The tremors began on the couch.

Shannon and I were leisurely thumbing our way through an Hawaiian tour book, making lists of potential activities for the trip we had just booked.

“Swimming with dolphins sounds like fun.”  We wrote it down.

“Let’s go to the volcano!” More notes.

“How about skydiving?”


Dry mouth.


I clasped my hands together so that he would not see them shake violently.

“Sure.” I replied, nodding robotically.  “Sure.  Sure.”

“You okay honey?  You look a little pale.”  Shannon got up to get me a glass of water and I tried to calm myself down.

I think skydiving is one of those things that everyone considers for at least a moment or two.  It’s a thrill that you might feel 100% capable of or interested in when you’re sitting, say, at a bar or a restaurant in the middle of New York City in the dark depth of winter.  But here it was on the table for real. 

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joshua_main.jpgDo you remember Mrs. Gooch’s health food stores? Opened in West Los  Angeles in 1977, Sandy Gooch’s markets served Southern California hazard-free food until Whole Foods acquired it in 1993. If you remember it fondly, you’re ripe for the picking. And let’s face it, if you’re reading this you know its time for an escape. Religious experience or not, the desert is dialing your exhausted and stressed number. Life can take its toll, especially for those who spend a great portion of their day trudging through traffic under the constant sun of Los Angeles, California. It’s only human to reconnect with nature by departing the idiosyncratic superficialities that surround you: billboards demanding you lose weight, drink specific liquor, or watch the latest blockbuster that diminishes your intelligence. Let a Midwesterner tell you weeks of nothing but vitamin D infused blue skies can cause disenchantment!

The cure? Hop in a Prius for a three hour, fifteen dollar trip to California’s most nouveaux-riche desert ala Joshua Tree. Exodus from your car in Palm Springs for the best smoothie this side of the Mojave. Hadley’s Date Shake, infamous for its delectable dates has an ample selection of nuts, dried fruit, gifts, and photos of your favorite celebs that have tasted Hadley’s desert nectar. Dates+bananas+ice cream = dessert oasis.

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ImageWalking at a brisk pace down the narrow roads of Florence, on my final night in the city before leaving for Rome, I found myself skipping the turn to my apartment, for something much more appetizing than a healthy amount of sleep – in fact something much more unhealthy—a croissant filled with chocolate.

But shh…it’s a secret, and no one is supposed to know.

The secret that I speak of is that of the secret bakeries that fill the back alleyways of Florence, Italy. But to learn of the secret locations, you need not read about them, seek them out, or stumble upon them. No, it takes something much more simpler than this to learn of the secret bakery locations – your nose, and not a very strong one at that.

Walking at a brisk pace down the narrow roads of Florence, at a distance of four blocks away, the smell of fresh bread, pizza, and chocolate lurked through the streets like a night prowler searching for it’s prey. Like a textbook kidnapping, the bakery smell took my ability to make a conscious decision to go straight home.

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mother_children.jpgWhat does traditional Southern cooking, and traditional Jewish cooking have in common.  One word.  BEIGE!

I was in the Great Smokey Mountains over the weekend, visiting the part of my family who settled there many years ago.  My sister-in-law is a world-class cook, so I knew I was in for some yummy home cooking.  I rarely taste home cooking any more.  It's just me at home.  And I've taken to referring to my kitchen as that room with all the white stuff that I used to be in all the time.

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haynesbook.jpgA couple of nights before we left for Paris my sister came to my house for dinner and told me she heard a story on NPR about this man in Paris that invites guests for dinner every Sunday evening at his house. “Do you want to go, sounds interesting, don’t you think?” This did sound interesting, it could be very interesting or not, but either way it surely would be an experience. Jim requested that anyone that wants to come to his house send him an e-mail and tell something about yourself, pressure was on to say something short and creative to get his attention. Waking up in the morning I opened up my e-mail and there was a response from Jim. He said that there was a waiting list for the Sunday night dinner which he added us to and we should call him at noon on Sunday to see if anyone had cancel making room for us. He also invited us for a glass of wine sometime during the week if we had time. I guess the e-mail sparked his interest.

I called exactly at noon on Sunday, Jim answered and said we were on, and he looked forward to meeting us at 8. After riding 3 different lines on the Paris Metro we arrive following his directions, taking a left and going 30 steps, then a right 11 steps, well, you get the idea, we arrived at the large green gates. He had given us the code to punch in which we did and the the gates opened to a long, very dark, crushed stone walkway. We continued with our directions in hand illuminated with our cell phone, we found his door. We were early, miscalculating how long the trip would take but decided that he probably could use some help, there were 60 people coming.

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