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Complicated Relationships

16 Nov

I was honored to be the co-chair, with Sandi Rosen (left), at the recent Mandel JCC Sisterhood Brunch at Temple Emanu-El in Palm Beach. The event featured Sally Koslow (middle), author of The Real Mrs. Tobias.

The novel is about multi-generational mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws and the many complicated relationships within the families. Need I say more. . . the mother-in-laws are therapists. Think Nora Eprhon because some of the scenes are laugh-out-loud funny but yet poignant at times. This fast-paced read resonates with many people. Don’t we all have some complicated relationships?

The next event, if you are in the area, is December 15 with authors Alyson Richman and Shaunna Edwards, who wrote The Thread Collectors. For more information, click here.

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Thumbs Up for Denise Lutz

30 Oct

I wrote this article about Denise Lutz for the November issue of Downtown NewsMagazine, Birmingham, Michigan.

The saying “Jack of all trades, master of none,” applies to many individuals but not to former Detroiter Denise Lutz. Lutz excels at everything. Friends describe her as a Renaissance woman for she is a photographer, equestrian, philanthropist, pilot, animal advocate and car aficionado.

And wait. . .there’s more. She just added published author to this lofty list. Lutz recently returned to her hometown to celebrate her first novel, Thumbs. She debuted the novel along with a landscape photography exhibit at the Robert Kidd Gallery in downtown Birmingham. Lutz’s “Heaven on Earth” exhibit featured 20 signed limited-edition photographs shot in Michigan, Kentucky and Switzerland. Always charity minded, she donated the proceeds of the art sale to local photojournalist Linda Solomon’s nonprofit, Pictures of Hope, helping children express their thoughts with a camera.

According to Lutz, Birmingham was the perfect venue for this celebration. “Detroit is my roots, and I used to work around the corner from the gallery,” she said.

Although she currently lives in Kentucky on historic Glen Lake Farm, Motown is part of her soul. Lutz grew up on the tree-lined streets of Lathrup Village with extended family nearby. Her idyllic childhood included summers Up North in a log cabin on a lake enjoying all sorts of outdoor activities, including horseback riding. Her interest in aviation began at an early age as her dad would fly the family to the cabin. After graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, she entered the advertising world, working local stalwarts W.B. Doner and J.Walter Thompson, becoming the first female art director in Detroit. Then, when she married auto executive Bob Lutz, of GM and Ford fame, she became the quintessential corporate wife wearing ballgowns, meeting dignitaries and fundraising for nonprofits.

After her divorce from Lutz, she wanted a different locale and decided to move to Kentucky to be closer to family, create her horse farm and begin a new life chapter.

“I decided I have a lot to say and share, and I knew how to write a bit, having been in advertising,” she said.

She began writing nonfiction with a partner and decided to break out on her own with a novel. A book agent questioned her fiction writing skills. Never shying away from a challenge, Lutz attended writing seminars in New York and programs at the Carnegie Center for Literacy in Lexington.

“I knew I loved outrageous, quirky characters,” she said. Thumbs, a comic thriller, tells the story of sweet Catharine, married to the inventor of sexting, who blackmails personnel. All goes awry with laugh-aloud antics when Catherine becomes an assassin’s bait.

“Denise Lutz has the lightning-fast mind, razor-sharp wit and fabulously dark sense of humor that would make masters of the craft from Hitchcock to Hiaasen giggle admirably,” said Erin Chandler, of Rabbit House Press, the book’s publisher.

This is certainly a debut novel as Lutz has many plot lines from her professional and personal life and looks forward to more publications. She describes herself as independent, appreciative and someone who listens to her own voice.

“I am curious and grateful for the blessings and strengths that I have, and for the beauty in life, the good friends, family and faith that sustain us through those events we cannot control.”

Story: Carla Schwartz

Photo: Laurie Tennent

Fashionista Friends and Authors

18 Oct

Neiman Marcus, in Troy, Michigan, recently hosted a fashionable event with three Detroit icons — Brenda Rosenberg (left), Suzy Farbman (middle) and Linda Solomon. Not only are these women known for their stylish looks, but they are authors of dynamic books. They are also friends, and I’m proud to say that they are my friends too.

When I wrote about Brenda previously in the former magazine Style, I described her as bold, bodacious and beautiful. Well, she’s so much more. For the past several years, she has been on a journey of peacemaking, bringing together many ethnic and religious groups. Now, she is the author of Charmed, a memoir told through her charm bracelet. Brenda will be honored on Nov. 10 at the Trade Secrets event at the Detroit Marriott Troy.

Suzy Farbman is a past honoree of Trade Secrets, featured previously on Motown Savvy. She is an award-winning journalist and compelling story teller. She has covered design for national and Detroit publications. Her latest book, Detroit’s Cass Corridor & Beyond, is part memoir and part art book. Farbman includes personal photos of her homes in Franklin, Michigan and Sarasota Florida with photographs by Beth Singer.

In welcoming readers to her book, Suzy writes: “By opening our doors and telling our story in these pages through vivid images and anecdotes, I am sending a personal love letter to each reader. As you turn these pages, I invite you to celebrate with me the love of family, the joys of collecting, the resilience of one of the world’s great cities, and the brilliant diversity of Detroit’s artists.”

Linda Solomon is an award-winning photojournalist nationally and locally. I featured her on Motown Savvy when her book on Aretha Franklin the Queen Next Door was first published. As I posted before, Linda developed a trusted relationship with Franklin and documented her career. From Christmas parties to birthday bashes to recording sessions, this is a personal portrait of a Motown legend. Yes, the Pink Cadillac is prominent.

Linda’s passion is her Pictures of Hope project, helping children in need express their thoughts with a camera.

As you can see, these three fashionable women are extraordinary!

Success in a Nutshell

28 Sep

Here’s an article that I wrote for the Downtown NewsMagazine, Birmingham. It’s on Dr. Barry Franklin, who offers practical advice for any graduating student or entry-level professional in his new book. I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Franklin at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, Michigan. You can go directly to the site https://www.downtownpublications.com/single-post/barry-a-franklin or read it here.

Barry A. Franklin, Ph.D, helps patients with heart health as director of preventative cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Health, Royal Oak, and is the author of numerous academic papers and books. His recent publication is the book GPS for Success. Yet instead of reversing heart disease in this endeavor, he empowers a new mindset. He navigates the reader on a road to success by offering attainable strategies. His passion is studying successful people, which he acknowledges in this unique resource book for entry-level professionals and aspiring leaders.

His passionate journey began decades ago by setting his own goals. As a college student and gymnast at Kent State University, he mastered an iron cross maneuver on the still rings, which requires tremendous strength and perseverance. He then set his sights on graduate schools – University of Michigan and Penn State. He wrote his first book in 1984, and began envisioning himself as president of national organizations, which he achieved. While aiding heart patients during the day, at night he immersed himself in studying the habits of successful people and reading dozens of self-help books. Some of his favorites are Rhonda Bryne’s The Secret and The Success Principles by Jack Canfield.

“These books had a profound impact on me,” says Franklin. Canfield’s book particularly was a springboard for Franklin’s thinking about writing his own formula.

Franklin believes GPS for Success is distinctive because it’s an aggregate guide for success. “It’s one-stop shopping and the most comprehensive book on this topic ever written,” he explains.

Franklin observed a missing link in college education. “Students are not prepared adequately for the real world,” he explains. Soft skills like interactions with people, collaborations, accepting criticism, and active listening are a few examples of what’s not taught in basic curriculum. In that vein, in 2012, he developed a college course, “Success Strategies,” and began teaching it at Central Michigan University (CMU).

“Having witnessed, firsthand, Dr. Franklin’s presentation of this material to our students, I’m delighted that he has chronicled his life’s experiences and career advice into this invaluable resource,” says Thomas Masterson, dean of the Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions at CMU. “It’s a must read for all students as it will help them succeed, not only in the classroom, but more importantly in life.”

Franklin taught the one credit course for five years to rave reviews and students began asking for a textbook.

GPS for Success is slated to be used as a textbook in professional advancement courses at Penn State University and the University of Michigan. This book took more than three years to complete, with many starts and stops. During COVID, Franklin sheltered in his home with his wife and finished the book. He hopes it will be his legacy, because he reveals his personal “ultimate success” is making a difference in young people’s lives.

There is an extensive index at the end of the book with additional references, as well as an appendix of inspiring quotes from Albert Einstein to J.K Rowling to Magic Johnson. Franklin’s favorite quote is from a bumper sticker – “You are your own fortune cookie.”

Perhaps the most illuminating quote is from Franklin himself. “I wrote this book to help young people entering the work force, to live the life that they imagine.”

Photo by Mackenzie O’Brien

Meet Chef Michelle Bernstein, a Jewish Latino Restauranteur with an Eclectic Cooking Style

8 Jul

By Carla Schwartz

 This an article that appeared in The Detroit Jewish News on July 8, 2022.

Arroz con Pollo
Arroz con Pollo. (Michael Pisarri)

Chef Michelle Bernstein mixes Miami heat, Latin spices and a Jewish vibe for flavorful recipes. Her personality is like her cooking — salty, spicy and, oh, so inviting. This James Beard Award and Iron Chef America winner is a chef, restauranteur, caterer and television persona juggling multiple projects with her husband and business partner, David Martinez. Bernstein spoke at a 2022 spring Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches, where she discussed her background, journey into cuisine and her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated profession. In 2005, she received the Glass Ceiling Award from the Jewish Museum of Florida-Florida International University.

Her parents met in Uruguay where both were visiting family who escaped the Holocaust. Her mom is a Cohan from Argentina, while her dad, with Eastern European roots, hails from Minneapolis. She was raised in a Jewish/Latino household. 

Michelle Bernstein

Early on in her career, people asked, “How can someone be Jewish and talk about Latin culture?” Years ago, she needed to explain that someone can be both Jewish and born in South America. Today, as a famous chef she doesn’t need to explain herself as she is known for world-class eclectic cooking. 

Before the kitchen was her mainstay, the stage was her arena. Bernstein trained as a ballerina but pivoted to cooking after an injury. The practice and focus of dance prepared her for the culinary world. 

“The ability and strength to stand for 12-14 hours a day, carry large loads and have an economy of movement needed to get things done in small spaces and in quick times” was the perfect discipline, she says.

Bernstein entered the culinary world three decades ago, when she was the only female in the room. She was ridiculed for being “too small, too Jewish and too feminine.” The verbal abuse and sexual harassment made her work harder and wear her lipstick proudly. One day, she sliced her finger in the kitchen and needed 20 stitches. The crew bet she would not return. She returned and said, “One day you will all work for me.” And that was exactly the case. 

Dishes with Latin Flair

Today, she owns and operates a thriving catering business and several restaurants, all Miami-based. In 2019, she opened Café La Trova on Calle Ocho, which is in the heart of Miami’s Cuban district. Bernstein and her husband are also partners in the internationally recognized Miami Beach cocktail bar Sweet Liberty. They also opened La Cañita in Bayside, and soon she will open Sra. Martinez in Coral Gables, both in the greater Miami area.

“I feel my life (along with a lot of other people I know) can be told through food,” Bernstein says. 

One example is her extraordinary “The Story of My Life Chicken Soup.” Dill, chayote, chili, cilantro and corn create a unique twist on Bernstein’s version of the classic chicken soup recipe. Because her mom always used Streit’s matzah ball mix for the base, she sometimes uses that, too. 

“It’s a soup that takes some skill to make great — it’s gelatinous and delicate,” she says, adding that her signature recipe includes flavors and ingredients indigenous to Miami and other Latin countries. She also mentions the healing powers of chicken soup.

Her Latin flair is evident in another Jewish dish — brisket. She often serves it with chimichurri sauce. In her cookbook Cuisine à Latina, she also includes a mustard-crusted brisket recipe and an Israeli couscous dish. One of her favorite recipes is her mom’s arroz con pollo (chicken with rice). In this recipe, she reveals the trick of cooking rice in a large quantity of stock and then adding beer! She describes how the beer plumps the grains and acts like a sauce. The arroz con pollo uses sazon completa (complete seasoning), which is a blend of salt, pepper, cumin and other spices that can be found in most Latin grocery stores or in the international aisle of a supermarket.

What does she cook or cater for Friday night Shabbat dinner? She prepares simple food like roast chicken, latkes and a whole fish with fennel. Bernstein describes her palette as delicate even though she is of Latin descent. Her favorite herbs are tarragon, dill, parsley and mint and, as for spices, she prefers ground fennel and flavorful chili.

“I cook everything and anything; however, I begin with a sensibility that is overall Eastern European,” she explains.

Her nickname is Michy, which is what her family calls her. On Instagram, she’s chefmichy. “The way you cook is where you have been and the cultures you have been exposed to, which all combines into on big mishmash.”  

Carla Schwartz is the former editor of Style magazine, a former Jewish News columnist, community relations consultant and blogger. Visit her blog at motownsavvy.com

The Story of My Life Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken, about 4 pounds, skinned, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 6 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs and 2 breasts)
  • 2 cups Spanish onion, minced
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 cup finely diced carrots
  • 1 bay leaf
  • About 4 quarts Chicken Stock
  • 2 cups ¼-inch diced chayote (can be replaced by pumpkin, calabaza or jicama)
  • 2 cups peeled sweet potato, ¼-inch diced (from about 1 large potato)
  • 2 medium ears of corn, cut into ¼-inch rounds
  • ½ cup dill leaves
  • 1 serrano chili, sliced very thinly
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 lime, quartered or cut into sixths (1 wedge per person)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 8 ounces egg noodles

Directions

Put the chicken, onion, celery, carrots and bay leaf in a large stockpot and cover with cold chicken broth or cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, moist and tender, about 1 hour. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Add the chayote, sweet potato, corn, dill, and chili to the pot. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked but with a little crunch, about 20 minutes.

Shred the cooled chicken meat by hand and return it to the pot. Stir in the egg noodles and cilantro and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the noodles are tender. Season with salt and pepper. 

Ladle the soup into 4 to 6 bowls, making sure to get a good mix of vegetables in each bowl. Serve with a wedge of lime.

Serves 4 to 6.

Arroz con Pollo:

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs

Marinade for chicken:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • Juice of 1 lime or 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • ¼ tsp. salt and black pepper

Directions

Combine all ingredients and marinate for 2-3 hours.

Heat a Dutch oven or a large deep skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the chicken thighs (you don’t need any oil as the marinade has enough oil) and cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove and set aside at room temperature until cooking the rice.

Arroz:

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup Spanish onion, tiny diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, tiny diced (no seeds)
  • 1 green bell pepper, tiny diced (no seeds)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 2 cups Valencia rice (Spanish short-grain)
  • 1/₃ cup dry white wine
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 heaping tsp. saffron threads steeped in 2 Tbsp. boiling water for 5 minutes (don’t drain)
  • 1 Tbsp. of sazon completa, optional½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of your favorite pilsner — or pale-ale-style beer
  • 1 cup green olives, preferably stuffed with pimientos (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tsp. of your favorite hot sauce (I like Cholula’s)

Directions

Heat the oil in a large, deep, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, peppers and cook, stirring until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice to the pan, stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the stock, wine, butter, saffron liquid, sazon (if using), cumin and turmeric into the pan. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring to coat the other ingredients with the paste, for 3-4 minutes.

Add the garlic, parsley, cilantro and 1 cup of the beer. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a low simmer and add the olives, peas and hot sauce. Place the reserved chicken thighs and any juice that has collected on its dish into the rice. Cover for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, uncover the pan and add the remaining beer to the skillet. Don’t stir! Cover again and cook until the beer is substantially absorbed by the rice and the chicken should be completely cooked through, about 10 more minutes.

Uncover the skillet and let simmer until the liquid is almost completely reduced, about 5 minutes. Garnish with Spanish olives and serve. 

A Trip to Remember

5 May

My first trip, after not travelling since the pandemic, was to the country of Jordan. I chose this country because my family relocated there. I hardly knew anything about Jordan, and I was stunned to find a beautiful country, wonderful people, fabulous food and exhilarating sites. We stayed in Amman and visited Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and Aqaba.

Amman is a typical bustling, major city except for the archaeological site the Citadel perched on a hill. I did not visit it personally, but it was beautiful to see from afar.

A trip to Jordan must include the ancient city of Petra. Although the architecture seems to be Greek and Roman inspired, Petra was built by the Nabateans, an Arab Bedouin tribe. The Romans eventually ruled the city. When you arrive to Petra, the entrance is breathtaking (see photo below).

My family rode on a donkey with a Bedouin guide (below), while I zigzagged through the mountains on a golf cart before I walked the open terrain. For an interesting historical article about the area, read this article from the History channel.

Wadi Rum is the desert with rich, orange sand. The classic movie Lawrence of Arabia was filmed there. We took an all-terrain vehicle on bumpy ride with the backdrop of a mountainous view worthy of a picture postcard. Then we arrived at geodeisic domes (see below) or bubble tents. I guess you can see we went glamping. The arches, mountains and cliffs were breathtaking. Sleeping under the stars was beautiful.

The resort towns in Jordan are luxurious. We stayed in Aqaba with a view of the Red Sea. Then it was off to the Dead Sea, to swim and spa at at a luxury hotel. We treated ourselves to mud baths and sea salts. Please see a photo of my son below. After our spa treatment, my son described us as “glowing.” The photo below does not do it justice as I think we looked washed out!

Even if we did not sparkle, in my opinion, the trip and the adventure did!

Detroit: Fashion Central

27 Feb

My friend and colleague, Chuck Bennett (above), celebrated Black History Month with a presentation of Detroit designers on Fox2Detroit. Some of the designers include: FlyTy, Donovan Dewberry, and William Palmer Homme.

The New York Times recognizes the fashion acumen of Motown. Jessica Iredale wrote about it in the article “Could Detroit be the Next Fashion City,?” Iredale showcases some happenings in Detroit and mentions fashion icons. Of course, there’s Linda Dresner, who ran boutiques in Birmingham, Michigan and New York and promoted designers that become famous. I’ve featured her on my blog here. Iredale talks about how Gucci collaborated with the Detroit Vs. Everybody collection.

Motown is home to many fashion designers including: Tracy Reese, Anna Sui, John Varvatos and the upcoming fashion phenom Carter Altman. Detroiters have always known about Carhartt, based in Dearborn, Michigan since 1889.

If you’re not sure that Detroit is a fashion city, check out Detroit Sewn. Or ask my buddy Chuck Bennett. He can be found on Facebook, Instagram (chuck_bennett) or Mr. ChuckBennett on Twitter.

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Pampering with Heart & Soul

14 Feb

Simply from the Heart is a non-profit foundation that brings complimentary bedside, beauty pampering to patients who are terminally ill or undergoing prolonged hospital stays. Founder Jackelyn Kastanis started the the foundation after the death of her childhood friend Brooke Bolley. Kastasnis was able to lift Booke’s spirit with a glam makeover. The addition of lipstick, hair styling, a coat of nail polished and mini-massages added pleasure and color.

Today Simply from the Heart has served more than 7,000 patients since its inception in 2014. The “Glam Squad,” a group of volunteers, visits the patients with pampering services and then leaves a “Glam Box” filled with more than 25 beauty products.

“We bring a distraction from the treatment and diagnosis and provide human connection and interaction.” says Kastanis.

I personally know Jackelyn Kastanis, and she is a dynamic, passionate founder with a huge heart! And, they service Beaumont Children’s Hospital in Michigan where I was the former director of community affairs for the hospital system.

You can touch the lives of ill children by participating in the upcoming Night of Giving event on Friday, February 18th at 6:30pm located at Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa in The Royal Poinciana Plaza. https://e.givesmart.com/events/p7d/

If you don’t live in the Palm Beach area, you can donate or get involved. Visit the link https://sftheart.org/

Take an Enjoyable Detour

10 Dec

Four of the five writer, (left to right): Marion Phillips, Rosemary Gensler, Nancy Sims and Ellyn Horn Zarek

Make a sharp right turn and get lost in the pages of the novel Detours by five authors. Yes, five–Rosemary Gensler, Phyllis Hoffman, Marion Phillips, Nancy Sims and Ellyn Horn Zarek,

The authors call themselves The Inkslingers as they weaved a story of sisterhood and bonding. Their real-life experience of meeting at a writing workshop became the setting for their book. The five authors collaborated over coffee, jellybeans and other delectable treats.

The women recently spoke at the Mandel JCC in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. This unique collaboration was a labor of love. The authors reminded the audience that the word labor is inside collaboration.

So, start the journey. . .

Oh Savannah

4 Nov

I just returned from Savannah, and I was enthralled with the city. The cultural and historical sites are plentiful. The town squares with the beautiful trees and all the flora and fauna are breathtaking.

As a savvy shopper, I loved the local stores — particularly, Satchel, Savannah Bee Company, Savannah Coffee Roasters and E. Shaver Booksellers.

Satchel is a favorite local store.

Satchel was established in 2006 by Elizabeth Seeger. It’s a hybrid store because it’s part studio and part retail. You can actually watch the leather being cut (see above). What’s great about the handbag is the customization from the color to the leather to the lining to size of the strap.

Next on the shopping trip was the Savannah Bee Company. There is an array of specialty honey from orange blossom to lavender and so much more. I purchased whipped honey with chocolate. (Yes, chocolate!) The Savannah Bee Company made the 2021 list of Oprah’s Favorite Things.

With all the shopping, the perfect caffeine boost is at Savannah Coffee Roasters. It’s a lovely, casual place to dine as well.

Before I went to Savannah, I read Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan. This historical fiction book about a shipwreck was interesting. I learned the saying “Keeping up with the Joneses” is from Savannah. I went to Jones Street where the homes were beautiful. In the book’s acknowledgements the author mentions the bookstore E. Shaver. So, I went there and was greeted by the booksellers and the cats that live there.

Several years ago I read the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, a non-fiction book about a murder which was made into a movie.

I highly recommend Savannah as a place to visit.

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