Sunday, May 31, 2015

Savoring WATER: Travels to Canada During a West Coast Dry Spell

Travels to Canada:
Savoring Water
During a West Coast Drought

Balcony view in Bellevue, WA after book signing
As a native Californian who has traveled to Canada and most of our 50 states, I'm all too aware of our mega drought in the Sierra Nevada and how it's affecting our water supply, price of crops, watering lawns--and my sense of adventure happiness. Exploring in Canada on March 24, I got to escape reality and savor water from morning till night.
Pool solo in a.m., bliss
In Washington and Canada when I visited cafes to restaurants, it was not asked by servers: "Do you want a glass of water?" And I could sense their thoughts: "Do you really need it?" And refills for tea?   Water in B.C. was plentiful in showers, bathtubs, pools, hot tubs, eateries, and tea rooms, the skies, and environment. I was in Water world and I loved it...

Waking up in B.C... At home each day I awaken to three sweet but demanding fur kids. I am nestled amid pine trees (and a receding beach at Lake Tahoe a few blocks away). In every room of the cabin each window I look out of boasts towering trees (minus one that fell on the cabin last December). On Sunday last month it was a breath of fresh air to open my eyes to a solo bed with a city view and water. This corner room on the 24th floor boasted a balcony which I did learn to savor. Most of the time I was in the room the door was open and fresh air and space was awesome to my senses.
Where are the live sea monsters?
Monday morning after the carafe of coffee (I didn't want to walk into Starbucks so early in the morning with intense customers high on their caffeine fix) and one more toasted bagel to avoid the fifty dollar waffle affair, the morning swim workout and hot tub time outdoors was unforgettable.
It was a blissful welcome; not a 2 mile drive to the resort pool at Tahoe (which is doable, too). I did feel spoiled and smiling to enjoy water all alone again. Guiltless. Knowing that Vancouver Aquarium was next up made me feel in sync with the fish I'd visit.

My zen-like partner in another life

Where are the Sea Monsters?  I was looking forward to seeing the super Sea Monsters. As a former writer for Tropical Fish Hobbyist, I assumed these creatures would be big and bad. Out of the pool, into the bathtub in my room; it was time to go have a face to face with the spooky fish. Like a kid I was anticipating the unknown.

I was at the aquarium more back in 1999. I vowed to go back alone since my traveling partner was not my cup of tea. Once there it wasn't much different except I liked being alone. The air was very humid.  Lots of energetic children screaming and laughing were everywhere I walked. If I was a little girl I'd be asking my parents: "Where are the sea monsters?" Once downstairs I was stunned to see a fossilized sea creature. No real live sea monster. I wanted to cry. My fantasy was squashed.
Treated like a princess, forgot to take off gloves!

Back to Tea Research  After my time spent at the aquarium (I connected with penguins, sea otters, and a frog), I went back to the hotel and prepared to set out again to visit the tea people. Both experiences taught me a lot--which I will share in my book.
Tea and treats were a top highlight of the trip. Above is a peek of Tea world. Sweet and savory edibles and tea(s) were served to me.
I enjoyed some of the items. But, but, but I detected attitude by a few servers. I'm not sure if it's a Canada quirk, like in Quebec, or what, but my sensitivity was spot-on after I discovered from other patrons that this was not in my imagination. 

Water and the City  From swimming to hot tubbing, visiting the fish--dead and alive--sipping teas and munching on eats was decadent, enlightening but I needed a break. Since it was raining which didn’t seem to bother the Canadians? In fact, I couldn't help but notice everyone walks, swims, and drinks coffee in the rain and doesn't seem bothered. At all. 
On Amtrak, near Canadian border

I decided to take in a movie but the theater was too far for a trek and I got a cab. It was 50 Shades of Grey--the sexy film--that I decided to see so I wouldn't blush watching it in a town where everyone knows everyone. The glitch? The concierge gave me the wrong time of showing. That said, I was stranded in a mall in a foreign country.
A sweet security guard offered to hail a cab. No such luck. After 30 minutes of trying, he gave up. It was left to me to get back to my hotel. Actually, I should have tried myself. Within minutes a cabbie stopped and we were en route to my point of destination: Dry and cozy.  Since I was water logged with tea, for once in my life I didn't crave the hot beverage.

In My Room  Back in the room with a view I thought: "I don't want to be around the hustle bustle of the city." So, I splurged. I ordered two films: "Wild" and Still "Alice"--a chick movie marathon. Worse, each movie was $17.  The Canadian dollar doesn't go very far, I'm told. But the movies, especially the one where the character Cheryl hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, inspired me and brought me back in time. 

Last night in Seattle, comped with upgrade sweet suite

When I was in my mid-twenties I hitchhiked from the San Francisco Bay Area south to Los Angeles and on through the Mojave Desert to my gran's in Tucson, AZ. The thing was, I was on a mission to deliver my mother's ashes in a box.  This grueling adventure--being stranded on Interstate 10 to talking to my deceased mom in a box-- was an important journey. It ended up as a novella in my thesis back in grad school.  While viewing Wild, the saga hit me with vivid memories (going hungry to dangerous happenings) of being like an animal on the road.
But this time on the road the way I traveled was different. This time around it was a book signing, book research, and some fun things to do. Back in time each day was about survival. After the films I fell asleep because the hotel wake-up call would ring at 4:00 A.M.--allowing me enough time to get to the train station headed back to the states.  From being young and naive sleeping in a sleeping bag with a dog to decades later cuddled up in a bed with a postcard view, it hit me: "I'm still an adventuress going out of her comfort zone but no longer wild."

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hello Memorial Day Weekend, The Invaders Are Here

By Cal Orey

Today is Saturday, the first day of the three day holiday weekend. Living at Lake Tahoe reclusive locals, like myself, are spoiled during the weekdays and off season. During these times the resort swimming pool/hot tub is quiet, casinos are empty, grocery stores are vacant, our movie theater is full of empty chairs, and walking the dogs is easy breezy--no surprise attacks from wayward tourists' off leash canines. But the next few days, no such luck.  I predicted and planned for the upheaval. 
As a sensitive intuitive I knew the quiet neighborhood would be a bit more busy--nothing like Fourth of July--but a distraction. Why do neighbors turn on flood lights? Is it to keep the bears or burglars out of the way? I think it would make it easier for these creatures to find the path to treasures.
I recall years ago a friend of mine who lived in Santa Cruz and strongly complained about roller skating with her dog during tourist season. I get it now.  Other dogs would distract to canine and the potential fall for her took the fun out of it all. 
Tourists with their off leash dogs and carefree, upbeat attitude bring a busy buzz that just isn't calming. On the upside, after 15 years, I know how to deal with the challenges...
1) Go to the grocery store and stock up as you would before a natural disaster
2) Stay clear from the swimming pool (this is a pesky one; I love my swims)
At a book signing, in cafe after signing books, 
dishing on superfoods

Down to 1 "replacement" pleco--but happy fish

If working on a book, work a lot before the invaders land--be ahead so if a day off is a must due to the noise factor--no worries. Take a holiday and go with the flow. Live in the moment like the dogs and cat...enjoy cooking, baking, cleaning and getting ready to go back to peace and quiet in a few days. Know that this too shall pass. 

I, too, have been a tourist but I am sensitive and quiet (well, the time we took the dog and allowed him to swim in the hotel pool; and he barked at every door closing). Mantra: Tuesday. The flood lights are bothersome. I didn't want to go off the hill, so rather than install black out curtains for the blinds, I tried putting artsy prints and tall plants around/in the window sills. It may work. Or not. Seventy percent. It looked like a jungle.

I was a tourist, too

Note to self: Get black out curtains before summer arrive for sanity's sake. 

The vacation-business trips I took in March and September? No need to wait till I am an old woman to remember the good times during the bad times of flood light horrors... Turn off the light, please. The bears were here first. Savoring the photos around the cabin to pass the time... and wish I was a tourist, anywhere but here with light all around me.

Speaking of light, the season of summer is nearing and I feel it. The good thing, the season is short in the mountains and then autumn arrives--my favorite time of year. Fantasies of returning to Canada (Ontario, perhaps) or somewhere northbound are on my mind.  For now, it's time to chill and face warmer days, more tourists until the town is quiet and goes back to its normalcy and quietude. UPDATE: Fell asleep after working so hard to cover the windows...felt like Al Pacino's character in Alaska-based "Insomnia." Changed mantra: Black out shades ASAP. Done.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Honey Bee is 1 of Nature's Greatest Gifts

Honey Bees: Friend or Foe?
 Un-BEE-lievable Man’s Best Friend

Did You Know?  The honey bee (apis mellifera) is one of nature’s greatest gifts.

The Key Pollinators… “The honey bee pollinates about one-third of the food we eat,” says Reno-based agriculturists-beekeeper Leonard Joy of Joy’s Honey Ranch. The honey bee—an insect—pollinates more than 90 crops, including apples, blueberries, citrus fruit, and nuts. Simply put, honey bee colonies (50,000 to 60,000 per hive that include workers, drones, and one queen) are vital to our planet.
Available at all fine bookstores (click)
            “Honey bees are woven into our food chain. Pet foods containing animal proteins rely partly on bees for pollination of pasture plants to complete the circle of life,” explains Hidden Valley Honey’s beekeeper Chris Foster of Reno. “Without honey bees, the whole food chain would be diminished in diversity and quantity for both us and our pets.”

… And Honey Makers: Beekeepers such as Joy, Foster and Dan Baily of Sparks know that honey bees provide another service; they produce honey. Known as “nectar of the gods,” honey has been used for its medicinal powers for 5000 years. Local beekeepers such as the Bailys sell honey to locals and retail outlets for use in treating allergies. It’s believed that raw local honey contains pollen that cause allergies—repeated us might help to build up immunity to the annoying ailment. You’ll find local honey (including comb honey, beeswax, candles, and soap) around town and at farmers’ markets.


Swarming in Your Home: Beekeepers (who tend to honey bees in layered wooden boxes) such as the Baileys will tell you that a honey bee’s instinct is to nest. They will seek a hole inside or outside a house or building—often creating a nuisance.

Stinging People and Pets: Although honey bees are gentle, if provoked, their survival instinct to protect their queen will kick in and they might strike. Some pets can have mild symptoms to a sting, just as humans can. If anaphylaxis (a severe allergic response) occurs, this can be life-threatening. Contact your doctor or vet ASAP.

Bottom line: Do not attempt to get rid of bees by yourself. Call a beekeeper to help you safely remove swarms (10,000 to 15,000 bees) or colonies.

            Meanwhile, mankind is buzzing about Colony Collapse Disorder—a die-off of honey bees with an unknown cause. As researcher around the globe probe the mystery of the alarming decline, beekeepers work to keep the beloved honey bee—nature’s workhorse—alive and well.

Sweet Honey Trivia

A hive of bees fly more than 55,000 miles to bring you one pound of honey.
Honey bees must tap about two million flowers to make one pound of honey.
Each honey bee has four wings.
Honey bees communicate by “dancing.”
There are an estimated 150,000 hobby beekeepers in the U.S.
(Source: National Honey Board)

Staying Healthy with 
My Pooch—My Pal

Like a wayward honey bee spreading its wings and returning to its colony, I headed home with my dog Stone Fox, to Northern California. But we got sidetracked. On the way we ended up in Fresno, Central California—a honey bee haven. I was a nanny. My job was to tend to two kids and giant, cumbersome Saint Bernard. It was a semi-rural neighborhood in the hot summertime. On my days off I’d flee on a 10-speed bicycle. My dog and I moved wild and free through the orange groves—a place where honey bees worked. I picked up oranges under the fruit trees and took them home to use the fruits of my labor.
            In the kitchen, as usual, I found myself like a worker in its hive. Clad in blue-jean overalls, barefoot, and golden brown from the sun, I’d play road songs, such as “Ventura Highway” and “Born to Be Wild,” and do a honey bee waggle dance—but I was all alone. I created fresh orange juice Popsicles sweetened with a bit of local fresh orange blossom honey—used in my home remedies. The honey helped soothe dry skin, insect bites, PMS, and sunburn—all ailments I endured while enduring Central California, a place I didn’t feel was home.

(Excerpt from The Healing Powers of Honey published by Kensington, 2011.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Woman's Best Friend (for Dog Lover's Only)


"A dog doesn't care if you're rich or poor, 

educated or illiterate, clever or dull. 

Give him your heart and he will give you his.”

― John GroganMarley and Me

Like a wayward honey bee in flight, in early fall I traveled through the New England states and two provinces—Quebec and Ontario—with my Lhasa apso/Maltese, Tiger. He was sweet and bold. I had rescued the white shaggy-haired pooch in Washington State, where blackberry honey is popular. It was this Bohemian lifestyle—hitching rides with my dog and eating a simple, natural diet (including honey when I could afford it)—that kept me lean and healthy.

Two Wanderlusts, for Richer or Poorer

My Aussie that makes me lighten up
          With my white fluffy, fun-loving pooch in tow I headed toward Canada. (I had to smuggle him into the country because I didn’t have paperwork that was required.) Once we crossed the border, the closer to the city we got, the more disoriented I felt, not accustomed to being like a honey bee in a swarm. The locals spoke fluent French. (I did not.)  The street signs were foreign and the metric system on food labels confused me. I was lost, cold in the mornings and nights, but I had my warmhearted dog that was American.

          One night my canine companion and I spent the night in a forest off the main road. We snuggled up in my sleeping bag. Another creature comfort I enjoyed was the foods I guarded stuffed in my backpack: fresh fruit, nuts, whole-wheat bread, peanut butter—and a jar of clover honey. It was a reality TV show real-life moment when I used my finger to scoop out the creamy butter and gooey honey. And yes, I shared a bit of honey, butter and bread with Tiger (today reminding me of Cerberus, the three-headed dog who was fed a honey cake).

          Tiger and I had cuddled and slept in the backyard of an estate on the outskirts of Quebec, on beaches in Mississippi to the Florida Keys, on an Indian reservation in Arizona, in a cornfield in Kansas, and in the back of a pickup truck under the stars at a motel in Tennessee. From rest stops to national parks, this dog and I were inseparable, like bees and their beekeeper. Tiger was my protector and sounding board. It was comfort foods, honey, peanut butter, and whole-grain crackers from the United States, that didn’t spoil, kept me energized—and I shared with my best friend.

          And while I didn’t know it then, later on as a health author I learned I was eating foods of the Mediterranean diet—heart-healthy honey and peanut butter (in moderation) with a dog that provided heart health benefits, too, by keeping my blood pressure down during stressful and lonely times. 
12 year bond with Brittany Simon

Wheel of Misfortune, Leaving Las Vegas

I faced sweet and bitter experiences on my road travels, like a honey bee in flight; I was stricken by untimely challenges. On afternoon in Las Vegas, Tiger and I were in front of Lady Luck Casino. It was my idea to leave my long-haired partner in the shade with water at the doorstep of the entry way while I tried to hitch a safe ride back home to California. As I was walking inside, an older man called out to me, “Nice dog!" I got an uneasy vibe but tuned it out.

Fifteen minutes later, I left the casino. My beloved companion was MIA. Shocked and disoriented like a beekeeper with stolen bee colonies, I stood outside in the hot sun. I tried to fight back the tears. After a long search through nondescript streets and talking to people with unknown faces--there was no rescue. My canine buddy was gone. I cried all night long.

At dawn, at a cafĂ© I ordered a cinnamon roll, tea, and honey. I was like a devoted beekeeper without his bees. I was alone. It was one of the worst experiences I endured on the road. And flashbacks of our travels from coast to coast haunted me then but now are cherished memories of a dog and a girl—an amazing human-animal bond. I left a photo of me, the hippie girl with her dog in Ontario, on the bulletin board at the local animal shelter in Vegas. Through all the pain and loss, I moved on.
Dogs have emotions; took Simon a while to get over
loss of his Brittany sidekick and give into Skye

A few months later, fate paid me a visit. A black Labrador pup with soulful brown eyes came into my life on the road. We rescued each other at Ocean Beach, San Diego. We bonded instantly like a beekeeper with new queens, and Stone Fox and I, California Butterfly, continued on our journey together.

(Excerpt from The Healing Powersof Honey, published by Kensington).