A Modern Day Renaissance Woman
What on earth does that even mean, you ask? The pretty answer, is that I am multi-faceted, you know, like a diamond that reflects light under many different lights?
The hard-core answer, is that I know how to do a crazy amount of things! When you’re a single mom of 4 kids and now a grandma of 3, you just figure out how to ‘do everything your dang self’!
Long before being an influencer was a ‘thing’, there was ‘us’, hairdressers! I was a hairdresser for 40 years. Yep! Got my apprentice license at age 16 and by age 18 I had a full book of fabulous, fun clients.
In time, I discovered that hairdressers are the heartbeat of every town everywhere in the world. Everyone, eventually comes to see us (collectively). And do you know what that means? It means collectively we know everyone and everything!
Single Mom Life
As a single mom of 4 (a story I will share further into our chat), I was able to have a hair salon in my home, be the full time bread winner, full time mom and full time ‘stay at home’ mom. I can never express how grateful I was and always will be for this full-time life that gave me the freedom to raise my children, my way and have my eye on them, always; well… I’m sure they pulled the wool over my eyes often as teenagers!
Fast forward, a gazillion years (it feels like), and in 2006, when all my little birds flew the nest to go off to college and create their own lives, I sold my home, my business and moved to Brazil for 3 years. It became the second ‘reinvention’ of my life, first was wrapping my head around becoming a single mom (that story coming).
While in Brazil, I finally had the time to think (eventually in Portuguese), discover my passion for ‘storytelling’. But what did I want to tell stories about? Something happens to us hairdressers, that few people know; we become Analytical, as in, we are so accustomed to ‘knowing stuff’ that it becomes a part of who we are. We need to know, therefore we have lots to tell!
It was then, in Brazil, that I wrote and published my first book ‘Confessions of a Hairdresser’. It was also then, that I joined the world of social media for the first time, My Space I believe it was called, then later Facebook. Not only did social media provide a way to stay in touch with family and friends all over the world, but it taught me something about myself… people (new friends), found me, my life and my approach to living life, interesting enough that they wanted to engage me, ask questions, learn stuff from me. Geez! I realized I was becoming a kind of ‘mom’ to the world!
While learning to speak Portuguese, live in a new country and still stay on top of my babies back in the states, I found social media was fast becoming what my time in the hair salon had been all those years before: Influence. Make Friends. Guide.
People Need People (as Barbara Streisand sang about). We solve problems together, we learn from one another, we cry together and laugh together and we find new ways of enjoying the gifts and talents we were either born with or acquired along the way in life. This Is Why I Now Have A Blog!
My Blog My World
On my blog you will become privy to me… who I am, what I am good at, and what I have learned along the way in my 68 years of life! Shhhhhhh! Eeee gads 68! Well, I am proud of it because I’ve also learned that age is just a number… so long as you take care of yourself. THAT is a secret I will be sharing with you here in ‘my world’, how to be healthy, live healthy and live a vibrant life no matter what age! But, we will get to that too, a little later.
Friends + Friends = Family
Why listen to me? Why let me into your life? Why become my friend or follower of social media? Well… YOU tell me! Those of you reading this who are already my friends on one social media platform or another, already know how much I love to engage YOUR life, catch up with you, chat and visit your posts, stories and creative talents.
You see, being a friend is not a one way street. I have followed several celebrities I have met while filming some of the television shows I have done and once I realized they were never going to follow me back, show any interest at all in my life or my talents, I deleted them! I made a promise to myself that I would seek to never be like them no matter how large my following became. If you chat with me, I will engage you.
Stuff I Know About
Because I am often asked, “Gosh, what don’t you know how to do”? I will tell you stuff I DO know about!
- Hair – everything from making it straight to curly, dark to light, up or down. Remember, if I am 68 and if I started doing hair at 16, then I know a thing or two about doing Jackie Kennedy hair, Audrey Hepburn hair, Cher or Twiggy hair and everything in between!
- Skin – no teenager wants acne, just as no older woman wants wrinkles and sagging skin. Having made it my business to understand nutrition and ingredients in skin products, I became a guru of skin health in my teens. Did not suffer acne then and have good skin now. It is NOT just what you put on your skin, though that is 50% of the solution, but what you put in your body that achieves beautiful skin at any age. I have never wavered from what I know works, and it DOES work!
Fashion Design, Textiles and Sewing
- Fashion Design, Textiles and Sewing – In a small town, back in the early 60’s when fashion magazines (at my mom’s beauty salon, yes, that is where I got my start), from Italy and France were sporting the latest in Mod clothing and Op art, while here in America it was frumpy loafers and pre-preppy boring cloths. I wanted what I saw in the magazines and runways of Europe. So, I learned to sew at age 14! No one dressed like me in school and I didn’t care! I was the weirdo (though now it is called the trend setter). I went on to make all my cloths, later made numerous wedding gowns, all my daughter’s matching ‘mother and daughter’ cloths (as long as she would wear them), and from there, the sky was the limit. I made ceiling to floor silk drapes in nearly every home I lived in, reupholstered furniture and when the pandemic hit, I made over 400 masks for folks in the food industry. Yep, I love knowing I can do many things myself!
Home Improvements and Renovations
- Home Improvements and Renovations – at the age of 16 I learned how to work with power tools, you know, the kind in your dad/husband’s garage? My mom remarried a professional building contractor and I was in awe at the power tools and what they could create! Saws (table, hand or chain), drills, and everything I could get my hands on that could ‘change’ the way something looked, into something better! I have drawn the blueprints for several homes and worked alongside contractors to have every aspect of a renovation job done the way I wanted it because I understood plumbing, electrical and internal guts of a home, how to redesign without rearranging the guts (ie. More costly).
- COOK – since I was 12, adopting many flavors and techniques from a variety of cultures, including my own ‘Mediterranean and Middle Eastern’ heritage. I have had the fabulous privilege to be featured in 3 Food Network programs and soon to release, an 8 episode food program (I can tell you more about when the network gives me permission to do so). Suffice it to say, I gave a sample of many things I love to cook on television shows and a gazillion stories to go with them. Who knows, maybe one day a savvy network will want me to have my own show!
- Garden Gal – while I didn’t grow up knowing how to grow things, I acquired the passion and excitement to be able to cook with things I discovered weren’t so difficult to grow. Once that happened, I probably went a little overboard! My summertime theme every year now is; Garden To Table. My wintertime sanity now, is my hydroponics. I will share all I have learned with you in this arena but also excited to learn from you as well!
- Visual Storyteller – From the way I set a table for dinner guests (elegant) or the kids (fun), to everything my eyes can see and re-dress. I am that artsy woman that will rearrange, fix and visually change everything and everyone (if only in my mind), no matter where I am, who or what it is. My creative brain never rests! Let me at it, and I will make it a visual story worth telling, living or being! My poor kids today, just roll their eyes at their mom, and then set out to being just as whimsical as I am, in their own lives!
Health and Wellness
- Health and Wellness Guru – longgggggg before everyone, at every age talked about health and wellness, I was that health-nut, at age 18 (1070), that started making my own beauty treatments, concocting my own healthy food combos, using plants as a way of health or healing, and physical fitness longgggggg before the ‘gym’ world became a thing! I swam, walked and did yoga throughout all 4 pregnancies, had natural child birth and regained my figure back in a short time. To this day, I am about the same size I always have been (maybe a few inches more but not much). Don’t hate on me, because I promise you, it doesn’t come easy… I sacrifice in a variety of ways so that I can (hopefully), live long enough (healthy enough), to meet my grandchildren’s children one day!
- Writer – while I have published 3 books (1 rom/dram, 1 cookbook and 1 history book from the 1800’s perspective of a woman that never got her book published, so I did it for her more than 100 years later), I fast discovered that: Books are for thinkers while film script writing is for talkers. What do hairdressers do? We talk! So, during the lockdown and onset of the pandemic, I learned how to write all the stories I want to tell, in television script format, and mark my word… one of them will become a series for you to watch. The Camera Eats First, is a culinary road trip I have written and filmed a short trailer for. Tell Me About It, is a series, multi-episode Rom/Dram, inspired by my book Confessions of a Hairdresser, with a huge collage of nested stories about clients in a hair salon, though a slower evolving story about the hairdresser that owns the salon unfolds under the more lively nested stories. Hmmmm I wonder who that could be about. Which brings me to a personal glimpse into my love life, or lack there of…
Walt Disney lied! All those fairytales I grew up dreaming about, you know, the ‘happily-ever-after’ fairytales? Romance, Love, Girl Meets Boy stories that always left me feeling dreamy-eyed and hopeful about love, marriage and having babies? Yep, those lies. Well, I bit! Hook, line and sinker (yes, I enjoy fishing too!). No one prepares us for ‘mom life’ and Disney certainly didn’t. Look at Snow White, she only became a mom figure to a bunch of old men!
First hard lesson I learned about love? Never fall in love with a billionaire, especially if he never discloses that he is! That, is how my life as a single mom began.
He was classy, he was elegant, he had manners and a brilliant mind. What he didn’t disclose, in all his charm, was that he was the 1st born son of a 3rd generation dynasty from a farrrrrr away land. Who knew, that part would become the heart breaker to a ‘would be’ fairytale romance. But… that’s a story for a Hollywood film, of which, perhaps, one day will get made.
When it became apparent to me, 4 children later, that I might never get to obtain that ‘happily ever after’ story, I decided to bundle up my babies, recreate myself into a self made woman (no, not that little ole woman who lived in a shoe story), and design the most interesting life I could create for myself and my children. I wanted them to become independent thinkers, know how to do anything and everything themselves, travel and dream big. And yes… dare I say, now in their 30’s and one already hit the big 4.0. they’ve become their mama in one form or another and each living interesting lives of their own!
My dad smoked. My mom was addicted to sugar. My stepdad drank whiskey. My dad died of lung cancer. My mom’s pancreas exploded. My stepdad died of liver cancer. Each of them in their early 70’s.
Since I was never a follower of crowds and crowd behavior, I did none of the above. Not a goody-two-shoes; fear is what inspired me to think and live differently. I didn’t want to suffer as I watched each of them suffer. So… I made an early decision to understand why each of them adopted the lifestyles that led to their deaths. Since I am by nature (or because of years being a hairdresser), an analytical thinker, it didn’t take long to figure out what led to the lifestyle choices that took each of these important people from my life wayyyyy too early.
Frame Of Mind or Point Of Reference is what I quickly discovered was the culprit to lifestyle choices that destroy people and families.
My dad was raised by a genius father who spoke five languages, became the historian for the White House, was revered by the DC socialites (back in the 40’s), but looked down at his son as a loser, which cultivated all the insecurities and zero self esteem my father had. My dad was a jazz piano player and an arranger of music for other well known musicians such Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Ecstein, Art Blakey, Charlie Byrd, Johnny Mathis and others. By day he taught band in elementary schools, since he played all instruments. By night, he played jazz in DC nightclubs where lots of bad habits were formed (pills to stay awake, pills to go to sleep, booze, cigarettes to fit in, etc.). As great as I thought he was as a musician (and yes, I studied music as well, sang and played fluted), his father looked down on him as a loser which caused my father to hide within a lifestyle that ultimately killed him.
My mother was the 7th child born to Syrian immigrants. The new found freedom her mother discovered here in America caused her to abandon my mother, causing my mother to find a bed where she could and something to fill the hunger in her tummy where she could; which at an early age became candy, cakes and other feel-good tummy fillers. The seeds for diabetes as well as depression were planted at an early age. I watched both slowly destroy my mother and any life she could have enjoyed.
My stepfather was the grand-nephew to the famed Johns Hopkins from the Baltimore area of Maryland. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Went on to attend medical school (as was expected), until the Black Plague shut down colleges (not so different from this recent pandemic). During that time he discovered his love for architecture, building and development. He never went back to medical school. He went on to live the life of the wealthy. First car was a Stutz Bearcat, once dated Amy Vanderbilt, ended up marrying a local gal that wouldn’t give him any children, then fast forward, he met my mother, a poor woman with 4 little girls. They became the talk of the town (he was 28 years older than my mom), and they later married. Whiskey and fatty foods (old country ham and lots of bacon), were part of his regular diet. He built a fabulous (165 foot long x 2 floors), home for us on 12 acres of land. They raised (for fun and for parties), black Angus cattle, hogs, chickens and acres of tomatoes, corn and fruit trees. One morning after he went out to feed the hogs, my mom told him she arranged a biopsy at the hospital for a persistent pain he had in his gut. He went, the biopsy pierced a tumor in his liver he never knew he had, he went instantly into a comma and died a few weeks later.
Power Of Positive
NOPE! I watched these physical and psychological issues develop around me and as an inquisitive and analytical young girl I made a decision early in life that I wasn’t going down any of those roads. Thank goodness, fast forward to the 21st century, the world has become an informed health-nut and everything we need to make wiser choices is at our fingertips. Unfortunately, psychological issues still go un-dealt with which still leads smart folks into making not so smart lifestyle choices that affect their health.
COOKING FOR THE HEALTH OF IT! These early childhood awarenesses are what led to my passion for cooking! First I learned how to cook and then I taught myself to cook for the health of it and not just the taste of it!
Over the years I adopted the art of ‘substituting’! Just because a recipe calls for a gazillion cups of sugar doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Swap. Substitute. Recreate. DIY. Make it from scratch. These words became the mantra I whispered to myself as I created new recipes from old ideas of cooking. And trust me, I was doing this longggggg before it was a ‘thing’!
Growing up in a Middle Eastern influenced kitchen, we just made things from scratch other folks never thought to. I started making yogurt in my teens. No, not with a fancy yogurt maker. I made it in a huge pot. Learned that the temperature of the boiled milk was crucial to encouraging the good bacteria to grow or kill it. The method? My finger. When you are able to hold your finger in the boiled milk to the count of 10, the temp was ideal. Later in life I learned that temp was about 110-118. Same was true of making bread. Encourage the yeast to grow or kill it, depending on the temperature of the liquid mixed with it.
Nut butter and nut milk was a thing in my home long before it was ever sold in a grocery store. Why? We just made it! Many refreshing drinks in the Arab world were made from soaked ground almonds into a milk or a watered down, salted yogurt drink called Ayran, a refreshing summertime sip. Grains were soaked over night in hot water and the next day all the liquid was squeezed out. The grain was used to mix with ground meats but that water… the water from the grain… it became milk!
Being UNIQUE Is My New Superpower!
Back in my earlier days, if you lived life differently than others you were thought of as ‘unique’. Today, the same thing exists though it is said you live ‘outside the box’ of mainstream thinking. Actually, I don’t do very much, in my life, from inside a box but, that is what makes me unique, as I am often called.
When I made my first appearance on Food Network’s Clash of the Grandmas (season 2 episode 2 in 2015), we were given the challenge to make something hand-held out of Mac & Cheese. No, fried Mac & Cheese hadn’t become a thing yet. I dipped into my heritage, using phyllo dough for hand held foods, where I grew up in Maryland by using crab meat and in an instant, my ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking created Mac & Cheese Crab Rolls. A huge hit with the judges and one of the favored dishes on my blog!
My next appearance was on Guy’s Grocery Games, another grandma episode. The challenge was to create a family favorite but turn up the heat in it, even if that was not the way it was made. Crab cakes on a grilled brioche bun, with a ton of jalapeños (I didn’t grow up cooking with chilies), and Robert Irvine said he would put this dish on any menu across America!
In this most recent 1st season, 8 episode show I just finished filming (airs summer of 2022), I cooked my tahootie off and gave the cameras and judges so much variety and unique dishes that I fully expect that show to launch something I will be doing in the future!
Who Am I And Where Am I Going?
I have given you a window into who I am and how I got here, but where I am going is just about to be launched, at the ripe ole age of 68/69! You see, when your life has undergone intense ‘facet cutting’ it is clear to see how the cut of a diamond can be compared to the shaping of a person’s character. Character building is no easy construction but I believe the results render us limitless possibilities in life.
Join me in my journey and lets explore life together!