A good part of “S” month was taken up with our trip to Sicily with Sights and Soul Travel. While we don’t expect anyone to say “hey it’s S month, let’s run off to Sicily,” you can get a flavor of the country through this list of movies about or taking place in Sicily:

Cinema Paradiso              Divorce, Italian Style

The Leopard                       Il Postino

L’Avventura                       The Star Maker

The Earth Trembles         Salvatore Giuliano

Stromboli                            The Godfather (of course)

Sicily is a beautiful country and we got to sample the food (a lot of fish, even in their pasta), visit the ancient ruins (Greek, Roman, Norman) and stunning cathedrals and enjoy the wonderful coastal towns. We made pizza, were hosted by a Contessa at her palace and watched an amazing life-sized puppet show – and ate, and ate and ate. We loved people watching, especially how the men meet in the squares to sit and talk – whatever village we were in, they were there.



It’s always fun learning about the culture and hearing little tidbits, such as these superstitions:

*Don’t be the first customer of the day in any shop because the seller will do everything and anything to wear you down and get you to make a purchase. If you buy, you bring him luck for the rest of the day. If not, then you’ve set the stage for a lousy day.

*Don’t put your purse on the floor or you’ll lose money.

*17 is an unlucky number; 33 is the luckiest age.

*Making the sign of a horn 

pointed up means your husband is cheating on you; pointed down means bad luck going away from you.

*Hanging a family portrait flush against the wall means the person in the portrait died.

Ciao Siciliano!


Barbara: MORE SALSA: Last year we went to Brazil and visited a Samba school where we got to participate as well as watch the amazing dancers. I do not know how to salsa dance and the odds of my learning are probably against me since my significant other doesn’t dance but I am in love with the music. I don’t know what the words mean (they can be saying they hate all women named Barbara for all I know) but it doesn’t matter. My hips start moving on their own. So now instead of top 40 or oldies or 70s rock, my radio is set to Latin Hits. There’s nothing like moving to the Latin beat while cooking or cleaning or paying bills; anything really. Luckily there are no hidden cameras in my house. But I do like the reaction I’ve gotten when driving past someone in my convertible; there has been many a double take when they hear No Me Acuerdo.

LESS STRESS: Considering I just retired from full-time work one would think this would be a given. I used to wake up in the middle of the night thinking of things I needed to do at work; my co-workers can attest to the emails received from me at 4 in the morning. But now I find myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about all the activities I’ve got planned for the week. How can I stress about fun! This has to stop. I’ve got to learn to tell myself I have permission to not do something, to not feel like I’m being judged if I just decompress (and this feeling is based on nothing; everyone has told me I need to do it). Hmm…maybe I’ll go to sleep with Latin Hits playing in my earphones!

Laura: LESS “SHOULD” and MORE “SHALL”. I am tired of creating my own universe of shoulds. For instance, I should donate these books to the library or I should reorganize my closet. Yes, I should do those things, but I really don’t have to. These are tasks of my choosing and no one is waiting on their completion but me.  Certainly no one dies if I still have pants in my closet that I haven’t worn in five years. But when my mind connects the task with “should”, then it carries a weight of expectation and commitment. So I am switching to “Shall,” which is a more energizing and positive word.  Shall implies a choice, while should sounds like a command. I realize it’s just a matter of semantics and a tweaking of an attitude, but whatever floats your boat (or since it’s S month, your ship)!

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S is going to be a busy month so we are Sampling as many S activities as we can before we take a vacation. After this month, we’re going to definitely need a Siesta.

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We’ve found that our city’s newsletter, “Plano Profile”, is a great source for activities that fit right into the ABC Life. (We’re sure you have something similar in your city.) This week we discovered that the Shops of Willow Bend was promoting a new area named The District as part of their effort to reinvent the mall.

To introduce new restaurants and entertainment, they hosted the Plano Wine and Food Festival. After paying a small fee, we received our wine glass, 10 tickets for wine Sampling and 4 tickets for food Sampling. Pooling our resources, that gave us a taste of 20 wines and 8 foods! Of course we started with the S wines and couldn’t resist ending with some Sugar in the form of Fried Oreos.

Soon we’ll be Sampling some larger sized clothing!

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Ever wonder about the afterlife: does it exist and if so, what is it like? SUM: Forty Tales From the Afterlife by neuroscientist David Eagleman is a fun, thought-provoking book that presents 40 short (few pages each) stories that offer a glimpse into what comes next. These tales are not serious but they do challenge us to ponder and appreciate the many possibilities that could exist. The point is that none of these stories are probable, but then again, what is?  It’s a good book for a discussion with a few friends – and that’s just what we did after reading it. Barbara was particularly intrigued by a tale where you do the same things you always did but suddenly realize the world is only made up of the people you’ve previously met. Although this is comforting it becomes a bit alarming when you realize that there will be nothing new ahead since there are neither any new people nor experiences for you. Laura was haunted by the tale that your new world is populated by all the different versions of yourself that could have been. There are some more successful versions and some less successful. Good ones, bad ones. And realizing what you could have done had you made different choices only leads to misery in the afterlife. This book is best read in spurts to allow for some time to reflect.

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Capturing moments of your life is an appealing pursuit and scrapbooking is a great way to do it. While Barbara has created many online photo books of her travels, we’ve often wondered about the art of print scrapbooking. The end products always seem nice but we had heard that it was time-consuming and rather costly. Was this something we would ever do? One way to find out was to visit our friend Belindy, who is an avid scrapbooker. Our visit was an eye opener and appealed both to Laura’s creativity and reinforced Barbara’s belief that people who were into scrapbooking were really into it. Belindy had all the tools of the trade – special papers, books of stickers, shelves of albums and boxes of photos. Her finished scrapbooks were beautiful and reflective of her thoroughness and attention to detail. Scrapbooking can be overwhelming but Belindy gave us advice on how to get started. Laura is already planning a Thanksgiving project with her granddaughters and Barbara may attempt a book or two with old printed photos of her kids when they were young. We dashed off to Hobby Lobby to take a look at some scrapbooking materials but our local branch had closed! A momentary setback but a scrapbooking attempt is definitely in our future.

Let us know if you’ve scrapbooked and what type of books you’ve made!

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Barbara: Time got the best of us and we didn’t have the opportunity to do one of the things we had wanted to do – go to the Heard Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary to visit the Texas Reptiles exhibit. I thought I’d do some Research into what would possess someone to have a Reptile for a pet. While there were a lot of reasons posted on the pro side (less costly, no need to walk them, etc.), I still couldn’t relate. Who could look at this face and say “that’s something I just can’t wait to cuddle”?

If you have a snake or other reptile in your house, please comment and let us know why you love it!

Laura: RICK Bragg: My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South.  I thoroughly enjoyed this September selection of the Non-Fiction Book Club to which I belong. Bragg’s sense of his people and home is so strong that you can’t help but be drawn into his world, gaining an up-close view of the South, its climate and cuisine. His observations of people in general and of mundane situations are hilarious, and he had me laughing and crying at various moments. Reading this book invoked a strong sense of nostalgia in me and I found myself transported back to my own people and place, to a childhood spent in New York, with loving parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, bountiful food, laughter, good-natured ribbing and some hilarious adventures. To my surprise, not everyone in the book club felt the same way, with a few strong dislikes. But just about everyone agreed that Rick Bragg has a beautiful way with words. This was my first Rick Bragg book, but it won’t be my last.


Barbara: More RETIREMENT. My Facebook friends might ask how I could possibly have more Retirement. As one commented: “Could you milk your Retirement anymore?” The answer is NO. I am pretty excited about it, although a little apprehensive as well. To go from a workaholic who is answering emails well into the evening to a woman of leisure with less than 10 legitimate emails a day is a frightening prospect. But people are reassuring me that I will never be bored. I’m starting to think they are Right as I already have a couple of freelance work assignments plus several organizations I am joining plus this blog (I did say I was Retiring, didn’t I?) Now I’m Raring to Reinvent myself!

Less REGRETS. Life is full of what ifs. What if I had gone back to live with my parents after college to save money so I could have been an Educational Psychologist? What if I had learned to swim when I was younger? What if Laura and I had been more aggressive when a publisher wanted to run with one of our ideas? But if I stop to think of how those what ifs would have played out, I realize that so many of the things I love about my life would never have happened. So I’m banishing Regrets from my world – except tonight when I have that delicious dessert at the restaurant and Regret it later; I’ll start tomorrow.

Laura: More REVISITING. Whether it’s watching an old movie or relearning a game, revisiting what once brought you happiness is a good thing. While adding new experiences is what the ABC Life is all about, there is comfort in the familiar and I need that – more than I realized. Hubby and I used to play backgammon often but somehow, over the years, our weekly matches slowly disappeared, pushed aside by busy schedules and other demands. So we’re dusting off the backgammon board and studying the Rules. With terminology such as “Raccoon” and “Railroad Tracks”, I can hardly wait to Restart!

Less RECIPES. No wait – I appreciate a good recipe. Why wouldn’t I…when I love to eat and enjoy cooking? But there are limits and in today’s information flow, there are just too many recipes out there. I feel like I am drowning in them. Surely my life would be simpler without having to look through every recipe that drops in my inbox or stares up from a magazine – and thus is born the 21 Recipe Roundup! I am on a mission to put together 21 tried and true recipes and then just cycle through them. That’s at least a month’s worth of recipes, when you figure in leftovers, dinners out and the occasional take-in urge. Those 21 recipes will simplify my life and just think how much time I’ll save not searching for another. If you have a tried and true recipe you’d be willing to share, just leave a comment and help this recipe wary woman!

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The frequent RAIN this month has limited our R outings but we weren’t about to let the weather rain on our parade entirely. We managed a few more R experiences to Remember.

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As part of a girlfriend getaway weekend to celebrate our dear friend Lee’s birthday, we took the Dallas Uptown Foodie Walk, which lasted close to five hours and included five stops plus a trolley RIDE and a quick stroll through the Klyde Warren Park. It also offered more food than any sane person should consume. We thought it would be small tastings but surprise – you get good-sized portions and enough food at each place to actually call it a day!

The first restaurant was The RUSTIC, where we had an egg frittata, polenta, avocado toast and a huge “Peanut Butter Pie.” The last got special emphasis because – well see for yourself below. Our bellies said, “you can stop now,” but it was off to Eureka! for a delicious beef, goat cheese and fig jam slider and honey drenched sweet potato fries. Now we were truly full, but the third stop was calling so we waddled over to Tacos and Tequila where we had just that. We were nearly comatose but made it to Baboush for pita bread and dips, chicken shawarma and a beef and lamb dish. Finally, our last tasting was at Bisous Bisous Patisserie for French macarons, where gratefully we were given the choice to take our two pastries to go! It was a great tour – our bellies were full, our capris were bursting and our quest for tasty food was sated! Barbara immediately took a nap when she arrived home, Lee cancelled her dinner plans and Laura refused to even look at food for the rest of the day and night.


REFLECTIONS from this outing:

  1. Meeting new people continues to enrich us. We met a truly delightful man from India on this food tour. He and his wife were born and raised in America but are now devoting their time to rescuing young women and children from the Red Light District in India and helping them turn their lives around. Our conversations with him were the true dessert of the day!
  2. Anything in excess loses some of its luster. For the most part, the food we sampled was quite tasty, but it was actually too much and took away a bit from the overall experience. It’s better to savor life’s treats rather than overdose!

Have you ever taken a food tour? If so, we’d love to hear about it.

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Ruminations on ROMANIA

This month we visited ROMANIA through the recent film Graduation by director Cristian Mungiu. Offering a bleak glimpse into a country still racked with bureaucratic obstacles and corruption following the collapse of Soviet Communism, this film is about ROMEO, a doctor who faces the choice of fulfilling his dream of having his daughter Eliza leave the country and study abroad vs. compromising his moral and ethical values to achieve this. Eliza has won a university scholarship and has only to pass her final exam to set everything in motion. Unfortunately the day before the exam, she is sexually assaulted and her wrist is broken, thereby lessening her chances of scoring the necessary grades to launch her future plans. This movie led to discussions of several topics dealing with a parent’s influence and expectations but what resonated most was where is the invisible line drawn between right and wrong and is it ever okay to cross the line?

Have you seen any R movies this month? Let us know.

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September is getting off to a Rocky start.

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Over the years, each of us had “casually” collected various things – from Barbara’s vintage hats to Laura’s wood, ceramic and sculptured ducks. Collecting is fun – and a great reason to scour garage sales and antique shops. But rocks were never on our radar until now. With vague memories of our kids expressing interest in rock collecting years ago, we set out to discover both the lure and the lore of rock collecting. We hit the mother lode at Nature’s Gallery in Carrollton. This little gem was chock full of rocks and minerals of all shapes and sizes. Owner Donald Slater emerged from his workshop, rocking his polishing gear, and was so helpful in explaining the basics of rock collecting. Frankly, we’ve never met someone quite so passionate about his vocation. An avid collector since childhood, he travels all over the United States and internationally in his quest to find rocks. To our rookie eyes, his shop had something to appeal to every collector and yes, we caught a little of the rock and gem fever ourselves. Laura bought a few that spoke to her because of their shapes and color and Barbara bought two pieces called crazy lace that she can wear as pendants. We each ordered a beginner’s rock and mineral guidebook to help us continue our rock hound tendencies and are contemplating attending an upcoming Dallas trade show. We don’t know how long this ROCK FEVER will last – but for now we are looking down as we walk!

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There’s not much to do on a rainy day so why not take a walk down memory lane? We thought we’d try ROCK & BREWS, a rock and roll, comfort food restaurant. If “what you see is what you get”, our vision was a bit off. Rather than being surrounded by 50s/60s music and Jimi Hendrix-type paraphernalia, we stepped into a huge, modern sports pub. Although there were some rock and roll videos and posters and rock music playing, the football games on the dozens of big screen TVs were taking center stage and the acoustics were such that you couldn’t hear the music. Good Golly Miss Molly, we missed the tunes.

On the plus side, the food was pretty terrific and the Purple Rain Drops (mini beignets filled with melted chocolate and topped with whipped cream and raspberry sauce) hit just the right chords.


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We had Qualms about finding enough Q to fill up our blog for October but we actually found lots of things to experience which would have been left uncovered had it not been for the ABC Life.  Here are our last Qualifying posts for the month.

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KatweOne more Queen we need to talk about – The Queen of Katwe. We would never have thought of watching this movie as it had dropped off our radar when it left the theaters two years ago. But we were looking for another Q idea and we’re glad we found it on video. It’s a very touching true story about a young girl living in Uganda who becomes a grand master in chess. We both love movies that motivate us to have a discussion after watching; we talked about the randomness of the type of situation one is born into and how the people in your life can make such a difference in what you do with what you’re given. We definitely recommend you watch it on Netflix and let us know what you found to discuss!

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Barbara: My daughter-in-law, Linda, could easily have been born in the 60s. She is such a free spirit, one of the many things I love about her. But since she wasn’t able to be a hippy at least she lives in Austin, which is a perfect match! She’s a Life Coach and a Qoya Instructor. Perfect for Q, right? “Qoya is movement as medicine.” I describe it as a mixture of yoga and dance. Now, I have to say that Laura has been trying to get me to do yoga for years but I tend to start laughing the minute I hear an “Om” so I was a little bit leery of trying Qoya. But Laura and I gave it a whirl when Linda agreed to do a class with only us and her mom, Aila. We thoroughly enjoyed it – and there’s no way you can do it incorrectly. If you live in Austin, you should check it out at

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Laura: My Q book was a very odd memoir. As a lover and frequent user of the public library, I had high hopes for QUIET Please: Dispatches From a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas. But this book made me uncomfortable, angry and sad. It had some good points: clever use of the Dewey Decimal numbers for chapter headings, amusing footnotes and an interesting insider perspective from a young librarian. But overall I was shocked to read the nasty things the author had to say about the library, the staff and the public.  He makes outlandish observations about everything and couching his meanness in humor didn’t soften the blow of his words. When I returned the book, I couldn’t help myself – I had to ask the lady behind the desk if she had ever read this book (“no”) and if she even liked reading, since Mr. Douglas claimed most librarians did not. She put my mind at ease when she assured me that she, as well as the other staff, all loved books. But since some reviews on the internet were from librarians who admitted to sharing some of his views, I will be forever a wee bit Quamped for having read this.


Barbara: MORE QUOTATIONS. I’m an avid reader and I’m always coming across wonderful and meaningful sentences or turns of phrase that really speak to me. They’re obviously not speaking loud enough because why can’t I remember them! One of my former managers used to post a thought of the day that had quotes to think about. He may have looked them up but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that some of them he heard, remembered and wanted to share. If someone offered me $500,000 right now to rattle off two great quotes I couldn’t do it. I want more Quotations in my life. I don’t want someone to find me years from now in a sleazy bar huddled over my third whiskey muttering, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – when there are so many others to mutter…if only I could remember them!

LESS QUININE. I get a lot of cramps in my legs and am always on the hunt for another home remedy for them. One day I read that Quinine did the trick so I started Quaffing down the tonic water. Not only does it not really work that well, but now I hear it’s not even good for you. All that gin and tonic gone to waste! (Not really.) So less Quinine for this gal. I’m a mustard lady from now on! (That’s a remedy that really does work and I carry mustard packets with me wherever I go.)

Laura: MORE QUESTIONS. As a kid, I was often called “the what if girl”. Yes, you guessed it – most of my questions began with “what if?” I believe the what if thinking had a direct connection to my love of reading. After all, “what if“ suggests there is more than one way to see something…more than one way to act…more than one outcome. Lately, the “what if” questions seem to have morphed into “why” questions, and that’s okay. There’s room for both. Asking questions has been part of my nature for ages, and seeking answers never gets old.

LESS QUINOA. I have nothing against Quinoa but I feel the amount of attention it gets is a bit unfair to rice. Rice has been around forever, with brown rice elevating its status in the health arena – and then quinoa, with its fancy spelling and pronunciation comes along and bumps rice down a few notches. Quinoa is everywhere and some food associations even dubbed 2013 the official year of quinoa. Its popularity is still strong and it will be popping up in unexpected places soon – like in mac and cheese! I’m hoping rice makes a sexy comeback soon and gives quinoa a little nudge.

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Pulpwood QUEENS book club

Several years ago Laura stumbled on a story about a book club called Pulpwood QUEENS. It was started by a free spirit named Kathy Murphy who combined her hair styling skills with her love of books and opened a beauty salon/book store aptly called Beauty and the Book. From there, it grew into an international book club with 725+chapters, including ours: The Collin County Pulpwood Queens. This month the QUEEN herself (Kathy Murphy) came to our meeting to discuss Gentleman of Moscow and show us her new line of art and clothing. CLUB2

What we definitely enjoy most is Kathy’s yearly Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend. Hundreds of fellow, tiara-wearing book lovers get together each year to hear authors talk about their books. However, unlike any other book festival, we really get to know the authors personally. They even serve dinner one night. Authors are our movie stars; meeting Alice Hoffman and Jamie Ford was more exciting than if we were to meet Ryan Reynolds. IMG_0912And who can beat the zany Great Ball of Hair on Saturday night? Last year’s theme was Bohemian Rhapsody and, as former hippies, we knew just how to dress. We’ve also had fun with Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend . And who could pass up the experience of going into a gas station to get directions in these get ups?!

This coming January, the theme is How the West Was Won, so you know we’re brushing off cowgirl hats and polishing up our boots. We’d love to wrangle some more of our friends into the group – so don’t be shy about moseying on down to Nacogdoches with us! Check it out at

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When we were little girls, if anyone, including us, were to act like they were “all that” our mom would ask: “Who does she think she is, the Queen of Sheba?” Never once, until Q month, did we stop to wonder who the real Queen of Sheba was. From exploring the internet, we can see where the expression originated since she came to Solomon with all kinds of rich gifts – spices and gems.

So imagine how excited we were that there is a restaurant named QUEEN OF SHEBA and it serves Ethiopian food, which was a new experience for us, albeit it not a Q. Ethiopian food definitely is reminiscent of Sheba in that it has a rich dose of spices in everything from the veggies to the coffee (which Laura just had to buy a pound of!). We enjoyed it but the one thing that took us a bit of getting used to was the bread called Injera. Looks a little bit like a squishy brick colored pancake, rolled up like a taco but the consistency and taste is hard to describe. If any of you try it, let us know what you think.

We’d like to think that Mom would have gotten a kick out of our eating here.

The Quirkiness of Q

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Laura: In thinking about what I wanted to study for the month of Q, the first thing that came to mind was the question: “Why is Q almost always followed by U?” I figured that long ago, Q chose U as its best friend and a pact was made to appear in public most of the time. Obviously, it was not that simple so I found a great little video on youtube with delightful cartoonish drawings that explains it best. To sum it up, Q and U got together to replicate sounds in the language of the Normans, the French, the Etruscans and the Phoenicians. If you’re interested, check it out at But one thing I find extremely Quirky is that when S precedes QU, you get most words that have a slight negative twist to them. Consider squalor, squish, squash, squeeze, squander, squeamish, squirrelly, to cite a few. I wonder what squabble set this in motion?

Barbara: Q and U are obviously close friends but P has been vying for Q’s attention for quite some time. I checked to see where the expression “Mind your Ps and Qs” originated.  Surprisingly there was not a good consensus but instead several interpretations. Mind your pints and quarts was one since bartenders had to tally up their take; there’s really nothing to support this, though, so I attribute it to the drunk bartenders. Mind your pea and queue came from the 18th century but since a pea was a coat and a queue was a wig only someone who was Quackers could confuse those.

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