are looking forward to watching them take many painless walks together.

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These two enjoying a gift certificate from their grandson, John, to their favorite eatery in Miami,  Harry’s Pizzeria

These two enjoying a gift certificate from their grandson, John, to their favorite eatery in Miami, Harry’s Pizzeria

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My talented husband landed one of the biggest clients he has ever had - The Waldorf Astoria renovation. Of all the signage design companies in the world, ribbit, inc. was chosen. And wisely chosen.

I couldn’t be prouder. And worth celebrating.

This year several other cool projects came knocking on ribbit’s door. Some smaller like H Club in LA, and others bigger like The New Wild Dunes Hotel and The Waterfront in Charleston, SC.

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Leap frog! LEAP! You have always been my prince.

As for me, being a part of my family and framily is such a joy.

I have been blessed with work that continues to feed my love of food and entertaining, as well as in the production world. I feel honored that so many of you enjoy my blog. And I am continually grateful to those who buy and read my books… and then take the time to thank me like these two young readers!

On that note, my biggest accomplishment this year was taking the leap, Thinking first, then jumping to pitch my children’s book series Think then Jump as a TV series with my friend, Stephanie Kontzamany/Skala Connections. We went to this year’s Kidscreen Conference and met with several interested parties, but it was the BBC who showed interest in developing a pilot for a potential TV series. This was one of those overnight successes that took a decade. Definitely a lot of Thinking before Jumping. It’s still a long road ahead to see what transpires but I can’t begin to tell you the triumph and gratitude I feel in reaching this point and receiving such kind words about my books, the stories, the illustrations. There literally are no words to express what this means to me.

 
Stephanie and I heading into NYC to meet with the BBC about funding a pilot for The Grumpy Frog!

Stephanie and I heading into NYC to meet with the BBC about funding a pilot for The Grumpy Frog!

Then I had the most unbelievable experience of working in a prep kitchen for a James Beard Award winning restaurant group. Can you say “pinch me, now, I must be dreaming.” What a joy it was to wake up early to make the donuts, as they say. I didn’t actually make the dough or fry them, but did some of the decorating. I had my daily pastry duties and learned so much from Chef MJ, and am forever grateful to the executives who granted me this opportunity. I had no idea how much I would truly love this.

The kitchen team

The kitchen team

Donuts, extraordinaire

Donuts, extraordinaire

Chef MJ and me. I adore her!

Chef MJ and me. I adore her!

I was also super fortunate to be able to celebrate a special birthday with my dear, best friend Emilce in the South of France. Taking time to celebrate with the ones we love… a gratitude ricochet.

And as if all that weren’t enough, this year I also hit year 13 of good health. Each year another reminder of how blessed I am for surviving and thriving.

As much as the big accomplishments are a wonderful to rejoice, and easy to recognize, it’s the small ones I like to focus on. One, because they force you to dig deep to see the blessings in the small gifts. Two, because they actually come more often, daily even. Like the beauty of a body of water as it reveals itself upon reaching the peak of a bridge, or the burst of color in floral arrangement that came together just as it was envisioned, or the love that is felt when a text arrives from a friend reaching out with gentle support.

I am fully aware at how the world we live in can seem bleak. So much destruction, so much bickering, and so much grief. But if we neglect to appreciate, and cling to good, then it will be difficult to get through the harder times.

So I focus on those. So many grateful moments. So many positive blimps in day. So much to make me smile every moment. I, too, need reminding of all that. With my super support system showing me so much joy, they help me flip the switch off on negativity and see the light.

May light shine on you. May it be bright and joyous. May it be filled with gifts you need to be your truest self. May you be the light to others, and shine brightly today and each day. Light of love.

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Farmer's Market - A Field of Riches

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It's Farmer's Market season.  And the pickings are not just good, they are great. It's my favorite, and the most glorious way to shop for food.  Buying fresh, locally grown produce, and selecting from what is in season.  I am a firm believer that this is what our bodies crave and how they were meant to be nourished; eating what is available at the moment.  Don't just take my word for it.  Here are a few links about how to eat seasonally and the benefits.

Eating Seasonally and Locally is Better for You

The Health Benefits of Eating Seasonally

I could go off on a rant here about one of the possible 'why's' so many people are having food issues.  The list is long but I think a contributing factor might be eating out of season, and eating the same food over and over again because we like it so much, and it's available... even when it really shouldn't be.  In the good ole days, people ate what farmer's grew, harvested and sold in that season. Period, the end. They didn't have Fed Ex flying food all over the country or world, for that matter.  It's almost like our bodies yearn for the exact foods particular to that time of the year.  Like strawberries in the summer or pumpkin in the fall.  But now with super fast transportation,  you can have strawberries in the winter and pumpkin in the summer.  It's bat shit crazy, I tell ya.  

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I try to eat as seasonally as possible.  It's the reason that I don't really have a desire for salads in the winter. My body pines for warm foods, so I create salads that fit the bill by adding winter items to them.  A good example is my Salads: Hot & Cold.  And it's also why every summer I wait, like a child anticipating Santa's arrival, for our farmer's market to open its stalls.  I jump out of bed on Saturday, drink my java and grab my straw basket to head into town.  I never have a plan. Just $$$ in my pocket, joy in my heart and big, child like enthusiasm. That's all you really need. 

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Me in my local farmer's market get up ready to stuff my bag.

Me in my local farmer's market get up ready to stuff my bag.

I love everything about a Farmer's Market.  I love seeing all the people milling around, some willing to chat over what to make with this or should they buy that.  I love the artisans that come to sell their foods, their handcrafted wares and field flowers. I love the variety, and the natural look of the food.  Oddly shaped beauties made with nature's hand and stirred with love.  Not uniform, genetically duplicated food that looks as if it were pushed out of a mold. 

Carrots with character.

Carrots with character.

Jewel tones of swiss chard.

Jewel tones of swiss chard.

Rows of corn... or corn rows?

Rows of corn... or corn rows?

I love the intimacy of a market, where the producers/owners are beaming with pride to tell you about their products. It's a community, with mutual respect.

The owners of  Beth's Farm Kitchen . They were eager to have me try their Hot Loving Habanero Jelly.

The owners of Beth's Farm Kitchen. They were eager to have me try their Hot Loving Habanero Jelly.

I love it all so much that no matter where we are traveling, I find the farmer's market and make a bee line.

Whether in S.F area, or Aspen, Miami or Florence, Italy, Union Square NYC or my little town, venturing out to mingle among the masses of produce is how I get my jollies.

Have hat will shop, that is my motto. Me buying papaya and mangos at the  Sunday's Farmer's Market on Lincoln Road Mall  in Miami, FL.

Have hat will shop, that is my motto. Me buying papaya and mangos at the Sunday's Farmer's Market on Lincoln Road Mall in Miami, FL.

Artisan bread at the market in Marin County, CA

Artisan bread at the market in Marin County, CA

Have your best friends take you to their favorite markets, as Dominique and Neil did when we visited them in Marin County, CA

Have your best friends take you to their favorite markets, as Dominique and Neil did when we visited them in Marin County, CA

Fruits in Florence, Italy. Shopping in Europe is different than in the U.S. They shop more often, sometimes daily buying what they need for that day's meals. Then go out and get was is fresh for tomorrow.

Fruits in Florence, Italy. Shopping in Europe is different than in the U.S. They shop more often, sometimes daily buying what they need for that day's meals. Then go out and get was is fresh for tomorrow.

And what's not to love.  I have purposefully posted so many photos to show the absolute allure of this art form.  To tempt you. To lure you in and make you want to find the nearest market. Row after row.  Pile after pile. Each item perking up fresher than the next.

Plums and currants at the  market in Hudson, NY

Plums and currants at the market in Hudson, NY

Greens at the market in Hudson, NY

Greens at the market in Hudson, NY

Flowers at the  Aspen Farmer's Market .

Flowers at the Aspen Farmer's Market.

A length of peppers from which to choose at the  Union Square Market in NYC

A length of peppers from which to choose at the Union Square Market in NYC

Another huge plus is that you can discover new and interesting foods that don't usually appear at an ordinary supermarket. This is where the fun really begins, in the "what is that? and how can I use it?"

These Mexican Gherkins are similar to a cucumber

These Mexican Gherkins are similar to a cucumber

These mushrooms look like coral reef. They are earthy and vibrant.

These mushrooms look like coral reef. They are earthy and vibrant.

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It's Farmer's Market season y'all.  Grab a bag, satchel, basket or whatever brings you joy.  Put on sunglasses, grab a hat and mingle with both the food and your fellow shoppers. It's a visual feast in every regard. 

 
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You'll want to buy everything. But try and show better restraint than I do. Often times I over buy out of sheer excitement.

You'll want to buy everything. But try and show better restraint than I do. Often times I over buy out of sheer excitement.

There are goodies of all kinds to indulge and experience.  Snag a baked item, hold onto your coffee and weave your way through.  Get up and get out there. 

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I like to ask the farmer for recommendations, or how it was grown, and why it is special.  Alright, if you don't feel like going that far, just breathe in the glory of buying what you need for the immediate days, then get excited to return the following week.  It's a simple pleasure. Leisurely wander around with a curious set of senses, picking up produce, smelling it and thoroughly reveling in how fortunate we are to have such abundance.  Enjoy the moment.  As I do this time of year.

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Fill your basket, then once home start figuring out all the possibilities. If you need help, here are just a few recipes I made with my finds over the years.

Graped Up Bibb Salad

Tarts of Summer

Swiss Chard, Potato & Eggplant Hash

Zucchini Crudo with Shaved Parmigiano & Mint Oil

Balsamic Bathed Carrots Wrapped with Zucchini

Corn & Fruit Salad

White Eggplant App - Greek Style

Corn Salad - Fresh & Roasted

The Great Tomato Caper

Happy feeling, smelling, tasting and picking.

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Ciao 2017 - A Year that Warmed My Heart

Another year.  Another 365 days of "what did I do with all that time?"  I do recall many moons ago an older person said to me that time goes by faster when you are older.  I didn't quite get it, but now that I am older, I see that it is true.  But I still don't get it. Time flies by quicker now. But how? But why?  Is it because as adults we wish for the weekends to come so we can have some rest? Only to find out that we have cleaning and laundry, errands and bills to attend to.  Is that why time blows past us?  Who knows, except, here it is the end of 2017 and I am still wondering what happened to March!!  What have I done with all that time?

I have accomplished some things but will readily admit that I wasted too much time.  2018 will be about making more of each moment. Well, that was the goal of 2017, so wish me luck... again.

As the year comes to a close some of you will host big parties.  Great.  But if you are like me, and don't make such a huge deal out of New Year's Eve, or feel pressure to do something, or maybe you feel sad because nothing special is happening.   Please remember it's just another night like the one before it and the one after it.  You can choose to how to honor it or not. You can use it to ump start a fresh beginning. But if you don't have big plans, so what.  You can do what JC and I like to do.  Sit quietly, rejoice in what we have now and make a list of our wishes  for the coming year. Without pressure but just gentle reminders of what we would like to reach for.

As we wrap this year, that was filled with tons of emotion for most of us, let me share some moments of just how lovely a year can be.  (Lots of photos, so keep scrolling for another message from me.)

January
Shared time with my sister Jill and nieces, Nikki and Gabrielle, as we cooked together making the original "something from nothing" recipe, Zucchini Orzo Pie and an old family tradition, stuffed breads.

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February
Starting the month with an invite from our family friends, the Marzullos, to kick start a month of eating well.
Celebrated my birthday with my parents in Miami showing them cool restaurants for them to visit, like Prohibition. Then back home to celebrate another Pisces birthday with my 'niece', Lauren, serving up a traditional Spanish tapas lunch.

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March
Stirring it with love with Gabrielle at her workplace, Traditions, in Charlotte, NC promoting my Think...then Jump™ children's book series and reading to the kids. Back home, taking in nature with a walk through our favorite local spot, Rockefeller Park.

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April
Another trip to Italy, because... Well, it's Italy and you can never get enough. And let's not forget this is the land of beauty, love and of course...pasta.  All things I hold dear.

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My own fresh pasta made in the Tuscan Hills.  Recipe here

My own fresh pasta made in the Tuscan Hills.  Recipe here

My hubby, falling in love with Cortona in the Tuscan region of Italy.

My hubby, falling in love with Cortona in the Tuscan region of Italy.

May
JC's birthday, celebrated as usual with good food and wine.

Cucumber, radish, mint salad

Cucumber, radish, mint salad

Roasted pork loin

Roasted pork loin

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June
A full month of gatherings with family and friends, both in NY and Miami.  

Us and the Nardolillo Family.  Finally, after many dates were thrown around, we found one in June!

Us and the Nardolillo Family.  Finally, after many dates were thrown around, we found one in June!

Always love visiting Miami for sun and the warming of my soul.

Always love visiting Miami for sun and the warming of my soul.

Miami gang,  Marta and Me with JC to celebrate Emilce's Birthday.

Miami gang,  Marta and Me with JC to celebrate Emilce's Birthday.

Krista and Me.  I babysat for her.  Yes, I did and now she is getting married!

Krista and Me.  I babysat for her.  Yes, I did and now she is getting married!

July
Spent the 4th sharing good times, good food and good fun with dear friends Emily and Lorne at their Bay home.

Rocked a successful event aboard a NYC nighttime cruise that Despaña co-sponsored.  Boy, was I tired after that one.

A NYC visit from my bestie, Dominique, ending a perfect  girl's day with her daughter, Lauren.

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Despaña Gang AKA Chicas Poderosas = Powerful Girls!

Despaña Gang AKA Chicas Poderosas = Powerful Girls!

Dominique and Lauren. Don't you love those smiles!

Dominique and Lauren. Don't you love those smiles!

August
Too many photos to even think about sharing from our trip to Northern Spain, but the highlight was spending time with our dear friends, Marcos and Angelica, at their home in Amieva, Asturias.

Amieva, a beautiful view

Amieva, a beautiful view

Marcos, Angelica and JC

Marcos, Angelica and JC

Angelica and me

Angelica and me

September
How do you celebrate fall with Cuban in-laws?  Roast a pig.
How do you celebrate a friend's birthday? Call and say "I'm coming over with food and cake!"

How do you celebrate a life? By honoring it with memories, laughter and love. Sharing as a family a most beautiful memorial to rejoice in life of my dear Aunt Catherine.

Porky the pig in La Caja China, the Chinese roasting box

Porky the pig in La Caja China, the Chinese roasting box

I made a gluten free cake to celebrate Carl's birthday.

I made a gluten free cake to celebrate Carl's birthday.

Alla familia

Alla familia

Aunt Catherine's favorite hat and her corn cob pipe.  No button nose here.

Aunt Catherine's favorite hat and her corn cob pipe.  No button nose here.

October
Thanks to my sis, Alys and Mastercard, we got to visit the Chiluly exhibit at the NY Botanical Gardens

Then had a wild production experience as Team Despaña, Angelica and Master Carver Jaume Guerra were slicing up jamón on The Untitled Action Bronson Show appearing on Viceland TV.

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Angelica & Jaume showing how it's done.

Angelica & Jaume showing how it's done.

Action Bronson checking out the jamón

Action Bronson checking out the jamón

November
NYC Marathon with my amazing sis, Alys.

Stats that make her cream of the crop.

Stats that make her cream of the crop.

Family support after 26.2 miles.  Ready for a meal.

Family support after 26.2 miles.  Ready for a meal.

December
That time of year when spending time with flour, butter and sugar is how I pass my time, baking up a storm. Thankfully, I had one brave soul to help me, my niece, Gianna to the rescue.

Gianna, directly home from college and before seeing friends, helped me make cookies... all day.

Gianna, directly home from college and before seeing friends, helped me make cookies... all day.

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I also had to say ciao for now to my nephew, John, as he moved away to Colorado.

So as we close the books on 2017, I wish for you all the health and love life has to offer... And there is an abundance of it. There truly is no end to that well.  You can continue to tap it and unearth it's riches.

May you find the path you were searching for.

May the passions you dream of become realities.

May the struggles you have be released and resolved.

May good friends, good food find their way into your home.

May each day bring a wonderful mixture of laughter and smiles, inner peace and joy, satisfaction and accomplishment, confidence and strength.

May you step closer to knowing and loving your true self and rejoice in your essence.

I wish all these and so much more for you.

Happy New Year

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Thankful... Again

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With each passing year my heart grows with more gratitude.  My life filled with more and more blessings, and wonderment.  That's not to say that there aren't speed bumps and detours along the way.  Hell, yeah there are, but in the grand scheme, there is so very much for which to be thankful. And I choose to focus on those, and even view the speed bumps as extra caloric expenditure to pull myself up and over...another benefit! 

I try to count my blessings daily and in every way imaginable.  From the sunshine that warms me up, to crisp Fall air that fills my lungs, to getting a seat on the train away from the person coughing to all the obvious ones of happiness and health friends and family. And so, I especially look to family this year, where accomplishment and joy were the name of the game.  We rejoiced in all things big and small.

Let's get started with my favorites. My nieces and nephew. 

Gabrielle Brooke
Determined to find the right career opportunity, she searched and found a great fit at Traditions in Charlotte. As she finished her first year there, she truly made her mark and presence known including a year long anniversary campaign that showed huge improvements in business, created new exposure and increased revenue for the company. Bringing her own style and smile wherever she goes.  What a difference one rock star can make. 

Me and G (Proud aunt showed up in Charlotte for support one day!)

Me and G (Proud aunt showed up in Charlotte for support one day!)

John Joseph

Achieving similar professional accomplishments, he turned an internship at Tribute into a job, then took this small start up company by storm.  His adventurous, 'I can do anything' spirit  increased their presence in the marketplace, as he took on new levels of responsibilities, meeting entrepreneurs, movers/shakers, all the while embarking on his own business line, consistently staying true to his social consciousness and gentle spirit.  Truly paving his own path with grace and gumption.

John, on the right with colleagues meeting entrepreneurs and industry shakers.

John, on the right with colleagues meeting entrepreneurs and industry shakers.

Michella Rae
Rocked it a college firing on all cylinders.  From being a leader in her sorority, to taking no prisoners athletically in lacrosse, to shining academically, and forging her path as on-camera talent.  She's a natural and a powerhouse in all she takes on.  Take a gander at her interviewing skills here.  This was one of her first on camera interviews.  What poise and knowledge.

Michella interviewing the lacrosse MVP.

Michella interviewing the lacrosse MVP.

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Gianna Marie
In her second year at my alma mater, Binghamton, excelling academically at a school that is among one of the best.  Her caring, gentle spirit and love for animals is steering her in the veterinary direction. She also resurrected her love for dancing, showcasing her talents performing choreography by a senior in the performing arts school.  Check her moves out, front and to the left in the video below.  Talent and emotion that comes from deep within.

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Nicolette Grace
She has become quite the adult and chef. With all Jill's travels, her self reliant style has her cooking meals from Fresh Chef that any adult would envy.  She started High School and finished her first semester of honors classes with straight A's, all the while she continued to kick serious butt as a soccer champ, literally ripping in the winning goal on a free kick from 40 yards out (video below).  A young woman's strength in all areas pushing forward and making her mark!

Melanie
A senior in H.S. with honors and embarking on college while still exploring and excelling her talents in the art world.  She is also a skilled writer and thoughtful young woman.  Her natural talent and skill are impressive.

Melanie
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Mom/Dad
My mom has a new knee and a new lease on life.  My dad, ever young, helping her through her recovery.  They are our rocks.  They are always there when we need them and ready to show up at any event. Living life fully and with love.

Seriously, they are amazing.

Seriously, they are amazing.

Robert
My brother came back to NY to accomplish a handful of things. Among them helping my mom with her recovery while he researched and wrote a complete new screenplay.  His writing and creative talents never cease to amaze me. We all loved having him around.  Honoring his no photo policy.  Just know he is as handsome and healthy as ever.

 

Alyssa
My sis, with grit, dedication and determination that boggles my mind, endured her 9th marathon and 7th NYC one. Running with 51K people, she finished with a time that ranked her... Get this:

  • 8% overall, yes out of 51K crazy sweaty peeps
  • Top 3% of ALL women 
  • Top 1.25% in her age group.  Crap this is elite.

Check out the video of her whizzing by.

 

 

Jill
As my other sis climbs the corporate ladder, her work ethic and stamina astounds me. She completed a year at her latest promotion at Estee Lauder, making a difference from here to Europe to Asia.  While she jet sets around, she always putting family first, as her girls know well. She never knew she was such a good juggler. Another huge accomplishment, which might seem insignificant to you all, but was huge around here...

She made it home for dinner one night by 6:30pm. 

 

 
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Juan Carlos
Continues creating branded signage programs for the hospitality industry that stand out as beautiful and unique.  His latest work on the historic landmark property, The Beekman, proudly garnered much acclaim and attention.  Big bonus... he loves me.

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As for me, I count all these joyous moments among my blessings, and being in a family so accomplished.  I also feel fortunate to be part of a great team at Despaña.  We are a diverse group, but right now we are charged with a strong management team made up of WOMEN!  You gotta love that. 

Feeling grateful for the few productions gigs this year which were fun and helpful $$.  My blog fills me with great joy, as you all send me wonderful notes and comments that keep my spirits bright and charge me with motivation to write and share my stories, recipes, entertaining ideas.  My children's books continue to sell. And above all, I am forever and always grateful for the good health of my family and myself.   

So, as we take a moment to reflect on what is truly important in these times when the TV news cycles have our heads spinning and tempers flaring and wondering where morality and decency have gone, I recommend a breath, a moment to inhale deeply and slowly.  Take in all the small milestones. Step back, step within and remember that the external swirling of bull crap will spin away as your inner strength deflects it from landing on our porch.  Speak up when needed, and fight for what you believe to be true and honorable.  Do your part to make a mark in the world.  All the rest is just noise. Don't let it clutter your brain and confuse where you are going and what is your purpose.  There is beauty and goodness all around us.  Just like WonderWoman, we sometimes need a big metal shield to protect us from the flying debris of life.

May you find gratitude in the small things.  May you cull them together and be enveloped in how big and great their sum becomes.  May these tiny moments kiss joy onto your heart and fill you with LOVE.

Happy Gratitude Day... every day.

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The Bud of Love - Flowers, A Wedding & More

Love... Love... Love  
Love... Love... Love
Love... Love... Love
There's nothing you can't do that can't be done...
All you need is love
Love is all you need

Yes, it was The Beatles who famously sung it, but it is a sentiment that rings true and brings joy wherever and whenever shouted out loud.

Love; a big word indeed, and widely overused for some.  For me, not so much.  I believe that when set forth with full intention it does not matter how often it is used.  As a matter of point, when used in that manner, the more the better.  

Alyssa and Nikki

Alyssa and Nikki

Love can show up in the big and small flavors of life.

 

I try spinning it throughout the energies I put out in the world, like in my children's books and in this blog. Yet there is nothing more exciting than it's most obvious and most common form; the budding of a new love. The strong and steady build and flourish of a new partnership. The expression of love in all its forms. Stirring life with it and swirling around to envelop all that surrounds it.  Weddings have just that. An enormous capacity to pull you into the swell of that sweet and beautiful and blossoming thing.  Such was the swirl we all felt 5 years ago when my sister, Alyssa married Peter. 

In celebration of their half decade wedding anniversary and the love that continues to flourish each year, travel back with me as I dedicate this post to their wedding love.  

So I shall start with the love story that began years ago when JuanCarlos and I got married at my sister, Alyssa’s home.  An act of love in opening her home to greet  friends and family to rejoice in our union.  There was an abundance of love there.  So it only seemed fitting that when Alyssa and Peter were searching for a wedding venue that we offered up our home.  What loves around comes around.

Our yard, ready to give and receive LOVE.

Our yard, ready to give and receive LOVE.

As with my wedding, many aspects were home grown, made from scratch.  We aimed to do the same for her wedding.  From JC's design of the invitations to creating living room spaces around the property, and of course the floral arrangements and bouquets.  Even the guests gifts. Boxes upon boxes of home made family recipe cookies, completely stirred and tied up with love.

Boxes upon boxes of homemade goodness.

Boxes upon boxes of homemade goodness.

Sure having a wedding planner do all the nitty gritty is a lovely luxury anyone would enjoy, but there is a certain sense of satisfaction in creating and offering all of yourself.  All the small touches that mark the difference.

The florals help set the tone and add that special touch to any event.  But wedding flowers can be a huge expense.  It’s one of those items that are needed to complete the picture and enhance the scene but guests may or may not notice them.  Why spend a fortune when you can do it just as beautifully for a fraction of the cost? You don't have to be a professional to get a great look.  Find ideas that appeal to you  and aim to emulate them.  I did it for my wedding, creating all the table arrangements and all the bouquets and so it would be the same for my sister’s big day.  Our plan of attack; get up at the crack of dawn and head into NYC's floral market on 28th street. With a color scheme in mind, and some ideas of flower types, we went on our hunt. The joy of going to a market like this is the sheer abundance.  The additional joy.  Sharing this moment with my sister and her daughter, Gianna, creating a memory to last a lifetime.  
 

Just like with food shopping, you may go in with a plan but it's best to just see what is fresh and vibrant and choose the cream of the crop. We walked away with boxes of glorious color and buds. Once at home, the assembly of our masterpieces began and quickly grew into a floral garden on my dining room table.

Gianna, always my tried and true helper.  I can always count on her.

Gianna, always my tried and true helper.  I can always count on her.

And then filled the party with bursts of happiness.  Maybe these can serve as an inspiration for your next floral creation.

Calla lilies, Alliums and Eucalyptus

Calla lilies, Alliums and Eucalyptus

The bridal bouquet

The bridal bouquet

Table florals, with another type of earth's bounty. Liquid Grapes.

Table florals, with another type of earth's bounty. Liquid Grapes.

Roses and Dianthus

Roses and Dianthus

The infusion of magical moments were everywhere, yet none more incredible than seeing my sister emerge stunning and elegant wearing a smile that took your breath away.

The bride

The bride

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Our Dad, ever the proud papa doing his duty and looking quite dapper.  (And yes, we needed the fans.  July 7th and 92 degrees!!)

Our Dad, ever the proud papa doing his duty and looking quite dapper.  (And yes, we needed the fans.  July 7th and 92 degrees!!)

 

Love turned up in the obvious and not so obvious places.

Nicolette Grace performing her flower girl duties with  grace .  (That wicker basket was used by Gianna & Michella when they were flower girls in my wedding.  Truly, what loves around comes around. Yes, I kept them for 11 years.  You never know when you may need something.  Hehe)

Nicolette Grace performing her flower girl duties with grace.  (That wicker basket was used by Gianna & Michella when they were flower girls in my wedding.  Truly, what loves around comes around. Yes, I kept them for 11 years.  You never know when you may need something.  Hehe)

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Having the time of her life as Gabrielle, our niece looks smashing in black and gold.

Having the time of her life as Gabrielle, our niece looks smashing in black and gold.

Cousins gathered together having a blast. Gianna, Michella, John and Gabrielle.

Cousins gathered together having a blast. Gianna, Michella, John and Gabrielle.

Gifts for the ones she loves.

Gifts for the ones she loves.

Bulgarian Bread Ceremony

Bulgarian Bread Ceremony

The candle lighting bearers of light.

The candle lighting bearers of light.

Peter, and his son Denis

Peter, and his son Denis

No matter what the task, Jill, Alyssa's twin sister, is always there to help.

No matter what the task, Jill, Alyssa's twin sister, is always there to help.

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED

A family full of love and joy.

A family full of love and joy.

Our home, the flowers and decor in all their beauty were just the backdrop to what was the true beauty of the day;  the bud of love between Alyssa and Peter. 

 

Happy Anniversary, may Love always light the way.

Note:  All photos in this post were taken by my talented husband, JuanCarlos.  Check out more of his work here.