Thursday, October 31, 2013

Esselon Café ...A New England Gem

My husband and I have a long-standing Sunday coffee date, respite from the errands and hustle and bustle of the old week, and a time to simply be, before the madness of the new week settles in. 

This past Sunday was no different. It was a typical New England fall where jeans, tall boots and a chunky sweater seem to be the uniform of the masses.

Before our date night to see my husband's favorite comedian, Bill Maher, we stopped along the way for our coffee and something sweet.

What a treasure we found!

Nestled between the college towns of Amherst and Northampton, Massachusetts lies the town of Hadley...home to a true New England Gem, Esselon Café and Artisan Coffee Roasters.

Centrally located on route 9, a main thoroughfare of the Pioneer Valley, Esselon Café offers a great cup of joe, made from hand-roasted, fairly traded beans, a vast variety of teas, and a menu to please both the foodie and the comfort food enthusiast. Gluten free, vegetarian and vegan friendly options are available, and for the tippler, Esselon also offers a great selection of beer and wine.

According to Esselon's website, the company has been independently owned  and operated since 2006. They work with local suppliers to purchase fairly traded co-op coffee beans, as well as use local and organic farmers and suppliers for their café items.

Esselon roasts their own beans by hand on Mondays and Fridays in this beautiful vintage coffee roaster. Java aficionados can tell you, better than me, how this special care makes a better cup of coffee. And it does, but all I know is that it's delicious. And it's made with intention and attention to detail. 

It's this intention and attention to detail that makes Esselon a must-see. Everything is thoughtfully placed and designed, both for functionality and for aesthetics. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. The space is warm and inviting. The ceiling is fabulous.

Even the entryway adds a rabbit-hole mystique, as you pass through the velvet curtain.

When weather allows, an inviting oasis has been created that allows patrons a chance to sit and relax, to chat, read, work, nap, or reflect.

Peek around would never know that this is hidden just behind the parking lot, accessible through the café, as well as the parking area.

Our first trip to the Esselon Café came with a promise to ourselves to visit again.

Consider yourself lucky if you're within a reasonable driving distance to the Pioneer Valley. The Esselon Café is a New England gem definitely worth the trip.

Esselon Cafe 
99 Russell Street (Route 9)
Hadley, MA 01035


Be nice...

You wouldn't let someone assault someone you love, like a child, a partner or spouse, or your best friend.

Why do some of us allow ourselves to be bullied by the one person who should love us most?


Whether or not we choose to admit it, we hear those words. Those thoughts are like mental woodpeckers...pecking away at our self confidence, our self esteem, our heart and soul.

We undermine our strength, sabotage our efforts, contaminate our joy, and corrode our peace.

Be someone's hero...yours. Don't be bullied.

Speak to yourself like you would someone you love...someone you adore.

Enough is enough.

You're worth it.

Believe it.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Sunday Prayer

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Heart New England's Fall

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~ Albert Camus

Every season has its own beauty, but there is something special about autumn. My love of hearty stews, warm sweaters, jeans and tall boots, apples and all things pumpkin make me giddy with excitement. 

What's more fall than a pumpkin martini, with a caramel, graham cracker rim? Cheers!  

I am a New England girl, and maybe that's why fall is so beloved. Señor and I still look forward to our annual leaf peeping road trip, playing tourist to the palette of color that paints the autumnal forests.

We are so blessed in the Northeast to have this spectacular show every fall.


It never gets old.

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it and if I were a bird, I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."  ~George Eliot

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ten Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Earlier this week, a fellow blogger sent out a tweet asking for breakfast ideas. She eats well throughout the day, she said, but was in search of healthy breakfast ideas.

I am no expert. I can only offer what I do and what I have culled from my own are some options.

1. Protein pancake: mix egg whites (or egg substitute--I use 1/2 cup) with 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats. I add cinnamon and occasionally, blueberries (about 1/4 cup). Put in a non-stick skillet and cook until brown, flip. I top it with a container of fat free, light vanilla yogurt and cinnamon. Occasionally, I add sliced banana. Voila. Dense, but delish!

Another variation...add egg whites (or egg substitute--I use 1/2 cup) to a scoop of protein powder. Same thing...cook, flip, top to taste.

2. Find a protein bar you love. For me, it's Quest bars. They are my go-to breakfast on-the-go. Still hungry? Add a piece of fruit.

3. A mini cheese and an ounce of almonds and a piece of fruit.

4.  Top a low-carb wrap with two tablespoons of hummus. Roll it up and enjoy. If you want, add veggies or turkey.

5. Overnight oats are popular these days. Check out pinterest for some great ideas.

6. Mug omelets are fast and easy. Whip eggs or egg sub in a cooking-sprayed mug. Add a wedge of soft cheese or some low-fat shredded. Microwave one to two minutes. Stir--instant scrambled eggs. Or put in a tortilla for a breakfast burrito.

7. I love protein shakes. I add a Crystal Light packet, like orange, to vanilla's like a creamsicle...sunshine in a cup.

8. Channel your inner Spaniard and use this recipe to make a tortilla española. There are as many variations on this as there are Spaniards, but this is how we do it: sauté onion, garlic and pepper. Add sliced (think potato chip thin) potato. Cook until soft. Add beaten egg and let it cook. When it looks fairly solid, use a big lid, top the skillet and flip the pan over. Slide the tortilla back into the skillet and cook the bottom. You can eat this all week. It's fabulous!

9. Go old school--use whole grain bread, get a natural sugar-free peanut butter and a sugar free jelly...guilt free pb&j.

10. Slice a banana, throw in a ziplock bag and add two tablespoons of PB2. Shake it's delicious! Add a protein bar or a Greek yogurt and you're good to go.

Like I said, I'm no expert, but I know what works for me, and what I like. If you're stuck, think outside the box. Breakfast can be whatever works for you. Most of the time, the hardest part is in the planning. Think it through and plan ahead and breakfast will take care of itself.

Buen provecho!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Boston, You're My Home

It's Any day is a good day to be a Boston fan...

Followed up by...

Amazing! Great job, boys!!

photo courtesy of

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Chopped Basket's Guide to Life

I love Chopped!

Image courtesy of

If I was a chef...and if I could cook...reasonably well...I would so be on that show.

Can you see me?

I would sashay my plate over to my judges du jour, wax poetic about my enigmatic culinary masterpiece and then happy dance my way graciously accept my $10,000, following a competitive kick-ass dessert round.

I can cook, pretty well, but what's even more important than flavor palates and kitchen skills are the lessons I have learned from watching professional amateurs duke it out in a culinary knock-down-drag-out.

1. Be creative. These baskets are hard. It seems like only a sadist genius would think to mix and match the ingredients that the chefs see in those baskets? Most times, there seems to be no logic involved.

Image courtesy of

Yet, that's the thing about life. There are times when it makes no sense, but you have to make something of the chaos you've been given. It takes creative thinking, but think outside the box. Try something new. It could turn out delicious.

And if it doesn't...

2. Adapt. An appliance can malfunction or a chef can forget to check on a hot pan and burn it to a crisp.

Real life has road blocks, and you have to adapt, or you'll run out of time and lose it all. Try a new approach. Throw away what no longer serves you, and start fresh.

And finally...

3. Watch the time. I cringe when I watch chefs play with those last critical seconds, hoping they have enough time to get everything on the plate. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don't. Or what's worse is when they finish early and then wait it out, squandering what remaining time they have left.

Time is precious. And we're not promised the time that the Chopped chefs are given. As my mom says, tomorrow is promised to no one. What are you waiting for? Get everything on your plate. Leave nothing to what-ifs.

And make good use of your time. Don't work it/sleep it/worry it away. You get one round in this life before you get chopped. Make it delicious!

The Chopped kitchen will probably never see my smiling face show those baskets who's boss, but you can be sure that in addition to skillful technique and the clever canoodling of mystery ingredients, I have learned some very important life lessons.

It's not about your's what you do with you basket that counts. Cook it up. Savor every last sweet morsel before you get chopped.

Bon provecho!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

One New Thing

Bucket lists can be overwhelming. When you stop and look at all of the things you hope to accomplish, it seems like one lifetime could never be enough.

To-do lists can be similarly daunting.

If prioritizing your lists and desires for memorable experiences becomes paralyzing, consider this...try one new thing.

Chunk your year. For some, a monthly activity is reasonable and for others, quarterly fits the bill. Regardless of the time frame, find something, anything, that is just for you. One new thing that you can add to your repertoire.

Maybe it's a new book. Or a new recipe. A new restaurant or a new movie.

A new date night, or a new walking regimen.

Whatever it is, adding one thing that is just for you may give you a sense of accomplishment and renewal to carry you through a tough week, a tough month or simply, a tough spot.

Give it a shot...even if it's one new thing a year, it's yours. You're worth it.