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Leah Dunaief

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

It’s Thanksgiving again, even though it seems it recently was. Yes, time flies, and soon it will be Christmas and then the end of 2023. When did that all happen? It seems we were worried about what would occur when we turned the corner into the next millennium. Now we are almost one quarter into the new century.

Some things don’t change, and that includes the core menu for Thanksgiving dinner. While I always try to add a new dish, just for the surprise value, still there are the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, the roasted veggies and mashed sweet potato, and the wonderful pies. I have to confess that my family prefers broccoli with garlic and oil to string beans, so we have put our own twist on the basic meal.

Every year, after dinner, we remain at the dining room table and share with each other what we are most grateful for particularly in this year. This way, I get to catch up on what’s been happening in my family’s lives that I might not know about, and they do as well. 

But while Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, no two Thanksgivings are exactly the same because no two years are the same. For one thing, we are one year older. That changes our lives in minor and major ways as we move on.

For example, my granddaughter moved on this year and graduated from college. She now has her first full time serious job, is living on her own and tasting adult life.  

My oldest grandson and his fiancee have been lovingly planning their wedding for next year. The bachelor party has already happened, the bridal shower, postponed once because the bride-to-be came down with COVID, will take place next month, and the couple have picked out their permanent home. They already have a BBQ for the backyard. Dresses have been selected, tuxes prepared, the event location secured and the menu chosen.

Speaking of COVID, its frightening grip on our lives has significantly loosened, but only after three years. We live with it, we have upgraded vaccines to protect us, and it’s not the scourge it used to be.

But other events threaten. There are two terrible wars raging in the world, and we are privy to them through news reports and social media daily. We hear less of Ukraine and Russia these days because the Middle East has taken center stage. And while Russian athletes and opera singers were shunned if they didn’t denounce Putin, still that conflict was at a distance. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has spilled over into our country and is closer to home. Antisemitism and anti-Muslim demonstrations have poisoned our airwaves and frightened our residents.

It is against this backdrop that we sit down to enjoy each other and the family meal. While we are grateful for all that we have and all that we are, we cannot entirely shut out the tragedies happening elsewhere in the world. If anything, current events cause us to pull our families closer for support and security.

As the calendar turns, we will be moving into another presidential-election year, and when we next sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, it will be on the eve of a new presidential term, whoever wins.

We are on the threshold of a decisive year ahead. Knowing that, and dealing with the divisiveness within our borders, lessens the usual frivolity of the holidays. Yes, we are certainly thankful for our turkey, for our lives and for each other. We should use that gratitude somehow to help make this a better world.

We can commit to pushing back against prejudice and hate wherever we find them. We can teach our children by our example, living what has ben described as American exceptionalism. We can abhor violence. And in the face of bigotry, we can care for each other and together pray for peace.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Just for fun during a break, I wandered around the office, asking staffers what they liked best about themselves and what they liked least. I got some interesting answers after assuring them they would not be identified nor fired as a result of their responses.

I would ask you the same question, dear reader. But first, perhaps you would like to know what some of the others said. These are not direct quotes but are intended to summarize the thoughts.

“ I like my ability to analyze a situation, to think it out,” said one. “By the same token, I don’t like that I tend to overthink issues and questions, like this one. Or my self-criticism.”

“I’m pleased that I’m steadfast and see my way through a project or a decision,” said another. “I’m not easily dissuaded or derailed.” What wasn’t appreciated? “I’m shrinking, losing height as I age.”

Here are some more comments, some delivered off the top of their heads; others after some premeditation, were emailed to me.

“Three things I like about myself: My sense of humor; my capacity for compassion and thoughtfulness, although it can be heartbreaking at times; and my ability to see multiple facets of a situation.” As far as dislikes: “Although I like being direct, sometimes I can be too direct and it may take people off guard; I don’t have much patience; I can’t seem to stick with an exercise regimen.” 

This same person added, “Well it’s been an interesting exercise. I have been doing a little experiment of my own with this. I’ve been asking my friends and family which has led to great conversations. So thank you for that!” 

Not having enough patience was often cited as a shortcoming. Other positives were offered with enthusiasm.


“Comfortable in my own skin!”


“Good listener!”

“A good friend!”

“My curiosity!”

Another staffer referred to a sense of humor twice: “I like my humor—but sometimes it gets me into trouble.” This same person “cares about other people.”

“I like that I get along well with other people,” was shared with me by another. “I am a team player and I always pay my bills on time.” On the other hand, “I have a time management problem, and I worry too much. In fact, I worry about worrying too much.”

And here is an almost universal one. “I can’t stay on a diet!”

So it seems only fair that I tell you my top likes and dislikes. Here goes, dislikes first.

I’m a lifelong procrastinator. ‘Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow’ was a saying made for me. Now in my defense, I will suggest that there might be some wisdom in that because…sometimes problems and chores disappear by tomorrow. But most of the time, that’s a lame excuse. I’m sure one of the appeals of journalism for me is that it has unyielding deadlines for press time, thus forcing me to get going.

Another personal drawback is my tendency to keeping my desk messy. I know where everything is, but no one else does. Then I have to go through extended bouts of straightening the many papers.

A third is my inability to resist a nosh, especially if it is something sweet.

As to my likes, I, too, value my sense of humor, which has enabled me to endure the incongruities of life. Also I am intrigued by and deeply interested in others’ lives, which I guess is a help in interviewing. And lastly, I am grateful for my appreciation of the natural beauty in the world. Snow-covered mountains, a slow moving river under umbrellas of green trees, the waves in the harbor rhythmically caressing the shore, the light on the underbellies of the clouds after a rain, the bluejays casing my deck for next year’s nesting, the bright yellow forsythia after a brown and grey winter, all bring joy to my soul.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

We seem to be living at a higher level of anxiety. Maybe not all of us. Somewhere there might be one or two souls who are still calmly oblivious to the world around us. Those are the ones who have turned off their televisions and radios, who don’t read newspapers and have put away their cellphones. But from conversations I have had, that’s not the rest of us. The rest of us are quietly, or not so quietly concerned.

What’s wrong? Let’s make a list. Better yet, let’s not. Instead, let’s think about how to cope.

One way to start is to divide what troubles us into two lists: those we can do something about and those we cannot. Then concentrate on the former. When confronted with hate, we can respond with kindness. We can listen rather than scream. We can do our tiny bit to help make our neighborhood a better place.

A psychotherapist I was interviewing recently told me she instructs her anxious clients to concentrate on their breathing, taking deep breaths for ten minutes to calm the body. The usual trio of eating, sleeping and exercising properly are critically important to maintain. Meditation, and even aromatherapy may also help. 


Exercise regularly. It’s good for both body and mind. One recent study revealed that “people with physically active lifestyles had about 60 percent lower risk of developing anxiety disorders,” according to healthline. This study was done over 21 years and followed 400,000 participants.

How does exercise work? For one, it provides a distraction from whatever is worrying. Also, getting the heart rate up changes brain chemistry, encouraging the secretion of anti-anxiety brain messengers like serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). According to the American Psychological Association, “regular exercise leads to an enhancement of concentration and willpower, which can help certain anxiety symptoms.” 

Plus you feel good, especially when you stop. Walking is the simplest and perhaps most enjoyable way to exercise, particularly at this time of year, when it is not too hot nor too cold, and the changing colors of the foliage are a delight.

Eating a balanced diet, and eating it calmly, is important. Low blood sugar levels, dehydration and chemicals in processed foods, such as artificial flavorings, artificial coloring and preservatives can cause mood changes. A high-sugar diet can also have a negative reaction. So what should we eat? Fruits and vegetables, especially those leafy dark green ones rather than those high in starch, are ideal. After that, complex carbohydrates and beans, are a good source of nutrition. I happen to like fish, the white fleshy kind like sea bass, rather than lean meat, for animal protein. But remember, there is plenty of protein in veggies and beans.

Sleep is so important. A good night’s sleep leaves me feeling as if, the next day, I could “leap tall buildings at a single bound,” to borrow from the Superman tagline. Ah, but how to get a good night’s sleep? I am a good sleeper, and I will tell you what I do—most of the time.

I don’t watch television or use my computer or cellphone before going to bed. Something about that blue light wakes me up. I don’t even have those in my bedroom. I will sometimes read a bit, but not a page turner. My room is the coolest in the house, and I will frequently have the window open, even a tiny bit, in winter. I know that going to bed the same time each night is recommended, though I don’t always follow that advice. Also no alcohol before bedtime is also advised. It helps put me to sleep but I will be wide awake when the alcohol wears off in the middle of the night. And, I invested in a comfy down comforter years ago that, with its plushness, invites me into bed.

Better not to nap during the day, and that leaves me sufficiently tired by bedtime, especially if I have exercised. At least, it should. If it doesn’t, I will empty my thoughts onto a list, put the pad on the bedside table, then doze off.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A woman I know is now a widow. She has two adult children but lives many miles from them. In order to visit her home and her town, which are located in a beautiful part of the country, they are required to take two flights, then drive a couple of hours to reach her.

The relationship she had with her late husband was not so different from many couples: she took care of the shopping and cooking, and he paid the bills and balanced the checking account. They both loved their house and how they lived.

But life for her has taken a turn.

Not only is she now alone, she is approaching 80 and has trouble walking. She manages the aisles of the supermarket with difficulty, and so hasn’t had any fresh produce or other perishables in a month. As a result, she is not eating well. Her son is coming shortly to manage her finances and fix whatever might need repair in the home, but he has to leave his own children and his job to do that. As a result, the number of visits he can make is limited. Her daughter, who lives in a big city and has a demanding job, has yet to come. Another relative, who lives across the country, recently offered several days of help but cannot do that with any regularity.

Unsurprisingly, all are urging her to move closer to one of them.

“I want to stay in my own home!” is her adamant reply. She wants to age in place. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

She is no different from 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 who say they prefer to stay in their current residence as they age.This is a major issue. Can this woman remain in her home? Can any of us, as we age, plan to remain in our homes?

Some considerations include home preparation. Can she avoid falling? Among the greatest threats to older people is falling, a leading cause of injurious death. That may be prevented by installing grab bars in the shower, railings on the stairs, avoiding loose throw rugs and obstructed pathways. Increased lighting, walk-in bathtubs, sliding shelves,  even walk-in showers can greatly aid all of us, whether we are aged or not yet there.

Technology can also be a help. This woman’s son can pay her bills remotely, if appropriate arrangements are made with her bank. He can also order various items she may need over the internet, including food from the local markets. The reaction to COVID-19 is to be thanked for the ease and wide-spread availability of remote purchasing plus delivery. And, with a little patience on the part of the younger generation, she might be taught to use the computer to order for herself.

To help her walking, she might get hiking poles or an electric wheelchair or even an electric scooter to ride to her friends in the neighborhood if she doesn’t want to use a cane or a walker. Some 32 percent of those over age 65 have difficulty walking, so this is not so strange.

Cognitive problems, which she doesn’t have but, according to statistics, 1 out of 5 people over 55 will experience, can be mitigated by some help from local social services. Research by her family would be required. But this presents a more severe need that may involve moving into an assisted living facility in the community.

Older adults should not have to leave the towns and school districts they have paid taxes to help maintain over the years and the familiarity and daily support system that has built up around them during their long residence.

We need to give more attention and planning to this segment of the people. And we need to follow their lead rather than demand they change their lives.

Photo from Pixabay

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Here we are, once again feeling the excitement of starting a new venture the way we did, more than 47 years ago, when we published the first issue of The Village Times. Tomorrow we start the first of our weekly podcasts, “Press Room Afterhour.” It’s heady stuff to be an entrepreneur. All that adrenalin is addicting.

So what is “Press Room Afterhour”?

It’s the name of our podcast. We have been practicing Thursday evenings after the papers come out. We, the editorial board, sit around the conference table and talk about some of the news stories of the week, filling in more details that didn’t make it into print, giving our personal take on the articles we wrote. The sessions will be available to listeners each Friday and will last 20-30 minutes. Each story is discussed for about 3 minutes. We sometimes pepper each other with questions or add our reactions, even as we fill in the readers who perhaps haven’t had a chance to keep up with the news.

The permanent members on the podcast are : Managing Editor Raymond Janis, Co-Producer Mike Vincenti and me, Editor and Publisher. We are grateful for our Audio Editor and Co-Producer, Michael Dunaief, behind the scenes. There are also one or two reporters who have written some of each week’s news. And we might even have a distinguished guest attend the session.

Mike often asks questions, prompting us to expand on the information we are offering our readers and viewers. He represents the less well informed listener since he comes straight from a long-day’s work, and he hasn’t yet read that days’s paper or watched our website and wants to know what has happened in the villages and towns since last week. This works to tease out some of the facts we might not have included. Raymond, the reporters and I field the questions and sometimes add our perspectives. And we encourage the guest, if there is one that night, to add his or her thoughts relative to the subject. 

To lead off this week, we have invited Beverly Tyler to be our honored guest for tomorrow’s podcast since he was on the front page of The Village Times in the first issue April 8, 1976. Bev is a highly respected author, speaker and many-splendored historian who knows endless stories about the Revolutionary War and its local participants as it took place on Long Island. He also specializes in other aspects of our history.

So how do you hear the podcast?

For starters, you can hear it on our website: tbrnewsmedia.com. We also will have it on Spotify on Fridays after 12 pm, if you wish to go to that platform. 

So why have we begun this? Really for the same reason we started our papers, our website and our social media platforms. We know that information is vital for every resident to have if we are going to participate in a democratic form of government. Without news, without a discussion of the issues, residents would not be able to vote knowledgeably, would not participate in local issues that might affect them directly. They would not have the pleasure of reading about cultural offerings and their children’s sports teams. In short, there wouldn’t be the sense of community that a local news outlet provides.

Additionally we are sponsored by local businesses with brief advertising spots included among the news items. If you would like to be a sponsor please contact us. 

Podcasts are another way of reaching you, the public, with the news you need and, we trust, want to know. And it’s a way for you to reach us and tell us how we can help. News deserts are popping up throughout the nation, and those communities without media to give them voice and protect them from various civic ills are much the poorer. They are without spokespeople who can and do speak truth to power on their behalf.

We would welcome your thoughts regarding this new venture. Email us your comments to [email protected].

Here we go.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

It’s difficult to live in the suburbs without a car. In fact, it’s almost impossible to raise a family here without four wheels. Many people own more than one to accommodate the various members of the household. And the costs of maintaining a car are escalating, threatening to take away from disposable income and the suburban quality of life.

Here are some statistics from a recent article in The New York Times that quotes the AAA. 

The average annual cost in the first five years of ownership is now $12,182. Last year it was $10,728. This jump is a result of higher purchase prices, maintenance costs and greater finance charges. Just to put this in its proper perspective: “That’s 16 percent of the median household income before taxes.” And about 92 percent of households own at least one; 22 percent have at least three.

Here are some more facts. All those personal cars number some 223 million and together add up to trillions of dollars a year in spending. (I can’t even check this because my calculator doesn’t go up that high.) How much, by comparison, was spent on public transportation in 2019 for capital and operating expenses? The answer, while still up in the mind-blowing category, is only 79 billion. Just drop the zeros and you get the point.

Car expenses can be on a par with housing, child care and food for some families. The average payment for a used car is $533, according to TransUnion, while the average for a new one is $741 a month. Multiply that by the number of cars parked in one driveway for a household.  

Some examples of car expenses: monthly payments, which have gone up in the last year, either to buy or lease, gas, registration, insurance, regular maintenance, perhaps tolls, parking, car washes and maybe even an un-budgeted accident. While insurance covers most of that, still there is deductible, perhaps loaner costs, not to mention the toll of stress and aggravation, which we are not even measuring with a price tag.

Now to the other side of the equation. Some people love their cars. They love driving them, washing them, caring for them, even naming them. They love shopping for them.  They love proudly comparing theirs to other comparable vehicles in animated discussions with likeminded owners. Their car is a pleasure they don’t mind spending on because they get more from it than just passage from one point to another. For some, a car is like having another child.

Since I grew up in New York City, where public transportation is, for the most part, excellent, my parents never had a car. I remember when my dad made a careful list of the expenses connected with owning a car and decided we could take taxis all over town for much less. Of course, we never took taxis either. And neither of my parents had a driver’s license. My mother, who loved a bargain, was particularly delighted that one could take the subway for miles, from one borough to the next, even to Coney Island and Rockaway Beach from midtown Manhattan for only one 15-cent token. Having to travel in a car for her would have been a deprivation.

The other issue about cars, of course, is pollution. As we are thinking green, we are aware that automotive emissions are responsible for some 50 to 90 percent of air pollution in urban areas. Wherever they are, motor vehicles are a major contributor to air pollution.Those emissions affect global warming, smog and various health problems. They include particulate matter, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. All of those are toxic to living organisms and can cause damage to the brain, lungs, heart, bloodstream and respiratory systems—among other body parts.

All of that notwithstanding, it is said we have a love affair with our cars.

A scene from 'The Golden Bachelor' Photo from Facebook(ABC/Craig Sjodin)

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Lately, there have been numerous articles about older folks and aging in general. At least, it seems so to me. Remember Martha Stewart on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Probably the one now with the most buzz is “The Golden Bachelor,” the most recent in the long-running series of Bachelor programs shown on ABC.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to acknowledge that I have seldom watched any of the episodes on the so-called reality dating franchise. If I happened to be passing the television in my house, and one was on the screen, I might have been captured for a few minutes, especially by the beautiful settings in far away places, but it always struck me as improbably scripted.

Yes, I know there is some data showing that a few couples who met on the show actually married and went on to have children and make happy family lives for themselves. Good for those few, but it was too staged for me, and I never became hooked the way my mother, for example, was ensnared by “The Guiding Light” and other such radio soaps in her day.

It seems that television, in general, is suffering from a major drop-off in audience viewership, as people switch to streaming services. That is the case, except for older people, those above 60, who are reluctant to give up their favorite programs in favor of Netflix and hulu. So, some Bachelor television executive decided to give that older cohort more to watch, and as a result, we have been introduced to Gerry Turner, from Indiana, who is 72 years old and a widower looking for a new partner.

Now, he is not a billionaire jet-setting around the world but in need of a companion to make his life complete; rather he is retired from the food distribution industry and had a loving marriage that was cut short by his wife’s tragic bacterial infection. A father of two grown daughters and two granddaughters, who enthusiastically support his new role, he is attractive enough to hold the attention of 22 women contestants also looking for a mate. The women are between 60-75, range from divorced and widowed mothers and grandmothers, and in turn are alluring enough to put a gleam in Turner’s eye as he meets them for the first time.

How do I know? I watched the first episode, not on its Thursday night time slot but on a streaming service a couple of nights later. I admit it. I was curious enough to see what love was going to look like for the silver set.

The tone of the program was, if anything, conspicuously wholesome. What could be more wholesome than a mid-Westerner talking about how he lost his middle-aged wife of 43 years, whom he met in high school, and crying on national television? Still, Turner was called, “sexy,” and though the ladies were, for the most part, relatively restrained in their manners, the underlying message was, “Yes, older people can be attractive and still be looking for love.”

There is another message that seems to have emerged, as this quote from an article in The New York Times reveals.

“The prevailing narrative surrounding the growing number of unmarried older adults tends to focus on the risks of isolation and loneliness. [One in three baby boomers is single.] But Sindy Oh, a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, said she was struck by how different dating could be for her older clients because they had a much stronger sense of self. ‘They have accepted who they are, and they are presenting themselves as is,’ she said.”

This seems to fit what is offered by “The Golden Bachelor.” The producers note that when they cast for other Bachelor shows, intended for 20s and 30s participants, they sense that the auditioners feel they have to present a version of themselves that is what the show is looking for. But these women who responded were just themselves and could laugh about their age.

Older people still have hope.


Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This year, when we attended the annual Publishers’ Conference, we experienced high anxiety adventures on both land and sea. Well, in a manner of speaking. 

The gathering of about 40 publishers was held at a venerable hotel in Boston.

We had a nice enough room overlooking some of the downtown, and it wasn’t until the second day that I noted what seemed to be a solitary fruit fly or gnat, perhaps, flying around my head as I was reading. Not paying much attention, I swatted at it, missing it, and continued to read. Later that day, I saw another-or was it the same fellow-in the bathroom? This time I managed to catch him and do him in. 

Deciding to pay attention to what might be turning into a private battle, I stopped at the desk in the lobby on my way to the next workshop and explained the situation to the clerk, who might have regarded me dubiously but nonetheless agreed to send up a combat team to the room. They, too, seemed unconvinced until we spotted two more such bugs hanging out on my pillow. They sprayed, assured us the problem was solved, and left, telling us there were no other rooms. Busy with the conference, I accepted that decision and went on with my schedule.

That night, in the dark, we were bitten. Nervously, we awaited the dawn, and upon our dire accounting to the front desk clerk, the management changed our room. 

Victory at last. And the hotel did graciously extend an accommodation on the tab when we checked out.

But the excitement in our trip was not ended. We were supposed to leave for home Saturday afternoon. Remember what the weather was like this past weekend? Right around the time of our planned departure, a tropical storm with ferocious winds was moving toward the New England coast from the South and another storm was about to batter the shore from the Atlantic, We were between them.

Should we go? Should we stay an extra day? We would be driving into the teeth of the ex-hurricane, even as we were fleeing the storm at our backs. And what about the ferry? We had hoped to sail home on the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry for that last lap, saving ourselves an extra hour-and-a-half drive. Would it be running? If so, did we want to be aboard in the midst of the tempest?

We loaded our luggage into the car, waved good-bye to the several people who told us they would be praying for us, and headed toward the Mass Pike.

To our great relief, the drive from Boston to Bridgeport, while sometimes in a mild rain and under black skies, was an easy and a fast one. The usual traffic on that route had been scared off the roads, the predicted thunder and lightning had not yet appeared, and when we called the ferry company en route, they told us they were still running “for now.”

We waited in the ferry loading area for 50 minutes as daylight ended, it began to pour, and until the next boat arrived. We were rewarded, after they unloaded, by being the first car to board. 

“Was the crossing difficult?” I nervously asked several crew members as I drove on. “It was rough!” came the answer. At least they didn’t sugar-coat, I thought.

The boat rocked, pitched from side-to-side, and anything not tied down crashed to the floor as we powered across the Sound. An occasional loud slam that shook the ferry when we hit a large wave, further reminded us what the water was like in the darkness. We were  ordered to sit; the food concession was closed. Some passengers covered their faces. And then it was over.

“Look, lights!” Someone yelled. We had crossed in under an hour, the fastest in my experience. The overhead door opened in front of us, and as the large ferry was artfully ushered to its dock, we marveled at the skill of the captain.

And then we were home. We slept well that night.

A market scene in Marrakesh, Morocco. Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A number of calamitous events have dominated the news lately: floods, fires, hurricanes, cyclones. They have caused thousands of deaths around the globe in places that are remote for us, and as such, inspire our compassion and even our financial aid, but they are not particularly part of us. We are not personally connected to them.

An exception for me was the recent earthquake and its devastation in Morocco. It breaks my heart to think of those welcoming people lying dead in the streets of the picturesque rural Berber villages, the quake stealing lives, destroying families and homes in its wake, continuing still, with its deadly aftershocks. At least 3000 dwellers are estimated to have died in the mountains southwest of Marrakesh. 

I visited Morocco some years ago and found it to be one of the more exotic and memorable of destinations: the calls to prayer five times a day, the women’s total cover-up abayas with only their eyes showing, the dramatic Atlas Mountains crowned with snow in the distance, the wonderful food, especially tagines or casseroles, the conspicuous patriarchy where only men sat in the coffee houses smoking and laughing, with few women on the street, the special sunlight, the bold colors and omnipresent scent of spices, the squares filled with vendors in hooded djellabas tending their stalls of foods and crafts. Also I saw water carriers, musicians, snake charmers, along with an acrobat and an animal trainer holding a colorful beast on a leash.

A special standout was the ancient city within Marrakesh, with its red walls constructed from the red sandstone and its Medina, a concentration of narrow alleyways, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The City was founded in 1070, right around the time the Normans were conquering England far to the North and west. Marrakesh grew rapidly and became a cultural, religious and trading center. Eventually sultans built fabulously decorated palaces, sumptuous mosques, citadels, casbahs and monuments, richly decorated with Moorish calligraphy, geometric shapes and ceramic tiles, some of which were visited before the quake. Who knows now what remains?

There is something about the sunlight in Marrakesh that has attracted artists. Colors seem more intense. Delacroix, Matisse and Dali, among many others, spent time there, painting behind the walls. Churchill loved to secret himself with his paints and brushes, creating what has been considered quite good art. One such painting, “Sunset over the Atlas Mountains,” was painted in La Mamounia, a beautiful hotel, two-centuries old but dramatically updated, with a 20-acre magnificent garden, where I, too, stayed with my tour. Is it still standing and intact? 

In Morocco, residents drink mint tea. It’s surprisingly refreshing from the heat during the warmer seasons, and it was a mark of their hospitality that a glass of the tea was offered as one entered a store. Our tour was led to a rug emporium, and sure enough, we were given glasses of mint tea. I accepted mine gratefully and sat on the sidelines as salesmen rolled out rugs for many of my companions. I did not need a rug, and so I watched as the scene unfolded.

“Be careful,” our tour guide whispered in my ear. “By the third mint tea you will buy a rug.”

I laughed. I kept accepting refills. We were there for perhaps an hour when the guide summoned us back to the bus. I was intrigued by the couple in front of me, who had been negotiating the price with the salesman for a dramatically colored large rug. Now they turned away as we all got up to file out. Panicked, the salesman called out after them the price they had been offering, but they didn’t turn back. 

Desperate, he saw me eyeing the rug. “Would you like to buy?” he entreated.

“How much?” I asked. He dropped the price even further.

I bought the rug. It sits on my living room floor, connecting me to Marrakesh, which will never again be the same.  

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

My favorite meal of the day is breakfast. Now I’m not one of those happy people who awaken with the dawn, but I will say that my first thought after I open my eyes is usually breakfast. It used to be that I had to get up and walk the dog, but that’s history. Now, as soon as sleep is over, I am hungry.

Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I don’t eat past dinner, and that my dinner usually ends by 7:00 p.m. or even earlier. That means I have been fasting for at least 12 hours, maybe even 14, so my lustful appetite would seem valid. I start thinking about what I am going to make for breakfast while I am brushing my teeth. It’s almost never what you might expect.

I guess the traditional American breakfast is eggs and toast, and maybe some sort of meat, like bacon or ham. Or people start the day with cold cereal and milk in a bowl or hot oatmeal, with maybe some fruit on top. That’s if they have time to fix breakfast. 

Many people just run through the kitchen, put on their jackets and rush out the door to work or to school. Perhaps they might snag a roll or a piece of fruit on the way out, maybe even a cup of coffee if they remembered to plug in the pot the night before and to push the button on the way to the bathroom in the morning. Incredible as it sounds to me, I even know some people who eat nothing until dinner—a big dinner that then stretches right up to bedtime.

So what do I eat?

I might eat an egg with some veggies thrown in if it’s a weekend and I have time to cook. I particularly like English muffins with Irish butter and one of any number of different jams I harbor in my fridge. More often I will heat up some green lentil pasta that I prepared in advance, top it with low sodium spaghetti sauce and a couple of spices, and munch away. (Don’t Yuk! Just try it.) The green lentil flour, which comes in a box, is loaded with good nutrients: 11 grams of fiber; 25 grams plant-based protein. My favorite shape for the flour is rotini; it makes me think I am eating wheat pasta. And by the way, it’s made in Italy.

Or, I might finish off the previous night’s leftovers. That could be anything from shrimp, which I love, or a kind of white flaky fish like branzino or salmon. Now you might be taken aback by the nonconformist choices I make in the morning, so I will explain. I have had the pleasure of traveling to a number of different countries and eating their traditional breakfasts, so I am not in the least put off by eating my leftover sushi that I brought in the previous night. It makes me think I am in Bali.

On rainy mornings, I have the urge for pancakes because my mother, when I was a child, often made silver dollar pancakes for breakfast when it rained, especially if it rained really hard. The wonderful smell would fill the kitchen and bring us quickly to the table. I never put butter or syrup or powdered sugar on them; they were just delicious straight from the pan. I confess, though, that now I hardly ever have time to make them. I’m too busy looking for an umbrella.

Instead I grab a smoothie, filled with frozen fruits and dark green leafy vegetables, like baby bok choy and baby kale, that is pre-made in the refrigerator and carry it to my office, where I sip it through a straw for a couple of hours.

Another unorthodox breakfast that I enjoy is a salad, one with cucumbers, tomatoes, pears and walnuts, perked up with a little balsamic vinegar. I don’t care for iceberg lettuce much, preferring romaine and mixed greens.

I have learned that only some 35 percent of Americans eat breakfast every morning. How about you?