Making A List


Making a list

     You remember the Christmas song about Santa making a list, checking it twice, and finding out who is naughty or nice. I am sure the melody dances through your mind now. It did for me as Gayle King interviewed  BJ Novak, well-known television writer of the show “The Office” and discussed his new app, “The List.” Novak believes since we think in lists, the app is a fun way to express and entertain each other. He is right.

      Gayle King wanted to play and came up with a list of “When Hell Freezes Over.” On the list was to start wearing flats, a cooking segment on CBS, and for Charlie, Norah and herself to test their survival skills on Celebrity Naked and Afraid. I am not familiar with the show. Novak commented,  the app has grown into a form of self-expression and lets us peek into someone’s mind.

My mind jumped in with a list of:

Questions to ask Donald Trump

• How long does it take to do your hairdo?
• What hair spray do you use and do you own the company?
• How would you describe nincompoop?
• What other adjectives can you add to the statement, “Hilary  Clinton was the worst, the worst Secretary of State ever,” to convince voters it is true?

     Then I became bored, started to feel nostalgic and instead opted to make a list of:

Things I miss about Christmas

• Decorating the tree on Christmas Eve
• Moving the tree so missing branches are in the back
• Stringing popcorn and cranberry into garland
• Hanging candy canes on the tree
• The threat of coal in the toe of my stocking
• Taping Christmas Cards around doorways
• Little Christmas
• A Glockenspiel or Angel Carousel
• Carolers singing outside your door
• Retail, and every other store being closed

      Our family decorated the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve singing Christmas Carols. My father secured the tree lights on the branches than all the children selected glass ornaments carefully laid out on the couch to hang on the tree. The final touch, tinsel arranged one strand at a time by Dad with the Glockenspiel spinning in the background. The heat from lit candles produced a single chime as the angles circulated it’s base. I was taken with the sparkle and filled with glee by the bell like sound.31LpBWCtecL

     We did not attend midnight mass because it was at midnight. We went to bed excited about Santa’s visit.

     In the morning, or rather the middle of the night, my brother, Victor, would wake us to report on what Santa had left. He was the one brave enough to risk sneaking downstairs hoping not to be caught by Santa or our parents.

     There were no million flashing lights or hundred dollar gifts under the tree.

. . .  just saying Novak



Christmas Spirit

photo-1Photo by Marshal Bradley

 May the Christmas spirit bless you and your family

Mr. Wonderful and I are headed to Albuquerque, NM to spend Christmas with our son and his family. Our daughter will fly from New York to join us. We had the same plan last year that unfortunately did not happen, because Bob had emergency surgery.

Although still recovering from pancreatic surgery in July, Bob was feeling good when he printed our boarding passes the morning of December 24th.

We were packed and ready to fly. However within an hour Bob, screaming from pain, was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a perforated bowel. Surgery was scheduled for 5:30PM, and I was told to wait in radiology. The door could be locked, there was a TV and telephone. I was instructed to answer the phone should it ring.

The hospital was closing.

I am blessed to have many dear friends, one of them, Pat, came (bringing the most delicious turkey sandwich) to be by my side, and stayed until the doctor appeared to say my husband was in recovery.

Christmas Eve 2012 is one we will not forget. It was near midnight when I left the hospital, and hearing the door lock behind me, looked up to enjoy the most beautiful stars in the sky surrounded by silence and crisp clear air.

Yes, we are heading to Albuquerque and though there are no guarantees, are looking forward to spreading lots of cheer. We are extremely grateful to family, friends, and the kindness of strangers. I am especially thankful for all my readers. Thank you for making the time to read my posts, you make a difference in my life.

Merry Christmas,

                                                      Claudia . . . . just saying



Presents Vs Presence

 lg-metta-meditationAging & Attitude

   Recently a local newspaper article titled, “Presence of Mind” and subtitled “Meditation can help cope with stressful holiday season,” caught my attention. Struggling with holiday gift shopping, and guilty of not buying on Brown Thursday, Black Friday or Cyber Monday I started reading.

   The Zen Master immediately captured my heart defining the Metta method and saying; sitting on the floor is optional, and that a popular meditation spot is a bathroom stall. The Metta method teaches love and compassion for yourself first, and then sending the message out into the world. I have tried to meditate, and couldn’t stop the nagging intrusive thoughts from running around by head. Remember Julia Roberts in “Eat, Pray, Love,” well I read the book, and sitting for hours on a cold hard floor does not work for me. Occasionally I find a quiet place to sit and repeat, love, peace, joy endlessly, hoping a mantra will push out negative thoughts about the Valentine flowers I did not receive in 1982. It does not work.

A Buddhist concept, the Metta method was originally instituted to aid terminally ill people, and has gained a following in  other meditation circles because of the positive effects, simple techniques and easy transition.


  • Minimize Stress
  • Improve healing
  • Learning about and training the mind

Two Simple Techniques

  • Grounding – Giving attention to the body’s current position
  • Orienting – Awareness of surroundings and knowing exits

Easy Transition

  • Mind is the sky
  • Thoughts are the  clouds

The article recognizes that when meditating, “you see things, the ideas that cause stress,” and thoughts about finding the perfect gift, and its credit card debt are counterproductive to the joy we hope to create. Recognizing what is on your mind is the first step to eliminating stress and being present for loved ones, enjoying the holidays. The point is well made that although Christmas is about presents, your presence may be a gift alternative.

So, thoughts about running over the driver who beat you to the last parking spot at the mall, can become clouds afloat in your mind. Ask yourself, “how important is this?” and you will gain new perspective and see your anger drift away.

Once rid of those dark clouds, put some happy thoughts in your sky by repeating;

May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease,

   Then send the message to others by replacing the I with you and say;

May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.

   Happy Holidays!

. . . . just saying

White House Tour Slideshow

2012-12-04 09.05.29800px-WhiteHouseSouthFacade

Aging & Attitude

   The events of the past few weeks are disturbing and sobering, and I have decided to enjoy the holidays and forget about falling off any cliff. Hopefully you will do the same. Please check out this u-tube video of my White House tour that I have but together. Come to find out you can take pictures in the White House during Christmas but none of us had a camara. We met Dan and Lynn who had a cell phone and became our new best friends when they offered to mail us copies. Thank you Dan, the pictures are beautiful.

You can read “What I Want for Christmas” here.

                            … just saying Merry Christmas

Manly Men



                     The Gingerbread Men

It would not be Christmas without “THE MEN”, Gingerbread Men cookies that are a family holiday tradition.

The recipe and trademark attire of  a three raisin vest and sliver of Marchiano cherry lips was created for my daughter’s kindergarten class. This year is their thirtieth celebration.

As class mother in 1982, my responsibility was to provide a holiday refreshment; traditionally a white flour sugar cookie, dripping in red icing and sparkling with glitter sugar, accompanied by cherry  Hi-C Juice.

I could not do it.

My children had been told Ritz crackers were cookies and did not learn differently until they went to school. Birthday cake was carrot cake made with whole wheat flour, and I baked bread.

I searched for a  festive substitute and found gingerbread cookies in The Good House Keeping Cookbook on page 657. Determined to make the cookies healthier yet, I eliminated the sugar, increased the molasses, added whole wheat flour, and loved the results.

They are cute. Their crooked lips and misshapen eyes add personality. But not everyone likes them, it is an acquired taste and even Mr. Wonderful took his time coming on board.

When grammar school was over, I could not stop baking, started delivering decorative containers of MEN to  neighbors, and decorated a table tree in our  foyer with gingerbread men, to wish the teenagers Merry Christmas.

One year my daughter pulled me aside  to whisper there was no “MAN” for Laura. We scribbled a name tag and she hurried to follow my instructions, hang it in the back of the tree and tell Laura to look again, carefully.

These small memories grow huge in my heart and make my holidays special.   … just saying             

Peace On Earth


Peace on Earth

Aging & Attitude

We ride the noon shuttle from Lake Buena Vista Embassy Suites to Epcot planning to stay for the fireworks.  By 7PM, everyone is spent, having ridden Test Track, Mission Space, and Space Ship Earth. Then snapped pictures with Disney Characters; Minnie, Mickey, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto at Epcot Character Spot, viewed the indoor Aquarium, Turtle Talk with Crush, visited several countries and went to Italy for dinner.

It did not help that the shuttle broke down on Route 4 delaying us some.

The weather is wonderful, slightly overcast skies, but not gray and the lines at the park manageable.  The spectacular Christmas decorations dazzle us.  The landscape appears luscious in multi-shades of green with red Poinsettia accentuating the differences.

“Look at all the people.  This is really a phenomenon.” My husband marvels, surrounded by an international crowd of young and old who traveled to Disney.

It is not just for the rides.

Inside the Magic Kingdom great things are possible.  The world is beautiful, goodness, joy, and merriment abound. But Mr. Wonderful’s feet hurt. He and most of the group are ready to leave.

My feet hurt too, however my grandson and I decided to stay.  We will ride Soarin’ and watch the fireworks scheduled at 9:30pm.

Soarin’ is a multi-sensory attraction that simulates a hang-gliding flight over California’s Golden Gate Bridge, Redwood Creek, Monterey, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, San Diego, Malibu, Los Angeles, Anaza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Camarillo, and feels like the real deal.

The wait at Soarin’ is sixty-five minutes.  My grandson, days away from being a teen, waits patiently in line participating in the wall games while I chat with a couple behind us from Chicago.

We discuss the scheduled 9:30pm fireworks and my confusion, “Doesn’t the park close at 9:30pm?  They assure me we will see the fireworks; which they saw at 8pm the night before.

Our sixty-five minute wait was almost up it was 7:55pm.

We are ready, to quote Disney:  “Feel the wind in your hair. The air fills with the scent of orange groves, evergreens and the sea breeze. Your feet dangle free. Dip down so close to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, you think your toes will get wet. Then return to the sky and continue on Soarin’ to a fantastic finale where fireworks burst into sensational colors around you.”

The five-minute ride surpasses the sixty-five minute wait, and the probability of only moving in place. You think your toes are wet for a moment.

We exit excitedly, anticipating rockets and roman candles sparkling across the sky.  Rushing towards the lake Dominic prompts me, “Nana, ask someone.” People are skirting the area sitting on stone walls.

An attendant explains, “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth glitters, gleams, and glows over World Showcase Lagoon in perfectly synchronized splendor”, is a Holiday Special, different from the nightly fireworks and tonight’s closing event, and definitely starts at 9:30PM.

We can relax, purchase a snack, and find a viewing spot.

I watch my grandson say goodbye to childhood, confident and mature ordering a pretzel, opting for cinnamon and sugar (plain salt are sold out) and yes he will pay the extra dollar for cheese.  He casually counts his money, smiling, engaged in conversation, so like his dad, gentleman style.

IlluminNations” started, “featuring breathtaking fireworks, brilliant bursts of fire, laser light effects, dramatic fountain barges, a stirring musical score” that manipulate emotions, accompanied to a symphony rendition of “Let there be Peace on Earth” and left us feeling joy, hope, love, and peace.

We turn to our neighbors, tears in our eyes; shake hands, offer peace, and I think, let it begin with me.

                                                                ….Just  Saying 

                                                                                              Merry Christmas

What Do You Want For Christmas?


What You Want For Christmas?

Aging & Attitude

“What do you want for Christmas?” Mr. Wonderful* inquires, walking into the kitchen wearing drawstring athletic shorts, his toes protruding through open toed sandals, and cheaters sliding off his nose.

“You mean besides World Peace” I quip.

“No, seriously what do you want for Christmas?”

“Jobs for the unemployed would be nice.”

“You’re the one who wants packages under the tree, think about it.”

And I do.

I want it to be 1958 and wake to a shiny blue two-wheeler and bride doll. The air crisp, sharp enough that your nose hair freeze, the sun strong and no wind on Long Island. Santa left the same Schwinn bike for my sister, Mariellen, an English Racer with handbrakes for Victor, my brother.  I ride in circles, periodically going in the house to coax my brother and sister into joining me. They will not, but I am determined to hold on to my joy.

I want it to be 1971. Mr. Wonderful dressed in full Santa costume, white beard and black belt, drives the New York State Thruway, waving at cars and greeting toll booth attendants with Ho, Ho, Ho.

I want it to be 1977. My son wears PJ’s, a blue robe, belted and slippers, his face aglow at the Fisher Price garage Santa left. His sister wears a hand me down Santa infant suit, her arms flapping, matching his excitement.

I want it to be 1985 and a white German Shepard dog does not bark once during the night to wake our kids. He kept his surprise til Christmas morning.

I want it to be 2003. It snows all day, continuing into the night, creating a spectacular White Christmas our daughter’s Southern guest marvels.  We troll the unplowed streets of Newton after midnight, make angles in the snow, sleep late and eat dinner in our pajamas.

I want those simple uncomplicated times.

But were they?

Christmas greeting cards scotched taped around a door frame were fancy decorations. I could decorate the entire house, wrap the presents, and bake cookies, all the same day.

Last week it took one day to unbox the artificial tree and determine if plug A really went into socket E. Only one small section of lights is not working. We turned it towards the wall. Days two and three were spent putting on the ornaments, up and down the ladder, watching not to fall.

I am not the only one getting older, facing the challenge of aging; everyone else is too.

So this year, we are all going to Disney.

                                                                                                  ….Just Saying

*Mr. Wonderful is my husband of forty years

Lady Gaga & Eataly

Lady Gaga & Eataly

The morning air is a crisp forty-three degrees and the day promises to be sunny.  A Canadian guest also staying at Comfort Inn cautions my husband, “I wouldn’t go outside dressed like that.”

Mr. Wonderful is wearing a short sleeve t-shirt, Dockers and moccasins without socks. We are 497 miles from warmer weather and plan to be home in Florida for afternoon coffee and cookies.

We choose Comfort Inn because of Bonus Points; for every three nights stayed, we get a night free, a good deal. It is seven in the morning. We anticipate a hot breakfast, seeing steam rising on hot trays and an attendant busy in the kitchen.

We have been away nine days visiting our daughter, family and friends in the New York City area and saw it all, including Lady Gaga’s Workshop and Eataly.

Lady Gaga?

Well, Tony Bennett is a favorite of mine. Bennett, an artist and big fan of Lady Gaga after singing together, plans to draw the diva, nude. Their duet, “The Lady is a Tramp”is exceptional. Gaga really can sing. If Mr. Bennett loves and respects her, so might I, and we head to Barney’s to check it out.

Double Click on Pics for Better Viewing

The elevator door opens on the fifth floor to an oversized Lady Gaga turned spider and mini shopping areas with motorcycle jackets $625, stiletto Christmas stockings $65, Swaronski tea-cups $65, and  bouncing balls $9. The array of items is huge and unique. It is a shopping experience not an interactive workshop, raising funds for the charity “Born this Way”.  Perhaps because we expect over the top it is underwhelming, merely interesting and amusing. Robin Roberts, “Good Morning America” met Gaga and previewed the products.  The interview can be read at,

After checking out Bloomingdale’s windows we head downtown and stumble upon Eataly.

OMG, if you are anywhere near 24th Street and 5th Avenue anytime soon, you must, absolutely must, visit Eataly.  Eataly is the brain child of Oscar Farientti who partnered with Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and son, Joe Bastianich to create an Italian eating, dining and shopping extravaganza. Farientti has numerous stores in Italy and Japan but only this one in the United States.

Customers roam the block wide store enticed by smells of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, prosciutto, sfogliatelle(shfooyadell’) and espresso.

The website is thorough, user-friendly and worth the time to become familiar with this open-court environment. The tool bar leads to information about the partners, eating with menus, cooking lesson schedules and descriptions, shopping, shipping and more. You can order books, housewares, cheese, pastries, produce, and beef via tabs, The Market and Shop.

A Walking Tour,  guided tour that includes sampling of focaccia, pizza, mozzarella, gelato and chocolate is $35. Cooking lessons are $100. There are twelve different eating opportunities under Eat, that include; formal dining at Manzo to LaVazza Bar (Birra & Wine) to Gelateria (yes to die for gelato) and Caffe Vergnano(coffee bar).

It is an overwhelmingly scintillating experience similar to Tony Bennett sketching Stefania Joanne Angelina Geimanotta, aka Lady Gaga, nude….just guessing.