Holiday Magic

It seems the holidays bring with them a sense of magic. This magic can translate to many different components that are interwoven into a spirit of connection. We connect with our families, friends, and even casual acquaintances but even more than that we connect with that which is truly important…giving.

I think of the holiday season as a platform for the charming and glorious relationships we have with our own childhood, family, and the spirituality of Christmas. As a child we take the story of Santa and a magical kingdom at face value. It is a story told by many that gives it creedance. It’s also the Santa we see, the Raindeer, Elfs, festivities, and of course the presents.

What could be better than to live in a place like the North Pole surrounded by Elfs making toys, Santa, and a journey to bring toys to every little girl and boy in the world? This background puts everything else in our lives that may be negative or distracting into a box we can discard during the holidays.

An advent calander, the presents themselves filled with mystery and expressions of love and caring for those we shop for. But most of all it is a time to experience the smiles and laughter that comes with giving a little bit more of ourselves than the rest of the year.

Everytime I see Christmas lights, hear the Christmas music, and witness the joy of giving… I think back. I think of the many Christmas days that have been etched in my memory. I think of how much time and effort my parents spent to create a wonderful two day period (the 24th and 25th of December) that elevated my happiness to a level that is rarely experienced in life.

I see their faces when I look outside to the beautiful vista of snow, evergreens, and the lake below. Oh, how I miss them! It is in that moment that I remember the past and think how I can be better in the future. I think these thoughts to (in some small way) honor their memories and attempt to live as they taught me. Special recognition should be given within our minds and souls to those that shaped our lives and helped create the person we are today.

I guess that is what I see this season as. This Christmas season should be a tribute to our families and friends that have ment so much to us over the course of our lives. As we unwrap the packages and look into the faces that surround us, we should give thanks for our circumstance and the love we share during this very special time of year.

I love this time of year because I can feel a change that embraces most of us. It is a gift, which is why we call today the present. Through-out time the most special gifts are the ones we took the most time and effort to acquire or make. Maybe it was that BB gun for my fifth birthday, the 49er Jacket, the heartfelt card, or the embrace from family and friends. Whatever it is/was, it stays in a very warm and exeptional place close to my heart.

Christmas magic is silent. You don’t hear it, you feel it, you believe it. As I embark on my latest/newest Christmas I see the world with the beauty God intended. It is as if I see it for the first time with fresh eyes. These eyes that have seen so much are wiped clean with a new perspective.

This vision is for the hope of a place everyone can go to be at peace. Peace within themselves while enjoying the gift of giving to others, and the hope that will come with a belief in the magic of Christmas. This magic will be displayed as random acts of kindness and Paying it Forward so others can know the true spirit of the holidays that makes this season so very special.

Thanksgiving… a Time for Thanks and Giving

Reflections in a mirror reveal the present. It is the holidays however that the mirror seems to reflect the past while giving you a glance into the future. I’m sure that most of us during this time of giving thanks also gaze into our souls that miss the loved ones we spent so many holidays with.

The Thanksgiving meal represents a blessing that brings our family and friends into the fold. It is the real beginning of the holiday season. The day brings witness to the special thoughts we have for those we haven’t seen (in many cases) for months or even years.  Friends and family travel from near and far to be with the ones they love and care about. Special is the pomp and circumstance that surrounds these festivities. It’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Football, The Classic Meal,  and of course the Decorations.

Ever since I was a little boy the Thanksgiving meal was Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Jello Salad, Yams, and of course… Pumpkin Pie. Since the meal I remember there have been additions like ham with a sweet berry sauce, lamb in a whole grain mustard sauce, prime steak cooked to a perfect medium rare, cauliflower in a 4 cheese sauce, and for desert… pecan pie.

Also, we mustn’t forget the beverages. Thanksgiving week is the scheduled offering of Beaujolais Nouveau. This wine is released on the third Thursday of November at 12:01 am. It’s a wine that lasts for just 6 months but reflects the perfect pairing with Turkey. Delightfully light and fruity it is the ultimate reflection of the French vineyards kicking off the holiday season.

Other than the Beaujolais Nouveau the other perfect pairing wines  come from the Burgandy region of France or the Russian River area of California. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the chosen compliments to the above mentioned meal. The apple and fall fruits represented in the classic chardonnay (with a hint of oak and a whisper of fresh herbs and spices) enhance the vegetables, salad, and accompaniments.

To me the most elegant, graceful and pleasing wine to be served at this feast is pinot noir. The description would include but not be limited to a little black cherry, strawberry aroma, subtle earth, and mint. This harmonious symphony of flavors produces a balance between beverage and food that is heavenly. When you pair the correct wine with the perfect food, light in character but high in acid that exhibits the characteristics of said wine, you have a wonderful culinary experience that brings out the best of both the food and the wine.

The flawless Thanksgiving is one that begins with a hug and ends with a hug. It is a very special moment in time when the connection with those at the dinner seems like you’d spent countless hours with them over the course of the year. However, in many instances it is the first time in many months or years that you’ve gotten together with these family members or close friends.

Acknowledging how blessed we are in those rare moments where time stands still, is a gift unto itself. To share the love and friendship that is the link between generations, or just the human connectivity that is rendered on this very special day, is a reminder of how precious time is.

As the door closes and we wave goodbye, we often think of this:

If they came back tomorrow, we’d take them back today… because our world keeps growing smaller every second, minute, hour… they’re away.

Happy Thanksgiving to those we spent time with, those we miss, and those that wish they were here.

 

Trees, Stars, and Snow

 

It has been claimed that there are more trees on Earth than stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. I see the stars beyond my view and wonder how long they have been in that position so perfectly placed to encourage me to wax poetic upon this vision.  Tiny beads of white light that capture my senses gives me a sense of how big the universe is.

As I look out to the view through our picture windows I see a landscape of broccoli tips that are trees. They dot the horizon as far as the eye can see.  If I were a giant I would see them as leaves of grass beneath my feet to be stepped upon altering their tragectory to the sky.

My eyes follow the line of sight to the very top of the mountain as the trees are like tall withered snowmen standing silently. I love the snow because it seems to illuminate the bright stars and the tips and base of the trees creating a snowglobe affect. Both stars and trees are affected by the dusting of white powder that provides an envelope of mystery we experience but one season a year. I always wonder what I can’t see… the forest through the trees… the distant town and what transpires beyond my imagination… the future which is already written but which no one can predict.

All of this settles my mind into a thought of conversation. I usually have this conversation within the confines and parameters of the days of future passed. Predicting what might be by looking backwards to determine what moves the hands of time forwards. This excercise enables me to move the chess pieces. I protect certain pieces while sacraficing others for the betterment of pursuing the ever elusive engage or disengage tete-a-tete.

I appreciate the sysmetry of the stars that form designs having guided traverlers for as long as forever is. The map changes depending where we stand to view. However, the script remains the same as astonomers study celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole.

Astronomy has helped us learn of evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, as well as the formation and development of the universe. One of the most important aspects of astronomy is its ability to help us understand our place in the universe.

While stars are beautiful and can provide guidance and knowledge, it is the tree that’s most important to our lives. Trees contribute to the environment by providing oxygen, improving air quaility, water conservation, preservation of the soil, and supports wildlife. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe.

Dendrology is the scientific study of trees. The trees reduce air pollution as mentioned above but they also minimise erosion, maintain healthy soil, provide a canapy for wildlife, increase rainfall, and absorb sunlight as energy.

All three of the above mentioned stars, trees, and snow are integral parts of our existence woven into the fabric of our lives. Guidance, air, and water blend into this kaleidoscope of energy which enhances our journey through the shear beauty and force of nature. Blessed are those that can take a moment to gaze to the stars, live in the forest, and feel the snow beneath their feet. It is within these sensory experiences that we become a part of that which is beyond our comprehension but at the same time a force that has the ability to touch our souls.

I witness the trees lit by the stars and framed by snow, as if I knew their disposition was a circus act evolving into natures show. The light of ten thousand suns illuminates the dark black hole below. Snow covered wooden arms reach for that which can not be touched, the ivory white sphere of a bright beacon lunch. I feast on this as if it were food and bare testimony to its ever changing mood.

It takes an observer to appreciate the vastness of nature all around, from the sky to the ground its a movie theatre in the round. We are but a speck in the overall outlook of the day which are put to lyrics everyday. We behold the origin of man or the end of mankind depending on the strike of life’s baton, the flip of a coin, or a simple wave of decline.

So fragile are these moments in time that all we can do is gaze beyond our mind and feel the tick tok of the precious seconds as our lives unwind.

 

What we Love about this Time of Year…

 

This is my first holiday season I haven’t been in the restaurant business in the last 20 years. Typically there is the holiday guantlet which starts with Thanksgiving then morphs into Christmas Eve, Christmas, and the grand daddy of them all, New Years Eve.

When I was a manager I would have to create menus and staff properly to adjust for excess business and demand. Having these special occassions proceed without incident was an art unto itself. Each holiday brought a different challenge that revolved around first and foremost providing the guest with an unparalleled dining experience.

It takes just one guest to complain and the day is lost. However over the course of my career (which began in the early 70’s) and was put on hold because of college and my overture into the world of radio. I realized I had a gift for attention to detail and a love for the restaurant business which you can’t manufacture but is inbred into your soul.

The art of the business is constant eduction and the ability to determine your market. Besides the afor mentioned items it is the love of creating “the experience” that sets the restaurateur apart from the rest. Beginning but not limited to the atmosphere, the quality of the product, the chef to execute the menu, and the knowledgeable and trained staff to engage and deliver in a timely fashion. The combination of all of the above helps create a very special moment in time.

People will drive to the middle of nowhere to have an exceptional meal delivered by a trained staff in an atmosphere that enhances the environment around it.

One great example of this is “Candle in the Woods.” Located in a very small town in Athol Idaho near Coeur d’Alene, the Candle in the Woods chef (Dave Adlard) and his wonderful staff continue to create and amaze with a 12 course meal and wine pairing. Each meal is a statement of profound creativity with a running storybook about the creations and the pairings verbalized by Chef Adlard and the sommelier.

When time stands still in anticipation of the next course so perfectly prepared and served, it speaks volumes about the love those that produce the meal have for what they do. If a meal is constructed that constitutes a memory then you have a very special experience. Once in that environment you are captivated by the attention to detail and the nuance of design that transports you to places you’ve never been.

I speak of this restaurant as I have been a part of many holiday menus in many different restaurants. Typically restaurants are in full regalia exhibiting the best they have to offer.  Decorated to the nines with an eager staff in anticipation of serving a wonderful meal to delighted guests becomes the end game for these dedicated chefs and servers.

The Candle in the Woods prepares and executes their product as if it were their last, with the energy and focus as though it was their first. If you have a chance to engage in these amazing culinary delights that turns every meal into a holiday, then I would highly encourage you to make a reservation.

Over the holidays we are blessed to have friends and family to dinner with conversations that we may never forget. This kind of love and embracing family and friends is the wonderful culmination of a year in which most focus on all but what’s truly important… the connection we have with each other.

Anticipate in most high-end restaurants a departure from their typical fare. Most restaurants will serve a prefix menu offering add ons or other upgrades to the discerning guest. Beyond this realization is the fact that this menu (for the most part) has not been tasted by the staff and has not been seen by the servers but a short time before serving.

Most guests that go out for holiday meals are amateurs. They don’t know what to order and they don’t know how to tip.  They are there because of being  either too lazy to cook or are faced to comply by preasures from the family. They all come at the same time, somewhere between 6:30pm and 8pm. This is why I highly recommend preparing your own meal at home in your own time frame. Then you don’t have to deal with holiday traffic or a meal that is designed for fast delivery by a staff that really doesn’t know what they’re serving.

The exception to this rule is if you choose a place that is an amazing destination. Then, no matter what they serve, you will be awed by the environment and the fact that you just ponied up a vast amount of money for that one seflie that may or may not end up on the front of your next Christmas card. This type of memory may be worth it as you will not forget that meal at the Fairmont on top of nob hill decorated like no where else in that magical city… San Francisco.

No matter what the holiday is enjoy the fleeting time we have with each other and honor the people that are working. They miss their families and friends because they chose a business that revolves around special occassions for others. The moment they serve you, nothing could be better than the warmth of a smile to let them know they’re in the right place, providing holiday cheer, in a decorated environment that exudes the holiday spirit.

Winter is Coming

magic in nature bidwell park chico pazaz bakeware
Magic in Nature

We are nestled in our new digs experiencing something we’ve not witnessed in twenty years… four seasons. The fall colors are emblazoned with orange, red, yellow and the mercurial colors that become purple, brown, and finally baron stems. This change occurs when the heat turns to warmth which becomes cold and quietly morphs to freezing. The blink of an eye within natures window of time turns sunshine to clouds and rain to snow.

Two days ago a blanket of cotton balls covered the ground. At least that’s what the earth looked like. The trees held the snow in their bows against the verticle trunk that shot up to the sky. This wooden sentry I viewed as elegant, stoic, and determined in its will to carry the weight from percipitation froze in mid-air.

WIld life hide and hibernate realizing that the tides of winter now beckon them to sleep. Empty caves now became the residence for the bears exhausted and full-bellied. Other creatures foraged for food while keeping a keen eye for preditors including man.

Hunters and fisherman dot the landscape looking for food, a trophy, or both. Without a gun or a fishing pole in this area is like going to the beach without a chest full of beer. Most of the Orofino hunters have lived here their whole life. They consider the opportunity to hunt as a way to provide sustenance for their families. The Orofino men and women honor the animals by following the rules of the hunt and using every part of the animal for both clothing or feasting.

Living in an area that provides this much natural beauty along with the  resources of crystal clean water, plant and herbal remedies, and game, is a gift. However, to much that is given much is required. Learning the ways of nature in any area is a full time education.

There are many wonderful teachers in Orofino. None better than the people that have lived in this area their whole lives. This is an Indian area that respects the many customs of the local tribe, the Nez Perce. The Nez Perce Indians have lived in this area for over 11,500 years.

The Nex Perce Indians were partly responsible for the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition ordered by Thomas Jefferson. The guidance and protection (which began in Orofino) afforded these explorers by the Nez Perce Indians traveling in northern Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, ensured the successful discovery of a waterway that led to the Pacific ocean.

The locals are very adept at adapting to the upcoming winter months. They take the weather conversation in stride. Put the snow tires on, wear the coats which will protect you down to well below freezing, and look out for anyone in distress that may need your help. Why? Because these Orofino residents are about community and the beauty that is born from the understanding that when it all comes down to it… all we have is each other.

Leaving Las Vegas

a place that lives in your heartThere are many chapters in ones life that make up the context and composition of said life. Part of that is beginnings and endings.

We have people that come into our lives, make an impact and leave by their own circumstances related to moving, moving on, or death. Each person brings a new perspective on life and another lesson we learn about people and more importantly about ourselves. We can grow from this if we look into the heart of the decision process or we can devolve into the insecurities and timeless adages that stiffle our difficult yet necessary cultural evolution.

We have jobs that take us to other circumstances which involve the complicated nuances of housing, family, and friends. Each step along the way provides a learning curve for exploration. Exploration takes place because of devine guidance or the gentle breeze of change that lives in all of us.

Beginnings are the life blood that provides hope that a new environment will bring education, excitment, and peace of mind that we all search for. If not properly anaylized our “new” beginnings can become a quagmire of hopelessnes and despair.

However, the opposite side of the coin is the bright light of beauty and wonder at the amazing journey we have undertook. Any journey begins with the first step. To ensure a better place filled with the expectation that dreams will come true and reward us we must painstakingly survey our future goals.

As we begin this study of self and take a look into the future for the outcome we desire, a list must be written that conveys the aspiration of time frame and execution. This survey of the future depends largely on our health, timing, and monetary consideration.

Each step is calculated with the help of past experiences and the knowledge that comes with discovery, mentorship, and design. I never thought we’d leave Las Vegas in the time frame we did. However, the political climate and the obvious “Californiazation” of Nevada that once held its own as a conservative respite from the “Left Coast” was a major factor in the decision to move to Idaho.

Nancy and I lived in Las Vegas/Henderson area for twenty years. Along the way we witnessed the city grow into a world-class destination for travelers interested in food, entertainment, and sports. New casinos with beautiful design matched the quality of the celebrity chefs preparing exotic dishes. Then there was the entertainment from Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, and of course Cirque du Soleil to every other amazing musical talent to grace the stages of Las Vegas.

Las Vegas has become a self absorbed caricture of itself. Throngs of people that can’t afford the experience lose themselves in the marketing phrase, “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” No identity theft here… most lose their identy upon entering the city. The selfi becomes the picture framed in a moment in time harboring no love for manners or self respect. The millennial is a statement unto itself of social networking at the expense of those sharing the same space and time.

So for us the ending of our time in Las Vegas/Henderson brings a bright new light that shines on a state we love. Idaho is what California used to be. Not what you have, but who you are. How hard you work, not how you’ve figured out how to get on the government dole or cheat a restaurant based upon the fear said restaurant has of your Yelp review.

People in Idaho love the connection to each other. They love the open spaces that gives one a chance to breath in the beauty that surrounds them. Leaving Idaho is like going to another country. You won’t see the obsession with cell phones and you certainly won’t see the prohibitive taxes for trains you don’t need, and social programs you don’t want. Each individual has a choice that is honored for themselves and their family to be raised in a place that centers around God, Country, and the Nuclear family.

And so here we are in the middle of nowhere content in our surroundings. We  listen to the animals, the birds, insects, and reptiles as they communicate to each other in a dance that is timeless. We see the stars in a darkened sky light up the forest that is the perimeter around our home. We feel the tranquility as a soothing warmth that covers us in the blanket of perception that we have found our most perfect place in time.

Retirement is a Thing of Beauty

 

learn about yourself experience life

When we reach the age we are contemplating retirement our mind goes immediately to the possibilities that word conjures. The fear of the unknown is a place that is dark and lonely. But within that kaleidoscope of color reflected within the framework of the unknown there is a beacon of light. That light is the source we create because of the hard work we’ve put in to attain the choices we deserve.

Whenever I think of retirement I think of the options we have to fabricate to be able to live the life we choose. That life is quite simple really: It could be the hobbies we enjoy, the service club we join, or the trips we take. All of these choices are only possible if we’ve put in the work to have different course of actions determined by the vehicles we seek to arrive at the destination we deserve.

The education we’ve studied regarding the different financial choices available seem to be an afterthought for most. The fear of not being comfortable investing is usually trumped by having to show up at a job to make money. Unfortunately the job doesn’t do what the job used to do. Before the job put us in a position to have a comfortable life and retire at a decent age. This ended in the 1970s and yet most feel that’s their only avenue for success.

School doesn’t teach us how to manage money, invest, manage health care, or form a plan to retire in a comfortable fashion at a reasonable age. Retiring at an age where we are healthy and able to be the captain of our own ship is located somwhere in the land of make believe that many dismiss as a wild and foolish dream. But if the dream is big enough the facts don’t count.

Being able to pay a mortgage, car payment, utilities, food and gas, etc., and my most favorite category (the unexpected expense) is within the grasp of most. Having a mentor, reading the latest financial news, and being trainable and teachable no matter what the age is key to sustaining a retirement plan. However, to numb the pain of our previous financial choices we tend to drift into the sports zone, Hallmark Channel, celebrity chef, or any of the twelve dozen home imrovement shows. We recline into the mind altering experiences of others to take away the pain of our own existence. If only we’d realize our potential is an unlimited gift. It only requires an educational chiropractic adjustment that will help us understand the power we posses.

Twilight Years by Jack Jenkins

“I never knew what lay beyond the sky. I felt its ears would listen when I cried. A windsong shepherd would appear, the apparition of a sigh. The future stood a shadow tall, the meloncholy picture on a blue cloudless wall.

But through the haze the canvas blank, I wrote my future before I drank. The glass was full upon recall, the bright clear liquid helped me draw. I drew the destiny I wanted to see, and now I live a life I can’t believe.”

Savor the future because nothing is promised but the destiny we create when we believe in who we are. Each step along the way… breathe the air, smell the flowers, gaze at the streams, live every moment as though its your first and enjoy every night as though its your last.