Archive for August, 2011

Life List/Bucket List:

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

I have always been inspired by the magnificent words of the great Nelson Mandela, and the words of this quote specifically. My mother sent me a birthday card once of etched black and color hearts, inside was this quote, and the birthday gift that year was the wish that I would always let my light shine. I think I was 22 and a little pissed at the time that she didn’t include what I would call an “actual gift”. But that was my mother, always one for larger gestures and less of this physical world.

So with that wish to always live my life with passion and let my light shine, just what does that mean? I have pondered that on many nights, I have felt defeated by that question during storms of the conscience, and I have felt sparks of it with me in the most unthinkable moments. But while in Kenya with plentiful time to talk with my remarkable roommate (miss you Sarah and I hope France is welcoming you with wide arms), I was encouraged to finally write down a few of the ideas that ignite a spark of passion within me; to put a physical name to what so many know is out there – the life or bucket list. That which I feel inspired or compelled or intrigued to do while I LIVE this life. I spent a night on a balcony in Lake Nakuru national park with grazing zebras to my side and contemplated this list and came up with the below.

Travel to Egypt and see the Pyramids by sunset and Valley of the Kings; Live as an expat; Travel to Morocco and taste the spices in the market on my bare tongue; Design and create an environmentally conscious hotel/resort that would be a completely sustainable model for life; Sail on the Nile; Celebrate Carnival in Brazil; Sail on a sailboat for a weekend; Travel to Israel and try to find the Kibbutz my mother worked on in the 1960s (or one like it) and work for a few days; Have a family; Learn to Tango; Be a good mother (ok we could add – be a good daughter, friend, sister); Write a book (if I am honest, in my notebook this says – write a best selling book, but I’m trying to be realistic – read humble here); Make a movie; Drink rum in Jamaica; Purchase a house; Ride in a hot air balloon; Sit in the Blue Lagoon of Iceland; Roll and smoke a cigar in Cuba; Help someone deeply; Hop with the kangaroos in Australia; Bring my mother’s ashes to Hawaii to spread them with my sister; Stop worrying about money; Fall deeply in love; Walk on the great wall of China; Plant my own garden; See Machu Picchu; Ride in a helicopter; Sail to the Galapagos Islands; Sit with Gorillas in Uganda/Rwanda; Commit myself to someone; Give my kids pie for breakfast (Zelda’s mother Ruth did this with me as a kid, and it is one of the sweet memories of my youth); Learn to surf; Complete the full trip to Spain and Portugal that I left when my mother died; Become a really good/great cook; Make a difference; Leap in front of the Taj Mahal; Drive the entire Pan-America Highway (that is Alaska to Chile, one long road trip).

And to be fair, when one says the dreams they have, it is only fair to also say those fabulous things that once graced this list that I have already accomplished. With such gratitude to those who helped me make these memories a reality:

I have gone Sky Diving (twice); Gone parasailing and paragliding; Traveled to New Zealand and seen the glaciers and the Fiordland; Experienced the lights of Paris; Learned to Drive; Traveled to Fiji; Sailed through the Panama Canal; Seen the giant diabatsu of Japan (post Japan I would add – rolled sushi and sat in many onsen);  Learned to ride a bike; Kayaked in the Indian Ocean, off of the coast of Hawaii, in the Caribbean, in New Zealand, and in the Hudson river; held some of my closest friends’ babies and watched my friends become fantastic parents; hiked Mount Lassen ( I love the photo Carole); Gone on Safari; Lived in Africa; Had pie for breakfast; Traveled to Angkor Wat; Met the Dalai Lama; Traveled to Vietnam; Worked on Broadway; Swam with dolphins; Drove to Maine in a convertible; Roasted a really good chicken; Traveled to Germany; Rode on an elephant named Ramona in Bali (no joke); Lived a life I have really loved.

As with anything in life this list continues to evolve and change as things are added and moved from a place of dream to accomplishment. I encourage anyone to revisit this project and write their own list for life, I would love anyone who wanted to share some of their ideas with me. And if anyone can help me make some of these dreams come true…well I am here and ready.

Viva the life filled with life.

Ramona

21

08 2011

Here’s A Tongue At You

Yes, yes, I know I have not had much to say since I have been back from Kenya, or perhaps too much to say and I can find no time to say it. I came back and started working almost immediately; well, someone had to pay for all that travel. Meanwhile I am living off the kindness of not strangers but good friends. I spend my weeks, weekends, and other weekends with different friends in their homes around New York City. Thank you all for letting me bunk on your couches and in your extra rooms.

I have been spending the majority of my time with my good friend Jessica and Mike, and that is where this story begins. Mike has been taking a culinary journey of his own these past few weeks – a journey from CSA to full deli deliciousness!  Inspired by the fact that their CSA offered a meat choice of tongue, Mike decided to brine and cook his first ever beef tongue!

But the story goes further than that, what would be the justice of a well-cooked piece of meat otherwise thrown together with a few store bought ingredients? Not when this tongue came from a CSA and a grass fed cow who had a good life! For this only the best would do. So Mike set out and made two mustards to top the tongue – one stone ground and pungent traditional mustard of deep yellow color, and the other spiked with the sweet flavor and purple color of roasted beets met with the sharp spice of horse radish.

The brine experience took over 10 days to perfect. We had parts of the experience that reflected science experiments – adding enough salt to water to the point where an egg floats – yes try that one with your kids.

The meat itself was finished off in a simmering bath amidst a fine mirepoix. The smell was of a good Jewish yenta’s house.

To complete the experience Mike thought that the only fitting canvas for such a delectable pallet would be to bake his own Rye Bread. Yes you read correctly, every part of this meal from scratch – mustard, tongue, and bread.

And it was in fact my first tongue, nothing like the giraffe kiss in Kenya. This one was more like a brisket. And for a lady who considers herself almost a vegetarian you might be asking why did you eat this? And the answer is easy, for the same reason I ate the brain taco in May. After traveling through third world countries where they eat whatever they are fortunate to have – bugs, wild boar, their pet chicken – who am I to turn down a lovingly prepared tongue. Also, there is a respect I found in these parts of the world and cultures that use every part of an animal. For a partial vegetable-only eater I liked that the life that was taken to make my dinner was going to have every part and organ used. And hey, I fancy myself a person who likes new experiences. So what’s next??? Tripe??? I don’t think I am exactly ready for that yet.

But thank you Mike. Thank you for taking me along your culinary journey. Thank you for having a passion and zest for creating this full culinary experience. And thank you for showing me the beauty in the tongue.

Ramona

12

08 2011

Still Thinking of Africa And How You Can Help With The Famine In Somalia

It is hard to get such a reverberating experience as I had in Kenya out of my mind. But it is made all the more difficult when I came home and the news is filled with the harrowing stories from that section of the world.

Yes, we have poverty in the US. Yes, our credit score as a country went down. But we have water. We have food. We have our own set of injustices, but nothing as large as the way a majority of the world ignores places outside of its scope until it is too late for far too many people.

There was talk of water shortage and drought when I was in Kenya. But there was also talk on the news of confirmations of people in government, along with other daily headlines that could have been from any other part of the world. Behind all of this there was the fact that the long rains never came this year, or last year.

Since being back in New York I have struggled with the many things I don’t so much take for granted, as I never realized or contemplated the very existence of before my trip – water in my apartment building pipes, food in my grocery stores, and the knowledge that if food where not available there were places I could go and get a free meal.

I am heart struck at the news out of Somalia. I am confused as I was in Kenya because it is so much larger than the rains not crossing the eastern horn of content. But I have found a few excellent sources I wanted to share that explain better what is happening.

This is a great article from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

And this is a great radio interview with Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.

But do not sigh helplessly, it is not too late. If anything, action now could stop us from going down a path that we too often follow. A path where we wait too long to resolve a problem larger than we can comprehend. Here are a few great ways to help not later but now. For as little as the cost of a coffee at Starbucks you could save a life! Or just sign the petition at the ONE website.

MERCY CORPS – $6 provides a severely malnourished child in Ethiopia with four servings of fortified food.

DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS/MSF

CARE

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES

12

08 2011

Singing For Our President In Kenya

Our home in Kenya was full of sounds – laughter, singing, the TV playing dubbed Telenovelas. But there was one song in particular we liked to sing. It doesn’t need much introduction, nor necessarily does it need translation from its original Kikuyu lyrics.

There are many versions of these videos because everyone in our house loved to sing this song, and more than that loved for me to video tape them and then watch it back on my camera. I can still hear the peels of delighted laughter from the two young girls at seeing themselves.

Singing for Mr. President from Ramona Collier on Vimeo.

I have only included two versions here, but believe me all you need to do is watch and eyes sparkle, smiles light up, and a bridge from Kenya to America is somehow standing before you.

To my songstresses many thanks for the hours of laughter and light. And to Mr. President, this one is for you….

Enjoy!

Ramona

Sing It Ladies from Ramona Collier on Vimeo.

03

08 2011