On the Eve of History

Loitering low on the horizon, casting slowly spreading embers, the sun has begun to set. It sets on a day that will never again be. On a world that will change forever come tomorrow. Tonight we sit on the eve of history, the sun glowing brilliantly upon us all in equal measure. 

I rarely use this space to talk about politics – unless it’s in the form of championing veterans causes or prodding you to think about ways to do social good – but today the sun sets. Tomorrow Americans head to the polls to cast their ballots in an election that, no matter the outcome, will be historic. I’ve a few things to say about that. 

In life choices must be made, the consequences lived with. Some of those choices lead us to wonderful things like love, puppies and winning lottery tickets (not that I’ve ever chosen one of those, dammit!) Others choices can take us down some dark and winding roads. The one thing all choice has in common is that it is something that must be decided upon from within. 

Though we may tell ourselves that we’ve been forced into making choices, the simple truth is that just isn’t possible. You choose. Yes, you may have had to make some pretty crappy choices, but in the end the choice was yours to make. My opinions, what your partner says, brow-beating by the media, none of those truly matter in the end. Choice is a solitary endeavor. 

This is the bedrock of democracy. One person. One Vote. Your choice. 

Those who live in democratic societies have been given a rare gift of choice. We are allowed a voice in the shaping of the country we live in. That isn’t to say that our voice is often heard, that we always get what we want, or that our countries conform to our ideals. But, we do have a choice. One that a large swath of humanity does not have.

I can’t say that I joined the Navy to defend your right to make choices. At nineteen I was mostly just looking for a way out of the one-tumbleweed town I grew up in, and to escape some of the youthfully irresponsible choices I’d made.  Again, I chose. 

That said, I can tell you that seeing places during my service and in my subsequent decades of travel, where many choices were denied to women, those with little means, those who love differently and entire ethnic groups lit a fire in me to exercise my right to choose whenever I could. Not just vote but to choose the type of person I wanted to be, the types of people I wanted to lift up and admire. I understood that by doing this I may have an impact on the world I’d one day hand down to my own children.  Again, my choices. 

Tonight we sit on the eve of history. Tomorrow I’ll go to the polls and take my children along to witness history.  No matter the victor tomorrow, my children will know that I made a choice. I can only hope the majority of us choose wisely. 

The Meaning of Veterans Day

Susie Sailor girl.. age 19
Susie Sailor girl.. age 19

A rare and welcome cool breeze wafted through the gray cinder-block corridor, carrying on it the faint, distant notes of a nameless, yet familiar holiday tune. The sun had yet to rise which may have contributed to the vague notion that December – at least for the moment – had arrived in Florida.

I was nineteen, an entire coast away from everything I knew to this point in life, and homesick. Basic training was in full swing and it had barely paused to acknowledge the holidays.

That winter the meaning of Veterans Day began to transform for me. I’d yet to understand how much my life would change, that soon our Company Commander would arrive with a team of MPs to remove the drill weapons that stood silent century in the center of birth we’d come to call home. That war would be declared in Iraq, or that 25 years later the same surreal mixture of pride and fear that my own mother must have felt would be visited upon me. 

I’ve often written about what my time in the Navy meant to me, the honor of serving alongside so many selfless, heroic, determined brethren.   Many times I’ve climbed upon my infamous soapbox in support of those who came before me, and those who continue to take up the gauntlet of service.  Today though, Veteran’s Day comes to me with new meaning.

It was another December day, oddly enough the same, rare cool breeze wafted off the San Diego bay. This time it carried on it the equally familiar hymn of Marine Corps. In a sea of hundreds of young Marines, all dressed alike,  all standing at rigid attention, I easily found my son.

He is mine.

That day a pride like I’d never known filled me, bringing along with it an ever-present undercurrent of fear. He will serve, no matter where or when. Those who hold his fate in their hands can never know how important, amazing… irreplaceable, he is. 

He’d volunteered for this.  Worked for it. Earned it. 

That will forever bond us to each other in the same fashion that the invisible umbilical chord always will.  We have served. Willingly, with pride.

When you stop to thank a Veteran today, keep in your thoughts those that love them, for they serve as well. 2013-12-05 12.32.07While a simple “Thank You,” goes a long way on Veterans Day or any day, if you’d like to do something more tangible to show your gratitude to those who have served and are serving, consider some of the apps and organizations below. One of the beautiful things about living in this digital age is that technology makes giving back an easy thing to do.  

Veterans Call  – This app allows users to give to as little as $5 in a monthly donation. These micro-donations add up as users choose charities to support, inviting friends and family to do the same.

Hero Miles – As someone who travels a lot, this is one of my favorite ways to give back. I belong to almost all the airline rewards programs there are out there and rarely (if ever) use the miles I’ve accumulated on all of them. 

Hero Miles is a program run through The Fisher House Foundation that allows you to donate your unused airline miles to veterans and their families. Imagine for a moment that you couldn’t get to a loved one in need who was far from home because the airfare was out of reach. This program helps to ensure that military families don’t have to face this scenario.

22Kill – The driving idea behind this movement is to raise awareness that nearly 22 veterans a day take their own lives. While that statistic may warrant some scrutiny, the fact is that awareness saves lives. Veteran suicide hits very close to home for our family, so I add this group into ways YOU can help because even after hashtags die out that doesn’t mean the problem is solved.  #22pushups for #22Kill

If you’re giving to veterans charities that aren’t giving the overwhelming majority of their funds to veterans or their families, you aren’t helping. ~ The Street

Considering giving to a veteran’s charity?  Start by grabbing the Charity Navigator app.  Believe it or not there are a whole lot of veterans charities out there that spend the bulk of your donated dollar on anything but direct help for veterans. Check this app before you click donate.

However you choose to thank a veteran know that we truly appreciate being acknowledged, though just about all of us will tell you it was OUR honor.

Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less!  

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Roasted Red Pepper & Pignoli Tapenade

quick and easy roasted red pepper & pine nut tapenade

Having an easy, go-to recipe for entertaining is a must. Even if you’re not a whiz in the kitchen this Roasted Red Pepper & Pignoli (pine nut) Tapenade is sure to impress.

It passed my mother-in-law test!

The best part is all the ingredients can be found, “grab-and-go” in nearly any grocery store. If you’re more into roasting your own peppers (which is a tasty option) then go for it. I’d rather spend more time on the cocktails! 

Roasted Red Pepper and Pignoli Tapenade
Serves 10
Easy, fast, and impressive this simple tapenade is a staple for enteraining.
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Can Roasted Red Peppers (drained)
  2. 2 TBSP Romano Cheese (grated)
  3. 2 TBSP Pignoli/Pine Nuts
  4. 1 TSP Capers
  5. 2 Sprigs Tarragon (coarsely chopped)
  6. 1/2 TSP White Pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat a small skillet on medium-high. Once the pan is heated through, add pignoli. Smell is your indicator here, as soon as the nuts start to release their oils and the aroma of nut wafts up from the pan, give it a few shakes until they are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Place remaining ingredients in a blender. Pulse several times to break down the peppers. Add pignoli and continue to pulse until a nice paste forms - as chunky or smooth as you like.
Notes
  1. It's best to let this tapenade chill for 30 minutes or so in the refrigerator. This gives it time to set up and for the flavors to meld.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Loews Loves Pets (and it’s a mutual thing)

Do you travel with your fur family members? If you’ve undertaken the task of even looking into doing so, I’m sure you ran into the same issues we have; outrageous fees, no facilities  or simply no pet-friendly room at the inn. There is hope fellow pawrents. Loews Loves Pets… and it’s a mutual thing. 

Loews Loves PetsIn the fall of 2015 we lost a beloved family member. Don Sonny Corelone Di Paola ascended the rainbow bridge after nearly fifteen years of joining us at the table for meals, napping on baskets of freshly folded laundry and a life-long refusal to own the fact that he was born a feline rather than human or canine. This cat growled at the doorbell and insisted there be an extra chair at the table for him though he never ate morsel.   

As our hearts began to heal, we  found there was room behind the scar tissue. In the spring we welcomed Gordon von Ottawa du Barkhimedes (a eleven-week old French Bulldog) to our family. Gordy is our first dog as a family. 

Being cat pawrents really never put a kink in our travel style. Aside from the occasional jumping into an open suitcase and refusing to budge, they pretty much could care less if we were head out-of-town without them. I’ve my suspicions that there may have been some wild feline soirees going on in our absence.  

As newly minted puppy familiga it became rapidly clear that Gordo was going to have to earn his travel wings. We started him out with his first trip to NYC as soon as the vet cleared him to be social. The guy road tripped like a pro from day one. I think he may have learned bye-bye faster than sit!

Travel with DogsWe learned, “I’m sorry we don’t allow pets,” even faster. When we did find hotels that would welcome Gordon our bill would shoot up an average of $100. Ouch! Adding insult to financial injury, that green bought you exactly nada beyond allowing the dog in the building. Then we found Loews Hotels! 

As hotel chains go, Loews has long been one of our favorite. Why? Service. Loews takes attentiveness to the next level.

Staying at the Loews Regency New York a few years back I mentioned at check-in that my husband and I would be enjoying our first kid-free getaway in over two years. When we got back to our room after an afternoon in the park there was a bottle of wine and some sublime chocolates waiting alongside a note telling us to enjoy ourselves. When we stayed at Loews Grand Pacific – where I made it abundantly clear that I was the family Harry Potter nerd – the concierge spent a good twenty minutes giving me all the insider tips on navigating the nooks and crannies of Diagon and  Knockturn Alley.  Alohomora big time, fellow Potter heads! 

The most abundantly clear example of the unique, genuine and warm welcome at Loews (that seems to be a corporate philosophy)  came when we brought Gordon along to celebrate Lil Nugget Number 4’s big tenth birthday.  Let’s back things up just a bit…

Em is our youngest. She started planning her tenth birthday, along with her gallery opening and Oscar acceptance speech when she was about three years old. Where some girls her age love Barbie she loves her travel journal, glitter isn’t her thing but a good hotel bathrobe is (she has a collection.) It really wasn’t a huge surprise when in lieu of a birthday party she asked for a bubble bath, room service and taking Gordon to a hotel.  

The bummer of having a late-summer birthday is that travel isn’t quite as doable. The upside for us is that we’re surrounded by great staycation destinations like DC, Baltimore and Annapolis, Maryland. Another huge plus is that Annapolis is rated one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country.  The trifecta of birthday awesome for Em is that there is a Loews in Annapolis. Which brings us back to where I started telling you about what makes Loews hotels so unique for families that travel with fur family in tow.

Now back to where we were…

Checking in at Loews Annapolis is more like being welcomed home. Yes the floors are polished marble, walls are hung with nautical themed works of art and fragrant arrangements of flowers abound, but there is zero pretension. How can one be aloof when they melt at the sight of a puppy? That’s exactly what the front desk staff did when Gordo walked in the joint.

Loews Loves PetsThe blue carpet rolled out for both Em and her fury lil bro. She got birthday hi-fives, well-wishes and covert questioning about what her favorite treats are. He got a welcome goody bag packed with handmade treats, his own Loews water bowl, accident bags and even a sparkly bit of bling for his collar.

Yes, we were hosted guests of this particular Loews but this sort of welcome is the norm not the exception. When you pay to bring your four-legged family along Loews makes sure you get value beyond a room at the inn. 

That hospitality and attention to detail, in my experience, applies to all guests at every Loews. Every time we’ve been guests the staff has always asked if we were celebrating anything. If we were, they’d make sure to celebrate along with us by sending notes, treats or just remembering every time you passed by in the lobby.

Loews Loves PetsWhile chatting with the staff at Loews Annapolis I made mention that Em’s last birthday was New Orleans themed. Not sure why the kiddo is so enamored with The Crescent City (she’s never been) but she is. Her room is decorated with masks, fluer de lis and street signs from the French Quarter. He asked if we’d stayed at the Loews New Orleans. I didn’t even know there was one (travel blogger, fail.)

That night when she and her pup were snuggled up after an epic round of Monopoly, I booked her first trip to NOLA. Knowing there would be a Loews to welcome us, I couldn’t resist. We’ll be spending Thanksgiving in the Big Easy and bringing Gordon along!

Loews Loves Pets - Hotel room birthday sorieeWhen you find a place that feels like home, you know you need to be there. Thank you Loews for hosting this one stay, but even more for giving us more reasons to travel with the WHOLE family!

If you travel with fur family in tow, stay tuned for our article in the holiday issue of Skimbaco Lifestyle Magazine. We’ll be dishing on more tips for travel with pets including how essential oils can make it easier for everyone. Check out the autumn issue that’s live now. 

Loews Loves Pets 

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