A Thai Pan-Asian Delight to get us in the Groove for our Upcoming Trip to Southeast Asia

“Sometimes happiness is as simple as getting together with friends and sharing a meal together.”

It didn’t exactly begin as the best of days. Cecile and I had our Typhoid shots for our upcoming trip to Southeast Asia. She awoke with pain in her arm and feeling fatigued and I found myself feeling anxious and sniffly—all side effects from the injections. But, an afternoon nap made it possible to keep our plans for the evening. 

Cecile and I had dinner at the Mint Leaf with friends, Mark and Marleen  Brodsky and Lori and Rob Chaykin. It was a congenial group, the conversations were fun and flowing—as was the wine. Over the last few years Mint Leaf—which officially Opened for business in 2010—has become one of our favorite Southeast Asian eateries. This storefront restaurant in the historic downtown area of Saratoga has become a popular venue for Thai and Pan-Asian cuisine. Thai owners Mint Sirisawad and Laksana Churangpia struck a chord with patrons by providing an extensive offering of delicious food—including an array of vegetarian options—from different parts of Asia and beyond.
Aside from the exotic food dishes, one feature that draws people in, is inviting them to bring their own wine without charging exorbitant corkage fees. We brought three bottles. The atmosphere has a cozy elegance about it. The decor reminds us of the ornate Thai temples Cecile and I have visited in Thailand and are about to do so again. Colorful silk pillows and tapestries adorn and soften the chairs and wood benches, crimson and gold leaf sculptures catch the eye and draping white banners hang from the ceiling.

Our food servers were Souwani (unsure of the spelling) whose family is from Bangkok and a San Jose State student called “Music,” a nickname given to her partly because she would rock out to music when she was a kid, and; her Chinese name is difficult to pronounce. They were cheerful and attentive. I had met Souwani before and struck up a conversation with her about meditation. I even visited the kitchen where the cooks joyfully flashed me the peace sign.

We began with our culinary feast with Thai style chicken Satay with peanut sauce and cucumber salad and Chicken Pot Stickers. For the entrees we enjoyed Spicy Garlic Noodles with New York Steak, and my very favorite Yellow curry with carrots, potatoes, and onion with a juicy filet of salmon. As we left the restaurant I noticed a table with a bowl of plastic wrapped fortune cookies next to the business cards and a vase of red flowers. I took one.
I ate part of it and slipped the rest into my pocket. When I got home I read the familiar white strip which said: "Pack your bags. You are bound for an exciting and exotic destination.”

Hmmm…how did they know that?

 

Nazanine Bain: An up and Coming Silicon Valley Yoga Teacher With Heart

…“An amazing yoga teacher is a beacon of light who is willing to share that light with everyone around them, making their class a special place to be.”—Anna Coventry

Nazanine (pronounced nah-zah-neen) is a common Persian name that means “sweetheart, lovely and delightful." If you speak to her students, friends and teachers, they will all agree that the name fits her perfectly. 

Born in Los Gatos, she was introduced to yoga by her beloved mother at the tender age of 16. Little did her mother know the introduction would change the trajectory of her daughter’s life. Now 36, Nazanine describes her yoga practice as being a “Vehicle for her personal Transformation.” She firmly believes it can assist anyone to become a healthier, happier, and a more authentic, conscious human being. “Yoga creates the atmosphere for bad energy to exit the body so that good energy may enter and enliven it,” she says.”

I first met Nazanine Bain about two years ago, when she took over the class from a popular and well-respected yoga teacher I had been taking classes with at Courtside Bay Club for many years. As a certified yoga teacher back in the day, I can say without reservation it is not easy to replace a teacher that students revere. However, it wasn’t too long before Nazanine won over the hearts and minds of a growing body of students who support her brand of yoga. A year later another beloved yoga teacher decided to give up her class due to health issues and again Nazanine was embraced as the new instructor. 

In my thirty years of practice, I have seen instructors come and go and have a good sense who has the “right stuff,” to become a great yoga teacher. My first impression of Nazanine was her sincerity, presence, preparation, winning personality and her ability to connect with students at the heart level. Her sheer energy and joyful presence that fills the room inspires you to want to practice yoga even when you’re not particularly in the mood. If that doesn’t motivate you or put you at ease, her infectious giggle will. Whether you’re a first time student or a seasoned yogi, she has a gift for making everyone feel connected and bends over backwards to be of service. Even though some of the photos seen here could easily make the cover of Yoga Magazine, Nazanine leaves her ego at the door. She knows it’s not about her own practice but rather to lead and support students in doing asanas (poses) safely and suitable for their level.

Nazanine received her 200-hour Flow Yoga teacher certification at Yoga Source in Los Gatos, CA and completed her 500-hour teacher training at “Breathe Together Yoga Studio" (formerly called “Breathe”) that was co-founded by Jennifer Prugh, whom she calls her primary yoga teacher mentor.

But, the greatest teacher in her life is her precious two year old son, Mackai. “As a single mother, he teaches me patience, unconditional love, the meaning of ‘letting-go’ and how to enjoy the simple things in life,”’ she says. “If there is anyone that lives entirely in the present moment it’s my son,” she proudly adds.

Nazanine’s training has evolved to include a broad variety of yoga styles including Power Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Yin Yoga, Gentle Yoga, and Restorative Yoga to name a few. She teaches classes at Courtside Bay Club, and St. Mary’s, a private school in Los Gatos. On the corporate side, she leads classes for employees at Apple Computer. She also teaches one-on-one private lessons. 

With a deep passion to learn, improve her skill set and share the latest trends in yoga, Nazanine has taken special training in “Yoga Nidra,” often referred to as “Sleep Yoga,” a powerful meditation technique that can be practiced by young and old alike, and can easily be incorporated into your daily lifestyle. It instills a deep sense of inner peace and leaves you feeling relaxed, present and thoroughly rejuvenated. It’s just another tool in Nazanine’s yoga toolbox that allows her to better serve and support her students.

For more information about Nazanine Bain and her body of work, Please direct all inquires to: nazanineyoga@email.com

You could also check out her website and instagram: nazanineyoga.com and connect with her via twitter.com/nazanineyoga

Postscript: Watch Nazanine's short Vimeo Video clip about what yoga means to her filmed out doors near the Golden Gate Bridge: https://vimeo.com/241452956

Photos: of her postures were provided courtesy of Nazanine.

Photo:   of Nazanine and I doing a double tree partner pose outside the Mind-Body Studio at Courtside last summer just for the fun of it.

Namaste’! 🙏❤️🙏

 

Return Visit to The Blue Door Restaurant With Good Friends: An American Greek Dining Experience

“So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.”—Franz Kafka

The evening began at the beautiful home of our good friends and neighbors, Mark and Marleen Brodsky that overlooks Silicon Valley. We were joined by Ruth and Stan Litwin and Tina and Wayne Levenfeld. We had wine and an assorted tasty appetizer plate.

For dinner my wife Cecile had recommended The Blue Door Restaurant in San Jose which offers up classic American favorites with a Greek inspired twist. After doing a review of our experience here last year and publishing it on my blog: enjoyyourlifenow.net I emailed it to Sylvia Foundas who along with her husband Pete founded the restaurant. Responding to my review she thanked me and added that she believed it spoke to the essence of what they were trying to achieve when coming up with the concept, design, and theme for their eatery and bar, which was to create an environment where guests could feel comfortable and “feel the soul of the restaurant in order to capture…it’s essence.” Being first-generation Greek Americans, and having traveled several times to southern Greece, they wanted to bring a “little slice” of it to San Jose. Apparently, they succeeded. In 2016, The Eater Staff listed The Blue Door as one of “The 15 Hottest New Restaurants in Silicon Valley.” Following that first review Sylvia had invited us to ask for her whenever we returned. Since Cecile and I arrived first we asked the receptionist to let Sylvia know we were here. After welcoming us back we informed her that we recommended the Blue Door to our friends who would be joining us shortly. We were escorted into one of the private dining rooms. It turned out to be a perfect venue to relax and enjoy the evening. Tina and Wayne generously brought two bottles of wine, while some of us ordered cocktails. Our charming young waiter, Wesley was attentive and his overall service was excellent. We ordered lamb burgers, Natural Cheeseburger topped with a friend egg, Chicken Kebabs with rice pilaf and tabbouleh salad and Fish and Chips. Following our dinner Wesly brought us Churros with caramel and chocolate dipping sauce, compliments of the manager.

As I mentioned in my earlier review last year, choosing the name: The Blue Door had always puzzled me. But, I came to find out that the color blue reflects the shimmering, deep blue color of the Mediterranean, the azure sky and the colors of the Greek flag. It also is the color that the wives of Greek fisherman painted on the front doors of their homes to protect their husbands from misfortune so they can return home safely. As we left the Blue Door, there was a Live Latin Jazz band playing in their swanky bar as there is every Friday at 7:30 PM. Mark and Marleen, the dancers in the group, gave it a whirl that inspired other patrons to get up and dance. We couldn’t have asked for a better evening amongst friends.

The Foundas Restaurants include the Pinecrest Diner in San Francisco and the Boulevard Cafe' in Daly City.

Photo Credit: Sylvia and Pete Foundas, The Blue Door website
Photo Credit: A blue door in Greece by romtomtom

Photographing the Cloud Play and the Sunset After the Rain Storms Hit the Bay Area

"Like moody states of mind, no cloud is so dark that the light can't shine through."

I’m a big fan of sunsets that are embraced by whimsical cloud formations, especially when they occur right outside our window or can be viewed from the street leading up to our home. A good sunset is one that has the power to stop you in your tracks and say OMG. It’s a romantic encounter with Mother Nature if only for a moment. You know it won’t last, so you savor every bit of its' fleeting presence. I thought I was done shooting and then the crescendo—fiery red clouds emerged as the sun went below the horizon line.

Getting Ready to go on "The Road to Mandalay (Burma)

“The Road to Mandalay” and Burma in general conjures up images of Asia at its most Traditional and Timeless. To me, it represents that and much more.

My last trip to Myanmar (Burma) was in 2010. I had gone on several three week silent meditation retreats at Kyaswa Monastery outside of Mandalay from 2005-2010. Few Americans could be seen traveling there. That has all changed since Obama eased US sanctions against the country in 2016 to reward their recent moves toward democracy after decades of military rule. I can’t wait to share the experience Burma with Cecile, our first stop before continuing on to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Southern Vietnam.

My daughter Michelle and son—in-law Kyle, visited Myanmar last October. Local resident and friend Maybelle escorted them around Mandalay and took them to visit Kyaswa Monastery, overlooking the great Irrawaddy River, where I spent all those years in meditation. Our good friends Jimi and Jennifer Hunter recently returned from Myanmar, declaring it one of their best overseas trips of all time. 

Yesterday, our friends and yoga buddies for many years Dee Blumenthal and Kathy Ramos, emailed me this photo taken of them in front of the 2500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda (aka the Great Dragon Pagoda and/or the Golden Pagoda, located in Yangon (formerly Rangoon). It is a 326-foot tall gilded stupa that enshrines strands of the Buddha’s hair and other relics). It used to be my first stop-must see-must experience pilgrimage before flying to Mandalay. Dee described it aptly as a “feast for the eyes.” it is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf and thousands of diamonds and other precious gems. After dark, when the pagoda is all lit up, it takes on even more of mystical quality than it does in the light of day when the grand dome glistens in the sun. It is no wonder it is referred to as the “Crown of Burma.” 

When I was younger the only thing I knew about Burma (aka Myanmar since the ruling military junta changed its name) was the Burma Shave commercials, old British war movies, and Bob Hopes movie: "The Road to Mandalay). Later, I knew it to be a place where short-story writer, poet and novelist, Rudyard Kipling (The Jungle Book and The Man Who Would be King) had visited the Shwedagon Pagoda and Mandalay in the late 1800s when he was 24 years old. Kipling wrote a poem called “Mandalay" that illustrated his nostalgia and longing as a soldier of the British Empire for Asia’s exoticism.

American Composer, Oley Speaks, best hit song “On the Road to Mandalay,” took the lyrics from Kipling’s poem and it became his first million-selling single.

What awaits us when we arrive in Mandalay is the exotic Mandalay Hill Hotel (photo) where we will stay for four nights before we go on to visit the ancient temple city of Bagan.

Photo with the children was taken in Mandalay in 2010

A Private New York New Year's Eve Dinner Party in California: Let Me Explain!

"For my New Years Resolution I was going to quit all my bad habits until I remembered nobody likes a quitter." 

My wife Cecile and I were invited to attend an Italian dinner party with promises of lots of good wine and dancing to the music of the 50s and 60s by DJ Gary Carnes. The Organizers were three delightful energetic ladies: Anne Cummins, Connie Palladino, and Cindy Gum.

It was scheduled to take place at 6-10 PM at “The Clubhouse” at Rinconada Hills, Los Gatos, CA, the gated community we live in.

The time was set to coincide around New York EST. We would be watching the countdown to the start of the New Year, the ball drop and the anticipated sparkling fireworks on the Big Screen TV. All this without having to stay up past midnight and face the frigid cold front hitting the eastern seaboard. 

When we sent in our RSVP almost a month ago, we had planned to reserve a table with a group of friends. We were so grateful we wouldn't have to drive on the busiest day of the year as we live about a thousand feet from the Clubhouse. The problem was the emotional rollercoaster of losing my 100 year old dad who had died while we were on family vacation in Maui, the challenges of getting back home to California and booking passage to NJ to attend his funeral during the holidays. We were simply exhausted beyond measure. But, after taking an energy restoring nap, we decided to attend rather than stay home alone and we were happy we did.

We walked the winding path to the Clubhouse with the perimeter Pagoda lights and a Full Moon lighting our way along the cascading waterfall, and the tennis courts leading up to the majestic palm trees, where we made our entrance. The party was limited to 60 people which made it very intimate. There was a wine bar tended by the dapper volunteer bartender and neighbor John Palladino who was opening a bottle of champagne as the clock behind him was about to strike 7 PM. The night was still young, even though those of us attending were not. "Not that there is anything wrong with that," as Seinfeld would say. 

Italian appetizers that included homemade bread sticks, stuffed mushrooms and antipasto were being brought around by the servers. We took our seats at a table that included our friends and neighbors, Susan and Nelson Bye, their friends Diana and Norm and our long time friends and neighbors, Marleen and Mark Brodsky. The buffet dinner included Chicken Caesar Salad, a Vegetarian salad, meat and Vegetable Lasagna, and Tiramisu, one my favorite desserts.

One of the food servers, named Carina caught my attention. She was wearing a black T-Shirt that read “The Journey is the Destination.” Every time she passed us I kept reflecting on the fact that life is all about the experiences we have between our major milestone events—just like this. After all, the legacy of a human being is in the way he or she lived their life not arriving at a particular place or destination. Life truly is about the journey. It made me think about my dad, Frank, who was hobbyist winemaker, gardener, nature lover, army veteran and boy scout leader and extraordinary cook in his time, who lived a long fulfilled life, and how much I will miss him. 

I was the self-appointed photographer for the evening, something I enjoy doing. When I’m in the photo, my lovely wife Cecile of over forty years takes the photos. We took photos of everyone at our table and of neighbors and friends scattered around the room like Sue Sullivan, Barry Gotlieb and John Maier, and others.

After dessert, DJ Gary Carnes began singing and playing songs to dance by. Our friends Mark and Marleen were the ones to watch. They have taken dance lessons over the years. Not just any lessons. They took lessons with one of the finest and sexiest female dancers on the hit show: “Dancing with the Stars.” I got to dance “The Twist” with Marleen, so I guess you can say I was only two degrees of separation from dancing with a "television star." My wife says I’m stretching the story line. But I’m from the school of Mark Twain, who once said: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Even though Mark and I go way back (Mark Brodsky that is, not Mark Twain), I’m not sure he liked me dancing with his wife Marleen. While taking a photo of him and Nelson Bye in front of the Christmas Tree, Mark went all "Bruce Lee" on me. Look closely at the way Mark thrusts his left arm and fist forward, while aiming his champagne glass at me with his right hand. I thought I was a "gonner." 

As I scanned the room I noticed there were some guests wearing some interesting and colorful apparel. There was Russ's wife Cathy Gillum shown here in a black dress with a wide plum collared jacket with brocade overlay; and Connie Palladino with a red insulated puffer vest with snaps over a black sweater. Then there was the distinguished looking Stewart Mellis McIntosh wearing a classic Scottish outfit that would make the retired Scottish actor Sean Connery green with envy. As the saying goes never call it a skirt or you’ll get “KILT,” so I didn't. Stewart’s lovely wife Nancy complemented her husband by wearing a black pants suit with a dazzling red plaid jacket with eye-catching black cross-straps.

To say a lot of drinking was going on would be an understatement. But, hey! It was New Year's Eve. So I’ll end with a popular Scottish proverb: “Alcohol does not solve any problem, but then neither does milk.”

Happy 2018 Everybody, and I know I speak for everyone when I say thanks to Anne, Connie and Cindy for organizing such a fun event.

Dennis, a retired minimally invasive foot surgeon writes a Lifestyle and Leisure Blog: enjoyyourlifenow.net and has been living at Riconada Hills with his wife Cecile for three years after they downsized from their Saratoga home of 34 years. They are very happy campers here.

 

Happy Birthday to Dad “Frank the Tank,” Who Would have been 101, T-Shirt Wisdom, the Memorial Tattoo & Grief Yoga

“Grief is as individual as a fingerprint. Do what is right for your soul”

There are different ways to mourn and pay a memorial tribute to a loved one. For my nephew, staff sergeant, Andrew Augustine, who has served in the US Air Force for the passed 9 years, it was to have a memorial tank tattoo inked on his body with grandpa Frank’s name on it. He and his brothers liked to call my dad “Frank the Tank” because he enjoyed rhyming our names (Mine was Dennis the Menace:-) and because dad was a veteran of the US Army. Andrew was recently deployed to Portugal and regrettably was unable to attend his grandpa’s funeral. However, he did get to see him in mid-November when Cecile and I made a short visit to NJ to see my dad and the family.
Today is the day dad would have turned 101. Some family members hoped against hope he might make it. At a New Years Eve event Cecile and I attended one of the servers, named Carina was wearing a black T-Shirt that read “The Journey is the Destination.” Every time she passed by a platter of appetizers, I seemed more interested in the quote on her shirt than the food she was serving. I kept reflecting on the fact that life is about all our experiences that occur “between" the significant milestone events we reach. Whether dad made it to 101 was irrelevent. After all, it was not about reaching a particular age, it was the wonderful way he lived his life that I have recounted here over the years.
The day after we buried him it was pouring rain. I attempted to go to my favorite yoga studio to take a class with my favorite teacher to create some space for myself to deal with the mental and emotional residue of losing him. It had moved to a new location. My Uber driver got misdrected by his GPS and I was not only late, but I wound up at the different studio called Honor Yoga. Their mission statement: Honor your mind, honor your body and honor yourself.
I approached the young woman at the reception area and asked when was her next class and she said 45 minutes. 
I told her I would wait to take the class but felt some disappointment arising. I was still holding on to the assumption that I was best served taking a class with my favorite teacher at the other studio. 
Jennifer Gigantino, co-owner of Honor Yoga and would be leading the class. I found myself staring at her T-shirt which read: “Let it Be, Let it Be, Let it Be. There will be an answer Let it Be.” I had noticed the lyrics written by Paul McCartney when I first checked in. The inspiration came from the Beatles' dead mother, Mary when he was having a tough time dealing with her loss.
Jennifer, a former teacher of autistic children led a good gentle class. She opened with “Let go of any worries and concerns and be in the present moment.” Calming music was being played. At the close, during relaxation pose, she came around to each one of us and massaged some soothing essential oil around the crown of our heads. I had been nursing a sore right elbow for weeks and had I gone to the other yoga studio I would have found myself in a more active class which would have been problematic. Honor Yoga was the place I needed to be. It was gentle, relaxing, peaceful and easy on the elbow. It is interesting how things we often fret about clear up just in the process of life itself, when we don’t try to control the outcome, justing “letting things be.”

Postscript: The last photo of me wearing dad’s winter coat I took home to keep him close.
Photo Credit: Honor Yoga January 2018 Newsletter

Happy 2018 to Friends and Family & the World at Large with a Message of Love, Hope, and Gratefulness

"Begin doing what you want to do NOW. We only have this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake.”—Sir Francis Bacon

As the year comes to a close and a 2018 begins, Cecile and I feel blessed for all the celebrations we enjoyed with family and friends throughout the year. The highlight was of course Michelle and Kyle getting happily married in Napa last May. It was beyond magical. And while the spotlight was on the newlyweds, Jason who officiated the wedding playing a heartfelt supporting role with humor, grace, and wisdom.

What appeared to be the low point of the year was losing my dad a week before Christmas. Yet, in many ways it was a celebration of a life well lived and brought our entire extended family closer together. One of my teachers, the late scholar and mythologist, Joseph Campbell whose wife wrote an introductory quote to a book I wrote in the 90s called Invisible Means of Support, once wrote: “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.” It sounded like such a revolutionary concept when I first read it. His point was that life does have its hardships and suggested that an individual should embrace the experience of being alive by living affirmatively even in the face of these hardships. Dad in his simple way showed us how this was done, but we hadn’t grasped it at first.

My family and I (photographed here) want to thank all of you again for reaching out with your condolences, thoughts and prayers. It was comforting and empowering. The mind is an interesting thing, it can imprison us or liberate us. When we face a challenging moment or one that is incredibly difficult, it begins to spin us out into another orbit, bringing us a mind storm of confusion, mental and emotional pain. But feeling your support and working with the breath, and grounding myself in awareness with yoga and meditation made it possible to cope with the less enjoyable bits and be fully present with the more surreal and joyful moments including watching my nieces play and enjoy Christmas Day and being loved and contained in a cocoon of a family that love them. They truly show us how to live in the moment.

So I have no great resolutions to make or offer for 2018. I will continue to Live Life Happy as the banner at poolside at Courtside Bay Club says and follow the wisdom of Sir Francis Bacon who once wrote:
"Begin doing what you want to do NOW. We only have this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake.” 

Stay Safe! Drive Safe! Enjoy!

Postscript: A couple of the photos were taken with my nieces Ava and Emma. The photo taken of the two young girls playing with their dolls are my nieces Zaila and Mia who are the best of friends; and one with my niece Mia holding a dwarf rabbit named HOPE.❤️

Lights, Camera, Action: Chinese-Style "Hot Pot" Post Christmas Dinner at the Chiens

“If the only prayer you ever say is “Thank You,” that will be enough.”—Eckhart Tolle

After my dad passed away a week before Christmas my family on the east coast still decided to celebrate the annual holiday, if for no other reason but for my nieces and nephews. It was a good call. Watching them having fun helped ease our loss. 

Prior to returning home Cecile and I accepted a dinner invitation by our daughter Michelle’s mother-in-law Kim and husband AL, to enjoy Christmas, Part 2 at their home since we weren't able to join them for Christmas Eve. Aside from Kyle and Michelle, Kyle’s brother Chip and Katie visiting from NYC, and our son Jason and Alex were present. Last but not least Kim and AL’s dog Bailey and Michelle and Kyle’s dog Decker kept us entertained throughout the evening.

We first gathered around the kitchen counter and enjoyed cocktails, and chicken and vegetable dumplings that AL prepared, along with Sriracha sauce and soy sauce.
For the main course we had Hot Pot, which Kim described in her invitation as resembling a "Chinese Fondue,” with thinly cut pieces of filet mignon, sliced halibut, morsels of fish, tofu, noodles and vegetables cooked at the table accompanied with a variety of dipping sauces. We also had soup broth with Bok Choy and Chinese see-through Vermicelli noodles. For dessert we had Kim’s signature assorted cookies that are to die for. 

Hot pot is an unofficial Christmas tradition for many Asian families. There is no other communal dish that brings people together the way Hot Pot does. It’s focus is on cooking, sharing and eating together with closest friends and family. It was an ideal choice for a cold evening. 

After dinner we gathered around the decorated, brightly lit Christmas tree that took our breath away. Kim is an absolute artist when it comes to decorating her home for the holidays—preparing weeks in advance. One has a sense that she is simply tapping into the excitement and passion she has for the holidays. It not only makes her happier, but it brings out the inner child in all of us. Experts say that decorating can definitely lift your mood by triggering an increase of dopamine, otherwise called the feel-good hormone. The bright lights, colors and magical ambiance in general increases these levels and boost one's well-being, and that is something to be grateful for.🙏🙏

Dad Received A Military Funeral Salute & A Celebratory Luncheon in his Honor

“There is no amount of money or technology that can deliver the feeling one gets listening to “TAPS" being played for the family of a deceased veteran. To say it brings tears to one’s eyes in an understatement.”

Following a Funeral Mass at Our Lady of Grace Church, Dad received a Military Funeral Honors ceremony at Holy Cross Cemetery, in North Arlington, NJ by two uniformed military personnel that included the folding and presentation of the United States burial flag that was preceded by a Solo performance of Taps. The flag was then presented to my sister Josephine McAllister (accompanied by her husband Joe) who was deserving of such an honor. She was a devoted daughter who did the grocery shopping every Friday, coordinated with dad’s dedicated live-in caregiver, Marcelle John and dad’s physician, Dr. Joseph Pollak. Taps can be traced back to a French bugle tune from the early nineteenth century that called for “lights out.” That said, despite his passing the light of our father’s legacy will continue to shine on. 

Following the burial service, we had a celebratory luncheon at El Cafone in Lyndhurst, NJ in his honor. It was the same place we held his 100th birthday dinner party last January.

Thanks again to the more than 600 condolences my family and I received from our "Facebook Friends and Family" and "Real Hoboken Friends and Family No Matter What."

Finally, I wanted to share an excerpt from an email by a nurse Luba from Promised Care awhile back after reading about upcoming honors dad was about to receive.
She wrote: “I have a confession to make: I’m in love with your father. His strength and his outlook at life is an admiration to me….I tell your father’s story to those who blame their circumstances for their failures. I have a great story to tell to inspire them about the future. It begins like this: ’There was an orphan boy [my dad] who grew up in various homes…but the most important point is what the boy has accomplished and his contentment with life at his age.”' 

He truly believed the words of Abraham Lincoln who once said, “Most folks are as happy as they make their minds to be.” 

Thank you dad and May You Rest in Peace. Your devoted children, Dennis, Josie, Michael and Steve.❤️

Postscript: The family wants to thank Rev. Alex Santora of Our Lady of Grace Church for delivering the eulogy, Father Torres for officiating the Funeral Mass and the Elks Lodge members for performing a “Lodge of Sorrow,” ceremony last evening at Failla-McKnight Funeral Home in Hoboken, NJ.

Our Beloved Dad Frank Augustine Made his Final Exit Today

"When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure." —Author Unknown

My brothers Steve, Michael and my sister Josie and I are so blessed to have had our dad in our lives less than 3 weeks short of what would have been his 101st birthday. Just before taking his last breath Marcelle his devoted caregiver said our mother Maria was calling for him to join her. We exchanged the final words between us (I Love You Dad!) when I called him from Maui at 8 PM EST last evening. Cecile and I were fortunate enough to see dad November 14-19. I had an intuition he wouldn't make it beyond the end of this year. We are so happy we did. Here I am visiting with him at his bedside. 
My father never told me how I should live my life, he lived a long life and let me watch how its done. I will always remember the gentle smile of his and his ability to laugh at life no matter what.
I will be flying back to California before heading to New Jersey to join my family in attending his funeral service on a date to be determined. 
Dear Dad May You Rest in Peace❤️
Last photo: My niece Selina getting a kiss on the cheek.
Frank Augustine: Born: 01/05/1917 Died: 12/12/2017

Kyle, Michelle, Jason & Alex Treat us for Dinner at the Award Winning Monkey Pod Kitchen

The Monkey Pod tree was the inspiration for Chef Peter Merriman’s Monkey-Pod Kitchen restaurant in Wailea and more recently at its new location at the newly renovated Whaler’s Village on Kaanapali Beach. 

Cecile and I, Michelle and Kyle and Jason and Alex had Margherita pizza, oven charred Brussel Sprouts with peppers and onions, Freshly caught Fish Tacos, Fresh Mahi-Mahi Fish and Chips, Avocado Cucumber salad, Fresh Organic Herbs Kale Salad and Fresh Gnocchi with Sausage made with fresh ricotta and vine-ripened tomatoes. 

The Monkey-pod tree known as a “Rain-tree” around the globe is a species of a flowering tree from the pea family and was said to have been naturalized in Hawaii where it was grown from a seed in 1847. It has also been reported to have been planted on the Big Island by Mark Twain in 1866. The Monkey tree which is cherished by Hawaiians has a single stalk with branches the spread into a huge canopy. Unlike other trees that kill the grass beneath it, the grass is always greener under the monkey-pod tree because it releases nitrogen which fertilizers the soil beneath it.

The Monkey Tree historically got its name from some countries where monkeys are found of the licorice tasting pods and sit in the trees eating them. Modern research has shown the Monkey Pod tree has antibacterial and anti fungal qualities. In the West Indies the leaves are chewed to relieve toothaches and in the Philippines the leaves are used in an infusion for constipation and stomach aches. During the holidays 8 miles of lights are strung on the Monkey pods at the Grand Wailea Resort. 

Unlike the old Rusty Harpoon, Cane and Taro, Maui Fish & Pasta that have failed at this location, it looks like Monkey Pod Kitchen “where the grass is always greener”is here to stay, and we’ll be back.

To cap off the evening we enjoyed dessert at the new Ono Gelato, next door to the restaurant. The flavors were amazing and the portions were generous and satisfied our sweet tooth.

Dining Al-Fresco with the Kids at Relish Oceanside Restaurant in Maui

"Good food in a magical setting is all the more sweeter when shared with family and friends."

Kyle and Michelle, and Jason and Alex recently arrived on Maui. Cecile and I invited them to be our guests for dinner at Relish Oceanside at the Westin.
Set amidst tropical greenery back lit by flickering tiki torches and serenaded by cascading waterfalls, the sophisticated yet casual setting couldn’t have been more intimate. It was the perfect place to unwind and relax with one of the best island tropical inspired Mai Tai’s on Kaanapali Beach.

For appetizers, we shared tapas style Ahi Poke tostadas, Taro Focaccia with Kimchee butter and shallot and garlic oil, Miso Yakitori chicken skewers, Toybox Tomato and Burrata with upcountry baby greens, Chaioga Beets and Fantasia goat cheese.
For the dinner we had Lobster Mac & Cheese, Blue Crab and Macadamian nut Mahi-Mahi, Hawaii Rib Eye Fillet, Crispy Japanese style Hibachi Salmon and Hawaiian Style BBQ Ribs.

The word Relish is defined by taking pleasure in, rejoicing, and to appreciate and savor, and the general consensus at our table is that the Relish Oceanside Restaurant lived up to its name.

 

Overwhelmed by the Enchantment of Kaanapali Beach in Maui

“Hawaii is paradise. It sounds cheesy to say it, but there is music in the air there.”—Bruno Mars

Cecile and I have been coming to Maui since the late 70s. The magic of this enchanted island has never wavered for us. After almost a week in Wailea, we are now at our home resort at the Maui Marriott Ocean Club, Lahaina Tower.

The Lei garland that welcomes one to the islands are so deeply cherished that each year there is a “Lei Day Holiday,” to celebrate the Aloha spirit which we embrace.

The radiant beauty of sunrise, sunsets, rainbows and misty rainfalls are some of the best in the world. We love the gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) sway of the majestic palm trees and lapis colored ocean that appears outside our 5th floor window and lanai. We are captivated by the esthetic beauty of the orchids, and ever-present hibiscus flowers including the yellow hibiscus, Hawaii’s State flower that represents beauty, unity and peace.

The fresh heavenly fragrance of plumeria, tuberose, and gardenia and the sound of cascading waterfalls and the crashing of waves from the Pacific Ocean fills the air. The colorful large koi in the waterlily filled lagoons and ponds at the Westin converge together just beneath the surface, especially during feeding times.

The elegant white swans float along the water with such grace and beauty, and at times enjoying the spray from the waterfall to cool themselves off on a hot day. They are connected to the sun and symbolize light and all that is good. In some cultures they represent the connection between the material and spiritual world, able to reside in both due to their connection to air and water.

I never tire of visiting the museum quality statutes of neighboring hotels on both sides of the island represent Hawaiian cultures and Southeast Asia.
We find the flickering tiki torches lighting up the paths and entrances of the local restaurants with sounds of the ukulele’s lolling strings peaceful and relaxing. The Zen-like awareness of the here and now overcomes us like no other convergence of sounds and sights around the world. It is the Maui we have come know and love.

Photo of the Bronze Hawaiian dancers and mermaid statues were taken in Wailea

My Coincidental Encounter with Jack Kornfield, one of the most Influential Mindfulness Meditation Teachers of our Time

“When you live your life with an appreciation of coincidences you connect with the underlying field of infinite possibilities.”
—Deepak Chopra

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted Jack Kornfield near the pool at the Wailea Beach Resort. I had recently purchased a copy of his latest book: “No Time Like the Present, Finding Freedom and Joy Right Where You Are."
I first met Jack in the dining room of the Sedona Hotel in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar) in 2009. I was planning to participate in a three week meditation retreat at a monastery overlooking the great Irrawaddy River that welcomed westerners (Photos). 

I was having breakfast with Crystal who was also attending the retreat. We had met at the airport for the first time and I arranged for my friend Maybelle, a native of Myanmar to offer her a ride with us to the Hotel, where some attendees like myself were staying prior to the retreat. It was Crystal’s first time in Burma and my 4th. I looked up from our table, and caught a glimpse of a familiar face walking towards us. I realized it was Jack Kornfield. I have to admit I was a bit star struck. Anyone familiar with the practice of mindfulness meditation called Vipassana has heard the name. For those who haven’t, he is a former Peace Corp. volunteer who later trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma and India. He is an author, activist, psychologist and a cofounder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in West Marin County. Spirit Rock is a 411 acre secluded retreat center that provides a supportive environment to quiet the mind, soften the heart and see life in a more skillful and peaceful way. 

I got up, walked toward the former monk as if I was meeting a longtime friend and said: “Jack?” I introduced myself, and told him I was attending the meditation retreat. He had invited a group of generous donors from the United States including some of his students, to visit local monasteries, Pagodas, schools, hospitals, to serve those in need through their financial contributions, in a country of limited resources that given him so much in his early years.

I asked him if we could take a photo together and he said, “Sure!” I asked Crystal if she would take the photo. What impressed me was when the soft spoken teacher and scholar said, “Why don’t we have someone take the photo so Crystal can join us.” It was a skillful, kind, and inclusive gesture. 

Here we were, many years later, at the Wailea Beach Resort and I found myself being part of a repeat performance—a synchronicity in the making. Jack was seated at a table near the pool reading his emails. I approached him as he was getting up and once again said: “Jack?” He looked at me inquisitively as I introduced myself. I reminded him when we first met in Burma eight years ago and we took a photo together with Crystal. I introduced him to my wife Cecile who was laying on a lounge chair overlooking the pool. “Cecile, this is Jack Kornfield,” I said with a hint of excitement. I was going to have her take a photo of Jack and I when in true form, he suggested we all take a “selfie” together. As the great Yogi Berra once said: “It was like De Ja Vu all over again.” 

Postscript: Kornfield was one of the presenters at the 10th Anniversary “Open Your Heart in Paradise,” with friends of spiritual teacher Ram Das at the Napili Kai Beach Resort on the other side of Maui. He was spending a couple of days at the Wailea Beach Resort with his wife before heading back to California when we reconnected.

Photo of the Pagoda of my and abbot, the late Sayadaw Lakkhana as seen in the meditation hall and from my hut at sunrise during the retreat in 2009.

Photo of my friend Maybelle and Crystal having lunch prior to the retreat.

https://jackkornfield.com/

A Sunset Ceremony from our Lanai in Wailea: A Way to Reflect Upon the Day both Here and at Home

“Sunsets are proof that not matter what happens, every day can end beautifully”
—Kristen Butler

From the comfort of our lanai, Cecile and I viewed another sunset last evening. Others were gathering from their lanai’s as well as at the water's edge to view this wonderful phenomenon most of us don’t often think about in out every day lives. It was like a living watercolor painting that gradually changed its shape and form as the sun approached the ocean, kissing it good night. All too often we only stop to appreciate the beauty and majesty of a sunset when we are on vacation, but the sun sets every day. I decided some time ago to make it part of my practice to enjoy a sunset on a regular basis. I am happy to report it has resulted in my feeling a deeper sense of gratitude for life.

In the Hawaiian tradition, the Sunset Ceremony begins with the sounding of the conch shell to gather up all the mana (energy) from the four corners, from one’s ancestors and from one’s self. It is a time to reflect upon your day and say Mahalo (thank you) for another day in a life. The beat of the pahu (the sacred drum) symbolizes the heartbeat of the day’s light and the chant puts the day to rest.

As the sun gradually disappears from view, one lets go of all preoccupations, worries and concerns of the day, so you can create space to greet a new day in the making. The thought of letting go of the day as the sun sinks below the horizon invokes a sense of peace, compassion and relaxation. Making the intention to punctuate our day with a moment of reflection whereby we let go of any regrets, disappointments and or shortcomings each evening allows us to begin the next day with a fresh slate.

 

Letting Another Day Unfold at the Wailea Beach Resort as Gale Force Winds Hit the island

“If the ocean can calm itself, so can you. We are both salt water mixed with air.”
—nayyirah waheed

After an early breakfast of pancakes and white egg omelette, Cecile and I took a gentle Ocean Flow Yoga class on the lawn overlooking the beautiful and vast Pacific Ocean. 21 people were in attendance. I also did some solitary high lunge side twists and Warrior III poses after class. The palm trees swayed overhead and the tropical breeze filled our lungs as we inhaled deep and exhaled long into each pose. Yoga trains the mind to be calm and still. When the mind is tame, you can see things more clearly. Like anything else worth doing, it requires practice. Doing yoga outdoors intensifies the experience and increases one’s awareness. It cultivates a connection with nature and the environment and to each other. It makes you feel alert and more energetic and sets the mood and tone for the entire day. 

We took our walk, spent time at the pool when gale force winds gradually overtook this side of the island. Speaking of gale force winds, I’m seated on top a large boulder in front of a palm tree in a cross-legged position. During the raging storm of Hurricane Iwa in 1982, it was thrust onto to this very spot by a mighty wave. Fortunately, Maui sustained minor damages compared to other islands. The rest of the photos were taken on the fly throughout the day and evening. By the time we had dinner and browsed the Wailea Shops within walking distance of our resort the gale force winds that had hit a high of 50 MPH had calmed.

 

Enjoying our First Day at the Transformed Wailea Beach Resort on Maui After its $100 Million Transformation

"While you can't buy happiness, you can buy a ticket to Maui, and that's pretty much the same thing," read the T-Shirt of a visiting tourist."

When the Uber driver arrived at 6:15 AM to take Cecile and I to SF Airport for our annual vacation on Maui, the remnants of the Super Moon or Cold Moon from the day before were still in play. 8 hours later we were in paradise where the Pacific greets its guests with its seductive charm the moment you arrive. We checked in to the the Wailea Beach Resort, the area’s first resort, and now its newest We enjoyed island fresh fish tacos and Kula Farm salad at Kapa’s overloking one of several pools and the ocean, and settled in. From our lanai we caught our first magical sunset of our stay while the Luau next door was just getting started. 
We are looking forward to eating at Humble Market Kitchin (no typo) in the coming days. It was recently opened by celebrated chef Roy Yamaguchi that offers inside and outside dining. Over the years we have eaten at some of his restaurants and he never disappoints.
As we toured the property earlier we chuckled at seeing the new “Mo Bettah" food truck service serving up local favorites. There are new pools that have ocean-front cabanas. There is also the Maluhia Serentity Pool for adults only, with an infinity pool and multi-level pool decks. So nice to be back. The Marriott Vacation Club organization has come a long way from its humble beginnings and we have enjoyed the ride.

 

Surprise Birthday Brunch for Michelle at Don Pistos in the Heart of San Francisco

“Life goes by in the blink of an eye, so be sure to be grateful for the moments of celebration with family and friends that help make your life complete.” 

Kyle arranged for a delightful birthday Brunch in honor of our daughter Michelle at Don Pistos on Union and Grant in the North Beach area of the city. Guests included Kyle’s mom, Kim and Al, Cecile and myself, and good friends Kacy and Noel, Julia and Asher, Nicole and Pat and their precious baby Braden. You would never know from the outside that Don Pistos ranks #226 out of 5,825 restaurants in SF. First off, it has no outdoor sign making it one of the best undercover Mexican style food experience in the city. 

The dishes were served tapas style. The ingredients in the food servings were fresh and expertly prepared. The guacomole was served in a stone bowl and the tortilla chips with tangy tomatillo salsa were amazingly tasty and light. We had platters of fish tacos that included fresh flounder, arbol and avocado salsa and onion slaw, Cerviche Camarones (Sautéed shrimp, garlic and red onion), Huevos Rancheros, Salmon Ceviche (for me since I’m allergic to shellfish). The flour tortillas were hand made. The bottomless Margaritas and Sangria kept flowing until we told the waiter: “no mas!” The service in the charming brick covered wall dining room was friendly, efficient and memorable. If your looking for a quiet intimate place to eat, this fun, bustling place is not for you. But for a group party it was ideal. For dessert, Kyle brought homemade cannolis recommended by a good friend. Afterwards, Michelle blew out her birthday candle and opened her presents. 

After brunch, we headed to the cosmopolitan Buena Vista at Beach and Hyde overlooking the Bay and trolley car turnaround for their world famous Irish Coffee. We were lucky to find a table. It was massively busy and a fabulous place for people watching. The recipe was concocted in the early 1950s by then owner Jack Koeppler, and international travel writer Stanton Delaplane and modeled after the “Irish Coffee” served at Shannon Airport in Ireland using perfect tasting Irish Whiskey. 

In a quiet moment of reflection in the midst of the buzz of conversation emanating from the crowd I felt a special moment of gratitude that Michelle and Kyle moved back to California from NYC two years ago and are living happily ever after in San Mateo to the sheer delight of their family and friends. Happy 31st Birthday, Michelle we love you, and "you too" Kyle.❤️

 

Dining with Friends at The Blue Door Restaurant: Greek Inspired Touch on American Classics Cuisine

“We believe that all of one’s senses must feel the soul of the restaurant in order to capture its essence.”—Pete and Sylvia Foundas

When the Blue Door replaced the Chevy’s at Westgate Center in San Jose in the winter of 2016, I thought it was just another sports bar and never gave it a chance. “What’s with the blue” I thought? Hooking up with our neighbors and friends, Susan and Nelson Bye, I was about to find out. But first things first—the incredible food.

The four of us ordered the following from an extensive array of menu offerings:
Mediterranean Platter: hummus, eggplant, tzatziki and grilled Chicken Kebab; Curry Chicken Mac: with roasted chicken, sweet peppers, carrots, green onions, ginger, garlic, coconut milk and Thai basil; Pastichio: Greek Lasagna layered with seasoned beef, béchamel and elbow pasta and Lamb Sliders: with feta cheese, garlic-oregano aioli, pickled cucumbers and red onion. For dessert we shared a Berry Crisp with vanilla ice cream and Pistachio Creme Brulee that was recommended by our waiter Pedro. The food did not disappoint, the service was excellent and the ambiance was beyond what I expected. Yes, there is a sports bar in a separate section that offers early bird specials at great savings. They also serve breakfast and lunch.

In designing the 7500 square foot Blue Door, Pete and Sylvia Foundas, first-generation Greek Americans had a goal in mind: To create a comfortable, hospitable and joyful environment inspired by Costa Navarino, one of their favorite resorts in southern Greece.

As far as the significance of Blue” in the name "Blue Door," it is part of Greek folklore dating back over 5000 years. Greece is surrounded by a sea of blue and is also represented in it’s flag. In Greek mythology, blue is the color that wards off the “Nazar” or the “Evil Eye,” from someone who secretely wishes you ill-will due to jealously or envy. Its also been said that Greek wives would paint their front doors blue when their fishermen-husbands went off to sea, believing it would protect them from harm. People would also carry, wear, or pin a glass blue eyed charm on a baby’s clothing to keep them safe. I totally identified with this custom, since my grandfather was fisherman in Sicily, and the Evil Eye there is called (Malocchio). It was common for many Italians to wear a gold or silver colored horn on a necklace resembling a chili pepper to protect them from the evil spirits. In my younger years I used to wear one on Italian 18 karat chain. See photo with the evil eye painting between the nutcracker soldiers!

Photo Credit of Blue door in Greece: Stevetopper.com