by Laura Matiz
The new year has taken off like a rocket. I can't believe that today is MLK day. I already miss the bustle and energy that surrounds my children and friends who visit during the winter break. Most have returned to begin the spring semester at their respective colleges.
But, I am also glad to be back working with clients after taking a couple of weeks off at the end of the year to focus on family and holiday events. I cherish this time with family and friends, and it motivates me to do more in my professional life as well.
This past week I had the opportunity to share what I do as a real estate broker with a group of a dozen students from the Grace Institute that visited the Douglas Elliman mid-town office. The Grace Institute is a workforce development organization that helps women-in-need find their calling. It is a wonderful organization that I have followed and supported for years.
I shared a bit of my life story as it relates to selling real estate. I told them about my family and my schooling. I told them about my grandfather's natural food store in Queens—one of the first of its kind in New York in the early seventies. There, I absorbed many lessons on customer care. I described how I loved working the register, composing trail mixes, and helping customers even though I was only in junior high school.
After some personal anecdotes, I described what I do as a real estate agent in the greatest city in the world. I explained the difference between co-ops and condos. I shared with them that the most challenging, but rewarding task was negotiating on behalf of my customers. I also described how I help my customers compile the extremely complicated board packages that all buyers have to submit to co-op boards in order to get approval to purchase the apartment. I explained that buying a co-op was more like applying for membership to an exclusive club.
I discussed the serendipity of apartment searches, the explorations during showings, and how I often get to know my customers really well, many becoming repeat customers. I also explained how brokers work on commissions and that it is possible to invest many hours with clients that never purchase or sell an apartment. That was an opportunity to explain how important it is to stay positive and to be resilient.
The women asked a lot of questions and I was quite pleased and relieved with how things went. The next day, I was pleasantly surprised when I received a handful of wonderfully worded thank-you notes from students. The notes were a nice touch and most generous. They made my day knowing I had made an impact. What a nice way to start 2016.
Happy New Year!
by Laura Matiz
I am glad Thanksgiving Day is around the corner. It is my favorite holiday, certainly a holiday that allows a little time to reflect on the positives and not on the barrage of disturbing events dominating the news.
This year I am without a stove because of a building gas leak. For the first time in over 25 years, I won't be spending all of Thursday in my kitchen preparing food. I will miss the early morning turkey preparation, stuffing it, and then putting it the oven before most of the kids and family guests have gotten up, but I hope that taking a break from the usual will give me an even greater appreciation that Thanksgiving is about family and friends. My usual guests are visiting other family members or staying put. I am sure they will also reflect on the change in the routine, even my nephew who has decided to travel to Thailand during the holiday.
Cooking at St. James Church
While I won't be busy in my kitchen, I did get my fill of cooking this past Friday, cooking for 100 at the St. James Church on the Upper East Side. Of course, when you prepare a meal for 100, it is never a solo task. With friends and family helping alongside program chair Faith Fraser's regular team we served a delicious three-course plated meal for people in need. Below, some photos taken by Emily and Brook, clearly show our joy and fun.
After the salad was served, Faith pulled me out from the kitchen to introduce me to the guests in the dining room. She usually does this and it feels nice to get the appreciation. Friday night, she also asked me to say a few words about the meal. On the spot, I was able to convey that what I had cooked was one of my family's festive meals, usually prepared around Christmas. I mentioned how the meal was my son's favorite and how I had learned it from my grandmother. The sfingi I was preparing for desert took a little explaining, but when I compared it to a zeppole, I could hear some acknowledgements. I said nothing special other than sharing our family story and headed back to the kitchen.
Later, during cleanup, some guests asked Faith if they could thank me in person. Because the guests are not allowed in the kitchen, I stepped out to meet them. I was surprised that they wanted to thank me for sharing the family story and how much it meant to them that I had shared my traditions with the group. They also wanted to share their own stories reminding me of the amazing power of story telling to unite.
A Thanksgiving Family Recipe
Last year, I released a blog post with the recipe for our favorite Thanksgiving staple, Nana's Pumpkin Bread. We will certainly miss that treat this year. I hope some of you reading this might try the recipe and comment on how delicious it came out. Here's a quick slideshow showing the steps from preparation to heaven-with-milk.
Savor the moments with your friends and family. Wishing all of you an enjoyable and relaxing Thanksgiving Holiday.
by Laura Matiz
The Feed the Hungry Friday Dinner Program at St James' Church offers a hearty meal every Friday night for the hungry and homeless. This past Friday, I was guest chef cooking a delicious and healthy meal for 90 guests, with the assistance of a team of over a dozen individuals. The program is led by the unstoppable Faith Fraser, who makes working in the kitchen for four plus hours a satisfying experience for all the volunteers. Because this was my fourth time as guest chef, gathering my team of volunteers was fairly easy. Friends, family, and my kid's classmates pitch in to do the work—and there is a lot to do to get ready.
St James takes pride in making all the guests at the Friday night meal feel welcomed and served. The ten large round tables are set nicely with cloth and dinnerware before the guests arrive. A group of volunteers warmly greet the guests as they come in. After everyone is seated, Faith leads the group with a grace prayer before the volunteer waiters start serving hot tea and coffee – much in demand on this cold evening. They then serve and bus the three-course meal. My main course on Friday was my version of American Goulash, sautéed string beans, and garlic bread. A salad and homemade cookies for dessert were the other two courses. The hearty meal was much appreciated by all. ...