Monday, December 31, 2012

Peaceful New Year

Although I'm pretty indifferent about Brad Pitt, I love what he says about happiness:

"“This idea of perpetual happiness is crazy and overrated, because those dark moments fuel you for the next bright moments; each one helps you appreciate the other.”

And This:

“I think happiness is overrated, truthfully. I do. I think sometimes you’re happy, sometimes you’re not. There’s too much pressure to be happy. I don’t know. I don’t really give a s–t. I know I will be at times and I know I won’t be at times. Satisfied, at peace, those would be more goals for myself.”

So here we have another New Year's Eve with that pressure to be happy. To get dressed up, go to a swanky party, spend too much money, drink too much booze, eat too much unhealthy food, and wake up on New Year's Day feeling miserable.

I'd prefer to spend my New Year's Eve Brad's way, peaceful—quietly reflecting the events of the past year and contemplating what my aspirations are for 2013. Wake up feeling refreshed. Maybe write some, ski some (so much beautiful, fresh snow surrounding me), touch base with people I love, tell my husband he's the best (because he really is).

Will I be happy all of 2013? Highly doubtful. Will I be at peace, as I strive to be honest with myself and others; try to do the right thing; give whenever the opportunity arises; follow my dreams; help where I can; be grateful always for my amazing life. If I make those aspirations reality, even during times of unhappiness, I will have peace because I am living by my ideals.

So instead of saying "Happy New Year" I'm going with, "Peaceful New Year."   

May You Find Peace. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Writer Kicks Back

Hi Kick Back Friends,


I'm changing the format of Kick Back Moments for the next few months. Instead of a once a week intricate piece, I'm switching to more frequent shorter posts. I'm half way through the first draft of my second novel and really want to focus on completing it within three months (hold your applause: half way through the first draft of a novel means 1.5 years to publication, if you're on the fast track). In order to make that happen, I need to cut corners in my day to day schedule.

When you drop by Kick Back Moments from now on, you may find an awesome video, a kind act I observed, a peaceful moment I experienced, a knock out book I read, something that made me laugh out loud, something that made me simply smile, photos, quotes, etc.—anything that makes us forget the stress of our days and helps us take a moment just to kick back.

I also hope you share your own kick back moments in the comment section. Better yet, if you come across a quote, book, video, experience that you would like to share on this blog, please e-mail me at I'd love to hear from you.

So, today's kick back moment:

The other night I was watching the Kennedy Center Honors Ceremony as they paid tribute to the classic rock band, Led Zeppelin, on TV. For me, the finest moment came when Heart walked onto stage and performed Stairway to Heaven. Although their rendition of this masterpiece was extraordinary, what evoked the most emotion in me were the facial expressions of the composers, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. To sit back and know that you were responsible for a piece of art that many refer to as, "The greatest rock song ever written," must be amazing. So as you watch this magnificent performance, also pay attention to Jimmy and Robert's reaction. Beautiful!  



Sunday, December 23, 2012

Give Yourself a Santa Moment

Santa did us all a favor when he asked children around the world to leave him a plate of cookies and a glass of milk when he stopped by their house to deliver gifts. I mean there anything that provides more instant comfort and energy than a bite of baked sugar, butter, flour, eggs, vanilla, loaded with extras like bing cherries and chocolate chips? Just writing about cookies makes me smile. Yes, I am the same woman who wrote about the downside of sugar a few months ago, but we are in the midst of the holidays, and deserve a treat. Plus, anything Santa recommends can't be too bad.

I discovered a fantastic place to buy cookies this year, and I had to share it with you. Nestled in a church basement kitchen in Albany, NY, Linda Kindlon has made her dream of owning a bakery come true. Frustrated with working at jobs that weren't working for her, Linda decided to see if she could make a living doing what she loves most—baking. She found a church that was willing to rent out their kitchen, gathered the capital she needed, built a website, and started spreading the word about her original cookies. As most business ventures go, it took some time to attract loyal customers, but before long the buzz about her delicious edibles grew. Now, Linda often works ten to twelve hour days to fulfill orders—from individuals, businesses, coffee shops, health food stores, and her friends at local farmers' markets.

Linda baking for you! 

Linda has clearly become one of the most popular bakers in the capitol region of New York State. Her secret is to use only the finest of ingredients. She uses organic products whenever possible and believes in freshness so buys from local farmers. The result is absolute cookie art. When I brought a cannoli cookie, made with ricotta cheese, marscapone cheese, and crushed cannoli shells on top, home to my husband, Keith, he exclaimed, "That's the best cookie I've ever tasted." After he savored his treat, he immediately "liked" Linda's Facebook page.

Linda's son pours flour cultivated in Vermont into a bin

When asked why she enjoys baking so much, Linda said, she was raised in a "cooking" household so feels connected to the process; when she is baking alone in her kitchen the problems of the world seem to fade away; and she enjoys the creative side of baking. "If something tastes good, I try it out in a cookie," Linda says. That has included varieties such as, double chocolate and caramel and pumpkin, apple, and oatmeal. For the holidays, one of her offerings was small snowmen dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with peppermint.

My favorite is called, "Girls Best Friend"—a cookie baked with pretzels, chocolate, and potato chips—heavenly.

Linda's favorite: white chip craisin, and she currently gives away a dozen through a contest on her Facebook page every Wednesday.

White chip craisin cookie

So, regardless of your faith, this Christmas Eve, join Santa. Kick back, pour yourself a glass of milk and fix yourself a plateful of cookies. After the hectic holiday season, YOU deserve it!

Now for a scavenger hunt:
If you'd like to win a dozen of Bake For You cookies and a copy of my novel, A Stop in the Park, go to my Facebook page and simply "like" my most recent post:

You'll find a link to the Bake for You FB page there too!

A very merry Christmas to those who celebrate and many happy wishes to all who enjoy the season of giving.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Joy of Reading To Children

I don't get to read to kids any more. This realization struck me while I was waiting to meet with a fellow speech therapist in the school district where I work. Her room held at least one hundred children's books stored on shelves, in cubbies, and spread across tables. As an administrator now, I don't have the opportunity to dig deep into books with children and explore solutions to problems like ways the Little Critter could clean his room more efficiently and what Alexander could do so he wouldn't have another terrible, very bad day.

I also used to love reading to my sons. We'd go to the library each week and select at least twenty books. At home, we'd spread them out on the family room floor and settle on our couch. Max and Greg would take turns selecting the book they wanted me to read. There were times, we'd read all twenty books in one sitting. There were times, like with The Trouble With Trolls by Jan Brett, that I just keep reading the same story over and over at their urgent request of, "One more time, Mommy." I never minded. In fact, I welcomed the chance to make my voice a little more dramatic in certain scenes; the pausing between words a touch more effective.

While reminiscing as I stood waiting for the therapist to walk through the door, I noticed this book by Laura Vaccaro Seeger:

I'd never seen it before. There was a day when I was up to date with the latest and greatest children's books, but those days were over. Oh how I wished there was a group of children sitting at the table begging me to read the story aloud, but there wasn't. So I did the next best thing. I sat down, opened the book and read a riveting story in the middle of my work day.

What was the result?

A warm feeling accompanied by the memory of children's faces lighting up with emotion at  different scenarios  from an abundance of stories. At home later that day, I went into my basement and found this—a treasury of books that will eventually find their way to the the ears and eyes of a child again:

Here are just some of the benefits of reading to children listed on the website, Raise Smart Kids:
  •  Reading to your kid makes you bond with him/her, and gives your child a sense of intimacy and well-being.   
  • It calms your child, especially when he/she is fretful or restless.
  • It promotes increased communication between you and your child.
  • It builds listening skills and imagination.
Although I've never done a study, I'm pretty certain that if we switched the words kid/child to adult, the findings would be the same. Go back and try it.

What's your favorite children's story?

I have so many, but the one that just popped into my mind is The Mitten by Jan Brett.

Here's a special treat. The governor of New Jersey, Christopher Christie reading Twas the Night Before Christmas accompanied by the Boston Pops. No matter what your political or religious beliefs, you're sure to enjoy this.


Of course, it's a children's book. I'm going with a relatively new book by Linda Hales, Andy Roo. This is what Amazon has to say: 

"Andy-Roo is a young puppy who grew long legs and feet quite different from the other kids at the playground. This book tells his story, especially how he overcame his differences and became a popular player in little league games. Andy-Roo's experiences are captured in short picture stories that will appeal to the young reader in the 3-7 year age bracket. A moral is embedded in every tale that will not be lost on the young reader but will be remembered in context with Andy-Roo, the character. Most of all, his tales always make children smile!

Here's the Amazon link:


A seasonal story song: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sung by Destiny's Child. Nice lipstick, Beyonce!



Sunday, December 2, 2012

NYC For A Day!

Most of you know by now that my favorite place to kick back is in nature. It doesn't matter where—hiking on a mountain trail, sitting near a waterfall, watching clouds from my back porch, strolling along an ocean beach—as long as it is marked with the tag, "Made in Heaven," I immediately slow down when immersed in it.

But humans also deserve credit for creating some spectacular places to spend a carefree day. One of those places is New York City, especially around the holidays. Living only 150 miles from Manhattan Island, my sister and I took Mom down on the train for her 80th birthday. She has always wanted to see the Radio City Music Christmas Spectacular, so we thought it would be a great gift. Here are some moments that are worth sharing:

There's the dancing:

Flags at Rockefeller Center dance in synchrony
with some help from the wind.

         Salvation Army volunteers in NYC don't just stand still ringing a bell to collect money.
They put a dancing show!
Who needs the Olympics with these street performers around! 
And those amazing Rockettes! Better watch out Santa!
The window shopping is like nowhere else I've ever been:
Just ask your significant other for this 12-carat diamond ring showcased in the
window of Cartier. When he flinches, say, "Or those cowboy boots would be nice."
He'll be so relieved, they are sure to be yours.
Macy's Christmas window display never disappoints.

Entire stores are devoted to chocolate:
Lights everywhere...
 Chandelier at Radio City Music Hall
Part of the Rockefeller Center Display
The Famous Rockefeller Center Tree
A Live Nativity
And there's so much more. Nature is still my favorite place to kick back, but the vibe of a lively city is astounding. Here's to the brilliant minds who created these unbelievable sights and the talent that brought them to life. 
This one really made me smile. The Legendary Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin perform New York, New York from the 1944 musical and the 1949 MGM musical film On the Town. The music was written by Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. 

I am very sad to tell you that Kick Back Moments lost one of it's most loyal readers this past week. Sandra Humphrey, author of several moving books about character development and following dreams, died in a house fire along with her loving husband. Although I never met Sandra, she was such an inspiration. After retiring from her career as a clinical psychologist at the age of 55, she began writing and publishing books. Sandra was a strong positive force in my online writing support group, encouraging others to persevere with their writing and publishing aspirations. She supported all, and to be honest, I don't know where she found the time and energy to accomplish all that she did at the age of 76-years old. In honor of Sandra, this week's kick back book of the week is: 
They Stood Alone: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference—I know Sandra Humphrey certainly did. Please go to her website to learn more about this wonderful woman.    



 A candle lit for Sandra Humphrey at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, NYC