Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Monday, March 6, 2017

Here? Not Elsewhere?





"Even on a cloudy day the sun is shining somewhere.”—Anonymous

The thought that children would be separated from parents at borders sickens me. I'm compelled to share my experiences with such separations. This alarms mel Have we gone mad? http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/06/politics/john-kelly-separating-children-from-parents-immigration-border/





 I know about separation trauma....here's a story I wrote a few years ago. I called it "Elsewhere"

Elsewhere

I hung up the phone and stared at a poster on the wall beside my desk. The visiting center had called to let me know that a mother had appeared for her court-ordered monitored visit. For three years I'd been the psychiatric social worker for the nursery at the Los Angeles County residence housing children awaiting placement by the juvenile court. I anticipated how the visit would go.

The visitor would be angry. We had her child in a locked building. It wouldn't matter that the two-year-old had been removed from his home because he had been left alone for hours and neighbors had reported hearing his cries.

The nursery aide who would escort the toddler to the visiting room would treat me and the visitor to hostile glares. Most of the nursery staff resented visiting days. The children cried when their parents left, leaving them behind. I'd conducted training on bonding and attachment, and explained that though these children might be too young to remember events, they would forever remember feelings. Nonetheless the staff still believed in "out of sight, out of mind."

"It would be better if the parents didn't come at all," they said. "Besides, they don't deserve to see their kids."

And, yes, the toddler himself after the visit would squall and kick and flail at me with tiny fists all the way back to the nursery.

"I hate you, I hate you," those old enough to talk often screeched when their visits ended, as I returned them to the nursery.

On Sundays, when I conducted these visits, I became a jumbo sponge to soak up everybody's ire, taking care not to ooze any out myself. That would be unprofessional for a psychiatric social worker.

The three earlier visits so far that late November day had been particularly unpleasant. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, parents had fixed me with sullen eyes, dropping references to having little to be thankful for.

Usually the poster by my desk brightened my spirits, with its sunflower and splashes of bright lettering in yellows and reds. A local artist had been designed it for MacLaren's annual Sunflower Day, a summer Sunday when actors, artists and musicians visited to entertain and mingle with the two hundred and fifty or so children in temporary residence. Today, though, even the poster's glowing gold and shimmering scarlet hues failed to cheer me. Instead I carried a vision of a sodden gray sponge as I trudged towards the visiting center.

I glanced out the window at the darkening clouds, and realized that by the time my shift ended and I headed home, it would probably be raining. I dreaded driving the oil-slick Los Angeles freeways in the autumn.

No sunshine for me today, I thought.

I reminded myself again that only three elements needed to converge to create a situation that could lead to child abuse or neglect: a child, a parent with poor coping skills, and stress. Many of the parents I saw were ignorant of the most basic child-care routines. Many suffered from untreated character disorders or alcohol or drug addictions. Most were so deprived in their own childhoods that they had no alternative to repeating their own parents' pattern of poor care.

What was evident, though, was that most of them indeed loved their children. Some enough that they'd enter treatment programs or ditch an abusive partner in order to rehabilitate themselves so they eventually could make a home again for the child. In my Parent Outreach project, I offered such resources to the visiting parents.

To my surprise, the visiting mother's face was wreathed in smiles. It had been a few weeks since she'd visited. I'd tried to reach her, but her phone had been disconnected.

"Guess what?" Her smile illuminated the little room. "I've been released from the recovery center and I've got a job! I've got a gift for Tommy." She held up one of the new plush Care Bears. This one, bright yellow, was Funshine Bear. I well knew the stars of the new Care Bear television series, sitting on the nursery floor and watching the cartoons with the kids. Funshine Bear had a tummy symbol with a smiling sun. He was famous for always trying to help someone, being able to use his symbol to light up the darkest night or shine a beacon for all to see.

Kind of like me, I thought, the first time he I noticed him. I'd wondered who lit up Funshine's dark days. Could he turn his beacon toward himself?

The aide who brought Tommy to the visiting room was new on the job. Her eyes twinkled when she spotted the bear. "Oh, look, Tommy," she said, a pleasant lilt to her voice.

Tommy squealed, grabbed Funshine Bear and hugged him close. He clambered up on his mother's lap and answered her questions as best he could.

"We walked to MacDonald's yesterday. I ate ice cream!"

"The nurses decided it would be a good day for an outing since the sun was out in the afternoon and the restaurant is only a block away," I explained. The Saturday nursery staff liked to get a little exercise, and pushed the younger children in buggies and strollers.

Tommy didn't even cry when his mother kissed him goodbye. She'd promised to come again soon, and confided to me that she thought the court would release him to her soon. Her probation worker was ready to vouch for her. I congratulated her.

A couple of years earlier I'd complained to my consulting psychiatrist that sometimes I felt unappreciated – by staff, by the children, by the parents.

"Honey," he'd said, "in this line of work you've got to get your loving elsewhere. You've got to get it from yourself. Appreciate yourself!"

At that time I planned to not a let a working day go by without doing three kind things: one for a staff member or parent, one for a child, and one for myself.

When I returned for my last evening report in the nursery I made a special effort to single out the aide who had been so cheerful in bringing Tommy for his visit.

"You made it so easy for him to leave," I praised her. "Letting him take the bear to his crib was a really great idea!"

I spent several minutes before I left rocking one of the four-year-old girls. She'd fallen in the playground earlier and bruised her forehead. Plus her parents didn't show up for their visit.

"I love you," she'd whispered in my ear as I tucked her into her youth bed. I gave her a final hug.

Then I climbed into my car and turned on my windshield wipers, anticipating what kind thing I'd do for myself that day. I usually saved me for last, enjoying the anticipation.

"A Christmas Story" had just been released. It played in a theater close to my home. I decided to get an early jump on the holidays and see it. Then I'd treat myself to a hot bubble bath and a mug of cocoa before bed.

Perhaps tomorrow would be sunnier. Sunshine already was breaking through in my heart.



Possum's Big Day

Mallory Kass, Dawne Knobbe, Steve Elders Celebrate Possum's Launch
About fifty fans and friends of Mari Lou Laso-Elders, my late daughter-in-law, gathered at Barnes and Noble in Orange Saturday to celebrate the launch of her young adult novel, Otherwise Known as Possum.

April, Mari Lou's beloved bear, her constant companion since her 1989 wedding, presided over the afternoon's agenda, perched atop the colorful pile of the hot-off-the-press hardbacks. Steve Elders, my son and Mari Lou's husband and champion, acted as emcee, reading the "afterward," which he penned and reads on the audio version, plus the initial chapter of the book.
April

Mallory Kass, the Scholastic Press editor who encouraged Mari Lou to resubmit her revised manuscript, spoke about how she fell in love with spunky Possum Porter, the book's heroine, from Page One. To her delight, her boss had warned the Scholastic staff that anybody who objected to the publication of this special novel would be fired!

Dawne Knobbe
Dawne Knobbe, Mari Lou's writing partner who finished the final edits after Mari Lou's tragic death in September 2015, discussed Possum's creator's dedication to making every line sparkle.

I shared the secret of how Possum sprang to life for Mari Lou as she floated on in inflatable raft in her backyard pool one sunny afternoon nearly a dozen years ago. Mari Lou had spent a decade spinning her Southern Great Depression-era story.


Steve introduces Possum



Her dedication as an editor was reflected by one of her former students in the Poets and Dreamers Tuesday Morning Group. That writer complained that she'd already rewritten a chapter three times. Mari Lou's response? "I spit on your three times."
Maria, Mari Lou's mom

"I can spend a whole morning trying to find exactly the right word," she once told me.
"It began on a rubber raft."

After the reading, we all reminisced about Mari Lou's notable skills,  her warmth and wit, and nibbled Girl Scout cookies, provided by another student. Mari Lou had been a devout Scout, and as an adult won first prize, an iPad, in a national poetry contest about how being a scout had impacted her life.


Children will be wide-eyed at Possum's pranks.
 The wonderful lreviews are coming in now. How Mari Lou would have beamed.  
Mari Lou Laso-Elders (aka Maria D. Laso)


"Laso saturates her debut novel with fresh figurative language that shapes her characters . . . and strongly evokes Possum's world."
– Publisher's Weekly


"The passage of time, a contest, and good friends help a grieving 11-year-old move on from the death of her mother and baby brother.
In the autumn of 1932, bowing to community pressure, Possum’s father sends her to school for the first time. This likable, capable child has been home-schooled well. She’s sure she already knows enough. Besides, she wants no more changes in her life. At school, she must share a desk with a jealous fellow student who suggests that her father is sweet on the new Yankee teacher, who insists on calling her LizBetty. It’s almost intolerable—but there’s an essay contest. Winning will not only get her the beautiful book of fairy tales she covets, it will prove she knows enough to stay home. Possum’s first-person voice is convincing, full of metaphors reflecting her rural Southern mountain background. Interspersed with the narrative covering the three months up to the end of the contest and Christmas are essays written by Possum, her rival, Mary Grace, and her friends Tully and June May. With distinctive, fleshed-out, mostly white characters, awkward beginning romances, and a satisfying resolution, this growing-up story seems both familiar and fresh.
Laso’s posthumously published first novel goes down smooth as sweet tea. (Historical fiction. 8-12)
--Kirkus Review

Available now on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Otherwise-Known-Possum-Maria-Laso/dp/0545927951/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Wide-eyed children love Possum!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Strangers in Strange Lands

2017 Peace Corps Theme

February 26 - March 4, 2017 

Peace Corps Week commemorates President Kennedy’s establishment of the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961. During this annual event, the Peace Corps community celebrates all the ways that Peace Corps makes a difference at home and abroad and renews its commitment to service.


Ironically, this year's Peace Corps Week theme is "Highlighting Hospitality." Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have been asked to share how our host countries made us feel at home while we served overseas.

I knew what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land, not just through Richard Heinlein’s novel by that name. As a Peace Corps Volunteer I've sweltered in Santo Domingo in August and Belize City in December. I've trudged miles to work and back in torrential downpours in Seychelles. As a health programming and training specialist, I helped put together an adolescent suicide prevention training in Western Samoa and an HIV/AIDS Asia subregional conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

In all of these places, I was treated with kindness and respect...and felt proud to wear my Peace Corps badge and represent America.

So today I reflect on how we treat those who are different from us in this country now. This morning's news carries a story about yet another Jewish cemetery being desecrated. My local paper alludes to another incident of bullying of Muslim elementary school children. Our new President has proposed in his draft budget the elimination of AmeriCorps. Will chopping Peace Corps be next?

I wonder how I would be received in another country today once I identified myself as an American. What do we, as a country, now represent? Are we still the emblem for "liberty and justice for all"? 
Here in America, I wonder if I'm a stranger in a strange land once again.

I saw this last night on Facebook and hesitated to share. Many of my friends are posting that they want only happy and upbeat news..."nothing political." I feel compelled to share this anonymous statement here. I don't know who wrote it, but the writer undertand my anxieties.


Some people are saying that we should give the president a chance, that we should "work together" with him because he won the election and he is "everyone's president." This is my response:

•I will not forget how badly he and so many others treated former President Barack Obama for 8 years...
•I will not "work together" to build a wall.
•I will not "work together" to persecute Muslims.
•I will not "work together" to shut out refugees from countries where we destabilized their governments, no matter how bad they might have been, so that we could have something more agreeable to our oligarchy.
•I will not "work together" to lower taxes on the 1%.  •I will not "work together" to increase taxes on the middle class and poor.
•I will not "work together" to help this man use the Presidency to line his pockets and those of his cronies.


•I will not "work together" to weaken and demolish environmental protection.
•I will not "work together" to sell American lands to companies which then despoil those lands. •I will not "work together" to enable the killing in any way of whole species of animals just because they are predators, or inconvenient for a few, or because some people want to get their thrills killing them.
•I will not "work together" to remove civil rights from anyone.
•I will not "work together" to waste trillions more on our military when we already have the strongest in the world.
•I will not "work together" to alienate countries that have been our allies for as long as I have been alive.
•I will not "work together" to slash funding for education.
•I will not "work together" to take basic assistance from people who are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.
•I will not "work together" to allow torture and "black op" prison sites.


•I will not "work together" to "take their oil."
•I will not "work together" to get rid of common sense regulations on guns.
•I will not "work together" to eliminate the minimum wage.
•I will not "work together" to support so-called "Right To Work" laws, or undermine, weaken or destroy Unions in any way.
•I will not "work together" to suppress scientific research, be it on climate change, fracking, or any other issue where a majority of scientists agree that the president and his supporters are wrong on the facts.

•I will not "work together" to criminalize abortion or restrict health care for women.
•I will not "work together" to increase the number of nations that have nuclear weapons.
•I will not "work together" to put even more "big money" into politics.
•I will not "work together" to violate the Geneva Convention.
•I will not "work together" to give the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazi Party and white supremacists a seat at the table, or to normalize their hatred.
•I will not "work together" to deny health care to people who need it.
•I will not "work together" to increase the profits of the insurance companies.
•I will not "work together" to deny medical coverage to people on the basis of an alleged or actual "pre-existing condition."
•I will not "work together" to increase voter suppression.
•I will not "work together" to normalize tyranny.
•I will not "work together" with anyone who is, or admires, tyrants and dictators.
•I will not "work together" with the president or anyone who supports him, because I will not allow one man to feed upon the fears of the populace, blaming minorities for their condition or their inability to thrive.
I will not work with someone who promises to destroy so much of what I value about this nation.


I will say "Welcome" to all who seek peace and justice in the United States of America.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Paean to Peace and Yehudi Menuhin

With AAUW at Islamic Center


"Peace may sound simple - one beautiful word - but it requires everything we have, every quality, every strength, every dream, every high ideal."-- Yehudi Menuhin



In the early days of television and my adolescence I had a crush on Yehudi Menuhin. I'd sit enraptured when he appeared with his violin. I knew he'd been a child prodigy, but what impressed me most was that.he always looked so intense, so focused, and so transported when he played his violin. I hadn't thought of him in years, but recently I read that this stellar musician saw music as a way of making peace. He lived and breathed peace. His instrument served as an extension of himself.
"The violin, through the serene clarity of its song, helps to keep our bearings in the storm, as a light in the night, a compass in the tempest, it shows us a way to a haven of sincerity and respect," he wrote.
Yehudi Menuhin
Menuhin came back into my consciousness since I began a new quest to find ways to embrace peace. I've learned recently as well that the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, means more than just a cessation of warfare. When people greet one another with "shalom," they are wishing one another a integrated, complete and healthy lifestyle.
Shalom (Hebrew: שָׁלוֹם‎ shalom; also spelled as sholom, sholem, sholoim, shulem) is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye.
 I've also learned another Hebrew phrase: olam chesed yibnaneh. This means "we will build this world with kindness."
In an effort to understand other faiths, I've been recently to the Sikh film festival at the Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, to the Islamic Center in Fullerton with many of my AAUW branch members, and to a Latter Day Saints organ concert in Newport Beach. I've attended several synagogue Sabbaths and several Orange County Interfaith Network events. I intend to attend more.
Later this month in London I plan to see the London Museum of Jewish Life and go to a Purim service at Westminster Synagogue.
And I'm listening to Menuhin once more. Here he is, playing the Concerto for Violin No 1 in D major, Op. 6: 2nd movement, Allegro spirituoso by Niccolò Paganini
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dagrn_9V4jE

Teaching technique....














Monday, January 30, 2017

Our Differences Mean Less Than Our Kinship

With counterparts and fellow PCV, Dominican Republic 1994
"Peace may sound simple - one beautiful word - but it requires everything we have, every quality, every strength, every dream, every high ideal."-- Yehudi Menuhin

In 1987 at the age of 50 I joined the Peace Corps. My story about why I did this appears below the photo of the Statue of Liberty below.

Though I left Peace Corps Headquarters in 2004, as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer I've continued to promote our Third Goal: To promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. I speak frequently about my experiences in Belize, Dominican Republic and Seychelles, where I served overseas, and about what I learned by traveling to dozens of countries as a progam and training specialist when I worked at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington DC. Currently I belong to the Orange County Peace Corps Association.

So this morning I reminisced a bit about how my life became enriched from these experiences overseas after I opened the following message from the president of our national association:

"In 1958, then-Senator John F. Kennedy wrote A Nation of Immigrants. The text outlines the history and importance of immigration to the United States, as well as proposals to liberalize immigration law.
"As one of his first presidential acts, President Kennedy established Executive Order 10924 to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps. Since 1961, 225,000 Volunteers have been welcomed in 161 countries — including Muslim majority ones, as well as many below our southern border. As foreigners, we were accepted without prejudice into homes, schools, offices, and houses of worship by our hosts.
"At the time, each of us made an oath: I promise to serve alongside the people of my Country of Service. I promise to share my culture with an open heart and open mind. I promise to foster an understanding of the people of my Country of Service, with creativity, cultural sensitivity, and respect. I will face the challenges of service with patience, humility, and determination. I will embrace the mission of world peace and friendship for as long as I serve and beyond. In the proud tradition of Peace Corps’ legacy, and in the spirit of the Peace Corps family past, present, and future - I am a Peace Corps Volunteer.
"Because of this, those of us who have served in the Peace Corps have a special responsibility. We are tasked with sharing, in a spirit of humility and respect, what it means to be an American. We must speak up on behalf of the refugees who have now been prevented from entering our country and receiving our welcome in return...
"Our national security depends not on building walls, but bridges. Peace is a product of friendship and understanding, and the Peace Corps community demonstrates our lifelong commitment to those ideals by following through when it’s needed most.
In service,



Glenn Blumhorst
President & CEO
RPCV Guatemala 1988-91"

Treated with kindness and compassion by some many host country nationals in so many countries all over the world, I owe the same kindness and compassion to those immigrants who have believed the message on our Lady Liberty:

So what can I do to protect Constitutional rights for

Yesterday I joined a group of over three hundred worried people of faith and good will at Temple Bat Yahm at an interfaith town hall meeting, Coming Together to Combat Hate in Our Community. This was an excellent opportunity to hear from our county and law enforcement officials, civil rights experts and community leaders about the recent rise in racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic incidents in Orange County.

As a native-born Californian, as descendant of immigrants, as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, as a board member of the American Association of University Women, as the volunteer liaison for California's AARP District 47, and as a human being, I will continue to work at the local, state and national level to ensure that Emma Lazarus' words continue to represent the wonderful spirit of America:

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


Emma Lazarus (November 2, 1883)

 

GIVING PEACE A CHANCE


“Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often.”–Mark Twain
 “My Great Uncle Loring once shook hands with Abraham Lincoln,” my grandmother used to tell me, her face beaming with pride. “This was right after the Emancipation Proclamation. And everybody in our family has been Republicans since." 
I had no idea when I was growing up that I would be the first in the family to stray from the faithful fold. But at 2 a.m. on October 14, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy addressed a crowd of shivering students on the steps of the Union at the University of Michigan. In his speech, just weeks before the national elections, he challenged students to devote two years of their lives to helping people in developing countries. 
When I heard these words on the radio later that morning, I tried to picture myself boarding a plane and heading for Tanganyika where I would teach toddlers to read. Though married and a young mother, I envied those students who might have this chance to serve. 
But it was never going to happen, I told myself. First, it was unlikely Kennedy could get elected. Nobody in my family or my husband’s thought that the young man from Massachusetts could divert enough votes from frontrunner Nixon. I myself had registered as a Republican when I’d turned 21.  
Second, I was married, had a toddler, and was working towards a bacherlor’s degree. When I mentioned Kennedy’s proposal to my husband, he just laughed. “There’s children right here in Los Angeles County who need to learn to read. You don’t have to go overseas to make your dreams come true,” he pointed out. 
When I went to the polls, I hesitated. Until that very day, I hadn’t made up my mind.  But as I went into my booth, I made a decision. Even if I couldn’t have that chance to serve, I’d still advocate for those who could. So I voted for Kennedy, knowing that my husband would tease me later about our votes cancelling each other. 
A few months later, I privately thrilled to JFK’s inaugural address. I had always scoffed at the notion that I belonged to a so-called Silent Generation, a popular designation of the time. Now Kennedy insisted that the torch had been passed to a new generation of Americans, one that could be vocal and active. I vowed to be part of that generation. 
My husband had been right, of course, about people needing help at home as well as overseas. I continued with my studies, eventually getting a teaching credential and settling in to become a high school English and journalism teacher right in Long Beach, CA. 
The day Kennedy was shot, I sent students repeatedly to the nurse’s office for more boxes of Kleenex. I turned on the classroom radio and we listened together as the horrific story unfolded. I thought about Great- Great-Great-Uncle Loring, and wished I’d had the opportunity to shake Kennedy’s hand. Now it would never be.  
A few years later, after riots rocked our inner cities, I abandoned teaching to become a caseworker to help rebuild South Central Los Angeles. My parents had a tough time understanding this. They remembered the depression years, and seemed to think I was working in a soup kitchen. No matter how much I tried to explain about Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and the Equal Opportunity Act, they insisted upon telling friends, “Terri’s working for The Dole.”  I suspect they imagined me wrapped in a big white apron, ladling out soup.  Eventually I returned to graduate school and earned an MSW at UCLA. 
Elections came and went, and though I remained a registered Republican, I finally admitted that Kennedy had forever changed my worldview. In the early ‘80’s I finally changed my registration, admitting to myself that I indeed was the family black sheep, or in this case, donkey. 
Then finally, at 50, divorced, my son grown, I joined the Peace Corps. Friends raised both eyebrows and issues:   “Aren’t you a bit, how shall I put this, uhhhh, old?”  “Do you think you’re up for mosquitoes and pit latrines?”   “You know, don’t you, that older people have a lot of trouble learning new languages?” 
I developed some pat rejoinders. Peace Corps told me that a number of retirees join. I would most likely be placed in towns or cities, not living in a mud hut. I could relearn my high school Spanish and college French, if need be. 
I joined, rejoined and then extended. After a decade overseas, I returned to the States and became a health programming and training specialist at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington DC. In this capacity I helped strengthen efforts of Volunteers in dozens of countries to address malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, and the infectious diseases that lead to high infant mortality rates. 
On January 29, 2002, Sargent Shriver, the brother-in-law of JFK, and founding director of the Peace Corps, gave a speech at the Directors Forum at Peace Corps Headquarters to a packed audience of about 200 staffers. Frail, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, nonetheless, Shriver read in a strong voice from his notes and emphasized that peace is more than just the absence of war. He said that peace “is living together based on what we have in common. Our differences matter less than our kinship.”  I took notes.
After his speech, he shook hands with dozens of us, nodding as we told him where we had served as Volunteers. “I’m honored to shake your hand,” I told him. “I owe my whole life to you and to President Kennedy.”  “I’m honored to shake yours,” he said. 
A few years ago I was the keynote speaker at the Oregon School Counselor’s Association Conference, and I’d prepared a PowerPoint. I spent the weeks sorting through photographs in my faded paisley duffle bag. Here I am, leaning against a coconut palm in the front yard of my house on Regent Street in Belize City. Here I am, painting murals on the Youth Center fence with teens in Mont Fleur, Seychelles. Here I am perched behind my counterpart on her motorcycle in San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic. 
And here I am today, still promoting Peace Corps, all because of a campaign speech by JFK over fifty years ago.

*************************


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Wine wherever? Right here! In the OC!

Orange Coast Winery Wins Ribbons at Orange County Fair

Still a delicious read.
Back in 2011 I agreed to edit Wine Wherever in California's Mid-Coast & Inland Regions for my friends, publishers Dahlynn and Ken McKowen. Not long ago, I recalled how, as I scrolled through the manuscript, I dreamed about the days ahead when I could follow in their footsteps.
 Alas, I have yet to take that trip. If I don't do it this year, I'll give it priority in 2018. Nonetheless, recently I thumbed through the book again, savoring vicariously the delights of visiting wineries.I was reminded of how the the McKowens did much more than pop in and
My new wine glasses.
sip as they traveled the region, gathering their material for this book. As they claim in their introductory paragraph, "As national award-winning travel book authors, each of us possesses an avid interest in history and in people...Wine tasting is a wonderful adventure, not only for one's palate, but for the mind and body as well."

Admiring the Orange Coast inventory...
I agree it's an adventure. And I didn't want to wait another year for another, as appealing as the Central Coast trip may be. I figured there must be some place where I could indulge in a wine tasting on a lazy Sunday afternoon right here in Southern California. So last month as I did my online Christmas shopping, I browsed Gruopon and came across an offer for a wine tasting for two that included a gourmet cheese platter and two souvenir Bordeaux-style wineglasses. I decided this would be an adventure my friend, Linda, and I could enjoy during the post-holiday January lull. I anticipated we'd likely need to drive to Temecula or at least to Laguna Canyon to take advantage of this offer...but then my eye fell on the location of the winery. Why, it's just a few miles away, in nearby Newport Beach! 

The last wine tasting I'd shared with Linda had been two years ago at the Italian castle of Verrazzano in Chianti, between Florence and Siena.  But this past Sunday I warned Linda as we headed out that we'd be in somewhat simpler surroundings this time around. Indeed, Orange Coast Winery calls itself a "urban boutique winery," with an entrance in the rear of an industrial park on a Newport Beach side street. I didn't spy any nearby vineyards.

Here's the explanation: At this self-described urban microwinery, vintners crush, age, and bottle their own vintages using local California grapes. Inside its capacious cellars, juices from grapes grown in regions such as Paso Robles, Napa, and Sonoma age in oak barrels. The resulting vintages are available for purchase onsite, online, or through a nearby genie, and also fill glasses Thursday–Sunday in the attached tasting room. There, patrons can meander through rows of barrels, stop to rest their glass on a granite-topped bar, and on nicer days, catch a salt-sprinkled breeze through the open warehouse door.

(Since I posted this I received this clarification from Debbie Wiens: Presently, we only source grapes from my husband's original vineyard in Lodi, along with several of his old friends and neighbors. We also source grapes from our Temecula vineyards. All of our grapes we use come strictly from vineyards that we personally own or directly manage. We're also open 7 days a week making it completely accessible to our members and the public!)
Doug and Debbie Wiens, owners

The Newport Beach winery opened in 2011, and showcases a variety of whites, rosés and reds. Our personal server (or genie) Carsten Coombs, provided us with the wine list, and suggested we begin with whites and progress toward the heavier reds as we each selected our six tastings. He made certain that our glasses never stood empty for long, and served us water from time to time so we could cleanse our palates.

Carsten additionally gave us the inside story on the winery, on how Doug and Debbie Wiens decided on this locale, and on each wine we selected. He even told us a little about each of the cheeses on our platter. Though it was hard to choose among all the varieties, tempted by their mouth- watering descriptions, I finally settled on a 2016 Pinot Grigio, a 2016 Endless Summer White Blend, a 2016 Rosé of Malbec (a Gold Medal winner at the OC Fair), a 2014 Winterfest Red, a 2013 Big Wave, and a 2015 Reserve Primitivo. Of the six, I'd rank the Winterfest as my favorite...it's described as a "light-bodied wine containing notes of cranberry and orange with touches of holiday spice and oak. It pairs well with appetizers, cheese and fondue."
Linda and I linger by the sangria punch



Our artisan cheese platter included chèvre (goat) cheese with olive oil and rosemary, smoked Gouda, gorgonzola with clover honey drizzle, pecorino romano, marcona almonds and orange marmalade. For those with heartier appetites, the winery offers a variety of dips and spreads, flat breads, paninis, and even a platter of artisan cheese and cured meets, that includes pickles and mixed olives. Yes, there are gluten-free options.

The winery sponsors a couple of wine clubs, with complementary tastings and pick-up parties in a private club room. There's a "Sangria Sunday" punch also offered in the club room.

Though I still need to wait another year for the trip up the coast, I'll definitely be back to Orange Coast winery soon. I still have my eye on cozying up to 2013 Endless Summer Cabernet Sauvignon. If it lives up to its billing, I might take a bottle home. After all, who could resist a wine that's imbued with "herbal aromas of rosemary and eucalyptus with rich dark fruit and velvety finish?" Oh, and you'll never guess what the winery suggests pairing this baby with: Chateaubriand with mushroom sauce, grilled asparagus and vanilla bean crème brûlée. Now does that sound like a romantic supper or what?

You can learn more here:  https://www.orangecoastwinery.com/

Orange Coast Winery
869 W. 16th, Newport Beach, CA 92663
Entrance and Free Parking In Back
(949) 645-0400 
Tasting Room Hours of Operation
Monday-Friday: 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Saturday: Noon to  9:00 p.m.
Sunday: Noon to 8:00 p.m.
 







For delightful reading about California wineries farther north,  you can still buy Wine Wherever from the Publishing Syndicate website: 

https://www.publishingsyndicate.com/bookstore.html