goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Counting My Blessings (May 2017)

I was doing busy work prepping some veggies for the dehydrator and was musing about my visit today to the new farm where some friends just moved. They are starting their new adventure and are excited about what they can achieve. They have a lot of work in front of them and they have the skills to tackle what needs to be done. I am so happy for them.

I also am humbled by my own lack of knowledge and ability to do what they plan to do. It made me realize that I am very fortunate that I have friends with diverse skill sets. Because I am enriched by those friendships.

I am so very glad I have many friends who are farmers or growers or fishers or hunters or gatherers. They know how to bring food home.

I am so glad I have many friends who are chefs and excellent cooks and others who love to build those skills. They know how to make us food to eat.

I am so glad I have many friends who are healers, either nurses or doctors or acupuncturists or chiropractors or therapists or physical therapists or massage therapists or reiki masters. They know how to help us be healthier.

I am so glad I have many friends who are teachers, either with children or adults, or group leaders, or others who share skills and abilities and are willing and able to share them to teach us to learn.

I am so glad I have many friends who have religious training either as ministers or rabbis or lay leaders or spirit sharers or truth seekers. They show there are many pathways to finding the message.

I am so glad I have many friends around the world of various nationalities. They share their pride of heritage and place and expand my world.

I am so glad I have many friends with sexual identities that differ from mine. They show me there are many ways to love.

I am so glad I have many friends.

My world is better than if everyone in my life was a cookie cutter, all from the place where I was born, all with the same education, the same religion, the same health, the same lifestyle. The diversity I see surrounding me reminds me we each are the star of our movie; we each are striving to make our life good. And the more we reach out to include people with differences, the better our own movie becomes.

Thank you for being part of making my life good….and then better.

 


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We ALL Must Rise

This morning my Facebook feed is full of “He Is Risen!” I understand the ritual and passion for this Easter Sunday, but once again, I have a perspective as a Jew attending church with my husband for ten years that may never occur to most of you.

All this declaration of Christ as your Savior appears to be meaningless gibberish for most people. Something they say by rote, without thought. Like my ex-husband who wanted to eat the foods on Jewish holidays but he had no understanding of the symbolism of those foods, many people I know who profess to be Christian are walking a pathway that is full of trimmings but no substance.

I spoke of this at Christmas also. The adoration of Baby Jesus and all the promise He represented goes no further than grabbing presents from under the tree for most people.

I am NOT espousing that someone needs to be strict in their daily observation of religion…ANY religion….in order to be a good person. In fact, with ISIS attacking Muslims who do not believe as they do, with fundamentalist Christians destroying rights and freedoms in this nation, with any ultra-conservative branch of any religion, we see they have very narrow definitions of what is right. That is NOT what Christ taught.

I confuse a lot of people when I say that I am closer to Christ than they are because I practice the same religion that Jesus did.  He observed the rules better than I do but he also broke them from time to time. Most of the time, he broke social conventions and was a dissenter, attracting followers and scaring the establishment. But generally, overall, his message was one of “love one another”. Treat people the way you want to be treated.

The Bible Belt where I lived for over 17 years has a preponderance of Christians who believe that Christ died for their sins, that they are saved. It may be a coincidence that that section of the country overwhelmingly voted for Trump, not necessarily because they liked him, because many did not like things about him. They voted for him because he promised delivery from things they perceive as evil. I believe their training as an obedient flock for their churches lead them to have faith without using any common sense about the promises made.  But their minds, like all good sheep, are befuddled by those promises.  They have not learned the ways to solve problems. They are stuck in a rut of tradition that means there is only one right way. And that includes following the shepherd.

Why am I picking on Christians? I just came from an Easter service where the Praise Band was singing and moving. The congregation, for the most extent, clapped as requested but there was no joy, no smiles. Did the words they learned as children not reach their adult ability to analyze? Are the praises they sing empty words without their hearts.  (In order for you to understand that I feel the same way about Jewish services where everything is in Hebrew, I will let you know that my Haggadah this past Monday’s Seder had limited Hebrew. I wanted the participants at my table to understand the story and the reasoning behind the holiday. To chant in Hebrew when you memorized it as a child and have no idea what the meaning is….has NO meaning.)

People often forget this commandment to love one another applies to everyone, everywhere. Not just people you know. Not just people who live near you. Not just people who speak like you, live like you, worship like you do. All people.

When does the message hit the heart? When does it become part of the soul?  When it does, you will rise.

Walking in the spirit is a pathway by people of any or no practiced religion. It means, simply, loving your neighbor as yourself. The rest is commentary.


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Refreshing Old Ways: Sharing the Path

Those of us who remember our Beowolf readings from high school English class merrily purchased our first cup of mead at Renaissance Festivals and were rewarded with a sweet drink. Perhaps we were young and that was palatable. But  it was the last time I drank mead until I moved to Oregon’s Willamette Valley about three and a half years ago.

Living in the middle of wine country is a joy in many ways. Not only does it offer a lot in terms of oenophile enjoyment, but the countryside is beautiful.  And twice a year (Thanksgiving weekend and Memorial Day weekend) almost all the wineries open their doors, even if they normally do not have tasting rooms. It was our first Thanksgiving weekend here and avoiding a popular location with the Portland crowd, we headed up Highway 47 north of McMinnville. When we got to Yamhill we stopped, on a whim, at a meadery at Kookoolan Farms.
Yamhill Oregon Local Farm

Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor and her husband Koorosh met as engineers for Intel and purchased a  farm in Yamhill. Kookoolan Farms has evolved over time to work with other nearby farms to offer vegetables and meat to consumers throughout the region and its reputation for quality is well known. To find out more about the farm and all they do check out their website and their Facebook page.

Like me, Chrissie remembered her Beowolf and started making mead from local honey.  She perfected her craft, moving well beyond the sticky sweet stuff so many of us experienced at those Ren Fairs. In her quest, she started gathering mead from other places in the United States and from around the world. This is when I met her. We visited her mead tasting room and was amazed at the variety of tastes offered.

And why not, when you really think about it. Beer, which has the same basic components, has amazing variety. Wine, of course, varies not only by the type of grape but, as I have learned first hand, by the weather, the terroir, and the skill of the winemaker.  Why not discover the same breadth and depth with mead?

Mead has been enjoyed by people for thousands and thousands of years. It seemed to be found often in monasteries which produced honey for the beeswax to make candles. The mead was a fortunate byproduct of that task.  Today, home brewing shops throughout the country can attest to an upsurge in interest and currently there are over 400 commercially licensed meaderies in 46 states, up from 30 in 1997!  Mead is considered to be the fastest growing beverage business.

Many meaderies, like Kookoolan, are very small with only a limited and local distribution. However, there are many that have larger production and a number of bottle shops are expanding into offering a wider selection.

As interest grows, so do the number of books available on the subject. So far, however, most recent books about mead have been in the “how to” genre. Home brewing is highly popular and there are plenty of tips and lessons available to ease the learning curve.

However, as mead started becoming more popular, Chrissie realized there was something missing. Her clues came from the visitors to the tasting room. Not only “Where can I find mead besides your tasting room?” but “What would be a good dish to pair with this mead?”

She realized she had a definite advantage over just about everyone else in the field. When she went to make her lunch in her kitchen, it was fun to grab a small pour, or two or three in the adjacent tasting room and see what tasted good with the dish she had prepared for her meal. As she kept her notes, the light bulb started to burn brightly and the book concept was born.

The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing (ISBN 978-0-578-18895-9) took three years to produce.  It is a joy to read…and even better to work through by cooking and tasting. Chrissie has not only explained the various kinds of meads that are available, but offered well tested recipes to pair with the various kinds.  Imagine, if you will, you have a pretty terrific chicken pot pie you have made, either from your own recipe or the one in the book.  You might be tempted to pair it with a white wine for supper, but your enjoyment can be enhanced with the right kind of mead pairing.

From spicy (check out the shrimp gumbo!) to sweet there is something in here for every palate. 

The books is also divided into regions of the world, as mead is produced everywhere there is honey. One photograph really caught my eye; it showed an archaeological find at Tel Rehov, Israel with a multitude of preserved hives. This discovery proves that ancient civilizations, this one dating back to 900 CE, had a great appreciation for bees, honey and its byproducts.

The book explains mead history as part of the Paleo world, in Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean region, northern Europe, eastern Europe, the Middle East, and in Latin America. Recipes and pairing suggestions are offered to get your exploration rolling.

And through it all, gorgeous photography. Even a simple photo of the collection of meads Chrissie obtained from meaderies around the world in the research for this book is beautiful, even as it began to overtake the floor space in their dining room.

My hope is in your own life adventures you make room for new challenges.  Part of exploration may be of new places, but some new learning may take place in the known and safe nest of your own. Open your willingness to try not only new foods, but new  beverages too. Perhaps this concept of mead pairings will get you thinking and not only check out the book, but start checking out the shelves in a local bottle shop. At a recent visit to a local grocery store yesterday I found this.

 

 

and now I get to figure out what food will go well with it. Ahhhh, time to reread the book!
15713 Highway 47, Yamhill, Oregon 97148                                                                                                                                                                                                                             503-730-7535   kookoolan@gmail.com

 


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Something New Learned

I think I wrote about feeling a bit like George Plimpton a few years ago when I was writing for The Wild Ramp Market in Huntington, West Virginia.  (To bring the youngsters up to speed, George Plimpton was a writer/journalist who decided he would actually have the experience before he wrote about the Detroit Lions. That experience became a book, Paper Lion, and then a movie. He wrote of other sports as well, always having participated fully.)

At the time I was visiting farms and other food producers for the year-round local food market, there was a lot I did not know. I still don’t know much about farming, but it is because of all the questions I asked and the experiences I had that I have learned a bit. For example, milking a goat and processing chickens. That last one was never on my bucket list but I am glad for the experience.

Well, yesterday I had a similar chance to do something related to farming and processing that I never expected to.  The fact that it all was legal means I can tell you about it!

A friend vaguely asked me if I would help with his harvest and I asked, simply, winter squash?  It’s that time of year, after all, and Can-Do Real Food has a killer Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup recipe, so you see where my mind was.winter-squash

No….he kept me guessing and then showed me a photo. Ahhhh….here in Oregon we are permitted to grow our own weed. There is a limitation and rules about how much you can grow for personal use. What I didn’t know at the time was his is a licensed medical grow operation, so we really were helping legitimately.

It has to be dried….a lot like tobacco. Anyone who has lived or visited the South or the Connecticut River Valley has noticed the drying sheds and barns.Image result for tobacco barn

It has to be trimmed….the unused portions removed from the good parts so the drying surfaces are smaller and easier to treat.

It has to be checked for mold….always something can go wrong but even with the recent rains, this harvest had only minimal amounts of decay.

3" Thickest Best Quantity Steel Rings Foldable Heavy Duty Hanging Dryer Rack,2Feet Diameter 4 Layer Collapsible Mesh Hydroponic Drying Rack Net w/ Clips&Storage Carrying BagI saw some awesome drying racks he was using that we have ordered for curing garlic next year! The synergy of learning new things in action.

 

So, why share this small blip in my education? Because I like to show you that learning can be very fun indeed. Be a life-long learner. Do not be afraid to step away from your comfort zone and learn new facts and abilities.

You never know who will invite you to an awesome activity!

 


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A story within a story and a concept to consider

Years ago my maternal grandfather would preside over the Passover Seder. For hours and hours and hours he would intone the readings and prayers in Hebrew while my cousin Nancy and I would compare the levels in our glasses of diluted wine and water. It was all but a meaningless process and once Grandpa died and my father started to preside, I asked my mom if we could perhaps use another Haggadah.

“Oh no!” she replied with shock that I would suggest such blasphemy. “This is the ONLY one.”

(unsaid) Really, Mom? This wine-stained freebie from the liquor store where we buy the Manischewitz?

I tried again when Dan and Lisa were really young. “Mom,” I pleaded, ” Can I revise the Haggadah to reduce it to 20 minutes so the kids really understand and participate?”

“Oh no!”, she replied. (Repeat with me) “This is the ONLY one!” More wine stained than ever.

So, when Graham and I got married and we decided to host a Seder I told him a bit more emphatically than I needed to that I would be finding one that worked better for us. He didn’t care, of course. There are literally over 1000 versions of the Haggadah, each very much following the prescribed order, as Seder means “order”, and telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

That’s the first story. The second is next:

The story we share at the Seder is not simply what Cecile B. DeMille’s movie with Charlton Heston shows. We talk about what went on in the minds and hearts of the people affected there and then. And then we try to make it into something we can relate to.

IMG_1033I don’t know about you, but I can not relate to working my entire life building the pyramids or other structures.  I’ve done some physical work and I work pretty hard at the food processing business, even when my body hurts, but to FEEL like a slave takes a stretch of imagination. Growing up here in the United States in the 50s, 60s and 70s, my freedoms expanded and my opportunities were ahead, ready for the taking.

And yet, each of us are enslaved to something that we know we would be healthier without. Me, it is easily sugar. Someone else maybe their tobacco. Someone else their wine or beer or pot or whatever. We can identify people in public life enslaved to the concept of power and how that has warped their view of what is healthy.

Once we can recognize that item for ourselves we can begin to think about how it feels to get rid of it. And not by our own choice. That freedom from slavery in Egypt was not desired by many. Afterall, there is some peace found in a routine that is not desired but has no responsibility. To become free means to take on a huge change. And we know most people do not like change.

In the Seders I host I try to get the people attending to recognize their own enslavement and how they (and I) fight the change that provides freedom.

So that’s the second story. And now, to the concept I hope you will consider.

In the news today one of the issues is the brouhaha about transsexual individuals using the public restroom for the sex they feel is their identity. There is so much fear about perverts attacking children.  There is so much condemnation for the wrongness of these people. There is not the loving (supposedly Christian) acceptance that they have a difference we might not understand but can respect.

We also have grave concern, all of us, about ISIS and other terrorist groups and how they seem to be difficult to stop.  It is horrible how a few people continue to flow to those groups from western society here and in the UK. Why? But the more difficult concept for me is the hatred of ALL Muslims based on these extreme groups. The people I hear who are so afraid seem not to recognize that all fundamental ends of all religions have their extreme and narrow definition of what is acceptable and believe all others who profess to practice the same religion but in different ways are NOT that religion. And need to be changed. It is true in Islam. It is true in Judaism. It is true in Christianity. Meanwhile, it seems hate of the others is easier than acceptance of the other.

I wrote a blog a few months ago in answer to a friend about whether I would welcome a Syrian refugee family into my home. You can read it here.  That issue, as well as a myriad of others supporting people who have had incredibly horrible events occur simply because they were both where and how they were are not hard for me.

I merely remember that I was once a slave in Egypt and was delivered out of bondage. It is my modern role to help others who desire to, escape their slavery.freedom


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Family Ties

Following the Christmas holiday I don’t need to tell YOU that your family is……..well, challenged.  I have one myself. I had an aunt that my mother disliked so much she never talked to her brother but, because of family dynamics, I needed to allow her to sing her warble of some song I didn’t even know at my wedding.  I had another aunt who, in the 1950s got a (whisper here) divorce and all we ever heard was “don’t come running home to us if you have problems with your husband.” Not exactly a helpful life lesson.

So, we all have less than perfect families, and if we are true to form, we don’t do such a great job at parenting. We do what we know, so unless you have sought out a parenting class, you will have a tendency to teach your children in the same dysfunctional way you were raised.

In the interest of changing that here are TEN RULES TO BETTER FAMILY LIFE:

  1. Recognize that the reason you love your friends more than your family is because your friends let you do the shit your mom and dad won’t. That doesn’t mean that shit is good. It still is shit. Your parents literally cleaned up your shit as a baby and into your childhood, but  now it is time for you to realize that your actions have consequences and you really need to accept responsibility. When you grow up, your relationships with the long term people who are on your life path AKA your family, will improve.Illustration by Nate Powell.
  2. Let go of anger. We want to be RIGHT! We want others to know they are WRONG! Let it go. It is not a helpful manner of communication. If you really feel strongly that your little sister or your second cousin is on the road to perdition, sit down calmly, maybe with a cup of lavender tea (ha ha) and ask why they feel their pathway is going to bring them the life they want. LISTEN.  They probably will not come around, but at least you’ll understand better and maybe they will turn to you when they recognize they need to change their ways.being kind
  3. Look in the mirror. Recognize your own flaws. Now praise your skills realistically. Understand that each of us is made of the entire ability spectrum. You and your buddies are not the only ones who can do things right. Even your parents get it right some of the time.looking-in-the-mirror
  4. Learn from others. Yup, even that warbling aunt of mine probably had something worthwhile to share with me……hard for me to imagine but I am remembering her with a child’s memory. If you are an adult, you can go where I was unable to perceive.learning
  5. Look at your children. We watched Home Alone again this Christmas and a few things were obvious to an outsider that the family members did not perceive. Be fair when you think over your kids’ strengths and weaknesses. Don’t have them do what YOU wish you could have done as a kid if they are not interested. Help them develop their own interests. Help them learn to read and research. Your-Kids-Look-up-to-You-for-Guidance
  6. Look at your children again. Help them learn life skills like cooking, sewing buttons and hems, how to wash laundry and iron to press a shirt to make a good appearance,  and how to swim.  A man who expects his wife or girlfriend to do all the cooking does not realize the stress that constant task causes. More importantly, he never sees her face light up in pleasure when he prepares her a nourishing meal. A man who can cook is sexy.LifeSkills-750
  7. Look at your children again. Teach your kids to change their oil and their tires. You may not be that proficient yourself. Learn it together. Your daughters too.  Watch your tendency for sexism. Let your sons and daughters learn they can access the entire array of  arts and skills.Nike-Voices-Feature
  8. Tell stories to your kids. Turn off the television and the electronic gadgets. Have one evening a month (or more) when you gather to share the stories of your childhood. Keep it as upbeat as possible. Your baggage with your parents need not be their baggage.  Tell about adventures you had when you were tested and succeeded. Tell about times you thought you could do something but failed and how you responded to that experience. Let them tell stories too. Use a talking stick to pass the right to talk around the circle. talking stick
  9. Explore together. Food is an excellent vehicle for exploration. Move away from what you know. I remember when we visited England for the first time and I asked for bangers and mash at a pub because I had read about it in numerous British stories,. The server paused and then said, “You know that is nursery food?” In other words, for little kids. That was okay, since it was a new experience for me, but it is not okay for you to turn to mac and cheese every few days. Time to learn new tricks. You are an adult now. You have control over your gag reflex and will not barf into your plate. Really. Taste new things. You need not repeat if you honestly do not like it. But your world will open when you explore the amazing variety of flavors from all over the world. 11646-learning-culture-through-food-mexico
  10. Realize, if you change your ways, your birth family members may make some snarky comments. That’s when you get to practice your smile and say, yeah! I’m doing great and I’m proud of my kids! And mean it.keepgoing


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So Long Ago and Moreso Today

After I published this a friend told me I was too oblique, so let me explain simply why I told this story today. Today, we have a lot of people who seem to be pretty darn angry about almost everything. They blame the dissatisfaction in their lives on others and that is confirmed by their favorite talking head telling them that they are being mistreated. It is time for you all to wake up. There is no one more responsible for your own pathway, your own circumstances, than you. The choices you make or the choices you fail to make, have consequences. Those are not my fault, nor the single mom down your street, nor the man who is our President. You want change, work for it.

And now, back to my original post…..

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So long ago I had an inkling that my marriage to my then boyfriend would not work out; that we had a fundamental difference that would prove to be a problem.  I asked him what his goal was in life. We were pretty young (compared to now for sure) but in our mid 20s, so had had some adulthood experience. He told me he didn’t know. He had never thought about it.

That was not the problem.

A minute later he was excited…he knew what it was. He wanted to be rich!  I laughed. He scowled.

I asked him how much would make him feel rich. He didn’t know. A million? No. Two million? No, not enough. I asked him if he had a plan to get to this unknown number and he looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. (To him, the concept of earning your goal was an idea that WAS foreign. He just expected it to happen.)

Then he turned to me and asked me what my goal in life was. I told him I wanted to be happy. He laughed . I scowled.

He told me no one is ever happy. They always want more.

And THAT was the fundamental difference.

Two ways to look at life. He needed something…an unknown and no plan how to achieve it….that was outside himself to provide his goal.

I needed something inside me that would tell me I had enough and it was good.

So long ago, and yet this seems to be more so today. So many people are living in the moment, wanting more and no idea of how to get it. They want for themselves and there is not much space for anyone else.  Their partner and their kids are not as important as their feeling that life is just not right, it is unfair, there is more they deserve. And so, unhappiness and another generation who is not taught life skills.

By the way, although that marriage ended in divorce, I have two wonderful children who are priceless to my happiness. I would go through it all again just to share my life with those two fine people.today