Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Eat Well and Wise.

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Girl Warrior.  Learn how to cook for yourself and the ones you love. Keep it simple. Get fresh with food. Know its origins. Get the back-story on your fruits and veggies. Do your homework. Read labels. As much as possible, eat the things of the earth and near to their natural state.

Be creative in the kitchen. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Get colorful and crazy. Explore what titillates and tantalizes your taste buds. Make it pretty.

You don’t have to be a Food Fanatic either. Nor a Nutrition Nazi. Make ‘everything in moderation’ your mantra. Think balance. Nurture your body and your spirit. Apply the 80/20 Rule here. 80% healthy and 20% not-so-much. Enjoy your guilty pleasures and sweet indulgences with 100% freedom. Without regret or ruefulness.

Whet your appetite. Savor it all. Go for the gusto. And eat like your life depends on it.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Saturday Night Spaghetti and Meatballs.

299899_10151127217141644_2016426915_nI love spaghetti and meatballs. Always have. In fact, it’s one of the first foods that I remember enjoying. Picky Eater doesn’t even come close to describing my disinterest in food as a kid.  But Ma’s S ‘n M was a whole other story.  Now I’m no connoisseur, but I have eaten enough to know a good meatball when I taste it.  Trust me, her’s were the best. And her marinara sauce?  To live for.

It wasn’t so much what Ma put into this weekly Italian favorite that made it so spectacular. But how she prepared it that made the world of difference. Like all good cooks she had her secrets. Her little arsenal of remarkable tastes that you couldn’t quite put a finger-licking finger on.

One of my all-time fondest memories is the smell of Saturday morning at 204.

Fresh coffee brewing, bacon and eggs frying, Shaw’s white bread toasting. Fused with these intoxicating breakfast scents, was the savory smell of Ma’s spaghetti sauce simmering on top of the stove. Imagine waking up to that every Saturday morning. Trust me, it was the top of the comfort mountain. A warm hug from heaven. A kiss sweeter than your first. A gentle breeze fluttering through gossamery white curtains. Quite simply, nothing else like it.

I don’t have a recipe to share with you because Ma never cooked that way. Like all good cooks, it was pinch of this, a dash of that, a dollop and a handful. Everything to taste and talent. There’s a certain kind of genius at play, that’s impossible to describe. Besides, you don’t need the S ‘n M recipe anyway. For it’s not the physical ingredients that made it taste so good.

What made my all-time fave comfort food so lip-smacking, scrumptious and sinfully delicious were these 5 things:

1.  Start early. Be the first one up. Breathe in those early quiet and peaceful moments just before dawn. Solitude in the kitchen is a divine gift. Cherish it. Let the whisper of God and the whistle of nature inspire you. Run your fingers over the fresh ingredients that will be the life of the sauce. Let your eyes feast on their colors. Inhale the herbs and spices that will infuse spirit into the sauce. Begin.
2.  Good things take time. Never rush the sauce. Honor the process.  Allow it to simmer on low. To slowly fill the house with its intoxicating delectable aroma. Room by room. Let it fill every inch with pleasure. Long and lazy that’s the key. Enjoy.
3.  Double-dip family style. Let the taste testers dive in. All day long. Let the lid lift and open to an explosion of fragrant Italian goodness. Let the well-seasoned wooden spoon plunge into the saucy depths.  Let them sip, sup and savor. Repeat.
4.  Anticipation. Things taste better when filled with scrumptious expectancy. The longer the wait, the better the taste. Especially with marinara and spicy meatballs. As the divine bouquet fills the air, let your imagination wonder to the end of the day. Mealtime. Picture yourself there. Lick your lips. Savor.
5.  Love. The essence of everything. The heart. The soul. The gist. The marrow of all good things.  And all things that taste good.

There you have it. The delicious intangibles. The ethereal ingredients. The exquisite elements. The sorcery in the sauce.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: This is The Man we all Love.

Sitting in the window of an abandoned farmhouse.

I have written a lot posts for all the magnificent Girl Warriors in my life.  My strong, fierce and beautiful daughters, grand daughter, daughter-in-law and the original warrior, Ma. Plus all the others, near and dear to me.  All glorious inspirational women.

I also have a son.  He is equally magnificent in my eyes.  Yet in many ways he’s a mystery to me.  A charming and perplexing enigma.  Perhaps it’s because he’s a boy and at the end of the day I must admit that I don’t fully understand the male species.

I was young when he came into the world.  So was he.  In truth, we grew up together.  He has taught me much since that wondrous day when I looked into his dark raisin eyes for the very first time.  I am eternally grateful for all the learning through the years. Even the difficult stuff.  I’ve probably learned more through those experiences than from the easy breezy butterfly days.

So many rights of passage we shared.  The holding close.  And the letting go.  All those milestones.  From the first step.  To the walk across the stage to receive his degree.  Everything in between.  Proud mother moments.  Heartbreaks and heroics.  Flights of fancy and family ties.  Unbreakable bonds.  Love is born.  And grows eternal in this mother-son relationship.

He stands shoulder to shoulder with the three other good men who I love dearly.  My strong and gentle big brother, my solid husband and my complicated father.  Each seemingly different.  At least on the exterior.  At once complex and full of mystifying layers.  Yet also sublimely straightforward and uncomplicated.  Always sincere.  Forthright.  Honest.  Kind.  They are the faces of strength, courage and tenderness in my often anxious world.

The 10 Steps to Becoming the Man We All Love:

The Old Man was so delighted with his grandson.

1. Be your own man. Authentic. Genuine. 100% bona fide you. The real thing.  Don’t be an impostor.  Nor live a vicarious life.  Grab a hold of what matters to you.  Put on your own jersey.  Strap on your own skates.   Play the game you love.  Not someone else’s.  Be an original.  A maverick.  The natural.  Always be the guileless boy who looks at the world with wide-eyed wonder.  Forever rub your hands together with glee and pure joy.  Be the spontaneous boy. And the solid man.  Work with your full range of emotions.  Express yourself completely.  Thoroughly.  Freely.  And if a tear falls. Let it.

2. Be brave-hearted.  Stand tall.  Stare down your fears.  Look them straight in the eyes.  Laugh at them.  Call their bluff.  Walk right through them.  Don’t go around.  Don’t avoid.  Face them head-on. Know that all courageous men have fears. Life is scary sometimes. For all of us.  Don’t be a victim.  Instead be valorous.  Do no shrink.   Roar.  Hoot and howl.  Feel the fear and get on with it.  There are no boogeymen under the bed.  No monsters hiding in the closet. Myths.  False emotions appearing real.  That’s all.  And always remember that you are far bigger than your fears.

My big brother with my nephew and my son sharing a cuddle.

3. Get a real kick out of life.  Have fun.  Find things that amuse and delight you.  Not just once and awhile.  But every day.  Don’t put it off for the weekend.  For vacation.  Or another time.   Play right now.  Cause a ruckus.  Bang on your drum all day.  Shake your tambourine.  Laugh your guts out.  Make a fool of yourself. Embrace happiness.  Enjoy the people you’re with right this very second.  Surround yourself with the lighthearted ones who put a smile on your face.  Take delight in every minute of this life you are given.

4. Be a loving man. And you will be loved.  Guaranteed.  More than you could ever imagine or dream. Open your heart wide and let in the love.  Don’t run from it.  Strong men have the guts to be tender.  Kind.  Compassionate.  Be a Gentle Ben.  Tom, Dick or Harry.  And remember, love isn’t always perfect.  Accept that sometimes it will hurt.  That’s okay.  Don’t let this frighten you. Don’t push it away.  Or turn your back.  Don’t give up on it. Love refines your heart and grows your compassion muscle.  Most importantly, learn to recognize love when it comes your way.  It doesn’t always come gift wrapped.  It may be completely different from what you had in mind.  Better even. In fact, the best thing that ever happened to you.

The proud uncle with his lookalike niece.

5. Find your tribe.  Your band of sisters and brothers. The ones where you fit in.  Belong. Feel at home with.  For these will be your family.  Some related by blood.  Others by the heart.  Surround yourself with people you trust, respect and enjoy.  You don’t have to always agree. You don’t even have to always get along.  But these are the faithful ones. Loyal. Steadfast. And true.  The ones who will be there for you.  With you.  By your side.  Through thick and thin. The ones who have your back.  Who pick you up when you fall. Help you find your way home in the dark.  They’re with you no matter what. No questions asked.  No doubt about it.

6. Follow your passions and the things that make you want to get up in the morning.  Jazzed and ready to go.  Have big dreams.  They don’t cost any more than the small ones. Your life will be so much richer for it.  Do the things that you love to do first.  And everything else will fall into place. Be enthusiastic.  Get psyched.  Pumped.   Gung-ho.  Embrace new ideas and ways of doing the things you already know. Be creative.  Imaginative. Take the magical mystery tour of discovery.  Go on an adventure.  Expand. Grow. Cultivate. Hone. Take risks. Embrace the failures on the way to your successes.  Learn and move on.

My son with “his lady” in Scotland on the adventure of their lives.

7. Be generous and magnanimous of spirit. With everything and everybody.  Don’t be stingy.  Don’t withhold. Don’t hang onto things.  Never covet. Give of what you have.  What you know.  Give a little. Or a lot.  But give. This isn’t necessarily about money.  Nor material things. It can be. Nothing wrong with that. If you’ve got it.  Give it.  But it’s also about giving of yourself.  Your time.  Your energy.  The natural gifts you came into the world with.  Take every opportunity to share these with others.  The more you do, the bigger you will be.  This will make you happier than anything you ever imagined.  For the more you give, the more you receive.

8. Be honest.  A man of your word.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Nor intend to.  Be a man of integrity.  Honorable. Upstanding. Someone you can rely on.  Depend on.  Be the good guy who shows up.  Even in the stickiest of situations.  Know that when you shake on something that you are doing more than pressing flesh.  You are giving your word.  Your bond.  Don’t violate this sacred trust.  Respect others and you will be respected in turn.

My two lovely men standing tall at our wedding.

9. Defend and stand up for something.  Be righteous. Not self-righteous.  Find causes close to your heart.  Help those in need.  Shelter the weak.  The young.  The very old. Once you accept the challenge, don’t put conditions on who you’ll help and who you won’t.  Raise the bar on compassion.  Kindness.  Tolerance.  Embrace your fellow travelers.  Meet them eye to eye.  Carry the placard.  Wear the colors.  Pin on the badge.  But don’t force your beliefs down the throats of others. This is not a persuasive approach.  Don’t cloud the issues with misplaced anger.  This just creates mindless noise.  Be humble. Not sanctimonious.  Charitable.  Not complacent.  Be a leader when called upon.  And a follower when the time is right.  But most importantly, be a man that everyone wants in their corner.

10. Take care of yourself.  Do whatever it takes.  All the days of your life.  Not just physically.  But mentally.  And spiritually.  Do it for yourself.  And for all the people who love you.  Be active in every arena of your life.  Find your sport. Get out there and move.  Join a team.  Or go it alone.  Play hockey.  Or a round of golf.  Walk the dog.  Or chase the kids.  It’s all good.  Learn to cook and eat well. Spend time looking inwards.  Take a moment for introspection.  Meditate.  Pray.  Go for walks alone with your thoughts.  Get to know yourself.  And “to thine own self be true.”  Do these things and you will be the man we all love.