The Mark of the Culinarily Curious

There was a time in my life I called myself an appliance genius. I was a customer service representative and later a sales trainer for the largest maker of appliances in the United States (today Whirlpool is the largest appliance manufacturer in the world, but I digress). For all of the questions that consumers had – including do-it-yourself repairs – I had to know the answer or at the very least know where to find it.  It was in that time that I learned the difference between the average appliance buyer and the culinarily curious.

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Virtue Cider near Fennville MI

I have become culinarily curious over the years experimenting with my beloved coffee and coffemakers, making my own homemade kefir and sourdough and baking homemade bread. There’s something fascinating about the interaction of simple ingredients like flour, water and yeast or the fermentation of milk. You can have your complicated recipes, my palate and my mind prefers the simple and the mysterious.

I’m noodling a coffeemaker that KitchenAid makes. I’d love to get their cold brew coffeemaker, but I already have one, so what’s the point of getting another? But I discovered their line of craft coffeemakers, and I’ve been eyeing them for months like a sailor salivates over sailboats at the annual boat show. Imagining the beautiful cup of coffee and the aroma filling my home is a favorite past-time. I already purchased the espresso maker, so it seems a bit extravagant to buy another appliance for a one-person household, but still …. I want it.

When I worked for Whirlpool previously, we didn’t have craft coffee brewers. We also didn’t have our employee purchase program back then, so on my calltaker’s salary buying one of their expensive coffeemakers was out of the question. Besides, I had not worked at Starbucks – or even visited one – and been trained on the art of making a great cup of coffee. When I discovered Starbucks as a resident of Seattle, my coffee adventure – and curiosity – truly began.

So this morning I’m dreaming of the Craft Siphon Coffee Brewer that KitchenAid makes. One of the reviewers bought one for his Dad who had always talked nostalgically of the great cups of coffee made in an old Silex siphon coffee brewer. I wondered why we don’t use siphon brewers anymore if the coffee is so good, and Google provided a very interesting article on the history of coffee brewing. Apparently, the culinarily curious have for centuries been experimenting with how best to combine coffee beans and water for the most entertaining and tasteful brew.

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Michigan seems to be a hotbed of crafty culinarily curious scientists. We are number 4 in the nation for craft breweries, and our bountiful orchards are the fodder for many wineries and hard cider makers.  Organic farms, artisan creameries and local cheesemakers are not uncommon. Maybe the long winters provide time to think about how things are made and to experiment in dark Michigan basements. Perhaps it’s the summer with its burst of energy that ignites energetic curiosity. Or maybe it’s just the history and nature of the great Midwest farmers to be culinarily curious. Whatever the cause, it is fun to talk to the culinarily curious in these parts and to taste their experiments.

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I’m guessing I’ll end up with this little coffee machine at some point. I already have too many coffeemakers for one person, but I guess that’s the hallmark of the culinarily curious. As bad habits go, this one is relatively inexpensive and coffee is something that can be enjoyed every day (with liberal splashes of decaf). As for today, I’ll make myself another cup of magical coffee from my espresso machine and say goodbye for now. It will be rainy today, so perhaps I’ll go visit a local culinary artist for a sample. Have a great weekend!

Note: If this has tickled your curiosity, I can get you a great deal on a KitchenAid coffeemaker if you are interested (more than 50% off). Just send me your email address. I’ll hook you up.

 

 

 

The Ugly Reflection in the Mirror

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I am noodling some thoughts this morning, and I don’t quite yet know what to make of our world at this moment. I have more questions than answers, and I wish all of us had more questions than answers right now. Perhaps we’d be better off questioning than trying to solve problems that aren’t even clearly defined. We are lost as a society. And, I am fearful about it.

Yesterday’s shooting was the making of a madman, but is he any madder than almost any of us? This morning I listened to the Daily, and they discussed our political environment and our leaders. It has been speculated that the play of Julius Caesar in New York which has an obvious reference to our President could be an instigator in this shooting. And it could be. As a madman with a fuse, any match will do.

But I ask you to think about the meaning of the play of Julius Caesar. My sister and I saw it last summer. Caesar isn’t assassinated at the end. That is not the ultimate lesson of the tragedy. Shakespeare’s play is about the fall of a society because of the actions of people who succumb to mob mentality and try to solve problems by murder instead of working together to heal their society. It is about people who are driven to do things they would never do because of fear and power.

The signs of abused power are all around us. Bill Cosby sits accused as an old man of abusing power over women who looked up to him. The people in power in our White House are sickening examples of narcissism and greed and power run rampant. Uber is falling apart because of men in power whose sexism and greed make victims of their workforce. And Fox News is bleeding from its own radical sexist culture. Mass shootings proliferate as grown men get carried away with the sense of power that they hold in their hands when they fondle a gun.

The seven deadly sins are running rampant destroying our civilization and common decency. If it weren’t for laws protecting those of us with less power, where would we be? It scares me as a woman that there are still workplaces that function like Uber and Fox News. It makes me sick that Bill Cosby – and many of my other less famous childhood male leaders – have been exposed as sexual predators. Then we elect a man for President that makes light of sexual assault in his language. The fact that these things happened undercover for years and went unexposed because of secrecy and fear tells me this is not new. This is old, old behavior.

The lesson of Julius Caesar is much deeper than the assassination of a President. I googled the play this morning, and there was an article in the New York Times about how the play illustrates the issues between our Congress and our President – in 2013. Do not pretend this is new. The Roman empire fell because it chose to blame one person instead of looking inside themselves to understand and heal their own narcissism. Caesar was merely a scapegoat, and his death solved nothing.

It will not solve anything to destroy our earth, tear down our society, make victims of the poor, arm ourselves just to go play baseball or make ourselves feel better by keeping someone else down. Karma is real. We reap what we sow. There are consequences to everything. And I hate to say it but I think we are paying the price for our greedy capitalistic agenda. We hate the media because the media is holding up a mirror. Look at us. It is not pretty… and it’s not fake news.

Got a Minute? Get Off Your Butt and Exercise!

 

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Last November, I called Jessica “the Bitch” Sprenkel to ask for some help. If you follow my blog, you know she is my long-term personal trainer and friend that I met first in Memphis. She, like me, is somewhat geographically challenged, but with technology, we can work out together at any time.

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This is me before I started the boot camp.

“I’m really struggling getting back on track fitness-wise after my move,” I said. “I’m walking lots and am doing okay, but I know I have to do some strength-training at my age. BUT – I emphatically told her – I don’t have a ton of time to invest in this right now.”

She said she had just the thing for me. She’d been doing these short 30-minute circuits for awhile, and she said that she’d totally quit doing traditional strength-training. And she assured me that her body had totally transformed with these workouts even though  she wasn’t extremely consistent. She could set me up with a 12-week virtual boot camp program for $75. I could work out from home, and it consisted of three 30-minute workouts a week. I reiterated that I didn’t have the time or energy or motivation to do much more than that. She promised this would work for me.

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Me and Jessica in Tulsa the last time we saw each other.

Magic pill? Sounded like it. I was not so sure but for $75 and a bit of accountability, it would at least get me doing more than I was. I needed support, so I asked some friends if they were interested, and two of my friends – one in Boston and one back in Louisiana – signed up too. So, in November just before Thanksgiving, I embarked on this fitness journey that has surprised the heck out of me.

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The New York Times recently posted this feature about short, intense workouts. There have been some research studies that back up Jessica’s experience with short, intense workouts. Just Google it, and you’ll find plenty of articles.

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Me, right after a circuit…. ugh

These 30-minute workouts are hard. But they actually aren’t even 30 minutes. They are 3 8-minute circuits with a 1-minute rest in between. So, I’m actually moving for 24 minutes. It has now been 8 months that I’ve been doing these workouts fairly regularly, and they are STILL hard. In the beginning, I just got mad and called Jessica names. But after I started seeing the results, I got motivated. There aren’t many days I’m in the mood to exert the needed effort, but on most days – 3 days a week – I’m in the mood to keep the results.

When I was in Atlanta, I got up to do my circuit in the hotel gym. A huge mirror wall smacked me in the face. I looked at myself and was stunned. I don’t think I’ve looked this fit since ….. well … maybe never. THAT is motivating! I texted Jessica this pic to show her my 56-year-old body after using her workouts. “Thank you,” I said. “I can’t believe these results.”

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I have been eating better, too, so that makes a difference. I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last 8 months thanks to Weight Watchers. But I’m excited about the fact that I can do just 3 short strength-training circuits a week as my strength-training regimen. I used to do 3-4 45-minute to an hour sessions WHILE I was training for marathons, and I was constantly falling off the wagon because it was such an investment of time and energy. My body looks better now! And I have time for a life.

If you are feeling like you need to do something, this is great news for you! The NYT article has some HIIT workouts to try. You can also google HIIT workouts and find plenty of videos on the internet. But, if you are like me, it helps to have accountability. It’s much too easy for me to get sidetracked by an ice cream sundae or the drama in Washington. If you are interested in one of Jessica’s virtual boot camps, here’s her info. You don’t even have to live in Tulsa! If you are a beginner, don’t worry. She’s great at helping you work at your own level.

Now get off your butt and exercise! You are worth the effort!

An Evening in Victorian St. Joe

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Podcasts That I Love

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For over a year now I’ve been listening to hiking podcasts. I love listening to the stories of thru-hikers. One of the podcasts is made up of interviews of hikers while on the trail. The background noise of the wind and their steps kicking up dirt accompany the rehashing of their daily ups and downs. On on The Trail Show, they are just as interested in reviewing craft beers and through the course of the three-hour show they usually end up very drunk and very silly. All of them review trails and gear. They all make me laugh and show me a different way to live.

I also listen to an Alanon podcast which helps me get recovery support in an area that is rural and doesn’t have a big community like Memphis or Baton Rouge. I’ve listened to a Christian Counseling podcast for many, many years where listeners call in and ask questions of the counselors on the spot. And, my favorite these days is the Daily – a New York Times podcast that features reporters commenting on the news of the day. These don’t really make me laugh but they do help me to learn and to improve myself.

I decided I wanted to find some other podcasts. So, today I sat down and googled some suggestions. I found this article that featured 16 podcasts of all kinds to keep you engaged while working out. The cool thing about podcasts is that many are free, and there are shows that cover almost any topic of interest.

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After choosing a few from this list, I spent some time searching for podcasts that might interest me on iTunes. I found some on the outdoors, health, yoga and meditation, humor, journalism and recovery. I even found several different types of podcasts on history. I listened to one from this outdoors podcast called Out There about a scientist finding an unusual collection of birds buried in boxes in the basement of a high school. It was a fascinating story, and I learned how they discovered that DDT was killing off the bird population by comparing modern eggs with some very old collections of bird eggs. Sometimes saving useless things can turn out to be a good thing. You can listen to it here.

I’m looking forward to listening to more of these podcasts. I’ve gotten bored with listening to music when I’m driving around. I’d rather be learning or laughing or being entertained. Who knows, maybe I could make my own podcast if I could figure out what to talk about. What is your experience with podcasts? Do you have any favorites?

Here are some of my favorites:

Trailside Radio

Sounds of the Trail

The Recovery Show

The Trail Show

The Daily

New Life Live

Out There

Memories of a Gorgeous Weekend

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I didn’t get to post about the weekend because it was so hectic, and I’ve been busy since I got back, but I wanted to share what could have been one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. My sister and I went crazy in Chicago and then drove all over the northern portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan.

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I’ve only been up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore once, and I remember being blown away by the beauty up there. But this time, we got to drive down the coast and saw even more of the emerald green waters and natural beauty. We stopped in the small towns of Frankfurt and Manistee. I can’t wait to go back!

I don’t have a lot of time to write, but I did want to share this with you! This place is beautiful!

Thanks to Reba for her song “My Sister”……

Memorial Day 2017 from Sharon Kay King on Vimeo.

Happy Sunday Morning


I am enjoying a quiet morning on a bluff overlooking South Haven MI. My sister is at Mass, and I’m partaking of my own spiritual food. 


It is warm. I feel the sun on my neck. A gentle cool breeze ruffles my skin after passing over that Great Lake. Seagulls land in the green waters and bob up and down until they take flight. Tiny people stand by the lighthouse watching the sailboats blow past on still waters.

I meditated with my eyes open today, taking in God’s creation and bathing in my gratitude of being present in this moment. Today will be busy like yesterday was busy. But for this time, my mind relaxes. It is a gift. 


It’s hard to believe that we spent yesterday in noisy, energized Chicago. It seems a world away but it is literally across the lake from where I sit nestled in nature. Both are beautiful but my mind prefers this solitude. 

Later today we will shop and eat good food and have to deal with the predicted rain. But right now I deal with nothing. If a picture could describe bliss, this is it.

Happy Memorial Day!


I’ve been busy! I want to get back in the habit of blogging. I miss it. My blog misses me. And I just miss the ritual of writing. This past week I went to a conference for work in Atlanta. 12 hours a day I was networking, learning and walking through a massive conference center right next door to CNN Center and the Centennial Olympic Park. I had some great meals, had some fun and learned a lot – but the truth be told I didn’t like Atlanta. It was dirty, didn’t feel safe and was just not my cup of tea. So, I’m glad to be back in the Midwest for Memorial Day.


We get two days off for the big holidays, so I have today and Monday to play in the sun and circulate with the tourists. This is the first big weekend that they are back in force, and we will now need to share our lovely little beachfront town with our Chicagoland visitors. It will be more crowded until Labor Day, but there will be lots more amenities and fun things to enjoy. I now live in a beachfront town!


My sister is flying in from New Orleans today. I’m on the train to meet her. We will stay in Chicago tonight, head back to St. Joe tomorrow and then head north to Traverse City to finish off our adventure. I’ve never been to Traverse City, but I’ve heard it’s fabulous. If we are lucky, we’ll get to see the Northern Lights! But, I’ll have to stay up past my usual bedtime as it doesn’t really get dark in Michigan until about 9:30 these days. We’ll see what we are up for.


So I hope to post this weekend. You can also follow me on Instagram at @MidlifeMoments. I post a lot of my pics to My Story, so you’ll need to connect with me to view that. But you can also search for #midlifemoments to pull up my regular Instagram shares. 

Have a great holiday weekend and please share your pics! We all need to have a little fun.

 

What Are You Hungry For? Do That.

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This morning’s meditation was on Busyness. So often people tell me when I’m  not on my game to “stay busy”. It is part of our culture to avoid our emotions by staying busy as if there is some end game to just get through life instead of really experiencing it. If we suffer a loss or are afraid or are feeling anything but joy, our culture says to have a drink, get a hobby, help someone else or get busy.

Busyness makes me miss the sweet spot of life. I miss the sunsets. I miss the wildflowers along the way. A walk becomes exercise, or it’s meaningless. A relaxing time in the morning when I can reflect on the day before to see where I’ve harmed a relationship or accomplished something gets passed by for a mundane task like writing a “to do” list. The larger needs of my soul get pushed aside for the shorter-term tasks of getting through life. My ability to grow and reflect and connect with God gets short-changed or worse yet, an item to check off my list.

Oprah does a video every week on the Weight Watchers site, and a couple of weeks ago, she posted a talk on “The Truth Will Set You Free“. When I eat healthier and limit myself to healthier foods and a lesser quantity, I am no longer able to distract myself from my emotions with food. I notice how often I want to dampen my emotions of boredom and loneliness by eating. With no salve to dampen my negative moods, the emotions pulse louder and much more uncomfortably. At times, it feels like they are screaming through my veins unabated.

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Most of us with weight issues use food to numb emotions. As we work through our food issues, we understand that we are going to have to deal with our emotions in a different, more direct way. People start losing weight and all of a sudden they address their alcohol addiction. They get a healthier lifestyle, and they change jobs … get a divorce … start setting boundaries … the list is endless. Some people get busy, but if they don’t get busy with what they need, it just becomes another distraction.

Oprah urged us to think about what we are really hungry for. It has nothing to do with food. Am I hungry for more downtime and rest? Am I tired? Am I hungry for more meaningful connection? Am I lonely even in the circles of friends that I have? Am I hungry for a creative outlet? Am I hungry for more passion in my life? Am I hungry for a deeper spiritual connection? What is it that I’m really hungering after? I should do that.

I’m hungry for several things right now in my life. I’m hungry for learning. I want to take a class and learn something new. I’m thinking of taking a writing class on writing short stories. I’m hungry for new challenges at work, and, thankfully, my current job is providing that. I’m also hungry for more beauty in my life – scenery, the simple beauty of a sunset, the beauty of a budding friendship and the beauty of the seasons as they walk through my life. When I think of these things, M&Ms seem so dull and short-lived in comparison. When I think of these things, they are so much more life-giving than spending 5 minutes eating something that will only make me feel bad.

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It’s a beautiful time of year here in Michigan. We had our first two back-to-back 80 degree days. The sun is beaming in the window, Bella is curled up on my lap, and Ashok is quietly snoring next to me. Gregorian chants sing from my Bose player. A candle flickers on my altar. Overnight oatmeal with Greek yogurt and local Michigan fruit sits waiting on my counter to nourish me for the morning. It’s going to be a beautiful day, and I am thankful that I don’t feel guilty for enjoying this quiet time because I’m not “busy”. Life is good.

Navigating the Trail

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This morning’s Daily Calm meditation was about approaching the day with a sense of wonder. My guide reminded me that when we are children we are amazed at the world and all it’s wonders. We are learning. As I’ve become an adult, it’s much easier to approach the world with a “to do” list or a longing to be distracted. Yesterday, I had decided I would stay home. I had planned to go hiking, but the thought of driving for several hours didn’t appeal to me. I thought I would stay home, cook some biscotti and clean my house. Maybe I’d just rest.

I tried to read my Artist’s Way chapter, and I was distracted. I couldn’t get my head to focus on the words. I didn’t feel motivated to take time to meditate. I kept thinking of hiking. I finally realized that it is May! The wildflowers are out. How could I miss my first Michigan wildflower hike? In about 15 minutes, I was packed up and headed out the door with Ashok happily in tow.

I actually enjoyed the drive. I stopped at my favorite coffee shop in Saugatuck and got a honey lavender latte. The day was sunny, and I turned up Tim McGraw’s beautiful voice. It was sunny, and I was on an adventure. I even got lost which extended my drive but didn’t spoil my mood.

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When I arrived at the trail, it was even more beautiful than I thought it would be. Green was literally exploding all around me. Purple, yellow, pink and white flowers littered my path. The sunshine dappled itself through the trees, and my mind was able to rest. I saw several hawks throughout the day. I tried to focus on the trail and was rewarded with a peace that grounded me. I thanked God for urging me to get out. I would have been devastated to miss that beautiful day in the forest.

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The nice thing about having four seasons is that things are always changing. They are always changing in nature anyway, but the change is so obvious as the trees drop their leaves, go dormant and then burst into life again. The bugs were out. It’s been awhile. I wasn’t particularly happy to see them, but I know they were happy to see me! And Ashok was so happy to be able to eat greenery and wade in the ponds and puddles. The changes in the seasons keep me in wonder.

Life always changes like the seasons. Rather than approach the day dreading the changes and the ups and downs, it would be great to approach it with wonder. Could I look at today’s challenges with wonder at how I might approach them? What if I saw an obstacle as an opportunity to learn? What if I saw growth in myself – or regression – with the same wonder that I have for the trees reaction to the seasons? Would seeing the world with wonder change my experience of the day?

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I think I’ll try to cultivate a sense of wonder for today. I’ll look for wildflowers – little bits of beauty that litter my path. I’ll navigate mud puddles knowing that my hiking boots are water resistant (and mud won’t kill me anyway). I’ll appreciate the newness of change and mourn the loss of the old. I’ll swat the bugs or just shoo them away. I’ll adapt to the temperature and try to focus on the trail with a knowing that a day like this will never present itself again. Today – like each day – is one-of-a-kind. With a sense of wonder, I’ll let the trail lead me where it wants to take me.

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