The tax workload is starting to drive us up the wall now. While most people were probably enjoying a nice and quiet Valentine’s Day dinner, Michael and I were busy with new and existing clients. We have started going out to client sites now in Boston, and I’m down here helping on the back end of things. I’m noticing we have gotten busier earlier this season, though a lot of people still have not received all their tax documents… making it more challenging to get returns out the door.
Every year, about a month or so before my birthday, I think about the year that’s gone by, pondering on what I have gained/let go, learned/forgotten and where I can improve. Now that 40 is pretty much staring at me intently, a lot of things are starting to make more sense now. Age has never really scared me, in fact I’m proud of my years and will continue to do my best to be as healthy as possible. Admittedly, it is annoying with technology at times and grasping new techie things, so instead of fighting it– I guess I just learn to accept and embrace change. Good thing Anna helps me with tech issues!
So, some of you have asked me directly about the precious “handful” I keep talking about. The handful is basically the people I feel most connected to, and for one reason or another, they have become very special to me. Generally, as I’ve mentioned before, aside from my immediate family, I don’t let a lot of people in because I simply don’t want to. It takes a lot to invest in human relationships and, personally, the meaningful ones are ultimately the ones worth it. Yes, of course I have a network of acquaintances built-in like everyone else, for work, community, etc. But, it’s the precious few that are special because I trust and go to them instinctively, and rely on their input and opinions.
I also feel connected to these people because I can just be… myself around them! If someone makes it on the “handful,” then they stay there. I’ve never really lost anyone… sometimes one of the fingers won’t move for a while, or it needs a mini cast, but it’s always there!
The handful has evolved with time somewhat in the sense that I’ve been lucky to meet some great people in my thirties. So, basically, the handful from my twenties just carried forward… I suppose I’m up to two handfuls now, but the essence remains the same. I also try to let those people know (in my own way for each person) how much they mean to me as part of my life. Hopefully, when I reach that level of understanding with each one, I feel happy!
Who are on the handful? It’s actually a variety of personalities! Mainly confirmed introverts, like me, with a tremendous mental ability to process things and understand nuances. All of them have incredible empathy and are generally very thoughtful. And ultimately they are all very sensitive… some guard it more than others. A couple are very practical in their thinking, and the others are hopeless romantics. None of them has reached their potential yet, because they continue to show so much promise. What I love about the handful is that when I spend time, or share things with each person, I feel uplifted and understood, not beaten down or filled with negativity.
Keep toxicity, jealousy and negativity away with love and humor.
Cheers to the handful 🙂
More recipes soon. It was tacos at the mad cafe last night…
Now officially in my fifth tax season, as the work keeps piling, I’m learning more about myself and those around me. I notice that the work can keep coming in non-stop for two hours, and we need to be ready. Tax season is so compressed that mistakes are not forgiving, so we have to be on top of things.
Since I’ve never been able to just sit at a desk for 8 hours straight and be productive, I’ve adopted the system of timed breaks. I get a lot more done this way, and I’m noticing that it is helping me appreciate the little moments in life. For example, while my schedule varies insanely, I might go to the gym early in the morning and then work for two hours. But, I’ll work and be totally focused for that time and get a lot done. After that, I might take a walk or grab a snack, catch up with my friends and loved ones, or read the news for a little while. Then it’s back to work, then a break to cook something, pick up Anna from school, and so on.
So, this system of timed breaks is essentially forcing me to really be in the present. Otherwise, I can see why tax season can drive not only CPAs bananas, but also the people who work with them. For Michael, tax season is a way of life at this point, so he schedules everything around it – even jury duty has to wait! I still don’t know how he is able to stay productive on three hours of sleep as the end of March approaches. If that were me, I would crash and burn without my seven hours of sleep!
I’m especially thankful for the people around me who are being supportive of me during this season of insanity. They know who they are. It’s my usual handful or so of people, and their support helps so much to stay motivated, happy and productive. Whether it is seeing them for a quick coffee, or a dinner break or catching up on social media, I’m very appreciative of those little moments!
On the flip side, I also take note in my own quiet way of those who are not supportive for one reason or another. And noticing that I really don’t care anymore! Wasted time is wasted energy and that’s become precious as we get older!
I’m almost 39… and now is when it’s all starting to make sense.
To be honest, I have not been in the mad cafe for endless hours these days. I simply can’t afford that creative luxury this time of year. But, I will share with you one of my easy quick mad meals that keeps me healthy and focused!
I hope you all enjoyed the weekend and especially watching the Pats win the Superbowl! I still can’t believe that amazing comeback in the second half into OT. These days, I time my breaks as we are getting busier each day. I can’t work non-stop for multiple hours and be productive, so managing my time is crucial to being efficient – not only with the business, but at home, too.
Over the weekend, on one of my timed breaks from managing our mounting client workload, I went to for a pedicure to my usual spot in WPB. The technician who helps me is a really sweet lady from Nicaragua, I’ll call her Luisa for this post.
She is always so kind and welcoming and just makes it that much easier to get a pedicure, which to me is more of a grooming chore as relaxing as it may be for others.
So, at one point after initial pleasantries had been exchanged, the conversation had died down naturally. I was reading the news on my phone and Luisa was going about her work and it was very quiet. All of a sudden she let out a sigh, and I looked up to see if she was ok. Then, without having to ask, she broke the silence and shared with me an experience she had last week.
Apparently, every Sunday Luisa goes out with her family for a weekly get together in order to catch up with everyone on their news. Two Sundays ago, she and her daughter, who is in her twenties, went to a local WPB Bar and Grill for lunch. As they were chatting away happily in their native language, a middle-aged couple behind them was getting annoyed, because they thought Luisa and her party was being too loud.
At that moment, the wife of the couple took it upon herself to tell Luisa to “Shut up” twice. When Luisa asked why, the woman said it was because she was speaking Spanish and was way too loud. Hurt and confused, and embarrassed since her English is broken, Luisa asked the woman why she was being so rude. After all this was a bar & grill and noise was normal.
And the woman looked at Luisa with contempt and said, “Oh, don’t worry honey, the Wall will fix all of this.”
Shortly after that, it seems that the manager came over and tried to smooth things out by not taking a side (vs. kicking that rude couple out of the restaurant, in my opinion).
Luisa was so upset as she was recalling this incident. She said it was the first time she was spoken to in such a manner. Her daughter, who speaks perfect English, was also present and witnessed her mother being insulted, further adding to how upset Luisa already felt.
What I gathered from the story is that Luisa is an honest, hard-working lady who came here for a better life for her family. And for that she was not only viewed as an outsider, but also treated in a manner I’ll call inhumane. The more we are divided in this political landscape, the worse off we will all be.
In fact her story sounds very familiar to me with respect to my grandparents. Are we back to those days? Are we back there now, where ignorance leads to empowerment with insults?
Specifically, what struck me was that we had never talked about politics with Luisa, so she didn’t know where I stood. But she still found the courage to share with me this sad and horrific story.
We read about these incidents in the newspaper and on social media, but hearing it happen from someone you know really strikes hard. I left Luisa a tip four times more than the usual amount, and wrote in the envelope that I hope she chooses a more welcoming place for lunch next time.
I’ve been writing more heart posts lately than food and heart ones lately… Anyway, I think there was a reason this incident was shared with me… it has made me think a lot of ways to help, and I’m channeling my anger positively. More than the story itself, the way Luisa shared it, with such hurt and pain, stayed with me and has inspired me in many ways.
Monday motivation is well underway for me! More recipes soon.
It’s Thursday again and noticing that my posts have gone from daily to twice a week now as tax season takes a firmer hold on my time and schedule. There are several recipes I want to explore and share, but the truth is that priorities this time of year totally shift with little warning.
Anna is such a trooper during this crazy time of year. As she grows she becomes more helpful, not only around the house but understanding and managing the levels of stress. So, for example, if it’s a weeknight and we’ve been running around all day we will both settle for breakfast for dinner. We both have the same mindset that eating at home is important, so take out is a big no-no at the mad cafe. The occasional pizza delivery happens if we’re traveling or come home late, and eating out is for special occasions.
I remember when we first got the Audi S4 cabrio back in 2013. It was a used car and it sort of fell into our lap at the time. Michael treats cars with such precision and care, washes and waxes them to relax and it’s always been his passion. But, I remember when we would take it out for a drive around the island with Anna and she would make us all dress up. According to her, jeans were not allowed in Ladybug, because it was a special outing. It was so cute!
This time of year also signals what’s coming next. In our case, after tax season we usually spend a few weeks on building renovations (this is when Anna is away with her father on vacation). This year we have a fun renovation plan in our building and I’m really excited about it. The really fun part of renovations is that I was completely clueless of how to do anything before I met Michael. He’s remarkably handy and I’ve learned how to do a lot of things now, but mainly I’m his apprentice. We’ve installed tile on our floor together, recess lights in the ceiling, reconfigured walls, upgraded bathrooms, and other major projects. And we are still married!
While we work out throughout the year, during “renovation season” we are probably in the best physical shape. It’s grueling physical work and age takes hold at times, but not too much.
After tax season, when all we do is work on screens, it is a much needed release to do physical work for a purpose. And after the renovation project wraps up, then we reward ourselves with a trip, or a vacation, or doing something relaxing. By then, both body and mind need a break!
Last summer, when we were renovating my mom’s unit I made the extra effort to make sure we ate well. We needed the calories more that time of year, and it was important to me that we ate homemade meals.
Yes, I’m crazy! It was tiring to fire up the oven, chop vegetables or do any cooking but I found it relaxing and rewarding at the same time.
I didn’t have the energy to spend all day in the kitchen making meals, so while we worked I would think up recipes with what we had in the fridge.
That saved a lot of time when we feel hungry by the end of the day as I knew what to make. From that point, I made all kinds of fun and tasty dishes relatively quickly and also fuel my creative side!
One of the meals I made often during renovation season is a quiche. It was hearty, tasty and could stretch for dinner and breakfast. The best part about a quiche is that it’s a base for many flavors and ingredients… as long as you get the cheese right!
MAD HAM & LEEK CHEESE QUICHE
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 45 minutes Yields: 6-8 servings (depending on how hungry you are)
2 leeks, chopped (discard the rich green top, or save to make veggie stock)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-4 scallions, chopped finely
1 cup of ham, cut into small strips or tiny cubes
3 eggs, beaten lightly
1 1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup of heavy cream (Note: you can probably get away with using half and half and whole milk instead of skim)
1 cup of Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/2 cup of good feta, crumbled
2 tsp fresh dill, chopped
2 tbsp butter
Olive oil for sauteing
Salt / pepper to taste
1 package of rolled out pie crust (I use Pillsbury). There are two in each package, you’ll just need one.
Preheat the oven at 350F
First, make sure the dough is room temp and have a quiche dish ready. Make sure the leeks are well washed… several times so that the dirt and sand are washed away.
In a skillet, saute the onions in olive oil until they sweat and toss in the leeks and the white part of the scallions. Cook on medium until the leeks are soft. Add the butter and ham and cook on medium high until ham is cooked through. Adjust seasoning as needed. Turn off the heat and let cool. Set aside.
In a bowl mix the feta and Gruyere, milk, heavy cream and eggs. Add the green part of the chopped scallions (you can use chives here if you have them). Toss in the fresh fill and mix.
Spread the dough on the quiche plate evenly so that no air bubbles come up. Crimp the sides. Poke with a fork around the bottom.
When the leek, ham and onion mixture is cool enough to handle, spread on the bottom of the quiche dish. Don’t over fill because you will be adding the liquid over it. Add the liquid milk/egg/cheese mixture and gently fold into the leek/ham mixture. Spread until it’s even. It’s important not too overflow!
Bake for about 45 minutes. The quiche is ready when the eggs are cooked and golden brown. For extra color, you can set under the broiler for a couple of minutes. This makes a delicious meal for dinner, breakfast or a hearty snack!
It’s a non-recipe day today. What a weekend it has been! We had a three day swim meet and Anna made Junior Olympic time on 50 freestyle for 10 and under! We are so proud of her hard work and effort! That third day, yesterday, was a wash though… the weather was horrible, wet and cold… and many teams dropped out. We pulled through with it though, and thankfully, Anna still did well and had fun with her swim friends.
In all the craziness of the weekend, I had to work since we are getting very busy. Staying focused was more challenging for me this weekend. At one point my mom looked at me yesterday, notably distracted under the cold and dripping pool tent, and said, “You have a frown on your face… ask yourself why.” Compounding that with what’s happening in the world around us these days, the injustice and inequality that surround us, I realize that my intentions are good. And I get disappointed when, even though I’m a trained communications professional, I still stumble at times… it’s a humbling experience.
So, today it’s a heart post, sans food. I’m not feeling very hungry today and I have so much work to do!
In times like these, I turn inward and to the people who love and appreciate who I am — in this case, I’m sharing one of my favorite poems of my father’s published collection. He had a bunch of handwritten ones that intended to publish this one, too, but passed away before he was able to… so now I’m trying to publish this beautiful collection independently. My father’s writing style was very bleak and dark. It reflected an inner sadness that he always carried with him. He was certainly a talented writer and a deep thinker, and it’s reflected in the poems he wrote. Clearly, he struggled with love, choices, faith, and a fear of death. What a way to start the week!
Actually, this was one of few poems that breeds hope and I find that it is so relevant in today’s landscape, especially with what our country is going through. Love is really always the answer. Many times as we try to do the right thing for others, we end up hurting the wrong people who love us. I’ve done my best to translate this poem, but I’m sure some nuances will be lost in translation..
ΑΒΕ ΜΑΡΙΑ (AVE MARIA)
Μια μέρα (One day)
Οι συρματόπλεχτοι φράχτες θα πέσουν. (The barbed wire fences will fall)
Και θα γίνουμε «Έ ν α». (And we will become “O n e”)
Το χώμα (The dirt)
Η ψυχή (The soul)
Ο κόσμος (The world)
Δικά μας. (Ours)
Θα περάσουν τα καράβια σ’ όλες τις θάλασσες. (The ships will cross all the oceans)
Τα πουλιά θα φτερουγίσουν απ’ την ανατολή ως την δύση. (The birds will fly from the east to the west)
Και τ’ άνθη της ελιάς θα νανουρίσουν τα παιδιά μας. (And the flowers of the olive tree will lull our children to sound sleep)
Ο νόμος της καρδιάς θα επιβληθεί, (The law of the heart will be imposed)
Χωρίς τις δεύτερες παρουσίες (Without any second comings)
Και τις βιβλικές αποκαλύψεις. (Or Biblical Apocalypses)
Οι αιώνες θα τραγουδούν (The centuries will sing in harmony)
Thank you again to all of you for reaching out, whether on the blog or through email and messages! It’s tough to write monologues without feedback, so I am really thankful for all the constructive comments and encouragement!
I’ve felt so inspired with the Women’s March this past weekend, especially with how my mom took the lead on going with me to the West Palm Beach rally. She wasn’t sure how her knee would hold up, but she managed to put that aside and focus on the reason we were there. “We have to do this for women,” she kept saying and even though my mom couldn’t last all day at the rally, our homemade signs were a big success! Women and men were giving us high-fives and thumbs up and it was an amazing experience. I specifically remember this one lady who took a photo of us with our signs to send to her friends in Germany, who were also holding a sister march.
Since it’s throwback Thursday, I can’t help but think of a somewhat similar story, this time about my parents. My mom and dad got married on November 4, 1973 here in Palm Beach, at the Breakers. It had been a very difficult year for my mom until then. She had just lost her father, Emmanuel, to colon cancer that summer, and her aunt Persephone had fallen ill with kidney disease. My dad and my mom were in a long distance courtship for a year or so. That fall he decided to travel to Palm Beach from Athens to see her, and ended up proposing to my mom.
They didn’t have much time to plan a wedding, because my dad had to return to Greece to his law practice, so within three weeks they were married! They were both older, so they viewed marriage more sensibly, and far more as a partnership rather than love forever after. So, how do you merge the life of a native Floridian who spoke little Greek, and a Greek lawyer who didn’t speak any English? They managed pretty well, but had some funny stories in the beginning of their life together.
My mom agreed to move to Greece since my father’s work was established in Pireaus. At the same time, she said that their children will be born Americans, which is at it happened. My parents didn’t have a honeymoon after their wedding, they traveled to New York for a few days, bought their furniture and shipped it to Greece. They first settled in my father’s bachelor apartment in Pireaus, which was walking distance from his office.
It’s important to mention that Greece was going through a major political transition right at that time. Since the spring of 1967, Greece had been under the military dictatorship, which essentially abolished civil rights, dissolved various political parties, while exiling, imprisoning and torturing politicians and citizens based on their political beliefs.
According to history, in 1973 the military junta leader, Giorgos Papadopoulos undertook a liberalization process of the dictatorship. This apparently included the release of political prisoners and the partial lifting of censorship, as well as promises of a new constitution and new elections returning to civilian rule. At that point, the opposition elements including Socialists had a window of opportunity to undertake political action against the junta.
So, as the story was told to me, the morning of November 13th my parents went to Athens to visit relatives. The tensions had grown and the city had started to shut down. On their way back there was no public transportation – it had been cut off from the city center. People were stuck and couldn’t go anywhere. Chaos ensued. My parents tried to hail a cab but none were stopping. At a red light, my mom stood in front of a cab and my dad opened the door and said, “You’re taking us to Pireaus.” Yes, this is how things work in Greece sometimes!
The next morning, my dad left for his office. Within five minutes he was back home. Surprised, my mom thought he forgot something. He didn’t say anything and immediately started closing the window shutters. Then he said to my mom that there was a military tank at the corner sending everyone back inside their homes. My mom at first was excited! She grabbed her camera ready to go outside to snap a photo of the tank. Really taken aback by her excitement, my dad said she shouldn’t go as it was dangerous! Instead, they turned on the TV – the military channel was the only one available – which was repeating, “We decide and we dictate…”
And just like that a 24-hour curfew had been imposed throughout the city. My parents had just come from New York two days earlier and had been eating out. At their apartment, they only had a can of tuna fish… and an onion. Thankfully, they had a good attitude, too.
Needless to say, as an American, my mom was totally shocked that someone can just claim power and can dictate what the people could and could not do. It stayed with her for a long time that basic rights could be abolished with such force. Anyway, for the time being, they had to find food! So, all the residents in their building came together and it was like stone soup… everyone shared what they had for two full days. The city had been completely shut down – no phone lines, no mail. Only the military radio and TV channel that was censoring everything.
In the early morning of November 17, the protesting of students in Polytechneio took place. Students took a stand against the junta dictators, protesting, and barricading themselves inside the University. The students figured out a radio frequency that could be heard to the public and they were broadcasting live as the protest unfolded. The transitional government sent a military tank to crash through the gates of the Polytechneio, killing several civilians. November 17th has since become a national holiday that Greeks observe.
My parents definitely experienced a lot together in their first few months of marriage, forcing them to communicate as best they could. I really enjoy it when my mom shares stories like these. Hearing her experiences and insights are not only relevant today, but they help keep me grounded. Basic rights can be taken for granted and we have to fight for them!
On that note, I’m sharing with you my favorite guacamole recipe to celebrate. I don’t mind cilantro personally, but I know people who really don’t enjoy the flavor. This recipe can be made without cilantro, and you won’t miss it!
3 medium size haas avocados, ripe to the touch but not overly ripe
Juice of one lime (use two limes if the juice isn’t as much)
½ tsp cumin
A good pinch of sea salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small tomato chopped, include the seeds and juices
3 tbsp of red onion finely chopped
2 tbsp of yellow or orange sweet bell pepper, chopped
4oz of fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
Cracked pepper to taste
Slice lengthwise, remove the pits and smash avocados in a medium size bowl with a fork or potato masher. Add lime juice, salt and pepper and set aside for 5-10 minutes for flavors to meld (about enough time as you chop the veggies).
Toss in everything else and mix well with a spoon. Keep in mind, as with tzatziki, the flavors will come together during idle time, so don’t over season. Cover with plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Mix the guacamole and adjust the seasoning to wake it up before serving. I add in a little more lime juice to brighten up the flavors.
Wham! Tax season reality is certainly setting in quickly. It’s amazing what two days can do in terms of workload. We’re already busy with incoming clients now that e-filing has officially begun. The best part is that the new clients coming in are overall the right ones for our business, making it that much more rewarding to see.
I’m tweaking our marketing efforts just a bit, and it seems we’re in really good shape to take on the season! We’re really excited for the new interns that will be helping us this year. And I can’t wait for my new computer to come in, finally, which will be faster that this laptop.
I also heard from my good friend Zoe out in San Francisco… her mom snail mailed some our old photos and I hadn’t seen them in so long. We are both laughing so much. Since we didn’t have them when I wrote the original post with Zoe and our culinary adventures with empanadas… we’re sharing a classic one here. I don’t want these to be misplaced again!
This time of year challenges me not only to discipline myself making meals for one or the two of us (when Anna is home), but also to find the time to cook food in a a healthy and tasty way. One of the mad cafe’s favorite meals is chicken parmesan.
I’m sure this is a classic for many families, whether they enjoy this dish in a restaurant or at home. Since this is heavy on sauce and cheese, I try to make it a little bit lighter.
1 jar of spicy marinara (make your own, or your favorite brand)
3-4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup hemp seeds
4 oz fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 eggs, beaten in a bowl
2/3 cup shredded mozarella, part-skim
1/2 cup shredded Parmegiano cheese
Salt and Pepper
1 box of pasta, we prefer penne or ditalini – you can opt for whole grain… (to me it tastes like cardboard, so I go for the real thing!)
Preheat the oven 350F
Mix the whole wheat flour with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Also, mix the panko and hemp seeds in another bowl.
Wash the chicken breasts, dry with paper towels and lay flat on a glass or non-porous cutting board. With a sharp knife, carefully cut the breasts horizontally – in half. Dredge each breast in the flour mixture. Next, dip into the beaten egg, and then coat well with the panko and hemp seeds. Repeat the process for each chicken breast and set on a platter.
In a skillet heat the olive oil and cook the breasts just enough to turn lightly brown on each side. Remove and set aside on paper towels.
Meanwhile, make the pasta. Opt for al dente about 5-7 minutes of boiling in a pot with 1tbsp of olive oil and salt. Drain. Mix the pasta with the minced garlic and half of the spicy marinara and layer evenly in an oven safe dish.
Lay the chicken breasts on top of the pasta layer. Add the rest of the sauce to cover the chicken. You don’t have to drench it in sauce, just enough to cover it somewhat. Sprinkle the parsley, mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 45minutes. Remove the cover and set to broil until cheese is brown and sauce is bubbling – about 3-4 minutes.
It’s official now, we’re in tax season mode! Michael is in Boston through the end of April since most of our work this time of year comes out of that location, and I am here taking care of… well, everything else. My friends ask me how I feel every year when January rolls around, and now it’s been the fifth tax season I know what to say: at least it is familiar at this point!
I am aware of what will happen over the next three months. The stress will gradually mount, endlessly testing my limits. Our workload will quickly become overloaded only to seem unmanageable, until we figure out how to manage it somehow. And I’ll get used to cooking for two, or three – or one – depending on the day. It’s likely that I’ll have even less time this season, but I’m determined to stay healthy and fit regardless of the piling workload.
And April will come before we know it. Again. Tax season is so compressed. It sometimes seems like a dream that will never end until you wake up suddenly and realize you have your life back!
But, as with most things, there are definite upsides. It’s awesome to measure the growth and success, and helping people plan their tax strategy soundly is very satisfying. It’s amazing how we are able to make a difference in people’s lives when we help them with something as mundane and boring as taxes. And the really good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel… one deadline wraps up, and then the next one toes the line.
Basically, it is what it is.
Acceptance is a big life lesson and one I still resist from time to time. I think it’s a personality trait I carry since I was little, but I’m improving and learning to embrace things as they come. There are times when I feel so confused, asking questions actually confuses me more. Or there are times when I really want an answer, and I won’t get it… ever. And that is frustrating when trying to gain insight. So, in those situations, the only sensible answer is to accept – and learn to leave some things alone. That’s always been difficult for me because it’s my nature to feel and explore things, and I’m just endlessly curious.
With time I am learning that things are what they are in life, and I just have to stop asking questions when there is no purpose or resolution. Gosh, it’s still so hard to go against yourself, but in the end, accepting things can be quite liberating! Or it might be stupid. I’m not sure yet.
After yesterday, though, I’m glad I’m not in Sean Spicer’s shoes having to talk to the press and outright lie and sound like a dictator. It feels like we’re not in 2017, but 1984. I need to re-read the book.. though Orwell’s Animal Farm was my favorite.
Anyway, since today was a Sunday I cooked for myself… creating an impromptu pasta dish was simple and delicious! It’s amazing what you can do with a few simple ingredients. I’ve adapted the recipe for 4 servings. Happy cooking 🙂
2 handfuls of fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 tbsp of mascarpone cheese (or 1 tbsp butter)
4 oz good feta cheese, crumbled
Optional: 1/3 cup of white wine, Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, bring to a boil 6-8 cups of water with a dash of olive oil and salt. Toss in the pasta and the cauliflower. Boil uncovered until both are tender, about 7 minutes (al dente), or however long for your preference. Drain and set aside.
In a wok or a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sweat the onions, about 3-5 minutes. Add the grape tomatoes and garlic, stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in the spinach, a handful at a time. The greens will wilt quickly.
Add the crushed pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Toss in the crumbled feta and mascarpone (or butter). Pour in the wine, if using, and cook the sauce on medium for 2-3 minutes. Cook on low until sauce thickens slightly.
Mix the pasta with the sauce and serve immediately.
Whether eating on your own today, like me, or with company remember that pasta is made for sharing 🙂
Today’s post is not a food one – sorry! I’ve been inspired so much with the activism of the women in our country, and our respective local communities, that I feel compelled to express my support. It’s easy, all you have to do is click away if you don’t want to read it. Or, in the words of my father: Να μη σώσεις! (er, a loose, polite translation: “may you never endeavor!”)
It has been an interesting month so far. I still can’t believe the inauguration is tomorrow. The media are on fire with news surrounding it, and focused even more on the day after the inauguration… when the Women’s March will take place in DC. I was happy to see there are several sister marches happening, for those who can’t get to the main one.
There is a sister women’s march (rally) taking place in WPB that has thousands who are planning on protesting this Saturday at noon. It’s a beautiful thing to see women (and those who support them) gather together to support being who we are. We are women who not only have rights, but the right to make sensible choices.
Personally, I am getting tired. Tired of having men in suits, with inflated egos and the need to control others dictate what we should do with our womb, our bodies and our minds. Men who refuse or don’t have the ability empathize with women, and who simply don’t respect them. Men who will never truly grasp the total pain of child labor (because it does hurt – oh yes, a lot) and all of its consequences.
We all have opinions, which we have the ability to share and discuss freely – it’s the beautiful function of this country. We find opportunities to debate, to organize, to argue, and to demonstrate. And it gets ugly at times. With peaceful protesting we are able to express our opinions and feelings. That’s an amazing thing about democracy.
Still, I’ve never been able to understand one thing: unless we have been through a specific experience, how can we understand how a person feels? It could be anything, but assume major events like, the birth of a child, battling a terminal illness, the loss of a parent, surviving a terrible accident, being laid off suddenly, having an abortion, dealing with abuse or assault, grieving the loss of a loved one, coping with the empty nest or a painful divorce. We’re always so quick to judge others. Why? I think it’s because what others do is often a threat to our comfortable bubble, isn’t it? But, in reality, isn’t that’s the exact moment those need help, empathy, compassion and love?
So, stop being afraid. Reach out.
I’m not forming this opinion just because I read a bunch of books on feminism. During this inauguration, I can’t help but think of the strong women in my life that have come before me, and those who I hope will come after me. My great grandmother from Karpathos, Anastasia, was a brave lady. I never met her, but the stories I hear from various people are consistent. She was a kind, hard working mother who supported her two daughters. Her husband left her to go to the States and never really returned. He hardly sent money. Anastasia raised her daughters alone, and it was hard. But, she had her own house (the one we have now) and her own land (our orchards) and she raised those girls well with dignity, love and a strong sense of self.
Persephone, the oldest by five years, and Aphrodite (my grandmother) were Anastasia’s two girls. They were very different and very close. Both were trained seamstresses and took in work to help support their tiny family, and also worked in the olive grove during picking season. Persephone married a photographer, Basil, who had become a US citizen after fighting in WWI and they moved to Gary, Indiana. Aphrodite, the more ambitious of the two, was left behind and waited impatiently for her sister to bring her to the US. While she had several marriage proposals in the village, she declined all of them. She had her eyes set to leave Karpathos and made that clear to her mother, who knew she had to let her go.
In July of 1938, that day finally came. Determined to make the most of her life, at the ripe age of 27, Aphrodite left Greece as an Italian citizen, and traveled alone to Paris, and from Cherbourg she sailed to the US.
I’ll share this story, as it was told to me:
Persephone was a uniquely kind and compassionate lady, whereas my grandmother was also kind, but very firm and as tough as nails. She never forgave her father for leaving her mother alone to raise them. Years later, when both sisters were settled in the US, somehow their father heard about it, tracked down Persephone’s home address and showed up at the door. Unfortunately for him It so happened that Aphrodite was visiting her sister for the summer from Florida. And Persephone answered the door and saw her father after decades. She may have felt a duty to take him in and care for him in his old age. But, Aphrodite didn’t feel that way. She finally had her say and told him he was not welcome. From what I gather, he left and that was the last time they saw him.
And from my father’s side, in Asia Minor, it’s said that my great grandmother, Permanthoula, was very brave. Apparently, she carried a pistol in her undergarments when walking alone to protect herself from the Turks, especially when the tensions started rising.
So, I try to tell Anna that she comes from a strong line of women. Women who were independent, curious, brave, and found themselves strong enough to tackle unknowns even when they were scared. And they sought a better life for their children’s children. And then I hear ignorant people who say they hate feminists, when they don’t even understand what that means.
Character is built over time, by asking questions, by resolving problems reasonably, by making mistakes, by learning lessons and having experiences. I’m not sure how you can build character by marinating in comfort or by surrendering to the status quo. It depends on what your goals are, I suppose.
We have a voice that can make a difference.
Last night, Anna designed a sign for the march for me. I won’t tell you what it says.
It tells me she got the message 🙂
On the food front, I’m falling a bit short today. And tax season is really picking up and I’m noticing my time is becoming more and more limited. But, we actually went to the South Florida fair yesterday and tried a doughnut burger. That part was disappointing! Given the publicity of this fair delight, it was definitely not as good as I thought it would be. The bacon was not crispy, the burger was overdone, the doughnut tasted stale… So, we came home and I made pizza on naan bread for dinner. Yum. I’ll share my homemade pizza recipe sometime soon.
I hope most of you are off in observation of the holiday, whether catching up on reading, chores, or just enjoying the day. It’s another absolutely dreamy day here in Palm Beach, with a light breeze coming from the east and low humidity. A fun day to talk a long walk, but we actually have tax work to do first before heading out to enjoy the outdoors. On days like this, I like to read, clean and ease into the day – avoiding phone calls as much as possible.
I spoke to Anna this morning, who is with her father this weekend and she’s been productive too! Per her request, we always set a specific time for our morning and evening call, and today it was 8:21am. So, we chatted about her homework, Chinese work, the new cookbook she bought yesterday, the new math game they’re all into in school now, and how she’s going to handle swim practice now she has lightly sprained her ankle. I don’t remember doing so much at her age.
My favorite part was when we talked about the South Florida Fair, which takes place here every January. We’ve made it a tradition in our family! I just love going to fairs and tasting the food, watching the shows and people’s reactions — it’s fascinating! Aside from the pig race, they’ve added a dog trick show this year and it will be so much fun to see. The dogs are rescued and trained, and rescuing animals is one of fair’s highlights every year. I hope they will have the vintage candy store again this year!
And after I spoke to Anna and did some reading, I wondered what story I could share on the blog today. Too many stories in my head, so I thought I would sweep the floor for some inspiration. I always prefer a regular broom to vacuuming the floor, and it’s a cathartic experience for me. Yes, it’s actually not only constructive, but very soothing to sweep away thoughts while revealing a clean surface. I also rather lift the rugs and sweep underneath whenever possible, than just vacuum the top.
So, here’s a question: how often do you lift the rug and sweep the dust?
I’ve been doing that a lot lately. It takes a lot of emotional strength and resilience and it isn’t easy, because as you reflect, you really do confront yourself. My grandmother and I had that in common. We shared a love for thinking, with a purpose, deeply and with meaning. We both needed time on our own to center and reflect quietly.
I can still picture her sitting here in the living room (where I’m now writing away) with a very pensive look, her right hand placed on her face and her eyes fixed looking out the window. You might think she was over analyzing things or overthinking the past, but her thoughts were specific and crystal clear. She had the ability to zero in and focus with razor sharp precision, which helped her never feel stuck.
So, my yiayia and I would have endless conversations about life when I moved to the States for school. She’d ask my opinion and then she would share hers, and we’d talk for hours. I remember it was such a satisfying conversation every time, despite our age difference of nearly seven decades.
Yiayia Aphrodite had opinions about everything, and they had all been well thought out. If she wasn’t ready to share, she’d be upfront and tell you that she needs to think about it first. Boy, she was a blunt lady who knew how to set boundaries and was tough. She knew how to say no, and mean it. She taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic, respect, and setting limits and boundaries. She would say that I should dream “with my head in the clouds and my feet planted on the ground.” I always loved that reference.
So, I’ve taken that to mean imagination and reality are both necessary to live a fulfilling life. One is meaningless without the other, and achieving balance is an ongoing process. I’m no where near it, personally, since I still have so many questions and things I want to explore. I can only hope that I’m constantly trying to improve, while setting a good example for Anna.
One of our favorite meals that my yiayia and I really enjoyed is Shrimp Mykonos style. My mom actually makes a killer dish, as it falls under her extensive repertoire of her “half hour meals.” This was always my favorite and I would request it every time I visited from school for a long weekend or spring break. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll enjoy this!
If you love shrimp and feta, you’ll instantly fall in love with this dishAbout 20 jumbo raw shrimp, peeled and devained
1 jar of Puttanesca sauce (you can make your own, my mom buys it!)
12 oz. of good feta cheese
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup of Panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven at 375F.
You’ll oven safe dishes for this recipe, to fit about 4-5 shrimp in each one.
Using a spoon, put a layer of sauce in each of the baking dishes. Dry the shrimp using paper towels and carefully layer 4-5 in each one – it’s fine if they touch each other. Sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper. Add another layer of sauce to cover the shrimp.
Crumble the feta on top with the oregano. Be generous with the feta! In a bowl, mix the melted butter with the panko crumbs, add salt and pepper. Layer the mixture at the top of each of the baking dishes, making sure each is well covered.
Place all the dishes on a large baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, until the panko topping is golden brown.
Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. This dish works well with fresh warm baguette to dip into the sauce.
Share only with your favorite people, especially with the ones you can have awesome conversations 🙂