SHOWING A WILLINGNESS TO TAKE SURPRISINGLY BOLD RISKS

Have you ever felt compelled to just do something, even though outwardly it didn’t look like all the pieces aligned? Yet, there was this little voice inside that kept urging you forward in a new and uncharted direction.
Not only that, there was this enthusiastic sensation and bubbling excitement that somehow you just knew you were going to discover something extraordinary!

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With every year that passes, I somehow become more and more adventurous. I don’t mean this in the inexperienced way I did things in my early years.
I describe it now as, ‘If I don’t try it now, then WHEN’?

I can still hear my Babcia, (my Polish Grandmother), telling me to try everything when you are young enough to enjoy and experience it fully. Don’t wait until old age has set in, you won’t know how to do it then!

For me, this is the BEST advice I have ever received!

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Let me start with the way I dress. Years ago, I don’t honestly know that I ever wore red, let alone something with as bold a pattern and print as this dress. Yet, this has undoubtedly become one of my all time favorite dresses.

I hope you are hearing this Valerie!

I can remember the first time I put it on at Chateau Bel Age. As I looked at myself in the mirror I thought this is AWESOME, but I’ll never wear it out anywhere. Then the day came, I actually did wear it to an afternoon event and together the dress and I stopped traffic!!

That was a clear and defining moment about allowing myself to open up my mind to the infinite potentialities of flowing with CHANGE. I had understood this notion academically, but I had never really experienced the tangible outcome.

And all because of this Red Dress!

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Add an extremely unique shoe and well, you get the point!
AUDACIOUS!

Now, how does this translate into how we create our everyday living situations? For me, it is about learning something new and different every chance I get and surrounding myself with people who have things to teach me!

My excitement levels amp up when I am pursuing a motivating form of expression; some examples of things I’m working on right now are the art of Origami, creating a travel scrapbook of my recent trip in the forests of Toscana, and I am always striving to achieve something purely magical in my kitchen!

These types of activities keep my imagination burning brightly and afford me the opportunity to keep my creative self in focus. When all of these things are effectively brought together, it gives me a positive outlet for all the artistry and creativity that is always bubbling inside of me.

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Being on Instagram and writing this Blog have proven to be such a great creative outlet for me. The friends alone that I have made have been worth the time and effort to learn how to navigate these technology platforms.
I cannot tell you how much I love having the whole WORLD at my fingertips!!

Karen @ksdmv86
Marcia @hipster2365
JennaferGrace @jennafergracious

I have met some of the most inspiring and wonderful women along this path of life. I have reconnected with girlfriends from high school. I have opened up to new friends along the way and nurtured long-standing friendships that I made over 30 years ago, when I first arrived in California.
This has all happened and MORE, because of the social media way of life!

All of these amazing women, Elizabeth @antiquegoddess, Valerie @chateaubeage, JennaferGrace @jennafergracious, Marcia @hipster2365, Karen @ksdvm86, Toni @antoinetteclaypool, Michala @coutureskeletons, Drea @gold_n_garbage are smart, sexy, free thinking souls who inspire me to be more everyday.

Drea @gold_n_garbage
Valerie @chateaubelage
Drea @gold_n_garbage

AUDACIOUS

becomes another way of describing the love and encouragement we receive from those who surround us the closest.

Elizabeth @antiquegoddess
Toni @antoinenetteclaypool
Michala @coutureskeletons

And then there’s these two beauties!!

Just about the time that I need an extra little push, they are both there to encourage me, to laugh with me (and at me), and to let me know that there is no time like the present to get on with living my life without looking back.

That will be a whole future blog post at some point!

May God Bless them Both!!
(And I hope He can keep up with all of their shenanigans!)

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All over Italy, it is Carnevale Season!

In the Spirit of this celebration, which allows for putting aside everyday routines, donning elaborate costumes and masks, and indulging in the consumption of decadent foods and drinks, I am sharing my favorite Carnevale dessert!

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Migliaccio Napoletano

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • peel of 1 lemon
  • peel of 1 orange
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 2/3 cups fine semolina
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 14 oz whole milk ricotta
  • 2 Tbsp Limoncello
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • confectioners sugar, for dusting

Method:

  1. Put the milk, water, butter, lemon and orange peels in a pot, bring to a boil.
  2. Remove the citrus peels and slowly whisk in the semolina. Continuously whisk.
  3. Cook the semolina over medium heat for 10 minutes. (Keep stirring). If you get any lumps, use a stick blender to remove them. Pull off the heat and let cool a little.
  4. In the meantime, whisk the eggs with the sugar. Add the ricotta, vanilla and lemon extracts, and Limoncello. Whisk well.
  5. Add the lukewarm semolina to the ricotta mixture and whisk to combine. Again, use a stick blender to remove any final lumps.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased 9inch round springform pan.
  7. Bake in a preheated 350F degree oven for 55-60 minutes. It will be wobbly, like a cheesecake. Do not let it brown too much. Cover with an aluminum foil shield, if necessary.
  8. Let it cool to room temperature. Unmold, dust with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.
  9. Serves 16

I believe there exists a little of the AUDACIOUS in all of us.
I wonder what does yours look like to you?

Next week I will conclude this little series of

Season of Carnevale

with one last decadent dessert and few wonderful surprises, of course!

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The month of February conjures images of cold and brightly lit days, also stormy weather and snow, many cozy nights sitting in front of the fireplace, and of course, hearts and chocolates. It suggests the richness of winter life in the days before the Lenten reflection period.

Here in San Diego, where there is a subtlety to the seasons, winter can be warm and dry one day, and completely wet with a deluge of rain, the next. This winter has been very dry, so far.

The patterns and textures that the winter shadows cast are rich with colors and a vibrancy from the rising sun’s rays. There is an intensity to the dancing waves on the mighty Pacific.

Winter looks a little different here in San Diego, but it is winter nonetheless.


Having grown up in the Northeast in Upstate New York, nothing says winter more than bundled layers of clothing, scarves and boots.
My favorite way to dress at this time of year, here in San Diego, is with richly embroidered sweaters, textured scarves and headbands.
One could say that this is the style of my inner GYPSY!

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Textures and patterns are everywhere around me and on me! I adore a warm and rich color palette.

At this time of year, I thought it would be fun to explore Carnevale Season! As with every good celebration, there are many exciting things to look forward to and prepare for.
Carnevale has different meanings depending on where the celebrations are taking place. Loosely defined, it is the time of year to eat and drink with pleasure, knowing that the introspective quietness of the days before Easter are soon upon us.
In some cases, it is also recognized as the time the Earth begins to show signs of its rebirth.

As many know, I love to be outside. It is there that I find my inspirations and grounding.
You never know what will be waiting for you with each step forward.

This rock formation is a daily work in progress.

I wish I knew who originally created this. What I do know is that every time I walk in my nearby canyon, I stop to add to its artistry.

There have been times when the rain has washed away many of the stones, and I have also seen it completely overridden with weeds.

I like to think that all the canyon walkers make a little effort to keep the LOVE alive on the hike.

As with all good celebrations, there are infinite ways to make things special. I’d like to share my Grandmother’s simple, yet favorite specialty for Carnevale.

My grandmother was a first generation Italian, whose immigrant parents came from the small city of Sulmona, in the Abruzzo region of Italy. There are many treasured recipes that I have because of Lizette, (her nickname for Elizabeth).

From Christmas through Shrove Tuesday, Pizzelles were always to be found wrapped in wax paper in a Denby’s box out in the garage atop a utility cabinet. For those not familiar with Troy, New York, Denby’s was the department store to shop at!

Why the garage?


Simply put, during the winters in Upstate New York, the garage was used as an additional refrigerator!

Classic Pizzelles

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 Tblsp anise extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted, melted
  • 1/2 organic shortening, melted
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of sea salt, to taste

Equipment: Pizzelle Baker

Method:

  • Beat eggs, adding sugar gradually until smooth
  • Add cooled melted butter and shortening, anise and vanilla, stir until smooth
  • Sift flour and baking powder, blend into egg mixture until smooth. Dough will be sticky.
  • Drop by spoonfuls onto preheated Pizzelle Baker. (I use two regular teaspoons to make the drop)
  • Close baker and cook for 20-30 seconds.
  • Remove pizzelles and continue method with all remaining batter. Makes about 60.
  • (Variations: add 1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts and dust with powdered sugar)
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Finding reasons to celebrate Life’s wondrous moments adds so many beautiful things to our lives in so many ways. Layer upon layer, rich with colors and textures, we can create an intricate tapestry to the way we participate in everyday life.

With Valentine’s Day upon us this weekend, I hope you will take a moment to pause and see the richness of life in the littlest of moments. It is truly in those magical things that we can all connect and see a more beautiful World bloom.

Find a way that suits just you to Celebrate the Winter Season and all the Love it holds. Whether you take a minute to breathe deeply, get outside for a brisk walk, take an exercise class, bake a chocolate cake, watch a sunset, dream of the summer evenings to come, just take a little time to fill your heart with JOY.

I will be continuing this series of Carnevale Season throughout the month of February. There will be more amazingly delicious recipes and creatively, beautiful ways to dress up the chill of Winter.

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January has been a very productive month here at my house.

I have systematically purged and cleaned every room. Furniture has been moved, deep corners of every closet have been cleared. Bags have been filled with clothing and usable household items.
Donations are Ready!

There is a new start to the Year here.

YES!!!

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Wardrobe Inspiration @chateaubelage on Instagram

Many of us enter into the New Year with lists of resolutions and inspired challenges to change the habits of old. For me, this has never worked successfully. What does work is a routine of cleaning up everything from nutrition to my household environment.

I like the quiet of January.

There is a peacefulness and calm that emanates from the days after Christmas. I like to think of this time of year as shedding all unnecessary things, and creating space for all the new energy of the year to enter.

I like to sweep the house of stale air and open ALL the windows regularly. I follow this up with smudging my house with white sage and burning candles. This clears out everything from airborne bacteria to heavy energy.

If I’m going to clean house, I want to do it RIGHT!

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For me, there is something very therapeutic and calming about a deep clean like this every few months. I like the feeling of satisfaction it gives me, along with the knowledge that unnecessary stuff is not accumulating in piles.

A high level of wellbeing creates so much positivity physically, mentally and spiritually. A sense of accomplishment and personal fulfillment brings forth meaningful emotions and the notion that

“Life Is Beautiful”!

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“As the shadow follows the body, as we think, so we become.” Buddha

Likewise, “We are what we eat.”

I am completing my little series of anti inflammatory foods with my favorite recipe for a Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa. Many years ago, when I first moved to San Diego, I fell in love with the fresh vegetables, citrus and herbs that are so readily found in all the markets. I designed this recipe around my love for the sweetness of roasted corn and the spicy heat of fresh jalapeños.

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 3 ears of corn, not shucked
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, diced small
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced, all white part and half green part
  • 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 2-3 jalapeño peppers, finely diced
  • 2 fresh cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 Tablespoons cumin
  • 3 fresh limes, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon raw unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 2-3 dashes of Tabasco Sauce, or to taste

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 425 F or preheat gas grill to medium high.
  • Place corn on a baking tray, if using oven. If using grill, place the corn right on the hot racks. Roast corn, turning every 5 minutes, for 20 minutes. Remove the corn from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Likewise, remove the corn from the grill and place on a dish allowing it to cool.
  • In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients.
  • Shuck corn and cut kernels away from the cob. Add to bowl.
  • Mix thoroughly and adjust seasonings to taste.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Serve with good quality tortilla chips along side fresh guacamole.
  • Use as an accompaniment to grilled fish and shrimp tacos.
Early morning sunrise with Leo

Simplify your life and make time for the things that really matter. Give your kids an extra long hug. Tell them repeatedly how much they are valued and loved. Chase the early morning light and watch the sunrise as you welcome a New Day!

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My life has been changing for quite sometime now.
Where once I was the woman who handled everything centered around the home and my family, I am now embarking in a direction that gives me the freedom to delve deep into my soul’s desires and create my life anew.

Wow! Many would say this is so cool! Many might also think to themselves quietly,
‘I don’t know if I could summon the courage to change my life this way.’

Well, believe me, this is the conversation that I have with myself every single day!

I adore Lara Fabian.
She is an amazing singer from a Belgian and Sicilian background. If you have never heard her gifted voice, I hope you will take a moment to find her on YouTube.
“Growing Wings” by Lara Fabian is music that truly touches my heart.
It asks of me that I reach out a little farther and love deeper.

The words and feelings in this piece have inspired me on my journey. It is because of the notion of taking a Leap of Faith, whether literally or figuratively, that I have been able to dig deep into my heart-space, imagine it expanding and create MORE!

I have always believed that if I could just open up my heart a little more each day, somehow everything else would fall into place.

This is a crazy notion, certainly!

It is INTANGIBLE and almost IMPERCEPTIBLE in all things logical and real.

Yet, somehow this is exactly what is happening everyday in every area of my LIFE!

I’ve never been very good at small talk.

I want to know what matters to people.
I want to hear and to see people’s stories come to life through heart felt conversations. I think this era of Internet conversation and Social Media interaction is AMAZING. Yet, it is also a shield from having to expose the most human and vulnerable parts of ourselves.


This platform has also allowed me to HEAL.

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Wardrobe inspired by Chateau Bel Age

When I think back to just a few short years ago, I realize quite honestly, that I was very unhealthy. For me, it was a triad of emotional, physical and spiritual disease that had stolen away my vibrancy for LIFE.
It has been a journey of many, many little steps to rediscover and get to know myself again, from the inside out.

You might be asking why it is that I’m sharing this?

I believe there comes a crossroad in everyone’s life.
We decide to stay the course or we don’t. We seek the shelter of the familiar paths or we choose the Road Less Travelled.


Regardless of the choice we make, I knew for me, I was going to learn to listen to that small, quiet voice within me and hear the call of my heart!

Sunrise on the Pacific

I allowed my Life to get shaken up.
I started seeking the things that only Nature and something far Greater than me could impart into my life.
I chose Solitude.
I chose to learn how to heal myself.

Definitely a Road Less Travelled

I began with changing my exercise routine and nutritional habits. Where once I could be found regularly at the gym and yoga studio, the outdoors soon became my favorite workout spot. Living in Southern California gives me amazing options for being with Nature.
From Mountains to Sea all in a day’s journey!

Simultaneously, I tackled my nutritional diet. I always thought I was a fairly healthy cook and eater. What I really didn’t take into account was how over time Life just changes. What I could get away with in my 20’s wasn’t working the same way for me as I hit stride in my 50’s. I adopted a more Farm to Table approach on how food ended up in my home and on my weekly menus.

Spicy Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Collard Greens

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils, washed and picked over
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and sliced into thin strips (any bunch of greens of choice will work)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 4 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for drizzling when served
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 inch knob of fresh ginger, crushed a little with the back of a large knife to release juices
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes or 1 fresh serrano chili broken
  • sprigs of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

  • In a large heavy bottomed stock pot, heat olive oil on medium. Sauté onion, carrots and celery for approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 3 minutes.
  • Add collard greens and sweet potatoes to the pot and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. To the pot, add turmeric, fresh ginger, chili flakes, rosemary, sage and thyme. Adjust seasonings with sea salt and black pepper.
  • Add lentils and sauté for a few more minutes until everything becomes fragrant.
  • Pour chicken stock over vegetables and lentils, bring to a slow boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot.
  • Slowly simmer for 40-45 minutes or until the lentils become soft.
  • Serve with crusty whole grain bread

The majority of ingredients in this preparation are naturally detoxifying while being incredibly delicious. By slowly layering the vegetables, it builds depth of flavor and a delightful aroma while cooking. My main focus when I’m cooking simply like this is to extract as much flavor as I can from the ingredients on hand, without the use of excess salt.

Growing Wings

A few of my closest friends have witnessed my transformation and have given me such amazing support along the way. As they have inspired me, I too, have returned the inspiration in kind.

Taking a Leap of Faith, growing wings on the way down, gently to touch the ground.

And continue on the Journey.

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As 2020 begins, I must say say that for me, it brings with it a wonderful feeling of calm. For some reason, already I am in the process of just getting things done. There doesn’t seem to be a hectic schedule to adhere to, nor a list of daunting projects that need to meet a specific timetable. There is however, a feeling that with a little focus all things can be savored, accomplished, and enjoyed!

I think this is what is called being present in the moment.

As I sit here writing in the early morning hours, I am setting my intentions for the day and the New Year before me. I hope to be able to share my innate love of cooking, the inspiration I see in everyday living, and all the wonderful experiences and challenges along the way.


This is what I call ‘A Life Well Lived’!

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The Summit of Monte Folgorito

As I begin the journey into the New Year, I carry with me beautiful and life changing memories from the past year.


I have always loved long walks in the outdoors.

From an early age, I clamored to be outside from dawn until dusk. Not much of this has changed over the years, except that I now cherish the infinite connection I have with Nature. I await the sunrise with the fervor and excitement of a small girl and I chase the sunsets with heart stopping passion.

What I love the most about this photo of me at the summit of Monte Folgorito, Alpi Apuane, Toscana, is the reminder of what it took for me to get there. This was a three year journey of the heart, body and soul. I stood there with my arms raised to the heavens and my heart space wide open.

I know most certainly that I was touched by something far greater than me atop this mountain.

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If ever there is a way to get to know your authentic self, take a leap of faith and see where it takes you. For me, I found out that most of my fears were nothing more than cobwebs of old habits clouding my heart. Here in the woods of Tuscany, I cleared away all of my unnecessary anxieties and thoughts. During the 28 days I spent in the woods, I rediscovered me!

“Everyone slips and falls in the woods”,
I was told!


This metaphor for life is so true.

(Although admittedly, there were a couple of occasions that the mud stains on my backside proved this statement verily true!)

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Morning Sunrise Walks

A few times a week, I am up before the sun rises. Leo, my 8 year old Australian Shepherd, and I greet the sunrise on these long walks. While the rest of the world is still warm and slumbering, we are patiently watching the kaleidoscope of colors come to life around us.

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Sunrise and Leo

While there is silence all around, there is also a palpable energy that begins awaken everything!

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Leo
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As I lovingly put away all of my Christmas decorations, I am very appreciative of the opportunities that have already begun to present themselves this New Year! I have been going through each room in my house cleaning and purging the things that are no longer in use. There is something very liberating about letting go of things that no longer serve a purpose and have been all used up. This certainly makes room for new energy to enter where once things were stagnant!


After all the celebrations and merry making of the Christmas Season, I am ready to clean up my nutritional habits as well! It is no secret that coming from an Italian and Polish cultural background, there are infinite holiday traditions that center around food, delicious desserts and even homemade liqueurs! And the hardest thing for me after the Season is over is to let go of all the addictive sugars!


One of the best ways I know to start cleaning up my diet is to make a what I call my Anti Inflammatory Salad. This salad incorporates many detoxifying raw vegetables along with a good amount of raw garlic and lots of lemon juice.

Anti Inflammatory Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head Romaine lettuce, cut or torn into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed, dried and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 head celery, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 3 small Persian cucumbers, sliced thin
  • 1 heirloom tomato, diced into bite sized pieces
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese *(optional)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • fine sea salt, to taste

Method:

In a large salad bowl, (I love to use my well seasoned wooden bowl), layer the first 7 ingredients. In a small mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients, and whisk together. Pour dressing over salad and toss thoroughly. Makes 8 servings.

I know that after just a few days of eliminating sugars and glutens from my diet that my energy levels increase. I also feel less joint stiffness and inflammation. So, this January I have been making a real effort to eat ‘clean’. I incorporate lots of water, lean proteins, and vegetables.

It is not always easy to walk away from all the decadent and delicious holiday foods! I’ll leave you with a little saying that I tell myself:

‘I can eat anything I want, I just choose not to it eat right now’!

Here we are at the start of the New Year! I am making room for many new things to come. By cleaning house and by cleaning up my diet, I am creating a solid fresh start to this beautiful New Year!
“ There is only one kind of success: to make your Life what You Want!”


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