Thursday, April 25, 2013

On Happiness....

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
- Dalai Lama

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Parking Lot Guy


This smiling face belongs to Parking Lot GuyParking Lot Guy is obviously not his real name but it's the way I've affectionately (or not-so-affectionately) referred to him over the years.  I have no idea what his name is, nor do I understand what he says half the time, but he's been parking my car for just under four years now. I think it was Oprah who once said that everyone has a story, that if you ask the right questions, eventually a really interesting story will emerge . I'm not entirely sure of whether that's true or not but I'd venture a guess and say that this guy, this "Parking Lot Guy" would probably have one should someone have the time it would take to probe around his life to find one. I never had that time. I was too busy doing the corporate thing, racing from home to work and back again, to take the time necessary to get to know him beyond the business at hand.  Namely, parking my car. 

Our relationship was confined to me handing him my keys, him asking what time I'd be back and me answering.  I'd pull up anytime between 7:30am and 9:00 am, gather my things, have the quick verbal exchange with Parking Lot Guy and off I would go.  In the early years, I'd show up at the predetermined time to collect my vehicle at the end of the day and, without fail, he didnt' have it ready.  As a busy Mom, I had places to be, soccer games to attend, homework to assist with and every minute counted!!  Inevitably he would throw a wrench in what I considered my well-oiled schedule and I'd be left standing there tapping my foot while he moved no less than 2-3 cars so I could get at mine.  I wasted no time-- I did what most people do when they are decidedly pissed off, I posted my grumblings to Facebook.  I was convinced that Parking Lot Guy was heading up a major conspiracy to sabotage my well-oiled schedule! I'll have NONE of THAT sir!!

Time passed and I mellowed or maybe Parking Lot Guy just realized I was there to stay and he'd better start getting a clue or I'd find another place to park, I don't know, but over time, whether or not my car was ready at what I considered to be the appropriate time seemed to matter less and less.  It was "small stuff" in the grand scheme and it mattered not.  My relationship with Parking Lot Guy matured and I found that I really kind of liked the guy even IF I couldn't understand a word he was saying.  So I started playfully picking on the guy.  I do that when I like people.  I give them a hard time, it's part of my charm (giggle).  The best part was that he would match wits with me and so began our daily jab-at-each-other ritual.  It was a blast and every single day of my corporate life started and ended with a smile because Parking Lot Guy and I would pick on each other until we laughed out loud!  I'd invite him and his family to every holiday event and he would promise to attend--I'd show up for work after the holiday and accuse him of ruining my event because he and his family never showed.  I'd cry FOUL!!  I'd rant and rave about how I sobbed for hours!!  Hahahaha... we'd laugh.  It's possible that he thought I'd lost my mind but it was all good natured fun.

This week has been, for the most part, no different.  I pull up--pick on him, he picks on me and off I go.  Yesterday I let him in on my little secret.  I've tendered my resignation and Friday is my last day.  He didn't miss a beat--You?  Resign?  Naaa, you get fired.  I know this, YOU definitely get fired.  I instantly lost it in a fit of giggles!!

Thank you Parking Lot Guy for helping me start every day with a smile!  You'll be missed but I'm absolutely certain that you will continue your mission and bring little bits of joy to others along your journey!! 


+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life

Slow Down, Lessons Learned from the Dog

Slow down, what's the rush? Take time to enjoy the flowers......


+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Barbados--Swimming With Sea Turtles

Photo courtesy of Leah Zammit

We arrived in Barbados at 8am. It was only partly sunny with some rain clouds in the distance which is unusual for Barbados. We'd chosen a cruise aboard a catamaran and swimming with giant sea turtles for today's adventure.

It was an exciting time and something we'd never have the chance to experience at home. It's one of the joys in life that you cherish forever--the first time your child experiences, well, anything. It could be ice cream, lemons or swimming with sea turtles. You love the look on their little faces, the joy, it's priceless. Today was going to be one of those days.

We disembarked quickly and efficiently and were corralled on to a waiting tour bus. The ride was short and bizarre. They drive on the left (wrong :)) side of the road and I just couldn't get used to it during the 5 minute ride.

We boarded the catamaran and we were off!

The water was turquoise, the air was warm and wet against my skin, I was content. I looked at the faces of my children knowing that every second would be a first for them.


The crew members went over the rules, passed out the snorkeling gear and before long we had anchored in a little peace of heaven. Dark clouds loomed but I was hopeful. The sun did shine down on our little adventure and I knew it would.

The "turtle whisperer", aka- the guy with the bag of fish, was swimming among us and he started tossing fish in the water. Before long a fellow passenger shouted "turtle!" and, in unison, the entire school of humans dove down for a peek.

My family and I dove down right along with them. My camera was poised and ready. I swam around making my way thru fellow turtle hunters.

I searched about to make sure my kids stayed in view-- they were all there. Suddenly my son started to wave and point frantically-- I turned in the direction he was pointing and a giant turtle came into view. I raised my camera and started snapping. It swam toward me and I reached out and touched its large, smooth shell.

It was so graceful as it moved effortlessly thru the water. What a treat!

Despite a few clouds and a brief shower, it was a fantastic adventure for the whole family!!!  I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to experience this with my children. 

See you next time!!!


+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life

Friday, April 19, 2013

Peace Interrupted

There will be no pictures today my friends.  I don't have the heart to give in to the sensationalism.  I had the opportunity, I assure you, as I was born with added appendages--my cameras-- of all shapes and sizes, but I just couldn't do it.

Yes, I drove into the city today.  Call it dedication, innocent oblivion or sheer stupidity but I drove into Boston to go to work today.  As I drove along route 1 my phone was buzzing off the wall with texts and phone messages from family, friends and loved ones inquiring as to my state of mind--"Are you crazy!!!???".  Honestly I was surpised.  I hadn't viewed a news program in the last 24 hours due, in large part, to the sleepover my kids had last night with a small group of friends.  My TV was consumed with age appropriate kiddy shows and terrorism was nowhere to be found in the Cucchiaro household. We opted for popcorn, smiles and laughter over fear, horror and utter disgust.

The mission of this blog is to share joy, to share peace and to offer gentle reminders that happiness is a conscious choice.  I have a virtual stockpile of appropriate offerings to set out for my loyal followers--some finished, some I'm still putting the finishing touches on but it's so very important to interrupt my typical fare and delve into the situation at hand.  It's still there..... the joy, the peace, the glimmer of hope, it's all still there.  It's still there amidst the terror and trauma, the fear and drama.  It does exist and flow right along with the vile, evil river that runs thru our Boston streets like blood streaming from open war wounds.  There is a twinkle, it's just a spark but it's there.  See the helping hands.  See the first responders that ran into the war zone, the police who evacuate the neighborhoods to keep our people safe.  Hear your phone ringing, your email zinging and the tweets coming in one after another asking if you are ok?  Are you safe?  Pay attention to who inquires about your well-being.  It's surprising.  Yes, your family and go-to, everyday friends will be there, right along side you making sure you are ok but it's the people that you don't talk to everyday, friends from long ago, your business associates, the neighbor up the street--it's people you may run into at the grocery store that shake your hand a little longer, pat you on the back and look into your eyes and say "stay safe", and really mean it, that will surprise you.  It's human decency at work.  It's loving your brother and your sister.  It's a community coming together to care for one another and to lend a helping hand, that's what you focus on.  Focus on the good.  Focus on the fact that this is a time when people are, or should be, setting down their petty grievances in favor of realizing that in the end sweating the small stuff just doesn't make sense.  The hope is there in front of you- grab it and grow it.  Remember, it's a choice.  People are rising to the occasion, don't let it go unnoticed. Celebrate it.

If I haven't seen you in a while,  know that I'm thinking of you.  If you need me, please, just call.  Hug your babies.  Let "I love you", "you're important", and "all is forgiven" flow a little freer today.  Find the peace and stay safe. You matter.


+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Adventures in Paradise

The flight to San Juan was uneventful but for the last horrific 5 minutes. I'm unsure if others on the flight felt the same way, but for me, it felt like I'd been stuffed into a washing machine in the midst of the spin cycle. Landing in a high wind situation is not desirable. You truly feel like a speck in the vast universe as you get tossed about and you wonder if you'll make it. We did and for that I was truly grateful. My co-travelers were equally as joyous as the cabin erupted in applause.

My family and I were excited! This was going to be the first cruise we'd been on with the kids. My husband and I had cruised before and we knew what to expect but the kids had no idea.

We quickly grabbed a cab from the airport and we were off! It was a quick 20 minute drive before the Celebrity Summit came into view. I stole a glance at the children as we pulled up closer and saw three jaws dropping. They were absolutely mesmerized by the enormity of the vessel we were about to board. Cruise ships are majestic and the Summit was no different.

We were greeted with champagne and quickly found our stateroom.

It was a corner unit, two separate rooms separated by sliding walls of teak and frosted glass panes. The beds were comfortable, the room was spacious and the view from our large veranda was spectacular! The ship had yet to set sail and already we felt like royalty!!


We quickly unpacked and set out to explore our floating city. There was something to see down every corridor and around every corner.



Casinos, cafes, shops and spas-- our every need had been anticipated.


The kids were wide-eyed as the many pools came into view. My little people just had to swim and they had to swim now!!

With towels slung over our shoulders and pina coladas in hand it was a great start to our adventures in paradise.

Stay tuned for island hopping adventures!!!

+My Baked Stuffed Life
+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Frog is My Favorite Word


I was in the middle of editing a new blog series and I decided to take a short break.  Well, actually, my 10lb master decided for me and off we went for our evening walk.  The streets of my small town are peaceful at night and an evening walk in the cool air with my little buddy is always my favorite time of day.  I breathed deeply, clearing my mind of the days clutter, and then I heard it... It was distant but it was distinct and I heard it.  It's time, they're here.  They were born today.   Today is April 16th, 2013 and tonight the peepers were born!

Country folk know what peepers are and they know what they mean.  Peepers are the tiny frogs that are the true harbingers of spring.  When the peepers are born they make a loud--very loud-- chirping sound that is melodic and song-like.  It's the song of spring and country folk know that soon the days and nights will be warmer.  It's Mother Nature's promise of rebirth, a time of new beginnings.  Cookouts with friends and family, beach days and baseball are not far behind.   Winter is finally over!!

Spring is a time when the joy of simple pleasures is plentiful.  It's everywhere you look, just reach out and grab a handful.  The sun shining on your face is warm and lazy, children giggle and laugh without a care, flowers bloom and it's all good.  It's a time of easy smiles, happiness and warmth of the heart.  It's promising and hopeful.  Enjoy it, find peace in it, revel in a life free of chaos if only for a moment.  Appreciate today and all it holds for you.  Breath, just breath, be still and "be" in it. 


Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Journey Continues, The Last Supper

March 16, 2013

I was massaged and manicured, pedicured and pampered.  I was perfectly relaxed and devoid of life's stressors.  It was the journey's last supper and I wanted it to be perfect.  I decided to step back in time and revisit an old watering hole, but first it was time to pay a visit to the resident watering hole, Fresh Salt, conveniently located on the first floor of Saybrook Point Inn and Marina

I remembered these two spirit-masters from my last visit.  It was wonderful to see some familiar faces!

They'd  renovated since my last visit and I loved the new seaside themed decor.  While the old decor was lovely, this new style was more comfortable.  With cozy tables for two or larger tables for those fun nights out with a crowd, Fresh Salt is perfect for any occasion.

Fresh Salt offers a full service restaurant and bar.  I was travelling alone so I chose a seat at the bar and sampled a refreshing cocktail and a few bar snacks before heading down the road for dinner.

There was a time in my life, before husband and children, when I lived a single and carefree life in a little town called Guilford. Guilford is situated along the southern coast of Connecticut and is a quick exit off of route 95.  Conveniently it was just a few exits up from Old Saybrook where I was staying.

Guilford is a very affluent community filled to the brim with old Connecticut money.  Honestly I don't know how I survived the year there.  While I pride myself in being comfortable amongst all walks of life, this particular type of lifestyle is a bit pretentious for my tastes.  It's not the most welcoming of communities but aesthetically speaking, it's absolutely gorgeous!!!  Guilford is all about the historic town green, old colonial New England style homes situated on vast acreage of crisp green lawn and quaint beaches along Long Island Sound. 

My life back then was comprised of long days in Hartford's corporate world, double sessions at the gym and, well, the occasional (well, more than occasional) night out for cocktails and dinner at the local haunt, The Stone House.  While Guilford was pretentious, The Stone House seemed to attract a more eclectic crowd.  It was comfortable, had great food and was reasonably priced.

After a quick snack and cocktail at Fresh Salt, I headed up the road to The Stone House for dinner.  The town hadn't changed much in the (gulp) 17 years since I'd lived there.  I found my way to the restaurant and was pleased to find that it hadn't changed much (from the outside anyway) either.  The decor inside was different, the layout had changed some but it was still welcoming.  I sat at the crowded bar and chatted with the bartender for a bit before deciding to eat there, at the bar, instead of in the main dining room.  Wise choice because look what I got to sink my teeth into..........

The all-knowing barkeep steered me in the direction of the swordfish club sandwich.  It was absolutely delicious and came packed with a punch from the wasabi mayonnaise.  The hand cut fries were crisp and the perfect accompaniment!! 

 I could have lingered there all night just chatting up the locals but after the relaxing day I'd had and the pleasingly full belly I'd just acquired, a night of chick flicks and a crackling fire were far more alluring......

Good night my friends.  Stay tuned as my journey comes to an end with good food and good friends.......

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Journey Continues, Nirvana

March 16, 2013

A restful sleep, a hearty breakfast and a beautiful day that holds the promise of even better things to come.  I was ready!  

While this entire journey has been about self care, today was about therapeutic self care.  The activities I had chosen were intended to relieve the stress of the year.  Today was about renewal and rejuvenation. 

When you arrive at Sanno's reception desk you are greeted warmly by sharply dressed staff.  After being sized for spa sandals staff will escort you to comfortably equipped dressing rooms where you are given thick robes and lockers for your clothes. 

While my appointments were scheduled for 11am, I like to arrive early to have some quiet time with a hot cup of tea.  Sanno offers a variety of healthy snacks as well. 

The relaxation rooms are warm and inviting and decorated in such a way as to support the serenity I look for in a spa experience.


 A soft, fluffy robe, a warm cup of tea and a book to lose myself in.  There's a fire burning in the fireplace, I choose a seat right up close.  Soft music dances in the air.  It's just perfect and it's my time to relax............

In what seems like only moments, my masseuse, Kevin,  appears in the room....

     "Michelle, it's time for your massage." 

I close my book and follow Kevin to one of the treatment rooms.  Aromatherapy is an important therapeutic part of the massage.  He explains my fragrance choices and what types of healing they will promote during massage.  They are all heavenly scents.  I choose one........

and my massage begins.........

A massage can be a very emotional experience as the masseuse literally kneads the tension out of the stress-gathering spots in your neck, shoulders and back.  I'd had Kevin before and he never disappoints.  He did a wonderful job and I was almost lifeless as he left the room.  When I emerged Kevin was there to greet me with a cool glass of lemon water and an explanation of how important hydration is after massage.  He escorted me back to the relaxation rooms where I would wait for my next experience to begin. 

"Michelle"" entered the relaxation room to collect me for my next experience in self care.  I'd chosen to have a facial.  Michelle used some lovely all-natural products, warm towels and steam.  It was a relaxing experience that nearly put me to sleep. 

 After hours of spa treatments with Kevin and Michelle I was completely spent.  While my experiences left me so relaxed that sleep could have been imminent, I was rejuvenated at the same time.  I left Sanno feeling fresh and ready for whatever adventure the night held for me.  It was just what the doctor ordered!!

Stay tuned as the journey continues...........

+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life