Joy To My World – “Who I Am” Chapter 8

After previously posting a list of my pet peeves, it is only right to give equal time to the things that bring me joy.

You’ve heard me say it before, I’m a lucky gal. Pathologically optimistic, I take great pleasure in celebrating life’s gifts.

Certainly, it goes without saying that it is the people in my life who bring me the greatest happiness. Experiences shared with these folks bring a kaleidoscope of color to my days and fill my heart with delight.

With grateful appreciation for the life I live, here are some things that add joy to my world:

Every single second spent with my grandchildren. Snuggling with them, listening to them tell stories and laugh, reading to them and hearing those oh-so-magical words, “I love you, Momo.” – means the world to me.

I could easily end my list of joys with that but it would be a pretty short post so I will carry on.

A perfectly cooked steak accompanied by a fabulous Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. (You knew wine would be on the list, right?)

Outdoor firepits – especially the one on this beautiful deck in Montana.

Montana fire pit brings joy

Football season.  I particularly enjoy college football (including tailgating) but will happily while away hours watching the pro games, too.

Amazon Prime. I consider this to be Jeff Bezos’s gift to procrastinators and those needing instant gratification. Guilty and guilty.

Blogging. I love writing and reading. I love figuring out the technical stuff and design. But ask just about any blogger and they will agree that the community – the people we meet both virtually and in real life – is the very best part of blogging.

Disney World – the happiest place on Earth and the site of so many wonderful family memories.

Disney World Cinderella's Castle

Pizza – my favorites being a Chicago deep dish pizza with green olives or a crispy thin crust with pepperoni and pineapple.

Dining al fresco in a world without mosquitos, flies or bees. I must admit, this is one thing I miss about living in San Diego.

Game night. My favorite board game: Personal Preference. Please visit here to read about the time I called a store looking for this perfectly innocent, “get to know your friends and family” game and, to the horror of the store clerk, called it “an adult specialty game”.

board games

My new computer. She is beautiful and lightning fast. The old one put up a gallant effort after its full-scale crash but was just never the same. Now the old guy is resting comfortably in the closet of electronics to be recycled and is no longer living under the threat of being smashed with a hammer.

A fresh blanket of snow on the ground with a bright blue sky up above. I know people think we were crazy to leave San Diego to return to Chicago but I really, truly love winter.

Thanksgiving and all the trimmings. You gotta love a holiday that solely revolves around sharing food. Also, there are the leftovers.

My house. There’s no place like home.


A basket of warm bread on a restaurant table. And if that warm bread is sourdough? Pure bliss.

On a related note, a warm sweatshirt or towel just out of the dryer.

Excellent customer service. It’s not that hard. Why do some companies treat their customers like adversaries rather than the lifeblood of their business? Mutual respect is a good start.

Snail mail of the handwritten kind.

The Golden Dome.

The Golden Dome

The calming sound of waves on the shore. Of course, for me, this must be experienced under the cover of a slathering of sunscreen and a giant hat. As my daughter says, we Irish are an indoor tribe.

Thoughtfulness, generosity, and appreciation.

The Star Spangled Banner and a flyover. Brings both joy and tears.

Time spent at a winery. My favorite vacation with family is to Disney World. My favorite vacation with friends is wine tasting.

Winderlea winery

Christmas carols – mostly the classics, not the one about Mama needing shoes in heaven.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert.

Springsteen concert

Going to the movies. A matinee rom-com and a bucket of popcorn (with butter if I’m being honest) is how I spell “A perfect afternoon”.

Pay it forward at Starbucks. Either as a giver or receiver, this random act of kindness makes me happy.

Kindness in any form. I’m a strong believer in the power of kindness to soften hearts and minds and the power of kindness to heal the world.

But what else would you expect from a pathological optimist?

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

What about you? What places, experiences, and things bring joy to your life?


Throughout 2016, I am participating in the “Who I Am” project which is the brainchild of Dana from Kiss My List and Bev from Linkouture.

The purpose of the project is to give participants an opportunity to record the story of their life – for themselves, for their children, or just because.

There is still time to join in the fun. Click here to get the monthly prompts.

Thanks for stopping by,
Mo photo signature_zps14e6c366.png

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Two Melon Soup – A High Impact, Low Effort Recipe

Hi, folks!

We had a busy weekend which started with the celebration of this gal’s birthday.

the birthday girl

You may know her as “Momma” from the comments section of this blog. I know her as the best mom a gal could ever have.

Our two-day celebration was capped off with a delicious dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s.  By the way, did you know that they will print a special occasion message to the guest of honor on the top of your menus? Nice touch, McCormick & Schmick’s.

On Saturday night we had a mini-reunion with part of our Camino de Santiago group at the home of fellow pilgrims, Nora and G.

Before dinner, we plugged our computers into G’s gigantic and gorgeous television to share pictures from the trip. We scrolled through 300+ photos bringing back great memories of a most amazing journey.

In honor of the evening’s theme, Nora prepared a lovely and delicious paella.

paella and two melon soup

Paella is something I enjoy eating but would never attempt to make myself. Nora is a gifted cook who whips up dishes like this with her eyes closed.

I’m delighted to be the frequent beneficiary of Nora’s culinary skills and have, in fact, “borrowed” her recipes for posts (Panzanella salad).

Today I’m going to share another of Nora’s recipes with you.

See that pretty bowl of soup served with the paella?

This Two Melon Soup, served chilled, is the perfect, refreshing start to a summertime meal.

Also, Nora assures me that the recipe fits my requirements of being High Impact, Low Effort. The hardest part, she says, is pouring the soup into the bowls.

two melon soup

Nora’s Two Melon Soup

  • 1 ripe cantaloupe, diced
  • 1 small honeydew melon, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon minced fresh mint

Puree cantaloupe with lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Rinse blender then puree honeydew with lime juice and mint until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, either:

Transfer purees into two separate measuring cups. With one in each hand, pour simultaneously into the bowl, pouring equal amounts on each side.

or use Nora’s preferred method:

Tip bowl slightly to the side and pour in the desired amount of cantaloupe puree. Pour the honeydew puree into the other side of the bowl as you are lowering the bowl back to level.

Either way might take some practice but the result is beautiful.

Garnish with a mint sprig.

Easy, peasy. Or so I’m told.

Big surprise, Peter and I brought wine to enjoy with dinner.

First up, a bottle of Albariño.

Albariño is a white wine commonly grown in Galicia, the Northwest region of Spain. Galicia is the very same part of Spain we walked through on the Camino of St. James. Along the way, we enjoyed lots and lots of great Spanish Albariño. 

Peter and I brought a bottle from one of the few U.S. producers of Albariño, Hendry Vineyard. It was on a trip to Hendry’s winery in Napa that we first tasted Albariño and fell in love with it.

2014 Hendry Albariño

The 2014 Hendry Albariño ($22) is light and refreshing with good acidity. It is fruity and floral without going over the top. 

Floral, herbal and peachy aromas. On the palate, tangy citrus, nectarine and passion fruit flavors reflect the bright acidity.

– Tasting notes via

Albariño reminds me a bit of Viognier in that it is a pretty versatile food wine. It pairs best with shellfish like mussels and clams but is also great with chicken. It’s the perfect white wine to serve with paella.

For the red wine lovers in the group, we brought a bottle of 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat from Spain.

2007 Clos Magador

This bold red Spanish wine, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carinena, is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Albariño.

The 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat is dark and juicy and immensely satisfying. It brings flavors of licorice, blackberry, and black cherry. It’s a little bit spicy and a little bit smoky.

Oddly, though, because of the hearty nature of paella, this wine played well and did not overpower the flavors in the main course.

You have to love a dish with which you can pair both a light white wine and a bold red wine. Something for everyone.

For dessert, Nora made (you won’t believe this) homemade non-dairy rocky road ice cream with mini-marshmallows, almonds, and dashes of cayenne and red pepper.

That’s what I call a “HIGH EFFORT, HIGH IMPACT” recipe!

We ended the evening re-watching the movie that inspired us to do the walk in the first place, The Way.

This film from 2011 stars Martin Sheen and is written, produced and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. Dedicated to Sheen’s father, Francisco Estevez, who hailed from Galicia, the film was inspired by a trip Sheen took with Emilio’s son on which they walked part of the Camino. A real family affair.

Although the movie tells the sad story of a dad completing the pilgrimage on behalf of his late son, it also captures the beauty, the community, and the spirit of The Way.

I highly recommend it!

And if you can get Nora to make some Two Melon Soup and paella for you – even better!!

I’ll bring the Albariño.

Thanks for stopping by,
Mo photo signature_zps14e6c366.png

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Reluctant Accountant And PakOPerks

I’ve always described myself as a reluctant accountant.

I chose accounting as my major in college without any clue about what a job in the field would entail. I just knew I liked to work with numbers but calculus threatened to make my head explode.

After barely passing the CPA exam, I set off into the exciting and glamorous world of accounting.

Accounting is not what you’d call a creative field. In fact, there are laws against “creative accounting”. Interesting, fascinating laws!



I’ve worked for big firms and small firms, full-time at the start, and then part-time after my first child was born.

When my second child came along, I decided to hang up my own shingle and work from home.

Anyone who says working from home is easy has never done it.

The low point in both my accounting career and my career as a parent came one day when I had to call a client about some very important matter regarding their financial situation.

Of course, this was back before cell phones, before even cordless phones so I was tethered to the wall in the kitchen.

Baby girl was napping; big brother was playing quietly in the living room.

Playing quietly, that is, until he noticed that I was on the phone.

We’ve all experienced this, right?

My adorable son started squawking and demanding my attention while standing behind the Lazy Boy in the living room, just out of the reach of my telephone cord.

I’m not proud of what happened next.

Folks, I grabbed a package of Oreos from the pantry and started tossing them to my son as though they were fish and he was a performing sea lion.


It quieted him down – until the sugar rush kicked in.

Not my finest moment.

Well, maybe that working-from-home thing didn’t pan out for me but I loved the idea of having my own business.

So, while biding my time as a reluctant accountant I brainstormed ideas for entrepreneurial success.

Eventually, I came up with an idea. I researched, roughed out a business plan, researched some more, sent out a survey to potential clients, and researched even more.

One day my (now much older, Oreo eating) son said to me, “Are you going to spend the rest of your life thinking about starting a business or are you actually going to do it.”

Boom! Wise words from a wise fellow.

I took the leap and PakOPerks was born.


The logo was designed by my pal, Archie. You can see that I borrowed from the PakOPerks look when designing the logo for Mocadeaux.

PakOPerks was geared toward vacation rental properties. We had, over the years, rented vacation homes and were always surprised at how few amenities were provided. Hotels give guests shampoo, soap and even coffee. Most vacation rental spots give nothing.

My idea was to allow property managers to pick and choose from a variety of “perks” to include in welcome gifts customized for their guests and their location.

We offered items like shampoo, sunscreen, laundry detergent, dish soap, coffee, tea, nuts, biscotti, playing cards and yes, even Oreos.


The packs could be as big or as small as desired. Each was individually packaged in gift bags to be given to guests upon check-in.

During the life of this business, we sent many thousands of these gift bags to customers all over the country. From Myrtle Beach to Jackson Hole, from Palm Springs to Cape Cod, PakOPerks greeted guests and gave them a “starter kit” for their vacation needs.

But alas, all good things must come to an end.

Although, for a variety of reasons, I eventually had to close PakOPerks, I was proud that my little business had been as successful as it was.

While accounting has been good to me over the years, it was the time I spent working on PakOPerks that made my heart sing.

Reluctant accountant; enthusiastic entrepreneur.

This post is the 7th chapter in the “Who I Am” project. This month’s topic: jobs I’ve had. The post was supposed to be done weeks ago but do you have any idea how tough it is to write an entertaining post about accounting?!?!

Please head over to Kiss My List where Dana has links to other stories.

Thanks for stopping by,
Mo photo signature_zps14e6c366.png

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In Defense Of Reality Television

I don’t stick my head in the sand.

I watch tv, read the newspaper and follow breaking news on my ever-present smartphone.

But sometimes, it’s just too much. Sometimes I need a break from reality.

That’s when I turn to reality television.

Reality television helps me escape reality.

In 6 words, that’s my true confession.

I’ve tried getting on board the crime drama bandwagon but the shows seem to be getting worse – trying to one-up each other in a contest of who can be the bloodiest.

Sure, there is some back-stabbing among the Real Housewives, but they don’t involve graphic operating room scenes in which beautiful surgeons save the patient’s life while making plans for a secret tryst with the anesthesiologist.

Sci-fi, fairy tale, and vampire shows just aren’t my thing.

My type of fantasy show is Million Dollar Listing New York or Los Angeles. I fantasize about paying cash for a $10 million gem with an infinity pool and killer outdoor space.

To me, the Real Housewives are just a modern-day, real-life version of Dynasty or Dallas. Alliances are made and broken, fortunes rise and fall, friends become enemies and the bad guys find redemption.

Valuable lessons can come from devotion to these shows.

Reality television is inspirational.

For example…

Project Runway’s Tim Gunn implores struggling designers to “Make it work.” as they survive on two hours of sleep and lots of caffeine while crafting ballroom frocks out of penny candy. With Tim’s encouragement, the designers really do “Make it work.”

Tim Gunn bobblehead

My Tim Gunn bobblehead doll, a gift from my pal Franny.

Is there anything more goose-bump producing than when a hard-luck contestant on The Voice belts out a song resulting in the coveted Four Chair Turn? This kind of validation gives hope to aspiring performers everywhere.

And who among us has not been inspired to knock down a wall or two in our home to create the open concept that every HGTV show has taught us to love?

Reality television is educational.

Million Dollar Listing New York has taught me the difference between SoHo, NoHo, NoLIta and TriBeCa.

I may never use huitlacoche, durian, or dulse in a recipe but thanks to Chopped, I can use these terms in Words With Friends.

Other terms I’ve added to my vocabulary:

Shiplap – Joanna’ favorite reclaimed wood on Fixer Upper.

Front of house – the job you DO NOT WANT in Restaurant Wars on Top Chef.

Step and Repeat – the advertising background in front of which reality stars like to be photographed.


Porte-cochère – the covered entryway through which the champagne delivery truck drives at Heather’s new home in the OC.

Product placement – the shameless way that Project Runway shills for advertisers. For example, the “design a garment based on the flavors of Yoplait Yogurt challenge” or the “design a garment based on the color of a Lexus sedan challenge”.

And, finally, borrowing a concept from the Muppets…

Reality television is celebrational.

No one knows how to celebrate like reality television folks. Whether it is the big reveal of a newly renovated Fixer Upper, a cleverly themed brokers’ open house, dinner parties, charity events, or fancy society balls, “YIPPEE!!” is the rallying cry of all reality television personalities. (Except Vicki who prefers “WOOHOO!”)

Sure, once in a while a table gets flipped, an insult (or a leg) gets flung, but all in all, it’s just good old harmless fun.

So please join me in raising a glass of champs or Ramona Pinot Grigio or a Skinnygirl Margarita to toast the people who expose the reality of their lives so we can, if even for a little bit, escape the reality of ours.


Head on over to Coach Daddy to check out the true confessions of other participants in the 6-Words Challenge.

Thanks for stopping by,
Mo photo signature_zps14e6c366.png

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