Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Devil in the Fire

The devil in the fire...
This photo, taken in November 1, 2002 shows the salon I worked in burning to the ground. A speeding vehicle had plunged into the building as the driver swerved to pass a car on the highway and completely missed the mark. By the time I arrived at the scene, the last flames were being extinguished and the realization that we had no building to work in, no tools to work with and suddenly, no income, were slowly sinking in. We did not even know which clients were on the books for the coming week. The appointment books, the contact numbers, everything went up in smoke. Gratefully the one stylist that was supposed to be working that night, her client had cancelled, so the building was empty. The driver found himself in the middle of the salon, got out of the car and escaped without injury before the series of explosions occurred from the igniting hair product chemicals and hairspray cans.

Linden Salon Fire - 2002

If you look very closely at the picture, you will see an image present in the flames. There is an old Fire House phenomenon that when Fire Crews come upon a fire, there is often an image of the devil within the flames. This photograph was the second of a series of three photos taken that night in 2002, and seeing it gave us the chills….

Realizations of loss took days - and even weeks to process - as we quickly sprang into action finding a salon in a neighboring town to take us in, gathering basic hair equipment, doing what we could to secure licensing…. Having proper paperwork in order was impossible, we did the best we could and just kept going, knowing the loss could have been worse if it was our homes or if anyone had been working in the building when the fire occurred.

I will not even pretend this experience compares to the current situation of then Camp Fire Victims in California – or any other fire victim that lost homes, their home town, or loved ones. The purpose of me finally recording these events – 16 years later - is to share some of the “take always” that it took years for me to process.

It. Changes. You.
Surviving any tragedy resulting from any level of fire destruction is a traumatic event. It is a major marker on your Life Calendar, you will refer to things that happen over time by referencing, “before the fire,”, or “after the fire”. As you journey through the following days, weeks, months, you will become more tolerant of change and more compassionate of those around you. The support of community, the sharing of your experience is helpful throughout. You value things differently. You value LIFE differently… It changes you forever.

Recovery Processes
Once that devil of the fire is finally put out, there is a long road ahead for the processes to evolve.  I pluralize "process" because there are many factors to pay attention to, and you cannot possible take them all on immediately. There are many side stories to my own ordeal, and there will be many for so many California fire victims.

Protecting your health is your number one priority, you cannot possibly be of help and support to so many suffering around you if you become sick and needy yourself, this goes for anyone working on relief efforts as well. To do this, it is essential to prioritize establishing a routine, taking your medications, get your eating and sleeping under control, protecting yourself from smoke exposure, etc... Please address any trauma issues you might be experiencing., Seek out Crisis Counseling services, talk about it, write about it, cut yourself slack for forgetfulness as you take in the overwhelming amount of information that comes your way.

No Short Cuts
For the relatively short time a fire burns, there is no short cut to getting back on your feet. Expect to take time with this entire process. The tedious job of identifying and valuing each little item that you lost is painful and overwhelming.  Most of us want to stick out heads in the sand, and be done with the tragic experience. We want to magically feel normal again, put the whole memory behind us. There are many reports from fire victims that it takes 18 months to 2 years to reach a recovered state, materially and emotionally. It is especially difficult to live through this time period with so much uncertainty about the final outcome.

Filling out forms, securing temporary housing, searching out resources and all the while protecting your health from the lack of routine, sleep issues, stress trauma, is so important though daunting. Take baby steps as you can. Try not to think about everything at once, easier said than done. As you chip away at each recovery task at hand, be clear on prioritizing which things to attend to first. This is especially important when it comes to financial assistance and working the insurance claims.

Insurance Adjusters are Humans
We heard a lot of awful “insurance adjuster” stories when our salon burned down, but also acquired some awesome support and knowledge from our clients as we moved through the process of an insurance settlement. This took many months and I am clear that every situation can be very different. Gratefully, I saw that a retired Insurance Agent recently came forward in one of the Facebook Groups for Camp Fire Victims offering this same advice. You can read his words here.

It is so important to remember that the professionals you are dealing with, (even as they try to devalue Aunt Mable’s precious wedding ring that you lost in the fire) are human beings with a job to do.  Be kind, courteous, and business like. Try not to let your emotions rule. However, do argue the value of each and every possession as it is warranted for your case.  Do NOT be in a hurry to “settle” quickly for you will be remembering forgotten items for many months to come.  Be fair and honest but do allow for the fact that, most likely, you are not able to list full value on everything you own.

To wrestle “the devil in the fire” takes time on every level, emotionally, physically, and - from a business perspective. This is your new job now... resolve to do it well. Your future financial security, AND your general well being count on your willingness to be alert and find the ability to chip away at the many tasks you will be facing.

There will be little blessings along the way… acknowledge them, look for them, expect them. Once you find yourself on a better side of this whole process, and surrounded by your shiny, new  possessions, take the time to love the level of gratitude you have learned through the entire experience. You so deserve every level of comfort that awaits you!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mommies are Magic

Celebrating Motherhood

mothers day 2018
"Mommies are Magic"

I always wondered how my Mom found out so many things that we thought she could not possibly have known. Always amazed that her knowing nod would reveal her understanding or observation about the smallest things, or what we thought were secrets.

“Mommies are Magic”, my cousins would say, as if that explained everything.  It became apparent that the “Magic” extended to Aunts and Grandmothers alike, and really, Sisters, Teachers, or any woman you looked up to for guidance or advice.

Motherhood is sacred and is not limited to the traditional type of Mother, the diversity of Motherhood is celebrated year after year, from Country to Country.  There are no borders or boundies if your heart sings of this nurturing relationship.

Happy Mothers Day and may we celebrate the diversity of Motherhood… and the Magic!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

It's A New Year

2017 – a year containing the gift of time – good times and fun surprises as well as challenges and unexpected disappointments…. and a few things that I have not quite figured out by year’s end.

new year
New Year - 2018

My takeaways this year?

The days go by fast. However, quality over quantity means that easing into the day is a sacred rite, and a chance to start on a positive note. What we think and say during these waking moments drives the direction of the day.

Big decisions need time - sleep on it, then decide.

Focus more attention on what the world needs more of - every day! This is a personal decision.

Complaining zaps good energy away and does not solve problems. I try to sidestep this tendency - there are so many better ways to spend my time!

Frozen Blueberries do not work in the pancake batter unless they are patiently thawed first. While on this subject – (note to self) - put a rubber band on the container of fresh blueberries when you take them camping!

Keep looking up!  Stay positive - but when that warning light keeps going off, pay attention. Intuition is at work!

Time spent outside makes problems seem smaller - this goes double at the beach!

Feeling judged is usually a sign of judging others too much.

Owning the moment means being present no matter the circumstances. Each experience is a stepping-stone on the path, skipping too many “steps” may cause one to stumble.

Strive for contentment, but most of all, notice it.

Put forth intent, on purpose and deliberately!  This is a huge and important step towards achieving what is most important to us!

Every year brings new discoveries, and chances to learn even more. This IS the “abundance” in a life lived fully.

When the tides change, you can swim against the current, or get out of the water and walk along the shore.

Expect Miracles! (Look for them).

Direction matters more then the speed at which one travels.

Finally, and I learn and re-learn this every year, but it bears worth repeating - The best parts of Life are usually not about reaching the destination…

May we know Peace, Love, and Joy in 2018!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Camping Pancakes

I know most campers believe that pancake mix is a no brainer when it comes to packing up the family for a camping trip - but I will share with you my recipe for "pancakes from scratch" because I have found a way to bring what I call "real pancakes" to the picnic table at your favorite campground.

This practice is not new, it's the way I was raised. I never really understood pancake mixes - pancakes have relatively few ingredients and you have to dirty the bowl either way! Though many of the mixes are good, when you assemble your own ingredients, I think you will find your pancakes to come up a notch or two in quality. It really is hard to go wrong here.

So I have a tried and true "recipe" for a pancake mix that travels easily. We always take eggs and oil with us, so to add these and water to my mix is really not a problem or a bother. I like to use Grapeseed Oil for baking and cooking.

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Fresh Strawberries & Pure Maple Syrup on Camping Pancakes

Camping Pancake Mix

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup powdered milk
(I omit the 3/4 teaspoon of salt that most recipes would call for, but you can add that if you want to.)

I do have a secret ingredient that gives the pancakes the best flavor! I sometimes add 1/4 teaspoon of Penzey's Baking Spice or a dash of Cardamom. It gives it a little bit of a Swedish pastry flavor.

You can put these dry ingredients in a jar or a quart storage bag and add a label with directions:

Add 2 eggs, 1 1/4 cups water, & 3 Tablespoons oil.

You can opt to replace one of the eggs with 1/2 cup shredded apple (delicious!)
Add some Cinnamon too!

That's it!

Wisk the ingredients up and pre-heat the griddle or fry pan to medium-low heat, you are on your way to bake some pancakes to remember.

Tip: when the bubbles stay indented on the first side, the pancake is ready to flip.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Hill Station" Chai Tea

How I learned to make Chai Tea

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Spiced Chai Tea - shown with the "Reed Straw
Tea time is my age-old friend.  To share a cup of tea is love and friendship.  To savor a cup of tea is a chance to pause.... and breath.

I first tried the Chai Tea Latte at the coffee house on the advice of a friend, and was instantly hooked! From then on I tried different "Chai Tea" products and tea bags - all to have them disappoint me. I am not sure if what I tried had a different balance of spices?  Or the quality of the tea leaves?

I ran across a Facebook post that showed how to make Chai Tea and was intrigued. Before I even tried the method and recipe in the post, it spurred a conversation with a man that frequents India! This was good luck for me, and now, out of that conversation, I have developed my own method to make Chai Tea.

First, the spice "brew" needs to be made separately for the Tea.  Long ago, I read up on the art of tea making.  It is a big deal not to steep those tea leaves too long.  My rule, 5 minutes, black tea, and 3 minutes, green tea.

Now, back to the spices - the conversation went like this:
"My chai blend is gleaned from a restaurant in India: Black Tea Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Sesame Seeds, Black Pepper, Red Pepper, Cardamom, Fennel Seed, Vanilla Bean, and Nutmeg
If you try it yourself, know that it takes awhile for the Sesame Seeds and Cinnamon Bark to suffuse. And don't over do the Black and Red Pepper."

We agreed that a Crockpot is one good way to make this brew.  And that the brew can be used over a period of a couple of days if you "refresh" it periodically with another slice of fresh Ginger.  The tea is added to the cup of spice brew so as not to steep the tea leaves too long.  You can use tea bags or an infuser.

So into my pot of water go the cinnamon sticks and the sesame seeds first, giving that the most time to steep before adding the additional spices:

2 cinnamon sticks
1 t. of sesame seeds
then add:
1 slice of fresh ginger
2 whole cloves
2 whole cardamom pods - crushed
1 T. of Fennel Seed - crushed
1 small piece of whole nutmeg (or a grating)
1/2 of a vanilla bean (split)

Let this brew steep for a couple of hours. You can use a warming plate or the warming tray of your coffee maker, as well as a crockpot for this.
Pour the spiced brew into a cup.
Add quality tea leaves in an infuser or tea bags to the cup. Use the recommended steeping time guidelines for tea. Remove the tea leaves (or bag).

To serve: You can add cream and sugar but I love it without!

My Facebook friend added to the conversation:
"If your experiments lead to something that needs a name I think 'Hill Station Chai' would be appropriate. In the days of the Raj, Hill Stations were where you could get away from the heat and dust of the dry season. Not everyone could afford it, but not everyone was able to afford the selection of spices in the more elaborate chais, either."

Now to sip my tea while my mind drifts to visions of life in India.....

Friday, December 16, 2016

Press Release - December 2016

StrawSleeves - The Next Step in Sustainable Living

Linden, CA - December 16, 2016 - 500 MILLION single use, plastic straws are used and discarded in the USA every day! Reusable straws provide a solution to this environmental problem as straw users learn the importance to refuse plastic and opt for sustainable straw choices. StrawSleeves provides a practical way to carry reusable straws while traveling, shopping, or eating out.

Bring Your Own Straw - Packing your reusable water bottles, coffee cups, and utensils promotes the practice of "reuse" over accepting single use plastics in our daily routine. Straw users can choose from the many types of reusable straws on the market and now have a way to pack and carry their personal straw easily in the cloth sleeves. The sleeves are designed to keep the straw clean and protected from contact with other items in their tote-bag, glove-box, pocketbook, backpack, or picnic basket.

Hemp and Reclaimed Fabrics - Materials used in the making of the sleeves are sustainable, plastic free choices.  100% Hemp Fabric from Romania is offered in four colors. Hemp is a sustainable resource, not requiring pesticides, and has natural anti-bacteria and anti-fungal properties that benefit food utensil storage. Triple washed reclaimed denim and denim weight fabrics are used for making the sleeves as an additional choice and are offered in earth-tone colors. All straw sleeves are self-lined, triple stitched and have an "invisible inner cuff" that prevents the straw from sliding out of the pocket, requiring no ties or fasteners, a convenient choice to transport and access your straw. The fabrics and sleeves are designed to withstand frequent laundering by hand or machine and are ideal for many types of reusable straws including stainless steel, titanium, copper, bamboo, sterling silver, and glass.

New Multi-Utensil Packs – Cloth carriers with four sections are now available as an additional StrawSleeves line. These packs hold a number of straws, chopsticks, utensils, and cleaning brushes as well as other items such as art supplies or makeup brushes. Fabrics used are 100% cotton or reclaimed materials.

Sleeves Bearing Store Brands - Current StrawSleeves sales are mostly business-to-business with several straw manufacturers and eco stores branding the sleeves with their own business logo.  Wholesale and Distributor pricing is based on the quantity of each order. Selecting the highest standing businesses that promote plastic free solutions is the object of the StrawSleeves Company in the effort to promote solutions to the environmental issues of plastic waste.

Social Media Love - To learn more about StrawSleeves and see photos and videos, please go to the StrawSleeves Instagram page where you will find @StrawSleeves and the StrawSleeves community engaging in discussions and ideas that encourage us all to take that next step toward a sustainable lifestyle.

Plastic Free Donations - StrawSleeves considers requests to donate sleeves for worthy plastic free causes. Please email inquiries to strawsleeves@gmail.com for consideration.

StrawSleeves on Etsy - Individual retail StrawSleeves sales are active on Etsy.  http://etsy.com/shop/StrawSleeves

B2B Sales inquiries and Sample requests:  Please contact Cheri Newcomb directly.

Press Contact
Name:  Cheri Newcomb
Email:  strawsleeves@gmail.com
Website: http://strawsleeves.com
Instagram: @StrawSleeves Facebook: @StrawSleeves

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Multi-Utensil Pack for straws, chopsticks, utensils, cleaning brushes, etc...

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StrawSleeves - to bring your own reusable straw!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Olive - Walnut Bread

Olive-Walnut Bread Recipe

olive oil, olives, graber olives, bread, yeast bread.recipe, olive, walnut, cheese bread
Olive -Walnut Bread made with Graber Olive products

This recipe is adapted from some traditional Olive Bread Recipes and produces a rustic, savory loaf of bread. This recipe involves no kneading, unlike most yeast bread recipes. I made this bread using Graber Olive Products found at the Graber Olive House.

Feel free to up the herb proportions, I did not want to overpower the taste of the walnuts.

This bread is perfect to serve any time of year, but especially wonderful to serve this in the late Autumn months gathered around a warm fire. For some ideas on table settings and place setting etiquette, check out this blog.

 Enjoy! Please do share any adaption you decide to make to this recipe in comments!

      3 cups Bread Flour, plus more for work surface
      1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt (the olives & cheese have added salt content)
      1 teaspoon instant or active-dry Yeast
      1/2 teaspoon dried, ground Rosemary
      1/2 teaspoon dried, ground Green Onion (or Onion Powder)
      1/2 cups of finely chopped Walnut meats
      1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Asiago Cheese
      1  can (seeded & cut in thick slices & pieces) Graber Olives
      1 1/2 cups cool water (55 to 65 degrees), plus more as needed
      2 teaspoons of Graber Olive Oil

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, and yeast; stir in cheese and olives. Add water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until a wet, sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds, adding additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and surface becomes dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours. It works well to plan this timing the night before. Generously flour work surface; scrape dough onto work surface. Lightly flour hands, a bowl scraper, or a spatula and lift edges of dough toward the center. Nudge and tuck edges of dough to make round.

Place a piece of parchment paper on work surface and generously dust with flour. Gently place dough on parchment. If dough is tacky, lightly dust top with flour. Cover dough loosely with parchment paper and two clean kitchen towels. Let dough stand in a warm, draft-free spot until almost doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Gently poke dough with your finger; dough should hold the impression. If it springs back, let rise 15 minutes more.

Ten minutes before dough has finished rising, use olive oil to coat the inside of a large, Pyrex bowl. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (convection oven preferred.) Place a Pizza stone in the center of the oven rack and a Pyrex bowl in the center of the stone.

Using pot holders, carefully remove preheated Pyrex Bowl from oven and uncover. Uncover bread and loosen bottom with a large spatula. With the aid of the parchment paper, invert bread dough into preheated bowl. Cover bowl with a well fitted, oven heat safe Pyrex lid and transfer to oven; bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover and continue baking until bread is dark brown but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more. At this point you can carefully transfer the bread from the bowl, right onto the pizza stone and turn up the over to 450 degrees. The timing will depend on your oven and my nose (smell wafting through the house) usually tells me the exact moment it is done.  You want the bread crust dark brown but not burnt.  Transfer to a bread board to cool.
Serve with Graber Olive Oil - Balsamic Vinegar in a dipping bowl with added dried herbs of your choice.
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Olive - Walnut Bread

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