Baguettes for Comfort

Today I learned that an eye condition I only previously had in one eye (Uveitis) is in both of my eyes. This ailment began in my right eye over a decade ago, and now it’s in my left eye as well. Unfortunately it has left scars in my vision, so I see dark grey blobs that float around. My doctor said that my brain will get used to seeing them, and that I should give them names.

This has made me feel grateful for small things. I suddenly want to stay very close to home. Thoughts of getting a guide dog flashed through my mind, not that I necessarily need one, but a cuddly friend sounds very comforting and nice. The shadowy blobs play tricks on my brain. I think I’m seeing things sometimes, and most of the time it’s hard to focus.

Before all of this took place today, I was in the process of developing a perfectly orchestrated sourdough starter for making French baguettes. Today was the magical day that they were going to be completed. Coming home from the ophthalmologist with both eyes fully dilated was not going to stop me from my bread baking.

I used a special artisan blend of flour that is suited for French breads, a bakers couche, and a razor sharp lame to score the risen loaves. The results came out fabulously. Our home smells deliciously fragrant, and the bread made happy little singing noises with delicate crackles as I pulled each one from the oven. 

For dinner we’ll have the warm baguettes that we’ll dip in olive oil from the West Bank, and home made mushroom ravioli. I’m looking forward to that. Bread is such a blessing, and something that I have always enjoyed making. Thank goodness for small things that bring great comfort on dreary days. 

French Baguettes

  • Servings: 3 loaves
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A flavorful baguette with a crackly crust and delicate crumb.

The Night Before:

  • 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1 C all purpose flour (I used King Arthur Artisan Blend)
  • 1/2 C warm water

The Next Morning:

  • 2 1/3 C all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1/2 C warm water


  1. Mix second day ingredients into the starter from the night before. Gently knead the dough in bowl for just a minute, and then stopping to rest for 10 minutes in between.  Do this a total of four times.
  2. Divide the dough into three equal sections, and roll out with your palms gently into three long baguette shapes. Place them to rise on a baker’s couche, or on a dry, floured towel. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, with a baking stone inside.
  3. Place a sheet of parchment paper onto a flat cookie sheet.
  4. After one hour, gently flip the baguettes onto a baker’s peel or flat surface, so that you can easily transfer them onto the parchment lined cookie sheet. My cookie sheet has no sides so it’s easy to slide the baguettes off.
  5. Score with a sharp knife or baker’s lame. Place in the oven and throw a handful of ice cubes on the floor of the oven to let off steam.
  6. Bake for 17 minutes or until golden. Remove, and let cool for one hour. Storing them in a paper bag will help to keep the crust crisp.



At the most basic level, all of our world’s problems could be solved with one thing: kindness. It’s not complicated, and does not involve reading theological, or philosophical books, visiting mountain tops, nor does it require following strict dogma of any kind. 

If we could all just be a little kinder with those we love, those in need, strangers, and in misunderstandings, our world would be a much happier and healthier place. If someone cuts you off, or is grumpy, they may be having a bad day. A smile to a stranger is a simple way of offering kindness.

If we hold in our heart the idea that kindness is a very important quality that should be nurtured, we develop a place for it to grow. Anything that grows also needs to be tended to in a loving way. I know that with my plants, when I gently touch them each morning with a greeting, they respond with increased growth. 

I have always believed that being kind was all that was needed in this world, and it’s all we are really here to do. We all have the capability inside of us, but it’s buried under layers of false beliefs, fear, and ego. Try to search beneath those layers to access the basic quality that will benefit all.

Ways of doing this that are helpful are:

Knowing that everyone deserves kindness.

Focus on what you’re grateful for, instead of what feels bad.

Try not to focus on a persons irrational behavior, instead try to focus on their heart.

We all were children at one time. Treat others with the innocence that they deserve, and          remember.    

Be patient. Reacting in anger only makes you look like a lunatic.

When you get angry, what makes you feel calm? Wouldn’t it be a loving gesture from a patient person? Try being what you wish from others. We are all the same.

You don’t need to prove or be anything to anyone. Just be kind and be yourself, because your real self is made of love. 

Make it a priority to practice kindness today, and feel the warmth of love replace everything else.


Slowing Down


I remember how a dear friend of mine in Michigan used to move very peacefully and slowly, only focusing on whatever she was doing in that moment. At the time, I could not fathom moving that slow. I thought to myself, she doesn’t have children so she has the unlimited leisure of taking her time. I was living on a working farm then, and raising a teenager. I envied her calm life.

I wanted more than anything to be able to not have to do the huge list of farm chores each day. Racing and running through each labor intensive segment as if there was a gun held to my head was draining the life out of me. At times throughout the day I wore a timer on a rope around my neck, giving me a ten minute window to have a cup of tea, or a 15 minute window before the goats needed to be milked. This continued on until I fell into complete, prostrate exhaustion every single night, in my bed.

I no longer live on the farm, nor live at that frenzied pace. I’ve made wise choices that have allowed me to slow down and care for myself in a much healthier way. The process of slowing down allows us to be more sensitive to smaller things. It allows us to open up our souls and let them become the huge, and beautiful force that they’re meant to be.

People are moving and talking faster than ever before. Everything has sped up, and it’s easy to get caught up in that. Ten years ago the average speech rate was only about 140 words per minute. Now people are cramming in between 170 to 180 words per minute. Speaking in this fast pace makes us feel anxious, rushed and sick. We need to practice slowing down and being in each moment.

This month, I’ve begun each day doing whatever it is I intend on doing in a relaxed, and slowed manner. I’m also trying to speak slower, and move slower. Whenever I sit, I also allow myself to relax my muscles, drop down into my heart, and take some slow, deep breaths. I feel grateful to have arrived at this place in my life. Little things are noticed, and life feels blessed.



This morning I did my usual Monday cleaning. I love Mondays because I know that this is the day when I get everything in order for the week ahead. This day, each week is dedicated to eliminating clutter, and clearing space.

While vacuuming our screened in porch floor, I noticed that some of the pots had tiny pests flying about them. I grabbed a garbage bag and placed the pots inside to take down to the recycling bin. I cleaned around what was now a smaller plant area and felt at peace. Opening up that much more space in our patio area allowed me to see that it wasn’t necessary to tend to these extra things.

I remembered how much I love minimalism. The simplicity of open spaces, absolutely no clutter, and only what is necessary brings a sense of peace.  My husband and I are in our 50’s, own two beds, two desks, some lamps and a couch.  We haven’t bought a dining room table yet, and still enjoy eating meals on swivel stools at the kitchen counter.  I have my eye on a particularly gorgeous Scandinavian style, walnut dining room table with a glass top from a furniture company that I love called Rove Concepts. When our bills are done being paid off, I will purchase this for our home. 

I have been downsizing cookbooks that I have been collecting since my early 20’s. I have cut them back from around several hundred to 70. I intend on reducing that number even further. I refuse to buy Kindle books. I find that too time consuming and frustrating. I like the actual touch of a book, but If I haven’t used it within two years, I donate it. 

When we bought our home last June, we moved in with the prior owners paint choice upon the walls. It is a dark, khaki greige. The light fixtures were thick, wrought iron, and coated in dust. Their relationship ended in divorce. I am going to paint the walls with either a pastel or simply white. The lights will be modern and minimalist.

I used to frequent a shop in Michigan that sold used books. Once you entered the shop you were immediately enveloped in softly scented Japanese incense, the sound of a water fountain, and the gentle lull of angelic spa music. It was the most relaxing place I had ever known. The soft spoken owner shared with me that she would open all the windows every morning, burn sage, close the windows and burn incense throughout the day. Ever since then, this is what I do in our home daily, which makes it feel blessed like a sanctuary.

When you have less you feel better. It frees up time, space and peace of mind. I spend a great deal of the day either meditating, or in quiet prayer/reflection. I know that I cannot reach a certain state of tranquility unless my surroundings are pared back, clean and in order. 

The less you have the happier you will become. We can only take love with us when we leave.


A Nurturing Soul

I remember spending as many hours as I could visiting my beloved grandmother Yulishka. Just being in her presence made me feel so incredibly loved. She always had a certain quality for bringing so much joy into my life. Whenever I would go to see her, she would have freshly cut roses from her garden sitting on her table along with baked goods and tea. She would love to offer these small tokens for me whenever I would visit. As a young child, I was mesmerized by her positive enthusiasm, and the way she danced around like little prisms of light on water. Flowering cactuses always bloomed in her kitchen windowsill, and I remember how they had a certain glow that matched her smile. I wanted to stay immersed forever in her magical world of nurturing and love.

My grandmother Yulishka was a generous and comforting soul, and because of her my life has been spiritually enriched. Every day I can sense her smile, her essence, and remember the fragrance of her beautiful tea roses. At night while I’m asleep, she visits me. We sit at her table and talk, and then I am in her luminous presence once again. Sometimes in my dreams, she accompanies me on trips, or through various creative projects that I’m currently working on. But mostly it’s huge celebrations. Just last night she was with me again, sitting by my side in a boat on a calm sea, watching whales breach and softly sing.

Yulishka may be gone, but she continues to offer her love for me in many ways. She was the one who taught me to be true to my heart, and because of that I am now happily reunited with my soul mate. I am living a life by the sea in Florida, painting pieces of art that reflect the healing and positive energy that will forever be a part of me.

Grandmother · Tea Time

About Yulishka


I was born and raised in the north-west suburbs of Detroit in the early 1960’s. My father immigrated from Baghdad,Iraq and worked as a civil engineer for Ford Motor Co. He met my mother, the oldest child of Hungarian immigrants, while she was working as a store clerk in Detroit. The clashing of their diverse cultures created an overwhelming and interesting childhood.

I was born extremely sensitive. I rarely made a sound, and didn’t like noise. Noises and people were overwhelming to me. I would always hide in my room, or sometimes in our cedar closet and find reasons to not have to go anywhere. It was just easier, safer and quieter. I would not find out until my early 20’s that what I was experiencing was an incredibly refined sense of intuition, clairvoyance, mediumship, and empathic qualities. I knew this because my grandmother Yulishka and Aunt Anita had these gifts too. It would come to be something that would bring us even closer.

My place of refuge, peace and total security was in my grandmother Yulishka’s house. It was a soothing balm of enchantment, luxury, and incredibly good Hungarian food.

The fragrance in my grandparent’s home was of woodsy apple pipe tobacco, dried eucalyptus, old newspapers, buttery baked Hungarian pastries, fermenting dough pickles, and chicken soup. The combination of these things would literally act as a narcotic, and usually cause you to nod off into a thick pile of silky Hungarian goose down comforters which were piled high on the couch. That nest was so deep that all you could hear was muffled Hungarian and grandmother banging her worn, wooden spoon on a soup pot. Hungarian was spoken freely between my mother and grandparents. It seemed so musical and jovial to me. Sometimes, grandfather would get out his violin and stiffly sway from side to side while he played spirited old gypsy songs. Grandmother had hearing loss, so her rotary phone had to be wired into a large amplifier on the wall. When the phone rang, it rocked the whole house.

Their home was a mix of fine, gilded Viennese opulence, Louis XIV, and smoothly worn Early American woods. Reminders of the post depression era were scattered everywhere.

Tubs of used-up bar soap pieces sat in the basement next to large galvanized buckets of home-grown garlic. Barrel sized, foaming glass bottles of her dandelion wine perfumed the garage. This clashed with grandmother’s high-end Bonwit Teller dresses, Oscar De La Renta perfume,  Gucci bags, and hat boxes in her closet. As a young woman, she had worked cleaning the homes of famous Hollywood movie stars, and because of that she always painted her fingernails, and dressed glamorously. We were made to feel pampered and comfortable in her fairy tale home.

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has been the most influential aspect of my life. Her unpretentious, bubbly and joyful presence, along with the twinkly light of her always smiling, grey-blue eyes would make me feel incredibly loved, safe, and tickled with happiness. She was quick to make jokes, calling herself, “…a big old baboon...”, or “…a fuzzy headed, dancing monkey.. .”  This always sent me spiraling into  excruciating belly laughs right along with her. What I loved most was that she always had a batch of freshly baked cookies for us when we would visit.

I miss her so deeply that my heart often feels like it’s split wide open. Her love and consistent guidance has navigated me past the dark and rocky areas of my life. Even now, as I make the tropical paradise of Florida my new home, she’s there with me in this warm land of orange blossoms, laughter, white beaches and eternal sunshine.

Her voice is always there, nudging and guiding me along my way,  right beside me as I pour my tea. She visits me each and every night, in my dreams for years now since her passing. We sit at her kitchen table and just talk. Others who have passed are there too, usually enjoying a Torte cake and a celebration of some sort. When the wee hours of the morning come, she begs me to stay, saying, “It’s too late for you to leave, you should stay here.” Regrettably, I always must leave.

I want to live my life positively and beautifully, surrounded in love, color, twinkly lights, and offering my gifts of art, vision, love and cookies to the world, just as she did. She always used to say, “No matter how hard things get, tomorrow is a new day.” Truly words that are needed in each of our lives.

We can all do something wonderful today. The easiest thing is to simply offer someone a smile, coming from the love in your heart. Let’s all just be nice to each other, pour some tea and share cookies while we all walk each other home.