Ikagai – The Thing That Makes You Get Out Of Bed In The Morning

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”If you cannot fly then run, if you cannot run then walk, if you cannot walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King

I learned about ikagai in Okinawa. Okinawa has the largest population of centagenarians in  the world.  They say it is because of  the diet (seaweed and spam) and ikagai. The literal translation of ikagai is “a reason to get out of bed in the morning.” It is a lifestyle which balances the practical with the spiritual. It is easy to think about it when you are on the beautiful island of Okinawa.

The four elements  of Ikagai are what you’re passionate about, where your skills lie, how you can earn a living and what the world needs. It is the place where all those elements intersect. Discovering your own ikigai is said to bring fulfillment, happiness and a long life.

Finding your  purpose in life can resemble a winding quest, filled with many twists and wrong turns. When I learned about Ikagai, I wanted to dive right in and leap into action. But figuring out your ikagai doesnt happen that quickly. It involves self exploration and deep reflection. Your purpose unfolds and evolves over time.

Ikagai  in some ways, is like a compass. Aligning your actions with the “thing that makes you get out of bed  in the morning”  helps you navigate life’s ups-and-downs. As your career evolves and you’re presented with more opportunities, you can rely on your ikigai to steer you in the right direction.

Remember to evaluate your sense of happiness and purpose at every step along the way. By seeking growth that fits your sense of purpose, you pursue health, happiness and a long life as well.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Thirty Six Hours In Lisbon, Portugal With the Flu

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36 Hours in Lisbon With The Flu

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain

Flying to Porto, Portugal from Spain I traveled  in a haze of recycled stale air, surrounded  by the germs of a hundred set of lungs. It did not help that the people I sat next to were both sick and coughing.

 I’m a germaphobe. I get on the plane with hand sanitizer in my purse.  I bring wipes into the bathroom in case i have to touch something. I put polysporin around my nostrils not to breathe anything in. i have a mask if necessary. This usually works along with my various good luck charms. 

The next evening I felt like I had been hit with a truck.  If I had been in Southeast Asia or Africa, I would have been sure it was malaria or dengue. Being in Portugal, I went with the flu. The rain in Porto is not helping.

A few days later when we got to Lisbon,  it was in full force. 

 We checked into Santiago del Alfama around nine pm. Driving through the steep, narrow one way cobblestone streets at night, made us glad we weren’t driving.

The hotel was a fifteenth century palace restored into a beautiful modern five-star hotel.  I loved every piece of furniture and  art that I saw in this hotel. It was  totally my taste. The room was beautiful.

The average standard illness is easy to cope with when you are home and much worse when you are traveling. If it had really been the fifteenth century, I would have thought it was God’s will – but instead i can blame the people next to me on the plane.  Luckily the hotel has a  lovely  restaurant with delicious food. and we don’t have to go anywhere.

i have breakfast at one of the most charming  breakfast places in a hotel with wonderful food and coffee. My cold pills have not kicked in yet and i am sneezing. “God bless you” says the person sitting next me. I remember that sneezing was a symptom of the bubonic plague and they used the term God Bless you to ward off  the evil. I wondered if i had the plague.  Maybe there were some fifteenth century plague germs lying around. I do get a lot of weird things. 

My plan is to go to the Tile Museum which i missed the last time I was in Lisbon. My body is fighting me on this to stay in bed but there are no sick days when you are a mom of small children and so my body has learned to rally.

The Museo de Nacional De Azuelo was definitely worth it.

The building is the former Madre de Deus convent founded in 1509 by Queen D. Leonor.

The collections  are tiles  from 15th century till present days.

It gives amazing insight into the beautiful tiles you see around the city. i could have spent all day here. 

Portugal has a long history of preserving fish which  has been traced back to the Phoenicians, Romans  and Carthaginians. It became a gourmet thing a lot more recently. The best thing to buy are the sardines which are healthy and delicious. i definitely needed healthy.  We head to Conserveira de  Lisboa the oldest and best family run business to buy tinned fish. They are in beautiful tins and packaged in boxes. 

We have met the owner of the hotel and we end up having lunch with him at Prado a place his wife likes and turns out to be delicious. Lunch in Portugal takes a few hours.

  It is amazing how shopping and a delicious meal can miraculously take away my symptoms for a bit.

We walk back to the hotel and I take a nap and pack. The flu has moved into my lungs by now.  Getting up at 4am for the long plane ride home is not going to be pretty. I have some soup at the hotel restaurant.

 

I put my body in mom mode. This will be so much  easier than having the flu and entertaining a baby and toddler at the same time. All I have to do is get to the airport wait in line, go through security, find the plane, fly to London, pick up my luggage, change airports, go through customs and security, check in  again, walk really far to the plane, wait four hours , get on the plane for ten more hours, go through customs and security, pick up luggage and go home. I have had children. I can do this. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

Pretending To Be Evelyn

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Pretending To Be Evelyn

Some people go to priests, others to poetry, I to my friends.” Virginia Woolf

I’m at a point in my life where I am trying to work on myself  – to not  keep making the same mistakes, to be kinder, more confident, fearless, and to work out my tangled relationships.  I have observed some of my behaviors that have persisted for long periods of time. I  believe that“ is just the way I am.”

This is where my friend Evelyn comes in. Pretending to be Evelyn in certain situations helps me to behave with a new perspective.  I am not trying to copy Evelyn.  it  is more about  stepping outside my current self image. What does she do that is different from me? How can I learn to do this?

We start modeling our behavior based on what we see from others when we are very young. It’s a fundamental way our brains work and how they learn to adapt to our environment and social circle.  I know there are certain habits I’ve developed from my parents and certain phrases I have picked up from my friends.

Evelyn is great in social situations and parties. She introduces herself and is interested in meeting everyone. I prefer to sit in a corner with the one person that I know.

The boyfriend wanted to bring me to a party at his ex-wife’s house.  I was nervous and felt that everyone there would be judging me.  My sit in the corner routine was not going to work since it turned out that he was cooking. It was either going to be pretend to be sick or pretend to be Evelyn.  As a grownup now, I went with the second choice.  I introduced myself to anyone who walked by me which is so not my thing but it worked. I had people to talk to while he barbecued and his ex wife thought that I was “lovely”.

Being Evelyn is now my go to party persona. It makes it much easier to go into social situations when I don’t know people. Being Evelyn is an effective way of seeing myself in a new light.

I’m a grudge holder. It is hard for me to let go of anger. Evelyn who has been through illness and loss is the opposite.  “Let it go”, is her motto. There is nothing worse than trying to explain to her why I am mad at someone. She hates conflict. Her response is, “It is always best to be easy-going and do what is right in life. Life is hard enough so you don’t need to make it any harder.” I am a work in progress.

Friends are supposed to build you up and make you a better person. They are the people who help you push your boundaries and grow and you are supposed to do the same for them. Evelyn is that kind of friend.  At this point in my life, I am trying to only have friends like this. I am grateful for all of them.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Countries I Have Been to With The Best Food So Far

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Countries I Have Been To With The Best Food So Far

“I was at this restaurant. The sign said “Breakfast Anytime.”So I ordered French toast n the Renaissance.” Steven Wright

My food experience when I am traveling totally impacts the experience I have  in the country. Sometimes I make trip destinations  based on food. Other times, it is a complete surprise how much I love the food. Here are my favorite countries for food so far.

Japan applies the same precision to their food as they do to their engineering. You can get a lavish multicourse kaiseki meal that presents the seasons in a spread of visual and culinary poetry..

I dream of the sushi bars in Tsukiji market and the tofu restaurants where everything is made from tofu.  You can eat something random in a train station or risk your life and try Fugu (poisonous blowfish – delicious). I love yuzu and green tea desserts. Cold soba noodles is my go to Japanese lunch. 

It is impossible to eat badly in Japan.  This country is officially one of the best culinary destinations in the world. 

Spain has long been characterized by eat, drink, sleep, work a little bit, eat, drink, sleep. They munch on snacks throughout the day (tapas, pinxtos) with intervals of big meals. The food is different from the Mediterranean sea to the Pyrenees. 

Paella, churros and chocolate, gazpacho and anything from the Basque region (pinxto bars to Michelin starred restaurants)  show how much the Spanish love good food.It ranges from the Medieval Jamon Iberica  to the insane molecular gastronomy of Feran Adria and his followers.

The food is timeless and modern.

It’s impossible to write a short list of Turkish food. It is a combination of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisine and any other conquering nations. It was a big surprise to me that Turkey turned out to be one of my favorite countries to eat in. Turkish food is about the freshest ingredients and technique. There are meze – small dishes that start the meal based on seasons and locale.

Some of my favorite foods are pide (boat shaped flatbread with fillings), pastirma (ancestor of pastrami), borek (small filled pastries),kabob, hummus, eggplant cooked many different ways, any dessert made from semolina, fresh halvah, pomegranate juice, fish cooked with olive oil and lemon, simit (Turkish bagels), ayram (drink made with yogurt ice and salt), fresh cheese ( beyaz peynir) and honey, kofta (meatballs), (mincemeat pizza) and just about anything  I have eaten in Turkey

I’m not even a huge fan of lamb but in Turkey it is delicious.

 The food in Israel is reason enough to visit the country. Israel is a young country, but its food goes back thousands of years. The cuisine is a melting pot of North Africa, Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and its Middle Eastern neighbors.

It is healthy and delicious. There is freshly made hummus with hot pita bread, falafel (made from fava beans or chick peas), tahini, schwarma, kebob, shakshouka, salads, and labneh,(yogurt cheese.)

The food tastes so much fresher than anything that I’ve eaten at home.  Israeli breakfast is one of the best things about Israel. It is usually served buffet style with an array of European, Israeli and Mediterranean dishes.- They are the biggest breakfast buffets I have ever seen.

This is the country that gave us pizza and cappuccino. Italy’s simple comfort food  has become the food of every country. Each region has specialties that they are very proud of. The best pizza is found in Naples and Spaghetti Bolognese does come from Bologna.  Parma ham and Parmesan cheese come from Parma. Olive oil is the only real Italian condiment.Wine and coffee vie for being the national drink. Freshness of Ingredients is very important to the Italians.. Dining in Italy is always a delight for your taste buds. 

 Olive Oil is the most Greek of all the Greek food.  A Greek salad is very simple with feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and olives. It will never taste the same  way here. I have it every day in Greece and it is always amazing. Greeks do it better. There are many high quality ingredients to choose from in Greece that we don’t seem to be able to recreate here. I have spent a few summers here and figs, honey, olives, lamb, seafood, fava beans, tiropita (cheese pastry), tzatziki  (yogurt dip) Avgolemono soup  (lemon chicken soup) and baklava are always delicious. 

I love seafood and except for Iceland, no one in Europe eats more of it, than the people of Portugal. If you love tuna and sea bass, this is the place. The national dish is bacalhau – dried, salted cod. The Portuguese have been obsessed with it since the early 16th century.  Sardines, mackerel, lobsters, shrimp, oysters and crabs are plentiful. The ‘arroz de marisco” is a delicious seafood rice.

Other national dishes are “cozido à portuguesa,” a thick stew of vegetables with various kinds of meat, “leitão assado” Roast suckling pig and tripe with beans. young Portuguese chefs are making a name for themselves with their more modern approach to the classics.  Pasteis de nata is my favorite dessert – Small custard tarts with cinnamon are found all over Portugal The most original recipe comes from Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon a pastelaria that dates back to 1837. I was lucky enough to go there.

Portuguese cheeses are delicious and should be more well-known and for a small country, they  produce a number of varieties of very good wine. 

Mexico is a go to country for delicious cuisine. There are  moles, tacos, tamales, enchiladas, guacamole, tostadas, flan and Mexican chocolate.

Lime and salt go with everything. 

You will not get bored with the food in this country. It is a fiesta in your mouth. 

Cambodian food is delicious and often overlooked but should not be. Insects are always on the menu in Cambodia. Beef with red tree ants should not be missed.

Tarantula and deep-fried scorpion are not my thing but you see a lot of people eating them. 

Fish amok is a fish mousse with fresh coconut milk, Khmer  spices, turmeric, garlic and ginger,

It is served in a banana leaf and is my favorite lunch with fresh coconut juice served in the coconut.

Khmer beef salad, Khmer noodles,  Khmer curry, fried crab and grilled squid are a must try in Cambodia. There is always rice. Try the pork and rice which is only served for breakfast. 

Street food is the attraction in Thailand. The complex  combination of spices and flavors  can  make your favorite dish be spicy, sour, salty, sweet, chewy, crunchy and slippery. With influences from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, ,Myanmar and a royal culinary tradition, Thai cuisine is the best of many worlds.. Thai coffee with condensed milk and mango with sticky  rice is my favorite dessert. The various curries, soups,  noodle dishes, rice and salads encompass the unique flavors of Thailand.

The food in Viet Nam is insanely good.Traditional Vietnamese food is all about the balance of fresh ingredients, intense flavors, and ease of cooking and preparation.

.Many of the dishes have  a rich history and represent a regional specialty.

The most famous street food is pho which is a bit different in the North and South.  It is rice noodles and slices of beef cooked in   a beef bone broth with complex flavors. It is the most popular food for breakfast and lunch.

Banh Mi is my favorite street food. This sandwich can also be traced back to the French colonial period, even through the roots of the name; Banh is pronounced similarly to the French word for bread, pain.Today the typical Vietnamese banh mi consists of mayonnaise, pate, sliced ham and pork, pickled vegetables, coriander, and hot sauce.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Driving Through Portugal

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Driving through Portugal

“Wet or fine the air in Portugal has a natural happiness in it, and the people of the country should be as happy and prosperous as any people in the world.” H.G.Wells

 I love Lisbon and Porto but in addition  Portugal has some of the most beautiful towns, and villages in all of Europe On my last trip I was lucky to include Sintra, Cascais and Estoril. 

This time we have our wonderful tour guide Tiago who took us through these lovely towns. I googled guide to drive from Porto to Lisbon. Sometimes the internet connects  you to just the right person. Tiago was interesting, kind and very knowledgeable about his country. He could change plans in a minute if necessary and made it the perfect itinerary for us. It is a local company which I always prefer  and dealing with them online is easy.  I highly recommend him if you are in Porto. https://www.4u2enjoy.pt/

Amarante is a settlement since the fourth century BC and municipality halfway  between Porto and the Douro Valley. 

A church and monastery sit theatrically beside a rebuilt medieval bridge  over the Rio Tamega.

The scene is spectacular. 

The town enjoys some small degree of fame for being the hometown of São Gonçalo.

He is Portugal’s St Valentine and is the target for lonely hearts who make pilgrimages here in the hope of finding true love.

it is located on one of the original Portuguese routes of the Camino Del Santiago.

Coimbre is a pretty riverside  city with a Unesco World Heritage University that dates back to Roman times.

The oldest part of Coimbra University occupies the former Royal Palace on top of the city’s highest hill. 

Coimbra’s university, founded in 1290, is Portugal’s oldest and most distinguished, and a third of the city’s 35,000-strong population are students.

The Baroque library is quite impressive and a colony of bats is nurtured within it to keep the insect population down.

St Michael’s Chapel is a blend of decorative tiles and sea themed ceiling paintings with a 3,000 pipe organ protruding from the wall.

The large Room of Acts once a throne room with its unique silver and gold paneling and portraits of Portuguese monarchs is where the PHD  students take their exams.

Obidos is a small town in central Portugal. Hiding on a hill behind its medieval fortifications, it forces the modern world to wait outside.

Inside are quaint cobblestone streets, historic houses with yellow and blue stripes  and whitewashed bougainvillea-draped houses. It is easy to wander on the stairs and alleys when you go off the main streets filled with souvenir shops. 

Thought it dates back to the Romans, the fortifications and colors come from the Moors.

When you visit the St James Church you see a bookstore inside because of Obidos commitment to culture and literature.

There are a number of bookshops  in unconventional settings like an organic market and in a wine cellar. 

There’s one local custom worth trying in Obidos. It’s a shot of the local ginja which is a  Portuguese cherry liquor.

The ginja comes in an edible chocolate cup.

.Obidos is actually surrounded by a lot of cherry trees so I believe so the ginja is locally made.

At sunset, we stop in Mafra.

Tiago has arranged for us to meet a luthier who makes Portuguese guitars.

His home overlooks a beautiful beach and a fado singer drops by.

It is a perfect end to the day.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

25 Things You Don’t Know About Me

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25 Things You Don’t  Know About Me

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” Plato,The Republic

One of the tabloid magazines does a  column called 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me  featuring celebrities. They list things that you don’t need to know about them. Here is my list that you probably don’t need to know about either. I feel that I was a lot more honest than they were.

My Ny/Brooklyn accent was much worse before I lived in LA. Think Rosie Perez times ten.

I hate the sight of blood.

I still wear a retainer. If you have ever worn braces your teeth will move, people.

I love scarves. I have too many.

I was not allowed to watch TV as a kid. I spent my childhood and teen years pretending that I watched the same shows that my friends did. Sometimes, when people mention a movie or TV show that I haven’t seen, I still pretend I saw it. Old habits are hard to break.

I have ugly feet.

I dislike beets, pea soup and meat that is cooked for a long time (brisket, pork belly, goulash, short ribs etc).

Chances are good that if you need something, you will find it in my purse. It is a bit of a black hole at all times.

I hate New Years Eve.  

I know all the words to most musicals that came out before 1980 plus anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron MacIntosh. Also Gilbert and Sullivan – which I don’t particularly like but was forced to listen to as a kid. I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General is forever stuck in my head. 

I use coconut oil for everything.

I have worn one earring or two different ones since I was 12 years old. I lost one of my grandmother’s earrings and I did not want my mother to know so I told her that it was the style. I started that. 

I like eating in bed.

I’m germaphobic. I truly believe if I talk on the phone to someone who is sick, I will get it.

I always wear heels except when I am traveling.

I have a fear of indoor parking lots that go down..and down..and down.

I don’t cook but I watch the Food Network when I am on the treadmill. I am really great at takeout and restaurant recommendations. 

I am a shopper and nothing makes me happier than the word sale. I specifically have a Cosco problem. Everything is so much cheaper there that it causes my brain to go numb. Why did I buy power tools and a trampoline? 

I always have two different nail polish colors on my nails. I think I started that style also.

I am a terrible driver.

I excel at speed shopping in foreign countries.

I can’t have too many white shirts, T-shirts or tank tops. This means that I have too many and probably a uniform.

Jayne After Dark is everything I do after the BF falls asleep. 

I watch TV Christmas movies in December. No Lifetime, Hallmark, Netflix or Amazon selection is too dumb or predictable for me to miss. 

My most embarrassing moment happens almost every day. Between saying whatever comes into my head and being a klutz, anything can happen.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Douro Valley, Portugal

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Douro Valley Portugal

“But Portugal has a peaceful feel about it. I sit on the terrace overlooking the vineyard there and I feel cut off from the world. You need that sort of thing.” Cliff Richard

The Douro Valley is the primary wine-growing region of northern Portugal. It can be a day trip from Porto. I knew it would be beautiful but I didn’t know it would be this beautiful.

Terraced vineyards, green-brown mountains, almond and olive trees swoop down to the glassy, blue Douro River.  This was the view from everywhere.

The Valley isn’t necessarily a secret but  the destination doesn’t see nearly as many tourists as other famed wine regions such as Bordeaux or Napa.

The Douro Valley is a World Heritage Site Wine Region with approximately 2000 years of past. According to UNESCO, you’re stepping  into a winemaking valley full of history. The Romans started to cultivated vines in the valley. By the 18th and 19th Century, Port Wine reached English tables and started to make its own name.

We tour the facilities of a few wineries. We learn about the traditional foot-stomping method to crush grapes, which is still used for  wine production (especially the older vines which create more complex wines.

Across the river from Pinhao, is Quinta de Seixo where the well-known Sandeman winery combines state-of the-art cellar technology with great wine experiences.

We do a wine tasting here with the  absolutely breath taking view.

On the banks of the river, along with a Michelin star is DOC restaurant which is one of the best places to go in the valley.

I have a lunch there and it is so delicious we eat a Chef Rui Paula’s restaurant in Porto as well. 

The Douro Valley is a surprisingly quiet and tranquil place to be.

There is always something strange and familiar about a river, hills, grass and trees. Sometimes, the world looks very peaceful. Thanks again to our tour guide Tiago for a wonderful day.    https://www.4u2enjoy.pt/

Fly safe,

JAZ