What encouragement might you get from an author book signing? You might want to ask Gail.

If you’ve happened upon our site’s  “Who Are We” page you’ll note that one of our “Three Well Beings” has been absent from the blogosphere due to her other author obligations! For a few weeks now Gail and her co-author Brenda have been interviewed on local public radio and featured in San Gabriel Valley newspapers and book signing promotional events. It was my great delight—and I mean it, I was thrilled—that my favorite bookstore, Vroman’s Books, hosted an author book signing promoting The Spa Less Traveled!

Since Gail and I have frequently attended author book signings at this wonderful and treasured bookstore, the event was particularly enjoyable.  Vroman’s, the oldest and largest bookstore in Southern California, is also to many of us a treasured landmark.      A. C. Vroman opened the doors in 1894 as a Book and Photographic Supply store, and as an avid photographer of Southwest and Native American culture, his store has a history of carrying interesting non-book items.

I spend a lot of time in this amazing place! And for many years I’ve also been a frequent guest at book signings, curious to hear stories from both well-established personalities as well as newly published first-time authors. I’ve collected signed first editions from a wide range of authors—Bob Newhart to President Jimmy Carter, Julie Andrews to Senator John Glenn–notables in Hollywood and the larger political sphere, and at other times including such respected authors as Anne Patchett, Anne Lamott and Tom Wolfe. Now I have added to my collection of signed books author signatures from Gail Herndon and Brenda Goldstein!

Gail Herndon and Brenda Goldstein

This fascinating and beautiful book simplifies and demystifies the spa experiences offered in hundreds of ethnic spas located in every pocket of Los Angeles and the greater San Gabriel Valley.  The curious and adventurous will certainly be tempted to take advantage of very modestly priced massage services in Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese and even Russian spas, using this book to assist the consumer in what to expect, how to navigate cultural norms and how to prepare for ease and comfort in facilities that are different from hotel and traditionally upscale (pricey) services.

Gail and Brenda began their ethnic spa adventure more than five years ago.  Their original objective was not to write a book, but to avail themselves of inexpensive spa services while investigating interesting pockets of Los Angeles. In time it was obvious that the materials and experiences they were collecting held potential for an interesting and useful publishable resource.

Let me go back and emphasize two words: five years!

It’s easy to see a finished project and pass over acknowledging the length of time and the amount of hard work and dedication that goes into a successful project launch.  But I also think it’s encouraging to anyone with a strong creative urge! Sometimes projects start slowly and build to something more over time.

Perhaps this is also an encouragement to some of the wonderful blog writers! Daily I’m reading some of the most creative and artistically polished stories, memoirs and anecdotes! Why do these writers exhibit commitment, drive and dedication to the writing life as well as take precious time to support fellow-writers? Simply because of the creative urge to do so! And I often wonder if among them there is someone already thinking that perhaps they might take an idea or two—perhaps the insistent thought pushing into their imagination– and expand their writing goals towards larger publishable works.

I must admit that I take a little pride in Gail and Brenda’s finished work.  How? I’ll just suggest that in part my encouragement (a very little part) kept this wonderful project moving forward.  Brenda and Gail did all the work, but some of us, their friends, have continued to say over and over “keep it up, this is terrific” and now we all feel a little piece of pride in a fabulous finished project.

And I’m going to say the same to some of my blogging friends.  “Keep it up” and continue moving forward. I see the potential for even more, if you want it! Creativity is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Stay Creative…Debra

Saturday Paws: What not to do with the Thanksgiving leftovers!

It can be a rough holiday when a family member falls ill or we have to make an Emergency Room run so I’d like to share a personal memory to perhaps help you prevent a pet-related emergency this busy holiday season. There are so many things we simply know we SHOULDN’T  share with our dogs and cats, yet we have all occasionally given in and pinched off  just a little piece of the  “foods to avoid, slipping a treat to our pets. In many kitchens and dining rooms this holiday season you’ll hear, “Oh, just a little won’t hurt.”  Unfortunately there are so many yummy things we simply cannot share with our furry family–not even a little bit.

What the woof? No chocolate?

Josie, a wonderful sixty-five pound Belgian Shepherd, once shared her life with me.  She was adopted after it was discovered that the two boys in her original family were allergic! Raised following after two toddlers, sniffing out and picking up cereal, string cheese, and licking every food dish she could find, she was used to foraging!  And because of this habit, shortly after Josie came to live with me we had a near disaster.

One day as I left home I wasn’t concerned about leaving behind the gifts of holiday candy stacked high on a table tucked behind the couch. But when I returned home hours later I quickly noticed the floor littered with paper cups, wrapping paper, and boxes that formerly contained very good candy! I was pretty sure that this wasn’t the cat’s guilty deed, so I went looking for Josie.  There she was, lying by the back door, head down between her paws and looking guilty. She also looked miserable! She was panting and shaking, and couldn’t wait for me to open the back door to get OUT.

Oh my goodness! I immediately called a pet poison hotline and together we tried to estimate how much chocolate she’d eaten (some will say an ounce of chocolate per pound of dog) and then we tried to determine her emergency status. Josie was lucky! Fortunately I came home when I did, and I was prepared to give first aid of water, blankets, and reassurance. I did my best to keep her calm, watching constantly to avoid the possibility that she’d lapse into a coma. It was very serious business! Josie had diarrhea for days– and I learned a big lesson!

What? Really? Say it's not so!

So, please think twice before treating your pet with something other than their regular food and treats. And I recommend using the web to learn as much as you can. You can learn a lot from simply searching “Foods Dogs Should Avoid” as well as the ASPCA website. You might also consider keeping the Poison Control Center number handy: (888) 426-4435.

And if you do see your pet has been eating something foreign or acting unusual I recommend calling the hotline just to make sure that you are prepared to take appropriate action. There are many hotline supports available with some prepared to connect directly to a Veterinarian—just have your credit card handy if you are going to need direct medical assistance. But more often simple home first aid will do the trick. Be prepared to provide your pet’s weight and to give an estimate of how much foreign food you believe was ingested.

And yes, also please pay special attention to what can be found in your yard as well as the holiday plants you’ve received as gifts. You already know that mushrooms and toadstools aren’t safe for your pets, but also prevent contact with Monkshood, Mistletoe berries, Poinsettia, Kalanchoe, Oleander, Foxglove (most bulbs, really) as well as apricots, raisins, and many more common plants and foods.

And do remember that although some people think it’s funny to see a dog, cat (or other pets) drink alcohol or get high, to your pet any amount of alcohol is extremely dangerous–I certainly applauded when I read that Queen Elizabeth fired staff coachmen for giving her Corgis brandy and other liquors! It’s a mistake to assume that half-emptied glasses are safe and you can empty them later, especially that special Egg Nog your favorite aunt just loves!

This season my girls will be safe–even if a bit disappointed–and that makes me feel much better than that difficult anxious night I spent with Josie!


Blessings to you and yours!

Beth & the Girls


I know better than to mess with turkey tradition–I’ll park my creativity!

This is a repost from last year. I wasn’t going to post anything until after Thanksgiving, but while preparing for the big day tomorrow I’ve been thinking of my grandparents, and missing them very much. For me, the day is about celebrating my wonderful family, and honoring those who aren’t around the table, but they’re in my heart. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you enjoy your own family traditions. And if not, carry a little thanksgiving anyway!

Watching my grandfather carve the turkey was observing an artist.  Although he wasn’t a butcher by trade, he’d learned the skill working in his father’s meat market. The delicious aroma that came from my grandparent’s kitchen certainly made me impatient for the big meal, but Papa patiently waited for the bird to be just perfect, and then allowed it to rest long enough to avoid losing precious juices and then he’d get to it. With flourish and expertise he carefully separated the white meat from the dark, layering each piece beautifully on the plate, while sneaking a piece or two to my brother and me as we sniffed around like hungry pups.  Those few minutes watching him prepare the main event were as much a tradition as any other part of the Thanksgiving feast.

I love the formal setting. I think a formal meal probably followed!

I think of him with love and remembrance every time the turkey comes from my oven. I have no doubt cooked at least three-dozen Thanksgiving turkeys at this point. And although I’m following a vegetarian diet, I can accept the need for a turkey. But maybe it’s because I have been reading entirely too many fantastic food blogs combined with the fact that I’m not the least bit sentimental about the other food traditions, I’d love to somehow change our patterns of predictability and maybe make our potluck family style dining a bit more formal for the occasion.

A simple personal preference! I have this inner dialogue for about two weeks every year, considering how we might make a few changes, but then I rightly conclude, it may be my house, but the Thanksgiving meal involves the whole village.  As I give up on my idea of a well-appointed multi-course meal I can almost hear Tevye singing “Tradition” and I acknowledge that if I mess with the goods I will ceremoniously be ushered out-of-town, or at least from my kitchen.

Two years ago my niece joined our table from France. My son positioned the laptop over the awaiting banquet, taunting his cousin with, “Here are Granni’s sweet potatoes, and here’s the stuffing, ambrosia, mashed potatoes…” Tradition! She played along, but I think it was a little cruel—except that without the wonderful smell it may have been a bit easier. The family is comfortable in this setting and doesn’t want a pumpkin soup first course followed by arugula, beet and goat cheese salad—and so on. I aimed for that one year.  I think that may also have been the year I noticed my nephew and brother throwing dinner rolls across the table to one another.

So tradition it is! I’ve already begun reconfiguring rooms to accommodate the fully extended dining room table while also scrounging for enough chairs to seat everyone. Every attempt is made to not completely overcrowd so that following the meal, according to another family tradition, there is room for a few rounds of competitive Scrabble and other favorite board games. Tradition also dictates a fair amount of time devoted to overindulging on pie and assorted sweets.

And that’s not all! It’s not just one big meal– it’s an event! We take the occasion seriously enough to do it again the following day. Yes, another family tradition—Thanksgiving Two! Originally instituted as a clever and amusing way to enjoy the leftovers we’ve been hosting this extension of the festivities for decades—probably in synch with the purchase of our first microwave. It was all about the leftovers.  But the family is now too large to rely upon leftovers, and new additions to the table including friends and family who are elsewhere on Thanksgiving One combine to too many guests for leftovers alone! So we will be cooking again! And they don’t know it yet, but on Friday, it’s my turn, and among other surprises, beets will be appearing in a salad!

I hope you all enjoy your own family traditions.  Enjoy your Thanksgiving One, and maybe even Two!  Debra