Debra Darvick

enhance your now in word and image

Head to Toe


Niçoise Salad: Simple and Delicious

I enjoyed my first Salade Niçoise in Cannes at Nellie’s table. Nellie was a legend in my childhood.  My grandparents first met her in Birmigham, AL in the late 40’s or early 50’s. Nellie, a former Miss Paris, had come to America as a coat model which somehow included a stop in Birmingham. On their first trip to Paris, my grandparents looked her up and took her to dinner. They learned more about this delightful Jewish Frenchwoman that evening. At the time she worked in a perfumier on the Place de la Concorde. Nellie married later in life.  “When she was young,” my grandfather told me, “the eligible Frenchmen were fighting. And after the war, well…” I never thought to ask how she, her mother and her brother survived the war in Paris, evading capture by the Nazis. Eventually Nellie met and married M. Grillot. By the time I met her, he was no longer alive.

When my dad was in the service in France he and my mom met Nellie. As the story goes, she babysat me so he and my mom could have a weekend away. More than two decades later, I was studying in France and made my way to Cannes where my mother told me Nellie had an aprtment. I had written to her at a Paris address but never heard back. It was late afternoon when my friend and I climbed the stairs to Nellie’s apartment and rang the bell.

It took more than a few minutes for her to make the time jump and understand that I was not my mother. That I was the “bébé” twenty years hence. She embraced me warmly, then my friend and insisted we stay for dinner and return for lunch the following afternoon. She was delightful. She was beautiful, smart and throughout the evening she would look at me and say as if not quite believing it, “Mais tu est le bébé?” Her chihuahua, Titine, had been trained to understand commands in Yiddish. Espé, her longtime housekeeper and companion served us my first Salade Niçoise. Here is a version I love to serve. And when I do, I think of this wonderful woman with delight. Here is Nellie’s sangria recipe saved from that visit in 1975.

photo credit: “French: Salade nicoise” by Katrin Gilger is licensed underCC BY-SA 2.0


From left to right: my grandmother Estelle, , my grandfather Abe, Nellie



HeartMath offers the possibility of neutralizing emotional reactions in the moment, reducing the impact of stress and recognizing what drains our energy and what renews it. I first heard about it a few years back during the Sedona Film Festival. I didn’t see the film but it stayed on my radar for a while.

From the HeartMath website: For more than 25 years, HeartMath Institute has been researching the heart-brain connection and learning how the heart influences our perceptions, emotions, intuition and health. HeartMath helps you tap into the power and intelligence of your heart – your heart’s intuition – which awakens you to the best version of yourself.

That last phrase “best version of yourself” seems more than a bit overused by now, but the rest of it continues to intrigue me. Could it be true that the heart is the real generator that speaks to the brain and not the other way around?  What is my heart’s intelligence and what does that even mean?

When a teacher in my yoga studio offered a four-week workshop      I signed up. Patti gave us a lot of information during our 90-minute Zoom session. What struck home was this sentence: “The mind has no power over the emotional domain of the body.” Read that again.  And again if you want.  The mind has no power over the emotional domain of the body.  To me that means that my brain can’t change my feelings. I can’t intellectiualize myself into or out of a mood or emotional state. As I understand it so far, I can develop a sense of what my energies are creating within me and how to modify/amplify them for my benefit.

“HeartMath gives us a choice point and techniques to go from depletion to renewal.” Energy in HeartMath lingo is not seen as good or bad but as replenishing or depleting. I loved that, taking the judgment out of what emotional/energetic state we are in. The ultimate goal is to be able to bring ourselves into a state of “coherence” in which the heart and the brain are “synchronous.”

After identifying situations that left us feeling depleted by worry, anger, frustration, resentment et al and how we dealt with them, we next listed situations that brought us feelings of ease. Our breath was focussed on the heart. This didn’t feel like meditating as much as it felt like getting to know a part of my body in a new way.  Lo and behold, a few breaths in there was sadness beneath the energy-depleters of worry and anxiety. That was a surprise and a useful piece of information.

Next we focussed on feeling the sensation of ease within our bodies. My energy renewing situations? Being in nature, playing with my granddaughters Olivia and Leah, painting!  The feelings I wrote down were free, excited, alive, present, adventurous. Focusing on those feelings while I breathed was certainly renewing.  And that was our homework for the week: With each breath, draw in the feeling of inner ease. No images, no words, simply shift attention to the area of my heart, breathe and notice.

Stay tuned!




Bon Appetit!

My step-mom is a fabulous cook. We visited recently and in addition to returning home with a very happy tummy, I am sharing below three great recipes that I used to make our first Shabbat dinner with friends since last year. Serendipitously, the beet soup matched the table settings, making the meal a feast for the eyes as well as body and soul. The Texas Caviar and the Beet Gazpacho are from my step-mom Lynn Berkowitz.

The menu:
Texas Caviar
Beet Gazpacho
Baked Tilapia with Spinach Pecan Pesto
Steamed broccoli
Trader Joe’s Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream
Ginger Snaps

Beet Gazpacho
5 medium fresh beets
(2 pounds w/o tops)
(Better idea is to use Trader Joe’s ready-cooked beets)
2 cups chicken or veggie stock (I used veggie)
16 ounces sour cream (I used Fage yogurt)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (ditto)
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp champagne vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cup medium dice English cucumber with seeds
scooped out.
1/2 cup chopped scallions, green and white parts
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill with extra for serving

If you’re not using Trader Joe’s beets, place fresh beets in large pot of boiling waterand cool uncovered for 30 – 40 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain cooking liquid through fine sieve and also set aside to cool. If you’re using Trader Joe’s beets, you won’t have much liquid so add more of your stock to make the full 1 1/2 cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the beet cooking liquid (or less beet liquid and your stock), the veggie/chickent stock, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Peel the cooled beets with a small paring life or rub the skin off with your hands. Cut the beets in a small to medium dice. (Or use a Vidalia Chop Wizard™ and be done easy peasy.)

Add the beets, cucumber, scallions and dill to the soup. Cover and chill for four hours or over night. Season to taste and serve with dollop of yogurt and an extra sprig of fresh dill.

This soup is so refreshing, I could eat it every day. And besides, what other pink food can you eat that is this healthy?

Texas Caviar
2 cans black-eyed peas
1 can white shoe peg corn, drained
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (I used red)
1/2 cup olive oil (less is OK)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I used a bit more)
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro (I despise cilantro. Didn’t use.)
2 Tbsp French’s honey mustard
1 tsp each salt and pepper
dash cayenne petter

Mix all ingredients and marinate in fridge 4 hours or overnight.
Lasts 1 week.
Serve with Frito Scoops. (I ditched the chips and served this as our salad.)

It’s Not Spring Without This Poem

Sharing a poem in the Head-to-Toe drawer of the curio cabinet might seem, well, curious. But Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay, has been a part of my and my children’s spring experience for decades. I would recite it to them each spring when that delicious shade of newborn green appeared on winter-weary branches. Over the years, the poem has become a talisman of sorts, reminding us of Nature’s cycles and the gift of noticing them. In a way, the poem is a perfect specimen to share here because it indeed touches all parts of us: mind, heart, soul.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

photo courtesy of Debra Darvick

Drink Up!

My dad sent me the following from Arnaldo Liechtenstein, a physician at the University of Sao Paolo. It’s something we all know and do with varying degrees of success. I didn’t realize that the sense of thirst diminishes by age 60. Sheesh. A word to the wise—stay well-watered.

“Whenever I teach clinical medicine to students in the fourth year of medicine, I ask the following question:
What are the causes of mental confusion in the elderly?
Some offer: “Tumors in the head”.  I answer: No!
Others suggest: “Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s”.  I answer again: No!
With each rejection of their answers, their responses dry up.

They are even more open-mouthed when I list the three most common causes [of mental confusion]: uncontrolled diabetes, urinary infections, dehydration.
It may sound like a joke, but it isn’t.  People over 60 generally stop feeling thirsty and consequently stop drinking fluids.
When no one is around to remind them to drink fluids, they quickly dehydrate.  Dehydration is severe and affects the entire body  It may cause abrupt mental confusion, a drop in blood pressure, increased heart palpitations, angina (chest pain), coma and even death. But there are more complications.  Although they are dehydrated, they don’t feel like drinking water, because their internal balance mechanisms don’t work very well.

People over 60 have a lower water reserve. This is part of the natural aging process. People over 60 years old dehydrate easily, not only because they have a smaller water supply, but also because they do not feel the lack of water in the body. Although people over 60 may look healthy, the performance of reactions and chemical functions can damage their entire body.

So here are two alerts:
1) Get into the habit of drinking liquids.  Liquids include water, juices, teas, coconut water, milk, soups, and water-rich fruits, such as watermelon, melon, peaches and pineapple;  Oranges and tangerines also work.  The important thing is that, every two hours, you must drink some liquid.  Remember this!

2) Alert for family members: constantly offer fluids to people over 60.  At the same time, observe them. If you realize that they are rejecting liquids and, from one day to the next, they are irritable, breathless or display a lack of attention, these are almost certainly recurrent symptoms of dehydration.”


Now, go get a glass of water.  Drink up!


How to Meditate


This is the most compassionate and most forgiving meditation instruction I have ever received:

Catch your mind wandering.
Bring your attention back to the breath.
Catch your mind wandering.
Bring your attention back to the breath.
Catch your mind wandering.
Bring your attention back to the breath.

This is most challenging  meditation instruction I have ever received:

Show up every day. 
Yes, every day.
Even if it’s just for five minutes.
Show up every day.

They call it meditation practice because that’s exactly what it. Like any practice, the more you do it the more familiar it becomes. The more familiar it becomes the more eager you are to practice. And so on.


photo courtesty of Martin Darvick.