Exploring Other Cultures Through Music and Food

Two of my favorite things in life, beside my family, are music and food. Music as a medium is a way to explore cultures. I have co-hosted a two-hour music show on public radio, with my dear friend, Lynn. Our theme was curating, broadcasting, and discussing music of the world in the folk tradition. What does that mean? I am quite sure there is a human group on this planet that does not have music. Music is the ultimate communication tool. We use some form of music, on instruments or voices, to express love, faith, happiness, sadness, and the whole range of human emotions. We explore political systems with music. We relate stories about birth, death, dying, murder, disaster, and other events in the human experience. We may sing about our dogs, cats, our cars, our bicycles, trains, and other forms of transportation.

Some of my favorite forms of musical explorations are those that related news of the day and other current events. The English and Scottish popular ballads collected by Francis James Child were broadsides, sort of news-carrying posters, that told stories of, for example, a man killing his mistress for becoming pregnant, or about a hanging on the “gallows pole”. Led Zeppelin once recorded that vary song, which was a “Child Ballad”. Folk Duo, Simon and Garfunkel recorded a song called “Scarborough Fair”, which was Child’s “Elfin Knight”. Child was Harvard’s first oratory and rhetoric professor at the end of the 19th Century when he collected more than 300 ballads of English and Scottish origins. He also noted that many of those ballads arrived on, what is now, United States soil largely intact and made their way into the Appalachian mountains, Arkansas, and Virginia. There are other stories of song collectors, like Ralph Van Williams, known for orchestrating the traditional “Greensleeves” as other orchestration of poetry, like George Meredith’s “A Lark Ascending”. We can look to music to give us a glimpse into the history of a people. That is why I love it.

For the past eight years I’ve played in a band. In my first band, I played with very good musicians. That helped me to be a better musician. In my most recent band, there did not seem to be a desire to practice, and we were not the best musically, but we had a great time, and the people who came to hear us had a good time. Now, I meet with a group of musicians weekly. They are very good, and I can see that I will have to step up my game. One thing for sure, each musician in these musical gatherings walks away feeling good about the two or more hours spent together in expressions about the fabric of humanity. In the picture above, a friend and I entered a “talent” contest, and we performed a song called, “Sweet Violets”, which is a rather goofy song once performed by Mitch Miller and his Orchestra. Look it up. It’s a fun song with unexpected poetic forms.

I have moved recently. I used to live in a small rural community that boasted 36 languages and dialects. My job (and passion) was researching the new communities to understand better their lives around health, well-being, and social connections. I ate many a wonderful meal around tables with families from 10 countries of Africa, eight Latin-American countries, 10 Asian countries, and many others. Now, I’m in a university town, and I still have the wonderful opportunities to share meals with international families. Until we get fully moved from our previous town to this new town, I live in temporary quarters with another person, Patty. A good fit for me, Patty connects with many people from different parts of the world. One evening I came “home” to find friends from China who had brought their “hot pot”. On the table were many-colored vegetables, raw meats, tofu, and noodles laying ready for us, gathered around a pot of exquisitely-flavored broths, to plunge our chosen food-stuffs in for a fragrantly-cooked meal. The pot held two types of boiling broths. One was mild, and one was hot. (I’m sorry that I can’t rotate this picture. Apparently, it has something to do with doing this from my iPad).

During our meal, we talked. We laughed. We ate, and we shared stories of our personal experiences. Once again, food was a vehicle for socializing, and transmitting of culture.

A few days later that week, it seems to go in cycles, we shared a lovely mean with one of our best-friend-couples, Bob and Adrian. They are sheep ranchers, and the source of my beloved lamb that graces my freezer. Adrian wanted to present a lovely meal around lamb, so her menu: Rack of Lamb, braised Brussels sprouts, tiny baked potatoes, and homemade bread. Sublime!

Adrian finished the meal with a densely-packed apple pie. Look at this:

I love to cook, and, somehow, I have close friends who love to cook, too. We eat. We laugh. We love, and we are happy to be alive!

Thank you for reading my blog!

Holidays are for Family and Friends

I am writing this from my ipad instead of my computer. The site looks different, and it seems more difficult to navigate, but here it goes.

I am now working 4.5 hours away from my home, which is for sale at the moment, and we’re hoping to find a home in the town where I work.

While home this past weekend, we were visited by friends and invited to eat at other friends’ house. I get such a warm feeling when I’m with my friends. They offer such unconditional love and support.

So, Kathy, (i’ll use first names only)made a delightful tortilla soup chalked full of chicken, tomato, and a lovely broth. I failed to take pictures of the food. I did photograph the lovely center piece on the table, however.

Mark and Kathy have been married for 40 years, and they’d just discovered their wedding candle among stored boxes. That’s the big white candle in the middle.

Our meal consider of the Tortilla Soup. I brought some of my Grandmother’s dried corn, beans and venison stew with corn bread. There were lovely appetizers, too!

Kathy made some yummy cocktails:

At the bottom of a champagne flute, place 3 or 4 raspberries. Cover the raspberries with about 2 Tablespoons (28.3g) of Chambord raspberry liqueur. Complete the drink with chilled champagne or sweet, sparkling wine.

For dessert, we had pecan pie made by Kathy, and Phil made pumpkin pie. We ended the evening by watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with Boris Karloff in the lead role.

More later…

Time With Friends

I’ve had a very close knit group of friends in this past 25 years. As we’ve aged together, some of us have moved away and some of us have interests in children and grandchildren that live elsewhere, so that takes us away quite a bit. Some of us have aging parents who need attention, so that requires lots of travel that takes time away from the group, too. Phil and Paula moved about 212 miles (341 km), so we are passing a weekend with them. That means eating out and trying new restaurants!

We ate at a small chain Italian cafe. I ordered a burrata. Burrata is fresh mozzarella wrapped around cream and shreds of cheese make from water buffalo milk. The lovely, little pillow of burrata sat plated near a bed of arugula and wood-fired flat bread make from pizza crust dough. Cherry tomatoes gave the plate a cheery look, and a balsamic reduction brought all the flavors together.

The flavors married well, and The joy shone on my face. Since it was lunch, I enjoyed blood orange San Pellegrino as my beverage.

After some vigorous shopping, we went to sample some artisan ice cream. “Churn and Burn” is a coffee and ice cream place. I chose cranberry walnut as one scoop and the other scoop was lavender. Wow!

They make the ice cream and coffee with the use of liquid nitrogen for a quick production. The creamy ingredients go into the bowl, and while the beaters are churning liquid nitrogen is infused, and ice cream or a delicious frozen coffee beverage comes alive!

I love the creativity of small batch restaurants and specialty food shops. I love the passion of the proprietors, as well.

Thank you for reading.

End of the Day Reflection

I’m always looking for ways to encourage and support myself.  It is my hope to encourage and support those around me as well.  Reading is a good way to do that  Do you have a favorite passage, book, or article that you like to read?

My dear friend, Mary Lake, gave me an “End of the Year Reflection”.  It has wonderful prompts for pondering a year in review.  Well, I’ve rewritten to help me reflect the end of my day, and it gives me something to think about for tomorrow.  I hope it’s useful to you.  Here is is:

End of the Day Reflection

What were the highlights of this day for you?

What were your greatest successes?

What gift(s)/talent(s) did you see in yourself today?

Which value did you honor the most?

Have you found a way to focus on your successes rather than any failures?

What new characteristic did you discover about yourself today?

What are you grateful for today?

Name what this day was about for you by giving it a title much like a chapter in a book: Your book!

Looking toward tomorrow

What did you learn today that you want to put into use tomorrow?

What kind of person do you want to be?

Which value or action would bring you closer to a vibrant way of living?

What will tomorrow be about for you, again, naming the chapter title or some other metaphor perhaps?

There are many traditions and rituals that humans practice.

If you were to design your own personal ritual for tomorrow and your future what would it be?

Women in Worship and Fellowship

Did you know that there is not a gender neutral or gender opposite of the word, “fellowship”?

Anyway, I have, long, been wanting to develop and execute a women’s retreat.  The idea is that women  would gather on a Friday evening to begin and, perhaps, end on a Sunday.  The goal would be loving support of one another, providing a space for creativity, meditation, worship, and “fellowship”.   Here’s a possible agenda.  Let me know if it’s too restrictive or academic.  Would you participate in such a retreat?  Make suggestions on the topics.  These are not “set in stone”.

“Women in Worship and Fellowship”

Ladies’ Retreat

Purpose: We retreat to strengthen emotional bonding, spiritual growth, and sisterly support while promoting understanding of human ecological systems that influence who we become.


Friday –

6:30 p.m. – 10-ish:

  1. Bring a snack to share for a light meal
  2. Introduction to Ladies’ Retreat: Why? Objective, and Intended Outcomes
  3. “Getting to Know You” exercise
  4. Group nature walk
  5. Stretching
  6. Bedtime stories – and lights out

Saturday –

7:30 Morning Prayer to Welcome the Day

8:30 – Breakfast Smoothie and Breakfast Cookie Demonstration by Debra Bolton

Let’s eat the outcomes of the demonstration!

9:45 – Stretching 10 minutes

10:00 – Let’s take a nature walk to learn about:





Other flora and fauna

Noon – Sandwich and Salad Luncheon

1:30 Nap or MeditationTime

2:45 Aroma Therapy and Foot Reflexology

3:45 Free time to explore, write, visit, or anything…

6:00 Dinner time

7:30 Story time, Chants, Music, Bonfire

10-ish – Bedtime

Sunday –

8:30 Breakfast

9:30 – Worship time (to be planned)

Noon – ??? (go home?)

My Interests

Now that I’ve made an introduction, and have listed a condensed biography, I cannot say that I know where to begin.  My interests are quite wide and varied.  In that vein, I will list my interests (can’t believe how many times, I’ve used “I” so far, but then blogs are usually self-centered, n’est pas?)

My Interests, not in any particular order:

  • Studying people in their environments
  • Geography – cultural, physical, spatial, etc.
  • History – I like timelines, and I like to see what fits where in that time line
  • Music: So many genres, and so little time in which to fit that listening
    • Music of the world in the folk tradition
    • Music of 13th Century Castile-Leon (now Spain)
    • Music of Eastern Europe
  • I like making music on my banjo, ukulele, mandolin, harmonica, and drums
  • I have great friends with whom I’ve traveled
  • I am a rock collector, and have recently engaged in rock tumbling
  • Bird watcher and bug collector
  • Art collector and admirer of art
  • Languages
  • Colonialism
  • Traditions and cultures
  • Literature
  • Cooking, baking, and entertaining
  • Teaching cultural awareness
  • I like to camp, enjoy outdoors, hunt (venison), and ride my motorcycle with my husband

I’m sure there are more that I’m not thinking of at the moment.

Lately, I’ve focused on the grief of me and my family.  Our daughter, Riki, left this world on January 1, 2016.  She died of a heart failure.  She had been on heart medicine for 11 years.  A new cardiologist thought her meds were strong, so discontinued the pills to “see how you do”.   Our lively and lovely Riki went into heart failure and was on life supports for two weeks before leaving us.  At the age of 34, Riki left behind her husband of 15 years (still quite heart broken as they had been best friends since the age of 12), and three children, ages 12, 11, and 7).  We continue to navigate our pain and to learn to live in this “new normal.”   That means I will write about grief in the blog place, too.