goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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I Feel Lucky

It’s a pretty busy time, but when is it not busy in my life?  Anyway, it’s busy and I like it that way.

Today I had an appointment with my allergist to go another scratch test for some of the standard issues here. I had to be off my antihistamine for 5 days and boy oh boy I didn’t know how effective it was until now. The pokes were easy compared to my memory of the scratch tests as a kid. One of my arms got red and swollen quickly. (Thanks, Cat, who is now 15 and will probably live to 25 just to spite me.) But as soon as that was over I swallowed my antihistamine and rubbed some anti-itch cream on my arm and felt better in a half hour. I sure feel lucky.

I then headed over to the kitchen I rent at the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries. We had the first of two tests as  part of a special project for Can-Do Real Food. One of our farm partners, Keeler Estate Vineyards, has some wine that is not permitted to be sold because of some form that was not filed years ago. So, we offered to see if we could turn it into wine jelly. They gave us bottles of Pinot Noir (a red) and Pinot Gris (a white) and that jelly tasted awesome. We cookeda little more of each down and mixed with sea salt to make a culinary salt as well. I get to play with yummy food. Boy oh boy, I feel really lucky.pinot noir and pinot gris april 4

This weekend I am hosting a handcrafted artisan fair inside a pavilion at the local county fairgrounds here in town. The story of how this all got started points more to my Pollyanna attitude than my realistic view of life, but it is coming together despite a couple of setbacks. Good thing, since it is only 4 days away. We have an awesome and eclectic group of talented craftspeople.  I am going to have a great weekend spending it with artists who show their love with their abilities.  I am so darn lucky.Crafts Fair poster WEB

I got 27 emails from candidates today, most, of course, begging for money. You know, this political hoohah can be very annoying. But you know what else?  We have a system that permits us to be involved. Especially if we don’t like it.  I met a candidate a couple of years ago and after talking with him decided I would help a bit. He’s campaigning again and there I am. It is rewarding and comforting to see an honest person who is very much interested in the issues of the people in this area try to make a difference.  I feel lucky to know how to get involved and help try to make this government work for the people.

My husband Graham probably did not fully know what he was getting when he asked me to marry him. We just celebrated our ninth anniversary and were able to take a few days away “at the coast” (Oregon speak for “down the shore” which is New Jersey speak for “go to the beach” everywhere else). So despite his cold we enjoyed the beautiful sunny blue skies and warm days. He humored me to head to a good viewpoint for a sunset photo too and we headed to Tillamook cheese factory on the way home so we could get some cheese and, of course, ice cream. I know I am lucky.IMG_0679

So this evening we ran a quick errand to Lowe’s to pick up something we needed for a wood craft Graham is making for this weekend. Afterwards we stopped and he put up two signs about the artisan fair. I was off the road with the flashers on and when Graham came back to the car I planned on pulling a u-turn to head home. But there was a car, and then another and then another….three police cars, so no u-ey. I drove a tiny bit and pulled into the grange parking lot to turn around. One of the police cars also pulled in…and turned his lights on. You can imagine the expletive deleted that I was thinking. I figured we might get a ticket for putting the signs up. Nope, he wanted to check we were okay and did we know we had a taillight out? We denied it and promised to get it replaced and headed home. Oh yeah. I feel lucky.

In reviewing my day I realized I left off the very best part. I heard from each of my three kids today. I feel very very very lucky indeed.

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Synergy is Amazing

It is conference season now….a very good thing for the winter as I spend the growing season in the kitchen and shuttling raw produce from and finished products back to the farms involved with my business, Can-Do Real Food.

Two weeks ago I attended the Northwest Food Processors’ convention in Portland with my husband Graham and my friend Jana. They have both been an integral part of providing their own expertise to this process and there are business cards being printed as I write this that names them as Vice Presidents of the business. That and $3.50 will get you a latte. LOL

Early this week I joined my daughter Lisa in San Francisco for the Fancy Food Show. Lisa is a promotional marketer and has been hired the past three years to work for a vendor. She suggested I attend last year but it was scheduled the same as the Portland event. So this year I got to go and saying OMG! is a dramatic understatement.  Not only is it a visual and gastronomic orgy of delectable foods of all types, but the amount of expertise in those humongous rooms was vast. For the most part, if they were not chatting with someone who might mean business to them, just about everyone was very willing to spend 5, 10 or even 30 minutes talking with me, answering questions.

These are the goodies I brought home

These are the goodies I brought home

For example, we have been working to produce a culinary syrup made from raspberries and lemongrass. The raspberries had been frozen…..no issue there. The lemongrass had been dried and while we got an amazing flavor, the clarity was not pretty. I chatted with about 5 vendors who produce lemongrass products and got a variety of suggestions…..and one worked superbly. Three cases of syrup processed this morning!IMG_0363

I met one vendor that I revisited twice more to make sure I let him know how much our interaction meant to me and to say goodbye.  He did not have any food….basically he helps develop packaging and he said he will send me info but that was not our discussion, really. It started like this:

Me: Good morning.

Him: How are you?

Me: Fantastic…this is an amazing show!

Him: I am so happy!!!

We both cracked up. We sounded high and I guess we were. On the positivity that was around us. In the synergy that was flowing. The fact that we were in the middle of amazing food products and I, more than him, was slowly by surely, teaspoonful by teaspoonful, tasting my way figuratively around the world.

But what made this guy stand out is that is all the conversation was about. Choosing to live by finding and feeling the joy in life. When I asked what he does, he waved his hand a bit derisively saying, “pretty packages” .

I look forward to the info he sends.

 

 

 

 


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Let’s Do It Better

Each year, the second Halloween is over, we get bombarded for 6 weeks with the need to be big consumers. The commercials on tv explode, teasing us into believing we just NEED that thing we never thought about five minutes before. The printed ads in the local newspaper or mailed to us via bulk rate paper our house  with colorful pleas to spend spend spend.christmas-shopping-chaos-560x360

If you believe them, Christmas is just not complete without the latest gadgets including technology for toddlers, more boots and clothes for the ladies, more tools for the guys, more makeup and perfume, more ties, more more more.

This year, do it different…..and do it better.

First of all, know your budget and stick to it.

Secondly, make a list of the people you want to purchase for.  Think about their interests, their hobbies, the things that make them happy. Start listening to them NOW if you haven’t been paying attention all year.  And be wise….the latest in fashion accessory for your fashionista may be out of style in a few weeks. Aim for classic to provide long term value.Stress-Free-Christmas-Gift-Master-List

Third, aim for the best quality you can afford. Better to buy ONE gift and one small stocking stuffer than a large volume of junk.  Let’s start teaching about the value of gift-giving as the living symbol of the three wise men.

Finally, buy local. Yes, I know,  it is less expensive to hit the major big box stores. But this year, let’s think about the effect of where we spend our dollars.  Big box stores are national chains with corporate headquarters unlikely to be in your town. So the only employment benefits are probably low paying, possibly minimum wage and maybe also part-time to avoid paying benefits to full time employees.  Many big box stores have corporate deliveries of items from a regional warehouse that does not typically make purchases in your town, so basically for each dollar you spend in that store, only 5-15 cents stays in the local economy.local this holiday

Meanwhile, down on Main Street and in small neighborhood shops you have stores owned by your neighbors. They’ve been there maybe for decades, but probably not.  Our shopping choices killed many downtown stores as we shoppers opted to head to the mall instead.  Many shops are small with eager entrepreneurs who lost their jobs in the recession and are trying to find a way to make a living. The dollar spent there basically gets spent almost in full in your community. shop craft fairIn addition, there are numerous holiday markets and bazaars at this time of year. If you are lucky, you have one in your area that features artist, artisans and craftspeople who produce all the items they sell by hand. Their skill, their talent provides you an unique gift of high value, one of a kind, for that special person on your gift list.  The prices at these markets range from $1 to over $500. I know, I run a holiday market and I see eager craftspeople work hard all year to produce their love in a tangible way. My job is to tease the shoppers to at least come take a look. 

simple gift

Unique might scare you. If you want to be just like everyone else, unique is not for you. But if you are your own person, walk your own walkway, want to stand out from the crowd, this is the place for you.excellence of a gift

 

 


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Is this Creative or just Crazy?

So, remember back when I was working as a farm hand for 3 months this past summer?  There was a LOT of time spent weeding which meant my mind was working, dreaming dreams, solving problems, making others.weeding

Did you know that 30% of the food we have here goes to waste? Think about your own kitchen. How much food gets stashed in the frig, only to turn some dark green color, dripping with slime?  I’m guilty. We cook too much, put the leftovers in containers and usually remember to eat as lunch the next day, but if we are out and about, they tend to migrate to the back of the shelf and then, when I realize I am low on storage containers, I look and there they are…..needing to be sterilized!

Well, on the farm there was waste also. Michelle Burger of Bethel Springs Farms has exacting standards for her customers, and rightly so. When we picked green beans only those that were perfectly straight and of course without blemishes made it into their bags. The rest were trashed! Well, not exactly. As we were picking, the curved beans got left on the ground. In the cleaning process, anything imperfect went into the compost. It all eventually gets returned to the soil as green fertilizer, but it got me thinking that much of it was edible. DSC_0009

I started taking the imperfect produce home. Lots of it. I got paid minimum wage but boy oh boy, I was bringing home tons more in food than I was earning in dinero. And so, I started canning. And canning. And canning. Buying more jars. Canning some more. Some recipes, like the blueberry barbecue sauce, were keepers. Others like the zucchini marmalade, not so much.canning July 14 2014

Meanwhile, back at the farm, I was also thinking about the Bethel Springs business model. When Michelle hired me she took a gamble with a 60-year-old arthritic chubbette, but she saw I could (almost all the time) keep up and what she also gained was all the insights I had learned from years of farm visits.  Seeing the many different ways small farmers tried to make their work as income effective as possible.

So, I suggested to her that I could provide her another income stream. I can take those cast off green beans, not ordered zucchinis, tons and tons of excess tomatoes and can can can can can for her. She’s intrigued. So are a couple of other farmers and one other approached me. 2014-08-22 16.56.32

I have to draw the line there for this coming season. I need to stretch my wings and keep it manageable.

Meanwhile, as the fields are slumbering, I am doing all the groundwork. I went to a wonderfully timed convention this week sponsored by the Northwest Food Processors Association. Walking through the exhibition hall made me realize very quickly just how “small potatoes” this business concept is. When I talked to one vendor about a dehydrator I learned his best option for me costs $100,000.  Graham suggested a Kickstarter; I’ll wait a bit.  The family just pitched in to buy me a $250 Excalibur. That should last a year…maybe two. Next is the Better Processing School, and a whole bunch of legal things like state and federal licenses and certifications, including business filing. Amd Curt Chiarelli, a friend who is a graphic artist, is designing my logo, bless him!

Now, I COULD do all this from home if I was selling it all myself at a farmers’ market. Perfectly legal within a certain dollar amount. But by offering this service  to farmers who have no time to process their product this way and packaging it for their own label means I need to step up one notch to a commercial endeavor.

So, new venture and lots of excitement! If you want to share a scrumptious recipe you use, please do!!!

 


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Celebrate Without Going Broke

When I went into the doctor with a raging sinus infection seven Januarys ago we came to the conclusion that I was allergic to the mold that naturally forms on real Christmas trees once they are cut. The doctor was a bit surprised that I was just discovering this at my advanced age. He laughed heartily when I explained I had married Graham and was only now celebrating Christmas. We switched to an artificial tree and breathing remains undisturbed.

I wanted all the sights and smells I had heard about, read about, seen on tv and in movies. I wanted the plaid dresses with black velvet. I wanted the aroma of real pine, not some sprayed chemicals. I wanted candlelight and fire in the fireplace and all the bells and smells. I was ready to be a full fledged Christmas consumer.

By making decorations or bringing home natural items from a walk in the park to decorate the tree, you can save lots of money

By making decorations or bringing home natural items from a walk in the park to decorate the tree, you can save lots of money

When you add Christmas to 8 nights of Hanuka you end up with a lot of gift giving. Graham felt challenged. I quickly explained I had always done gift giving much as many families do-one large and several small. So this year, for example, he will buy me 8 pairs of socks and we bought a meal saver for safely freezing food.  As for me, most of the gifts I will give are items I have personally made, including the canned items I put up all growing season, baked yummies, and some useful sewn items. While all have costs associated with them, by preparing all year the cost is spread and does not hit the budget all at one time.2014-06-22 18.45.32

The whole concept of gift giving has really gotten extreme, as you yourself know. I am managing a Holiday Bazaar at the Yamhill County Fairgrounds December 13 and 14. By limiting the vendors to people who hand craft their items, we will have a vast array of jewelry, soft goods, food items, furntiture, toys and more with an array of prices from 50 cents to $500. By reminding consumers to get out of the mass produced buying frenzy at the local mall and keep their spending in the local economy, I am also suggesting they buy unique items for their loved ones.??????????wreath3??????????IMAG0309
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Even so, this may stress some budgets. I have been seeing more and more suggestions on how to make this season special with your family but not break the budget. I’d like to share some.wine and cheese traya

Can’t spend any money? Hand write (yeah, remember how to do that?) a letter to each member of your family. It doesn’t need to be long, maybe one page. Recount a memory or tell them something you look forward to doing with them. Share the love.The-Power-of-the-Handwritten-Note-in-Marketing

Check out these other suggestions by the MadHouseAdvent-activty-

Now, go and sin no more racking up credit card debt! ENJOY the season!

 


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America’s Shameful Legacy

Imagine you have been travelling overseas for a while and you wander into a local supermarket in Europe. As you shop for your dinner you encounter the foreign food aisle in addition to Asian or Latino foods, there is a section for American foods! This is what you see.american-food

How sad. This is our gift to other cultures. That and

Mc Donalds restaurant in Parisand KFC in China

There may be some Americans who thing this is great…they can eat the food they are used to when they travel to Paris or Beijing. Personally, I enjoy eating authentic French or Chinese food and when I travel I want to eat food prepared well and native to that culture.  I sure wish the people in those countries would not be thinking that processed food and fast food is what we eat……but maybe it is for most people. What a shameful thing we are teaching others about us.