Comfort Food

Pasta, Prosciutto and Peas

I’ve saved the best for last.  This is one of my most cherished recipes, and I make it over and over again for my kids and friends.  I had this for the first time at Tre Vigne in St. Helena when I was 24 years old and on my first trip to the Napa Valley.

Michael Chiarello, now a very famous chef, vintner, TV host and sustainable farmer with his own restaurant, Bottega in Yountville, was the chef.  I still love this restaurant and had lunch there on my birthday this year (December, 2015).

Back then this entrée cost only $8, and we had lunch on the beautiful Tra Vigne patio.  I was with my sister, Sandra Sheehan and my Auntie Deborah. It was a hot summer day and there is nowhere on earth more pleasant than the Napa Valley in the heart of the wine country in the summer. What bliss. I returned many times and I always ordered this dish until it was taken off the menu a few years ago, but I highly recommend the Maltagliati Verde (herb infused pasta with slow cooked lamb) which we had on my last visit.

After the kids were born, I couldn’t make it to Tra Vigne as often, so I taught myself how to make Michael’s recipe at home, and my kids love it too. It’s perfect in a pinch when you find yourself with 12 unexpected and very hungry kids for dinner (double the recipe below), add a salad and some crunchy bread.

As for Michael Chiarello, he can still be found at the stove and was gracious enough to join us (on the patio of course) one afternoon at his restaurant Bottega for lunch.  He will forever remain one of my favorite chefs and inspirations.

Thank you Michael Chiarello!


▪ 1 lb of pasta

▪ 2 tablespoons of olive oil

▪ ½ lb chopped prosciutto, pancetta or bacon (shown)

▪ 2 cloves of garlic, chopped

▪ 1 cup of peas, fresh or frozen

▪ ½ stick of unsalted butter

▪ ½ cup of heavy whipping cream

▪ Parmesan cheese, as needed


Boil the pasta, as per the package directions, and then begin making the sauce.

Heat a large sauce pan or dutch oven to medium heat.  Once hot, add the olive oil, then the chopped prosciutto and garlic. Brown lightly.  When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the ham and garlic mixture.  Then, add the butter and cream and reduce heat to low. Stir gently until the ingredients are well combined.  Add the cream, fresh grated parmesan cheese, stir well and reduce for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately in a warm bowls with freshly grated Parmesan.


Sydney on Motherhood – Misdiagnosed

As the year comes to a close I have taken time to look at my analytics and discovered some of my most popular posts are those that touch on the topic of motherhood, so I wanted to write something on this topic to close the year.  2015 has been one of the most spectacular for me.  I have learned so much and can finally see myself becoming the person I could have only dreamed of being.  It has been a long journey with many twists and turns along the way, but I am thankful for my experiences, good and bad, as they have shaped the person I am today.



Ten years ago I was misdiagnosed with a fatal lung disease. My children were just four and six. I was given the news the day before my daughter started first grade. Nothing could have been more dramatic for a mother. I wore dark glasses and cried behind them on the first day of school. Luckily, all the other mothers and kids were crying too and no one noticed.

Huge epiphanies arose from the news. Everything I had valued up to this point was worthless. I was willing to give up everything in the world just to watch my children grow up. It took several months to go from, “get your affairs in order, Sydney” to “do you know how incredibly lucky you are?”

From that day forward I have really lived. When I was sick, really sick, I would lie in bed and wish that I was well enough to sit in my backyard and have a glass of wine. That was all I wanted to do. As time healed me (and an acupuncturist in Berkeley), I started to plot my future. I decided that I wanted to buy a house in Tahoe and be a ski instructor. I had always wanted to do that, but had thought that ship had sailed, but life sometimes hands us a second chance. So I took it and made it happen. I had always thought I would be a writer and I started to write. I had always wanted my children to have a dog, a black dog like I had growing up, so along came Polly.

I’ve continued to live my life through the lens that our days really are numbered and what we do with them matters greatly.  As I move through each day I am acutely aware that I am a reluctant role model for my daughters and all of the extraordinary young people I come into contact with.    I know I must do my best to be my best self.

I read once that the most important thing that I can teach my children is to tolerate anxiety, and I believe this is the single most important thing all of us can do as we attempt to live fearlessly.  Courage is necessary to attain our goals and dreams no matter what they are.   I wrote about this theme in my blog post on December 8th, Pacific Cup Race to Hawaii, and as out of my comfort zone as I am casting off from San Francisco to Hawaii – I am going to be fearless and do it.

When you are told you’re lucky to have six months to live, and you survive that, nothing else really bothers you that much.

Because of my illness, I learned that the simple things are the most important; the people we love, good books, cotton sheets, hot coffee, flowers in a vase, a loyal dog and of course, a glass of wine in the backyard watching my daughters turn cartwheels in the green grass.  These are things that money can not buy.  Be brave my friends, and wise with what you value, and with what you teach your children to cherish.







Pacific Cup Race to Hawaii

The Santa Cruz 27

Pacific Cup Race to Hawaii -The Hero’s Journey

Over the last year I have become aware of what is called the Hero’s Journey.  For those who haven’t heard of it, the Hero’s Journey is a pattern of narrative that was defined by the American scholar Joseph Campbell, it outlines the typical adventure of the hero archetype.  All of us are on our own Hero’s Journey of course, but a true Hero’s Journey requires we be courageous enough to take the risks inherent in walking our own unique life path by doing things that scare us a little or in my case, racing to Hawaii from San Francisco, a lot.  As they say, boats are safe in the harbor, but that is not what a boat is made for.  This is not just a metaphor for sailing, but for life.  And I encourage all of you to think about your own journey and be fearless as you embark on it.

For myself, I have always heard and responded to the call for adventure.  I knew this about myself when I was 20 years old and boarded a plane from Portland, Oregon to Heathrow airport in London and spent a year by myself studying at University of London in England.  I then proceeded to travel alone for four months through Europe.  I am a sociable loner, so I didn’t mind sitting alone on trains smoking cigarettes and writing in my journal while making friends along the way.  I went on to be a ski instructor, sky diver, and then embarked on the endless adventure of motherhood and running my consulting company: Chaney Thomas & Assoc.  Over the past year, as my children have become more independent and I could entertain hobbies that did not include them, I have found sailing…

Like all things in life, there isn’t just one thing about sailing that I love, there’s many.  I love the serenity of being on the water, the beauty of the surroundings and the camaraderie of the other sailors.  But most of all, I feel a deep connection to the elements of wind and water, and it infuses in me a sense of peace and well being that restores me.

So when when my sailing instructor, Tom Dryja invited me to tag along with him and Andrew Lacenere on the Pac Cup race and blog about it, I didn’t think twice.   And so it begins: my Hero’s Journey. As I undertake the preparations for the race from San Francisco to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on July 11th, 2016, I am a little scared, but I am looking forward to the challenge and developing the endurance it will require.  To read more about the race, click here: Pacific Cup Race to Hawaii.

Sadly, I’ve not been cooking much as I spent most of my summer traveling or sailing and then in August decided to take the time to earn my Basic Keelboat Certification or BK 1 through the Olympic Circle Sailing Club in Berkeley, California, where I met Tom and Andrew.

I did make some sandwiches for the boat and perfected the Turkey, Avocado with Aioli and the Burrata, Basil and Tomato both on my favorite Semifreddi’s fresh baked breads.  Between sailing the qualifying races, I will be cooking, and will  post some easy recipes as I write them for my next book. I will also share photos and instructions for the sandwiches.

Thank you for reading my blog.   I appreciate your dedication.  Love and blessings to all.


Thomas Dryja


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Andrew Lacenere


Me at the Berkeley Marina