#76- All is Right in the World

Cheesy as it may sound,  when I learned that my friend Nicola and her husband Ed were having a baby, my first thought was something along the lines of “this makes everything right in the world.”  Meaning, despite chaos…. hardships…. anger…. Nicola and Ed, I believe,  are excellent examples of living a Christian life, so hearing they were having a baby seemed to be God’s way of saying, ” I still bless people.” Does that make sense?  I know there are blessings out there everyday, but this was particularly joyous I think.

On my way to their home, once I jumped on Hwy 99, I found myself smiling.  I was so excited to meet this little girl (#76 on my list). I was excited to catch up with Nicola- it has been since Summer of 2010 that I last got to visit with her, and I was near depressed when I realized I couldn’t attend her baby shower- Nicola threw me one when I was pregnant with Natalie…

They think Lauriana is a serious baby, which makes me laugh because- although it’s true she seemed very focused & determined while I was there- it seems very opposite of Ed & Nicola themselves.

She was sizing me up

It was a great visit, I probably could have chatted with them for several more hours.   If only we were neighbors!  Lauriana didn’t cry or fuss once, which is impressive in my opinion.

True judge of character- She too, thinks I am crazy....

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#55- The Omnivore’s Dilemma

I finished this book last week, and set this posting to reflect the day I finished it (Goal #55 on my list).

The Omnivore’s Dilemma was gifted to me by younger brother two Christmas’ ago, and I added it to a small, but growing, stack of books to read thinking I’d never get around to it.

To wrap my mind around all the amazing information this books presents to the reader- the consumer- and write it up with accuracy in a book review (book reviews being something I haven’t done since grade school I think) gives me a massive headache.  Where do I even start?

Maybe, I’ll try to just quote and summarize some of the bigger ideas, but I warn you now this is a long winded post.  There is just no other way…

-Eating, in America, truly is a dilemma.  As a culture we’ve been mindfucked into believing any new trend in research – and any new dieting fad. A study says “this” is good for you, and we overdose on it.  Another study says “this” could cause cancer and we avoid it like the plague.  But if you look at other countries, particularly ones with little-to-no health issues and longevity, it shows they don’t follow any trends but just simply continue to live off the land around them.  We don’t do that.

-Agriculture is always going to be organized by the government, but to the benefit of corporations, not for the farmer and never for the consumer. When the government regulates and subsidizes crops and livestock like it does, it keeps prices down for Corporations and keeps farmers and farm workers, generally, poor. This is said for those farms that buy into the government programs.  What is the number one crop commodity? Corn.  How do we produce it quick? By creating a hybrid of the most successful kind of corn along with unhealthy fertilizers.

– Cows are not designed by God to eat corn.  Yet, corn mixed with antibiotics are exactly what they are fed 100% of the time.  Why? Because cows that are stuffed with corn grow much faster than cows that graze on grass, which leads to quicker turn over and slaughter rates.  When people talk about “beautiful marbling” of fat on a piece of meat, that is actually corn & antibiotics that the cow cannot process so therefore sticks on their body as fat.  If the cow can’t process it, what do you think it does for OUR bodies when we eat that “beautiful marbling”?

-And why Antibiotics? Because the cows get so very sick from eating corn their bodies cannot process, and combine that with standing around all day in their own shit.  So you don’t see the cows doing that as you drive through the back roads of Dixon?  Sure, but those cows aren’t going to Safeway or McDonald’s or AppleBee’s.  Those cows are going to specialty Butcher Shops and Higher End restaurants. But that meat you are buying from Corporation businesses?  Those are coming from shit holes in the Midwest. Or outside Stockton.

-When the diet of our meat switch from one of grass to grain, so did their -and subsequently OUR– Omega intake.  Significance?  Omega-6 (Which helps blood clot) is found in seeds of plants while Omega-3 (which helps blood flow and acts as an anti-inflmmatory) is found in the leaves. So, Corn/Omega-6/Blood Clotting (seeds of plants) is fed to cows, pigs, chicken. Then we eat it.  Then we get heart attacks and heart disease and it’s linked to meat eating.  Then we run around screaming about how we need to cut back our meat intake and become vegetarian.  Whereas, if we ate GRASS-fed/Omega-3/Blood Flowing animals, we’d all be a little bit better off…….

“The Organic Label is a Marketing Tool. “

-Shopping Organic or at Whole Foods is in fact just a bunch of fluff and feel good crap. For the most part.  While buying and eating Organic is by no means a bad thing, it is in fact another market trend that big corporations are preying on with the consumer.  The Author of this book, a Journalist by trade, investigated multiple “Organic” Farms and found that while they may use Organic soil or feed their chickens Organic feed, they are typically not living the Wholistic lifestyle they write about on their labels.

It’s complicated for me to summarize, but basically say you walk into Whole Foods and see pictures of smiling migrant workers holding a crate full of fresh tomatoes and you read this short narrative about how this Organic Marinara is making the world a better place.  But chances are that Migrant Worker isn’t all that happy at all, the tomato and other ingredients travelled an average of 1500 miles to arrive on the shelf (thus adding to the overall pollution by way of fuel & industrial factories) and the nutritional value has greatly diminished because …

“a tomato grown in Tennessee does not have the same nutritional value as a tomato grown in California”

What does that mean?  It means there is a reason why potatoes are suppose to grow in Idaho, Peaches in Georgia, and grapes in Napa.  These foods have a God-given design that dictates the environment in which they may thrive but because we as Americans have demanded any food at any time, we’ve produce farms and fields that do just that.  Without consideration of the diminished value.  So is that Organic Marinara Sauce any better just cause it has the organic label?  Not neccessarily.

Long story short, if you want to eat healthier, live longer and support your community, you need to buy and eat locally.  Which also means eating with the seasons again.  Who does that anymore? Countries with better health and longer lives do.

……….

There is so much more in the book that I’ve only barely scraped the surface.  Michael Pollan does an extensive job researching where our food comes from.  From fields in Iowa, to factories, to slaughterhouses, to Chain Restaurants and grocery stores, and right back to the Hunting and Gathering lifestyle.  But what I’ve walked away with is a stronger resolve to not only eat more locally and more seasonally, but avoid highly process foods and to stick to grass fed animals.

One may argue that it’s too expensive to eat this way, but  Michael Pollan argues back that we somehow manage to find $100+ to spend on cell phones each month, we manage to find $75+ to spend on cable TV each month, $50+ a month on internet service, etc. etc. etc., why can’t we find that kind of money to make ourselves and our community healthier?  At the same time, while the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s is a cheaper way to fill you up, the cost it puts on our health later down the road, plus the cost it puts on our environment, and the cost of government campaigns to end obesity and the taxpayers money spent to combat the medical fallout of that dollar menu suddenly makes your $3 local organic snack look much more reasonably priced.

My Bucket List FAQ

I’ve been hit up with lots of questions about my list.

How did you even come up with some of this stuff?

When I originally made my list, in the first few days of January, some items were easy to think of… and others I was stretching a bit.  I spent a little time googling around with a few key words, trying to find some interesting things.  Some things on my list don’t thrill me entirely, but what does thrill me is the idea of challenging myself to do something different, and to gain a new experience I wouldn’t ever think to try. Like, attending a religious service for something other than the church I am use to.  My other source of ideas is the Ten O’Clock News.  We watch the news late at night, after Natalie’s in bed and I see a lot of crazy people doing a lot of crazy things. Some of that stuff made my list as well.  With other things, I just racked my brain of all those moments where I told a family member or friend, “Yes, let’s do that sometime soon.”  Well, this is the year.

What if you don’t accomplish everything on your list?  

It’s really okay with me if I don’t.  I’m not trying to make up excuses now for if I don’t finish every item.  I am extremely motivated to accomplish it all. But more than anything, I was just looking for a new way to have fun this year. There is no grand prize, no first place. Just my inner feeling of triumph.

Do you forget what’s on your list?

No. Not really. I printed out a hard copy that sits next to my desk, with some notes scribbled on it as far as when certain things are suppose to take place.  I review the entire list maybe once a week, and choose things here or there that seem like something I can do sooner rather than later.  I have lots of friends who text me throughout the day asking when I am doing a certain item and if they can join me.  Having others stay on top of me like that is also helpful.

So… what about the final five?

About that!  I have 3 of the 5 filled in now, still wanting suggestions from others! I do like all the ideas I get, even if I ultimately decide probably not to do one thing or the other.  Like, dressing up and being an Elf in that Festival with my friend Makenzie…… WOULD LOVE TO DO THAT…. but I need to be reasonable….. am I gonna have the time/energy/money/etc. to give up a weekend of my holiday season to get that done? Maybe one year… but not this one.   Anyway, here’s my 3:

95- Find a picture I love, and recreate it. – Thank you Tori Nelson for that suggestion!

96- Welcome home a soldier from the Middle East

100- This one is a secret, a big one, which is why it’s my final one. It’s actually been #1 on my list since I even began brainstorming, but I am purposely keeping it a secret for now.

#37- Fancy Tea with Fancy Friends

Tea Party! No, to state the obvious and qwell cheesy jokes, neither Sarah Palin nor Rand Paul where present at this tea party. Nor my younger brother, for those of you who know my family ( I really do try to distance myself from that, I swear).

A year ago, I went to a 4H fundraiser Tea with my Mom and Natalie at the Linde Lane Tea Room in Dixon.  I was more than pleasantly surprised.  I had heard it was fancy, but did not realize the extent of it’s fanciness.

I posted a picture of Natalie next to a giant tea cup, to which my friend Jen immediately responded with “OMG! I have to take Liv there!” and then I commented back that we should plan a tea party with the girls (#37 on the my list).  And that was pretty much the end of it.  But I never did stop thinking about it, because 1) I knew it would be fun and 2) I don’t typically say “Yes, Let’s do that!” unless I really mean it and then I feel guilty for as long as time passes and I DON’T do that.

And Jen & Olivia are just the perfect PERFECT friends to have a fancy tea with.  Olivia loves getting dressy, just like Natalie so the idea that these girls had to be ‘little ladies’ and wear the fancy necklaces with lace and flowers and bonnets, etc. I think thrilled me just as much as them (ok, probably a little more).

I am, by no means, a Tea person.  I like my Jasmine Fancy… but that’s typically as far as my tea requests go.  The one tea party I went to as a young girl was hosted by my girl scout troop, and that didn’t go so well for me because I didn’t have proper attire. Try showing up in a summer T-shirt and cotton shorts while the rest of your troop has white satin gloves, floral hats and polka-dotted dresses on with lace socks and see how out-of-place you feel.

Anyway, I am hoping this Tea Party is one that Natalie will remember with a smile.  The girls ordered the “Teddy Bear Tea” option with Apple Cinnamon Tea, and definitely had their fair share of sugar cakes and frostings.  Since it was a special event, I let it slide but really….. start with a scoop of sorbet and shortbread cookie as a palate cleanser  then after the small sandwich you serve kids with a frosted cookie, a chocolate scone and a cupcake with sprinkles?? Oh well : )

#83 – The Perfect Game

When Blake & I first began dating, around the Summer of 2005, I surprised him with a weekend trip to one of my most favorite places:  Stinson Beach.  It was a perfect weekend.  I remember the weather being nice, I had my Jeep with the top down, Blake had just passed his Paramedic Exam and the place where we were staying was this ‘quaint’ little bed & breakfast.  After a day snoozing on the sand, we walked into town to get some dinner.  I guess right around this time the power went out for the whole strip, and the restaurant Bartender invited us in, but let us know options would be limited.

We didn’t mind at all, and we found a spot to sit and I also spotted a Chess Board.  It was the best evening.  No power, no time limits, flowing drinks and a chess game that lasted forever it seemed.  Still one of my favorite evenings.  The sad part is, we never played Chess again.  Mostly because we didn’t have the game, and we never had such an opportunity present itself again.

When I was making my list of things to accomplish, I was thinking of times that made me happy and things I wish I could do again- Which is why #83 (Purchase Chess and challenge my husband) made the list.

For my birthday, I was gifted this Chess set- a leather, roll-up-n-go kit, which turned out to be perfect for traveling.  I don’t think I’m that in to chess to carry it with me where ever I go, but I like the idea of being able to…

#7- Belize, Part 1

I have a very piercing memory from when I was 12 or so, sitting with my dad at our dining room table, with him  a notepad and a pen. I had asked about finances (credit cards, loans, mortgages and such) and my Dad was scribbling numbers on a paper explaining to me how these things operate.  I was old enough to understand percentages and interest rates but most importantly, I was old enough to understand as he explained it, that people who have loans, credit cards or mortgages were getting screwed up the ass. I remember the feeling of first shock and disgust that anyone was stupid enough to have a credit card and then feeling despair that having a mortgage was just about unavoidable if you wanted to own your own home. I told my dad then I would, at least, never possess a credit card.

And that is the absolute truth.  Why would someone ever spend money outside their means? Obviously millions of you do it everyday, but I surely never got sucked into it. What I did do, however, when I was 16 was I got a job.  When I was 18 I got 2 jobs and for most of my college life I balanced 3 jobs at any given time. I spent my mornings teaching, my afternoons coordinating after school programs and my evenings and weekends I worked at Borders. Somewhere in between I took my classes and had a nightlife. Why is this relevant?  Because I knew I had some goals and I would need money to reach these goals.  What I did, and still do, is take a set amount of every paycheck and deposit it into an account I tell myself is untouchable until I’ve acquired the money to reach my said goal, and then drain it. This works really well for me. When I graduated college I spent a summer roaming Europe (ahhh cliche) and when I got home I bought myself a brand new jeep wrangler.  All with cash.

I am sharing this story because once again, several years ago, I started saving for a trip to Belize (#7 on my list).  At the time I didn’t know I wanted to go to Belize, but I knew I wanted to travel and I knew I wanted to do it right.  I did my homework, researched the best hotels and excursions and restaurants, etc.  Last May I boarded a plane with Blake and set out for Belize, only to get stuck in Dallas due to that Joplin, Missouri Tornado. We watched helplessly from our seat window on the tarmac as our flight to Belize took off without us. Devastated ( I think I cried most of the flight back) but I knew it wouldn’t be a giving up point for me.  Amazingly, for the first time in my life of travel,  I had bought insurance. The phone lady says “would you like trip insurance? It’s only 45$ per person” I think insurance is a complete scam, but I figured Blake would be upset if I didn’t buy it. Travel insurance IS a scam, and tried to scam us out of our money when our Belize trip got cancelled, but between Blake harassing them and me harassing American Airlines for a few months, we got all of our money back in full, cause we hadn’t charged anything- we had paid cash.  It was no easy task, but my anger in having worked so hard and to have it taken from me drove me to call and write and email and harass everyday.

So that’s part one of our Belize story….

#7- Belize, Part 2

It took a flight first to Dallas, then to Belize City, then a Puddle Jumper over to Amergris Caye followed by a boat ride to the resort we were staying at, Matachica.  For those who don’t like to travel, it sounds awful I suppose but the flights were a little under 3 hours, the Puddle Jumper was a few minutes and the boat ride was easy considering the view.  Landing, and stepping off the airliner onto the tarmac was the first wake up call that this wasn’t the U.S. anymore.  Security seemed optional- judging by the “laid back” customs, check ins, and baggage handling process we went through.  Not to mention that for the Puddle Jumper, Blake was literally sitting co-pilot while 12 more of us sat in the cabin.  For me, I know I’m not in the U.S. anymore when I base my actions on the ‘odds’ of something happening.  As in, ‘What are the odds that the guy sitting co-pilot in the cockpit is crazy and will take the plane down?’ or  ‘ What are the odds that the people who just picked us up in a golf cart aren’t really from the resort?’   

We had a full week to play and as we golf-carted our way through the town of San Pedro from airstrip to boat dock I was a giddy puppy seeing all the shops, restaurants and street vendors to visit.  No McDonald’s or Walmart in sight. But don’t get me wrong, it was still one big tourist trap in a sense as probably at least 98% of the economy is based on tourism. We would later find out that (after renting our own golf cart) on the outskirts of town near the ‘public housing’ is where you’ll find the legit Belize places and the unwelcoming attitude.

I’ll refrain from restaurant and Resort reviews because I know no one is really heading that way soon, or is going to hop on  plane to check out something I rave about.  but I will say in terms of food- when on an island do as the islanders do and indulge in seafood.  Can’t go wrong and plantain-breaded calamari was by far my most favorite culinary experience there. The Resort lived up to its numerous awards, and I have not a single complaint.

   

In a conversation early in the week, Blake and I agreed that we could return back to California and feel completely satisfied with our time spent so long as we accomplished 2 things: Snorkeling (scuba diving for him) the Barrier Reef and visiting the Mayan Ruins. This is really what Belize is known for, and Central America is known really for the Mayan Culture.

The Barrier Reef is breath taking. It was like swimming into Nemo’s neighborhood. A Sea Turtle literally tapped his fin on my goggles, we swam with Nerf Sharks, sting rays, moray eels, barracudas, Nemos, Dories, and a whole bunch more. I’m just a little bothered that of the 5 different camera options we brought with us, none had an underwater option.

  

The mainland trip to check out the Ruins included cave tubing.  This was probably our least favorite excursion not because of the caves or the ruins but because of the people that were on the trip with us.  Just thinking of the 3 hour + van ride we endured is exhausting. We were packed in with 4 college spring-break party kids, and a red-neck yet liberal couple.  Despite the obvious culture clash, the 6 of them managed to become BFF’s, agreeing on every issue from Dog Rescue efforts, the Rasta lifestyle, Jerry Springer episodes to ways tohelp the Belizean people out of poverty.  Had we been the United Nations, Blake & I would have been Iran because like the Holocaust, the group believed Jerry Springer was all true life while we believe the shows are pretend. I faked sleep for about 2 of the 3 hour ride.

   

But the trip was everything we’d hoped for.  The weather was perfectly sunny, slightly cloudy here and there with a perfect slow breeze to keep us cool. I got some great souvenirs- all local and created by Belizean people.  Which I really value.  I can’t stand when all the souvenir shops sell the exact same things no matter where in the world you are.  Easy way of knowing this is just to scratch off the word “Belize” and then imagine it saying “Jamaica” or “Hawaii.”  Friends, you do know that all those key chains, picture frames, photobooks, shot glasses, postcards and t-shirts are manufactured in Thailand and then sent out to everywhere else?  All they do is change the name of the location to read where ever it is you are visiting…