Tigelleria Ristorante in Historic Downtown Campbell: A Taste of Northern Italy with Friends

“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”—Federico Fellini

Cecile and I were invited to join our friends Nelson and Susan Bye for dinner at Tigelleria Ristorante located in historic downtown Campbell in a rust-colored stucco building with a tile roof that was decorated with stringed lights for the festive holiday season.

Tigelleria (pronounced tee-gel-leh-ria) is derived from the word Tigella (tea-jella), named after the tasty little circles of bread with a crispy crust and plump center that is made in a special cast iron pan called a tigelliera that is served with your meal. Its origin is Modena, Italy but can be found throughout Tuscany and Venice.
The restaurant’s creator is Venetian Elisabetta Benetollo. The dishes are made from traditional family recipes with her unique modern spin.
They are carefully crafted to highlight the fresh, natural taste of locally sourced organic foods as well as products direct from Italy. Many gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options available.

Cecile and I shared a delicious black kale salad tossed with lemon juice, honey & olive oil with mango, pine nuts and homemade goat & walnut cheese and a savory Garbanzo beans soup with a little kick of spice. For my entree I enjoyed a Spaghetti with Buffalo meatballs with olive oil and red chili flakes and garlic topped with fresh tomatoes. For dessert we all split a Pannacotta al pistachio with house made caramel sauce and a Merrigata: Delicious layers of crushed vanilla meringue cookies mixed with frozen whipping cream and dark chocolate.

Our friendly waiter was Jim and one of our food servers was Francesco whose tattoo saying on the back of his arms caught my eye (see photo) and I asked to see them. It read: “Too fast to live and too young to die.” Now that’s an existential statement if I ever heard one.

Back History:

Every year, the owner, Elisabetta travels to Bologna in Northern Italy to meet with friends from her University days, where they reminisce about old times and make a 2 1/2 mile pilgrimage to The Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, a basilica church (circa 1765) which is located atop the forested Monte della Guardia. On one of those trips Elisabetta's friends bought her a tigelliera pan made of cast iron. This gift would become the inspiration for a place she envisioned where people in the Bay Area could gather with friends over great food, wine and tigella—as we joyfully did.

Buon Appetito!

Magical Clouds at Play: Just Look Up!

When my mind is engrossed in thought, caught in a circular loop, I look up at the sky and the ever changing clouds remind me that it’s only temporary—everything changes.

These clouds that I photographed the last few days look deliciously moody and whimsical. Some look like watercolors. I see them as Nature’s entertainment for us humans—a return to the inner child. I have always been fascinated with the word “Anthropomorphism" which is anything non-human, such as an animal, object or nature that is given human qualities including emotions and actions. 

When you look back in time, our entire childhood was a giant stew of anthropomorphism. Take Mickey and Minnie Mouse and the entire cast of Disney characters. Myths and Fairy Tales use anthropomorphism to create stories in which animals and forces of nature are the main characters.

Poems can be anthropomorphic like the one below called:

Cloud 9 by χαρμολύπη (Greek poet)

Have you ever paid attention to the sky?
I sure have, every car ride, every walk outside
every time I’m sad I look to the clouds above.

The clouds have feelings,
they, just like us, get sad, angry, and frustrated at times, 
but they are kind to us down below,
they reward us with their beauty,

They are similar to us with one more thing,
they too, like most of us, have a best friend,
I bet they share secrets and stories right as they’re going to bed, behind the city skyline [and mountain tops] together they make the perfect team to bring smiles all around,
when the colors of the sun and the grace of the clouds bleed together, it puts our hearts at ease.
Next time, just look up!


A Feast of all Feasts: Celebrating Thanksgiving with the Chiens & Company

“If the only prayer you ever say in your life is thank you, it will be enough.”
—Meister Eckhart, 14th century Christian Mystic

The spirit of hospitality doesn’t begin in a restaurant or hotel, but begins at home, in everyday life. 
You just can’t turn hospitality on. It is something that comes from the heart. It is an intentional act of kindness, generosity, humility and gratitude that makes others feel like a treasured guest.
This is the experience Cecile and I have when invited for Thanksgiving by Kim and Al Chien.
There were 16 of us this year. Each of us brought a side dish and dessert. We each had drink and appetizers and settled in, greeting those we haven’t seen for some time.
The rain everyone was praying for finally arrived to clear out the toxic air that had hovered over the Bay Area from the Camp Fire in and around the lost community of Paradise.
We all felt grateful that we were spared the calamities of all those who perished in the fires and those who lost their homes. Though we enjoyed the bounty of delicious food and each other’s company, we did so without closing ourselves off to the collected emotional empathy we felt for all those who were suffering this tragic event.

We sat for a traditional meal of Roasted Turkey with Sage Dressing, Honey Baked Ham, Baked Potatoes, Candied Yams with Marshmallows, Sweet Potato Casserole,
Brussels Sprouts, Sticky Rice followed by French Apple, Pumpkin and Pecan Pies and Fall Cookies and more...

Afterwards, we relaxed, watched some football, and were entertained by Al’s brother Rich and Lisa’s daughter Alivia, and Michelle's husband Kyle doing some yoga poses. With all the food that I ate, I resisted the temptation. While we were impressed Kyle managed to do a tripod headstand, we were all in awe watching little, bendy Alivia, do a back bend from a standing position.

As we count our blessings, in a year that has been challenging for many both personally and on the international stage we joyfully await the birth of our first grandchild who is set to make her debut very soon.

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Photo: Al & Kim's dog Bailey with her brother in law, Mike.
Photo: Myself with Lisa's dad, and my man, Percy who is visiting from Massachusettes.

Our Beautiful Golden State is Burning: Turning to Poetry to Make Sense of it All

"The natural world is violent and dangerous as well as serene and benign."—Thomas Berry

I awoke the other day with my eyes burning and a queasy feeling in my stomach. Cecile wasn’t feeling none the better. We normally keep our sliding door on the second
floor of our town home open to get fresh air when we sleep.
The news hadn’t hit us yet about the two raging fires that were hitting both sides of the state.
In spite of the sour smelling air we took our son’s dog, Daisy for our usual early morning two-mile walk.
When we rounded the bend to the front of the Clubhouse of our gated community. 
I photographed the sun blazing through the back of the fronds of a tall, solitary majestic palm tree, giving it the appearance of being on fire. It had a mystical quality to it.

Later, we learned about the catastrophic Woolsey fire in and around Malibu that had engulfed Southern California.
As if that weren’t enough, we heard news of the Camp Fire in Northern California that consumed 80-90% of Paradise, located in Sierra Nevada Foothills, making it the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history.

It didn’t take long before the seasonal winds carried smoke-filled air from the raging fires to entire East Bay including Silicon Valley where we live.
Even those who were lucky enough to buy an N95 mask that filters soot from the air, health officials were still advising people against being outdoors.
Die-hard Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49er fans attended their respective games. The risk of exposure to poor air quality in the unhealthy range is that microscopic particles seep deep into our lungs and enter the bloodstream.

In times like these when a fire makes a mockery of the name Paradise, by unmercifully burning the small, residential town down to the ground, I turn to the solace and irony of poetry.

"California night. The Devil’s wind, the Santa Ana, blows-in 
from the east raging through the canyon like a drunk
screaming in a bar.
The air tastes like a stubbed-out cigarette. But why complain?
The weather’s fine as long as you don’t breathe.
Just lean back…lights turned out, windows shut against the [fire] storm and count your blessings...
Relentlessly the wind blows on. Next door catching a scent, the dogs begin to howl. Lean, furious, raw-eyed from the storm, packs of coyotes come down from the hills where there is nothing left to hunt.”
—a poem by Dana Gioia

Our hearts go out to all of those who lost their homes and loved ones during this horrific calamity and a deep sense of gratitude to the firefighters and other first responders who risked their lives.

Photo 1: I captured in front of clubhouse where we live.
Photo credit 2: Helicopter over blaze by a TV news team 
Photos: 3 & 4 were taken of vendors with masks at the Saratoga Farmer's market

A Veteran's Salute to my Late Dad & Uncles Who Served their Country & My Nephew Andrew Who is Carrying the torch for the Old Generation

"A veteran, whether in active duty, discharged, retired or in the reserves is someone who, at one point or another in his life wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America, and are deserving of our debt and gratitude"

Most of the photos of my late dad, Frank Augustine were taken in the rotunda, at the Justice Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City, NJ on April 15, 2014. They were photographed by my brother in law Joseph McAllister, a veteran of the United States Navy. I would like to also thank him and other family members including my late cousin Nick Girone, for their service as well as all veterans who have come and gone or are currently serving our country.

My sister Josephine and I were fortunate enough to be at our late father's side when he and 80 veterans received Military Service Medals Citation Certificates for their years of service. In addition, dad received a Proclamation from the office of the former Mayor of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer. 

Dad had followed the footsteps of my Uncle Joe and my Uncle Anthony Augustine and was stationed at San Antonio Texas (See B&W Photo). Dad served under the command of his mentor and friend, Army Chaplain Capt. William Walsh and served as his personal aide until September 15, 1938. His last stint was at Walter Reed Medical Center. 
The event was was a joint effort by the Hudson County Executive, Thomas A. De Gise, the Office of Veteran Affairs, and the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders. 

The photos of the handsome young man in the cockpit of a fighter jet is my nephew Andrew Augustine, a career Air Force veteran who is stationed in the Azores and is responsible for making sure these jets are battle ready. In early September he was promoted by the United States Air Force to Technical Sergeant for his exceptional performance, valor, fidelity and patriotism. He does the family and country proud. Thank you for your service Andrew! We are all proud of the man you have become.

Spotlight on Rosalio Vargas: The Personal Transformation of a Former Delinquent Graffiti Artist

“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.”—Jackson Pollock

When I walked into Cafe Vida at Bay Club Courtside to interview Rosalio Vargas, I found the young artist sitting in the corner working on his laptop. He wasn’t hard to find. This is a man who not only lives, eats, and breathes his art, he wears it as well. He discovered that his daily wardrobe could be both his canvas and his calling card and he has become a noticeable fixture around town. Heads turn when he passes by. Children look up at him with awe and amusement.

People compare Rosalio’s artistic style to that of the late Jackson Pollock, a major figure in the expressionist movement known for his unique style of "drip painting."
In contrast, Rosalio employs more of a splatter technique using only his glove-protected hand. To see him work is like watching an animated comic book superhero unleashing an explosion of colors. He is inspired by the ground breaking work of Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto, whose pioneering studies of water prove that thoughts and feelings can affect physical reality. Like a modern day mystic, Rosalio applies the primary component of this work—water-based acrylic paint—to infuse thoughts, prayers and good intentions into his paintings.

Rosalio also embraces the power of "Not Knowing,” or suspending the need to require an immediate solution of what to do next. No matter how counter-intuitive and uncomfortable it may feel, he trusts the process of allowing things to naturally evolve and new creations to emerge. He is motivated by a sense of community and collaboration rather than one of competition and rivalry. 

But alas, it hasn’t always been this way. Like many celebrities such as comedian and actor Jim Carrey, Vargas was extremely restless and disruptive as a child and like Carrey has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). His racing creative mind and intellect was met with resistance in the educational school system. 

My good friend, James Hunter, was Rosalio’s 5th grade teacher at Cherrywood Elementary. He told the San Jose Mercury News in 1996 about the challenges with working with kids with ADD or ADHD. He had volunteered to take Rosalio (aka RIchard) out of Special Day Class and mainstream him into his class. Having struggled with ADHD as a child himself, Hunter, an award-winning teacher empathized with Vargas, and was motivated to do everything he could to help the young Vargas succeed.

While trying to find his identity In his teenage years, and cope with his ADHD, Rosalio became a notorious spray painting graffiti artist that got him in serious trouble with the law. Vargas attributes his troubles to a rough and dark upbringing. "I was abused, bullied, robbed, manipulated and teased unmercifully,” he said. At some point, this eccentric visionary artist realized he was at a crossroads. He had a choice to make. He could either be at the effect of that abuse and reflect his dark, troubled history that nearly swallowed him up or; like the Buddha taught, he could become a "lamp unto himself." Luckily, he chose the latter. "My approach was simple, I could operate from my heart instead of my head and focus on the present instead of my past."

About 8 years ago Rosalio moved to the wide open spaces of Melbourne, Australia and began perfecting his contemporary and abstract work inspired by the female form where he quickly became a serious selling artist as his artistic creations were recognized by prestigious art gallery showings in Melbourne, Brisbane and San Francisco. 

Vargas wants his work to inspire and encourage people to think outside the box. He believes every person has a touch of genius in them and are capable of doing great things. “We are coded with extraordinary potential when we tap into our natural flow,” he said. Twenty-two years later, Rosalio and Mr. Hunter crossed paths again. When asked how he would describe his former 5th grade student, he said. “He is an extremely eccentric visionary who despite all obstacles persevered by focusing on his art and had the courage to be himself."

Toward the end of the interview I asked Rosalio if he had any final words for my readers and if he had any regrets about his harsh upbringing and his difficulties in school and this is what he said: “My artistry is not about ‘me,' it’s about 'we.’ He then clasped his hands together with fingers intertwined and added, “At the end of the day, it comes down to how does one inspire the collective, conjoined consciousness? Rather than think hey look at me, I’m the best, my intention is to use art as a vehicle to engage people in a collaborative effort rather than emphasizing my singularity. After all, we are all ONE. Yes, it’s true I come from a dark past, I was punished and abused as a child—at home and in school. But, without the dark, you can’t step into the light, and that’s me: Rosalio Vargas. Nice to meet you," he said as he placed his hands together in prayer position and added: "Namaste’ and thank you for taking the time! You are a great listener!

At the end of September, Rosalio was invited to demonstrate his artistry and showmanship at the Los Gatos Art & Wine Festival. With the music of a live quartet and Flamenco guitarist and dancer performing in the background, he began painting cars, one layer at a time. 
Before, during and after his performance art, Rosalio was the subject of a 15 minute interview by producer Mel Van Dusen about his philosophy of art. You can view it on youtube by selecting the first link below.


Remembering Mom—My First Love—on Her Birthday Who Would Have Been 93 Today

During a recent trip to my home town, Hoboken, NJ., my brother-in-law, Joseph McAllister took a photo of my younger sister Josephine and I standing arm-in-arm with are backs facing the New York City skyline. A few days later, we visited our mother Maria at the Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington where she shares a plot with our late dad Frank who passed away last December. 

We laid a floral bouquet at their tombstone. Mom was born on November 2, 1924 in a small fishing village of Roccalumera in the province of Messina of Sicily.
She came to the United in 1947. Three years later she gave birth to me—her fist child. She was very courageous. She gave up home and country to cross the ocean in search
of liberty and a better life and to meet my dad whom she only knew through a photograph sent with a letter from a matchmaker friend in the US.

She survived the carpet bombing and machine gun fire of US Army Air Corps in 1943 during World War ll as well as an electrical storm on a Merchant Marine Clipper
headed to Ellis Island. In the early years when I used to visit my ancestors I used to see the bullet holes in the stucco of my grandparents home.

I am proud of my Sicilian heritage. People get confused about the difference between Italians and Sicilians. Not all Italians are Sicilians but all Sicilians
are Italian. Apart from that, there is are no visible differences, though voicing such a thought could be perceived as fighting words to a Sicilian.
I have been blessed to have taken more than 15 trips to Sicily since the age of three.

Mom became a hard worker at a garment factory, or what was commonly called a sweat shop but later became a stay at home mom. She had a good heart. Her first thought was always to send care packages and money back to her native land to help her parents and siblings. She was protective of me, always kept a clean home and loved to cook. Her beauty caused most men’s heads to turn. She was popular with my friends.
She had a contagious laugh and a sharp wit and would not hesitate to give me a piece of her mind if I misbehaved. In later years, when I became successful in
my podiatry practice Cecile and I would take her and my younger brother Steve to visit the family in the old country. I used to love when Italian relatives and friends came to visit our home and spoke in their native tongue. In later years she loved to play bingo, she loved to walk, especially when we would fly her and dad out to California for visits where
she felt really peaceful. We loved to take walks together in the local or county parks. The topography and weather of Northern California reminded her of Sicily, which is one of the reasons I wanted to live in the Bay Area. We enjoyed taking her and dad on an Alaskan Cruise, to Mexico and multiple times to her and dad’s favorite island, Maui.

Though she has been gone five years last Mothers Day, she is always with me. She is the whisper of the wind, the rustling of the leaves on an autumn day. She is the smell of Italian foods. She is the fragrance of red roses we used to send her for Mother’s Day and her birthday, she is the cool hand on my forehead when I wasn’t feeling well as a child. She is the reassuring hug and soft voice when I was sad. She is the person who pushed me to continue my studies. 
She is the sound of the rain that lulls me to sleep. She is the laugh I hear in myself, the inherited fissure skin above my brow, the place in her womb that nurtured me, the walks in the park, the sound of Italian music or the tourist or passersby speaking my mother’s native tongue. She is my first love and my first friend and though we sometimes had words, nothing on earth will ever separate the fact that she is my mother for all eternity. Not time, space or death will keep us apart.

Buon Compleanno (Happy Birthday), mom and thank you for giving me this life to live!

Celebrating the Prequel to Halloween with Family on the East and West Coast

"Trick or Treat Yourself!"

The annual fall ritual of Halloween is upon us. This year I had the unique opportunity to enjoy the prequel to the holiday on both the East Coast and the West Coast.

During my recent visit to New Jersey, I accompanied my brother in law Joseph McAllister to pick up his granddaughter, Zaila—who happens to be my grand niece—at her school. She calls him “Pop Pop,” and she is the light of his life. While waiting for her school day to end, we walked into the basketball court that doubles as an auditorium and witnessed bigger than life inflatable creatures including a fire breathing Dragon.

Joe introduced me to a few teachers, some of whom were saying thank you Joe. It was then that I realized he had donated several of these inflatables for the Halloween costume party Zaila would attend later in the day with my niece and Godchild Selina. Afterwards, we joyfully watched Zaila join her classmates in participating in after school playtime. We then took photos with her in front of the Dragon which symbolizes protection, power, success, wisdom, loyalty, fearlessness and immense possibilities. 

People who know me, understand that I like to look under the hood to learn about the history of secular and religious holidays. I guess I inherited my curiosity from my late dad, Frank Augustine who enjoyed looking into the back history of what’s behind the holidays we generally take for granted, so here are some interesting factoids.

Back History: Several thousand years ago, long before Halloween became the holiday as we know it to be today, it marked the end of the summer festival that was known as Samhain. Ancient Celtic people honored the gods and goddesses of the autumn harvest season by holding a celebration. It was a time to pay homage to the gods of the harvest who people believed to be responsible for their bounty. These celebrations often included feasting, dancing and lighting large bonfires in which animal sacrifices were done to honor the gods. For many it was a time in which supernatural practices became a part of the annual festivities. Some believed that the end of the harvest created a window of opportunity for the souls of the dead to return to life and mingle with the living. Some of the local villages took safeguards to ensure their safety against potentially vengeful spirits. They created special lanterns with scary faces carved into the flesh of turnips that were used to light the way for the villages during Samhain festivities to ward off any evil spirits that may be out and about.

When Christianity first came onto to the scene in the European countries the missionaries realized that the Celtic-pagan folk were set in their ways and didn’t want to give up partying. In a brilliant PR coup, Pope Gregory lll came up with a method of getting the Celts to convert while still allowing them to hold on to their ancient traditions. This led to “All Saints Day or ‘Hallows' Day” which was sanctioned by the Catholic Church, whereby a day (November 1) was set aside to pray for all the Saints and martyrs and the souls of the newly deceased that would ensure their passage to heaven.

My brother-in-law, Joseph McAllister, was born on November 1st, and he will be the first to admit, that like me he ain’t no saint, but he is a generous soul. In one of our adventures abroad we shared the cost of purchasing Yankee baseball caps, harmonicas and soccer balls that he procured and we gave them out to the kids at a local school and on the streets of Havana Cuba in 2010 where Halloween is also joyfully celebrated.

Postscript: Most of these photos were taken in the neighborhood where we live by a very creative woman named Deborah who could qualify as a set designer for horror movies, a glass blown pumpkin exhibit at Stanford Mall in Palo Alto, Effie's restaurant, the farmer's market and other neighboring venues.

Celebrating the 80th Birthday of a True Renaissance Man—our Friend Elie Alcheck

Abraham Lincoln once said “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Our friend, Elie’s 80th surprise birthday party was held at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto at 6PM. Cecile and I were privileged to be among
the honored guests. As we emerged from the underground parking lot we could hear the soulful sound of a saxophone player echoing from the Center’s courtyard where cocktails, wine and appetizers were being served.
By 7:30 PM, we all got the word that Elie was on his way up with his wife Yael. Excitement and anticipation was in the air. “Surprise!” we all yelled out. Elie’s face registered shock, confusion and joy all at the same time. He was lovingly greeted by family and friends. As we walked through the doors into the ballroom, Eli’s Band was on stage ready to go (not to be confused with Elie).
The theme for the evening was travel. We had been given Passports with our names on the front and Cecile and I were assigned to the “France table.” There was a photo of Elie on the inside with the words: Elie and Yael think Paris is the most romantic city in Europe. 

It can be difficult to appeal to a multi-generational group of people, but Eli’s Band—Eli Buzglo Entertainment from LA had everybody on their feet with their incomparable high energy performance and music selections throughout the evening. They were one of the best live bands we’ve ever seen in these types of Life Cycle celebration venues. They are probably the only band out there who could keep up with Elie, our high octane octogenarian friend who puts all us guys 15 to 20 years younger to shame on the dance floor. As we poop out, he's just getting started. He indeed has always been the life of the party. The food and dessert were superb and if you didn’t have a great time, you had to be brain dead. This was an extraordinary celebration.

About Elie: No one would argue the point that Elie is a true Renaissance man. He is curious, creative, and a risk taking real estate entrepreneur. Throughout his career
he has displayed perseverance and self-discipline. He has a thirst for knowledge in many fields and always welcomes new, enriching experiences. He has shown excellence in intellectual, artistic, physical and social fields. He and his beloved wife Yael are patrons of the arts, supporters of their community, and have a deep love for opera and travel.

Elie’s parents were born in Salonica, Greece that is steeped in Sephardic culture, foods, songs and the Ladino language. Motivated by the desire to learn more about Jewish life and his family’s roots and their experience there, he, Yael and their family traveled there a year ago.

Born in Tel Aviv, in 1959 Elie ventured out to California to study nuclear chemistry at UC Berkeley, receiving his BS in 1963 and PhD from USC in 1968.
While attending Berkeley, Elie founded the Educational Student Exchange (ESEP), the largest charter flight operator for students in the USA until 1972.

After returning to the Bay Area from LA in 1969, Elie entered the field of land and property development and acquisition, which and his family are still currently involved in.
Elie carries with him the spirit of Zorba the Greek within his heart and soul, that teaches us to live each day, and enjoy life even when things don’t always go our way.

After listening to the loving speeches given by Yael, and his sons and daughters, and after blowing out the birthday candles he gave a speech that was both wise and loving as it pertained to embracing life as one matures. “By the time we reach 50," he's said, "there should be a cease and desist order placed on birthdays. After all, each of us is going to have one,” he added.

“As we mature, we may not be able to do the things we used to do. We may not accomplish all the tasks we set out for ourselves. We may no longer look how we used to.
But, I want to you to know that age is just a number. It requires some change in our activities, exercises, and eating habits (Elie is a confirmed Vegan). It requires visiting doctors more often.” That being said, he expressed profound gratitude for his beloved Yael, who has brought him blessings from the first time they met and has continued for 40 years. “Not only do we love each other, but we are best friends.” he added.

While Elie and Yael were in Greece a summer ago, he picked up a quote from Socrates who once said: “If you marry the perfect wife, you will become a happy person. If you marry
the wrong wife, you become a philosopher.” Apparently, Socrates had a sense of humor. But, he also taught that “an unexamined life is not worth living.”
The irony is that Elie “is” a philosopher, who was bestowed with a certificate of philosophy. As he once told a childhood friend he is very happy with his life. When he looked at a photograph when he was 18, he said to himself, “Hey! You’re the same person except life has enriched you with tremendous experiences, gave you a wonderful wife, blessed you with wonderful sons and daughters and phenomenal grandchildren and prosperity. You have lived the American Dream.”

When we do an inventory of our lives as the years fly by there is always a question of all questions we ask ourselves. If we had it to do over again, would we do anything different?
Elie, who was asked this question by a friend said: "Yes! That included his “successes, failures, and mistakes because they made him the man he is today. Calling upon his family to come to the front of the stage, he ended his speech with a Hebrew prayer to thank God for all the blessings he and his family have received and expressed gratitude to all who came near and far to help him celebrate another milestone in his life.

Elie, Cecile and I want to wish you Mazel Tov! May you live til 120. As you know it is a Jewish Blessing which in Hebrew is Biz Hundert un Tsvatsig. This is not intended to wish you the attainment of a particular numerical age, but that you should be blessed with the mental and physical faculties that come along with maturing in age. We wish this for you and your family.

Taking Daisy to the "Blessing of the Animals" Celebration at St. Andrews

“Our pets offer us unconditional love by accepting us just as we are every minute of each day.”

The Reverend Channing Smith invited me to attend the “Blessing of the Animals” Sunday service at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Saratoga, CA. This was my second year. Last year my attendance with Daisy, our son Jason’s dog was memorialized by an article that appeared in the Los Gatos Times Weekly and the Saratoga News.

The origin of the Blessings of the Animals dates back 800 years ago in honor of my namesake: St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Francis is my middle name, given to me at birth by my late parents Frank and Maria Augustine at my Baptism. St. Francis was the ultimate “animal whisperer.” He is mostly known for preaching to hundreds of birds and brokering a peace between a ferocious wolf who was terrorizing a small village. His sensitivity to all living things being a part of all Creation is reminicent of the Buddhist teachings of expressing loving kindness towards all sentient beings.

Outside the church, just before the service I bumped into Ann Waltonsmith, former mayor of Saratoga and her husband Rick who brought their two gentle donkeys, Betsy and Ike. Over the years my wife Cecile and I got to travel with Ann to Japan and China with a group from Hakone Gardens.

I got to pet and pose for pictures with Betsy who seemed more interested in taking a bite out of one of Daisy’s unused plastic poop bags.😎 Very much involved in our community Ann and Rick used to give children rides around and through the orchard during Saratoga’s Blossom Festival.

As Daisy and I made our way to the front of the church, a young woman looked smilingly toward me and Daisy with a hint of recognition. She said: “Daisy,” right? “Yes!” I answered. Her name is Danielle. We recollected that we first met at last year’s Blessing of the Animals. She is depicted here cuddling with her dog Rosy in the pew. Daisy and Rosy are both six years young, Chihuahua-mixed breed rescue dogs. I also reconnected with the folks at Kitten Cattitude Rescue, founder Adrienne (Addie) Jacques and volunteer Darelle whose non-profit organization I support.

Toward the end of this special Sunday Service, pet owner-companions were called up to the front of the altar to receive the traditional blessing in the spirit of St. Francis. When it was our turn the congenial Reverend Channing Smith gently placed his hand on Daisy’s little head while repeating a short prayer. 

Once again, I was amazed how curious and calm Daisy was in the midst of crowd of people and animals. As affectionate and loving as she can be, she can also be very skittish and feisty at times around people and dogs she doesn’t know. I was also surprised how relaxed and joyful I felt attending these events. As I’ve told family and friends, I have never witnessed a service in any tradition as joyful as this one. I could only conclude that the magic of St. Francis rubbed off on us. After all, as the story goes, animals and birds alike were susceptible to his great charm, love and gentle manner. He was their friend and protector.

Aside from the United States, ceremonial blessings of companion animals occur throughout the world including Australia, Canada, Scotland, and Spain. They are celebrated in some form or another in diverse religious communities including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Unitarian Universalism—to name a few. Secular communities that respect the rights and welfare of animals are acknowledged internationally around this time on World Animal Day.

More about St. Francis: The man who would be saint, was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone in 1181. Later, his father, a wealthy cloth merchant gave him the nickname, “Francesco” or Francis. Many of the stories and legends surrounding St. Francis deal with his love of animals, his caring for the natural world, his dedication to the poor and as a man of peace. He gave up a life of wealth and privilege to serve others. It was these same virtues that inspired Pope Francis to take his name.

Photo: Next to the last photo of Rev. Channing Smith taken in 2017 Blessing of the Animals

The Augustines: Just Published in the October Issue of Riconanda Hills Digest

by Cindy Gum & Connie Palladino

Dennis grew up in the tough, blue-collar town of Hoboken, New Jersey the birth place of Frank Sinatra which overlooks the NYC skyline in the 50s. Back in the day it was a cross between “West Side Story” and “On the Waterfront,” he said. Cecile grew up in the West Rogers Park in Chicago. They met at a student party while Dennis was attending the former Illinois College of Podiatric Medicine. Cecile was on a blind date that wasn’t going well. She shared her adventurous summer travels in Italy and he shared stories of his many trips to Sicily visiting relatives. In that instant a romantic flame was lit. 

Cecile taught 4th grade in the tough inner city of Chicago, where weapons checks were mandatory. “She had a sweet, gentle and kind demeanor,” Dennis said, “and it was no surprise that her students adored her,” he added.

The Augustine’s moved to San Jose, CA in 1975 where Dennis began practicing outpatient minimally invasive foot surgery in a converted ranch house near the public Rose Garden. Later the office was incorporated into the Park Avenue Foot Clinic. Cecile was the office manager and together they built one of the most successful operations of its kind in the country. They have two grown children, Jason, 37 and Michelle, 31, who is pregnant with their first grandchild.

The Augustine’s decided to downsize from their 5,000 square foot palatial estate in Saratoga, California, over three years ago. Like many people who wind up at RInconada Hills, they were tired of the upkeep and were looking to simplify their lives. “We love the tree-lined walking trails, the stunning one acre lake, ponds, waterfalls, wildlife and living in harmony with nature,” Dennis said.

The retired couple have been together for 46 years, are best friends and still very much in love. They have traveled all over the world. Earlier in the year they went to Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Last April, they took a week long riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Nashville with their friends and longtime residents of Rinconada Hills, Nelson and Susan Bye.

Aside from their love for travel, the Augustine’s are avid yoga enthusiasts. Dennis, a former yoga teacher received his teaching certification 18 years ago at “White Lotus” in Santa Barbara. He also attended three-week silent Mindfulness Meditation retreats at a Buddhist monastery outside Mandalay in Myanmar from 2005-2010.

A former watercolorist with the Saratoga Community of Painters and a former saxophone player with the Saratoga Community Band, Dennis’ current interests are focused on swimming, bicycling on his new electric assist bike, reading, and writing. His is the author of several published books including Invisible Means of Support: “A Transformational Journey” and “Gifts from Spirit, A Skeptics Path” that he wrote in the early 90s. The former, is a tribute to the late mythologist and scholar, Joseph Campbell who was known to encourage his students and readers to: “Follow Your Bliss.”

Newsletter Cover Photo: Courtesy of John Perry
Photo of Cecile & I taken in Bangkok during Ancient Kingdoms Tour with Overseas Adventure Travel 2018

Celebrating a Wedding of a Magician and his Bride at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas

“I can’t keep calm we are going to Vegas, Baby.”

Cecile and I attended the wedding ceremony for her cousin Charlene’s daughter, Julie Perkins and her beloved groom, Kevin Pernick in the Chapelle du Paradise at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. It was opulently appointed with tall columns, intricate gold leaf designs, crystal chandeliers and angelic cherubs depicted on a blue-sky ceiling. Though we were physically in Las Vegas, the bride and groom bursting at the seams with romance and good cheer were easily transported to Paris, the “City of Love,” and took their guests on their journey with them. One of the family members named Beck officiated the ceremony. I’m not much on destination weddings per se but Las Vegas is the exception as there is so much to do in the entertainment capital of the world.

I never saw a groom so happy to be married. “Thank you for marrying me," Kevin said to his lovely bride.” The couple met online six years ago at Barney’s Beanery in Pasadena, California, followed by a magic show at a theater in Los Feliz. By day, Kevin—whose stage name is Kdog—is a hearing officer for the IRS Appellate Court and by night he enjoys doing close up magic tricks at the Close up Gallery, at Magic Castle in Los Angeles. Kevin has rubbed shoulders with Shin Lim, the card magician act from Season 13 of America’s Got Talent who was the winner of the million dollar prize and the headline of a show in Las Vegas.

After having a drink at the Hexx bar, we made our way to the post nuptial reception that was held in a private dining room at Mon Ami Gabi, a classic French bistro and one of the most popular and beloved restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip. The food and service were beyond good and the entertainment for the evening was an Elvis impersonator who serenaded the married couple and guests with some of the great classics of the King of Rock and Roll.

Live in Las Vegas: Visiting the Enchanted Wonderland at the Bellagio Conservatory

“There is both whimsy and wisdom for those willing to look beneath the surface of the messaging of this amazing exhibit”

Each season, the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are transformed into a whimsical wonderland by the creative hard working botanical staff for people of all ages. Like everyone else who was there, Cecile and I were in complete awe of the intricate, distinctive, and stunning floral display. Ironically, even though it can be at tad congested at times—after all, it is Las Vegas we are talking about—it offers a rare oasis of tranquility and respite from the busyness of the strip and casinos.

In the South Bed, the Bellagio has brought back the Enchanted talking tree that greets guests as they walk in. Look a little closer and it appears that its' eyes are following you. In the North Bed, guests discover two stunning tigers that stand 10 feet tall with foxes nearby. It is a subliminal reference to the famous Chinese idiom, “A fox exploits a tiger’s might,” which is a tale of a fox about to be devoured by a tiger. The sly fox cons the tiger to follow him around to show the tiger what a big shot he is, and in so doing everyone runs away. Impressed, the tiger lets the fox live, never realizing people were fleeing from him, not the fox who had assumed the tiger’s majesty. Duh! 

However, the 2018 seasonal display, entitled “Falling Asleep,” featuring a bigger than life sleeping goddess in the West Bed, made of natural materials like hydrangeas and oak leaves, left us feeling awakened and transported into another realm as one would experience by watching a Harry Potter film. 

The exhibit as a whole was inspired by Demeter, the “Goddess of the Harvest" who was the most generous of the great Olympian goddesses in Greek Mythology. She was much beloved by her service to everyday people for teaching them how to grow, preserve and prepare the grain. She was seen as the nurturer of humankind. She empathized with the universal human experience of suffering and grief—as she experienced herself. It is a message to all of us to stand firm for what is good, decent and right, especially when we encounter adversity, when powerful and/or misguided forces conspire against us. Moreover, she also teaches us that even during times of great sorrow, we can experience great joy.

Postscript: the Harvest display runs through Nov. 24, 2018 and the popular holiday extravaganza runs from December 1 through January 6, 2019

Source: about the tiger adapted from the Category Archives: Bellagio Conservatory

Couples Baby Shower at Rinconada Hills & A Letter to Our Unborn Grandchild

It was so exciting seeing and helping some of Michelle and Kyle’s friends set up the intimate banquet room with decorations, photos, flowers and catered food.
It made the anticipation of having a grandchild all the more real. When Mary Roy, a dear friend and former patient of mine from Sacramento heard our daughter Michelle being pregnant and heard she was due to deliver the end of November, she wrote: “How beautiful, I’ve been wondering when you’d announce the most wonderful miracle and joyous experience of your senior years! Wow!!! Be ready to have the opportunity to be so close and participate in her development. It is so amazing. I can just imagine those little arms around your neck, what joy! Contratulations!

Letter to our Unborn Grandchild

It’s hard to believe that in 10 more weeks you will be here—a new life, a new baby—made of stardust. It is not too long ago your parents (our beloved Michelle and Kyle)
sent us some amazing images of you when your mom was at the doctor’s office. You were just the size of a raspberry. Later, your features began to appear. Seeing you, made us visualize your mom and dad and the family's joyful anticipation of your entrance into a new world. The excitement that you are almost here is almost
too much to take all in. But, give us a chance precious one. For where there is love there are no barriers. Your mom and dad wrote in my birthday card last month: “We can’t wait to watch you take on a new role as Grandpa to little ‘Baby Lewis.' She already loves you.” Of course it goes without saying that if your grandma Cecile is as good a grandparent as she was a mother, you are in for a special treat. Grandma is "kvelling" right now, which someday you will learn is derived from Yiddish, which means to be “delighted,” and “to gush or swell with joy.”

As I write these words, your grandmas and grandpas pray that you grow, develop and continue to be nurtured within the warm, watery wonder world that your mother’s body has created for you and is your current home. But, once you are born to the outer world you will see light and motion and make out images and soon begin to make eye contact with those who love you, and see color and hear sounds, like the singsong voice of your mommy and daddy, your grandmas and grandpas as they talk to you and sing you lullabies, and so much more. You will fill a space in the hearts that we didn’t know existed—PURE BLISS. We can’t wait dearest one.

Postscript: On this auspicious day it was also Michelle's other mom, Kim's birthday. Happy Birthday dearest Kim!🎂🍷🎈🍾♥️

Dinner at Capers & a Nostalgic Musical Review by the Bee Gees Gold Tribute Band

“We write songs about people and situations; we tell stories in our songs, but we don’t give sermons.” —The original Barry Gibb on songwriting

Our friends Sophie and Bernie Weinzimmer invited us and friends Steve and Susie Brenner to join them for dinner at Capers Restaurant, a casual American bistro. This was followed by a nostalgic performance by the Bee Gees Gold Tribute Band starring John Acosta as Barry Gibb, at the historic Heritage Theater presented by Frequency Entertainment. Considered the ultimate Tribute band, the International sensation who have toured around the world arrived here direct from Las Vegas, bringing the look of Barry, Robin and Maurice along with their incredible harmonies and legendary songs of the 60s and 70s.
The Bee Gees were the first Australian act to top the US charts in 1971 with "How You Mend a Broken Heart." 

Some of the top songs performed were “Staying Alive,” one of the modern day feel-good funky movie songs of all time that was written to celebrate surviving during tough times. And, “Night Fever” a strong disco single which was incorporated into the 1977 movie "Saturday Night Fever," re-kindling flashbacks of my fellow New Jerseyite, the incomparable John Travolta. The audience was engaged, dancing to the music that re-ignited forgotten memories of yesteryear and leaving everyone smiling and with sore hips.

Some trivia about the Original Bee Gees:
Maurice Gibb was a champion paintball player. Unfortunately he was a champion alcoholic whose marriage to Scottish pop star singer Lulu dissolved on the rocks of heavy drinking. He used to get hammered with Ringo Starr.

In 1967 Robin Gibb and his fiancé at the time survived Britain’s sixth worst train disaster. The original Barry Gibb, age 70 still performs on stage with his son. 

Photo credit of the original Bee Gees, the folk/rock/pop sensations: Chris Walter/Wireimage at the 1977 Music Awards

#beegeesgoldtribute #saturdaynightfever #barrygibb

My Encounter with a Majestic Deer in the Open Meadow at Rinconada Hills

It’s been said that if there is a race between a lion and a deer, the deer often wins because a lion runs for food and a deer runs for its’ life. Purpose is often more important than need.

Cecile and I were just beginning our early morning walk. She was trailing behind me with Jason’s dog Daisy.
Suddenly, I heard a loud rustling noise in the bushes far to my right, and the flash of a large animal appeared through the trees. It was a stag. Startled, It made a sharp turn across the road to the left. I could hear its hooves making contact with a long white catch basin as it clumsily tried to gain its footing. It rumbled across the terrain like a 350 pound thoroughbred then disappeared into the bush.

I walked further down the path hoping against hope to get another glimpse. After all, a deer sighting of this kind is not a common occurrence on this large tract of land where we live. Just as I was ready to give up, there it stood, out on the open meadow on my left, maybe 40 feet between us. It stared back at me, as if daring me to make the first move. It's elegant rack etched out against the back drop of the field and the trees like a king of the forest.

Time seemed to stand still. I retrieved my camera hoping to capture its image before it fled. I snapped a few shots.
By this time Cecile and Daisy had caught up to me and I pointed to this majestic creature. I had wished I had a greater zoom lens, worried that my iPhone camera wouldn’t capture its essence. Then, I told myself to relax, experiencing this moment in time with this beautiful creature is the “essence.” 

I felt like I was in a dream like state, watching something unfold that was surreal and imbued with some sort of meaning. In Buddhism, the deer symbolizes harmony, happiness, peace and longevity. If one were to look up the symbolic meaning behind “stag,” you’ll find repeatedly that the animal represents an in-between state, a world connecting dreams and wakefulness—the world of intuition. The antlers are like a crown, that grow beyond the body, bringing it closer to the sky revealing its sacredness. The fact that the antlers fall and grow again also makes the deer a symbol of regeneration.

Antlers are said to act as a spiritual antennae, urging us to be more mindful of our thoughts and perceptions and directing us to a higher state of awareness. In this faced paced world of technology it seems to be a message worth heeding.

Dinner & Reconnecting with Friends Overlooking our Tuscan-Style Stone Patio

"Good Food, Good Wine, Good Friends, and a Deep Sense of Gratitude, Life is much too short for anything less.”

I am convinced that nothing brings people closer together than food. Cecile, Jason and I enjoyed an intimate low-key dinner with friends, Jan and Gary this weekend. With all the prep work done earlier in the day, we all had plenty of quality time to spend together. We began with an assorted cheese plate including a creamy Brie and crackers with a rich and decadent organic sour cherry spread we had acquired at the farmer’s market earlier in the day. There we sat sipping wine out on our newish Tuscan stone patio overlooking the Romanesque fountain adorned with the head of a lion, two cherubs and our newly replanted garden. 

Jan and Gary share our love for travel. Like myself Gary is a bit of a raconteur (French: storytelling in an amusing way). I like to write stories and Gary loves to tell them.
He was born in the great state of Hawaii as evidenced by the Aloha shirt he was wearing. He loves local theater, art, golf, biking and socializing.
As he said: “Having an active network of good friends is a primary ingredient of a satisfying, healthy life.” Amen to that!

After the appetizers, I placed the fresh Salmon that Cecile had marinated and wrapped it in tin foil and placed it on the grill to steam while Gary and I walked around the lake of our gated community. This was his first time at our new downsized humble abode and the rustic walking trails Cecile and I have come to love.

Cecile had a fine meal waiting for us that included fresh heirloom tomatoes with Burrata Mozzarella cheese, fresh corn salad, sautéed green Padron peppers, rainbow potato roast, and teriyaki glazed Salmon.

In terms of libations, Jan and Gary made a generous contribution to the table: two bottles of wine, and a special belated birthday bottle of Sangiovese for me.

Jan was happily sporting a colorful scarf we gifted her for her really belated birthday. Time and circumstance had kept us apart for some time and we were savoring being together. 

For dessert we enjoyed a blueberry loaf, Lemon sorbet and Babka cake, that are common in the Eastern European Jewish tradition. You may recall the Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Elaine miss out on the last chocolate babka while at the bakery and had to settle on the cinnamon babka which Elaine considers a “lesser babka,” but Jerry begs to differ. We had no such conflict as we offered both cinnamon and chocolate to our guests and they were both yummy.

Celebrating Cecile's Beloved Cousin Joyce's 90th Birthday In Sacramento


Celebrating Cecile's Beloved Cousin Joyce's 90th Birthday In Sacramento

"Generosity is a practical expression of love.”—Gary Inrig

Labor Day weekend is not exactly the best time to travel to Sacramento or anywhere for that matter, but when we were invited to join in the celebration of Cecile’s cousin Joyce Berger’s 90th birthday celebration, we were all in. We have so much respect and love for Joyce, we wanted to be a part of the festivities.

It has been said that the spring of generosity never runs dry for the person who willingly gives from the heart. This describes Joyce to a T. 
When Cecile and I first moved to California, it was Joyce and her late husband Bill Berger who helped us find our footing when we were looking for a place to live and open my Podiatric Medical and Surgical practice in San Jose. They referred us to a family friend who was a realtor in our area that found us the perfect place in an old neighborhood near the Rose Garden district.
In the early years when we would drive up to Sacramento to visit Joyce and Bill and their son Jeffrey, they invited us to stay at their home and whenever we went out to eat with them they always picked up the tab. They wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometime later while Joyce was still mourning the loss of Bill, we invited her to join us in London and Rome and we had the most amazing, memorable time. 

Throughout the years we became aware how Joyce helped many family members who fell on hard times or had some missteps in life. She has a heart of gold and I would say she is generous to a fault, but there is no fault in being generous of heart. Her first impulse is to give whether it be to her community, her synagogue, friends or family.

Cecile and I checked into the Larkspur Suites near the Mosaic Law Congregation, a Jewish Synagogue where a ceremonial blessing (Kiddush) was being sponsored on Saturday morning in honor of Joyce’s 90th Birthday. Rabbi Reuven Taff, the spiritual leader of the Conservative Temple led a vibrant, uplifting service, sprinkled with humor, warmth, love, scholarly readings and Hebrew chanting. Taff trained at the Theological Seminary in NYC, Received his B.A. in Religious Studies from California State University (Northridge), pursued his rabbinical studies in Israel where he ordained in 1988. And, last but not least in 1999 he was honored by President George H.W. Bush to preside over and conduct the first annual White House Chanukah Celebration with the President, Vice President and their families. Joyce loves her rabbi and the feeling is mutual.

An informal luncheon (Oneg) for about 200 congregants and family members followed the Service—once again sponsored by her son Jeff and family. We were invited to Joyce’s home for dinner along with some of her friends, neighbors, and family members who came in from Northern and Southern California, Detroit, MI, Chicago and Macedonia. It was so special to see everybody. 
Some of the photos include Joyce with Cecile and I, Joyce with her loving granddaugther, Ariella in front of the birthday cake, Cecile and I with Ariella and various family members who I have come to love over the years and spent many a Thanksgiving with in Chicago while I was attending Podiatric Medical School. Marrying into a Jewish family has been a blessing.

From one Virgo to another (our birthdays are two days apart), Happy Birthday dear Joyce. We will never forget you and Bill for helping Cecile and I on our way up the ladder in life. “Biz hundred un tsvantsig,” which you may know is the Yiddish expression for “May you live to the age of 120,” alternately meaning wishing you good health. We love you!

Spotlight on Cindy Walker: Certified Yoga Instructor, Life Coach, & Dynamic Retreat Leader

                                      By Dr. Dennis Augustine (DPM-Ret.)

“The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life…”—Desikachar

Cindy Walker has been involved with yoga in one form or another for over a quarter century, and in the process has become a well seasoned certified yoga instructor with a loyal following at Yoga Source Los Gatos and Bay Club Courtside in the South San Francisco Bay Area.

As a former certified yoga instructor myself and a dedicated student of this practice for 30 years, I can say without a doubt that Cindy is one of the most gifted yoga teachers in Silicon Valley. 

Though I have taken several of her classes off and on over the years, I wasn’t able to attend her popular 8 AM Sunday morning class at Bay Club Courtside, as I reserved that time to attend an ongoing group sitting meditation session at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City. 

This changed however, a few years ago, when my wife Cecile and I downsized our home. Focusing on settling into our new townhome we had very little time to make the forty-five minute commute. This freed me up to take Cindy’s class. I thought it would be temporary. But, after a few weeks went by, I discovered I was experiencing better results from her class than sitting meditation at the center. Cindy’s slower, more mindful vinyasa flow approach to yoga with an emphasis on energetic breath work is akin to a moving meditation really resonated with me. As a result I became one of her regular Sunday morning students.

One of Cindy’s favorite wisdom quotes is by Goethe, an eighteenth century philosopher, novelist, poet, playwright, who once said: “When you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” Cindy tells her students that, “Yoga trains us to reduce the mind’s constant chatter, concentrate on living in the present moment, and focus on what’s most important in our precious lives.”

Her first introduction to yoga was during her college years. She was instantly awakened to the many benefits yoga had to offer, including stress management and a dramatic improvement of her general well-being. In effect, yoga revealed her inner guide, her inner therapist and her body-temple became her sanctuary. 

What distinguishes a good yoga teacher from a great yoga teacher? One could argue it requires superior technical abilities, a great resume, and excellent communication skills to articulate the posture sequences and philosophy of yoga. Cindy certainly has all that and more. She holds a BA in Movement Therapy & Psychology, the prerequisite number of hours of certification through the Yoga Alliance, and has received a number of other yoga certifications including Restorative and Yin Yoga from some of the top teachers in the country. But, what truly makes her a great yoga teacher is how she makes her students feel during class and the residual positive afterglow that carries over to the rest of their day. 

When a student attends one of Cindy’s mixed level classes, you can expect a well choreographed eclectic blend of different styles of yoga and an amazing, full body workout. This is accompanied by a cool tunes playlist ranging from jazz, Afro-Caribbean beats and Indian chants to name a few, invigorating breath movement, guided imagery, playful humor, and ending the class with zen meditation and a deep relaxation pose. 

After years of showing her students how to build muscle strength, improve flexibility and balance, Cindy, a compassionate observer of the human condition, saw a need to help heal the mind. This led her to become a certified Life Coach which she describes as “Yoga of the Mind.” The goal is to assist her clients to overcome everyday obstacles that often get in the way of discovering their authentic selves. 

She accomplishes this by creating the space for clients to recognize and let go of old patterns of thinking and unhealthy belief systems. She then guides them in creating newer and healthier ways of seeing, that allows them to discover peace and inner joy that is not dependent on events that happen outside themselves. 

Through “The Art of Living Life Coaching & Yoga Services” Cindy is available for private one-on-one and group classes, Skype sessions, and conducts workshops, teacher trainings, mentorships and retreats in some of the most tranquil venues throughout the Bay Area. To learn more about this amazing teacher and healer, check out her website and see her contact information below:


email: cindy@y-tal.com

phone: 408-234-6430


The Perfect Trifecta: Hiking, Biking & Restorative Yoga

"Movement is a medicine for creating [a positive] change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states."—Socrates

We are blessed to be living in one of the most hospitable climates and picturesque areas of the world. The day began with an early two mile hike with Cecile and Daisy on the 100 acre grounds where we live. We bumped into neighbor John Perry who recently sent me the attached photo of a Belted Kingfisher resting on a boat dock post, a bird he has been attempting to photograph for four years. 

Later in the morning I drove over to my friend Jimi Hunter's abode off Highway 9. He invited me to join him on another biking adventure on the Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga Foothills. The former competitor biker knows these areas like the back of his hand. With the exception of Highway 9 and a few other busy streets we explored the quiet roads less travelled. We stopped in front of the large brick home on Chester Avenue that Cecile and I, Jason and Michelle spent some of our most precious years.

We bumped into a biking club. There were about 15 of them sweating, huffing and puffing. Jimi and I were on electric-assist bikes. 
“You want to get guys like this mad,” he said, “just pull out in front of the pack,” he added with a devilish smile. Within a block from these bicyclists, there were two workers fixing underground pipes. One held a Slow Sign. He waved, smiled, and yelled out to us, “Now that's the way to ride a bike if you can afford to buy one.” Of course there is a presumption that when you use an electric assist bike you’re cheating. Au contraire my dear friends. It is not so different than when we went from regular bikes to three to ten gear shifts, when we were kids. Technology has made it possible for guys like me in my late sixties to re-enter the biking world, climbing steep hills, and loving it. 

We all need healthy exercise activities in our lives that take us away from our computer keyboards or driving even short distances in town. Many of us have explored astonishing little only to witness life passing us by.

We have been up to Montalvo Arts Center many times. The historic villa and surrounding grounds once belonged to the late California Sen. James Phelan. I used to do varying watercolor renditions of the Villa with the Saratoga Community of Painters. We used to refer to it as the “Big House.” When I first moved to California in 1975 I had no idea that the surrounding 175 acres was a county park.
Villa Montalvo was the last but certainly not the least place we explored.

We went to Mr. Pickles for lunch. One sandwich can feed a village. We then went back to Jimi’s home, put the bikes back into his garage. He pointed out the abstract painting that was done on his garage door by one of his former students. Tibetan Prayer flags hang under the car port. We sat around his Buddha fountain and garden, feeling satisfied and grateful for pushing ourselves to commune with nature, exercising our bodies, getting a little sun and breathing in this precious air. I went home for a well deserved nap and went to a 6 PM one-hour restorative yoga class, and captured the this sunset between the trees. Ahhh! Life is good!

I went home for a well deserved nap and went to a 6 PM one-hour restorative yoga class, Ahhh! Life is good!