Goooood moooorrrnnning Hunter’s Baaay

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Cooking has long been a passion of mine.   From the early days of watching my dad create things from a variety of ingredients in our fridge to my culinary classes in college, cooking has always been something I love to do.

I have spent my fair share of hours, and overtime hours, working in the food industry.  I have watched cooks and Chefs prepare anything from a simple crudite platter to an Amuse Bouche of Mousse Foie Gras with a Cognac foam.  I am not ashamed to admit it, I am a “foodie”….so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when my love for cooking and my enthusiasm for helping people collided into a serendipitous explosion.

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Dollars for Dinners is a project I began about a month ago.  I took an idea that began as a simple gesture for a friend last year and evolved it into a new way of getting real food into our local food bank.  With the help of many friends and many donations, we are creating Freezer Crockpot meals that allow families to have a home-cooked meal once or twice a week made of REAL food and not just packaged, processed ingredients.

Over the last week, some friends of mine have been sending this story to local media outlets.   I have done live interviews with two radio stations, one of whom has done a food challenge to eat the food supplied by their local food bank for a week, sent my story to a third radio station and am in communication with a television station that may be interested in my project.  The best part of all of this news and social media coverage is that I have a friend who has recently said that she is interested in doing this same thing in her community.

This is the reaction I wanted.  I want more communities to realize that this is a process that simply includes donations from its members and a few volunteer hours to make a huge difference to families in need.  I am not looking for my fifteen minutes of fame…..I am merely looking to everyone to give fifteen minutes of their time to help Food Banks offer healthier and tastier options so families don’t have to survive on the things we only stock in case of the Apocalypse.

 

Becoming a student of the law

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No, I have not decided to go back to school.  Instead, I have vowed to become a student of life and pursue the merits of the Laws of Attraction.

I recently overheard friends discussing their desire to create a vision board.  Although I knew vaguely what a vision board was, I had never been entertained by the idea of creating one for myself.  I love to lose time dreaming about my perfect kitchen.  I have seen my future home in my brain so many times, and the idyllic life that goes along with it, but I have never felt the need to purchase a white board and post pictures of my idealized Arcadian existence until now.

my new kitchen

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I have envisioned myself cooking in this kitchen.  I have seen the faces of the guests in those chairs enjoying wine and appetizers while I artfully prepare the next course, amusing their bouche with each morsel.  My fully stocked pantry is organized so well, with labels facing forward, that it is only protected by a Muskoka-style screen door.  The wine cellar is filled with robust red and crisp white wines and the food is freshly cooked every day.  This is my bliss.

To add to my paradise there is a writing nook off in the corner, away from everything else, where my dreams are free to escape the confines of my brain and spontaneously arrange themselves on a blank page.  All facets of my creativity thrive in this space and my happiness is shared with those around me.

Vision boards appeal to both the conscious and subconscious levels of our instinct.  As I wrote this post, my vision board was staring back at me, daring me to make it a reality.  Those spaces invite me to live within them.  Those dreams want me to follow them into my new future.  And those images will pursue me in my sleep and be there in the morning to remind me that my desires are real and I should never lose hope.

When the past slaps you in the face

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It is a very rare occurrence when my emotions take me by surprise.  I am usually fairly in tune with them and I can feel them bubbling gently below the surface.  But last night on my way home from work while driving past my mother’s old house, the same house I drive by every day on my way to work and again on my way home, the emotion stored within my walls hit me like a ton of bricks.   Last night I glanced at the house, as I do every time I follow that familiar road, and I burst into tears.

I don’t know where the tidal pool of emotion came from but suddenly I was flooded with images of moments that had become important memories in my life.  Christmases, birthdays, family gatherings and quiet nights spent as a family were at the forefront of my brain.  Lingering snapshots of magical kisses witnessed by only the walls upstairs slowly transformed themselves into moving pictures to replay those scenes.  That house, the building others would only see as walls and a roof, was my home.  It was the vessel that helped create and store some of the most precious moments of my life.

And I do the same with my childhood home.  Every so often I feel the pull to drive by and just look at the house that began our journey to becoming locals in this town.  It was home to my family and a welcoming second home to many of our friends.  It witnessed great happiness and great sorrow, but it was always filled with love.

house

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Although there were many happy times in our second home, there were also moments of great sorrow.  Those walls echoed my overwhelming grief in May of 2003 as I told my parents through hysterical sobs that my best friend had passed away unexpectedly.  That roof sheltered both my parents as they battled their illness and those walls protected them for as long as they could.  That structure, that old building that is seemingly unnoticeable to passers-by, will forever have a large part of my history carved into its frame.

That architecture will always be a part of me.   And each time I drive by and take the time to trace the outlines of those walls I will always have an affinity to its design and purpose.  It is said that we need to let things go to be happier but I feel the need to embrace those things to stay connected.

 

More than rainbows….

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That inspired moment,

the moment that seemed to stop in time,

when there were so many things I wanted to say,  yet,

none of them would come out.

Silence stole the spotlight,

but there was a shared comfort in that quiet.

I realized,

in that muted moment,

when the silence was deafening,

that I didn’t need to say anything.

My words needed no sound.

The emotion in my reticence spoke volumes.

And in that breath of repose,

everything I wanted to tell you,

you already knew.

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Spaces

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Strangled spaces,

deprived of the oxygen

needed to thrive.

You thought I wanted something,

the thing you weren’t prepared to give.

And I only wanted something

you couldn’t find the time to give.

Two paths,

winding consecutively absent of each other

but somehow still intertwined.

Altered spaces,

lives that have moved on

in opposite directions.

Memories hold tight

and I pause to reflect

the path that I enjoyed discovering,

the many twists that taught me about life,

the cliffs that gave me fear,

and the arms that made me feel safe.

Forever spaces,

those glimpses of life we hold on to,

those moments we grasp so tightly

because we know how important they were

and how meaningful they will always be.

The Church of the Fish

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Times have certainly changed.   When I began my career in the hospitality industry, food allergies were not even a blip on the culinary radar.  The kitchen was, for a Chef, a playground with no rules.   But all of that has changed.

These days, I make a point of asking each person making a reservation at the lodge if anyone in the family has any food allergies or food restrictions that we should be made aware of before their arrival.  The answers always weigh more heavily on the ‘yes’ than the ‘no’.  And although some of the guidelines we are made to adhere to are more preference than necessity, the kitchen now has to deal with a list of these instructions for each week of our summer season.

Now, while I completely comprehend the severity of an ingested or inhaled allergic reaction to a food, it does not negate the fact that I am more than moderately amused by the inability of our Sous Chef to pronounce one of the more prevalent choices in the current realm of dietary options.  A Pescatarian is a person who does not eat meat but will eat fish.  And each time I have the opportunity to add that choice to our “allergy” list for the week, my smile cannot be missed.   As I walk into the kitchen with that list, I calmly await the moment that she will read the list aloud and say the word “Pescabyterian”.

church of the loaves and fishes

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According to Karina, somewhere there is a church for vegetarians who occasionally eat fish.  And that latest hotel guest, that new addition to our list of dietary anomalies, is a member of its congregation.  Each time she reads the list aloud, the words Pescatarian and Presbyterian become intertwined and I am reduced to a public school version of myself, unintentionally (not really) laughing at the combination of the two expressions.

Pescabyterian – a member of the religion of vegetarians who consciously choose to eat fish.

It may be juvenile, but this marriage of words helps alleviate some of the stress in our summer.  It gives us the freedom to laugh at the increased amount of tension in an already volatile environment.  And it allows a break for laughter in a scene that is meant more for drama, creating an oasis of calm in a sea of chaos.

One simple word, whether Webster chooses to recognize it or not, has the power to change the trajectory of our day.   Let’s hear it for the Pescabyterians!

Get lost

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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There have been many quotes I have used to begin posts on this blog but none have had as much of an impact on me as this very powerful string of words.

I lead a very fortunate life.  I may not be rich in terms of dollars and cents but I am wealthy.  I have roof over my head, a job that I love and I am surrounded by a wonderful network of friends and family who are nurturing, loving and supportive.  Perhaps that energy is the fuel that brought me to this moment in my life, the moment when I realized I wanted to give more of my time to people who could use a hand and in a way I felt I was best able to help.

There is no set of standards for helping others.  There is no rule book, no guideline and no complex set of algorithms.  It is a simple equation.  Time + Effort = Results.   And for some, the results of our time and effort can make more of a difference than we will ever potentially realize.

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A small group of people, including myself, spent a little over two hours of our time a week ago Sunday and the outcome of our concerted efforts will provide dinners for deserving families in our community.  It was two hours out of our Sunday.  We chatted, we had cocktails and we laughed.  And in that small window of time, we made a huge difference.  We created meals that will allow people to, not just feed their family during a tough time but, feed their family a home-cooked meal made with real food.  And next Sunday, and maybe every Sunday this winter, we will do the same thing again with some familiar and some new faces and, hopefully, take another small amount of weight from the shoulders of the families we are trying to help.

If I can subsequently find myself while losing myself in the service of others, point my compass in that direction any time.  I go to bed with a tired body, but with a full heart. And if my journey has taught me anything, it is that life is not defined by what you have.  Life is defined by what you give.