Archived entries for food

Giving Experiences

I don’t know how Mike and I managed to do it, but we convinced our mothers and my grandma to come out to Seattle for Christmas and New Year’s. In addition to the priceless Christmas morning I know we’ll all have together for gingerbread cake, hot cocoa, and gifts, we decided on giving all of us a 2 day-vacation together at Sleeping Lady in Leavenworth, WA. This is an anomaly, because we haven’t done something like this since I was maybe 14. Now that our Dads aren’t around anymore, we felt it especially important to build a beautiful memory after all the pain.

Cozy cabins at Sleeping Lady

I read a post at Oh Happy Day that listed a number of experiences to give someone you care about instead of some thing, and thought I’d add to that list but to focus on family-friendly experiences involving the outdoors and food. Isn’t that what really makes us humans happy – to work out, break a sweat, see something beautiful, and then taste something delicious?

Here is a list of gifts that last beyond a purchase date.

1) Create a brunch tradition
I love breakfast. It’s a meal where you’re freely given permission to mix salty and sweet, and load up on calories because after all, you need calories to burn throughout the rest of the day right? Try to get in the habit of making a new and different item every weekend; a couple months in you’ll soon develop favorites that may become the source of a memory as poignant as Proust’s madeline. A weekly jaunt to a new and different place to experience a new cinnamon roll or bacon sandwich is perfectly acceptable.

2) Plan and create a garden together
There’s nothing like walking outside your door and grabbing something to eat. Fresh alpine strawberries, lettuce, or basil – it doesn’t have to be something as ambitious as corn or potatoes (or tomatoes here in the Pacific NW!) ;)

If you don’t have land, planning an area to grow herbs in a sunny spot of your home might work. Also heading out to the local farmer’s market on a regular basis will keep you in tune with what’s really in season.

3) Create a hike map for the new year
Every year I try to have the goal of going to a new place to hike each weekend during the summer. While I fall short every one of the two years I’ve been trying to do this, it does open my horizons to exploring new places that are free and lovely. Is there an outdoor activity that someone you loves is really into? Try creating a personalized list of suggestion for them, and pack a lunch!

I also now write on Seattle Urban Gardening topics for the Examiner, here are my first posts!
Holiday Gift Ideas for a Seattle Gardener
Show-Stopping Edible Plants of 2011
The Year Ahead : Seattle Gardening Events

Need a Job? Entrepreneurs Ace Food and Garden Ideas

In this article from Alternet: Need a Job? Start Your Own — Here Are 5 Entrepreneurs Who Ditched the Corporate World, 5 examples on how to start your own business are listed. Unsurprisingly, two of them have to do with gardens and food!

SoupCycle is soup by bike delivery service based in Portland, OR

You Backyard Farmer‘s motto is “We do the work, you enjoy the healthful harvest!” Sounds good to me.

Interview with Leslie Chamberlain

I couldn’t resist asking Leslie about her story when I met her at Foodportunity last month. Foodportunity is an event that draws people from many different corners of the cooking and food world in Seattle; chefs, bloggers, published authors, health bar creators, restaurant owners and purveyors of specialty food items. Leslie’s warm personality led me to ask about her daily activites at Monica’s Waterfront Bakery and Cafe, and how she got into the food industry. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how she got where she is today!

Could you describe your day to day responsibilities at the small-town bakery and cafe you work at in Silverdale, WA?

I get there around 8:30 to make the daily soup and salad specials. By 11, I’m usually up front and working the lunch crowd. We serve sandwiches, quiche and all sorts of other tasty items to order, espresso drinks, cookies, desserts, etc. I help through the lunch rush and use the rest of my day to prep for the next. I make vegetable broth, clean produce needed etc so that all I have to do in the morning is come in to make the basics. Some soups can take hours to cook, so I try to do things the day before so my life is a little easier. I like to work both in the back and up front. It gives me a chance to interact with the people who are enjoying something that I was a part of creating. It’s a pride thing. I love hearing people say they loved the soup! I try so hard to make each one not just “yummy”, but “I-cant-stop-eating-this-I-must-have-more yummy”. I also get to help with (and sometimes head) caterers. When we host dinner parties or make plattered meals that get delivered, I get a chance to make things that we don’t make every day. Roasting salmon or making chana punjabi, or any number of other dishes, gives me the ability to learn new techniques and recipes. I’m fortunate that in making the food, I get to have contact with our local farmers and order directly from them. Monica has given me a great opportunity to connect with the food community. Sometimes my work consists of the really tough stuff… tasting wine, going to events like Foodportunity, Chef’s Collaborative F2C2 or Monica’s events like the Finn River Farm Tour… it’s a difficult job, but someone has to do it.

We met at Foodportunity here in Seattle. I couldn’t help but feel an affinity for you when you described you change of career. What was the motivation, and how did you wind up working at a bakery with no prior experience?

I worked in the computer industry before this. I had skills for it, but no passion. It was not what I wanted for myself. I worked on the phones and helped people fix their computers, finding that often they just wanted someone to blame and to yell at. I was tired of getting yelled at on a daily basis by the very people I was trying to assist. My crazy schedule and the commute to Seattle was making me a basket case. I was having panic attacks, heart burn and insomnia. It was creating a health nightmare. I remember sitting there, thinking about my cousin telling me that one of his cousins (on his mother’s side) was working in a pie shop. What I wouldn’t give to work in a bakery! I loved to bake and cook! One day I finally decided to see if there were any bakeries near my home. I found one in Silverdale and checked out the website. It was warm and inviting, so I emailed Monica…

I’ve been working as a computer technician for the past 4 years and have realized that its not at all my passion. After some searching, I figured out that I would like to work in a bakery, since I’ve been creating things from scratch in my kitchen since I was young.

I know that you’re a small shop, but I would very much love to apply for an entry level position. I love to learn and I’m a dedicated employee.If you currently don’t have any openings, would you know of any other bakery I might try? I’m sort of flying by the seat of my pants here.

Thank you so much!

I couldn’t be happier than when I received her response. Not only were they hiring, but even if I didn’t work out this woman (who I had never met) was offering to help me talk to some local business owners to try to find a place for me. She was amazing. We met, we hit it off and I worked well with the girls that work there. I’m so grateful to Monica for letting me join Team Bakery. She had worked at her previous career for 15 years and then just up and changed. She understood me and helped me. Monica is a godsend to my sanity, career-wise. If I had not been able to make the change, I would be less than what I am now. I have direction because of the bakery.

Do you have a colorful story about a regular or something else amusing at work?
We have so many regulars! We love them all! My favorite thing to do is find out a person’s name and remember it. The next time they come in, I say hello to them, using their name. It makes them feel special, and that’s what I want. Customers should know they’re special. We depend on them, and that deserves respect. One of our regulars had tickets to a show (Celtic Thunder, ‘cause I’m Irish and a sucker for their music) and just gave them to me. She said that she couldn’t go, so I should. It was so sweet! Another customer gives us Christmas presents every year. I’ve become close friends with some of the people that come into the bakery. I cant just pick any one story. My life is richer because of the people I meet through the joy of food.

What’s your advice for someone else that wants to make a career change?
Breathe. Deep Breaths…

Now, hike up those big boy or big girl pants and do it. You have to, because you’re the only one with a vested interest in your happiness. No one else spends 24/7 with you. If you’re not willing to make yourself happy, then why on earth should anyone else?

Of course, it’s not all that easy. My decision was made with Taurus-like precision; slowly, methodically and with a great deal of worry. It took me a year to realize that I wasn’t happy, and another 6 months of my health going downhill and stressing to figure out that I had to change something. Finally, I hiked up my big girl pants and did it. I put myself out there and it was terrifying. I didn’t know what was going to happen, I didn’t know if I would succeed. I actually did worse at the beginning of this job than any other. This was the only job that I didn’t get mostly “you’re amazing” feedback. I had never really worked with mostly women before and they are VERY different than guys. Personalities conflicted and there were all sorts of tangles that after a lot of patience and hard work of everyone involved, worked out. It has not been an easy road, but its been satisfying. I used to come home from my previous job angry and crabby. Rarely do I find myself in that mood after supplying delicious food to people.

Find what makes you happy. Figure out how to make a career out of it. Don’t look back.

Urban Garden Share Success

Peas and lettuce - and I don't have to tend!

I joined Urban Garden Share last year for one simple reason: Seattle P-PATCH.

When I first moved to Seattle, I was excited about getting my own little patch, to grow veggies and meet other gardeners. This is the goal of P-PATCH. Then I found out that there’s a long waiting list. How long? Hundreds of people long! I put my name on the waiting list and nothing materialized.

A year later, we bought a house. I was also pregnant with my daughter. I remembered how much I wanted a plot of land when I lived in an apartment, and promptly offered a roughly 5 x 5 foot square in front of my house. I figured it would make someone else happy and give me a little less work to do.

Well, the first year that I offered the little plot, I had some bites but nobody really came to love the little garden. Then this past spring an architect that had his master’s thesis in Urban Agriculture wrote to me. He’s been tending his little farm all this spring – success!

Solitude and Getting Away

I came across the article “Where Home Is Really About Getting Away From It All” a few days ago.

Small island near Kīlauea Lighthouse on Kauai

My family just went on a week-long trip to Kauai. The scenery was breathtaking. There’s something so unique about Hawaii. But it was a vacation. A nine day long vacation, which felt long enough to lose track of time and color my dreams. It was relaxing, but there was no delusion about permanently “escaping” the real world.

In fact, even though I was on vacation there were definitely some things that took me by surprise. It’s amazing to me that on an island 3,000 miles from the continental United States I can get baby food and diapers *cheaper* than I can in Seattle. Why is so much of the food shipped in? I read in a travel guide borrowed from someone on our flight that 90% of Kauai’s food comes from somewhere else. There are also problems with where to put all their waste. It’s not like garbage can get dumped 100 miles away – unless it’s into the ocean.

The New York Times article about getting away from it all really seemed to be a collection of men bent on escaping reality by moving where there were no other humans. They could afford to do it, too. Their only problem appears to be loneliness.

I love taking trips, but also have to remember that there is a reason I moved where I am – there is beauty here too.

View from my backyard in Seattle

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