Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Bidding Farewell to 2011 and Welcoming 2012!

Happy New Year all!

Friday, December 30, 2011

At Year's End

"One granite ridge
A tree, would be enough
Or even a rock, a small creek,
A bark shred in a pool.
Hill beyond hill,

folded and twisted

Tough trees crammed
In thin stone fractures
A huge moon on it all,

is too much.

The mind wanders.
A million Summers,
night air still and the rocks

Sky over endless mountains.
All the junk that goes with being human
Drops away,

hard rock wavers
Even the heavy present seems to fail
This bubble of a heart.

Words and books
Like a small creek off a high ledge
Gone in the dry air.

A clear, attentive mind
Has no meaning but that
Which sees is truly seen.

No one loves rock, yet we are here.
Night chills.
A flick

In the moonlight
Slips into Juniper shadow:
Back there unseen
Cold proud eyes
Of Cougar or Coyote

Watch me rise and go."
-Gary Snyder

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness

This beautiful post was something that I read on a blog called, "Brunch at Saks"
(website here: )

I think it is timely now, in looking towards a new year to think about how each of us can pay it forward. I'll try to incorporate some of these ideas into my new years resolutions.

The idea of paying it forward never ceases to amaze me. Whether you spend $5 on someone else, or you simply smile to lift the spirit of others- committing a random act of kindness is truly a way to serve from the depth of your heart. I've always appreciated the smallest of actions from others and try to pass on that feeling of gratitude to someone else when possible. Last night I started a list of small, quiet things my family and I can do for others that could possibly change the direction of their day. Since it is time for resolutions to be made, mine is to act upon this list as much as possible in the upcoming year.

My 'Pay It Forward' List:
Hand write a note to a friend or relative and put in the mail.
Bring a meal to a neighbor or friend when they are sick.
Spend an hour playing games with the residents of your local convalescent hospital.
Pay for the person behind you in a fast food line.
Mow your neighbor's lawn or pull weeds out of their planters.
Bring a pile of old magazines to a doctors office or hospital for their waiting room.
Take unwanted clothing items to a shelter or goodwill.
Tape the exact change for a soda or snack to a vending machine.
Leave a couple pieces of candy on a coworkers desk with a note.
Pay for the person behind you at a toll booth.
Call a family member or friend on the day of a test or other important event and tell them you're thinking of them. (No text messages, IM's, Facebook comments, etc! An actual call so they can hear your voice)
Offer to babysit for friends or family so they can enjoy a night out.
Draw colorful pictures and bring them to a local hospital for patients' windows.
Leave behind your finished magazine or book on a plane or bus.
Make an extra sandwich and snack bag for a homeless person.
Start off by telling a customer service agent "I know this problem is not your fault." We so often blame them, which is unfair and must be very stressful.
Return a shopping cart to the front of the store.
Write a note with an encouraging thought to someone special and put it in their lunch bag or coat pocket for them to find.
And finally, when all else fails, simply open the door for someone behind you and leave them with a smile.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


On December 28, 2008 I started this blog. At the time I really didn't know what I would write about. For three years now I have posted something daily.

I have really enjoyed this adventure and I thank my daughter Aria for helping me to set up this blog. It's really become a part of my life, sort of like writing in a journal...a daily exercise.
So today I will say "Happy Blogaversary" to me!

AND I would also like to say "Thank You" to all the people who stop by and spend some time here. Looking forward to many more Blogaversaries in the future. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Now Is The Time

"Our appointment with life
is in the present moment"
-Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

"A merry Christmas to everybody!

A happy New Year to all the world!"

- Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Traditions

A tradition that I have come to love is our Christmas eve " Fish" dinner*. This is a traditional southern italian feast in which many different dishes are created with fish. Every year the menu varies a bit in our household with my husband planning and executing the meal. It takes a lot of planning and preparation and shopping at specialty stores to get just the right ingredients and best selection of fish.

Christmas 2010 Barb, Aria, Mike, Daniele

My husband, Mike usually creates a menu based on the fish each family member has requested that year. In the past we have had an assortment which included: shrimp, oysters (raw, deep fried, in a stew), calamari (deep fried, stuffed), steamed crab, lobster, baccala which is a salted cod and a variety of other seafoods in sauces, fried, and stuffed, name it. It's all wonderful. Here are a few photos from past years.

Fried shrimp and a stuffed calamari ...

Two kinds of crabs.

The preparation after days of shopping takes place the morning of the feast. Pounds of fish need to be shelled, deveined, and cleaned. Mike is busy in the kitchen all day long.

Don't throw the shells out. You can boil them in water, the broth can be used for great sauces and stews.

Everyone helps out. There's alot of breading of scallops, oysters, shrimp etc.

After trays of seafood are breaded, Mike begins the big task of frying. Meanwhile pots are steaming crabs, butter is being melted for broiled scallops, lobster or shrimp and pots of mixed seafood sauces for pasta are simmering. Mmmm the dinner is almost ready.

Mike prepares the plates to serve.

This year we will be having our traditional "Feast of the Fishes" with Mike's italian family in Ohio. This night will be especially fun and meaningful as we will be feasting with his parents, his brother and his family and our daughter Aria and her boyfriend Daniele who happens to be from southern Italy. (Mike's mom who has cooked this meal throughout Mike's formative years will get to sit back and relax as Mike and his brother cook tonight). I'll have to share photos with you later.

Happy Christmas Eve everyone!

*Feast Of The Seven Fishes
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an ancient Southern Italian Christmas Eve tradition and can actually feature anywhere from seven to 13 fishes. The feast sprang up as a response to the Roman Catholic Church's decree against eating meat and meat products on certain holy days. The whole season of advent leading up to Christmas was this type of fasting time. So, resourceful Italians turned this fast into feast of fish and seafood — traditionally cooked in oil.
But why the Feast of the SEVEN Fishes? That's not exactly clear: for the seven sacraments, seven virtues — there are all kinds of theories. But whatever the reason, the feast endured, and when Southern Italians began to immigrate to the U.S., the feast came along and became an Italian-American tradition as well.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Heading Home For The Holidays

"Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays

'Cause no matter how far away you roam

If you want to be happy in a million ways

For the holidays you can't beat home, sweet home."

Today will be a busy one. As soon as we land we will grocery shop for all the things we need for the big "7 fish Christmas Eve" dinner tomorrow night. I know there will be a lot of preparation for tomorrow's big italian dinner. Yay we're home in Ohio!

-Allen and Stilmen

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas's Together and Apart

I just received this Christmas card from my daughter Aria. The picture was taken in Italy this year. Fortunately for us, she and Daniele are back in the states studying at the University of Wisconsin and we will be able to spend the holidays together with them and with my husband's family in Ohio. Three generations of family together for Christmas will be such a happy time. Aria and Daniele, Verona Italy 2011

My other daughter Athena lives in Australia with her boyfriend Mat. It's summer on that side of the world and they will spend Xmas morning with family friends having a bbq and surfing.

We send Athena and Mat our warmest wishes for a very Merry Christmas and will miss their presence with us very much. Sending them big hugs and many wishes for a wonderful Christmas!

Soon we will be heading to Ohio. Wondering if we'll have a white Christmas this year...

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,

Just like the ones I used to know,

Where the tree tops glisten

And children listen

To hear sleigh bells in the snow."-- Irving Berlin

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Annual Family Christmas Gathering 2011

Our family Xmas get-together is called "Jingu Bells" after our grandparents family name. We always have a wonderful time when family gathers from far and near. Every year it seems it gets harder and harder for all of us to be together. Both my daughters are far away and could not make it to the party. For many other family members different circumstances prevented their presence. Here are some photos especially for those that could not be at our family party. We are wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas.

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Thanks, Anyway

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Merry Christmas Recipe

Blend equal parts of Faith and Hope
mixed well with Charity;

Stir in Good Will and Sweet Content

and Precious Memory.

Add Kindness, Helpfulness and Joy;

of Gratitude don't spare;

Then drop by drop Love's Essence sweet,

and Praises freely share.

And don't forget such spices rare

as Laughter, Smiles and Fun,

Taste often for the best results,

('Tis sweet to mince upon).

Now add a Thankful Heart and then,

the recipe's complete,

Your "Merry Christmas" all will like … so try the season's treat.

-Esther Lloyd Dauber ("Special Treat")

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting Things Done

"I love deadlines.

I like the whooshing sound they make

as they fly by." -Douglas Adams

No pressure here but there are only 6 more days til xmas!...Just sayin'

Saturday, December 17, 2011


"To be surprised,

to wonder,

is to begin to understand." -Jose Ortega y Glasset

Friday, December 16, 2011

No Excuse Necessary

Audrey Hepburn with Mel Ferrer "War and Peace"

"Who needs an excuse or even really a song to ask you to dance?"

-Tyler Knott

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wrap Yourselves in Christmas Cheer

"Christmas--that magic blanket that wraps itself about us,
that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance.
It may weave a spell of nostalgia.
Christmas may be a day of feasting,
or of prayer,
but always it will be a day of remembrance--
a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved."- Augusta E. Rundell

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


"There's a home
whose rooms
I know by heart.
Where I tend the garden
and read my books.
Where dreams are dreamt
and memories made.
Where children grew up
and I grew old.

There's a home
where life is lived
A home where I belong."
-Author unknown

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Magic of Christmas Time

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories
and love of kindred,
and we are better throughout the year for having,
in spirit,
become a child again at Christmas-time. "
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Is Coming!

"Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts.

No matter how we may dread the rush,

the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given-

when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children,

the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes."- Joan Winmill Brown

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Thoughts

"What is Christmas?

It is tenderness for the past,

courage for the present,

hope for the future.

It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal,

and that every path may lead to peace."-Agnes M. Pharo

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Las Vegas Winter Get-Away

Had a brief but fun 3 day getaway to Las Vegas. Great weather and fun visiting Mike's brother and our sister-in-law. Here's a peek at our time there.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Dreams

Happy, happy Christmas,

that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days;

that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth;

that can transport the sailor and the traveller,

thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!" -Charles Dickens

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dissolved into Greatness

"That is happiness;

to be dissolved into something complete

and great." Willa Cather

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Your Situation

"Appreciate how rare and full of potential your situation is in this world, then take joy in it, and use it to your best advantage." - Dalai Lama

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blessings of the Year

The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline's longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.
As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.
The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.
Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.
The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.
The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.
Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.
We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.

John O'Donohue from: To Bless the Space Between Us

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hallelujah Chorus -Quinhagak, Alaska

May the spirit of this blessed season fill your hearts with joy!
Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Inspiring Turn of Events

Julio Diaz

This is a true story recorded by Julio Diaz in New York city just days after he was mugged in the subway.

March 28, 2008

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.
But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.
He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.
"He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, 'Here you go,'" Diaz says.
As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, "Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you're going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm."
The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, "like what's going on here?" Diaz says. "He asked me, 'Why are you doing this?'"
Diaz replied: "If you're willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me ... hey, you're more than welcome.
"You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help," Diaz says.
Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth.
"The manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi," Diaz says. "The kid was like, 'You know everybody here. Do you own this place?'"
"No, I just eat here a lot," Diaz says he told the teen. "He says, 'But you're even nice to the dishwasher.'"
Diaz replied, "Well, haven't you been taught you should be nice to everybody?"
"Yea, but I didn't think people actually behaved that way," the teen said.
Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. "He just had almost a sad face," Diaz says.
The teen couldn't answer Diaz — or he didn't want to.
When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, "Look, I guess you're going to have to pay for this bill 'cause you have my money and I can't pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I'll gladly treat you."
The teen "didn't even think about it" and returned the wallet, Diaz says. "I gave him $20 ... I figure maybe it'll help him. I don't know."
Diaz says he asked for something in return — the teen's knife — "and he gave it to me."
Afterward, when Diaz told his mother what happened, she said, "You're the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you gave them your watch."
"I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It's as simple as it gets in this complicated world."

Produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo.

from NPR at this site:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winter is Here

"winter dreams
in cozy comforters
warm a soul" - Myrtle Thomas

Friday, December 2, 2011

We Are All Searching

“All our young lives we search for someone to love. Someone who makes us complete. We choose partners and change partners. We dance to a song of heartbreak and hope... all the while wondering if somewhere, somehow, there's someone perfect... who might be searching for us.”

-- The Wonder Years

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's December!

Only 24 days til Christmas!

Honestly though I hope you are not put into a mad frenzy this holiday season. I hope that you can enjoy all the wonderful things that come with the season: family, friends, good cheer and the feeling of love for one another.

"Christmas gift suggestions:

To your enemy, forgiveness.

To an opponent, tolerance.

To a friend, your heart.

To a customer, service.

To all, charity.

To every child, a good example.

To yourself, respect." - Oren Arnold, authoI

Wishing everyone a merry month ahead!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Lure of Travel

"Everything I pick up seems to lure me away. Everything I do in my daily life begins to feel like striking wet matches. The need to travel is a mysterious force. A desire to "go" runs through me equally with an intense desire to "stay" at home.

An equal and opposite thermodynamic principle. When I travel, I think of home and what it means. At home I'm dreaming of catching trains at night in the gray light of Old Europe, or pushing open shutters to see Florence awaken.

The balance slightly tips it the direction to the airport." -Frances Mayes

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