Archive for December, 2015

The Giving List – 2015 Edition


It’s hard to believe another year is winding down and shortly we will be in January again and trying to remember to write a new year on letters and checks. I have to admit 2015 has been a year that has felt heavy and some what hard for me and more for the world. I don’t believe in the fresh start on January 1 but if ever there was a time to wish for a fresh start this year might be it.

Every year this list has become more and more a reflection of what has occupied my thoughts and my heart during these days, and this year is no different.

Wishing us all light and hope.




All-ways closest in my heart. I was raised in the shadow of these soup pots and surrounded by this community my entire life.

“Martin’s, as it is affectionately known, is a free restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on Sundays. Our mission is to serve in the spirit of compassion, understanding and love.”

Note: Quote taken from Martin de Porres Website. See link for more information.


Through the heaviness and darkness of the news this year something remarkable has also occurred in Myanmar.  The National League for Democracy, the party of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi won the popular vote in Myanmar’s first free and fair general election in over half a century.

In the past four years Build a School in Burma has built 15 schools impacting kids from preschool through high school.

“Build A School in Burma’s mission is to build schools in underserved areas of Burma (Myanmar) to educate children and give them a chance for a better future. Build a School in Burma built [their] first school during 2011 in Nan Ouw village.”

Note: Quote taken from Build A School In Burma Website. See link for more information.!

Shining Hope For Communities:

I read Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book A Path Appears this year and was tremendously inspired by many of the stories and organizations but especially Shining Hope For Communities.

“We believe in the urban poor; in their strength, resilience and capacity to create a better future. Through grassroots leadership, we link schools for girls to community services for all, building vibrant, gender equitable communities where all are able to realize their full potential.”

Note: Quote taken from Shining Hope For Communities Website. See link for more information.

International Rescue Committee:

It is hard to look back at 2015 and not think of refugees. It is also hard to imagine the magnitude and the importance.

“The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. At work in over 40 countries and 25 U.S. cities to restore safety, dignity and hope, the IRC leads the way from harm to home.”

Note: Quote taken from International Rescue Committee Website. See link for more information.

The Compassion Collective:

Also, to end on note of hope and light The Compassion Collective. Started by Elizabeth Gilbert, Rob Bell, Cheryl Strayed, Brene Brown, and Glennon Doyle in the face of darkness choosing light and showing love.

“Today’s refugee crisis is the worst humanitarian emergency the world has seen since World War II. Just as the Greatest Generation’s response to the holocaust defined them, so will our response define us.

We want to be remembered as the generation that chose Love over Fear.”

Note: Quote taken from The Compassion Collective Website. See link for more information.


12 2015

Mexican Hot Chocolate


As a child growing up in the Mission District of the 1980s my father used to take my sister and I to breakfast at this little Mexican restaurant called Aunt Mary’s (or as my sister called it Saint Mary’s). Aunt Mary’s was on 16th street just off of Valencia, it sat between an auto repair shop and Cafe Picaro, it was non descriptor other then its red vinyl booths and the smell of beans that still make me feel like being at home. We would always order the same thing – my sister would get pancakes with Viggy (the word I taught her was the name of the pig that made her bacon) and I would get huevos rancheros; and my dad would treat us to a mug of mexican hot chocolate each.

The Mexican hot chocolate would arrive first steaming hot and heavily scented with cinnamon, vanilla, and chocolate. It was rich and thick and dark. I would savor my cup not sipping it but rather taking it spoonful by spoonful daintily blowing on it and then slurping it like a soup. Each taste of deep chocolate hinted with spice not overly sweet, complex and exhilarating. I would make my cup of hot chocolate last until my breakfast arrived a golden yellow yoke like a sun swimming in a pool of red sauce; I would dip tortillas into the runny yellow, red, now orange mess and sip the hot chocolate now a cooler room temperature. And as I finished breakfast I would wipe up the last of the colors and flavors off my plate with a tortilla and always leave at least a sip or two of hot chocolate to finish the experience. I loved our mornings at Aunt Mary’s – the comfort of people who cared, the music of wandering mariachi, and the flavors that have come to be some of my favorite memories.

Growing up in the Mission I was surrounded by the flavors, colors, culture, sound, and people of Mexico. It is what has always made me feel at home. Yet I have never traveled to Mexico myself, that is until next week. My sister and I are spending our holidays together in Mexico this year and I couldn’t be more excited to walk the streets, meet the people, see the art and architecture, and TASTE THE FOOD! In getting ready for our tip I made Mexican hot chocolate in my own home yesterday, it wasn’t difficult and the smell and taste reminded me of what I loved at Aunt Mary’s – rich, thick, spicy, sweet, chocolate at its heaven most (ok I may have gotten a little carried away). Sitting in the present moment sipping my hot chocolate and thinking back to my childhood while looking forward to my trip to Mexico, reaching back to my past while stretching forward to my future all while savoring every single sumptuous sip.

Wishing everyone happy memories, happy travels, and happy sipping. With great thanks to Annie for helping with my memory and helping to form so many of them.


Mexican Hot Chocolate – adapted from Ina Garten

Serves 2


2 cups milk 

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper (unless for los niños and then you might want to skip this)

Fresh whipped cream for topping (optional)

Place the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, vanilla, and spices. 

Allow to steep for a few minutes. Then reheat the hot chocolate over low heat until it simmers.

Strain the chocolate into mugs. Top with whipped cream if you so desire. Sit, sip, and soak in the memories.



12 2015

Life In Links


The other night while I took the subway home from a dinner with friends one of the usual performers started to play a song on a set of bongos, he was as Happy as the song he played, he collected his donations and as he moved onto the next subway car he said “As the world gets worse let’s each of us try to get a little better.” That phrase has stayed with me, I liked it.

Here is some of what I have been reading, watching, thinking about.

I loved these quotes

I went to see Henry IV last week at Saint Ann’s Warehouse and I am still thinking about how great it was!

One of my favorite films and books this year was Brooklyn!

I went to the New York Film Fest back in October and saw Where to Invade Next, Steve Jobs, and Microbe et Gasoline

Also, saw I The Danish Girl that was beautiful beyond words; and Spotlight and now I am outraged and inspired at the same time.

So moved by The Displaced in the NY Times

I just heard about this cookbook Soup For Syria

The Dalai Lama’s Daily Routine & Information Diet

Understanding Happiness with the Dalai Lama, a British Rabbi, an Episcopal Bishop, & a Muslim Scholar

My sister and I have always lamented the terrible sympathy cards out there, but she told me about these empathy cards and I love them

More empathy and what to say when life is hard (because it can and will be hard!)

My dad loved this video on ripping off the labels and I agree, also Between The World And Me is at the top of my want to read list

Feminism video “Its not what’s on my head, its what is in it!”

And just for fun because this makes me smile when I here it!




12 2015

Heidi Swanson’s Cauliflower Soup with Mustard and Cheddar Cheese


It was just over a year ago when I went to Iceland to see the Northern Lights! It was a fantastic trip that enchanted and mystified me and the stunning views have continued to visit me in my dreams. The first day we arrived was a bit rainy and windy and walking the streets of Reykjavik we found the perfect place for lunch a small cafe/bakery that was warm and inviting; we lunched on the most perfect bowl of cauliflower soup that made the rain and wind seem utterly inconsequential. And sure enough after lunch the rain had stopped and the wind, it was there but warmed from the inside by that bowl of soup was not nearly so sharp. In the year since I have been home from Iceland I have wanted that same bowl of soup, and I have searched for the perfect way to create the velvety, creamy, warming goodness at home.


Its gray and wet here today and it felt like the perfect day to make a soup; although I think other then summer I would always find it a pretty good day to make soup. I recently found a recipe for cauliflower  soup in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday Cookbook (a trusted and well used cookbook in my house). The soup has cauliflower and a potato and then at the end you mix in mustard and cheddar cheese, the result is somewhere between a cauliflower soup and a broccoli cheddar soup. It’s topped off with home made croutons and do I really have to say anymore than that?!


Sitting with a bowl of delicious soup between my hands and looking back at the beautiful pictures from my trip and feeling ever so grateful for soup and the amazing experiences that bring me to so many stunning places and wonderful experiences in this life.

Wherever you are wishing you warmth, good soup, happy memories, and a little cheddar and croutons to top it all off!




Heidi Swanson’s Cauliflower  Soup with Mustard & Cheddar Cheese



6 ounces bread torn into small pieces

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt


2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil

1 big yellow onion, diced

2 shallots, chopped

Pinch Salt

1 large potato, peeled and diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 1/2 cups vegetable broth

12 ounces cauliflower, cut into small florets

2/3 cup grated white sharp cheddar, plus more for garnish

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Salt & Pepper to taste

To prepare the croutons, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with a rack centered in the middle of the oven. In a small bowl whisk the melted butter, olive oil, mustard and salt. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread pieces, and toss until well coated. Scatter the torn bread over a baking sheet. Bake, tossing the croutons once or twice along the way, for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crunchy. Set aside.

To make the soup, heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and shallot with a big pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions are soft and are starting to turn translucent. Stir in the potato, cover, and cook for about another 4 minutes, just long enough for the potato pieces to soften up. Stir in the garlic when it becomes fragrant, add  the broth. Bring to a boil. Once potatoes are tender add in the cauliflower pieces. Cook until the cauliflower is tender approximately 10 min.

Remove the pan from heat and puree the soup, adding more broth or water if the soup is too thick. Stir in the cheese, and the two teaspoons mustard, taste for salt and pepper. Serve, sprinkling each bowl with more grated cheddar and a small handful of the croutons.



12 2015