View from the private terrace off my room. La Bella Notte a Firenza.

View from the private terrace off my room. La Bella Notte a Firenza.

I am watching a sorbet sun sink into the Arno directly from the bed of my hotel room in Florence, having successfully completed the the second annual Writer’s Renaissance. Made new lifelong friends and connected with old ones (as in time, not age :-)), so it is impossible to feel anything but deep gratitude, albeit with just a touch of sadness that it has to come to an end. But every ending is also a beginning, and I look forward to greeting spring back in Boulder.

I have only one gratitude quote for you today, which sums up the week perfectly.

“The world is made up of five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and the Florentines.” — Pope Alexander VI

“A vero,” as the Italians say. “It’s true.”

Gratitude list for the week ending April 12

  1. Enzo and Maria Ferrara, for bringing me once again into the Porcellino family and feeding me so exquisitely (and so often)!
  2. Jackie, Suzanne, Teri, Mary, and Jane – my Renaissance writers of 2014. Buona fortuna mi amici e ci vediamo a presto

    "Last Supper" in Florence. Ciao Bellas!

    “Last Supper” in Florence. Ciao Bellas!. It was a great pleasure to share “my” Florence with you, and I was honored to write with you and to hear your stories. Keep writing. Keep creating. Keep living. KEEP IN TOUCH!!

  3. Mary Hoffman, for returning once again to share her intimate knowledge of Florence and its history and her writerly wisdom. AND for putting up with a bit of tardiness from yours truly.
  4. Sarah Towle, for bringing us nose to nose with the Florence of the Medicis and “turning history on” for us.
  5. To Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Brunelleschi, and Fra Filippo Lippi for sending your ghosts to the gazebo in the form of a very
    Taglietteli con sugo di Cinghiale from Osteria del Porcellino

    Taglietteli con sugo di Cinghiale from Osteria del Porcellino

    unique play.

  6. Gelato, gelato, gelato! Nocciola, Pistachio, Bacio, Noce, Mandorla, etc. etc.
  7. To Riccardo for making me my own piece of Florentine paper and for always making such gorgeous notebooks
  8. Andrea Gagnesi for once again teaching a cooking course that was unforgettable in every way
  9. To my family, for tolerating my absence and supporting me while I run this event, which I’m sure most people think is crazy at best.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Authors, Cooking, Creativity, Florence, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, Italy, Travel, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Final horses sketch for a spread of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN

Final horses sketch for a spread of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN

*12 x 12 members: please come back on the 6th for the featured author post. I gave a week extension because of the holiday, but I promise you won’t be disappointed! 🙂

On this Thanksgiving week, I once again look in wonder upon the multitude of blessings in my life. So much so that I took pause earlier this week to reflect upon what the “giving” part of the holiday means and how I can do more.

Usually in these posts, I focus on the small things I’m grateful for, because they are often overlooked. This week I’ve interspersed some of the big things too.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Rest and be thankful.” — William Wadsworth Longfellow

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” — Harry A. Ironside

“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” — John Henry Jowett

Gratitude list for the week ending November 30th

  1. The health and happiness of my two children. Nothing matters more.
  2. The ability to host family members for a Thanksgiving dinner, abundant with food and warmth and love (and a fire!)
  3. My home. Even when things go “wrong” as they did this week, I know how fortunate we are to have one.
  4. My dog. Despite the fact that he runs off through the neighborhood and drives me crazy. He also flops all 85 pounds of himself on my lap and then looks up at me with pleading eyes so I’ll scratch his chin.
  5. Being able to do what I love to do for a living
  6. Seeing Susan Eaddy’s final sketch for the horses illustration for MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN
  7. My college-age cousin peeled the potatoes for me on Thanksgiving. I DESPISE peeling potatoes! The fact that I didn’t have to do it was one of the best parts of Thanksgiving – seriously! 🙂
  8. Seeing Catching Fire with my mom. SO. GOOD. !!!
  9. My kids helped clean and decorate the house this week without even being asked. And all was harmonious the whole time.
  10. Michigan played well against Ohio State, even if it was a heartbreaking final 30 seconds.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Autumn, College Football, Crowdfunding, Dogs, Entertaining, Family, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, I Need Wine Pronto!, Movies, Picture Books, Thanksgiving, Volunteer/Community · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Brave Girl

My Brave Girl

Well the big drama this week was my 10 year-old daughter having surgery on a broken toe. But I was glad to be able to help calm and comfort her.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Miracles start to happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do to your fears.” — Richard Wilkins

“Gratitude is an opener of locked-up blessings.” — Marianne Williamson

“He who is not contented with what he has would not be contented with what he would like to have.” — Socrates

Gratitude list for the week ending May 4

  1. Em’s surgery on her broken toe went very well, so now she is on her way to healing!
  2. The fact that Em was couch-bound for a couple of days gave me a chance to catch up on some favorite movies with her, including The Princess Diaries 1 and 2 and Harry Potter 1 and 2.
  3. A snowy beginning of the week has given way yet again to spring.
  4. The melting snow has made the grass green. The contrast between the green down here and the mountains caked with snow in the distance is nothing short of breathtaking.
  5. I made a recipe I learned at the Writer’s Renaissance cooking class at Badia a Coltibuono — Fagioli all’ucelletto con salsiccia. Not only was it delicious but BOTH of my kids liked it. Now THAT is a miracle!
  6. Peace and quiet this weekend
  7. My mom’s generosity
  8. The ability to make a video testimonial to thank Katie Davis for all of the skills I have acquired by taking her Video Idiot Boot Camp course. I am truly grateful to be able to make videos as an additional creative outlet.
  9. To the folks who answered my plea to like my Facebook Author Page so I could get to 500 “Likes.” 🙂
  10. The iPhone app Viber, which allows free texts and calls internationally.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Cooking, Creativity, Florence, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, Italy, Movies, Parenting, Recipes, Social Media, Video Idiot Boot Camp, Writer's Renaissance · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Katie and I enjoy Vin Santo

Katie and I enjoy Vin Santo

Wow, it’s been WAY too long since I’ve written a Gratitude Sunday post, but as many of you know I’ve been on a whirlwind European trip that included hosting the first annual Writer’s Renaissance retreat.

I am still marinating in the memories of the trip, and there will be more to come about the retreat and the experience as a whole. In the meantime, there are so many people who made the trip extraordinary that I wanted to dedicate one post just to thanking them.

The quotes this week are not about gratitude exclusively, but they embody the spirit of Writer’s Renaissance. They come from icons of Florentine history — da Vinci, Michelangelo, Giotto and Dante. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Quotes on Gratitude

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” — Leonardo da Vinci

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo

“Take pleasure in your dreams; relish your principles and drape your purest feelings on the heart of a precious lover.” — Giotto di Bondone

“As flowerlets drooped and puckered in the night turn up to the returning sun and spread their petals wide on his new warmth and light — just so my wilted spirits rose again and such a heat of zeal surged through my veins that I was born anew.” — Dante Alighieri

Gratitude list for the weeks ending April 20

  1. First and foremost, the blue ribbon gratitude award goes to friend-extraordinaire Katie Davis, who not only led two
    Keep Calm and Make Friends with an Italian! Thanks Tommaso!

    Keep Calm and Make Friends with an Italian! Thanks Tommaso!

    outstanding sessions at Writer’s Renaissance, but also kept me sane and happy throughout. Thank you for enduring emotional outbursts, late nights, afternoon naps and a constant obsession over the schedule. I could not imagine having more fun than we did. “Bye, bye wine!” 🙂

  2. Thanks to Tommaso at the Hotel Davanzati for riding in on his Italian horse and helping me find two more restaurants for WR after I was treated abysmally by two others – both on the same night. I’m sure it’s not often he has to contend with a grown American woman bursting into tears in his lobby, but he handled it with much patience and grace and, truth be told, some tough love (paraphrasing – “get over it and get back out there”). Thanks also to you and your father Fabrizio for allowing Katie and I, in the words of one of your other guests, to “objectify you” for purposes of our promotional video. 😉
  3. Speaking of restaurants, Grazie Mille to Enzo at Osteria del Porcellino for hosting WR so beautifully and enthusiastically for our first dinner, but even more so for your friendship, for the dancing :-), and for bringing me into the Porcellino family for the duration of my stay in Florence.

    2013-04-06 21.06.38Enzo

    With Enzo at Osteria del Porcellino

  4. Authors Lisa Clifford and Mary Hoffman christened the WR retreat with fabulous sessions in the gorgeous Boboli gardens and Brancacci Chapel. Your books have also kept me wonderful company these past months, so thank you for writing them! And Mary, as promised, I still chuckle at random times over the dirty joke you told in the chapel cloister. Only at a women’s writing retreat would that happen, right?!?
  5. Andrea, the chef at Badia a Coltibuono and our cooking teacher, was
    NO Canned Beans!!

    NO Canned Beans!!

    responsible for capping WR with a grand finale that couldn’t have been improved even with canned beans. 😉 The food “we” made was otherworldly, but even better was the sound of the constant laughter echoing off those ancient walls. Wow!

  6. To Esther, Carolyn, Laura, Cory, Margit and Mary Alice: I meant what I said when I called us the WR family. You ladies will always have an honored place in my heart as the first of those who went on this adventure with me. We packed enough laughter into one week to last me a year, and I will be forever grateful for your trust and friendship. Alla prossima volta! (til next time)
  7. To Cristina, Daniel, Maria, Martina and yes, our dear Lorenzo, plus all of the other wonderful staff at Antica Torre


    Tornabuoni. During our stay with you we felt, not like guests, but like treasured friends.

  8. My dear, dear friend Diana and her husband Renato hosted me again for a couple of days in Milan after the retreat. Diana and I are soul sisters separated by an ocean, and while no amount of time is ever enough, we always seem to be able to make the most of what we get. Thank you for the heart-to-heart, the wonderful food and simply for being you!!
  9. Thanks again to Mary Hoffman and also Lucy Coats for adopting me in London and helping me find my way out of the book fair. I might still be clanging around in there if it weren’t for you guys!! You two, plus new friends Michelle, Anne and Diane were so wonderful to include me in your festivities.
  10. Thanks to my long-lost friend Pietro for taking time out of his insanely busy schedule to reconnect in London. It never ceases to amaze me how, with old friends, you can pick up where you left off as if no time had passed. In our case 20 years had gone by, and yet it could have been yesterday. As you get older, those touchstones into the past become all the more precious, and there is nothing quite like spending time with someone who knew you in your youth – for better or worse. 😉
  11. Last, but most definitely not least, I must add a bonus item to this week’s list to thank Nancy, Phil, my mother and Laurie for making it possible for me to do the trip in the first place. Knowing the kids, the house and the dog were in good hands made all the difference!!

Forgive me if this post is overly effusive. I’m simply overcome with emotion by all of the blessings that were bestowed upon me during this trip, and this list barely scratches the surface on the total.

Writer’s Renaissance is all about helping women fill their lives with creativity, passion and purpose. As the title suggests, it’s about rebirth, rejuvenation and renewal. Regular readers of this blog know that this past year has been an exceptionally difficult one for me. How amazing to find that in the pursuit of my goal to help other women transform their lives, so too was my own transformed.

The past year has indeed been full of many dark days. But now I see the light at the end of the Ponte Vecchio!

What are you grateful for this week?

True Renaissance Women!!

True Renaissance Women!!

Categories: Authors, Books, Children's Books, Cooking, Creativity, Family, Florence, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, I Need Wine Pronto!, Italy, Picture Books, Poetry, Travel, Travel Writing, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Here in the U.S. it’s Labor Day. The unofficial last day of summer.

So have you got the end-of-summer blues? Are you looking to plan a trip on the horizon to get you through the long winter doldrums? Well, look no further (if you are a woman), because here is Writer’s Renaissance, taking place in none other than Florence, Italy April 7-13, 2013!

Watch this tantalizing video to learn all about Writer’s Renaissance – the phenomenal Program, the talented Faculty, the stunning Hotel.

Running this retreat is the fulfillment of a dream for me.

Attending the retreat will be the fulfillment of a dream for you.

Register soon! Space is very limited and a few are already gone.

Categories: Cooking, Creativity, Florence, Italy, Travel, Travel Writing, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,


For the record, I did NOT put that much cheese on mine. 🙂

This week I offer one quote from Charles Dickens in honor of his 200th birthday and because it tied so nicely into August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest which I participated in.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers and are famous preservers of youthful looks.” -Charles Dickens

“The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.”Thich Nhat Hanh

“Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.” — Rumi

Gratitude List for the week ending February 11

  1. My application to the Highlights Foundation Poetry for All Workshop was accepted! So I’ll be heading to Honesdale in May.
  2. In the light of less than a half moon, the stars in Breckenridge are brilliant.
  3. Fresh snow for skiing!
  4. Homemade 3-way Cincinnati chili – YUM!
  5. Another Margareaders meeting, and everyone enjoyed the book I chose – One Thousand White Women.
  6. Julie B.  She knows why.
  7. Meeting with my in-person critique group. Go Boulder Picture Book Writers!
  8. Rocky laying at my feet under the desk while I work
  9. Watching Em have fun selling Girl Scout cookies – AND the fact that the sale is over! (We still have three boxes of Thin Mints left if anyone is interested)
  10. Reading easy readers with Jay. He never tires of it and is getting better and better.  Soon he will read on his own!

What are you grateful for this week? 

Categories: Books, Children's Books, Cooking, Dogs, Family, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, Poetry, Skiing, Spirituality, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


What's on YOUR list?

ETA: As soon as I published this post, I immediately thought of more things I want to do and places I want to see. Rather than keeping track of them elsewhere, I will add them to the lists here.  I will also cross them off when I’ve completed them (except for the last list, because most of those things are ongoing rather than one-time).

For my 300th post, I decided to write a Bucket List – things I want to do before I die.  I divided the list into three (loose) categories of 100 each:  1) Places I Want to Visit, 2) Things I Want to Do (many of which include specific places), and 3) Ways I Want to Make a Difference in the World.

Making the first list was a snap.  I did not allow myself to include places I’ve already visited but want to see again, and even so, I had no trouble choosing 100 places.  I could never travel enough or see enough of the world.  I would go to every last corner of the earth of I could.  So I guess it’s good that I now have priorities!

The second list was more difficult.  I really had to stretch myself and give myself permission to dream big without allowing the censor to whisper, “Oh that’s not possible!”

The third list was by far the most difficult.  I always think in the nebulous terms of, “I want to make a difference,” but I never specify HOW exactly.  Now that I’ve reached 40, I realize it’s time I start not only thinking about it but doing some things.  For that reason, this was a very good exercise for me.  I think we should all think about not just what we want to do for ourselves but what mark we want to leave on the world.

One final comment: I did not include things that would require others to make specific choices.  For instance, I could easily have put, ‘See my kids get married’ or ‘Watch Michigan win a National Championship Game live’, but that would require outcomes I have no control over.  So I kept the list tightly focused on things that I would be capable (theoretically) of doing without being dependent on the decisions or actions of others.

Places to Visit

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

  1. Kenya – Masai Mara
  2. Egypt – Cairo, Pyramids, Red Sea, Nile
  3. Morocco – Marrakech, Fez, Tangier, Sahara
  4. South Africa
  5. Tanzania/Mt. Kilamanjaro
  6. Mauritius
  7. Namibia – Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast
  8. Zimbabwe
  9. Bwindi National Park, Uganda
  10. Seychelles
  11. Australia

    Sydney Harbor

  12. New Zealand
  13. Madagascar
  14. Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara
  15. Thailand
  16. Vietnam
  17. Indonesia/Bali
  18. China – Shanghai, Beijing, Great Wall
  19. Tibet
  20. Nepal
  21. Bhutan
  22. The Taj Mahal, India
  23. Mumbai, India
  24. The ghats of Varanasi, India
  25. Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
  26. Windsor Castle, England
  27. Cornwall, England
  28. The Lake District, England
  29. Scottish Highlands
  30. Ireland
  31. Crete, Greece
  32. Santorini, Greece
  33. Zakinthos, Greece

    Zakynthos, Greece

  34. Rhodes, Greece
  35. Symi, Greece
  36. Barcelona, Spain
  37. Sevilla, Spain
  38. Valencia, Spain
  39. Cordoba & Granada, Spain
  40. Provence, France
  41. Carcassone, France
  42. Normandy, France
  43. Amalfi Coast, Italy
  44. Bologna, Italy, March 2012
  45. Siena, Italy
  46. Tuscan countryside, Italy
  47. Sicily, Italy
  48. Lake Garda, Italy
  49. Salzburg, Austria
  50. Vienna, Austria
  51. Berlin, Germany
  52. Black Forest, Germany
  53. Swiss Alps
  54. Lucerne, Switzerland
  55. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  56. Croatia
  57. Budapest, Hungary
  58. St. Petersburg, Russia
  59. Sweden
  60. Norway

    Norway Fjord

  61. Iceland
  62. Hebrides Islands
  63. Rio de Janeiro
  64. Amazon Rainforest
  65. Argentina – Buenos Aires
  66. Chile
  67. Peru
  68. Macchu Picchu
  69. Patagonia – Argentina and Chile
  70. Alaska
  71. Many Glacier Lodge – Glacier National Park
  72. Charleston, South Carolina
  73. Savannah, Georgia
  74. Cape Cod, Massachussets
  75. New Hampshire in the autumn
  76. Moab, Utah
  77. Monument Valley, Utah
  78. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  79. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
  80. Florida Everglades
  81. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  82. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
  83. Hawaii – Big Island, Maui, Kauai
  84. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  85. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  86. Finger Lakes Region, New York
  87. Badlands, South Dakota

    South Dakota Badlands

  88. Yosemite National Park, California
  89. Santa Barbara, California
  90. Quebec City, Canada
  91. Niagara Falls, Canada
  92. Banff National Park, Canada
  93. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  94. Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
  95. Baja California, Mexico
  96. Chiapas, Mexico
  97. Nicaragua
  98. Belize
  99. St. Lucia
  100. St. Vincent & the Grenadines
  101. Basque Region of Spain
  102. Cuba

Things I Want to Do

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

  1. Publish many books for children
  2. Write and publish travel articles
  3. Write and publish personal essays
  4. Make The New York Times Bestseller list
  5. Write a novel (at least one). I almost don’t even care if I ever publish one.  I just want to write one.
  6. Write down my father’s “Greatest Hits” (i.e. his best stories)
  7. Dive the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  8. Dive in the Red Sea, Egypt
  9. Dive in Palau, Micronesia
  10. Camel-trek in the Sinai desert
  11. Go cage diving to see Great White Sharks
  12. Dive in a kelp forest
  13. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu during a full moon
  14. Ride in a hot air balloon
  15. Take my kids to Disney World
  16. See a wolf in the wild
  17. Go to the Rose Bowl when Michigan is playing
  18. Ski Jackson Hole
  19. Ski at every resort in Colorado
  20. Ski the Dolomites in Italy
  21. Ski the Alps
  22. Learn to ski moguls like an expert
  23. Learn to ski in powder like an expert
  24. Go heli-skiing
  25. Take a photography course
  26. Stand on the field at The Big House
  27. Perfect Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) pose in yoga
  28. Take an Italian language immersion class in Italy
  29. Take a flamenco dancing class in Spain
  30. Learn to speak fluent Italian
  31. Read The Divine Comedy in Italian
  32. Take surfing lessons
  33. Touch an elephant

    Photo from my brother

  34. Swim with dolphins
  35. Attend an Eckhart Tolle retreat
  36. Meet the Dalai Lama
  37. Attend an Olympic Games
  38. Spend Hogmanay in Edinburgh
  39. Spend a few nights on The Royal Scotsman
  40. Compete in a “mini” triathlon
  41. Run another half marathon
  42. Oktoberfest in Munich
  43. Take cooking classes in Italy and France
  44. Do wine-tasting tours in Italy and France
  45. Wine-tasting tour in South Africa
  46. See the Northern Lights
  47. Successfully grow broccoli in my garden
  48. Learn how to build an Excel spreadsheet
  49. Perform in a play
  50. Become a writing coach/teacher
  51. Attend at least one World Cup game
  52. Earn a living from writing and writing-related work
  53. See a whale in the wild
  54. Take my daughter to Rancho la Puerta
  55. Attend the Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park
  56. Do yoga in India
  57. Make meditation a regular practice in my life
  58. Write and e-publish a travel memoir
  59. Finally read David Copperfield to the end
  60. Learn Colorado history
  61. Polar Bear safari in Cape Churchill, Canada
  62. Bake a cake at altitude that doesn’t sink in the middle
  63. Go Deep Sea fishing
  64. See an opera at La Scala in Milan
  65. Carnavale in Venice
  66. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
  67. Stand on the North Pole

    Absolut bar at the Ice Hotel

  68. Stay at the Ice Hotel in Sweden
  69. Take my kids to see Les Mis
  70. Sleep under the stars in the Sahara desert
  71. Take a helicopter ride to see a live volcano
  72. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  73. Bush-walking in Seven Spirit Bay, Australia
  74. Hike in Tasmania, Australia
  75. Hike The Grand Traverse and Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
  76. Stay in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora
  77. See the Iditarod – Anchorage, Alaska
  78. Kayak in The Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, Alaska
  79. Ride the Durango and Silverton steam train
  80. Swim with Manatees in Florida
  81. Attend the Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua
  82. Go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras
  83. Go to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM
  84. Go back to Camogli, Italy for the Sagra del Pesce
  85. Cruise the Antarctic Peninsula
  86. Learn to play poker
  87. Ride a zipline in the jungle
  88. Put all of our home movies together so we can watch them on TV
  89. Digitize all of my “paper” photos
  90. Organize all photos into digital albums
  91. Complete all twelve weeks of The Artist’s Way
  92. Go on a yoga/meditation retreat
  93. Bag one of Colorado’s “Fourteeners.” Preferably Long’s Peak, which I can see from my front window
  94. Write poetry more often – not for publication, just for myself
  95. Climb a 50 ft. indoor rock wall (which my daughter can do!)

    la Tomatina - Bunol Spain

  96. Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway
  97. See a meteor shower
  98. See every Michelangelo sculpture
  99. Participate in la Tomatina – Tomato fight!
  100. Learn more about my family history/geneology
  101. Attend a local “festa” in rural Italy
  102. See a Harp Seal in the wild

Ways I Want to Make a Difference

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

  1. Raise responsible, independent, compassionate children. If I fail at this, nothing else will matter.
  2. Ensure my children receive a good education so they can contribute to the world.
  3. Love my children boundlessly
  4. Teach my kids to be appreciative
  5. Encourage the kids in their natural sense of wonder
  6. Expose my kids to as many experiences in the natural world as possible
  7. Expose my kids to as many cultures as possible
  8. Read as many books to my kids as possible
  9. Look my kids in the eyes when I speak with them
  10. Be as good of a mother to my kids as my mother was to me
  11. Donate a portion of my personal proceeds from the sales of my (future) books to benefit related charities
  12. Make an annual donation of food and blankets to the Humane Society
  13. Adopt another dog or two (eventually – Rocky is enough for now!)
  14. Continue teaching critical thinking skills via the Junior Great Books program
  15. Help bring healthy, whole food to all school cafeterias by supporting the School Food Project and Food, Family, Farming foundation
  16. Donate annually to National Public Radio and PBS
  17. Donate annually to National Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife
  18. Donate annually to The Sierra Club
  19. Shop for gifts through organizations such as Unicef and National Wildlife Federation
  20. Advocate sexual and reproductive health education and rights for women around the world – through donations and Kiva lending
  21. Continue making micro-loans through Kiva
  22. Vote in every election
  23. Take Volunteer Vacations
  24. Teach creative writing to children
  25. Teach writing workshops for adults
  26. Mentor new writers
  27. Lead writing retreats that inspire women to give time to their creativity
  28. Create a scholarship for these retreats
  29. Help others live creative lives with passion
  30. Support small, family-run businesses as much as possible
  31. Grow vegetables in my garden every year
  32. Plant trees in my yard and in the community
  33. Each time I shop, buy one item for donation and put it in a box.  When the box is full, take it in to the food bank.
  34. Buy organic food as much as possible
  35. Shop at farmer’s markets more often
  36. Continue serving on the PTO at my kids’ school
  37. Support fellow writers by buying their books
  38. Be “responsible for the energy I bring” – from Jill Bolte Taylor – more info here
  39. Be a better listener
  40. Practice patience
  41. Do a better job of keeping in touch with people who are important to me
  42. Volunteer to spend time with an elderly person
  43. Practice living in the present moment so I can bring my full attention to the people I am with/what I am doing.
  44. Participate in a Polar Bear Plunge for charity
  45. Complete A Course in Miracles
  46. Continue my Gratitude Sunday posts
  47. Consistently donate clothing, toys and other items that we no longer use
  48. Sponsor families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year
  49. Find ways to volunteer with my kids
  50. Write letters to authorities advocating my views on issues that are important to me
  51. Help Em sell Girl Scout cookies
  52. Pick up litter at every opportunity
  53. Participate in 5K, 10K and other runs that benefit charity
  54. Donate my talents (writing critiques, editing, etc.) to online auctions to benefit charity
  55. Make eye contact with people and smile
  56. Whenever possible, say people’s names out loud to them
  57. Remember to say “thank you” for each and every kindness and courtesy
  58. Use my blog to create awareness of important issues
  59. Read banned books and make sure my kids read banned books
  60. Support the arts by providing funding for Kickstarter projects
  61. Use my public speaking skills to motivate people
  62. Recycle and compost as much as we can
  63. Solar power our home
  64. Use only non-toxic cleaning products
  65. Always take re-usable bags when I go shopping
  66. Tip well for good service
  67. Give compliments often
  68. Do nice things for strangers for no reason
  69. Promote the good work of others
  70. Don’t ignore people who are suffering – instead reach out to them
  71. Conserve energy – turn off unused lights, unplug appliances, etc.
  72. Write more Thank You notes
  73. Get my Christmas cards out every year
  74. Participate in Crayons to Calculators each year
  75. Participate in Turn Off the T.V. Week each year
  76. Start collecting Box Tops for education
  77. Write notes to authors of books I love letting them know
  78. Volunteer in a disaster recovery effort
  79. Keep the computer turned off from the time my kids come home from school until they go to bed
  80. Once a month, have a family game night
  81. Read out loud to the kids as a family activity more often
  82. Treat my family with respect
  83. Do not buy meat from factory farms
  84. Give without expecting anything in return
  85. Observe the beauty in the world aloud to others
  86. Practice forgiveness – work on forgiving those who have hurt me
  87. Invite a neighbor over for a cocktail
  88. Talk to my aunts and uncle so I can record stories of their childhood
  89. Cook meals for friends more often
  90. Teach the kids how to cook traditional family recipes
  91. Volunteer in a women’s shelter
  92. Volunteer, at least once, among the very poor
  93. Volunteer to promote literacy among both children and adults
  94. Read, with an open mind, articles and books written by people whose views are very different from my own
  95. Value experiences over stuff and teach my kids to do the same
  96. Help educate others about the importance of wild predators in the food chain
  97. Write more book reviews to support books (and authors) I love
  98. Learn about Feng Shui so I can apply some of it to my house
  99. Do a better job of remembering the birthdays of friends and family members and to actually send cards
  100. Advocate for art and physical education in public schools

Do you have a Bucket List?  If not, do you want to make one?  Here are some additional resources to get you started:

43 Things

Barefoot List

Creating a Bucket List

Categories: Authors, Charity, Children's Books, College Football, Cooking, Creativity, Dogs, ebooks, Entertaining, Family, Friendship, Garden, Goals, Gratitude Sunday, Holidays, Parenting, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Self Publishing, Skiing, Social Media, Spirituality, Travel, Travel Writing, Volunteer/Community, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Phil and I both love to cook, and we like to think of ourselves as foodies.  However, when it came time to plan a menu for a get-together we hosted on Sunday made up of families with young children, I decided to go a different route and select something that would be yummy for both kids and adults.  The selection?  Frito Pie!  As much as we love sophisticated (and healthy) food, sometimes there is just no substitute for good old-fashioned comfort (white trash) food.

I got this recipe from the Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker: Recipes for Entertaining, and it turns out Frito Pie is served regularly at fairs, sporting events and fundraisers in New Mexico.  There they actually slit a single serving bag of Fritos open, put it on a plate and top with the chili.  The recipe was VERY CLEAR that you had to use FRITOS.  No substituting generic brands, tortilla chips, tortillas or any other type of corn chip.  Turns out Fritos have the exact consistency needed for soaking up the chili without losing their crunch.  So you just have to go for it and enjoy their deep-fried, chemically processed, trans-fatty goodness.

I’m here to tell you that this might have been one of the most popular dishes we’ve ever served at a party.  We went through FOUR large bags of Fritos.  The adult version of the chili was completely gone and the kid’s version had only a couple of servings left by evening’s end.  Best of all, it was easy to make and served a large crowd.  I promised everyone I’d share the recipe, so here it is.  Enjoy!

Recipe for Frito Pie

2 lbs. lean ground beef
8-10 garlic cloves, chopped
2-4 tbsp (or more) New Mexican red chile powder (see note)
4 tsp ground cumin
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 16 oz cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and black pepper to taste
Fritos – (make sure you have plenty – they go fast!)
Shredded cheddar cheese
1 large white onion chopped (for topping, optional)

1.  Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add the ground beef and garlic and cook until there is no pink.  Drain the meat and place in the slow cooker.  Add the ground chile, cumin, tomatoes with their juice and pinto beans.  Stir well to combine.  Cover and cook on LOW for 4-5 hours.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2.  To serve, place a handful of Fritos on a dinner plate.  Top with a ladleful of chili, some shredded cheese and onion if desired.  We also put out sour cream, salsa and guacamole as extra toppings.

Recipe Notes:

  1. I realized as I was typing this recipe that I only used 1 can of 28 oz. tomatoes, and I thought it turned out delicious.  So I guess you can decide how tomato-y you want the pie to be.
  2. For the chile powder, you can find New Mexico chile powder in specialty stores or even Whole Foods.  I actually used a couple of different blends from Penzey’s Spices (the BEST spices ever, imho).  For the kids version, I used 1 tbsp. of regular chili powder and 1 tbsp. of taco seasoning so it wouldn’t be too spicy.  For the adults, I used 2 tbsp. of Penzey’s Medium Hot chili powder, 1 tbsp. of their Chili 3000 blend and 1/2 tbsp. of Chipotle Chile powder.  The point is, you can use any combination of chile powder, but just make sure it’s high quality.  The grocery store blends probably won’t cut it if you want an “authentic” taste.  Ha!
  3. Don’t forget – Fritos and ONLY Fritos

Categories: Cooking, Entertaining, Friendship, Recipes · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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