Project Lisa: A Passionate Journey of Finally Finding Balance with Wine, Food, Fitness and Embracing the Fifties (Chapter 1)

If you want it done right, Do It Yourself!

This is my journey of weight loss and fitness balanced with my unending passion for wine, food, friends and finally learning how to do this in my (late) 50’s.

I will never diet again.

Since September 2014, I have lost 46 lb ( 3 pants sizes and 1/2 shoe size) and—-found me. I am loving the journey.  I’ll let you know when I’ve hit my personal goal. But, right now it’s more about the journey and what I am learning along the way.  The reward will be the goal, which is just the beginning of my story.


Tell me NO or “You Can’t Do That” and THAT is an invitation to a challenge I WILL win. I’m just wired that way.

I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee. Several years ago, a friend of mine here in the culinary world told me to “Give it up.” Girl!, she said ” you are fighting a losing battle if you are entering the culinary world and trying lose weight.”  I bought into that…..for about a minute.

                       I lost my identity-The Perfect Storm

Within the past 10 years, the perfect storm hit. It knocked me down but didn’t take me out.

Yes, it had been a struggle. After years of running 10 k’s and half-marathons, many road biking events and regular workouts, I ended up with a severely damaged achilles tendon which required reconstructive surgery. I tried to run again and ended up with full-blown OA in both knees from all of the years of running. This really hit HARD. No more running? Really? That IS who I am. I was one of the fastest runners in my home town for many years and it followed me through my life and really loved long distance road biking too.  And, for a time, I gave up.


I am a passionate lover of life. I love waking up in the early morning with a mug of coffee looking forward to what the day holds for me. One thing that really gets makes me happy is cooking for friends and sharing a great bottle of wine. I enjoy my life. Entering the culinary and wine world has been the best thing ever. Sharing an amazing bottle of wine and a great plate of food is one of the sexiest and most satisfying things I can share with someone that I care about. The act of drinking wine and cooking a delicious meal is a sensual experience. All of your senses are heightened with layers of aromas and flavors from the food and wine, how they complement each other, how it makes you feel and how it feels and tastes in your mouth and on your tongue.

Fitness is the other passion in my life that I have fully embraced with genuine enthusiasm. I look forward to my workouts with “my village.”


Change Your Brain, Change Your Life 

I am doing it MY WAY!

 Change your brain, Change your story,. I have gained clarity. I am looking at different picture of my life through this new frame of mind. I am really living my life MY WAY.

No more rehearsals. This is it. I would love to believe that I would have 50 more years to figure it out, but that is not realistic.


Is there any other way? I am finally beginning to live my life on my own terms, my authentic life.

Last year, was one of the most life changing, attitude adjusting years ever. Being a part of the 2014 Music City Food + Wine Festival and interviewing one of my favorite chefs, was a huge thrill for me as well as high-lighting my cooking skills while co-chefing with Chef Tony Galzin and his wife Caroline, We cooked our hearts out for 2 seatings of 60 dinner guests (total) with our Italian Grill Night at Pop Nashville. And, for the third time, I have been part of the media for the Austin Food + Wine Festival  and Music City Food + Wine Festival as well.

Hanging out, meeting, interviewing and cooking with a local chef is one of coolest things I have ever done. I wish I had come to terms with this struggle BEFORE I had these photos taken. Because, the real me, the authentic me was covered up by years of frustration and a restlessness that I couldn’t define at that point.




Shelf of Shame 

My book shelf was loaded with all of the books I accumulated over time with other people’s journeys. You know the ones. Stacks of books diet books, self-help books just glaring and staring at me, insinuating that I must be a failure.

I finally realized I’m not a failure; these books just reflect someone else’s journey, not mine.

Although there are gems of wisdom in all of the books, I realized that in order to be successful on my journey, I must develop my own tailor-made plan and not try to imitate someone else’s experience.

Those books are long gone. I now have a book shelf full of books about travel, wine education, many beautiful cookbooks, cocktails and beer, just the way it should be for any lover of wine and food.

I am now writing my own path to success personally, spiritually and physically; healing myself from inside out.

Wine & Food and Pharmacy

Working, entertaining and teaching about Food and Wine is a part of my life and I have finally learned to balance. 

My career is 32 years of pharmacy of which I still practice. I grew up in Louisiana and earned my pharmacy degree in my home town of Monroe, Louisiana. The influences of growing up in Louisiana and my Sicilian-Cajun background prepared and taught me about local and global culinary cuisine and wine which inspired me to naturally want to learn more about wine.

Currently, I cook Paella for private and public events, teach paella and tapas classes. I am an active Nashville Food and Wine Blogger and Austin (Texas) Food and Wine Blogger. To date, I have earned the Intermediate and Advanced WSET III and will began my path to become a Certified Sommelier this summer beginning with the Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory Course.

I  teach cooking classes and cooking demo’s around town including Whole Foods, occasionally at  Williams-Sonoma and the fabulous Savory Spice Shop in Franklin, TN.

Life’s way too short not to enjoy a sexy bottle of wine. In fact, I am sipping on a gorgeous, voluptuous glass of 2013 Honig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc and enjoying every lush drop!



 I am NOT on a diet– and never again will I be, never EVER again!

I Finally Got IT!

Some of my friends have asked me for recipes of the meals I have posted, so I thought I would share them with you, too.

I follow my rules, now. I changed my lifestyle, my habits and my improved shape reflects that change.

#1. I eat clean most of the time-avoiding processed and refined foods and basing my life style meals  on whole foods.

#2. Low Carb not NO Carb, Only the best carbs for me.

Bad Carbs: Sugars
“Added” sugars
Refined “white” grains

Good Carbs: whole grains of all kinds

#3. Lots of good quality protein such as fish, seafood, chicken, beef (yes, beef)

#4. Lots and lots of vegetables cooked all kinds of ways

#5. Treat not cheat.  Embrace and enjoy wine and food. Let it nourish you and be a good part of your life.Cheating is no longer in my life style vocabulary. I drink wine, cocktails, even pizza, and my famous garlic bread-but not everyday. Clean eating takes daily precedence and I am not perfect.

#6. Eat Breakfast 

This new life style change is not about weighing, measuring or deprivation. I have learned to include everything I love. One thing that I do is eat breakfast! Not just brunch on the weekends but a very nutritious meal with eggs and/or oatmeal and veggies, every morning.

I keep all types of vegetables and cheese in the fridge at all times. Roasted and grilled veggies are great in salads and main courses. I love caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, roasted broccoli and  roasted cauliflower, baby tomatoes, pre-sliced zucchini and squash.

 Leftovers really make a great morning breakfast, too.

#7. Avocados, Avocados, AVOCADOS! Love ’em! I eat one just about everyday!

***NOTE: I am one of those cooks who doesn’t really follow a recipe. I have a base and then add to it.

Personal Pan Frittata (Open-faced omelet)

2 eggs, beaten and poured into a medium sized non-stick skillet with olive oil or spray. When it’s almost done, I throw carmelized onions, roasted mushrooms,  feta, ricotta, mozzarella or cheddar on top. Slide onto a plate and top with sautéed baby tomatoes, zucchini,onions, roasted red peppers, chopped ham and even seasoned taco meat for the night before. A splash of Sriracha and your favorite seasonings is a great way to start the day!


Ricotta-Oatmeal Pancakes topped with Bananas, Toasted Walnuts and a dash of real Maple Syrup is sooo delicious and filling, you will forget about those other pancakes!

The pancake base: To a blender, add 1 egg, 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese), 1/4 cup dry old fashioned oats, a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Cook in a small non-stick, flipping halfway through. Slide on to a plate and top with yummy things!


Roasted salmon is one of my go-to meals. On my recent trip to Austin, Texas, I went to one of my favorite restaurants Z-Tejas on 6th St. Crispy Salmon over Roasted Tomatillo sauce with a side of steamed broccoli or calabacitas. Cook the salmon in a hot pan with olive oil. Do not move it or turn it until is gets crispy and caramelized. For the tomatillo sauce, through tomatillos, onions, jalapeños and garlic and olive oil on a roasting pan and roast until soft and browned. Place all ingredients in a blender with lime juice, cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper. Serve warm. OR, you can just get a jar of Tomatillo Salsa and the grocery and use that!

Spicy Watermelon and Feta Salad with Arugula, Quick Pickled Purple Onions and Jalapeños

Toss juicy watermelon  and feta chunks with arugula, pickled onions and jalapeños (always in my fridge) Toss with blend of Lime juice, honey, s/p.


Authentic Italian Chickpea Flat Bread (click this link for the recipe)

I found this recipe on line and it quickly became a staple. All you need is chickpea flour, water, olive, salt and pepper, and a baking sheet. You HAVE to try this one!


Fitness—It takes a Village

(I wanted to) Gain more muscle and definition while losing body fat which in turn, revs up the metabolism.

Cat and Armah, the fitness and personal trainers at Prairie Life Fitness have been my guiding light from the beginning…………….. There’s just something about my village.

About three times a week (or more) I participate in the X-Factor Class led by Cat Hanna and TRX with Armah, the awesome trainer. Their inspirational words, professionalism and overall awesomeness is with me daily, even while they are kicking my butt into shape. This small group fitness class is special. Each person inspires and pushes the other to do their very best. My “village” is, for sure, one of the biggest reasons for my successes during my journey.


Left: Personal Trainer and X-Factor Instructor Cat Hanna and my workout buddy Mike. We train hard BUT there is a lot of laughing and “cutting up” in this class, too!

Right: Armah Mitchum-the awesome Personal Trainer with his inspirational  life and mantra that I have incorporated in my life.

Armah is a family man and fitness enthusiast. As a professional, he trains, coaches and speaks to individuals as well as groups regarding an active lifestyle. He believes that performance readiness is important for all ages regardless of limitations or aspirations.

Thank you all!

This is a sample of my weekly workouts: X-Factor Classes, one hour on the rower, and TRX with Armah.



Living life is about the journey.

Make everyday count, between the beginning and the end.

Take care of yourself.

Find the authentic you and embrace your passions. 

Just one more thing….

To Layla, you are everything to me. Thank you for giving me a reason to be the best person I can possibly be.

Thank you to Lee, my forever friend, my kindred spirit, my inspiration. Your presence though out my life has taught me the real meaning of friendship, clarity and how to cherish every second. I am a better person for you being in my life.  

And… guitar man, thank you for reminding me that 1982 was a very good year…..


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