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The College Search is On!

When I’m stumped with what to blog about, I think about what 3 Olives & a Twist is all about…cocktail conversations! So, what is top of mind when I’m out and about these days? College!

I have a high school junior and, whether I’m ready or not or she’s ready or not, the college search is on. Our mailbox is inundated with college promotional material. I have not heard of half of these schools.

Most conversations about the college search are innocent enough. Have you gone on any tours yet? What does your child want to study? What part of the country do you see them in? My answers…yes, probably business, can I say my backyard?

The truth is I happily field these questions, but my prospective college student isn’t nearly as engaged as I am.

I am oddly excited about the prospect of my kids heading off to college. Between fits of panic, I dream about the wonderful opportunity both of my girls have ahead of them. The freedom, the change of scenery, the independence, the newness of it all is thrilling.

As a parent, I’m fascinated with the college years. I’ve already blogged about it four times.

  1. Advice for College Students
  2. Part 1 College Life – the parent perspective
  3. Part 2 College Life – the student perspective
  4. College in New York City

While I’ve happily held the reins of Julia’s college search, it’s time I hand them to her. I question whether she’ll grab hold, but following a conversation with one of the high school guidance counselors, I’m reassured to hear that it’s entirely normal for a high school junior to be tepid about their college search. I’m also happy that help is right around the corner. In April, the high school guidance department will begin their annual push to get juniors on track with their college search and I hope the spark I’ve been waiting to see will finally be ignited.


I love having someone else tell my child exactly what I’ve been telling them for months and suddenly seeing action.

Whatever it takes – I’m on board and I can’t wait for our next round of college tours. Back to the Big Apple. NYC here we come – again!

Repost-Floral Design Trends Boston Flower Show 2017

This year’s show is happening now – Boston Flower and Garden Show 2018.

**Below is my post from last year’s event**
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In another attempt to spend time in Boston, I attended the Boston Flower and Garden Show last week. I dragged Tony along with me, which was funny because he has absolutely no interest in botanicals of any kind. In fact, if I so much as reference a plant by its proper name (i.e. Forsythia) he rolls his eyes. He claims it’s pretentious to “name drop” plant names. Oh right, I should just say the yellow bush – my bad!

Regardless, we had a nice time in the city and I loved seeing the gorgeous displays. I was most interested to see the latest in floral design trends. However, I was also impressed with the landscape and stonework displays. Some were very elaborate.

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This was inside the Seaport World Trade Center


As we walked around, I looked to identify the top floral design trends and popular plants.


As far as plants go, it looks like succulents are still a favorite. They were abundant throughout the show. I imagine the easy care and hard to kill nature of these plants allows them to maintain their popularity. Bonsai creations were also quite attractive to the crowds.

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Succulents galore
Faux succulent arrangement
Faux succulent arrangement
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Bonsai table


While the plant and garden displays were eye-catching, my focus was on flowers. I was happy to discover the Floral Design Competition room tucked in the back of the convention hall. Here, I took my time and perused the colorful and creative arrangements. I looked for patterns in color, structure and flower choice. The trend that most intrigued me was the fusion of floral and sculpture – flowers combined with some kind of manmade structural component. I did find these creations interesting and dramatic, however I prefer the beauty of blooms to stand alone.

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It was nice to get a touch of spring at this event. Hopefully we, here in New England, won’t have to wait too much longer for the real thing.


Feeling blue? Go buy yourself a bunch of happy flowers…sniff and smile. They always do the trick for me.

Dairy Free Clam Chowder You Will Not Believe

dairy free clam chowder in bowl with Sriracha, parsley and lemon zest
Jen’s dairy free clam chowder dressed up with a touch of Sriracha, parsley and lemon zest

I could begin this post with some discussion of the weather but, like the gale force winds knocking down every tree in my town, I’m going to blow past that topic and talk about something more pleasant – food!

I’ve been wanting to post a recipe for some time, but the embarrassing truth is I haven’t made anything noteworthy in a long time. Thank God for good friends who are fabulous foodies and inspire me with delicacies dropped off at my doorstep that are so crazy good I had to share.

Jen Killilea is an amazing cook. Even more amazing is that she loves to share. One day she told me about a Paleo dairy free clam chowder she’d prepared. The secret…water soaked cashews!

I was skeptical. Jen generously dropped off a container full of her dairy free clam chowder and I was blown away. It was so thick, rich and creamy. I couldn’t believe that it was dairy free and that the creaminess and richness was derived from cashews. I nearly finished what Jen delivered straight out of the plastic container.


Look at how thick and creamy it looks!


If you are an ambitious home cook and appreciate dairy free options, this one is worth a try.

Another delicious dish from the Killilea kitchen. Thank you Jen!

*Jen’s tips: do not over soak the cashews and consider investing in a powerful blender like Jen’s Vitamix – worth it!

Dairy Free New England Clam Chowder (Paleo)

  • Cook Time:30m
  • Total Time:45m
  • Serves:4


  • 2 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 16 ounces frozen clam meat
  • 5 slices bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 4 carrots
  • 3 celery ribs
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 cups chicken stock, or fish stock
  • 5 cups filtered water
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • fish sauce, to taste


  1. Soak cashews in a bowl of filtered water for a few hours before you plan to use them.
  2. If you’re using frozen clams, skip to step 7.
  3. Rinse and scrub clams.
  4. Add clams to a large stock pot or wok. Cover with filtered water. Bring to a boil. Steam until clams just barely open, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Using tongs or slotted spoon, transfer clams to large bowl until they are cool enough to handle.
  6. Remove clams from shells by opening clams with a paring knife while holding over a bowl to catch juices. Sever the muscle from under the clam and remove it from the shell. Add the clams to the bowl with the clam juice. Discard the shells.
  7. Coarsely chop clams.
  8. Cook 5 slices of bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes on each side over medium heat. Chop into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.
  9. Finely chop the onion, carrots, and celery ribs.
  10. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, celery, and half the salt. Sauté for 7 minutes, stirring often. Then add carrots and thyme, and sauté for 5 more minutes.
  11. When the veggies are tender, add in the clams and a few tablespoons of their juice. Stir clams around with the veggies. Then add in the rest of the salt, garlic powder, and stock. Boil, then reduce to a simmer for 3 minutes.
  12. While the soup is simmering, drain the cashews, rinse well, and add them to a blender or food processor with filtered water. Blend on high for 30 seconds.
  13. Add the blended cashews to the pot with the soup. Stir and allow everything to come to a light simmer (not a boil) again. Cook for 5 minutes.
  14. Turn the soup down to very low and cover to allow soup to thicken for 30 minutes.
  15. Add pepper and fish sauce to taste, garnish with crumbled bacon, and serve hot.

Bon Appetite!

Still Wondering – Why Do I Live Here?

winter spring summer fall caricature art from Why Do I Live Here column in Merrimack Valley Magazine
Art by Ken Bonin from the March/April issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine


Following last week’s post bemoaning my Vacation Week Blues, the opportunity to escape to sunny Florida presented itself over the weekend and I took off running.

I know I’m not alone in my melancholy. Winter has again taken its toll and I don’t even think this year has been particularly bad. I gauge how bad or how good the weather is on Oscar’s willingness to go outside to pee. Let me tell you, his refusal rate has gone up exponentially this winter. The poor little guy can’t seem to get a break. If it’s not snowing, raining, misting or brutally cold, its been outrageously windy. Of all the inclement weather Oscar must endure, wind may be the worst of it in his book.

So as I enjoyed three lovely days away from the cold, I was reminded of the column I had written for Merrimack Valley Magazine back in 2016 – excerpt below. Interesting that the timing, right around the first of March, is the same.

The funny thing is, two years later, I’m feeling less and less like New England is where I ultimately belong. Now, I’m questioning more than ever, why do I live here? I’m not particularly in love with Florida, but I have to say the weather was gorgeous each and every day I was there.

I still think California would be the best place for me – I’d brave the earthquakes and wildfires. But could I ever really pack up and move to a warmer climate?

Could you?

Matters of Life & Beth – Why Do I Live Here?

Beth Daigle on March 1st, 2016

The following excerpt is from the March/April issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine.

“Why do I live here?” is often the first thing I ask myself when temperatures dip below 40 degrees and our region is pelted with snow, rain or sleet on more days than it seems the sun will ever shine.

This winter, more than any other, I couldn’t get this off my mind. It all started on Christmas Day 2015, when not a flake of snow had fallen and it was unseasonably warm at 62 degrees. I could not have been happier. I hosted 18 family members with windows wide open and guests gathered on my screened-in porch. The sun was shining, fresh air was flowing and everyone was exuding a joyousness that, I am confident, had as much to do with the gorgeous weather as it did with the culmination of weeks of holiday preparations. I did overhear a few conversations lamenting a white Christmas. “If only we had a light dusting of snow,” someone said. I scoffed and thought: who needs it? Yes, my ski fanatic friends, I know you do, but not I — and I know I’m not alone.

I haven’t always despised winter, but have come to with age. I’m also not a big fan of New England’s hot and humid summer months. That probably has something to do with my frizz-prone curly hair. Regardless, I like the air I breathe to be warm, dry and pleasantly between 70 and 75 degrees. More than that, I like the cheerful energy that accompanies such climates. I often suggest that the West Coast would be the perfect place for me. My local friends balk and say, “Oh sure, if you like earthquakes, mudslides and wildfires.”

 I realize there are positives and negatives no matter where you live. Read more…




Vacation Week Blues

I wish I were here!


The kids were on vacation last week. Vacation week is supposed to be fun, right? Well, this past week was just blah. To begin with we were stuck at home while my oldest played basketball all week.

I felt a bit trapped. This would have been a really nice time to get away. It hasn’t been a particularly bad winter, just long. My desire for a vacation week getaway was reinforced whenever I scrolled through Facebook. Seriously, why do I torture myself? About every third post featured a friend’s warm weather respite or some terrific tourist destination or a cool college tour. God, they all looked great!

Of course, the posts in between the vacation pics were even more troubling. Continued reactions of the horrific Florida school shooting filled my feed and it was gut-wrenching. Yet another tragic event that left me numb.

I had to step away. With nothing more exciting to do, I should have used the time to do some writing, get some pitches out the door or even get started on book two, but I was simply not motivated.

Not even the Olympics could hold my interest. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I have never followed the Olympic games. Maybe some figure skating here and there, but not even that this year.


So, this vacation week was a bust. I did manage to find a new show on Netflix worth binge-watching. Flaked with Will Arnett was really good. It brought me to Venice Beach, CA and while it wasn’t all sunshine and smiles, I thought it was a well-developed show with good characters and an irreverent comedic slant that was enjoyable to watch.

Onward and upward

It’s a new week and almost a new month. Spring, I’m ready for you.

How was your vacation week?