Nora’s Cookbook

I recently applied to the HBO Writing Fellowship via Film Freeway. The application process helped me to organize myself, my resume, my portfolio, my digital-professional world.

HBO required a pilot script. I submitted “Stringer,” a half-hour dramedy about a single, working mom who begins a job in journalism after a long hiatus. Julia Gray is struggling to keep it all together and lives a stringed-together existence, but she’s making it. She’s building something beyond the stigma of poverty, depression and divorce.

In the pilot, we meet some of Julia’s editors, some of her “village” and her kids. We’re introduced to Julia’s unique ways of coping and we begin to understand the state of Journalism. The industry is in survival-mode and this plays out as a central theme throughout “Stringer.”

Part of the application included two narrative essays. The randomly generated questions were ideal for me: talk about my writing space and discuss my favorite author.

For the latter, I chose Nora Ephron. Sorry-not-sorry for my obsession with Nora! As with most of my obsessions, it comes and goes. In the thick of obsessing, I discovered “Nora’s Cookbook,” Ephron’s own homage to her obsession with food, cooking and living life in good taste.

The cookbook wasn’t for sale, anywhere. So, what I do know about it is heresay, sadly.  I began to piece together all the information I could find about the 174-page cookbook that Nora created for her close friends. It became a mystery to solve, a catalyst to feel closer to a mentor I never got to meet, a side-project that I hoped would one day lead to me seeing- with my own eyes- recipes from an official copy of “Nora’s Cookbook.”

Ephron wrote it in her true fashion of honesty and quality, humor and candor. She offered her wisdom about piecrust (buy it from the store) and included recipes like “Joan Didion’s Mexican Chicken Thing” and “Ben Bradlee’s Scrambled Eggs.” According to the L.A. Times Ephron wrote: “Everyone loves fried chicken, Don’t ever make it. Ever. Buy it from a place that makes good fried chicken.”  On a ‘complicated recipe for chocolate buttercream icing’, Ephron wrote, ‘I have never made it and I never will. But I have eaten it and it’s great’.”

I began a recipe index, since I couldn’t get my own copy, collecting quotes and bits. Any time I read something by Nora about food, I’d jot it down and save it to my list. I’d make my own Nora cookbook, I figured.

I emulated Nora’s recipes and advice and I listened to and viewed audio and video of Nora cooking. In many of her interviews she talks about food. On an episode of “The Martha Stewart Show,” Ephron “bakes” her key lime pie. The classy banter and rousing between Martha and Nora about former husbands is the meriengue on the pie!


nora's Tzimmes

Photo credit The New York Times (although I’m curious where they obtained it from…)

Now, in my kitchen, I refer to Nora’s recipes whenever appropriate.  I never make my own pie crust and I have yet to find a local place that makes pineapple shakes, just like the ones Nora raved about even as she was hospitalized at the end of her illness. And I seek counsel with her on other issues, too. She said that around age 42 a woman’s neck begins to “go.” It’s just inevitable, she said.

So, in honor of Nora Ephron, and obsessions, in March the blog will be devoted to all things skincare. I’ll interview local skincare goddesses and talk about my own lux and budget self-care journey. There will be some surprises and collaborations, as well.

Happy March.







Happy Self-Love Day

I’m not sure there’s a “holiday” more disputed and glorified than Valentine’s Day.


If you’re not in the mood to celebrate a day devoted to sensationalized, romantic love then adopt a “Self-Love Day.”

You deserve it.

Here’s a few (#free) ideas to get you in the mood to celebrate loving yourself:

  • Write a love letter to yourself: You’re awesome, we both know it. Make a list of all the things you feel are working in your life. Focus on all the amazing things you do every single day of your life. Perhaps you feel those things often go unnoticed by others, so try to validate yourself by recognizing your successes.
  • Treat yourself to 15-minutes of eye closing: No phone, no conversations, no technology. Turn down the chaos by turning up your other senses.
  • Self-care the sh*t out of your day: I know, self-care is a luxury at times. I hope you can find even just a few minutes to do something just for you. Maybe this means doing your hair, or not doing your hair. It could mean going for a walk by yourself, or calling on a friend to join you. You do you, boo.
  • Be present: For today, try to focus on today. Give yourself a break from the worry, the anxiety, the tension. Look around at what’s good. Gratitude is a wonderful habit to form, if you’re able.
  • Set a new goal: Goals are free. Setting goals is positive thinking and you deserve to feel a sense of hope. The ultimate gift of self-love is dreaming. Recognize the good in yourself.
  • You’ve got to eat: Eat something you love to eat. Enjoy it- whatever it is, whether sweet or savory and do not feel guilty.
  • Say I love you: It feels good to express love. Say it to your friends, to your family, to your children, to your pets and to yourself. Your serotonin level will thank you.

Love is in the air!


Paper snowflakes


I started writing this post last week. Then life happened and I had to crawl back out of a place where negative tunnel vision blocked my productivity.  So, here we are now, together, getting through this belated message:

It’s a week before Thanksgiving. Do you know where your holiday decorations are?

I’m amazed at the dialogue that centers around (early to some, not to others) holiday decorating. The feuds that have hijaked social media are another reminder of how divisive the masses have become.

If there is an opinion, there is an opposition, and a meme, and all the voices want to be heard.

The human dynamic is shifting. Anxiety is at an all-time high in our society.

No wonder. We’re constantly connected.

What are the side affects of this constant contact?

Sarah Wilson talks about this in great length in her book First, We Make the Beast Beautiful. Her blog enlightens and encourages people to be more introspective about their impact on society/the planet/themselves/their neighbors.

Much of our anxiety is self-imposed. I know that’s not the answer we want to hear, but it’s the truth. We’re so willingly connected that we are unconsciously disconnected. Too many find their value or self-worth in being opinionated. I want to find our similarities and use those to make our human experiences more meaningful.

I think holiday decorations are the perfect distraction from all of our distractions. No matter what your finances, you can decorate. One year as a single, poor mom, I cut-out paper snowflakes and the kids and I hung them around our place. Snowflake bunting to remind yourself that you are not alone and that holiday is about spirit.

I say let the people decorate! Let the people sing their Christmas tunes! Let thy stockings be hung, even if you’re just not ready.

There’s something magical in the shimmer and the glitter and the change of scenery this time of year. Just like a cardinal on a stack of browned, winterized leaves, the season gives us a glimmer of beauty.

I hope you can take a moment to disconnect, even for just a little bit.













Notice how we don’t have a word to commemorate someone’s death date?

Such a monumental event and we don’t even acknowledge a death date with a specific word.

We’ve got birthday and anniversary. Anniversary translates to “year turning” [= “annus” year…”versus” turning]. But, we no longer use a particular word to signify the date someone we love died. The word anniversary, according to secret society Middle English folklore (or this website), was initially used to refer to someone’s death date.

Other cultures and languages refer to the death anniversary specifically. Most other cultures celebrate the deaths of their loved ones each year, and publicly. Americans are so private and guarded with their grief.

I call it deathiversary. It flows naturally, and there’s no mistaking the celebration’s intent.

My father died ten years ago today. His deathiversary always aligns with the subtle changing of the seasons in Florida. If we’re lucky, we’ll have cool mornings and evenings. Some years, such as this year, the chill arrives and leaves swiftly.  I hop back into Tevas and jean shorts, complaining about the vicious and blinding sun.

The day of my father’s funeral in Springfield, Massachusetts, it was 22 degrees. The cold-appropriate clothing felt extra comforting as I hid my body, heavy with grief, into the layers.

During those days, in 2008 before smart phones had taken over, wherever I went, I carried my pocket size Canon Power Shot Elph with me. That point and shoot camera, which was 8.0 megapixels and had a color-accent feature that everyone was fascinated with, did so much despite it’s amature status.

I was able to capture moments like this throughout the day of my father’s service:


dad superman

It’s a tiny photo, but a giant memory.


Picture 24_copy

Margaret Street, Springfield, Mass. 10/22/2008


Picture 20

I haven’t returned to his grave, or Massachusetts, since 2008.



Rock Bully

In 1985, during my fifth grade year at Sanborn Elementary School in Ossineke, Michigan, I proudly exhibited a pair of white denim jeans stamped with neon-colored tropical fruit. My father had sent them to me, and I loved those jeans that were embellished with pineapples, coconuts, pinks, blues, greens, oranges, the color and the fruit.  Dad was a security guard at a department store in Connecticut and got a discount on clothing. I was often teased about my clothing, but I would have worn virtually anything that my father sent me. Wearing those clothes made me feel closer to him when I ached so deeply just to be near him. I didn’t own Guess jeans like most of the other girls in my grade, but truthfully, I preferred my department store couture.

I was a child of divorce and a tv baby, fueled by “Dallas”, “Falcon Crest”, “Growing Pains”, “Moonlighting” and “Family Ties”. My beliefs were simple: that love is all we need. With my wire-like, dark curly hair, an inheritance courtesy of my full-Italian father, I was not a traditional beauty. Plus, I usually wore my hair short and with thick black curls, I looked more like a prepubescent boy. I had painfully grown accustomed to strangers calling me “young man”.  Not having breasts certainly added to the gender confusion.

When I was five years old, living on Daley Street in Chicopee, Massachusetts, my friends and I shoved little stuffed animals into our shirts to create large, and lopsided, pretend breasts. We would strut back and forth in the driveway, behind my mom’s flesh-colored Vega. Now-a-days, that type of behavior would be the next viral video on Facebook. Back then, no one seemed to notice what we were doing. And, if they did, they didn’t care. It was the 80s afterall.

My soul-mission in 1985 was to get a boyfriend. It seemed like everyone in fifth grade had already been kissed. I was naive, sensitive and gullible, so I was convinced I was the last person in my grade to be kissed. The blurred line between just being boyfriend and girlfriend seemed to disappear once kissing became a goal. Holding hands was easy, but kissing was confusing to me: how would I know how to do it? Do I really even want to kiss someone or is this the epitome of fear of missing out? 

During class one morning, a boy named B asked me to “go with him” through a note written on wide-ruled paper and then folded into a triangle. His best friend, D, passed the triangle to my friend who then passed to me.

“Will you go with me? Yes______?  No_____?”

Impulsively, I put a mark next to “yes”. I dated B for nearly an entire day.  I don’t remember why, but I do remember swifty ending our relationship by a note I had written which my friend gave to his best friend who then gave it to B. I felt relieved. The pressure was off; I could be just a ten-year-old again.

One week later, B’s best friend asked me through a multi-folded note to meet him during recess on the trail behind the playground. 

“Let’s kiss on the trail during recess today,” the note read.

“He wants to kiss me?” I thought to myself.  “He wants to kiss me!” I proclaimed, internally. This was it: this was going to be MY first kiss moment. So many of my girlfriends had claimed they kissed a boy. Already, at ten years old, I felt light years behind them.

D was a year older (we were in Mr. Rensbury’s split 5th/6th class) and I found his dark feathered hair appealing. Technically, he was considered a tough kid from a tough family. I think I found that even more appealing. 

I watched the clock. With five minutes left until recess, I nervously tapped my right leg and played a fantasy through my mind of what this kiss might be like. 

When the bell rang, I casually walked outside, stopping to talk to a teacher and a few classmates. D walked by and motioned for me to follow him into the woods. He didn’t hold my hand. He didn’t even say a word.

Once we were far enough from the playground, away from the view of roaming teachers and students , D told me to close my eyes. I was hesitant, and worried that I would be a terrible kisser. I thought to myself that I had no business being back there with this boy, but, it’s for a kiss. I convinced myself that this was my rite. 

The energy that generates within a young girl as she anticipates her first kiss could run a hospital generator for an hour or so.  I closed my eyes and leaned forward. What I felt next was nothing I could have prepared for.

I didn’t feel his warm lips, or the subtle touch of his hand against mine. I felt the cold, rough and filthy landscape stones from the playground. The rocks that the kids ran on and kicked-up, the rocks that kids threw at other kids when teachers weren’t looking. Those rocks were now in my mouth. He shoved a hand-full of rocks into my mouth just as we were to kiss!

D ran off laughing and pointing aggressively at me as my heart sank into my stomach. I felt the heaviness of disappointment and embarrasment. I chased D through the woods, past the swing set, past the archiac dodge ball game that I never, ever wanted to play. I ran to tell one of the teachers, but D pushed me away from her. When I tearfully tried to tell her what happened, D interjected and told them that I had done something terrible in the woods.

“Amy tried to kiss me,” D yelled. “She made me kiss her.” he said with a decietful smile.

I stood motionless, physically ill from the shock of being assaulted in my most intimate moment. I still had dirt and grass and small pieces of rocks in my mouth as I tried to verbally defend myself. No words came out as I realized there was no way to effectively tell on D without getting myself into serious trouble. I remained silent.

My tortourous moment became a topic of ridicule almost immediately as D spread the word throughout the playground about what he had done. I spent the rest of the day, and the week, mourning my innocence.  

This was bullying before bullying became an ad campaign and a movement. For almost thirty years, this story was just a story, an anecdote from my strange childhood. I would retell the story to a limited audience, but without really feeling the impact of what happened that day. I was mortified enough to make myself the brunt of my own humours storytelling. Truthfully, that moment shattered my already fragile perceptions of love and romance. That moment lingered on and reared its vicious head whenever I had my actual first real kiss years later. 

Two years ago, when I started writing my memoir “The Legacy Essays,” I decided to search online for my rock bully. It didn’t take long to find him and in fact, we shared some common friends. I wrote to him nervously, and I asked him how he was doing. I summarized what had happened back in 1985 on the playground. The following is his reply (I have not edited his message except for the proper spelling of our grade school):

“I’m doing well thanks for asking and hope you are to.  Yeah we did some crazy stuff on the [Sanborn] playground. lol I only have bits and pieces in my memory bank.  Actually, I wish more people would take an interest in reflecting back for some odd reason they don’t…?? There have been many years before FB I often wonder what my class mates were up to.  Then FB came we all friend requested said Hi and thats the end of it kinda weird to me. Who knows maybe its just me. Who in the world put rocks in your mouth..thats not nice🙃 All I remember about B was his three wheeler..remember he brought it up to the school?   I do remember being a little fighter amongst other bad things I think B and I got into a fight one time.  One memory Iv got is JW and I were selling those naked girl cards we jacked from his parents bar we both got suspended.  I had a huge crush on LG and a coupel other girls. I rember a girl named Kristen kicking me in the balls so hard I cryied that was like fouth grade.”


If you or someone you know is struggling with a bully, speak up!

Here are some resources:

My piece on Cyber bullying


My kind of luck

My mom often jokes about me getting the hair in the food.

“Oh, you got the hair!” she proclaims, as if I have won a prize. Or, in an attempt to act supportive, “Ohhhhh, did you get the hair?” she says sullenly.

Most of the time the hair has been in the meals we have at home. Other times, it’s been in meals we’ve eaten in restaurants or at other people’s houses. Sometimes the hairs are long like a head hair; sometimes shorter, like eyelashes.

Hair in food is the kind of luck that I can’t say I had any influence on: it just happens. This is just my kind of luck. It grosses me out, and typically results in me not finishing the provender I was happily consuming.

There’s the kind of luck that’s considered good and the kind that is regarded as bad. We wish people good luck before events in their lives. Or, we wish people good luck sarcastically when we know no good will come of their experience. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone wish someone “bad luck”, but I know, at times, we’ve all probably wished it upon another.

Luck could be thought of as opportunity. Opportunities missed- bad luck. Opportunities taken- good luck.

If we held a comparison chart up against one another, who would have the most incidents of bad luck and good luck? I estimate that within a lifetime, we all have our share of luck.

Is luck a perception? Reality? I googled “what is luck?” and found a medly of science-based peer-reviewed articles about the perception of luck. Most matches connotated that there was psychological analysis associated with the idea of luck.

Steven Gordon, a child and family therapist (LCSW-R) located in Commack, NY., addressed the same questions I was asking myself with his 2003 paper “What is luck?”:

“Maybe luck is just an illusion that takes the form of something that
seems like something, rather than nothing. I like to think it is there. I also
like the idea that we are authors that can shape or write our lives, and
that we are our choices. The fact that we have choices is lucky.”

Gordon and I corresponded by email regarding my blog post. I assured him I’d properly cite his work to which he replied “all right. good luck.”

Did he intend to wish me “good luck” because he knew I was writing on the abstract notion of luck? Or was it just a commonly acceptable idiom? Either way, I’ll take that good luck token and pocket it for future use.

In reflection, it might be possible to see that without our bad luck, our good luck wouldn’t be so profound. Sometimes our bad luck becomes good stories.

I still get the hair sometimes which I consider bad luck. But, most of the time, I don’t get the hair which I consider good luck.

That’s just my kind of luck.


close up clover depth of field environment

Photo by Roman Koval on