Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Spiced Summer Budget-Friendly Fare

  By Cal Orey

The word is, food prices are soaring (again) due to inflation and the oil crisis thanks to the Ukraine-Russia Conflict. Worse, the R word points to another Recession by 2023. Read food insecurity.

Some Spicy Good News: Since the ongoing pandemic, home-cooking is more popular and spices are in big demand, according to McCormick. Not only do herbs and spices flavor up your dishes – they contain antioxidants to keep your immune system strong and heart healthy! Not to ignore controlling the sugar, fat, and sodium content which means you can drop those unwanted winter pounds this season...

Flashback to 2008, the Great Recession. As a journalist living on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, I was affected big-time. I recall losing regular contributing editor positions in five magazines within one month! Tough times. So, did I starve? Nah. I went back to living like I did in my lean graduate school days in San Francisco. Students struggled. I ate lots of seeds, fresh oranges and apples, whole grain pasta, marinara sauce, vegetables and brown rice, and picked berries in the hills or backyards.

Now, more than a decades later, it's books and novels for me. But a warning of skyrocketing prices for food (again). No worries. I, like you, too, can still eat healthy with flavorful home-cooking on the cheap. You just have to remember to buy the staples for tasty dishes (i.e.,  rice, dried fruit, nuts) and include herbs and spices.

So, inspired by higher food costs and spring-summer hot and cold days and nights, I cooked you all up a yummy dish. Recently, when I was interviewed by Huffington Post about bay leaves (I am now considered an “herb expert” thanks to my book on herbs and spices), the journalist asked me about using bay leaves for a baked rice pudding. We both agreed. It’s worth of go!

Spiced Rice Pudding

1 ¼ cups cooked brown rice

1 large or 2 small bay leaves (dried, Turkish variety)

2 eggs, beaten

2 ½ cups organic half-and-half

½ cup organic low-fat milk

¼ cup granulated white sugar

2 teaspoons honey (local to fight springtime allergies)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons cinnamon, ground

¼ teaspoon cardamom. ground

European style butter (to grease baking dish)

Nutmeg, ground for sprinkling on top

Berries, fresh or orange slices

Cinnamon sticks, fresh mint or basil for garnish

In a pan, cook rice according to the directions. Add the bay leaves to the water and remember to toss out when the rice is cooked. Set aside. In a bowl, combine rice, eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, honey, vanilla, raisins, and spices.  Lightly grease small baking dishes or an 8 x 8 baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees in a pan of water (2 or 3 inches if using ramekins) for approximately 1 hour or until firm and golden brown. Top with nutmeg. Serve warm or cold. Garnish with fresh berries, cinnamon sticks, and your favorite mint or basil springs. Serves 6-8. Pair with hot or iced tea (depending on our weather for the day).

Keep in mind, dried spices have a long shelf life and add plenty of flavor for your sweet and savory dishes such as this one. As long as you keep a stocked pantry with healthful staples including brown rice, plenty of dried spices (check out the expiration date) and now is the time to put some herbal plants in your window sill – we’ll be fine.

-- Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is http://www.calorey.com.

The Untold Story of a South Lake Tahoe Wildfire Evacuee

 By Cal Orey

August 20, 2021, It is Apocalyptic
Ash falls. Can’t see mountains. Tourists flooding town. It’s surreal. Looks like a nuclear winter. Ordered fourth air purifier. Headache, raspy throat, ears ache. Nowhere to go. Unhealthy air quality in surrounding towns. Current Air Quality: 231. “Caldor Fire, growing rapidly, forces Highway 50 closure” notes one newspaper headline.
I feel like it’s a monster headed into South Lake Tahoe. My biggest fear of a firestorm with one road out is coming true. Confirmed by credible sources in town -- there is no way out. Last night when the tourists left –they were told Hwy 50. was going to close -- it was reported "nightmarish" gridlock. Read: We will all be trapped if the wildfire reaches us. We're surrounded. Scared.

AUGUST 22, Midnight
Tahoe Daily Tribune: “Caldor Fire grows to 98K acres: More resources ordered to keep blaze away from Tahoe” … Online AirNOW.Gov air quality index reads 611 Hazardous! Evacuating tomorrow. The smoke is very unhealthy. Others are leaving too. Scared. Found a place – 6 hr. drive due to closed roads.
Called sibling. “We’re leaving tomorrow early afternoon. I’ll pay for the trip.” No hesitation. He was in denial but admits: “I see smoke in my living room.” Afterall, for months he, an intuitive, like me, said, “South Lake Tahoe is going to get hit this summer.” And I chose to evacuate early so we wouldn’t be caught in the chaos of a mandatory mass exodus.

A SAFE PLACE, SORT OF
AUGUST 23, 7:00 PM, Monday
The drive was calm. Zen kitty got car sick. Aussie dog happy to go. Clean air ahead! No more sneezing pooch. Arrived. We are now in a safe place. Hello Gilroy, a town I know for its garlic; and doing a past book signing. I chose a pet-friendly inn. It looked cozy with trees nestled around the outside. Note to self: Tent city next to the premises. Red flag but considering we are evacuees now how can I discriminate?
Inside the corner suite. It’s spacious with a king bed, sofa bed, one TV, coffee/tea maker, fridge, patio, and close to the door to let the dog do his business. Sibling is thinking vacation, “What can we do that’s fun?” I’m pondering, “This is survival” to verbal warnings: “Do not let Zen get out.” After all, my Siamese is a senior indoor-only super sensitive cat. First road trip. I do not want to lose my fur child.

AUGUST, 25, Wednesday
Reality hits. The Caldor Fire is out of control. Watching the news, A.M and P.M. is grueling. It is like watching a disaster movie but it is real-life. The monster firestorm is creeping closer and closer to South Lake Tahoe – my home for 22 years.  The wildfire is less than 10 miles away. I call the neighbor who stayed behind in the hazardous air like so many others did. Yes, he is feeding my fish and watering the tree gardens. But the air quality is bad. Will he stay or will he go? I think he is in denial or optimistic. But my gut says the wildfire is going to hit home. Embers fly in the air; winds kick up at night. Is it an uphill battle? We don’t have enough firefighters. Locals are on edge.

AUGUST 27, Friday Morning
Are you kidding? My brother gave me the news. The inn has a policy. Guests with pets must leave after five days. The room will be cleaned and vacant for 24 hours. “Where are we going to go on a summer holiday weekend?” I asked. Displaced again. Uprooting the fur kids is unfair. The rule seems odd. My gut told me something didn’t ring true. Now we were homeless, too, like the Tent City people.

Saturday Night, Hello Los Gatos
Lady Luck. I scored an upstairs corner suite at a pet-friendly inn. I grew up here—an affluent area that makes me feel safe. The air is hazy from our fire at home but isn’t labeled unhealthy air. The room has superb views of trees and hills. We are happy, sort of. Two rooms, two TVs, a door between us and quiet. It is an oasis. Caveat: Zen has cystitis; so, do I. We don’t like change. Need to drink more water.
Week two: I do not want to leave kitty (potential loss of my home has left me vulnerable; putting chair against door as a safety precaution). No dining out. Living on Subway sandwiches: Vegetables, cheese, olives, whole grain bread. One night it’s too bland, another too spicy. Heartburn pays me a visit. Mornings? Inn to-go breakfast: Yogurt, cinnamon roll. Stuff mini fridge with survival food: Natural OJ, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate… Thank God for chamomile tea.

AUGUST 29, Tahoe Evacuations Are Happening
Broken sleep puts us in Zombie mode. Anxiety, stress, and “what ifs” as we watch the nightly news. The word is: The wildfire is less than five miles from the Lake Tahoe Basin. Like a poisonous snake coming straight for South Lake Tahoe. Residents are on alert to be ready to go.  One highway out. Panic. Gridlock. Dangerous air. Why did locals wait? Nobody wants to go to a shelter, pay money for a hotel, sleep in a car. The haves leave, the have nots stay. And first responders and essential workers keep working. To make things worse, Covid-19 can spread easier in a wildfire environment we are told.

AUGUST 30, Monday Morning Mandatory Evacuation
Text from neighbor. His family is leaving before forced evacuations. “I guess the fire crept through the cracks,” he wrote. We were right.  My fish, trees will die. Worse, our cabins (and my antique furniture, books/mags of 30 years; fave clothes gone); Our historical resort town may burn down – wiped out like Paradise north of us. Worse, the mayor said:” Prepare for the worst. We will rebuild.” Where will we move?
At night I call a bank to make a hefty credit card payment. In shock I say, “This is for the evacuation.” The phone rep is distant.  Robotic. Dazed and confused I break down. I cry hysterically. No words. She took the payment. I don’t understand why some people can’t empathize with evacuees from a natural disaster. Nobody is immune.

SEPTEMBER 1, Tahoe and Stateline are Empty – Bears Roam Streets
The military arrived and more firefighters! Casinos at Stateline, NV close but open their doors to first responders. Bears roam the vacant streets in town. The wildfire is less than five miles away to ravaging South Lake Tahoe. I can feel the collective spirit of residents waiting, waiting, waiting. Will we have a home to go back to – or will we have to relocate?
Los Gatos inn moves us to downstairs; somebody had previously booked the suite. Separate rooms. Pros and cons. Twenty days with a sibling is challenging. I am Type A, he is Type B. The break is good. When we are together, we talk about moving to Utah, Arizona… We only brought basic clothes, computers, the dog and cat. We didn’t really think we’d lose our home. Did we?
Speaking of home, nobody lives above me. On Saturday evening I hear movement. Earthquake? No. Dinosaurs! Guests on the second-floor walk; and I hear every step they make like in that popular dinosaur movie. On the upside, when I take Skyler, my protective canine outside -- no stairs, inn electronic cards to get into the pool area and out. So, no more boot camp exercise for dog and me.

SOS!  More Firefighters, Please!!!
Been posting nonstop on social media: “SOS! South Lake Tahoe needs more firefighters and the military!” And they finally came fighting to save our town from burning down. Some residents returned home by September 7 despite the bad air quality. I wait…September 12 we go home. As whooped as I was, I tossed all toxic air exposed food, hosed off ash on the deck, and inside the cabin. My fish survived 10 days without food; lost one and one tree. I listened to more than 100 phone messages -- from concerned people “Are you okay?” The “Evacuate Now…” words from the El Dorado sheriff greeted me – and I grinned because leaving sooner than later alleviated me hearing the orders like I did for Angora Fire in 2007.

OCTOBER 8, I Survived a Natural Disaster
Today, I enjoy the changing color of autumn leaves on trees surrounding the cabin. The air is excellent quality; poor air forecast for the weekend since the sequoias south of us are burning in another California Sierra wildfire. I had a snake nightmare last night and it was trying to attack my cat, Zen.
In the afternoon, I pulled down the outdoor living room blind for a warm, fall effect. Ash fell to the deck. A sobering memory of Caldor Fire and how our community survived. A heartfelt thanks to the fearless firefighters. Tahoe strong locals, and the grace of God. We defeated Mother nature’s wrath this time. But was this nightmare the new normal?

(Published in Oracle 20/20 Magazine, November issue)


FYI Facts: Caldor Fire 2021
·       The wildfire began on August 14.  The cause is unknown but climate change helped the fire cross the Sierra Nevada.
·       Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for El Dorado County. (Lake Tahoe had the most unhealthy air in the U.S.)
·       Nearly 1000 structures were destroyed, no deaths, the clarity and ecosystem of the Lake are affected.
·       Lake Tahoe registered the unhealthiest air quality in the nation due to the Caldor and Dixie Fires surrounding the El Dorado, Alpine, and Amador counties in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
·       The dangerous air quality has both short-term and long-term effects on humans, pets, and wildlife.
·       It was estimated that the Caldor Fire will be fully contained by mid-October.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Tea and Honey for June--National Iced Tea Month

  Tea(s) with Your Honey...

For centuries, people all around the world have enjoyed the simple, soothing pleasures of a good cup of tea with a good teaspoon of honey, and nowadays there is more reason to so do. Tea(s)—all kinds--especially with honey, but together they pack a punch of nutritional and health benefits. 
         Medical doctors, nutritionists, scientists and beekeepers are now confirming what healers have been saying for since biblical times—teas and honeys have a variety of healing powers.
          Here are my favorite tea and honey marriages—but there are infinite combinations for both you and me to try. There is no right or wrong combination and what’s sweet to you makes honey-tea beverages a sweet sip.

1. Black Tea: 
 The first tea I was introduced to was basic black tea—which does contain caffeine—and I have enjoyed it plain but realized it did need a sweet flavor boost to it.  Also, Earl Grey and English breakfast teas (perfect for an Irish breakfast, complete with fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, and scones) are part of the Black Tea group.
Best Honey Matches:  Basswood has a distinct flavor that I’ve used in plain yogurt for a rich flavor and it can give black tea a kick, too. Sourwood boasts a caramel taste that can make a common black tea come to life with taste. Earl Grey teams well with avocado, blueberry, and eucalyptus honeys, too. It’s more exotic and exciting than just a simple all-purpose clover honey that comes without pleasant surprises.
2. Green Tea:  Touted for its wide array of health virtues, this Asian tea does contain caffeine, like black tea, but not as much. It’s an acquired taste and that’s where honey comes into play so you can get the best of taste and nutritional benefits. 
Best Honey Matches:  Blueberry honey has a fruity taste which can give a nice kick to green tea, not the most flavorful tea.  Sage honey is mild, a California favorite of mine that brings out the best of green tea.
3.  Fruit Tea—Welcome to lemon, orange, rose hips, and apple teas. These fruity teas are sweet and sometimes tart, which call for a honey sidekick.
Best Honey Matches:  Mild flavored honeys such as sage and alfalfa brings out the best in fruit teas because it doesn’t overpower the fruity taste but maintains the integrity of the fruit flavor.
 4. Herbal Tea—Herbal teas come from a variety of plants other than the tea plant. They are made from the leaves, berries, flowers, fruits and bark of herbs and spices.
Although most herbal teas do not contain the antioxidant properties of real tea, they do possess other good-for-you compounds that can enhance your health and well-being. There is a wide range of herbal teas, including ginseng, cinnamon, licorice, and mint.
Rooibos (roy-boss) is the “new” herbal tea on the block—that is often called “Red Tea.” Like green and black teas, this tea contains antioxidants that make it heart-healthy and immune-enhancing—and it’s caffeine free.
Best Honey Matches: Teaming earthy and warm herbal teas go well with a mild alfalfa, clover, orange blossom, and sage honeys—common honeys that complement distinct herbal flavors. 
5. Oolong Tea—This tea, popular in Asian countries, contains health perks of both black and green teas. A robust flavored-tea that can have a sweet taste lends to different honeys. 
Best Honey Matches: Oolong, not a tea familiar to me, was easy to try with a friendly California orange blossom honey with its citrusy sweet taste. Another oolong mate is tupelo honey its light amber color and herbal, fruity flavors.
6. White Tea—And last but not least welcome to this pale tea. Found in China it is believed to rank number one for its antioxidants. It’s a bit sweet and mellow. It’s the new tea on the block for tea lovers.
Best Honey Matches:  Fireweed honey is light colored and smooth, like white tea—the two complement each other. Wildflower, one of my favorite mild honeys also goes nicely with white tea.
            As a devout tea drinker, I believe your choice of honey and tea is a personal choice—like pairing dark chocolate with different fruits, herbs and spices. The selection also depends on the season to your mood. But popular and friendly honeys, such as clover and orange blossom are suitable any time, any place because they are not too strong and will not overpower teas—all types—and you can’t go wrong for yourself or if you’re serving other people.
Excerpt: From The Healing Powers of Honey and Tea books by Cal Orey, published by Kensington Books, mass market format 2018. All rights reserved.
UPDATE: newsmax.com/tea GIFT BOOK take a peek inside! The Healing Powers of Tea and The Healing Powers of Honey will be available in audiobook format June 28!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Healing Powers Series (Bundle 'Em for Summer Happiness)

 By Cal Orey

UPDATE: While HONEY (mass market and paperback) and VINEGAR (paperback) went back to press (again), HERBS & SPICES has made its way into hundreds of libraries worldwide; HONEY paperback/mass market format has maintained its Best Seller banner for weeks on Amazon and also currently Walmart website. Plus, ESSENTIAL OILS and SUPERFOODS went back to press for third printings. The timeless series continues to attract readers (all ages).

Summertime Special! (Gift Books: newsmax.com/honey newsmax.com/superfoods newsmax.com/oils   newsmax.com/herbs}

SUMMER Pollen will be Pesky in 2022

Drawing on the 21st century honey buzz, bestselling author Cal Orey reveals enlightening honey home remedies, straight from the book The Healing Powers of Honey: A Complete Guide to Nature's Remarkable Nectar! (Kensington). 
Here are common health ailments from A to Z and amazing at-home honey cures. These are tried-and-true folk remedies based on scientific studies, real-life stories, medical doctors, researchers, and beekeepers. But caution, consult your health-care practitioner before putting to work any honey cure.

1 ALLERGIES (Stop seasonal misery): Dealing with annoying sneezing, a runny nose, and coughing is no picnic, thanks to seasonal pollen. But honey may come to your rescue.
What Honey Rx to Use:  Try eating a tablespoon of locally produced honey. Proponents of honey tell me that your immune system will get used to the local pollen in it (it should be within a 50-mile radius from where you live).
Why You'll Bee Happy:  By taking the honey cure, you may lose your allergy symptoms. It's worth the effort and is less pricey than a visit to the doctor or an allergist. Honey may enhance the immune system to build up a better arsenal against airborne allergens--and help you breathe easier. Honeycomb may line the entire breathing tract.

2 ANXIETY (Beat the jitters monster): When anxiety hits (often worsened by stress during crowded airports, wildfires, poor air quality) you know it like when an earthquake strikes. Anxiety can wreak havoc on your nervous system and up your odds of experiencing heart disease, stress eating, and other health problems.
What Honey Rx to Use: If you're under pressure and feeling high anxiety or sense a stressful event is in the works, make a cup of chamomile tea. Put in 1 teaspoon of your favorite honey. Repeat twice a day as needed.
Why You'll Bee Happy:  Honey--all hundreds of varietals--is touted by folk medicine healers for its calming effects. The natural superfood can help sooth your nerves rather than put you in higher anxiety mode. The relief if provides may be due to its multiple vitamin B content--anti-stress vitamins.

3  COUGH (Outfox irritating hacking):  A cough is another unwelcome visitor and can make you feel terrible. Let's face it, cough medicine can be pricey, doesn't taste good, and may or may not do its job.
What Honey Rx to Use:  A teaspoon of buckwheat honey is recommended before bed. Or you can make syrup of 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar. Repeat each remedy as needed.
Why You'll Bee Happy:  A group of Penn State College of Medicine researchers discovered that honey may be the cure. The findings showed that buckwheat honey at bedtime was more powerful for curing a cough in children than a cough suppressant found in over-the-counter medications. It is believed that honey will act as a sedative to the nervous system.

4 ENERGY DRAIN (Beat low energy): Getting your cough under control is a good thing, but then what if your energy plummets?  Liquid gold may be the answer again.
What Honey Rx to Use: Each morning include a teaspoon of bee pollen in your breakfast. Go ahead and take it solo. Or try The Honey Association's Energy Drink recipe:  ¼ pint orange juice, ¼ pint natural yogurt, 2 tablespoons clear honey. Place all the ingredients in a liquidizer and blend until smooth. Pour into two tall glasses. Serves two people.
Why You'll Bee Happy: Honey is a source of natural unrefined sugars and carbohydrates, which are easily absorbed by the body. That means, you'll get a quick energy boost with long-lasting effects. Athletes include it in their daily diets. It was even used by runners at the Olympic Games in ancient Greece.

5 HEADACHE (Bye-bye, pain): Fatigue and headaches (not uncommon with omicron) are not to be taken with a grain of salt, because it can hurt oh, so bad. There are different types of headaches, and some kinds may benefit from the honey bee's gift.
What Honey Rx to Use:  One cup of tea with 1 teaspoon of honey (the darker the varietal the better) is the remedy. Repeat as needed. Also, drink plenty of water and relax.
Why You'll Bee Happy:  "The way honey might work for tension headaches," says New York Headache Center's Alex Mauskop, M.D., "is by treating hypoglycemia, which can cause tension and migraines." He adds that some antioxidants can help prevent headaches, as can magnesium and vitamin B. So turning to antioxidant-rich honey may be a sweet remedy.

6 INSOMNIA  (Find sweet dreams): Getting rid of a headache is a challenge, but not getting adequate shut-eye can have long-term effects, too.
What Rx to Use: Take 1 or 2 teaspoons of your favorite honey, especially before going to bed. Try sipping a cup of 2 percent low-fat milk with a dash of cinnamon. The tryptophan in milk will help to calm you.
Why You'll Bee Happy:  It's a magic trick, according to The Honey Revolution author Ron Fessenden, M.D., providing needed glycogen to the liver so the brain doesn't go in search of extra fuel in the earl A.M. hours when you should be in Dreamland. "Consuming honey before bedtime also reduces the release of  adrenaline, a catecholamine that raises blood pressure and heart rate," adds the honey guru.

7 SORE THROAT (Take the sting away): Not sleeping is miserable, but a sore throat can drag you down, too, where don't feel like walking or talking. Honey has been used as a home for centuries to help soothe one of the symptoms associated with a common cold or virus--namely, a killer sore throat.
What Honey Rx to Use:  For relief of symptoms, take a spoonful of your buckwheat honey, as often as you need, to relieve irritation. In between, sip a cup of tea with honey. Also, try pure honeycomb and honey sticks. Don't forget all-natural honey-lemon lozenges, which also coat the throat for quick relief.
Why You'll Bee Happy: One, honey will coat your sore throat, the symptom of the cause. Two, the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties will help heal the culprit causing your pain.
8 WAIST WHITTLER (Blast belly fat the stuff leftover from winter): Twitches to tummy bulge... if you have a bulging tummy, you'd probably consider a sore throat is easier to get rid of. But wait; there are things you can do to get a flat tummy.
What Honey Rx to Use:  Both morning and night, drink an 8-ounce glass or mug of tea (dandelion or parsley boasts diuretic effects), with a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Team this potion with grazing and watch your fat and sugar intake.
Why You'll Bee Happy: Honey and apple cider vinegar contain the bloat-busting mineral potassium. Also, turning to honey will help you to eat fewer sugary treats and enjoy a flatter stomach.

          So go ahead and use the type of honey advised or your own preference; all-natural, raw honey, dark varietals are recommended for best results. (Warning: To avoid infant botulism, do not fee honey to an infant.)

Thursday, June 23, 2022

SMOKY SKIES--Northern California Fire Fallout



The Rim Fire, Burning by Yosemite National Park
The wildfire ignited August 17 (caused by man), and spread to more than 180,000 acres. Smoke rising from the Rim Fire, had moved into the Lake Tahoe basin and surrounding regions, causing air quality to go south—affecting the health of people and pets of all ages.

Worse, as time passed, the Lake Tahoe area was tagged by authorities including NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the El Dorado County Air Quality Management District.as “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to “unhealthy”! What’s more, areas in Nevada, including Carson City and Reno were facing “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” conditions.  It was a time of uncertainty, a time of caution.

Smoke Ups Health Risks

As each hour and day passed, I watched in disbelief and past wildfire images hit my mind. This was like the 2007 Angora Fire—which I evacuated to Reno, fleeing the drama of helicopters, evacuation phone calls, dark skies, and falling ash. This time around, the gray air was spreading throughout Northern California and Northern Nevada. There was nowhere to run and hide.
I found myself scrutinizing reports of South Lake Tahoe’s Barton Memorial Hospital. It was unsettling. Officials were getting flooded with respiratory complaints and numbers of emergency-room patients soared.  We were told by NOAA warning advisories for people and pets to stay indoors, shut the windows, cease physical activities, and drink water to prevent hydration.
At first, I was affected by not being able to enjoy keeping my windows open (it was the warm summer), and taking my two active dogs for long walks. The pool where I swim was closed due to the unsafe air quality. People were wearing masks at stores—it made me think of SARS in Asia and the film “Contagion”.  In fact, one night I couldn’t sleep—I was busy plotting my evacuation. But note, I’d have to drive as far as Half Moon Bay on the coast to be able to get genuine fresh air like our mountains usually has plenty of for locals and tourists.
Sure, I am a senior, but I am healthy. I do not have heart disease, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But being advised to stay indoors was making me feel anxious, isolated, and trapped. Looking up at the sky at dusk to see a reddish sun with ash falling down on our trees, vehicles and to see a red moon late at night without stars was like a freaky nightmare—like the aftermath of a nuclear war.
By late August, some physical symptoms hit me. I was coughing, sneezing, endured a headache, and developed a sore throat. The cable guy told me every afternoon he was feeling lightheaded and ill. And, I received phone calls from my sibling on the Nevada side that the smoke quality looked worse than on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. He sent me chilling, eye-opening pictures via e-mail that were surreal looking. But that’s not all…

Long-Term Dangers of Wildfire Ash

Experts said ash falling into the lake can cause problems but we will not know until next year of the entire damage. Some wildlife is affected, too but the long-term effects on humans and their pets are unknown. 
In a poll created by the Tahoe Daily Tribune, residents showed more concern for their family’s health than not being able to play outdoors. This fact, in itself, made me feel like I was hardly alone—I was one of countless people concerned about the fallout that surrounded us from the fires that burned and affected our environment and health.
I dished reports via social networking, from my own experience. In one post I wrote: “It's like we're in off season. The store was dead tonight!  I crave swimming, long dog walks, clean air, and open windows.” And yes, the surreal nature of smoky skies brought back memories of the Oakland Firestorm—a horrific event where people and their pets died because there was only one road out and firefighters could not get in to rescue victims.
On September 1, the Rim Fire was more than one third contained. The day before, while tourists were less than more for the Labor Day Weekend, at times I could see the mountains across the Lake, I took the dogs for a longer walk, and I saw kids swimming in the water and adults on bicycles. But then, in the morning hazy skies returned. The NOAA advisories noted there would be waxing and waning of the air quality until the fire was contained, estimated September 20.
So, this fire, one of the largest in California history, will not be forgotten, nor the last one. As global warming continues, the air remains dry and we get less precipitation, wildfires, say experts, may burn longer and may be worse in the years to come. But as I cope with the fallout from this wildfire of 2013, I will never take fresh air for granted.  It’s a precious thing that we need to survive.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Leaving Tahoe to Canada for the 4th of July was Heaven

 By Cal Orey

Before the pandemic, I did flee to sweet Victoria, Canada to escape the Independence Day madness. And the long trek was worth it. But this year variants are still with us, my fave kennel is closed, and airline chaos is probably more insane than a day or two here at Lake Tahoe. I did call some out of town hotels but it's probably wiser to wait until our air quality enters the unhealthy zone. So, I go back in time a few years back...

One treat of the hotel I stayed at was a breakfast buffet in the concierge room. I recall seeing fresh pieces of a variety of summer fruit including pineapple, green apples, oranges, and watermelon. While I didn’t include them on my plate with a croissant, scrambled eggs, orange juice, and a large cup of coffee—I do remember the bright red chunks but it was the green apples I took back to my room for snacks. 


Actually it wasn’t the fresh fruit that wowed me as much as the room with a view overlooking Victoria Harbour. I did bond with a seal at Victoria Pier. I experienced plenty of shops and eateries, boats and house boats, all full of charm. One of my goals for this adventure was to smell sea air, go on a boat ride, and bond with a seal like I used to do in San Francisco. After a pool swim in the morning, I strolled on the pier in search of seal. Almost immediately my eyes met with one single marine mammal in the water. It swam inland right up to me as if to say, “Hello! Welcome to Victoria.” I said, “Hey! What a good boy!” Once the seal was close to me (and the tourists could see clearly it was swimming in my direction) I snapped a photo or two and felt an instant connection to Mother Nature’s creature and Canada’s water.

Watermelon Summertime Salad Bowl
* * *
1 mini round seedless watermelon
Assorted fruit, 2 cups watermelon chunks, ½ cup each of sliced strawberries, orange slices, apple chunks, and peaches
2 tablespoons raw honey (local)                            
1 lemon, juice  
Cinnamon, nutmeg to taste

Using a sharp knife, slice a thick slice from bottom of watermelon to make a flat base so the melon will lie nicely on a large dish. Slice the melon in half. Scoop out melon of one half. Slice it like a checkerboard. Make horizontal and vertical cuts for watermelon square chunks. Scoop fruit out and place in a bowl, add other fruit. (It works well with kiwi, grapes and other melons.) Mix in honey, lemon, and spices. Cover and chill in refrigerator. Serve in bowls and top with Greek yogurt or gelato. Serves 6-8. 

This watermelon fruit salad is easy on the eyes and good for you, too. Watermelon is low in fat and calories, plus it provides some nutrients, including vitamin C and disease-fighting antioxidants. A watermelon salad like this one makes a super centerpiece for a picnic outdoors, brunch, or after dinner dessert. It’s easy to make and will help you chill, and give you time to enjoy the water at Lake Tahoe or escape to British Columbia's waters during our heat wave. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Tourist Town Life--The Real on Independence Day

Living in a Tourist Town? Author Shares Survival Stories
Independence Day


I wasn't going to write about this coming Fourth of July so I found this post in my blog file. Yep, it's nearing that time of year. So I'm thinking why the heck not? (The sweetest thing is my honey book will be released in audiobook format. It's a sign for me to tune in and tune out the tourist Twister-style storm a headed this way.) Welcome to my summer...
Usually I am a quiet, balanced author-intuitive who lives in the mountains, faces Mother Nature's wrath (snowstorms, blackouts, earthquakes, poor air quality to wildfires) and writes articles and books. Soon my life will face another challenge: The Tourists. (Last year it was a surreal block party during the pandemic. I watched out my window.) 

Before the pandemic, as a supersensitive, I sensed chaos was on its way...  Fourth of the July--is a piece of work.
Last night it looked like a scene out of "Twister"--and I was waiting for a flying cow to pay me a visit.  Block party! Young and old, were running loose up and down the street day and night. Cars, cars, cars everywhere. Clothes and towels, chairs, people galore were everywhere. And the noise factor? Hot tubs bubbling, screaming, laughing, sirens...
    Ugh, I feel sick to my stomach. Sure, I get it. I live in a "tourist town"--get used to it. But you see, the intensity of holiday events never comes inland to the neighborhood as much as it is this year.  Well, we do hear fireworks and live music concerts but I and my companion animals have become desensitized to it. Sort of. 
I've learned to stock up on food and water, have a low profile, and wait until the storm is over. This time the storm of unruly pets and their people overflowed into my world. RVs, flood lights, and a car lot.  

Tourist Town Needs Tourists’ Money
So you may be thinking:  "The town needs tourists' money"--but I do not get paid from the tourists. It's locals, like me, who are the bread and butter for the locals who offer services year-round during off-season. Meanwhile, as I sit here working at home (feeling captive, love to swim or walk the dog but I'm intimidated so I will not do either) I am done fighting. It is out of my control. 
As I look at photos of trips I've taken I think: "I didn't trash the city or town or do insensitive things." I do not get drunk, let my dog run loose, scream and party all day and night (however I wish I did at this moment).  So my Aussie chews his bones in between chaos and I try to finish the book that is due in less than two months but I cannot lie. I'm feeling frustrated and unbalanced.  The town has been invaded and tourists to vacation homeowners are acting selfish and insensitive to people who live here. But, but, but...
It's eerie out there (almost feeling like Will Smith's character in "I Am Legend" and sense "dark seekers" (mean zombie people and dogs are outside when it gets dark at night). Ready to board of all the windows. Besides one local's dog who jumped the fence (I felt so sorry for her--the shepherd's blue eyes met mine--she was scared) and her concerned owner rescued the dog. I feel for these pets and their people. 
Tonight we get 25 minutes of loud fireworks, after all, it's the time when we celebrate and our sensitive dogs and cats flee. And that's what I should have done. One more thing: My Aussie is barking out in the living room. I am allowing it because it's an insensitive tourist walking by my cabin with a wayward off-leash canine and ignoring our town laws. Live and let live? What else can I do. “Go ahead, boy bark!” I say and turn up the volume to the stereo.


Summer Fun…Join Them—Or Not

A few days ago, I read an article online about how a popular town in Europe, Venice, doesn’t want any more tourists. After all, too many people create traffic congestion, air pollution, lines in stores, and a quiet, quaint town of paradise can turn into a nightmare.
After 20 years of living at Lake Tahoe I became a “clacker”—refer to the film “The Devil Wears Prada”. No, I don’t wear heels but I’ve joined the fun-loving vacation homeowners. 

    That means on weekends I stop writing. Why bother? I take time to chill: garden, swim, sun, and play with my furry friends.
I purchased those silly patio umbrellas with solar lights, faux ivy, lavender flowers, river rock, patio stones, tall trees, solar lights, red bark, and cozy chairs for many islands. I created an oasis to make my time in season chaos, well, bliss. Oh, this year it arrived! I purchased earphones to plug into the TV and computer like being on an airplane. Pondering if I should order a pair for the dog. My cat, Zen? He’s chill.
And there is the ongoing feud of locals and vacation home rentals. But that is another story. 
UPDATE: The news is: Block Party 2022 and El Dorado County is on High (red) covid alert. Thank God for my blinds (indoors/outdoors) privacy trees, ordered wireless ear phones, movies, popcorn, furry friends and fish, chamomile tea, and chocolate, rowing machine, and upgraded study. 
I can do this. Mantra: This too shall pass. Autumn. Alaska. Autumn. Alaska.