The Night Of The Hurricane

I recently remembered an experience from many years ago, when I worked as a waitress in Coconut Grove, near Miami.   I worked for a couple that owned a really popular Italian restaurant.  They were real characters, husband and wife Luigi and Lulu.  They fought like cat and dog, but you could tell they really loved each other.  Lulu was a hard taskmaster, a really tough woman and not easy to get close to, but she had grown up working in restaurants in New York and knew the business back to front.  She taught me so much, her first words to me were, ‘Are you fast, because you have to move your ass in this job’.  I made it my business to ‘move my ass’!

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Luigi was the head chef and an excellent cook, his weekly specials were often his own inventions and we always sold out nightly, people queued around the block at weekends to get a table, the basketball team Miami Heat and other celebrities often ate there, The Heat used to come in after a game, about 11pm at night, dressed in the sharpest designer suits, extremely polite, very tall (!) guys who didn’t drink alcohol and left enormous tips, nice fellas.

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In August, about 25 years ago, It was hurricane season and there was a hurricane coming.  It was really strange, as the day went by the sky stayed blue, although it did get quite breezy!  I was working that night and since the hurricane didn’t seem to be showing up, I went in to the restaurant.  It did start raining quite hard as I made my way there in my ancient Oldsmobile, when I arrived Lulu was so shocked to see me, she greeted me with ‘Are you crazy?’  I was the only waiter to show up, none of the chefs came in, so there was just me, Lulu, Luigi and the dishwasher that lived down the street!

Just turned 5.30pm, the rain eased up and the skies started to clear.  Within 20 minutes customers started arriving, within 40 minutes the place was full to capacity and a queue was forming! I had never seen anything like it! It was chaotic, Lulu stood on a chair and after she caught the attention of the place she thanked everyone for coming, ‘As we are the only place open in a hurricane’, people laughed, she asked for patience because obviously we couldn’t feed everyone at once, but assured all that nobody would leave hungry. She was true to her word, I have never worked so hard, we waited tables, cleared, served, it was none stop for nearly 5 hours, it was incredible.  People were happy to wait, they were good humoured, easy going and generous with their tips.  At the end of the night Lulu pulled her tips out of her apron and gave half to me and half to the dishwasher who came out of the kitchen to clean tables, that is the kind of woman she is.

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Lulu was the toughest boss I ever had, and the fairest, we remain in touch to this day.  Oh and the hurricane never did arrive, thank goodness!

All these years later my waitressing days are behind me, but that restaurant was the hardest job I ever had, the most fun, and the best food, I even tried mussels marinara for the first time and clams in garlic and white wine with linguine became my favourite food ever! looking back it was the most amazing experience, I met some good people and learned so much.

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Happy Days!

Who Wants To Live Forever?

I have recently been spending time with the most wonderful 90 year old lady called Dorothy.  Her Husband of 70 years, Joe, who is aged 93 years has just gone into a nursing home, his body is failing, but his mind is reasonably good most of the time.

Dorothy is just amazing, I touch wood when I say this, but she takes no pills, is sharp as a tack, full of common sense and just the nicest person I have ever met.  I have tried to work out why she is such a fit and well 90 year old lady, and I believe, in her case, it is because she does not suffer from stress in any way, shape or form.  She is calm of mind and spirit and rationalises everything.  I told her yesterday that I hope to be like her when I am 90, if I am lucky enough to get there!.

In truth, she has been a bit of a slave to her demanding husband throughout their 70 years of married life, she has pandered to him and he has always had his own way.  The funniest thing is that just before Joe went into the nursing home, his family were concerned he was sleeping all day and complaining of being awake most of the night.  Upon investigation they discovered that Dorothy was afraid to forget to give him his medications, so decided to give him all of his pills with his breakfast, including his night time prescribed pain medication that contained a strong sedative! bless her heart! Once he was taken into care they took him off all of his medications to assess him and his health improved 100%.  We are definitely a nation of over prescribers I think!

Dorothy told me that up until a few months ago, Joe was still driving, I was mortified, especially when she added that she had to control the gear stick, handbrake and signals for him! Dorothy said to me ‘well if he kills me, he kills me, he’ll go to jail’, she was so matter of fact that I just had to laugh!.  After a minor mishap his Doctor finally assessed he was no longer fit to drive and took his licence away, phew!

Joe is equally humorous, I have been visiting him in the care home and he says the most hilarious things, When my Husband came with me, he asked him how much my Husband weighed! just randomly, out of the blue!  He told me yesterday he needed a blood transfusion, as he needed a top up! He also asked me how long it took to paint my toenails!

Sadly though, he also looked up at me as I was leaving and said ‘I don’t want to get old’.  My heart almost broke, I leaned down and gave him a peck on the cheek and told him, none of us do, but we have no choice.  Bless him, it is so sad to see older people when their bodies are failing, yet there mind is all there.

I reminded Joe that he must think about all the wonderful years he has spent with Dorothy, that so many people die young, without fulfilling their life’s ambitions.  He and Dorothy keep us regaled with stories of their travels, their youth, growing up in different times and a whole host of amazing tales, spanning over 75 years that they have been together.  I feel blessed to know them and so happy to spend time with them.

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A Lovely Gesture

A few months ago, after wanting to do this for years, I planted flowers around the two road signs in front of my house.  I look after the new flower beds as if they were my own garden, hoeing, watering and replacing dead plants when necessary.  Quite a lot of the people passing by walking dogs etc. have said how nice it looks.  Today when I got home there was a pink envelope through my door, addressed to ‘The lady who looks after the flowers’.

Inside was a lovely Thank You card, which read:

Dear Number 1 (my house number)

I have just moved to the area and want to say thank you for looking after the entrance to our road and keeping it so lovely.  It makes me smile every time I drive by on my way home.

Thank you!

I can’t tell you how touched I felt to receive this anonymous card and kind words!  It really made my day, how nice that there are such thoughtful and pleasant people in this world.  I just wish I knew who sent it!  Perhaps I will find out one day!.

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Need A New House?

The Real Estate Lady is here is assist

She’ll find you a property you cannot resist

From uptown, to downtown, midtown and beach

Leave it to her to find you a peach

She’ll scour the countryside, no stone left unturned

A new house for you, her commission is earned

Her trusty advice is always on hand

Even if you want a home on the sand

On Sundays you’ll find her showing open houses

The doors are always open, even for browsers

She’ll work and strive to find your dream home

No order to big, the earth she will comb

And when the day comes you find your new shack

This wonderful lady will have proved the knack

Of knowing what’s right, what’s perfect and fine

Then she can relax with a well-earned glass of wine!


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The True Meaning Of Success

“To laugh often and much,

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children,

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends,

To appreciate beauty,

To find the best in others,

To leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition,

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is the true meaning of success.”

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Rip Off Restaurant in Lovely Lisbon!

Restaurante A Cisterna, Lisbon – Where do I begin!
We should have taken it as a sign that it was extremely difficult to find, in fact we looked for two mornings in a row, before a Policeman kindly gave us directions, we should have given up when we had chance!.
I booked this restaurant because people on TripAdvisor were raving about it, perhaps we visited on an off day!
We arrived for our table and a sign on the solid wooden doors advised us to ring the bell, a dishevelled but pleasant older man answered and ushered us in, he then locked the door behind us, he asked us to go up the stairs, when we went through the door at the top, he then locked that behind us.  Thankfully before us was the interior of a restaurant! ( I wondered if we had wandered into the town jail, or worse!).  The inside was in need of a lick of paint and an update and nothing at all like the misleading picture it has posted on TripAdvisor, perhaps it looked like that 20 years ago!
We were seated in an empty dining room, however a few minutes later a French couple were seated near us, followed by a Chinese family.  The menu was presented and it was ONLY in Portuguese and mainly hand written, impossible to follow or understand, so we asked for advice (as did the other diners) – this was our first mistake.  The dishevelled chap asked if we wanted fish or meat, we discussed options and I opted for clams in garlic butter, followed by fillet steak, Pierre chose prawns in garlic butter, followed by Salmon.  Sounds delicious right? think again.
When the prawns arrived just before my clams I thought, ooh yummy! then my not so yummy clams arrived, tiny little cockles, some smaller than a little finger nail, in watery something, no butter in site.  We were also given bread rolls, which appeared on the bill at the end for 5 euros! the cockles were tasteless and so tiny it was hardly worth bothering.
We had a glass of white wine and a glass of red wine, to be fair the wine was pleasant, however it turned out to be twice the price of anywhere else in the area!
My – so called – fillet steak arrived, it was a thin piece of scraggy beef, overcooked by a month, in a bowl of watery liquid, the rim of the bowl was circled with round crispy potatoes (23 euros!).  The steak was awful, tasteless, no seasoning, and quite tough.  Pierre’s Salmon was also paper thin, full of bones and overcooked by a year (18 euros!)
How on earth Trip Advisor reporters can say this place is marvelous beggars belief!
Our bill came to 92 euros, twice the price of anywhere else in the neighbourhood, we were appalled.  We paid up and got the hell out of there.
Once again the door at the top of the stairs had to be unlocked, we were escorted down and the big heavy wooden door at the bottom was unlocked, we ran for freedom!
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Lilly & Pierre’s Lisbon Adventure

So off we went to Lisbon! we had never been there before and we were looking forward so much to visiting a new city.  The trip didn’t start too well though, our flight to London Heathrow was delayed 45 minutes, we then had to change terminals and go through another security search, which was so backed up we missed our flight to Lisbon!  I must say I think Heathrow is absolutely horrible to transit through, the staff on the security search are so rude, the seem to deliberately move at a snails pace, the more people complained, the worse their attitude.  I am all for high security, that was not the issue, it was the appalling treatment of the passengers, and their seeming delight that they were causing people to miss flights, that area of Heathrow need a huge overhaul, Pierre flatly refuses to go through Heathrow ever again, and I can’t really blame him.  So we made our way to the British Airways desk and the agent was just lovely, she got us on the last flight out, landing in Lisbon at 11pm, since we had a 5 hour wait, she kindly let us use the Executive Club, so we enjoyed free food and an open bar, it certainly helped the situation!.  We finally got to our hotel in Lisbon at just after midnight, The Sheraton, and the place was buzzing! the staff greeted us so warmly and told us there was live music in the rooftop bar until 1.30am! Lisbon is definitely a place with a huge nighttime culture, as the taxi was driving us to the hotel we noticed traffic jams, at midnight!.

So after finally getting to bed at 1.30am, we woke up the next day in Lisbon! We had 4 full days ahead of us with no where to be and nothing to do! We spent each morning exploring this wonderful city, we loved the Praxo do Comercia, which is the main square at the waterside, we particularly enjoyed having lunch at the Museum of Beer and also Rib, all on the square, lovely food and very reasonable prices.  Indeed Lisbon is very cheap, a 15 minute taxi ride is only 6 euros, a good glass of wine is only 4 or 5 euros, we bought some wine and beer at the supermarket for the hotel room and wine was cheaper than water!

Praxo do Comercia

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Museum of Beer bar & restaurant

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We explored all the streets leading down to the square, lots of lovely shops, tons of restaurants of every kind, street performers, it really is a fun and exciting and very vibrant city, the people are extremely friendly and most of all you feel very safe here.

One of our favourite things was the tram ride up towards to castle.  We were trying to fathom out how to buy a ticket, but you can just pay when you get on, 3 euros per person, each time you board, so if you get off, you pay when you get on again.  A lovely chap, who was trying to sell us a tour on his Tuk-tuk, of which there are endless amounts of!, advised us not to wait in the very long queue for the famous Tram 28, but to take Tram 12, it’s a shorter tour but you see nicer views, he was right, there was hardly any queue and off we went, we got off at Alfama, a lovely little spot with great views, restaurants and little shops, lovely garden areas and you can walk to the Castle from there.

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Just as we decided to take a taxi back down, Tram 28 stopped almost in front of us, so we hopped on and enjoyed a very scenic 20 minute ride back down the hill, I highly recommend trying the tram, it was so much fun!.

We usually went back to the hotel after lunch and relaxed by the pool for a couple of hours before getting ready to go out to dinner.  I researched restaurants around the area of the Sheraton and we ate at two fantastic places and one rip off horrible place.  We loved the Maracana restaurant, we ate the best grouper ever! we also loved Il Giardinetto, which was an excellent Italian place and very cheap!  The place we had the worst experience was called Cisterna Restaurant, which was so odd it’s going to get it’s own blog – coming shortly!

Il Giardinetto

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Something we also like to do is find out where the top place is and go and have a cocktail, as it happened the Panorama bar and restaurant is located on the rooftop floor of the Sheraton Hotel! Words can hardly explain the beyond magnificent view of all of Lisbon, right down to the water! The delicious wines were 8 euros a glass, obviously!, but they serve a little tray of snacks, the chairs are so comfortable and the view is unmissable.
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Finally, the last place I want to tell you about is the Time Out Market.  This is an exciting, fun place, there are dozens of food vendors, we ate the cod fish cakes and tried the famous local pastry – Pastel de Nata (Custard Tart) – literally melts in your mouth!  There is a full market at the side of the food area, plus other types of vendors.  The chefs cook in front of you and you can either sit at the counters of the stalls or in the central bench area.
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In all we adored Lisbon and would return anytime and hopefully soon!

Happy Travels my lovely readers.  xx





















Lilly & Pierre’s California Adventure

When I was ten years old my parents took us to California on holiday.  I fell in love! Ever since then I have longed to return, but over the years I ended up spending time working in Florida, so I forgot how much I had loved California.  Last month my lovely Husband retired and I have suggested we take a dream trip next year.  Ideally I would like to fly to San Diego, then take some time travelling as far up as Santa Barbara.  I think three weeks would be nice, it’s along flight from the UK, eighteen hours, so I am now enjoying planning this adventure.  I’m really excited to be going back! I have been pouring over maps, looking at all the cute coastal places along the Pacific Coast Highway.  We don’t want a manic trip of a different town each day, we want to take our time at the beauty spots, my thinking is that we stay four nights per area, that way we can immerse a little in the culture and people.

I definitely want to go to La Jolla, Carmel, Big Sur, Malibu, Long Beach, and Santa Barbara.

So my lovely readers, perhaps you can give me tips, suggestions and ideas, for hotels, restaurants and anything you think I should know for our dream trip!

Thanking you in advance!

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Newport Beach

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La Jolla

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Santa Barbara

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Not Worth A Life

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Flight attendants are trained to evacuate a fully loaded aircraft in less than 90 seconds using half the exits. That is the MAXIMUM amount of time before toxic fumes and flames overcome the cabin of a burning airliner making escape impossible.

Red indicates the seats in which the fatalites occurred in this disaster. Witnesses state that there was a pile up in the aisle behind passengers around row 10 who tried to collect their personal belongings from the overhead compartments, costing precious time.

The lone figure in the tail is Maxim, the 22 year old hero steward who is credited with saving many people by pushing them through the smoke and flames when his doors could not be opened. There are many photographs of surviving passengers on the tarmac with luggage. Each one of those suitcases may represent a human life in exchange.

There is NOTHING so important that it cannot be replaced.

Please remember, your life is far more important than a suitcase, and NOT the only one on that burning aircraft.

Fly safe.

What Makes You Happy?

Take as moment and just think about it.

When you remember the things that make you happy, you’ll smile, which is so good for your soul and your heart.  Smiling boosts your mood, it lowers your blood pressure, relieves stress and if you do it often enough it can lead to better health and a longer life.

My Husband is number one on my list, we have been together for over 23 years and he is my best friend.  My home and my garden make me happy, also my close friends, but you must not forget the things that you take for granted, for instance good health.  My late Mum always said ‘If you have your health, you have everything’, what incredibly wise words.

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My amazing Mum.


My lovely Husband (& me!).

So my dear readers, remember what makes you happy, smile often and enjoy your lives to the full, look after yourselves – and each other. xx