Archive for category: Dining

Hecate’s Feast: Celebrating Dark Time in Deadwood

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Dining, Meditation, Mindfulness, Personal Growth, Self-Improvement, Spiritual - Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Skeletal Wine~But Look at the Price tag: $98! Fit for the Feast of Hekate

Jim and I had an amazing experience on Sunday night, visiting a friend in Deadwood Oregon, a tiny bohemian enclave off the grid in central Oregon.  We happened to be near Deadwood for the Feast of Hecate, as we are here on the last major chapter of our book tour, which is taking us from Eugene, to Portland, to Seattle, to Port Townsend and then back through Tacoma, where we will celebrate the close of the tour with Thanksgiving at the home of our daughter Brooke and her family.

Yardenna, Our Queen of Deadwood

 

Our longtime friend and former mediation partner, Yardenna, invited us to overnight at her home in Deadwood.  She told us that Deadwood residents would be gathering at the home of Mark McNutt, internationally recognized astrologist and his wife, Mary, an Anusara yoga teacher.  Their strawbale home is totally off the grid and built entirely by their own hand, an experience to visit in its own right.

Hecate’s feast was celebrated by candlelight with quite delicious offerings of black beans, peruvian potatoes, kale, dark pasta sauce with lots of black olives, forbidden rice, some amazing beets, etc brought by guests from the neighborhood and beyond.  After the feast, carrying some of the food, Mark and Mary led us with hypnotic drumming on a ritual walk by candlelight in the gently falling rain to Hecate’s altar on the bank of Deadwood Creek.  There we gathered for singing and silent intentional reflections about what we would like to lay to rest and what we would like to nourish through the dark time of winter.
Then, after being offered six pomegranate seeds, symbolic of the six seeds Persephone ate which consigned her to spend the six dark months of the year with Hades, some of us followed the sounds of splashing and thrashing to a bend in the creek where 20-30 pound salmon were returning to their birthplace to spawn.  The exhausted fish, weary from crossing the Pacific ocean and returning to their home creek, were digging holes in the rocky creek bed with their tails, before laying eggs, then the males fertilize them–and up the creek they journey, spawning until battered by the rocks they have beaten their bodies against, utterly depleted and exhausted, they die and the winter brings a gestation time for their fertilized eggs to hatch in spring.  What a powerful experience of celebrating rather than resisting the onset of the dark time!

HOW I HIT THE JACKPOT!

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Biking, Dining, Gourmet, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Pets, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , ,

Hiking High Above KESSLER CANYON RANCH, COLORADO

We have been book tour traveling off and on since Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom (http://www.pullingupstakesbook.com) was released in April.  This month we have dates at bookstore in Vail and Boulder, Colorado.  Of course, being savvy travellers, we’ve cherry picked our trips and it has really worked out well for us.  So when we were confirmed at Bookworm in Vail (http://www.bookwormofedwards.com) and Boulder Books Store (http://www.boulderbookstore.net)  in Boulder, I went on the web to find out what else we might do to light our fire while in Colorado.

One of my favorite websites is Luxury Links (http://www.luxurylinks.com). We’ve stayed at some amazing places all over the world during our sabbatical that we found, bid on and won at Luxury Links.  This time I found a property called Kessler Canyon (www.kesslercanyon.com) that looked like it might just be the spark to light our fire for the Colorado tour (oops, too many wildfires are burning right now in the west….anyway, you know what I mean).

It was a competitive bid, but luckily, this place must be the best kept secret in Western Colorado.  SO, drumroll….I won the auction—3 days and 2 nights, all meals and activities included.  But, we didn’t have a clue we had won the JACKPOT until we landed in Grand Junction, got a free upgrade to any car of our choice (a 4 wheel drive Jeep SUV) because they were out of compact cars.  We drove north to DeBeque and 17 miles west through high desert before we found the gates to Kessler Canyon and drove 4.5 more dusty dirt road miles into a canyon surrounded by rugged sandstone and shale peaks before arriving at the oasis that is this private resort.

Kessler’s Homage to the Wild Mustangs Greeted Us–6 Larger Than Lifesize Sculptures Galloping Across the Crest of a Hill

We were greeted like long lost relatives, I was immediately hugged and called “Lil Darlin’” by Chef Lenny, a generously proportioned cowboy (definitely gourmet) cook/chef.  They’d been waiting for us and couldn’t wait to welcome us, help us get settled in this amazing place. Our huge room has original old west paintings, leather easy chairs, hand carved wooden tables and chests and a gorgeous spa-like bathroom.

We soon learned that the Kessler family fortune was made in the 1970s with the establishment of the Days Inns along highway interchanges.  This canyon has been the family’s private 23,000 acre hunting and fishing retreat from managing over a dozen other boutique hotels throughout the south. We’re here, it turns out to our amazement and delight, with only two other guests and a hand-picked gifted staff of 19.  Oh, My!  If there were stars to award and five was excellent, this place would rate a ten!

 

 

 

 

Cowboy Chef Lenny in a Rarely Pensive Moment (He is Usually Laughing or Singing)


 

 

We have been treated like visiting royalty.  Encouraged to fish in one of the lakes, take lessons in shooting skeet (this is a private big game hunting lodge during hunting season)—both shotguns and high powered rifles.  Now as a Buddhist, I clearly clo not believe in killing, but I certainly don’t object to shooting skeet and tin targets at 250 yard, especially when a Navy sharpshooter who has been teaching for almost twenty years offers himself as your private guide and instructor.

We’ve also been mountain biking and this morning we took Tess, the family Springer Spaniel, a reportedly $10.000 dog who recently gave birth to eight wonderful puppies, on a challenging hike up to the top of the plateau overlooking this canyon (see above photo)—about a 3,000 ft climb.

 

Mama Tess, the Amazing Springer Spaniel

We really feel we deserve the phenomenal gourmet meals Cowboy Chef Lenny prepares for us each meal.

We also were invited to learn (fast) and take out our own ATVs —for someone who’s never done that, and always only hiked, biked or ridden horses, that’s another adventure into a testosterone-drenched world, like shooting guns,.  Suffice it to say, we didn’t flip our ATVs. But there were more than a few “Yee Haws!” as we swooped down through stream beds and up steep banks to gun it (lots of guns here) out the straightaway.

Well, all I can say, is “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” has many unexpected, sometimes challenging, yet extraordinary meanings.  It does appear, for the price we paid and the amazing experience we have had, that we have surely hit the jackpot.

Sleeping With Horses

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Dining, Horses, Relationships, Travel - Tags: , , , ,

To celebrate our thirty-first year together and our 28th wedding anniversary, Jim and I decided to celebrate our romance by sleeping with our horses.  No, not literally, but at the Point Reyes Country Inn and Stables in Marin County.  We’ve been going there now for the past three Septembers and so love it, we are only too happy to return.

View of Spectacular Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, CA

I polished the tack, washed the truck, cleaned up the horse trailer and spiffed up horses with baths. Shambhala, my chocolate Rocky Mountain gaited Horse with the flaxen mane and tail, always looks spectacular with or without a bath, but Cheyenne (my “Last White Horse”, she vowed) especially needs a bath.  Cheyenne is my dream horse—a little Kentucky Natural Gaited mare, she is a buckskin paint with white mane and black and white tail, four white legs, and large areas of buckskin and white.  She is the smoothest ride ever and the sweetest disposition I could imagine.  Her white legs, white rump and the white in her tail, however, are usually anything but white.  We have an ongoing battle with tarweed in our pasture, and when the tarweed wins, its sticky, gummy leaves rub off on the horses’ noses and legs, and wherever there’s white fur, it goes gunky dingy funk colored. So, before stepping out for a sleepover, shampoos are square one necessity.

 

We load up some picnic supplies for the trails, load up the beautifully clean “ladies” in the horse trailer, and set out for an intentionally midweek stay, as the weekends at Pt Reyes National Seashore are often very crowded, and after a long, unseasonably foggy summer, we are enjoying the dog days of Indian summer with a welcome hot spell.  The drive up is uneventful except for the shock of discovering the toll on the Richmond Bridge has gone up to $15 for truck and trailer, and soon to be $20!  Those trolls in the tollbooths have you by the short hairs.  Pay or go home.  So we pay.  We take off 101 onto a beautiful backcountry road north through the beautiful valley of Nicasio.  Jim had cycled there years and years ago, and remembers a wonderful cowboy bar and grill, which, to our delight, is unchanged and open and serving lunch on the patio under the oaks.  Giving the horses a few carrot snacks and letting them out of the trailer to relax under an oak tree, we decide to share a crab cake burger.  Delicious—and we know we’re on our way to a good celebration.

 

Arriving at the Point Reyes Country Inn and Stables, we’ve reserved “Same Room, Same Paddock, Same Time Next Year” so we settle in like old hands.  Shambhala and Cheyenne clearly love the big paddock with the huge oak tree in the corner and immediately check out the “boys” next door—a pair of black Tennessee Walkers and quite good lookers as well.  The girls are happy and so are we as we find our upstairs corner bedroom waiting—with one deck over looking the meadows and mountains in the back, and the other on the sunny side overlooking the wisteria covered patio and the paddocks below.  We unpack and prowl around the little village of Point Reyes Station, then savor the rest of the afternoon chez nous before dressing up for an absolutely stellar anniversary dinner of local fresh Tomales Bay oysters, fresh cod and wild caught salmon at the tony Olema Inn.

As the Inn is a B & B, we are served breakfast and meet other horsey folks visiting at the same time.  We swap stories about horses and riding plans.  Jim and I have ridden most of the trails in this beautiful area, so we’re looking for some we haven’t ridden yet.  All of us are leery of anything close to the two trails where some very aggressive bees have hives and have attacked both horses and riders, including one guest last week who ended up in the hospital after her horse went beserk. No, we won’t do the Wittenberg or the trails this year!   It’s predicted to be in the high 80s today, so we opt for the very southernmost park of the preserve and the coastal trail out of Palomarin, with a picnic ride to Bass Lake.  It turns out to be a gorgeous, dramatic nine mile ride with sweeping views from Drakes Bay south to Bolinas Bay, and a few stomach curdling drop offs down to the wave-pounding rocky coastline below.  The horses are barefoot, so the only drawback is some of the terrain is ouchy-rocky for them; I plan to put on their rubber booties if we ride on this type of terrain tomorrow.  Picnicking at the lakeside, Jim hoots out loud when a bright red claw emerges from the weeds of the murky bank—Whoa!  Guess a large sweet water crayfish is trolling for handouts!

 

Back at the inn, the horses check out the boys next door to their paddock and we shower off the trail dust and hot weather sweat before enjoying another relaxing evening and delicious repast at Stellina’s with a delightful young couple we’ve met at the inn—he’s a commercial pilot and she an Ecuadorean beauty and they are as interesting and charming as they are handsome.  We’re always happy when we meet new YOUNG and active friends and they love to ride!

 

Thursday, we decide to try the Rift Rim Trail toward Five Brooks out of the Bear Valley trailhead and we are delighted!  First of all, Cheyenne, who has never behaved very well at opening gates, has a star performance as we have about six gates out and back to open and she nails them all!  Second, there are vast open meadows with black Angus cattle grazing and an opportunity for some full out yee haw galloping!  The horses (and we) LOVE to pull out the throttle when there is good footing, excellent visibility and wide open space—beyond the big meadows, we come upon streams, leafy forest glens and best of all no other souls for the whole ride.  We end up riding back into the little village of Olema to share a salad and cup of clam chowder—its fun to tie up at the Olema Farmhouse tierack for lunch.  That afternoon, after retiring the horses and unhitching the trailer, we drive the truck up the coast to pick up a bountiful bakers’ double dozen fresh oysters and ice for the trip home to grill, so that withdrawal from this beautiful respite won’t be so hard to take.

Bread for the Journey

Categories: Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Dining, Mindfulness, Personal Growth, Spiritual - Tags: , , , , , ,

Everyone needs a bit of bread for their journey—and especially now in these challenging and hungry times.  But when it is possible to offer some yeast to make lots of loaves rise, to provide education, sustenance, or pathways out of poverty for the disenfranchised, and to do it locally by finding enterprising “bakers” with creative ideas for community projects, well, that’s a great thing.  And that’s what Bread for the Journey is all about!

Four years ago, on a Buddhist retreat in beautiful Inverness, I met Brandy Sacks, then one of the principal administrators of Bread for the Journey nationally.  He inspired me to help start a local chapter in Santa Cruz County, and so a couple of years later, we have a strong local chapter (Bread for the Journey of Santa Cruz County) with four of us founding members (myself, Sooz Kohen, Carolyn Blackman and Jerilyn Kass, now the BFJ national President) plus Shamim Famoso (a strong new recruit with plenty of business savvy from her years as a senior administrator at Cisco Systems) for our board.  We’re the “Yeastie Sistahs” or Caretaking Council as we like to call ourselves and we’ve raised enough cash (bread) to already offer yeast (micro grants) to eight enterprising projects to serve the underserved.

It turns out practicing generosity offers the generous an expansive pleasure, almost as much for the giver as the grant recipients, the same way yeast makes bread rise.  It’s terrific!!  So two years ago, I decided to make a paradigm shift and turn our annual September Harvest Party into not only a party for friends and family, but a fundraiser for Bread for the Journey of Santa Cruz County.  At first I was a little worried about how guests would feel about being “invited” to make donations to our cause, but when they heard about who we are and what we do, and especially when they actually met several of our grantees and heard their inspiring stories, they actually expressed gratitude.  It’s wonderful to support the Red Cross or United way, but you’d never have a chance like we offer, to actually meet and personally greet the recipients of your generosity, and to hear what they are doing with their grants.  It’s inspiring and, as I said, expansive all around.

So last Sunday we celebrated BFJ big time with a gorgeous day, “CPR” a great live Santa Cruz band (they donated their music as well), about 100 guests and one of our grant recipients, Lightfoot catered the party. We met three of the disadvantaged and delightful high school kids on the Lightfoot grant, who are learning careers in food services—organic gardening, menu planning,  healthy eating, food prep, serving, etc.—mingling with the guests and impressing everyone.  Our friends and family danced their shoes off, savored great eats, opened their hearts and pockets and we received almost $2,500 in one day!

 

 

 

 

So, check us out and join in the joy of sharing generously—it’s a healthy high antidote to low times.  www.breadforthejourney.org.   Click on the link for Santa Cruz County and read some of our grantees stories, and send us some “$$$Bread” and “like” us on your FaceBook page!

“Pique-nique” in Arles

Categories: Biking, Conscious Living, Dining, France, Gourmet, Travel - Tags: , , , , ,

The ride today is out and back from Arles to the foot of the Alpilles, en route to Saint Remy de Provence, where Vincent van Gogh hospitalized himself for thirteen artistically productive months after cutting off part of his ear. Then we ride on to the same spots that inspired some of van Gogh’s finest works. The next stop on the ride, dozens of feet beneath the olive groves that Van Gogh painted, is where archeologists more recently unearthed Glanum, a Roman regional capital dating from 100 B.C.  Finally, routed on this memorably promising day is Les Baux, the massive castle where knightly chivalry was practiced and the art form of the troubadour was refined. There’s also a display of classic “engines of war” that include a full size catapult and trebuchet. Although the castle (portions of it dating back to pre-Roman times), was pulled down for religious reasons in 1632 (it had become a refuge for protestants!) the village survived, and is as intriguing as the fortress.

All this is so exciting because Jim and I took our first tandem trip here in 1988 and I remember this route as a high point of that trip.  However, as Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, the “best laid plans of mice and men are aftly gang awry.”  At breakfast, Jim starts sneezing uncontrollably and then, turning to me ruefully, says, “I’m coming down with a cold.”  Of course spending eight days on an air-conditioned boat is like being confined within an airplane cabin for days.  I hadn’t realized it, but cyclists are dropping like flies from colds.

Well, actually, not bad timing, Jim!  The boat will be staying overnight again here in Arles and today being Saturday, we have in Arles Provence’s largest outdoor market.  We’d already suited up in our bike clothes, so after the rest of the still-healthy cyclists take off for St Remy En Provence, we change from our cleated bike shoes into more comfortable footwear and head into the center of town to the huge blocks and blocks long street market.  We’ve been cycling so much, it’s really the first time I’ve had any free time to browse for gifts for the kids at home.  Jim quickly tires of this hunter-gathering mode and returns to read, rest and nurse his cold on the ship, leaving me to scour the market for Provencal bibelots for friends and family.

There are the most delectable offerings in the food department, but I know there’s no way the extraordinary selections of cheese, pates or olive tapenades can make it home with us, so I take lots of pictures and head, just slightly downcast, into the part of the market that sells Provencal linens, fabrics, olive oils, lavender soaps and sachets.  I fill my basket, enjoying brief conversations in French with the merchants and turn toward home.  But it is already noon and there is no lunch scheduled on the boat today, so I spin around with zest and fresh culinary purpose and return to the market.  Voila!  I will buy some of those amazing cheeses, tapinades, olives and bread and make Jim a picnic!

Back on the boat, I lay out the booty on a table in the deserted lounge of the boat, invite Jim to join me, and we have probably our favorite meal on the whole trip.  It’s intimate, delicious, beautiful and fun.  Bon Apetite!

I pray Jim can breathe well enough tomorrow to ride, because tomorrow promises to be perhaps the most unique day of all—riding our tandems across the Camargue—the flat delta of the Rhone, so rich with wildlife, it abounds in pink flamingos, wild horses, mammals related to woodchucks, storks and various birds of prey.  Oh, la la!

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