Dinner at Ubu Japanese Korean Restaurant: A Diamond in the Rough

“Forget sushi, forget sashimi, forget tempura or yakitori. I prefer ramen.” —Anthony Bourdain

I have had some of the best sushi both here and in Japan but like Anthony Bourdain of CNN’s parts unknown, my favorite Japanese food is Ramen Noodles.

It was cold blustery evening and I was in the mood for ramen noodle soup. Fortunately, we found the perfect place near our hotel off the beaten path on Hudson Street in Hoboken, NJ. The quiet, cozy, L-shaped restaurant wasn’t very busy. There was one other couple. We were greeted by a smiling Korean man, we presumed to be the owner. He handed us a menu. There was a sushi chef behind the counter. Had we known it was BYOB we would may have brought some wine.

I ordered Ubu Chicken Ramen and was hoping for the best. Cecile ordered a rice bowl with fresh slices of avocado and seasonal herbs. We also decided to share an order of edamame. I was brought a starter salad and a side of rice and Cecile was served a small cup of miso soup that came with our entree. We were also given a complimentary dish of tofu and rice roll which and a big cup of traditional Japanese Tea.

When our main dish arrived, I secured a pair of chopsticks and began slurping away which is the common way to eat ramen noodles which is the most popular fast food item in Japan. In order to eat ramen without burning yourself, slurping simultaneously cools the noodles while driving them down your throat. My bowl also contained tender chicken and a partially submerged boiled egg that was cut in half. The broth was a thick milky miso based chicken broth stock. The food was fresh, tasty, fragrant and the service understatedly phenomenal. Two more couples walked in for dinner, but for the most part Cecile and I felt like we had the restaurant all to ourselves.

When I scooped up the last of my broth and drank it, our waiter served us complimentary round puffed pastry balls filled with ice cream.

We felt fully satisfied, happy we had chosen the right place. It was one of the best tasting meals we had during our stay. We paid our reasonably priced bill, and the same Korean man who greeted us with a smile upon our arrival now stood patiently waiting at the door to thank us and bid us a good night. His name was Gang Kim. We told him how wonderful the food was and that we would be back and the next evening we returned for a repeat performance.

The Justice League

Though it was a difficult audition, my wife Cecile and I landed a super hero role in the Justice League, coming to a theater near you—NOT—just having a little fun. Many of us fantasize being super hero. But, sometimes being your own super hero means living with purpose and conviction and helping others. As Mother Theresa once said: Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you," and "Not all of us can do great things. But, we can do small things with great love."

Justice League (Cecile & Me).png

Visiting Dad at my Childhood Home a Stone's Throw from Church Square Park

Dear Subscribers:

This is part two of a similar post I did of visiting my dad in Hoboken NJ that was posted on Hoboken Facebook Group. Though there is some overlap, I have included some other reflections that came to mind and some new photos. Thanks for indulging me in this matter.

My wife Cecile and I are staying at the W Hotel overlooking Manhattan. I shot these photos of the Empire State Building last evening after dinner and early this morning. We’re here primarily to visit with my dad Frank Augustine and my siblings Michael, Stephen, Josie and other family members and catching up with some childhood friends.

My favorite place of refuge while in town is “Devotion Yoga” on the Hudson, down the street from the hotel. After class I met my sister and my wife at my dad’s apartment at 156 5th Street where I grew up. Unable to move about like he used to, we brought in take out food from “Its Greek to Me.” Dad joined us, and right after lunch a volunteer named Donna came by to administer the Communion wafer, a compassionate service provided by local Catholic Church volunteers for people who are confined to their homes. We are so happy that dad has been able to stay in the apartment where his dedicated caregiver Marcelle has been looking after him. 

Over the years I have told my California friends that Hoboken, founded in 1630 has a colorful history. Back in the day, the Lenni Lenape Native Americans camped out here. They called the land, “Hopoghan Hackingh,” which means “Land of the Tobacco Pipe.” 

The first steam-powered ferryboat began running between Hoboken and Manhattan in 1811.
In 1846, the first baseball game was played featuring the New York Nine versus the Knicker-boxers.

However, I will always remember Hoboken as the place the legendary crooner Frank Sinatra was born in 1915, two years before my dad. It is also the place where the iconic mob crime drama, “On the Waterfront” was filmed in 1954, featuring Marlon Brando, Lee Cobb, Rod Steiger and Eva Marie Saint. 

In later years, Bruce Springsteen and Nirvana played at Maxwells Tavern, Justin Timberlake did a commercial there as well, and Eli Manning, the gifted quarterback for the NY Giants lives in a 3000 foot condo in the Hudson Tea Building, a short drive from the Met-life Stadium in East Rutherford where the Giants play their home games.

It's always fun coming home again. This city has taught me a great deal. The street smarts I learned in my youth has served me well and for this I will always be grateful.

As I walked passed the old neon sign of the now defunct Clam Broth House, I recalled that it was here that dad got his first job as a cook. After serving his country in the US Army, he worked 15 years at the Janssan's Dairy and 25 years at Maxwell House Coffee. But, his toughest job to date is living life as a centenarian, which he does with courage and dignity.

Visiting Dad in my hometown of Hoboken, NJ on the Waterfront Overlooking the NYC Skyline

Cecile and I are staying at the W Hotel overlooking Manhattan. I shot these photos of the Empire State Building last evening after dinner and early this morning. We’re here primarily to visit with my dad.

My favorite place of refuge while in town is “Devotion Yoga” on the Hudson, down the street from the hotel. The teacher, Meghan did a free flow gentle yoga class. A new addition to the Devotion yoga staff, she did a great job leading the class.

Afterwards, I met my sister and Cecile at my dad’s house. Unable to move about like he used to, we brought in take out food from “Its Greek to Me.” Dad joined us, and right after lunch a volunteer named Donna came by to administer the Holy Communion wafer, a compassionate service provided by the local Catholic Churches for people who are confined to their homes. We are so happy that dad has been able to stay in the apartment I grew up in, that is housed in a five unit building that he owns where his dedicated caregiver Marcelle has been looking after him.

Hoboken, which was founded in 1630, has a very rich history. The first ever steam-powered ferryboat began running between Hoboken and Manhattan in 1811. “The Miracle Mile,” as it's called has Native American roots. Back in the day, the Lenni Lenape Native Americans camped out here. They called the land, “Hopoghan Hackingh,” which means “Land of the Tobacco Pipe.” In 1846, the first baseball game was played featuring the New York Nine versus the Knicker-boxers. 

However, I will always remember Hoboken as the place the legendary crooner Frank Sinatra was born in 1915, two years before my dad. It is also the place where the iconic mob crime drama, “On the Waterfront” was filmed in 1954, featuring Marlon Brando, Lee Cobb, Rod Steiger and Eva Marie Saint. The movie won an Academy Award.

In later years, Bruce Springsteen and Nirvana played at Maxwells Tavern, Justin Timberlake did a commercial there as well, and Eli Manning, the quarterback for the NY Giants lives in a 3000 foot condo in the Hudson Tea Building right on the Hudson River, a short drive from the Met-life Stadium in East Rutherford where the Giants play their home games.

 

Festive Dinner at La Rinconda Hills Country Club with the Chiens

Festive Dinner at La Rinconda Hills Country Club with the Chiens

When Aizen, a fictional Japanese computer animated character was asked how many times a year do you celebrate your birthday, he said: “Ten times. One for each day of the week, and then four times on the exact birthday."
Though Cecile doesn’t resemble the manipulative, animated figure, she has had quite a run on birthday celebrations lately: five dinner parties with friends and family and two birthday luncheons with long time friends. This time dinner in her honor was at La Rinconada Country Club, hosted by our son in law Kyle’s mom, Kim and AL Chien who couldn't make Cecile's original b-day dinner held over a week ago. Friendship is a priceless gift and the fact that it happens to be with a family that our daughter Michelle has married into, makes it extra special. The ease and fun of being together, letting our hair down with people who enjoy celebrating life and family—as much as we do—has been an unexpected blessing.

After cocktails, AL ordered a bottle of Nickel and Nickel Cabernet Sauvignon, a delicious full-full body velvety wine. My first name is actually derived from Dionysis, the Greek god of wine and festivity, and I guess you can say that I have been living up to the habits of my namesake—with moderation of course.🙂

For openers, we had minestrone soup, endive salad with candied walnuts and blue cheese, gnocci with mushrooms, and a grilled octopus. My late grandfather who was a fisherman in a small Sicilian village my late mom grew up in, used to catch them as did I during my summer visits there. For our entrees we enjoyed Alaskan Halibut and Salmon, and for dessert, Apple Fritters with ice cream and Butter Pecan with Bourbon as pictured here. 

Cecile is wearing a warm and cuddly white sweater, a gift from Kim and AL which will come in handy for our upcoming trip to New Jersey to visit my dad and the rest of my family. Thank you guys for a wonderful evening, for your generosity, and your friendship.

Proud to Recognize My Dad, Frank Augustine, one of the Oldest Living Veterans in the USA for his Service

.."Whatever our faith, one belief should bind us all...our willingness to give of ourselves for others and for our country." —Sen. John Kerry

I also want to recognize our fellow citizens who continue to serve our country, and family members like my late uncle Joseph Augustine, my late uncle and godfather, Anthony Augustine and my nephew Andrew Augustine representing the new generation, who has served his country in the US Air Force for 8 years. He will be doing a stint in Portugal soon followed by two years in Japan. 

Three years ago today, my dad Frank Augustine who is nearing 101 years of age was the recipient of two Hudson County Military Service Medals and a Citation Certificate by Hudson County NJ Executive, Thomas A. DeGise, the Office of Veteran Affairs, Anthony Romano and the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Jennifer Gattino, representing the former mayor of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer for his seven years of service in the US Maritime Service, the US Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Walter Reed National Medical Center as head cook and personal aide to his mentor and friend, Army Chaplain, Capt. William Walsh. He is one of the country's oldest living veterans. 

By Proclamation from our President, this year has been designated National Veterans and Military Families Month. For 98 years, Americans have remembered those who served our country in uniform on 11 November – first as Armistice Day, and then, since 1954 as Veterans Day. In this 99th year of commemoration, the Department of Veterans Affairs is broadening that tradition of observance and appreciation to include both Veterans and Military Families for the entire month of November.

A Nightmare Becomes a Blessing in Disguise

I was fortunate enough to have my story: "A Nightmare Becomes A Blessing in Disguise" published on gratefulness.org on November 1, a few days after its 91 year old founder, Br. David Stendl-Rast appeared on Super Soul Sunday on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the scholar, author and Benedictine monk whose body of work has inspired generations at Esalen Institute in Big Sur while on retreat. My favorite quote of Br. David is: "Joy is the happiness that doesn't depend on what happens." To read my short story click the title directly below.

A Nightmare Becomes A Blessing in Disguise - Gratefulness.org

As a board-certified foot doctor specializing in outpatient minimally invasive foot surgery at the Park Avenue Foot Clinic in Silicon Valley that I founded in 1975, I felt like a man in control of his destiny. I…

GRATEFULNESS.ORG

Photos:

1-Performing Laser surgery  

2-Training Dr. Michael Reddy from Tasmania  

3-Performing a Gait Analysis  

4-Being Interviewed by a SF Bay Area News Reporter

Celebrating Cecile's Birthday at the Historic Saint Michael's Alley in Palo Alto

Michelle and our son-in-law Kyle, our son Jason and Alex joined us at Saint Michael’s Alley to celebrate Cecile’s birthday last evening. To family and friends who know her best, she is the brightest light in our lives as measured by her gentleness, common sense wisdom and loving-kindness.

Aside from its historic past, the singular event that put Saint Michael’s Alley on the map was when President Bill Clinton and family rented St. Mike’s to celebrate Chelsea’s graduation from Stanford University in 2001.

Founded in 1959 by Vernon Gates, it began as a simple coffee house. It was named after the first coffee house in London on St. Michael’s Alley in 1652, situated below the spire of St. Michael’s Church. Back in the day, St. Mike’s bohemian ambiance was a hangout for many beatniks and was responsible for helping to launch the careers of writers, artists and musicians that included the Grateful Dead, Grayce Slick, Joan Baez, Ken Kesey and Jefferson Airplane. In 1994 the restaurant was sold to the current owners, Jenny Youll and Mike Sabina. 

It’s no wonder they call this place "St. Michaels Alley.” The food was heavenly. For starters we had cocktails, Ahi Tuna Tataki with Ginger Beets, Bruschetta, and Wild Mushroom Cakes. For our entrees we enjoyed Butternut Squash Risotto with smoked Chicken, assorted speciality pasta dishes and Seared Wild Sea Scallops. For dessert we enjoyed warm Pumpkin Bread Pudding with caramel sauce and Whipped cream and a Duet of Seasonal Sorbets with a Homemade Gingersnap Cookie. But, the real treat was showering Cecile with gifts and being in the company of people we love. Kudos to Jason—who works in Palo Alto—for recommending this highly rated eatery that specializes in California cuisine and changes its menu every three months.
Happy Birthday Cecile! May you be filled with the effervescent joy and happiness I feel when I am around you❤️

A Sabbath Dinner with Friends on the Eve of Cecile's Birthday

“Let us slow down enough to truly notice all that is presenting itself to us as a blessing.”
—Kristi Nelson

We were invited guests at the home of our dear friends Lucy and Larry Fried for a Sabbath meal (Shabbat in Hebrew), along with the Brenners, Brodskys, Hamiltons, Weinzimmers, Alchecks, Phillip Engleman and son Jonathan. As the sun goes down on Friday evening, the Shabbat candles are lit. It’s a time to allow all the concerns of the day and the week to fade away, creating the space for an intimate evening of joy, peace and rest and relaxation to take place. The weekly day of rest has no parallel in any other ancient civilization. As a non-Jew I have had the privilege to be a “honorary part of the tribe,” if you will of this great tradition beginning in the early years of my courtship with Cecile. Other than our immediate family, there is no place I enjoy celebrating these special occasions more than at the home of our gracious hosts Lucy and Larry.

We had appetizers and wine while getting caught up on our lives. It is an active group that loves celebrating milestone events with family and friends, including our love of travel. Before our main meal, our Israeli friend Elie recited the Kiddush, a ritual blessing over the wine to sanctify the event. The food was sumptuous and plentiful. We each brought a side dish.

The ambiance was inviting and festive. After dinner we had a rich chocolate layer cake with fresh whipped cream from “Icing on the Cake" brought by Marleen and Mark Brodsky in honor of Cecile’s birthday. The lights were turned down as we sang Happy Birthday…Rather than blowing out the candles in the traditional way, Cecile clapped her hands together several times over the candles like a “magician” allowing the dispersed air to extinguish the flames. An elder cousin taught her this technique to prevent the spread of bacteria that blowing the candles causes—especially when you get older. I know TMI🙂. But, as a retired doc it made sense to me🙂.

As I looked at the table settings, I noticed a line of persimmons with a branch of green leaves placed equidistant along the length of the table. They were from a tree in Lucy and Larry's back yard. I meant to tell Lucy that they are a sign of personal transformation. Persimmons are one of those sweet exotic orange fruits often referred to as "Fruit of the Gods. In China they are used to regulate one’s chi’i (energy) and is a symbol of joy. There were also vases of sunflowers spaced out along the table which represent rays of sunshine that uplift a room and a reminder of the source of life and all that is good—including friendship. Sunflowers say, “I adore you.”

REMEMBERING MOM on Her BIRTHDAY FOUR YEARS AFTER HER PASSING

She was our rock, steadfast and strong.
She had a sharp wit and infectious laugh like no other.
She was a dreamer who left an poor village in Sicily in 1947 for a new life in America. I discovered her first Passport (see photo) she used to get aboard a Merchant Marine Clipper that nearly went down in an electrical storm.
She was married to my dad for 65 years before she passed.
She began her life as a seamstress for a local garment factory and also worked from home. I used to help her sew closure hooks on fur collars when I was young.
Among other things she taught us to respect our elders.
She sent whatever extra money she could muster to her mom and dad. She loved us to a fault and wanted the best for me and my siblings.
She left no debts and a life full of fond memories.
She was beautiful but humble and kind unless you crossed her or messed with her kids🙂
What I remember most is our many trips to the old country to visit the relatives. The photo of her and I was taken at her best friend's Villa in St. Agatha in the Amalfi Coast in 1984. We love and miss you mom.
Thank you for all you did for us and encouraging me to get an education at a time when I was ready to drop out of college and supporting my goals in every way. Were it not for you I wouldn’t have had the wonderful family I have now nor the success I have achieved. You were the best.
❤️❤️❤️🙏🙏🙏🌹🌹

Exploring Our Inner Child at Queen's Saratoga Pumpkin Patch: Happy Halloween!

When Jason and Michelle were younger Cecile and I took them to Queen’s Saratoga Pumpkin Patch, not too far from home. It was established in 1984. Years later I did watercolor painting here every fall with fellow artists from the Saratoga Community of Painters because of the abundance of color and great, fun-filled atmosphere. Since we only had this time of year to paint pumpkins, we embraced it. It’s been several years since I painted and the inner child was yearning to return to the scene. Since we don’t have grand kids we exercised Plan B: we took our grand dog, Daisy (Jason’s dog) with us. Queen’s Pumpkin Patch has it all: Pumpkins, Gourds, Indian Corn, Hay, cornstalks and refreshments for sale. There is also cow train (tram), Petting Zoo, a clear Bubble Station where kids can float in a pool of water as seen in the photos. Some of the other photos were taken in local neighborhoods, and the one of me with the witch reading me a story was during our recent visit to Palm Desert.

Though a secular holiday, the word Halloween is a Scottish term for All Hallows Eve meaning “holy evening,” and is the eve of All Saints Day which falls on November 1. It dates back to 1745. Halloween has roots in two medieval celebrations: The Celtic festival of Samhain and the Catholic holiday of my youth: All Saints Day. Samhain is a Gaelic term meaning “Summers End,” of the “lighter half” of the year and the beginning of the “darker half.” Its prehistoric observance is marked by feasting, bonfires, and homage to the dead. All Soul’s Day (November 2) is a day of prayer for the dead. In ancient times villagers would go door to door offering prayers for their souls in exchange for “soul cakes,” and other treats. Some say it is a precursor to the modern day “Trick or Treat" custom we have today. The practice of placing a candle in a hallowed out pumpkin is said to be borrowed from the Irish who used turnips at the time to do the same thing.

Then we have the "Day of the Dead" (Dia de Muertos)a Mexican public holiday celebrated in the Central and Southern regions of Mexico, and in the US. It is a multi-day holiday that focuses on family gatherings and friends who remember their loved ones who have passed on. In so doing, they help to support them in their spiritual journey by building and placing offerings on altars. Before the Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the event took place at the advent of summer but gradually began to be associated with Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

Pumpkin Wisdom:

1-Be Well-Rounded

2-Get Plenty of Sunshine

3-Give Thanks for Life's Bounty

4-Have a Thick Skin

5-Keep Growing

6-Be Outstanding in Your Field

7-Think Big

Celebrating Kyle's 30th Birthday at Celia's in San Mateo

Celebrating our son-in-law Kyle’s 30 birthday following his and Michelle’s recent return from their exotic and culturally rich honeymoon in Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand. Following appetizers and drinks at Kyle and Michelle’s home in San Mateo, we walked to the very festive and colorful Celia’s Mexican Restaurant in San Mateo where Kyle's mom Kim and AL hosted dinner. We were joined  
by Kyle and Michelle’s friends, Chris, Pat and his wife Nicole and Susannah and Nick. This cantina style family eatery boasts large portions, a friendly staff, very cool colorful Mexican murals and great Margaritas. 

Afterwards, the party continued at Kyle and Michelle’s home where their friends Kacy and husband Noel, joined our happy group. We enjoyed specialty desserts including authentic Cannoli’s from Romolo’s, arguably the best in the Bay Area; cookies and a delicious cake from Saratoga’s own “Icing on the Cake,” that Kim lovingly decorated with sparklers, a 30th birthday candle.

One of the highlights of the evening was watching a running slide show of Kyle and Michelle’s trip to Southeast Asia including an escorted tour of Mandalay, Burma by our dear friend, Maybelle. Aside from local temple hopping, boat ride on the Great Irrawaddy River, a visit to the ancient temple city of Bagan, they got to visit Kyaswa Monastery in the Saigang Hills, where I did many annual meditation retreats. Also moving to watch was their visit to an Elephant reserve in Thailand where they got to bathe and pet the elephants and a romantic birthday dinner on the beach. Welcome to prime time, Kyle! You’ve never been more ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead and to embrace the goals you’ve set for yourself and Michelle. Our birthday wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to be. We love you.❤️

Cecile and I Attended the Glass Pumpkin Patch Exhibition at Stanford Shopping Center

These Walker and Bowes glistening colorful blown glass beauties are a visual feast. They capture the light perfectly and make great gifts for friends and family. We spoke to one of the artists who told us it takes five years to begin to get proficient at glass-blowing. Back in the day when I used to do Drop in life drawing and painting sessions of models at the Palo Alto Art Center, I had the opportunity to see blown glass exhibitions created by students and participating artists.

The work and installations shown in these photos are the work of husband and wife team, Michelle Walker and Bobby Bowes who reside and work in San Jose, CA. The first Glass Pumpkin Patch was conceived by Bobby in 1995.
Focusing on the glassblowing techniques by the great Italian masters, these one of kind pieces sit in the homes of
many private collectors and have been featured in the Triton Museum of Institute and Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Palm Springs Desert Museum. They benefit non-profit organizations for children, communities, education and organizations such as the MIT’s glass studio and the Corning Glass Museum.

www.walkerandbowes.com
www.cityofpaloalto.org/artcenter

Celebrating Oktoberfest with Friends and Neighbors

Cecile and I celebrated Oktoberfest at the Clubhouse at Rinconada Hills with our friends and neighbors: Susan and Nelson Bye and Gretchen and Bruce Preville. This is one of several theme dinners organized by the Social Commiitee throughout the year. We had Beer Poached German Sausages with Sauerkraut, Roasted Chicken with Berry Compote, German Potato Salad Mixed Green Salad, German Pancakes with Apple Sauce and New York Cheesecake from one of the bakeries in Santa Rosa that survived the North Bay fires. The main feeling at the table was one of gratitude. Each of us had recently returned from our respective trips both here and abroad and had a lot to be grateful for.

In its 206-year history, Oktoberfest has become the king of all folk festivals, which is ironic when you consider its royal origin. It's a tradition that began on October 12, 1810, to celebrate the 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig, to the Saxon-Hildrughausen Princess Therese. All of Munich was invited.

More than 6 million people from around the world attend the event In Munich every year, where 1.5 gallons of beer are consumed. It is the city’s most profitable attraction. Starting in 1950, up to current time, the opening ceremonies begins with a 12-gun salute following by the ceremonial tapping of the first keg.
Though Cecile and I had attended Oktoberfest in Munich many years ago, these days you don’t need to fly to Germany to partake in the festivities. In one form or another, cites from around the world celebrate the event.

According to the Jerusalem post, thousands of Palestinians, Israeli Jews, US citizens, Japanese tourists just celebrated “Palestinian Oktoberfest” held in the Christian village of Taybeth—also the name of the beer which means “tasty” in Arabic. The Israeli Jews seen sipping the honey-colored Palestinian beer, were a welcome change for some, considering the many years of bloody conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Once the beer began to flow, though, their differences began to wash away. “Cheers! Let’s toast to peace!” said Nadia Khoury, the town’s 52 year old US-Educated mayor.
Amen to that!

Postscript Trivia:

My namesake, St. Augustine of Hippo, who practiced the art of brewing in his early years is considered the ”Patron Saint of Beer.” He underwent a transformation from a wild and significant consumer of beer to a life of moderation before becoming a bishop. 

Credit Source for the Palestinian Oktoberfest: The Jerusalem Post, October 23, 1917

Photo Credit (Mugs): Stephanie Fly Photography
Last photo: With Dee, our friend, neighbor and yoga classmate at Bay Club Courtside.

The Mother Daughter Yoga Pose that Captured my Heart

“Behind every young child who believes in themselves is a parent who believed first.”

This photo of a mother and daughter doing a yoga partner pose captured my heart. Mom is in an upside down modified head stand in a cross-legged position creating a ledge for her adorable daughter to sit in a basic seated yoga/meditation pose. The young girl with a smile of joy looks like a little goddess.

When I asked the mother for permission to use the photo to use in my lifestyle blog which has a section on yoga and meditation, her immediate response was, “Yes, of course.” I then forwarded the photo to my long-time friend Elizabeth Sharkey, a much beloved teacher at Fisher Middle School in Los Gatos, Calif. Some month ago, Elizabeth had invited me to teach a yoga class to 25 of her students during Indian History Month. I asked Elizabeth for her first impressions of the photo from the perspective of being a mother and a teacher.Here’s what she had to say:

“Parenting is a balancing act. You literally and spiritually support your children as you lift them up in life. The mother is grounded in the earth as the daughter ascends to the heavens.”

I thought her comments were a beautiful metaphor for a parent acting a mentor for her child. This ancient practice supports children in their classrooms, homes, in their sports activities and in their relationships. It teaches them to focus, build confidence and self-esteem as they embark on all of their life’s adventure. Moreover, it helps reduce stress in a safe and nurturing environment, and teaches them to be patient, kind and accepting of others. Namaste’ 🙏🙏🙏

Photo credit: The mother of the child whose names I offered to keep anonymous.

 

Photo (Doing Yoga w her Daughte)rn.jpg

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Napolitana’s Pizzeria

“Life...happens...when you are busy making other plans.”
—John Lennon

The invitation was simple but the execution was another matter. Our friend Sophie and husband Bernie invited us and friends Lucy and Larry to join them in trying Napolitana’s Pizzeria in Mountain View. Over appetizers of cheese, olives, crackers and a glass of wine at their home Sophie held up the review in the San Jose Mercury News which read: Napoletana’s wood-fired pizza still the real deal. “They import the gelato and pastries from Milan,” she said. We were psyched. Someone said, do you think the six of us can fit in one car? This meant four in the back seat. I sat in the front passenger seat, so I was safe. But, in order to fit, Bernie had half of his butt on the seat and the other half on the door handle. Yikes! But, judging by the smile on his face, he seemed to be having a good time.

By the time we got to Napolitana’s, there was a long line out the door and we were told they ran out of dough. WTF, who ever heard of a pizza place running out of dough? It was beginning to feel like a Seinfeld episode. The pizza and other dishes patrons were eating looked great, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. We spent a little too much time schmoozing at Sophie and Bernie's and now had to come up with a Plan B. Two doors down was a restaurant called Kabobs and Pupuseria: A Salvadoran and Middle Eastern restaurant. Huh? It seemed like an odd combination—like a restaurant having an identity crisis. As the story goes, 30 years ago it was a doughnut shop, but many customers were of Salvadoran descent and they began to crave something more savory. They requested papusas, those thick, griddled masa cakes that are stuffed with cheese. The owners agreed. But, then the neighborhood changed as the many Salvadorans moved away. Business slowed and a new owner Rashami Mulge needed to make a change. A customer who once worked as a chef at a Persian restaurant offered to make Kebobs. Rashami liked the idea. He removed doughnuts from the menu and set up a kitchen with two chefs. One was assigned to make Salvadoran dishes and one to prepare kebobs and with that the name of the restaurant became Kabobs and Papuseria. We ordered Chicken Breast Kabobs with Basmati rice and salad, Chicken Curry, Cornish Hen Kabobs, Felafel with Pita and rice, and fried plantains, sour cream and beans.

We decided we would go to Napoletana’s restaurant for desert. As it turned out, they didn’t run out of dough. Apparently, some of the people we saw on that long line got tired of waiting and left. So we ordered Tiramisu and a frozen lemon desert and I ordered a pizza margarita to go, but had the waitress remove a few pieces so each of us could have a taste. I introduced myself to the owner, Costas Eleftheriadis who was slowing slapping the fresh dough into pies. He was wearing a tight fitted black head scarf and a bright white chef’s jacket. Costas is a Greek-Italian and vacations in both countries every year. I stood watching him positioning himself around the wood oven. I could see and smell the colorful, fragrant award winning Neapolitan pizza I remember from my youth when visiting family in Italy.
At a temperture of 900 degrees F, the thin pizza cooked to perfection in 60-90 seconds. As we sat and tasted the pizza, I realized this was no cheap imitation, and was indeed “the real deal,” as Mary Orlin reported in the Mercury News. At long last we got to have our pizza and eat it too. But the best part was going with the flow and laughing with our friends along the way—detours and all.

 

 

Napa Valley: A Place that Brought our family so Much Joy is the Scene of So Much Loss

“Marriage: Love is the reason. Lifelong friendship is the gift. Til' death do us part is the length"—Fawn Weaver

Friends and family, especially from out of town, have been asking about the North Bay fires, particularly Napa Valley where our daughter Michelle and Kyle got married. For months following their wedding reception at the Black Stallion Winery and their fairy-tale wedding at the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa last May, we were all on a high. It was one the most memorable and happy moments of our lives. Consequently, we all felt heartbroken by the news that the raging fires had engulfed Santa Rosa, Sonoma and Napa.

As Michelle had written from Southeast Asia upon hearing the news, “A place that brought so much joy is now the place of devastation for so many.” 

Cecile and I were in Palm Desert and Michelle and Kyle went on their long awaited honeymoon to Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand when the fires struck. It was difficult to completely relax and be joyful when so many people were in such dire straits. Family members locally kept us abreast by email about what was going on. Some knew one of the principals of the Black Stallion Winery and contacted him to see if he was alright, and luckily another family member, had decided awhile ago not to hold his company’s annual executive forum at Silverado this year. 

The Black stallion winery remains closed, but fortunately has not been damaged by the fire and all of the employees and managing partners are safe. Silverado Resort and Spa is closed and the their employees safely evacuated. The resort structures such as the Mansion, the Conference Center and Clubhouse and Pro Shop are intact. They will reopen when the cleanup is complete. 

By now most people following the news have heard of the elderly couple that perished in their home at the Silverado Resort in the Atlas Peak fire where they lived for almost 40 years. They had been married for 75 years and knew each other since grade school. Kim, Michelle's mother in law had first brought this to our attention while we were all away. Charles Rippey, a World War ll veteran who achieved the rank of captain in the Army Corps of Engineers, had just turned 100 and his wife Sara RIppey, 99, were unable to escape from the fast moving fire. Despite the smoke and his walker, the centenarian tried his best to get to his ailing wife Sara’s side. Despite the loss, there's no denying their's was a love story.

When something this tragic happens our first instinct is what can I do to help? Here are some ways you can make it happen. For those who live locally, I was informed by Rev. Channing Smith that Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 13601 Saratoga Avenue, in Saratoga (across from the Library) that they are collecting food this entire week from 9-4PM to deliver to Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa. 408-867-3493. 

You could also join us donating to United Way Bay Area
https://uwba.org/

Or, The Salvation Army
http://deloro.salvationarmy.org/

Photo credit of crews fighting fire 1-ABC7news.com
Photo credit2-ABCnews.go.com
Photo credit3-Courtesy of Mike Rippey Via AP
Photo credit4-Son, Chuck.Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Exploring the Mental Health Benefits of Traveling

Guest Post by Henry Moore

It’s my pleasure to share my website with like-minded people. Henry Moore is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. He combines both in his work on FitwellTraveler.com

Exploring the Mental Health Benefits of Traveling  

by Henry Moore

Being in the same place and the routine of doing the same thing over and over eventually takes its toll on both the mind and body. With people working longer hours and often choosing to take only half of their vacation time, burnout is bound to happen. Getting away can refresh your mental outlook and make you happier and more productive when you return. Taking a few days off from work can help, but getting away and exploring a new environment is even better. Taking a vacation to a travel destination may be just what you need. To get the most out of your trip, you’ll have to consider the cost of traveling and how many days off you can get from work.

There are a host of benefits associated with traveling. By experiencing the new sights and sounds of a destination or just getting away from the rigors of routine life at home, taking a trip is a sure way to reduce the stress in your life. Being in a new environment also changes the way you interact with new people or cultures, which can lead you to becoming more open-minded and creative. You will come back from your trip refreshed and able to better tackle your work and other challenges.

Just planning for a trip can be a mood-boosting experience. The further in advance you can start planning, the more options and possible savings you will have. If you plan on air travel, consider booking direct flights to maximize your vacation time and reduce the possibility of delays. The first step is determining what type of vacation you wish to go on. Pick a destination that will be intellectually and emotionally stimulating. If you do not have a lot of vacation time, consider choosing a nearby location. This way you can enjoy a new experience, get out of your comfort zone, and not utilize too much time traveling. Prepare an itinerary of things you want to do and see. Make sure you leave some flexibility in your travel plans for the unexpected or in case you want to check out an additional scenic spot or local treasure along the way.

 For those people recovering from addiction, getting out of your current environment is crucial. Changing your routine and getting away from the people and places that encourage your addiction habits are necessary to set yourself on a path to recovery. Many people become addicted to substances trying to escape stress. Giving yourself a break is a great way to promote your self-healing process. Where you want to go is up to you, and everyone may need a different kind of vacation. While some want to visit a busy city with activities to keep them occupied and get their mind off things for a while, others may opt for the serene landscape of the wild outdoors for solace and quiet reflection.

 

Pets are great for overall joy and improvement of quality of life, but also can provide emotional support. Caring for an animal requires responsibility and reduces blood pressure. There are several other health benefits of petting animals, such as reduced anxiety, improved self-esteem, and a stabilized mood. Having a loving faithful friend by your side can be a great moral booster. If possible, consider taking your pet on vacation as well. This is a lot easier logistically if you are going to be spending time in the great outdoors. You can bond with each other by exploring, hiking, and enjoying the sights and sounds of wherever you decide to visit. Make sure to confirm that pets are allowed at your destination before you book your trip because parks and campgrounds may have site-specific rules. If you are going to be visiting a new city, make sure the hotel is dog friendly and find pet-friendly play areas, parks, and restaurants to maximize your vacation time with your furry travel companion.

 Everyone deserves a break from the daily grind, and taking a vacation will have a positive effect on your mental health. Prior planning of your trip will help you maximize your time away. Traveling is a great way to keep you on the path to improving and recovering your sense of well-being. Bringing along your pet will be great for the both of you and allow you to bond and enjoy the health benefits of having a loyal companion and being on vacation at the same time. New experiences and meeting new people will help you grow and become more emotionally stable, creative, and reinvigorated.

Photo courtesy by Pexels

Henry Moore is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. He enjoys travel, running, cooking, baking and reading. He believes travel can change you, and good health can preserve you. For more helpful information on health and fitness, check out his work on FitwellTraveler.com

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Dinner with Friends at Furusato's Restaurant Whom We Met on our Trip to Japan

Furusato Sushi Japanese Restaurant was the perfect place to meet Mike and Lucille Story for dinner to rekindle our friendship. 

We share a special bond with the Story’s that was created by our fateful meeting on a Japan Tearoom and Garden Tour in 2010 (photos), during the Spring Cherry Blossom season. It was one of the best group tours my wife Cecile and I had ever taken and we have a nostalgic longing to return there someday. The word Furusato, is a well known Japanese children’s song that was composed in 1914. The song was played at the closing ceremony of the 1998 Winter Olympics at Nagano in 1998. It also means “old home” or “hometown.” It describes a person who is working in a distant land, expressing his feelings of nostalgia for the hills and fields of his childhood home.

When one walks into the restaurant, the sushi chefs behind the counter make you feel welcome by enthusiastically greeting you upon arrival and saying goodbye and thank you when departing. The roving waiters and waitresses were very attentive in making sure your water cup and tea cup is always full. The sushi portions and combination meals are substantial and tasty, and the ambiance is comfortable and pleasurable.

For appetizers we shared two orders of Edamame, and one order of Agedashi Tofu and a large porcelain container of saki. I ordered my usual combination dinner that includes of steak and salmon teriyaki, rice, Miso soup and salad, and everyone else shared their favorite sushi dishes. Our waiters and waitresses even brought a couple of courtesy food offerings.

We share a love of travel with the Story's and have even taken the Silk Road tour in China together. Mike, a retired chemist who was partners in a business with an office in Japan is intimately familiar with common Japanese phrases, food and culture. At their invitation we went to Robato-Yaki sushi restaurant in Nigata. Our gracious host was their friend, Takao Donumba, Ph.D., who was a frequent visitor to the U.S., and has children who went to school here (see photos). We also got to meet the mayor of Muko, the sister city of Saratoga. My favorite place to go after a long day of touring and before dinner is the single sex communal Japanese Hot Baths with an average temperature of 42 degrees. Towels, scrubbing cloth and traditional Yakaka cotton robes are provided. After one of these hot water treats, the operative words that come to mind are ahhhhhh and arigato (thanks)!

Capturing these Phenomenal Desert Sunsets at Joshua Tree National Park

“Don’t forget: beautiful sunsets need cloudy skies.” —Paulo Coelho

 

I love how the day began with blue skies and by late afternoon the clouds slowly moved just in time for a majestic sunset. While it doesn’t happen often, all the elements for a perfect sunset aligns itself like they did on our desert mountain tour of Joshua Tree National Park. The first photo I took of a solitary Joshua Tree, a giant member of the lily family displayed cool hues of bluish-grey to match the cooler temperatures at 6,000 feet in the Mohave Desert. By the time we made our descent to lower elevation of the Colorado Desert, the golden yellowish colors began to show itself. Just when you think the show is over, the underside of the clouds light up. I like it even more when the clouds start to stretch apart as they get ready to break the horizon with one final golden orange burst of color before transitioning to a natural blending of sunset and twilight—like the stages of a watercolor painting coming together. 

 

When Cecile and I made our way to Ontario Airport, the sky was grey and the air smelled of smoke as it did when we arrived home to Silcon Valley. The contrast from the calm and clean desert air proves once again how nature can be as benign and as it is violent. Our hearts go out to those affected by the raging fires in our beautiful state.