A “Prepare Ahead” Meal For Family Gatherings

With graduation season upon us and the first day of summer fast approaching, below is a simple, easy to make and prepare ahead meal for large gatherings, family reunions and special celebrations. Enjoy!

Cabbage Crunch Salad

Ingredients for salad:
1 medium sized head of cabbage
4 green onions
4 tbsp. sesame seeds
1 cup sliced almonds, slightly toasted
1 package chicken flavor Top Ramen noodles
1-2 cups broccoli florets – optional
1/2 cup or so shredded carrots – optional

Cabbage salad recipe

Ingredients for dressing:
6 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 chicken flavor packet – optional
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine salad ingredients. Make dressing ahead of time to allow it to marinate. Pour dressing over salad and mix thoroughly about 30 min. before serving. Toss again before serving.

Note: To avoid a drenched salad, use about 3/4 of the dressing first (you can always add more).


One pound of ground beef
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 6 ounce can Tomato Paste
1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp. Italian seasoning or the equivalent of oregano and basil
Salt and Pepper
8 ounces of lasagna noodles ( I cook 10 noodles)
3 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 1/2 ounce container of good quality cottage cheese (not low-fat)
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

Lasagna recipe

Brown beef and garlic in olive oil and butter. Add the liquid from the whole tomatoes and then the finely chopped tomatoes and then the paste and spices.  Season to taste with salt and pepper (I also add a shake of crushed red pepper flakes which makes it a little on the spicy side). Simmer on low for 20 min. or so.

Cook noodles in boiling water according to directions (I tend to cook slightly on the “al-dente” side). Drain noodles and rinse with cold water to cool. Layer in large glass baking dish 3 noodles lengthwise first, then spread 1/3 of the cottage cheese on top of noodles and then the Swiss cheese and then the sauce. Repeat this process two more times with the second layer going width wise and the third and last layer length wise again. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top and bake in 375 degree F oven for approx. 30 min. or until bubbly.

Spinach Lasagne (for vegetarians)

1 pound of fresh spinach, washed, drained, and coarsely chopped
1 pound ricotta cheese
2-3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Chopped Parsley, to taste
Garlic Powder, to taste
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
9 lasagna noodles, cooked as directed and drained
1 quart of your favorite or good quality or homemade tomato sauce

Combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, pepper, garlic powder and parsley. Butter a 13×9″ glass baking dish. Layer 3 noodles, ricotta/spinach mixture, mozzarella cheese, thin smooth layer of sauce. Repeat two more times (ending with sauce on top). Cover tightly with foil and bake 40 min. at 350 degrees F. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 min.

Chocolate Sundae Pie

18 Oreos, crushed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 quart of ice cream

Desserts with oreos

Mix melted butter in finely crushed Oreos, press lightly in pie pan and put in freezer for 15-20 min. Remove from freezer and fill crust with one quart of your choice ice cream. We use either all Haagen-Dazs Vanilla or half vanilla and half coffee ice cream (we have a lot of coffee ice cream lovers).

Hint: Let the ice cream sit out to soften so that it is easier to spread evenly in crust.

Ingredients for the chocolate sauce:
Oreo ice cream pie ingredients1 square (1 ounce) of unsweetened chocolate (we used Baker’s)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Put all ingredients into saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly. Boil 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Cool at 30 minutes or so before spreading over ice cream. Serve with whipped cream and chopped Redskin Spanish peanuts.


Life Wisdom For The Places You’ll Go

Be sure to also check out our message for this year’s college graduates on our Rose’s Ridge page.

As college graduates toss their hats in exhilaration and Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go! resumes its seasonal place on the bestseller list, we tip our hats to a few lesser-known books for their equally important life wisdom, advice and inspiration.

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, the words contained within these books are timeless and true, challenging us to a continual commitment to self-improvement and encouraging us to live deliberately, creatively and thoughtfully.

We hope they bring you – whether you are a college graduate or a seeker of all things good – the same inspiration, comfort and encouragement they have brought us.

From 8,789 Words of Wisdom by Barbara Ann Kipfer (2001)

ATG’s top 12:

  1. 8,789 words of wisdomAlways make your bed*
  2. Doing is better than saying
  3. Respond to rudeness with kindness
  4. Sometimes things that hurt, teach
  5. Always look people in the eye when you talk to them
  6. Require more from yourself than from others
  7. Let some things remain a mystery
  8. Every day, look up one new word in the dictionary
  9. Admit to your mistakes
  10. Stick with your family
  11. Learn how to prepare at least five meals expertly
  12. Contemplate the beauty of the earth and find reserves of strength that endure

*In a commencement address at The University of Texas, Austin in May 2014 Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command commented on the importance of making your bed. His address, full of powerful insights & messages, soon went viral. You can watch and/or read it here.

From Life’s Instructions for Wisdom, Success and Happiness by H. Jackson Brown Jr. (2000)

ATG’s top 12:

  1. Proofread carefully everything that goes out under your signature
  2. Life’s Instructions for Wisdom, Success and Happiness To get someone’s attention, ask for their opinion
  3. When you meet people that you admire, ask them the titles of the books they’re currently reading
  4. Kind words and good deeds are eternal. You never know where their influence will end.
  5. It’s okay to be content with what you have, but never with what you are
  6. A strong code of ethics is as reliable as a compass
  7. In every face-to-face encounter, regardless of how brief, we leave something behind
  8. Make a list of 10 guiding principles that you want most to direct your life. Every month or so ask your family or a friend how well you’re living up to them.
  9. Don’t be so casual in dress, language and manner that people don’t take you seriously.
  10. Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness.
  11. Remember that every thing of great value has been paid for by blood, sweat, or tears or all three
  12. When visiting a foreign country, be on your best behavior. You are a representative of the United States.

From The Little Big Book of Life: Lessons, Wisdom, Instruction, Inspiration, Humor, Advice (2003)

Below is an excerpt from a speech by Ken Burns at Hampshire College on May 16, 1987:

  • “As you pursue the future, your future, pursue the past. Let it be your guide. Know the history of your country, not because it is knowledge to accumulate but because it arms you in the best kind of way. Learn about your family. Find out about your grandmother’s grandfather. Where was he in 1861? It will help you, I promise. Read about your history. Read David McCullough’s The Great Bridge, the best love story around…Avoid the word ‘career’ and even ‘profession.’ They are concerned with money and position. Continue to investigate. Have a style, by all means have a style, but remember that fashion itself is a cold center. There is nothing behind it…Whatever you do, walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.”

The Little Big Book of Life quotesFrom Eleanor Roosevelt:

  • “This is your life, not someone else’s. It is your own feeling of what is important, not what people will say. Sooner or later, you are bound to discover that you cannot please all of the people around you all of the time. Some of them will attribute to you motives you never dreamed of. Some of them will misinterpret your words and actions, making them completely alien to you. So you had better learn fairly early that you must not expect to have everyone understand what you say and what you do. The important thing is to be sure that those who love you, whether family or friends, understand as clearly as you can make them understand. If they believe in you, they will trust your motives. But do not ask or expect to have anyone with you on everything. Do not try for it. To reach such a state of unanimity would mean that you would risk losing your own individuality to attain it.”

From Maya Angelou, October 1977:

  • “One of the first things that young person must internalize, deep down in the blood and bones, is understanding that although he may encounter many defeats, he must not be defeated. If life teaches us anything, it may be that it’s necessary to suffer some defeats. Look at a diamond: it is the result of extreme pressure. Less pressure, it is crystal; less than that, it’s coal; and less than that, it is fossilized leaves or just plain dirt. It’s necessary, therefore, to be tough enough to bite the bullet as it is shot into one’s mouth, to bite it and stop it before it tears a hole in one’s throat. One must learn to care for oneself first, so that one can then dare to care for someone else. That’s what it takes to make the caged bird sing.”

Steve jobs quotesFrom The Wisdom of Steve Jobs (2012)

  • “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”BusinessWeek, 1998
  • “…almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Commencement address, Stanford University, 2005

From On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt (2005)

On Bullshit book by Harry FrankfurtIn the elder days of art

Builders wrought with greater care

Each minute and unseen part,

For the Gods are everywhere
– Longfellow

  • “The point of these lines is clear. In the old days, craftsmen did not cut corners. They worked carefully, and they took care with every aspect of their work. Every part of the product was considered, and each was designed and made to be exactly as it should be. These craftsmen did not relax their thoughtful self-discipline even with respect to features of their work that would ordinarily not be visible. Although no one would notice if those features were not quite right, the craftsmen would be bothered by their consciences. So nothing was swept under the rug. Or, one might perhaps also say, there was no bullshit.”

Seven Quotes For Seven Days of the Week
(As found in the above book, Life’s Instructions for Wisdom, Success and Happiness)

1. “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of values – Albert Einstein

2. “Wisdom, compassion and courage – these are three universally recognized moral qualities of man. When a man understands the nature and use of these moral qualities, he will then understand how to put in order his personal conduct and character.” – Confucius

3. “Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness, and small obligations, given habitually, are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort.” – Sir Humphrey Davy

4. “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes real happiness. It is not obtained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller

5. “Wisdom does not show itself so much in precept as in life – in a firmness of mind and mastery of appetite. It teaches us to do as well as talk; and to make our actions and our words all of a color.” – Seneca

6. “Getters generally don’t get happiness; givers get it. You simply give to others a bit of yourself – a thoughtful act, a helpful idea, a word of appreciation, a lift over a rough spot, a sense of understanding, a timely suggestion. You take something out of your mind, garnished in kindness out of your heart, and put it into the other fellow’s mind and heart.” – Charles Burr

7. “Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities – always see them, for they’re always there.” – Norman Vincent Peale

“All Things Living & Green”: Van Gogh & Frida Kahlo

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” – Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel quotes

“What is Happening” in New York City this summer season are two “fashionable” exhibits that are worth checking out: Van Gogh Irises and Roses at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.

Van Gogh Irises and Roses

Van Gogh irises and roses art exhibitThe Van Gogh exhibit at the Met brings together for the first time a quartet of paintings that Van Gogh (1853-1890) did during his stay at the asylum at St. Remy in 1889 before his death in 1890. The exhibition of the four paintings, two of irises and two of roses, was timed to coincide with the blooming of the flowers in the Spring, a period of time he likened to the “calm after the storm.” Calling painting the “lightening conductor for my illness,” Van Gogh’s art became “the first example of a truly personal art, art as a deeply lived means of spiritual deliverance or transformation of the self…”

The exhibit is open now through August 16, 2015. Learn more by visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website.

Please note: the above information comes from the book Van Gogh by Meyer Schapiro and the Metropolitan’s website.

Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life

If you interested in gardens, are looking for inspiration and love all things Mexican (including a good margarita) you might consider journeying to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx for what is being called a “blockbuster exhibit” that pays tribute to an enduring cultural icon who has influenced the likes of Madonna, Beyonce and Lady Gaga.

Frida Kahlo was a surrealist Mexican painter known for her many self-portraits where she is adorned with flowers and greenery from her garden. The portraits often capture her “pain and passion” with the “intense, vibrant colors she is known for. She was born in a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City in 1907 in “La Casa Azul” – “The Blue House” of her immigrant German Lutheran father and Spanish mother. She lived there until she died at the age of 47 in 1954.

Frida Kahlo Exhibit New YorkWhile you may not know Frida by name, you would probably recognize her self-portraits, featuring her iconic unibrow, braided hair and traditional Mexican dresses, which has become one of the most recognizable faces in art. “I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone. Because I am the person I know best,” she once said.

It is written that Kahlo led a “tortuous life”, from lifelong health problems to her stormy marriage with famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. She was an avid gardener and created a magical place for herself at La Casa Azul that has been “re-imagined” by the exhibit with an “explosion of color” – from purple bougainvillea, pink oleander, white calla lilies, gardenias dahlias, Mexican marigolds, zinnias, philodendron leaves and fushia, along with cactuses and succulents lining the pathways.

As Allison McNearney writes in The Daily Beast, the exhibit is New York City’s “shrine to all things living and green” for the summer season.

The exhibit is open now through November 1, 2015. Learn more on The New York Botanical Garden’s website.

Please note: the above information comes from articles in The New York Post, The Daily Beast and The Frida Kahlo Foundation.

Four Years Wiser, A Message For This Year’s Graduates

college graduation speechesA little over four years ago, in one of my last articles for Holy Cross’ student newspaper, The Crusader, I offered a reflection – a “graduation message”, if you will – for my fellow Crusaders, the class of 2011.*

Inspired by graduation season, I recently reread it and was reminded of how much my life has changed since then. Now four years into the “real” and working world, long gone are the “all-nighters”, the month long vacations and the clearly defined sense of purpose that studying provides.

What remains, however, is a lesson I had learned and shared at the near end of my college experience:

“I have come to learn and to believe that in every met expectation and unforeseen surprise, every accomplishment and failure, in every loss and gain, every victory and defeat, in every mistake and intention, and in every realized dream and unfulfilled hope, there is always a lesson – always an opportunity to learn something about yourself or about life, and always something to take away and remember for the future.

“Sometimes, as I have come to learn, the lesson stares us square in the face, other times it is more obscure and requires a bit more awareness and faith. But, if anything, I have come to learn that it is always there, waiting to be discovered and acknowledged.”

I still believe this to be true. I might add, however, that it is equally important to remember that life is a continual process of growth and discovery – and that the moment we think we have “figured it all out” or learned all our lessons is typically when life will remind us, with a gentle touch or forceful push, that much remains for us to learn.

My friend and I used to joke throughout our four years at Holy Cross that “one day everything will be ok.” It became our secret six-word mantra the two of us shared, helping us to cope with the endless pressure and stress of an intense academic environment, not to mention our sometimes challenging social dilemmas.

Little did we know how mistaken we were – not in our youthful optimistic attitude, but in our naive belief that once we graduated and settled into a job, once we “made it on our own,” all would be right with the world, our fear and anxiety dissipating into eternal contentment.

In fact, it was a little over a year ago while talking on the phone that we laughed at our “six letter phrase” and agreed that while some days can feel like that “aha” moment, there will always be days that leave one feeling troubled and ill at ease.

But, it’s not that I don’t think we can ever find peace, joy or contentment. On the contrary, I think that the realization and acceptance of life as a journey – as something that we can never fully understand, master or even control – may actually be the first important step toward finding those very things.

As easy as it is for us to convince ourselves that “once I get to this point…” or “if only I could…” or “maybe if I do this…” then “everything will be ok”, it is a dangerous, crippling mentality and perpetual cycle of thought that prevents us from fully realizing that happiness is not some outside force that comes to us, but is, rather, something we must create and choose for ourselves.

Our focus, then, should not be on trying to “figure it all out.” It should be on finding ways to be more accepting of the place we are currently in – and looking for lessons that we can call upon for guidance in the future.

There are certainly days (weeks, months, maybe even years) when everything just seems right, when things have fallen into place and are running seamlessly. But, not all days are going to be like that. Nor should we expect them to. And that’s ok.

And so, four years wiser, my message to this year’s graduates is this:

You will likely face, in the coming months and years, a series of circumstances, decisions, questions and doubts that will test your confidence in yourself and those around you.

You will likely be met with challenges you may have expected, and those that you could never have anticipated – and while you will be able to successfully navigate some on your own, others will likely require the guidance and perspective of a loving parent or friend.

You will undoubtedly have moments of success and celebration, moments of failure and discouragement and maybe moments of utter despair.

You may even come to question yourself, your relationship with others and your role in the world around you.

And you will probably spend a good amount of time trying to figure out what exactly you want to do, or should do with your life.

College graduation quotesBut, instead of looking at these as obstacles – as something you have to suffer through in order to be “ok” – relish them. Accept them. Embrace them. And…learn from them. Only then can we realize and accept that we are the arbiters of our life and our contentment, and that everything can be ok right now if we allow it to be.

As the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke – recognized as “one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets” – so eloquently wrote:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Congratulations to all 2015 graduates! Live your questions.

This piece was also published on The Huffington Post.

Be sure to check out our post on our inspirational page, Armour of Light: “Life Wisdom For the Places You’ll Go.”

*As it is no longer available on The Crusader website, please see below to read my full article from May 6, 2011:

The Expected, The Unexpected and Everything In Between:
An Honest Reflection on My Four Years at Mount St. James, With a Special Message for the Class of 2011

Nearly four years ago, I came into my first year of college, as I’m sure many freshmen do, with great expectations, hopes and dreams. Like anyone embarking on a new journey, the fear and uncertainty that I had were dispelled by the prospect of meeting new people, the desire to take advantage of new opportunities, and the excitement, encouragement and hope that comes from being given the chance to have a fresh, new start.

But, although I wish I could say that my expectations, hopes and dreams were met, that everything went according to plan, and that college was what I expected it to be, I would not be painting an accurate picture. Because, the truth is, in my experience, almost nothing went according to plan, college wasn’t anything like I thought it would be, and although I will cherish the fun, exciting and memorable times that I had, I certainly wouldn’t classify these years as the “best four years of my life,” as so many people often do.

Rather, these last four years have been some of the most confusing, chaotic and downright challenging years I have yet to experience, as they have been filled with an endless and unexpected amount of twists and turns, ups and downs, changes and revisions.

In fact, four years ago, if you had told me that I would be a history major, that I would take a leave of absence second semester of my sophomore year, that I would not study abroad in Italy my junior year, and that I would not be marching with the class of 2011 on graduation day, I can confidently say that there is absolutely no way I would have believed you.

As someone who came into college thinking I’d be an English major, then a psychology major, then a religious studies major, history was never something I’d ever considered majoring in – let alone ever really been interested in – until my mother suggested it.

As someone who came into college thinking that I would graduate, like most students, in four years, I was again surprised when I found myself reluctantly packing up my things second semester sophomore year and leaving my classes, friends and RA position behind.

As someone who came into college utterly convinced that I would be spending my junior year abroad in Italy – I had, after all, made sure Holy Cross had a study abroad program in Italy – I was again thrown for a loop when – after having packed a year’s worth of belongings into two 50 pound suitcases, flown across the Atlantic, and spent a week under the hot Italian sun – I returned home in shock after one of the most disastrous experiences of my life, only to realize that I should have listened to my gut in the first place.

And as someone, who like most students, envisions themselves on graduation day receiving their hard-earned diploma in front of their classmates, friends and family, throwing up their hat in joy and relief, I was again surprised to find that this would not be the case – at least not this May.

But, as surprising and unexpected as all these things were, I think what has been most unexpected is the amount of things I have learned in four years. As odd as it might be to hear a college student say she is shocked at how much she has learned, I shamelessly admit that it is true. Because, while I came to college excited to learn, prepared to study and determined to become actively engaged in my academics, what I wasn’t prepared to learn about was life – about the twists and turns, ups and downs, the good the bad, the joys and sorrows – namely, the journey that each one of us is on.

So, while I have spent four years in a rigorous and stimulating academic environment – reading, writing, researching and learning more than I knew there was to learn – I think what I have learned most is that, in life, there is always something to learn and always something to gain from each and every experience and circumstance we find ourselves in.

In other words, I have come to learn and to believe that in every met expectation and unforeseen surprise, every accomplishment and failure, in every loss and gain, every victory and defeat, in every mistake and intention, and in every realized dream and unfulfilled hope, there is always a lesson – always an opportunity to learn something about yourself or about life, and always something to take away and remember for the future.

Sometimes, as I have come to learn, the lesson stares us square in the face, other times it is more obscure and requires a bit more awareness and faith. But, if anything, I have come to learn that it is always there, waiting to be discovered and acknowledged.

So, before I end my last article of the semester, I want to offer you – especially you seniors – a few words by Nelson Mandela that I believe are both insightful and appropriate given the four years you have spent here and the many years you have in front of you:

“I have walked that long road to freedom, I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way, but I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger; for my long walk is not yet ended.”

To each member of the graduating class of 2011, I wish you peace, joy and happiness in all that you choose to do. May you take the time you deserve to celebrate your achievements, reflect on your experience, and rest your head before continuing the next phase in your own, unique journey. May each of you “go forth and set the world on fire,” always remembering to be “men and women for others” and never forgetting to look for the lesson in each experience and circumstance you face.

But, perhaps more importantly, and put a bit more simply, as Garrison Keillor says on “The Writer’s Almanac,”: “Be well. Do good work. And keep in touch.”

Simple & Delicious Recipes For Spring

With Springtime in mind, we offer simple & delicious recipes to enjoy for breakfast, lunch (or dinner) and dessert. We hope you enjoy!

For breakfast…

Our Famous Nut Bread (Kaufmann’s Department Store 1983)

This bread is really easy to make and is DELICIOUS TOASTED, especially when served with butter and either strawberry or raspberry jam. It would also be a nice addition served with a chicken salad (recipe below) for a luncheon.

Nut bread recipe

2 tbsp. butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temp.
1 & 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup milk
2 & 1/2 cups Flour
4 tsp. baking Powder
1 tsp. salt

Blend butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and beat thoroughly. Add pecans and blend well. Add milk and mix thoroughly. Sift together dry ingredients and add to egg mixture and blend. Pour into 9″x5″x4″ glass baking pan (a bread pan) and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan. When completely cooled wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil and store in refrigerator.

For lunch (or dinner)…

Chicken Salad (a very simple recipe inspired by “Soula” a Greek friend and cook)

4 cups chopped cooked chicken (Instead of boiling the chicken I sometimes roast two chicken breast bone-in in the oven with a little olive oil and butter to use in my chicken salad if I am not in a hurry. It gives the salad another layer of flavor).
1 cup red grapes, sliced in half
1 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (I always add a little more)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chicken salad recipe

Combine mayo with the whipping cream, add the lemon juice and pour over the combined chicken, walnuts and grapes. Sprinkle lightly at first with salt and pepper, adding more if needed. Combine thoroughly and let marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving. Serve on a bed of lettuce with extra walnuts and grapes.

For dessert…

Butterscotch Lemon Cookies (taken from Nestle Toll House Recipe Collection 1987)

Lemon cookie recipeIngredients:
1 & 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened
1 egg, room temp.
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 & 1/2 cups Nestle Toll House butterscotch morsels

In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large bowl, combine sugar and butter; beat well. Add egg, milk, lemon juice and beat well.* Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir inbButterscotch morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoonful’s onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 min. Allow to stand for a minute or two before removing from cookie sheets.

*Mixture will appear curdled.

Ex Machina: A Sci-Fi Thriller With Much to Ponder

There are many reasons to be impressed with Ex Machina, the recently released, exceptionally well-done sci-fi thriller directed by Alex Garland, starring Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander. Most notably, however, is its ability to be both ordinary and unique at the same time.

As any good futuristic, mystery thriller does, Ex Machina forces viewers to question who knows what, who’s outsmarting who and what – or who – is real, perceived or imagined, holding its audience in a controlled suspense throughout.

A deeper dive into the core of the movie, however, reveals a strikingly smart, unique and profoundly powerful exploration into the very essence of existence, weaving together thought-provoking questions on everything from philosophy to psychology, language to sexuality, religion to death and art to technology.

Caleb, an eager, young and intelligent coder for Bluebook – the “world’s most popular Internet search engine” – is chosen as the winner of a weeklong visit to the remote estate and research facility of Bluebook’s CEO, Nathan, a technology titan and prodigy who began writing code at the age of thirteen.

Upon learning that Nathan has created a female robot named Ava, Caleb is tasked with performing a “Turing Test”* through a series of interviews to determine whether she demonstrates true AI (artificial intelligence) – that is, whether she can think and feel for herself, or whether she is simply simulating human emotion (“simulation vs. actual,” as they say).

Likening Ava to a computer who can play chess, Caleb reminds us that the real question is not whether she can have a conversation (knows how to play chess), but whether she demonstrates awareness of her own mind and those of others (a computer that knows it’s playing chess and knows what chess actually is). Simply put: if Ava has consciousness.

From the first moment Ava appears on screen, there’s little doubt that she exhibits humanlike qualities – designed with a humanoid face, hands and feet that are attached to a half-transparent, half-mesh body structure. With each interview session, however, we quickly come to realize just how advanced of an AI Ava is, challenging Caleb to reveal more of himself since a one-sided conversation is “not the foundation upon which a friendship is built” and throwing some of his words back at him in a playful, yet earnest manner.

Her ability to question, reason and assess Caleb is uncanny, and perhaps an indication that we shouldn’t underestimate her humanlike qualities: “What will happen to me if I fail your test?” “Do you have someone who switches you off if you don’t perform as you should…then why should I?”

It is the intellectual, philosophical and at times humorous dialogue between Caleb and Nathan between interview sessions that form the crux of this film. While their conversations are not overly long – and never boring – the ideas expressed and questions posed are difficult to fully digest in 5-minute scenes, leaving viewers with much to ponder upon the film’s conclusion.

“Can you give me an example of consciousness – human or animal – that exists without a sexual dimension?”, Nathan asks Caleb in response to his question on why he created Ava with sexuality.

Showing him a painting of “automatic art” by Jackson Pollock – the “drip painter” who let “his mind go blank, and his hand go where it wanted…not deliberate, not random, someplace in between” – Nathan asks Caleb to “engage intellect” (a reference to Star Trek) and reverse the challenge: what would happen if Pollock couldn’t paint anything unless he knew exactly why he was doing it?

“He never would have made a single mark,” Caleb replies. Precisely. “The challenge”, Nathan says, “is not to act automatically. It’s to find an action that is not automatic. From talking, to breathing, to painting.” A point he uses to reiterate that, just as Ava was “programmed to be heterosexual,” Caleb, too, was programmed a certain way.

The philosophical underpinnings don’t stop there. Reminiscent of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” Caleb recalls a story of Mary in the black and white room, who’s spent her entire life in black and white and experiences color for the first time after stepping outside.

“The point is to show the difference between a human mind and a computer,” Caleb says. “The human is when she walks outside and the computer is Mary in the black and white room.”

The film would not be complete, of course, without some mention of the future and the impact of AIs on humanity – an increasingly relevant question for us to ponder, as the creation of a “real” Ava becomes ever more plausible in our world of rapid technological advancements.

“One day the AIs are gonna look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa…an upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction,” Nathan says. “Don’t feel bad for Ava, feel bad for yourself, man.”

What is consciousness? How does experience relate to consciousness? How do we define humanity? Is human thought the only kind of thought? Is sexuality inextricable from interaction? Are we being watched? Can we control technology or will it eventually control – maybe even overpower – us? These are just some of the questions that Ex Machina – which comes from the Greek term “Deus Ex Machina” meaning “God from the machine”– leaves us with.

But, maybe the most important question is the one that Nathan poses to Caleb in response to why he created Ava in the first place.

“That’s a weird question – wouldn’t you if you could?”

It’s a question certainly worth pondering.

For an interesting analysis of the science behind Ex Machina and the making of the robot Ava, see here and here.

*Learn what a Turing Test is from our previous blog post on The Imitation Game.

This piece was also published on The Huffington Post.

How Then Shall We Live?

St. Ignatius spiritual exercises“How Then Shall We Live?”

Posed to me nearly eight years ago as a freshman at the College of the Holy Cross – a Jesuit liberal arts school in Worcester, MA – this question has left an indelible mark, frequently echoing in my mind when undergoing times of trial and tribulation.

As the signature mantra of the “First Year Program” (an optional program for freshman that has since evolved into “Montserrat” – an intensive, yearlong seminar for all first-year students), it came to encompass what I found to be the trademark of a “Holy Cross education”: a steadfast dedication not only to the academic and intellectual development of students, but to the personal and spiritual formation of one’s self.

The question naturally resurfaced, then, after reading a recent alumni newsletter, announcing the creation of a “Contemplative Center” in West Boylston, MA, located near Holy Cross’ campus.

“In today’s rapid-response world, where technological change is constant, and the values we consider timeless can be routinely questioned, the mission of Holy Cross has never been more important,” said Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., President of the college, in a statement. “We are dedicated to educating the whole person: mind, body, and spirit,” he added.

Designed to enhance the college’s esteemed retreat programs and preserve the beauty of a 52-acre site, the “Thomas P. Joyce Contemplative Center” (named after a member of the Holy Cross board of trustees who became the father of six Holy Cross graduates) is scheduled to open in the fall 2016 academic year.

Following my instinctual reaction of wishing this existed during my time there, I was again reminded of the importance of reflection and the role it plays in helping us step outside of what can become a very insular world – especially when you are a full-fledged adult living and working in the “real world.”

How easy it is to get caught up in the humdrum of daily existence, feverishly working, achieving and striving for more in a blind pursuit of happiness, with little time left to reflect on life, who we are, where we’re going and who we aspire to be.

“For it is not knowing much, but realizing and relishing things interiorly, that contents and satisfies the soul,” wrote St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1541 and whose spiritual teachings Holy Cross espouses.

Creating opportunities to “realize and relish things interiorly”, to reflect and take a deeper look within, is certainly one of Holy Cross’ greatest strengths – and the thing I miss most about life on “The Hill.”

Both inside and outside the classroom, college leaders – from the president to professors, directors to priests – challenged us to ponder comprehensive, philosophical questions and tackle rigorous projects and assignments that necessitated a deep intellectual dive into unfamiliar territory.

Or, as Holy Cross might say, they required “magis” – a Latin term for “more” used to encapsulate the Jesuit principle of digging deeper or striving for greater things (it is also a motto that Holy Cross students become familiar with shortly after freshman move-in day each year). “It’s not about more busyness or more stuff. It’s about living with more passion, pursuing excellence, and allowing ourselves to be uncomfortable in order to be stretched”, the college says.

St. Ignatius of Loyola Spiritual ExercisesIn such an environment, it was hard not to be in a continual state of reflection and engage in the variety of contemplative activities that Holy Cross offers. In fact, it was a 5-day silent retreat (an adapted version of St. Ignatius’ “Spiritual Exercises”) at the tail end of my last semester that would come to be my most cherished memory at Holy Cross, providing clarity, strength and encouragement that I have often called upon to this very day.

That Holy Cross is creating a “Contemplative Center” should be welcome news for current Crusaders and those to come (I only hope that they will offer an “alumni retreat” there one day). After all, Fr. Boroughs is right: in today’s technologically advanced world where putting down your phone for more than five minutes at a time has become a rather difficult task, any mission to advance and encourage reflection, exploration and contemplation is well lauded.

And so, as St. Ignatius of Loyola once said, “Go forth and set the world on fire,” always remembering to strive for “magis.” But throughout the journey, I might add, ponder this:

How Then Shall We Live?

Please note: ATG will be exploring St. Ignatius’ teachings and “Spiritual Exercises” in greater depth in future posts.

A Mother’s Influence

In keeping with our celebration of Mother’s Day, ATG contributor Esven Carreño reflects on his mother’s influence, below.

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” —Abraham Lincoln

The quote above speaks to me because every time I say goodbye to my mom, in person or on the phone, the last thing she always says to me is “que mi dios me lo bendiga,” a popular phrase for many Latin Americans who identify with the Catholic faith. I used to roll my eyes during our goodbyes or simply ignore it as a child, but I have come to appreciate it as a genuine reminder that she is always thinking about my younger brother and me.

As the son of parents who emigrated from Colombia to America, some of my fondest memories as a child are of our family gatherings – both big and small, in Colombia and the United States. Such visits allowed me not only to see where my parents grew up and what they had experienced in their childhood, but also how central of a role family played in both of their upbringings.

Each gathering with family in Colombia was truly special. The hospitality and warmth with which my family was received truly reflects the Colombian culture and brings to life the cliché saying, “mi casa es su casa.”

Multiple people I had never met before hosted huge parties (multiple times), inviting all their family members, just to celebrate having the opportunity to host us. We were greeted with smiles, hugs, and kisses on the cheek from everyone – something that took some getting used to. Our faces were then stuffed with empanadas, arepas, tostones, and pernil. Meals were followed with a night full of dancing to salsa, cumbia, and vallenato. My brother and I usually played soccer, marbles, sapo, or trompo outside with cousins and other kids in the neighborhood.

Whenever my mother speaks of her childhood, she frequently highlights family gatherings and all the trouble she would get into with her closest cousins. It was her special connection with our extended family that she seems to have carried with her to America, fostering a similar culture in our family despite being separated from her own.

Instilling the importance and value of family in my brother and me at a young age, she would always remind us that “family comes first and your family will always be there for you.”

Whether it was these words or the culture I come from, I always was – and proudly remain – a HUGE “mama’s boy.” Resting my head on her shoulder as a young child and pretending to read a book or play Gameboy, I would sneakily try to listen to her phone conversations, curious to know who she was talking to and what they were saying (shhh…don’t tell!).

In the kitchen, while watching her cook a countless number of times (my favorites being sancocho – or “hearty chicken stew – empanadas, beans, lentils and arepas), I awaited any opportunity I could find to show her that I could be of assistance. “Need more Sazón, mommy?” “I can get that!” (Thank you, mom, for inspiring me to actually enjoy cooking!)

And at nighttime – after requesting her to tuck me in due to my fear of the dark and perfectly logical paranoia that monsters would emerge from my closet – I would place my arm over her so that I would wake up if she tried to escape (a clever tactic, if I do say so myself).

Although I once feared being apart from my mother as a child, I now take comfort in knowing that she is with me wherever I go, because she is very much a part of who I am – just as her family is a very much a part of her.

While she may not see her extended family in Colombia as often as she would like to, each time we return for a visit, it is as if nothing has changed. The love and respect is as strong as ever – and that is a beautiful thing.

I am often reminded of my mother’s influence on me whenever people tell me that I resemble her in not only in appearance, but in character as well – and to me, that is the greatest compliment I can ever receive.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there!

Esven Carreño is currently an MBA candidate at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University working at United Technologies Aerospace Systems in the Military Programs division. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he loves New York City and exploring all it has to offer in terms of cuisine, museums, and the ad-hoc live musical performances in the subway. He has an insatiable appetite for travel, having traveled to Latin America, Europe, and Africa; he hopes to visit Asia in the near future. In his free time he enjoys playing soccer, going for a run, hiking, and trying new recipes in the kitchen.

The Virtue of “Early Rising”

In keeping with our celebration of Mother’s Day, below is a reflection on First Lady and Mother Martha Washington, followed by recipes for a special Mother’s Day brunch.

“As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house”, wrote Isabella Beeton (1836-1865), an English woman concerned with the critical importance of the art of “making” and “keeping” a comfortable home.

In her book The Campaign for Domestic Happiness (1861), she describes all of the virtues, etiquette and duties that are essential for managing a home with excellence, along with recommendations on everything from a suitable wardrobe to the treatment and pay of “domestic help.”

A particular favorite of mine is the importance of “early rising.” Ms. Beeton writes:

“Early rising is one of the most essential qualities which enter into good Household Management…when a mistress is an early riser, it is almost certain that her house will be orderly and well-managed.”

It is always in the quiet of the early morning hours that so much can be accomplished, whether it be exercising, doing paper work, laundry, cleaning, writing letters, making lists, packing lunches or preparing breakfast.

Being an early riser is, in many respects, like running a race with the hours of the day but being given a head start before the gun goes off, hopefully resulting in the feeling of a “day well run.”

As referenced in a book about the Washington’s by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, getting up early wasn’t so much a benign choice for First Lady Martha Washington as it is in our modern day, but rather a necessary habit or duty upon which the sustenance of her family depended.

“Like her husband, Mrs. Washington was an early riser, up by dawn, and presumably seeing that breakfast was on the table at the family’s accustomed hour of 7am,” the book says. She was an “‘excellent housewife’ whose domain was notable for its ‘regularity and domestic economy.’”

As head of domestic operations, she and her housekeepers, stewards, etc. “were responsible for preserving and properly storing enough food for consumption during the winter and early spring” and “[u]nless these essential chores were correctly performed, members of the household would face hunger,” the book explains.

“She was a firm but fair employer”, recalls Martha Washington’s grandson, whose “household was remarkable for the excellence of its domestics…her skill and superior management greatly contributed to the comfortable reception and entertainment of the crowds of guests always to be found in the hospitable Mansion of Mount Vernon.”

And so, it is in the spirit of Martha Washington that we will “manage” to rise early on this Mother’s Day to prepare – in honor of all mothers, with remembrance of the sustenance that they provided – a special brunch (below) on this celebratory spring day.

Happy Mother’s Day – we hope you enjoy!

Good Morning Muffins (taken from Flour by Joanne Chang)

*These muffins would be a good accompaniment or alternative to the Chia Seed Pudding recipe as a nutritious “on-the-go” morning breakfast.

1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
½ cup of fresh finely chopped pineapple*
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 apple peeled and chopped
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 & 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Bran muffin recipe

In medium bowl stir together the wheat bran and hot water until the bran is completely moistened. Add the raisins, pecans, coconut, and apple and stir until well mixed.

On medium speed beat together the sugar and the eggs until the mixture thickens and lightens (5-6 minutes). On low drizzle the oil slowly into the mixture along with the vanilla.

In another bowl combine the flour, oats, baking powder and salt. Add this to the egg mixture folding just enough to combine. Then add the bran mixture and fold again just until well combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups close to the rim.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Always check after 20 minutes of baking as muffins that bake too long end up being a little dry.

Serve warm with butter and strawberry or raspberry jam or with cream cheese frosting on top! Enjoy!

*Note: This recipe called for 1 & 1/2 cups of grated zucchini; I didn’t have any and so I substituted 1/2 cup of fresh finely chopped pineapple.

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

Ingredients for the salad:
2-3 ruby red or pink grapefruits
2 ripe avocados
12 ounces baby spinach
1 cup or more fresh raspberries
1 cup or more honey-roasted almond slices (coat almond slices with honey, place on baking sheet and put in 350-375 oven and watch until golden brown)

Avocado salad recipe

Ingredients for the dressing:
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice (capture the juice from the grapefruit as you cut)
1/4 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar (can use red wine vinegar with tsp. red raspberry preserves mixed in)
1 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
pepper to taste

On a deep platter or in shallow bowl place spinach and then add remaining ingredients. Make dressing ahead of time and refrigerate. When ready to serve pour dressing over salad and toss. Note: Begin with half of the dressing and toss so as not to drench the salad. Add more as desired.

Curried Carrot Coconut Soup (inspired by Jean-Georges Inspired Kauai Grill, Princeville, Kauai)

Approximately 8-10 carrots, peeled and chopped in med. sizes pieces
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
1 med. sized onion, chopped
1 tbsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. red chile flakes*
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. Paprika
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Coconut soup recipe

Using one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon butter sauté chopped onions until slightly tender. Add carrots and stir for several minutes coating the carrots with the olive oil/butter. Add chicken stock and water and slightly cover and let simmer on low, stirring occasionally for about 20-30 minutes or until carrots are soft. Using food processor or blender puree the carrot/onion broth mixture and return to the pot.  Add the coconut milk and remaining spices and let simmer on low for another 20-30 minutes. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and enjoy!

*Note: This recipe makes for a somewhat spicy soup. For more of a medium spiced soup, eliminate the red chile flakes and use 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of curry. 

Easy Curried Chicken (served over rice)

3 medium sized boneless chicken breast
2 cups chicken stock
1 small onion, white or yellow is good
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 cup flour, for coating chicken
Kosher salt and pepper
Olive oil and butter for sautéing

Curried chicken recipe


Cut chicken breast into medium bite-sized pieces, coat in flour and set aside. Chop onion and sauté in pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and one tablespoon butter. Cook until tender, remove from pan and place in small bowl. Adding a little more oil and 1-2 more tablespoons butter brown the chicken pieces on both sides. Once browned add onions back into the pan and add the two cups of chicken stock, stir thoroughly and reduce heat to very low and let simmer for about 20 minutes or so. To finish add the cream and the curry powder and the salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer, stirring occasionally for another 20 minutes or more. Serve over rice with roasted carrots, asparagus or peas.

Grandma’s Southern Coconut Cake

Ingredients for the cake:
3/4 cup butter, room temp.
1 & 3/4 cup sugar
2 & 3/4 cup flour
2 & 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup coconut (short shred)
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice
4 egg whites, room temp.

Instructions for the cake*:
In a medium bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl beat egg whites until stiff but not too dry and then set aside. Using a third bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In small bowl thoroughly mix the coconut with 2 tablespoons milk and set aside. Mix the water and the milk which you will alternate with the dry ingredients as you combine with the butter/sugar mixture. When smoothly combined add the lemon juice and then the egg whites thoroughly combining. Lastly, add the coconut stirring enough to evenly combine. Pour into two 9 x 1&1/2 inch prepared cake pans (lightly greased and floured). Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan.

Coconut cake recipe

Ingredients for the frosting:
1 stick of butter (room temp.)
4 ounces of cream cheese
3 & 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
6-7 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2-3 cups of coconut

Instructions for the frosting:
Cream the butter and the cream cheese. Alternate the confectioners sugar with a little milk slowly into the butter/cream cheese mixture. When combined add the vanilla extract, lemon juice and coconut. Combine until smooth and silky.

*To assemble cake:
Place 1 cake on platter and frost the top with approximately 1 cup of frosting. Sprinkle approximately 3/4-1 cup coconut on top and then place other cake on top of this. Use remaining frosting to cover top and sides of cake. Using as much coconut as necessary sprinkle coconut on top of cake and lightly pat into the sides being sure to cover evenly. If desired, lightly sprinkle a lavender sanding or sparkling sugar on top.

Happy Mother’s Day!

In honor of all mothers and in celebration of Mother’s Day, All Things Good (ATG) shares below a sampling of words used to describe mothers and motherly advice or wisdom recalled by daughters and sons in their very own words.

Do you agree that mothers matter? Comment below or share this with your mom and tag us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #ATGmothers.

Laura O. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Patient
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Make it a great day!” My mother said this to us before we went to school every day growing up, and now she sends me a text in the mornings, “MIAGD!” for short.

Michelle O. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Resilient
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: My mom has given me lots of good advice, but one of my favorites is, “Go get a shower. You’ll feel better.” It’s so simple, but I’ve always found it to be true. Doesn’t even have to be a long shower – just 5 minutes under the water is enough to clear your head.

Jessica L. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Selfless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Don’t give up just because it’s hard!”

Ida L. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Concerned
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “If you fail, always try again. Everything will always work itself out. ” 

Julia says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Tenacious
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: Speak up. Take some deep breaths if you have to. You’re not going to barf. You’re louder than you think you are.”

Brittany V. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Inspirational
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Tomorrow is always a new day.” Whenever things get a little clouded, or just aren’t going the way they should, she always reminds me to breath because tomorrow is a new day, and everything will be okay.

Glee C. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Nurturing (and entertaining)
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: If it’s homemade, it’s healthy.”

Garrett P. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Selfless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “No matter who you are with or where you’re at in life, never be someone that you’re not…ALWAYS just be yourself.” 

Steph D. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Strong
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: I will never forget when she said this to me: “Anytime you do something wrong, God will tell me” (this is when I got busted for drinking beer in high school – and to this day, I still don’t know how she found out!)

Abby L. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Honest
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: My mom always taught me to be authentic and true. Being a genuine human being and speaking the truth is something she still makes sure we have ringing in our minds to this day!

Sarah F. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Selfless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Listen to your body and trust your gut.” She would always tell me, “You know when something isn’t right.” And to this day, it is so true.

Kasey H. says:

  • The one word I think of when I think of my mother is: Proud
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “You should never need a man, but you can want one.” It’s a good lesson because, as a single mama, she has showed that she can do a lot without a man and can even take on male dominated parts of life, proving herself competent in them.

Mother's Words of WisdomSisters Madeline & Sarah M. say:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Strong
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Rise above it”, meaning that whatever comes your way that might be negative, always be the bigger person and rise above it. We like it because you shouldn’t carry a grudge or something negative around when you have so many new life journeys ahead of you.

Hannah H. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Grace
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Follow the Lord, learn to forgive and take an interest in others”

Katherine G. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Pioneer (which is funny because her idea of camping is going to a cabin in the woods with electricity and running water. But, she has certainly forged her way in a legal career that has opened doors for other women to do the same).
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “You come from a strong line of women” (and then she makes reference to my great-grandmother leaving her family and coming over from Ireland and my grandmother leaving the city, getting on a train to become a librarian in a small town and then raising 5 children. It often makes training for 100 mile mountain bike races seem trivial!)

Madeline H. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Independent
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: She has always emphasized how important it is to be able to take care of yourself and not rely on others, especially a man.

Emily S. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Hilarious
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Keep your options open by making sure you’re always at least vaguely interested in five guys (minimum) at once.” I hate to invoke a cliché, but my mom really is one of my best friends. We’re well past the turbulent teenage years, but she is still waiting for my rebellious phase to kick in because we just sort of always got along. Maybe because, as she often says, “I’m very sorry about it, but it turns out we’re the same person.”

Parker R. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Loving
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Your family is the most important part of your life.”

Christina K. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Energizer-bunny
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Those who are granted much are expected much.”

Kassidy T. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Perceptive
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: Her best advice, which was instilled in my brother and I through her example, is to treat all people with kindness and consideration (especially those who are the most challenging, because they may need it most). Also, “everything’s fine in moderation”— she’s an aerobics instructor so she preaches the importance of healthy habits, but health doesn’t mean completely sacrificing chocolate or cocktails!

Casey B. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Strong
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Loving someone means you take the good with the bad…but it’s also important to know when the bad is outweighing the good in someone.” I think this is the advice that I’ve come back to over and over again as an adult throughout relationship struggles…I’ve had to learn how to accept other people’s flaws as part of them and knowing that – that nobody’s perfect, but that I can love them anyways – is probably the best advice I’ve gotten as an adult. My mom is the person who’s been there helping me along every step of the way, learning forgiveness and acceptance, while at the same time being the first person to say “he’s not giving you the respect you deserve, it’s time to walk away from that.”

Chris S. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Tireless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Always work hard”

Doug R. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Giver. My mom is the ultimate giver.

Kendell J. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Resilient. My mom is the strongest lady I know! (ATG note: Her strength has clearly been passed on to Kendell, who recently opened an immigration law firm in Boston, MA: Johnson & Fyten Law Offices, LLP).


  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Giving (and supportive)
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “The more people you know, the better off you are in life.”


  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Crazy
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”

Be sure to also check out our delicious recipes for a Mother’s Day brunch and a reflection on why mothers are so important. See also one mother’s influence on her son.