Friday, August 31, 2007

Our Silver Lining From Hurricane Katrina

It is hard to believe 2 years have passed since the horrendous Hurricane Katrina disaster. We are reminded on a daily basis of said disaster by the joy that the presence of our little Katrina rescue dog, Tasso, brings to us.

I am not aware of the existence of many silver linings because of Katrina. Dear friends of ours escaped New Orleans to Dallas just before the flooding, but they didn't outrun the personal devastation. Our dear friend died of a heart attack 9 weeks later. We know of many folks that have died in the subsequent 2 years, not to mention how many families are still displaced.

It will take years to resurrect New Orleans to its former glory. I pray that it will, once again, be a vibrant, fun, diverse and economically sound city. We will head to New Orleans in October to visit the city before arriving in Oxford, Mississippi for the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium. I promise to take lots of pictures and share our experiences from our visit.

In the meantime, we thank our lucky stars for our little boy, Tasso. We call him The Kid, Scooter Pie, Little Brat Child, Junior, but most of all, he is our little Katrina boy. He has his issues (gets a little mean when guarding his food dish, has to "mark" every single bush/tree/chair in the yard, has to be on the top of the highest object) and we love him for all of his idiosyncrasies. He is teaching us what it is to have "joie de vivre/Joy of Life".

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Taking a break from the Hamster Wheel of Life

Doesn't the routine we fall into sometimes feel like a hamster wheel? Think about it. We go through life doing things that feel like fun, look like fun, but don' t really step out of the routine. Imagine thelittle furry rodents, running happily on those cute, bright red or orange wheels. Have I lost you?

I got off my little hamster wheel of life tonight to enjoy the last night of the Summer Concerts in the Plaza. It was hotter than...well, suffice it to say...dang hot!!! I slipped out of the house after having stoked the fire in our wood burning oven and started my second batch of San Marzano/Roma tomatoes roasting. I drove down to the square, set out my blanket and set up my folding couch, then ran back home to put in yet another batch of tomatoes.

I made it back to the square only to find it packed! I settled in to our camping couch with the newest edition of Gourmet magazine and my iced tea. Ah...I just felt the day and feelings of responsibility fall away. The crowd was in a very celebratory mood, seeing it was the last day of the concerts and all, and just happy.

Our friends joined me (Farmer Jeff was slaving at work) and the delight of the day increased 3 fold. I was not only joined by R, but by her 3 darling little girls, one of whom was flower girl at our wedding. It was so much fun to watch their unguarded enthusiasm and sheer joy of the music, the people and of dancing! The littlest one, I swear, looks like a baby from the twenties. She has a classic poster child look of a baby from that era and is forever laughing. People all around our area were snapping pics of her.

Their papa joined us after his long day at work and just let out a big sigh. He said, "you know, this is the first time we have been here all summer. We have just gotten caught up in our daily life and routine". This is when I whipped out my saying. "You, dear friend", I said, "have been caught up on the hamster wheel of life. Take a break with the rest of us and relax". He sat back in his chair with his cold beverage of choice and relaxed with his family. His girls climbed all over him, he nibbled on the array of snacky items we had pooled together and we just chatted. Sometimes we could hear what the other person said, other times not. It really didn't matter. We just nodded our heads contentedly to the music, smiling.

The band played until dark, at which time we all gathered our belongings and wandered back to our own lives, our own little hamster wheels, humming the bluesy melodies from the band on the plaza.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

My Two Movie Stars!

A friend of mine has a phenomenally successful/wealthy brother. When asked the secret of his success, he has stated he is "just LUCKY".

I believe that is the case with my honey, Farmer Jeff. He is lucky and knows it!

Last Wednesday I noticed an announcement in the online local paper. It was calling for movie extras and vintage trucks. I thought Farmer Jeff would enjoy getting the truck into a movie. He was VERY tickled with the idea and so he speedily emailed photos of the truck. As long as the email was going out, he thought of including a photo of himself, just in case they still needed folks to portray vintners in the film.

The film, Bottle Shock, tells the story of the 1976 blind winetasting in Paris where California wines were pitted against French wines - the gold standard of the time. Judges deemed the California wines triumphant, and gave Sonoma and Napa Valley a preeminent place in the world of wine.

After a little phone tag, the casting company contacted my honey and asked him to show up, with our sweet, old Ford truck, at 2 pm at Buena Vista Vineyards in Sonoma. He was to bring several changes of clothing, but wore a shirt that his mom had embroidered for his dad back in the 70's. Luckily his dad had saved the shirt for Farmer Jeff.

I was working at the Windsor Farmer's Market the night of the filming and received a very excited text message that Farmer Jeff was in a scene with Bill Pullman and Freddy Rodriguez, standing no more than 10 feet away!

When Farmer Jeff came home, he was elated. He had so much fun. I think what he was happiest about, besides the fact that he was the ONLY person that didn't have to change their clothes (they loved the embroidered shirt) was that the truck is going to be a STAR!!!

For news on the filming, check out:

PS: Farmer Jeff was just contacted by the casting company to see if he was available for 4 more days of work at the end of August. Heavens! Does this mean he will now want his own trailer?

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Happy Swiss Independence Day!

Early august 1291, the three forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden signed the Federal Charter. The charter united the signatories in the struggle against Habsburg rule, the family then possessing the Duchy of Austria in the Holy Roman Empire. The charter was signed in a beautiful field on Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstatersee) near the town of Brunnen, birthplace of my mother's parents. My grandmother, Marie Franziska Struby Kiene, worked one summer at the "Rutli", the name given to the location of the charter signing.

The signals given, to indicate the charter had been successfully signed, were huge bonfires lit on the mountain tops. On this day, all over Switzerland, people will be burning bonfires, setting off fireworks and eating some great food. If you were in the countryside you would be able to hear Alpenhorns, which are beautiful and almost mournful.

What would that food be? Bratwurst, potato salad or rosti (something like a cross between a potato pancake and hash-browns), grilled meats, green beans, and lovely fruit tarts called "fruchtwehe". If this weren't such a hectic year, we would be having a little Swiss gathering of our own. In the meantime, I might just have to fix some grilled sausages and eat some chocolate!

Special thoughts go out to my Swiss cousins that have recently passed away. Dear Sefi (Severina Kiene Thommen) was like a mother to me, and Monique (Monique Kiene) was far too young to leave us. Say hi to Mom for me.

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