I should start this with I feel very lucky. I just had my 57th birthday as well as my one year wedding anniversary with my 3rd husband. If I only knew then what I know now, when it comes to love, marriage and healthy relationships.
Now I know it is better to be alone than to be with the wrong person. If you are in the wrong relationship there is no room to find a good healthy relationship.
My advice is don’t settle for second best. Stay single and wait for the right partner.
To be in a healthy relationship you need to first be in a healthy relationship with yourself. Five years after my second unhealthy failed marriage I was happy and healthy with myself. I felt strong and independent. I had learned more about my strengths and weaknesses. I was better at putting distance between myself and unhealthy people. I was making healthier decisions for myself. I was looking inwards to find solutions to my problems. I was good at spending large periods of time alone with just myself and having adventures on my own. I moved 6000 miles from everyone and everything I knew. It felt scary but amazing. I did not need anyone to help me decide or justify my decisions or actions.
Remember if you blame others for your problems you lose the power to change them.
After 5 years the unimaginable happened. I met a really great guy. Maybe I had to go through the bad relationships to see and understand what a good one looked and felt like. I needed to understand that I deserve no less than the best. That I deserved to have a happy, healthy relationship. After giving up on love I have a relationship filled with love, fun, kindness, a best friend, a relationship without fear.
Maybe I needed to be in a healthy relationship with myself for me to be attractive to a healthy partner.
Remember misery loves company. In other words, if you are not happy and healthy with yourself most likely you will attract other unhealthy, unhappy people. The scariest part is you may attract some really horrible people and not even realize it.
I know far too well how a bad relationship works. I know how hard and at times dangerous it can be to get out of them.
What a relationship should not be is scary, dangerous, sad, lonely, demeaning, hidden, removed, panicking, hateful or hurting in any way.
Be aware of someone who stops you from being yourself and or stops you from growing in the direction you would like to grow. I have never been in a relationship or witnessed a relationship that when your partner asks you, forces or makes it too uncomfortable for you to interact with the majority of your family and friends, that its a good thing. If you think you are in this type of relationship, look closely and tread lightly till you can find a safe way out of this relationship. It will only get worse. They will never have enough control over you.
If your family and friends don’t like your partner, listen to them. They really are looking out for you. They love you and want you to be happy and safe. Often we can not see how bad someone can be for us because we are too close to see clearly. Listen to what they say. Friends and family have a hard time telling their loved ones that you are in a bad relationship because they are afraid of losing you. They usually are not wrong. Listen to your gut when they are talking. If you listen hard enough you will hear your gut will agree with them.
Near the end of my second marriage I had a good acquaintance, now a good friend, who came to me because she could see I was in a dangerous relationship. She put her fears of losing me as a “friend” aside and proceeded to save me. She let me know what most people could see even though no one was talking to me about it. I thought I was keeping it hidden.You often have a lot of shame and embarrassment when you are in an abusive relationship. You will often feel stuck because of your financial situation or simply because you are afraid of the beating or hell fire that will rain down on you and your loved ones if you try to leave the relationship. Now I had, and still have, really good friends but I believe they were afraid to confront me with my situation because people often get mad if you insult one’s partner. Luckily for me, this one friend was not afraid. We had a long talk. She knew I was scared but she made an appointment and drove me to my first encounter at the local women’s abuse center. I spent the next year and a half getting help there. What a wonderful resource. Because of my friends’ help I found the strength to get myself out of the marriage within a few months. I also started to learn more about myself and why I had been making the bad choices in relationships that I had been making. Overall it was probably the best thing anyone ever did for me.
Getting out of a bad place
Finding yourself in a bad relationship does not make you a weak person. But maybe a bit gullible. I always believed that everyone has good in them and to give everyone a chance. I did not know the first thing about RED FLAGS. I wish I was here to teach you about RED FLAGS; sadly I am still not an expert on that subject. I have a list here of some questions you can ask yourself before getting into or deeper into a bad relationship. I sure wish I had known about RED FLAGS starting in my teen years.
Some RED FLAGS to look for. If you think to yourself…..
#1 I can make this work.
#2 I just want to be married or in a relationship
#3 I can handle him, her, them.
#4 I am strong enough to make this work.
#5 But I am pregnant.
#6 But they fit most of my requirements on my list.
#7 But I am lonely.
# 8 This is probably the best I can hope for.
#9 I need someone to co-parent my kids with me.
#10. But I need a place to live.
If you answer yes to any of these you may have cloudy judgment about the person you are getting involved with.
But if you think to yourself any of these thoughts maybe you’re on to a good relationship.
1# Wow they are so nice and not just to me.
2# I have so much fun with them.
3# I feel safe with them
4# My family and friends all like them
5# I love doing everything and nothing with them
6# I can really be myself around them
7# I can trust this person with my heart.
8# Life is better with them.
A good life partner is just that. They are not the same as you. But you will balance each other. They are someone who will love you and stick with you no matter what life throws at you. A good partner will go through the hard times with you. They help you, with love. They will not ask you to stop or mock your dreams. They will never tell you are stupid. They will try to lift you up and help you be your best.
Are you a good partner? Before getting deep into a relationship, look inwards and ask yourself. Am I a good partner? What am I bringing to the table? Do I have the tools in my emotional toolbox to be a good, healthy partner? None of us are perfect. But knowing your weakness and strength, being open about what they are and are not to yourself and to your partner will lay the groundwork for a long and healthy relationship. Don’t trick someone into a relationship. Long term that will lead to resentment. And that is a real relationship killer.
This is what I wish for you, endless love, through the good times and most of all through the bad times. Someone who will proudly stand next to you and treat you and call you their best friend. Someone who always makes you feel that you are the first choice. The one they have been looking for. They will want to know you, they will want to know your friends and family, someone who will listen to you even if it’s your crazy sense of humor or your deepest inner self. Someone who knows you will grow old and your body and your interest will change and your abilities may slow down and that they are right there with you holding your hand is the right person for you.
You can’t have this if you are with the wrong person. I once had a friend who said to me when I was going through a tough divorce and child custody issues with a mentally unstable soon to be ex-husband. “Well at least you got to be married”. Ugg. I wanted to scream. I would not wish that marriage on my worst enemy. Now I am in an amazing marriage and people tell me they want a relationship like my husband and I have. Well you can’t have what we have unless you are with the right person. Patience is the name of the game when you want to find the right person; patience and keeping your eyes wide open, being aware of red flags, not settling for someone who is not the best.
Many do make an unhealthy relationship work for years but do you want to be in a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship or do you want to be happy and enjoy this life as best as you can?
Marriage is not the end game, it’s just the beginning.
Here are a few websites I found if you want to read more on these topics.
You have the power with your money to make changes that you want in your community.
Do you like having farmers markets that you can enjoy on a lazy weekend morning? Do you enjoy the nestaga of shopping at a local butcher or bakery? I personally like old timey hardware stores and fruit stands.
Who is small business? Well to start off with it’s me. Maybe it’s you or a friend, a family member or your neighbor. It’s your barber or hairdresser, the owner of your corner store, gift shop or shoe repair, the laundromat or maybe even your gas station. It’s that little restaurant or cool bar. It’s the specialty food store, wine shop and your record store or florist. A contractor or web builder. Small business owners are everywhere they are eye openers, groundbreakers, independent thinkers, makers and creators. These often are people who think outside the box and give you a new experience.
Whether you are looking for shoes or electronics, wine or a bicycle. There is most likely a small business in your community selling what you are looking for.These small business owners almost always have a real connection to the products you are looking for. They have the knowledge on these products that you normally can not find from a store clerk in a chain store or online.
After Black Friday and Cyber Monday I stopped to wonder where is the international or local awareness for support of our local small brick and mortar businesses.
This is your power to keep your community intact. By shopping local you
1. Save on shipping
2. Sales tax goes to your community
3. You get exercise
4. You may run into a old friend
5. Meet new people
6. You may discover something new.
7. Connect with your community
8. You may end up on an adventure
9. Be part of something bigger than yourself
When we don’t support our local small business
1. You make the rich richer
2. Lose connection with your community
3. You lose ma and pop businesses
4. You end up losing choice
5. You lose your own power in your community
Small business owners are part of your community.. They are far more likely to donate and support local charities and schools.
Don’t let small businesses die! Go out this holiday season and shop local, shop small business. Look for these shops they can be hiding in plain sight.
In this world of uncertainties and lockdowns these businesses are starting to disappear. Small business needs your help to survive and your community and you need small business. Once they are gone it is hard to bring them back.
Some of us live closer to the edge than others. Some choose this lifestyle but most do not. Now, a year into COVID-19 we can really see the young, less fortunate, underpaid and under-prepared alongside those of us who had small businesses or even those with good jobs in the service industry, now are all teetering on the edge. Sadly some have fallen…..
I can tell you what the edge looks like through the eyes of my 23 year old son who was living in Sacramento California.
Way back in February 2020 he had an okay job that he liked as a cook at a locally owned bar and grill, an amazing credit score, he had just financed a reliable car, had a new girlfriend and moved out on his own for his first time. Things looked pretty good. He was a typical young man starting off in the would trying to make responsible adult decisions (not an easy task for many at any age). Sadly it’s as though his life was sitting on quick sand. COVID hit!! The bar and grill he worked at was forced to close. He collected unemployment. With the bonus of $600 a week, he was okay.
Then the day came, when it turned out their roommate was completely bipolar, in a manic and chaotic mental state raging out of control and up and moved out. This left him and his girlfriend in a very bad position. Both unemployed and with 10 months still on their lease they were able to negotiate a way out. Of course losing a chunk of the deposit.
Amazingly they found a place, outside of Sacramento and, in reality, out of their price range. But they moved in, seeing as there are not many choices for you when you are in your early 20’s, have two cats, and are out of work.
Soon he found out that due to covid restrictions the bar and grill he worked at was closed for good and he had no job to return to. Under the fear of the extra $600 per week running out he hustled up a job at Marshall unloading trucks. These jobs are designed to never give you full time work so they are not required to give benefits. Both he and his girlfriend had these types of jobs. The stress of it all finally had a major effect on his girlfriend who ends up quitting her job and going on disability.
In time his job at Marshall also ends. He quickly finds a job paying more that he really enjoys at Best Buy. But after the Christmas rush he, and so many others, lose that job. Now they are struggling even harder and are both on government assistance.They can no longer afford their overpriced one bedroom apartment in the middle of nowhere. They decide to move to Woodland California to a more affordable apartment; now living in a city where they know no one.
Now in America we all know that your credit score is what makes or breaks you in life. It has far too much influence on one’s ability to not live but merely to survive; when I say survive I mean this in as bare necessity, such as electricity and gas to cook with or heat your home and a home/roof over your head, internet and a phone to find a job, and transportation to get to a job or to buy groceries. In a land where there is almost no public transportation. You need to have good credit. Credit is hard to obtain and so easy to lose.
My son’s credit score is now starting to suffer due to late payments, trying to juggle lack of income and the bill of survival. Still trying to make payments and quickly sinking, he makes calls to his creditor to let them know he is sending them all the money he has even though he knows it is not enough. They accept the money, ask him for his new address, tell him it will be okay. Within a few days he woke up to find his car had been repoed.
I’m sure this is happening to Americans all over the country. It really tears me up that there is so little help for anyone. Forget the “American Dream” now it is a “Dream to merely survive in America”.
I am helping my son as much as I can. I live on the other side of the world and yes COVID-19 is affecting lives here and there are plenty of people trying to survive with COVID lockdown and restriction. Life is hard everywhere. We are all going through some sort of hardship, some much more than others.
We can help each other, whether it’s our neighbor who needs a ride to the grocery store, a friend or relative who just needs to have a face-to-face conversation or a hug. You may be surprised how many are really suffering mentally and or financially from lockdown. If you have a job you can give to someone, give it. Or share a meal even a kind word can make a difference in these time. We are not alone.
I sit here again; another day, another week, and another month, waiting and waiting for something to happen to have life back. With no place to go I don’t really care about curfews. This is too much but for once I have no power to make things change for the better. I can stay alive and wait.
Another day of gray rain. Another day slips through my fingers getting nothing done but one more loaf of bread made. Clothing optional …… The news, still depressing…..
Yes gray, naked and depressed is how I am feeling. Desperate to remind myself how fortunate I am. I have a great guy, a warm home, food, and clothing if I choose to wear it. I have a future if or when we are allowed out again. Hurry up and wait. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting dimmer.
I need sunshine and hope. I am a glass half full type of person. I normally see light in the dark. But the dark is getting darker. I feel like I am walking in quicksand. Everything moves in slow motion.
Drinking ! Yes, let’s have a drink….. No, maybe not.. I prefer to drink when I am happy, something to celebrate. Yes let’s make plans to have a drink when you are allowed to come to my home. When we are allowed to meet up at the bar or cafe. Yes let’s have a drink when it stops raining and we can meet up on the river with a bottle of wine. Go for a bike ride and be warmed by the sun.
I know someday this will end. I know I am doing my part to stay healthy to keep others healthy.. Making plans to make happiness. To laugh again and to smile again.
It’s not just stroopwafels, wooden shoes and windmills
Above:This picture taken unknown sources from the internet
More and more people I know and people I do not know are asking me how I moved out of the U.S. and to The Netherlands “Holland”. So here is my story and information that may or may not help you.
I decided I wanted to move out of American and over to Europe because of many things but mainly because of how toxic the food grown and manufactured in America is. Food is much cleaner over here both by laws put in place by the EU government and by the government of the Netherlands. I don’t know all the ins and outs of it but I feel a lot better about ordering a spinach and apple salad in a restaurant.
Lucky for me I had a guy working in my shop that was making the plans with his wife to move to The Netherlands. He fed me the information I would need to know to help me make the move. I was pretty excited about making the move but I realized I had a lot to do to make it all work. It felt like a fantasy.
On the evening of Nov 8th 2016 I decided that my 2 ½ year plan to find a way to move to Europe needed to be put on the fast track. I was terrified. I felt silly having this crazy fear that the borders would be shut down and that there would be no way out. I felt silly thinking that American was going to become so fragmented that friends and families would become enemies. That the stress level was going to explode. That was my gut feeling. Aside from feeling that I was overreacting I went with my gut. I sold my business, had massive garage sales and rented out my house. I was gone in 11 months.
I had been to The Netherlands only two times. One time in 2009 we drove through and spent a night. The other time my best friend and I came here to see what it looked like and felt like, because I knew I was moving here in a few months.
I knew 3 people in The Netherlands when I moved here and none of them lived near the city of Eindhoven where I was planning to live. I knew the guy that had worked in my shop and his wife. But I did not know them very well at all. I also knew a woman that I had met at festivals when traveling around Europe, we had had a few drinks together over the years.
It was very scary. When I first arrived. This woman I knew offered me to stay at her home in Amsterdam but she was to be out of town the first 5 days. I was alone. Totally alone and I cried. I had never felt so alone. During the first week or so I looked for reasons to go back. But my son encouraged me to stay. I am so glad he did.
I knew a few things would be hard but were harder then I thought and those things changed my plans once I got here. Mainly it was how alone I felt. Living in Eindhoven was too far away from the few people I knew, even if we were not close friends, there is a lot to be said about having someone to get a coffee with or a beer that speaks the same language as you. I moved to Leiden. I was close to Amsterdam and close to where the only other Americans I knew were in The Netherlands.
It was a long winter. I had never spent so much time with myself. I found strengths in myself I did not know I had and I also found some weaknesses.
At first it felt like a very strange long vacation. I was not working, I was living in a furnished house. Nothing was mine. But when my belongings came from America it started to feel like I was staying. A good shipping company is very important. I used U pack We shipwww.upakweship.com two times and nothing has ever gone wrong. I do highly recommend them. First just for a pallet and the next time for a shipping container with all my worldly possessions.
Remember when moving over here the voltage and power plugs are different. Some things like computers and phones you just need a plug adapter but things like your kitchen aid mixer will need converters. It is worth spending the money to buy the best you can find.
Other good things to know about moving over here. The cost to live is much cheaper. Some examples in euros
My cell phone with international calling 15 per month
Car insurance is around 25 -30 per month
Home internet with cable tv around 60 per month
Health insurance around 135 per month . The health insurance here will blow you away
Food cost will also blow your mind. Much less than California
Higher education is far less expensive. I think around 1,800 per year
Other things to know
Tax is included in everything you buy. No surprise at the check out counter
Homes are smaller
Not everyone owns a car and cars tend to be smaller
Public transportation is amazing here. Trains and buses can get you most anyplace you need to go. However not all trains and buses run all night.
The Dutch have a King and Queen
The government is a democracy, parliamentary system
The Prime Minister rides a bicycle to work
Ride a bicycle? It is flat here. Everyone here rides a bicycle. It is amazing. You see whole families. Baby’s on the front or back of bicycle you see old and young on bicycles. Very normal every day see people in their 70’s or even 80’s riding bicycles to buy groceries or to run errands around town. They have public bike garages downtown like a public car parking but it is free.
Above: all photos taken from the internet unknown sources. 1. Massive bikes parked outside a train station 2. A public bike parking garage 3. A bike for childish cargo 4. Family on a bike 5. Everyone rides a bike 6. a look inside a Dutch train station
I love it but I am still getting used to all this bicycle riding and bicycle traffic. Here it is not like the San Francisco bike messenger anarchy of my youth. Most everyone follows the rules and uses the bicycle lanes and stop lights. Don’t worry about shipping your bicycle over. They have plenty here in all price ranges. They also have what I think of as cargo bikes but they are for putting you children in.
Because of this bicycle riding lifestyle you do not see so many fat people. The Dutch look quite healthy. I believe this is also due to healthier foods here and accessible health care. On that note from what I can see the national food here are fries, most noted fries with mayonnaise. Don’t knock it till you try it.
Above:This picture taken unknown sources from the internet
Most Dutch are not that big on cooking. I would say there are far less foodies here. But the Food at the grocery store is very good, affordable as well as wine and good beers. The Netherlands is only second to the United States for food exports. This little country exports 94.5 billion euros of vegetables, dairy and meat. They are also the number one exporter of cut flowers in the world.
Above:This picture of beer taken unknown sources from the internet
The dutch are for the most part practical and thoughtful people. I have heard it said that the Dutch love to complain but i don’t hear them complaining about much that may be due to my lack of understanding the language. Unlike Americans they are not all talking about their national politics and health insurance or for that fact their illnesses. It seems to me the people here keep their private life private. You may also find a very different approach to the big and small things here. I find that the Dutch have a general attitude of “if it’s not good for all of us then it is not good for me” Something I find so refreshing after my life in America. To me in America it was feeling more like “fuck you! get out of my way! If I throw it out the window it is no longer my problem. You are not my problem! What makes you sick is not my problem! But what makes you rich, well I want to take that from you at any cost.”
I find people here are not as stressed out. It takes a while to get accustomed to a more sensible world with logical and practical salutations to personal and public issues and the fact that the government is really of the people and for the people. This is a country that I really feel as the understanding that if we are strong, healthy and educated together we are also better as individuals. For all those reasons I feel love is easier and therefore better here.
I live in a town that sometimes feels like a fairy tale. Haarlem is 775 years old. Haarlem was granted city status in 1245. Okay sometimes I just have to take a minute and think how long ago that was, what life looked like. Within two miles from me there is a castle that is built around 1285. I buy my flour at an old mill “windmill” where they have been milling flour for 169 years. The city once had 12 gates, one is still standing.Too this day every night the church bell at Saint Bavo Cathedral in Grote Markt square rings at 9:15 to 9:30 pm so everyone knows the city’s gates are about to close for the night. It is just tradition that stays. I’m constantly amazed that I get to live here among all this history.
Above:photos 1 and 2 taken from the internet, unknown sources. A 169 year old mill in the town of Santpoort where I buy my flour.
Above: All photos taken from the internet unknown sources . 1. the Grote Markt with Saint Bavo 2. A canal in Haarlem 3. At this mill the make pigment for paints. 4. This building was the old meat market now house to a museum and other business 5. One of the 12 gates of Haarlem 6. The Brederode Castle 7.The Haarlem Shield
Nowhere is perfect, The Netherlands has its issues.There are assholes everywhere but here I think the percentage is much smaller. My point with this blog is that life can be better if you are looking for it. It is here, you just have to make the decision to do it. Stay focused on the prize as you let go of your American life and what may feel like stepping into the dark but I can assure you that it is lighter and brighter. Remember “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
I retained a lawyer. He was not expensive. He made the legal aspects very easy. He laid out all the costs and timelines, it was very straight forward. I had a free consultation and he also recommended some books to read www.expatlaw.nl . I came over here on the D.A.F.T. visa “Dutch American friendship treaty” This is just one way to move here. www.dutchamericanfriendship.com .
Here is a list of extra things to think about
1 Why do you want to move. Really do some inter searching with yourself why you want to move.
2. How, What country and what visa will work for you.
3 . Realize it will most likely be the biggest and maybe the scariest thing you’ve ever done
4. There will be times you feel VERY alone
5. Have a back up plan if you fail.
6. Make a timeline till you move. Set a date.
7. Set an amount of time you will give to make it work. I suggest 2 years. Nothing is easy at first
8. Hire a immigration lawyer in the country you are moving to.
9. Know that you will learn a lot more about yourself.
10. Make sure you use a good moving company with no hidden fees. Read reviews.
11. Most likely you will not find good Mexican food. Unless you are moving to Mexico.
12. Be flexible with your expectations
13. You move because you want a different life/a better life. Sometimes it’s hard when things do not work the way you are used to. You have to take a step back and remember this is what you signed up for. It is relearning how to live.
You can see I highly recommend The Netherlands. It’s an easy move. English is commonly spoken in North Holland and things just make sense here.The Netherlands may have not been my first pick of places to move but it was the place that was presented to me and I could make the move work. I feel as though I totally lucked out. I do not think I could have pick a better place if I could have picked anywhere in the world.
I had to give up a lot but what I get back in return is well worth it. I wish everyone I love could move here. Everyone will have a different experience. I hope this helps you who are thinking about moving out of the U.S.A. No matter what it will be an adventure.
Feel free to ask me questions. If I can I will help.
Forgiving is so important for your own health and for the health of the world, I do believe.
You do not need to forget to forgive. Let it go and remember that none of us are perfect. How can we expect anyone to be perfect when we ourselves are so far from perfection? I am not saying forgiveness is easy. But it is a challenge we must face. I know for myself there are still a few people I have a very hard time to find forgiveness for. But I have started to find a way to forgive myself for allowing myself for getting into unhealthy relationships in the first place.
Somethings are easy to forgive, like your friend not paying you back that $5 bucks they promised to pay back or that they flaked on a fun night out. But most all of us have issues with one or both of our parents.
I think most of us somehow expect our parents to be perfect or to always know what is the right or wrong way to do things.Then we become so disappointed with them because they don’t. The truth of it is that they are also human. Here is what I have figured out at this stage of my life. I am a parent and I am a daughter.
My parents screwed up royally! I was on my own at thirteen. I was the youngest of four. It was the mid 1970’s and everyone started to look for what THEY needed, often forgetting about the children they had given life to. I became extra baggage. My parents divorced when I was ten years old. My mother decided that she needed more enlightenment and moved us to a hippie commune. My father needed to feel the warmth of wealth. Two very different directions. Nether really had room for the four children they had made together. Lucky for the two eldest that they loved the whole hippie thing and were able to embrace the commune, and I would imagine, enjoy the freedoms that it gave them. For my next older sister and I it was not the case. We struggled to find security and routine in our lives. We were not old enough to go wherever the wind blew us.We were not old enough to understand what was happening to our family and to our lives. We convinced my father to take us to live with him. He was still living in the house we grew up in so it felt safe.
The reality was he was also getting on with his new life. He had met a woman that was a bit more upper class than my family. She had the looks, the house and appeared to have the money my father was looking for,”The life style.” She also already had three daughters of her own, with no need for more. When they moved in together and later got married, they did find a way to fit my sister and I in but it was never a comfortable fit. We always knew we were the outsiders and that they would rather we were not there. Finally the day came when my father had to make a big decision to stay with his wife or to raise his children.Well they got their wish and my mother moved us 3000 miles away from them. Yep that’s right we were the extra luggage no one had room for in their lives. My mom made some sacrifices in her new life and made room for my sister and I to be in it.
By the time I was thirteen years old punk rock had hit the city of Seattle where I was living and I jumped in with both feet. I left home when my mom suggested that maybe I should go back and live with my father. I ran away. I came back after my father flew in from New Jersey only worried because he was the one with legal custody of me. After a long conversation with him where I was able to tell him very clearly how I was feeling about all of this, he suggested to me that we never see or talk with each other again. At the time I thought that was a good thing.
Within that year I left home again with my mother’s consent. A punk band from San Francisco was playing at the punk rock club where I volunteered. The band was called The Off’s. Turns out one of them had a girlfriend at home and she had a 5 year old and they were looking for a nanny. So I went to San Francisco with them. To this day I am floored that my mom let me leave with them.
Luckily it turns out they were all good guys but I was a horrible fit for the job. The Mabuhay Gardens was only a few blocks away and it was punk rock almost every night and that is what I wanted to do. I was not so good at waking up and taking the child to school. So I go fired and I moved onto the streets.
Photographer unknown. Imagines taken from the internet.
1. In front of the Mabuhey Gardens 2. Broadway st S.F 1970’s
In time I moved back in with my mom till she gave me an ultimatum that I go back to school, get a job, or move out. So I moved out. I was still thirteen years old. I did live one more time with my mother for nine months when I was seventeen . I also lived again with my father when I was thirty-four for six months.
I tell you all this so you can have some sort of idea about what I needed to forgive.
For many many years my father and I only talked once or twice a year and I was always relieved when it was over. I had not forgiven him for what he had done to me and how he had made me feel. It was when he was told he had 6 months to two years to live that I decided that I needed to re-evaluate my father and my relationship with him. He was my father, the only one I had, and I needed to make peace with his imperfections as a father. I moved to Sacramento to where he lives and worked to get to know him better. By this time I had a child of my own, and I do believe this will change anyone’s perspective about their parents. My father and I have never spent much time talking about the past and the things that went so wrong but instead we just started from where we were in life. Because I decided to set the past behind me I no longer hate my father. I forgave him. I had decided that I was now an adult and it was time for him to see me as one. I have compassion for him, I find him a funny man with great stories from his youth, I also can see some of his weekense. He is a human as I am and just because he is a parent does in no way make him perfect or all knowing. It just makes him a person who makes mistakes like the rest of us. I do forgive him but for me some of that pain is still there. (Just for the record 20 years later my dad is still alive).
Now my mom, That’s another story. She really knows she also screwed up. No doubt about it. We have spent many, many hours, if not days, talking about the past. But she has for decades now tried to make up for it. We always stayed close. I believe she has made up for her mistakes many times over. My mother has done, and still is doing everything she can to help me get through life. As her name says she really is a beam of sunshine. I have forgiven my mother fully. And yes the pain and bewilderment is still there but there is no black hole inside me where the love for my parents should be. Just love lives there.
Back to forgiveness. Let’s not judge people too hard. And especially the people you love. Are you perfect? Because I know I am not. Truly you never know how imperfect you are until you become a parent. Remember when we are born there is no manual and there is no licensing to have a child. Most of us are a surprise or as my mom always said ”a gift from god”. Parents are usually looking at their own upbringing to find guidance on how to raise or sometimes how not to raise children and so if your own parents did not get it right, neither will you. So do you blame your parents because you know your children will blame you? Maybe you should blame your grandparents? There are more of them so you can shuffle that blame around better or maybe you should blame your great grandparents? And please don’t bother looking at what the social norms were for the time because we expect everyone from all generations to have the same social norms and expectations as we see now.
Parents never get all of it right. I believe most parents try to do the best they can with the skills and abilities they have. There are so many things a parent can be. But parents can’t be all of them. If you are super lucky you will have two super parents and they will balance it all out and you will get everything you need. But most likely you wont. And definitely not form one person. This does create an issue for those of us who are single parents. This is a place that forgiveness really needs to kick in. Trying to help our children forgive the absent parent, forgiving yourself for picking the wrong partner, for not having enough time, not making enough money, for not being able to do all the little and not so little things to make your children’s life blissful. As a parent there are so many things we need to try and find a way to forgive ourselves for. We also need to forgive that absent parent.
Remember that only you can change the things you are unhappy with in your life. It always starts with you.When you stop blaming others for your unhappiness you give yourself back the power and control over your own life. Our struggles in life make us stronger. I know I have struggled more than some and a lot less than others. But these things make me who I am today and I like who I am. Because of that, it does make forgiving a little easier.
We all have people we need to find forgiveness for and so many of those people deserve your forgiveness, and maybe some of them do not. But you do. Forgiving is a healthy thing for you. Remember the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference and the first way to letting go of hate is forgiveness. When you lighten your hate load you increase room in your life for love.
Now that I am an expat, it is time to reinvent myself. I came to The Netherlands with the notion that I would open a barber shop like the barber shop I opened in Sacramento in 2001. I had money in my pocket and a vision. I had picked the city of Delft. Pretty little city squeezed between The Hague and Rotterdam. I found a great spot and it was rented to me. I was well on my way, Right? No! Everything got turned upside down and within a short time I realized that what I thought I had agreed to and what was reality where two very different things.
The short of it is I ended up living in Haarlem with my Knight in Shining Armor, not opening my barber shop and losing a lot of money and time. Sadly I also lost confidence.
Now if you have known me for a while then you know I was a real go getter. Within 16 years I had started two successful business from scratch. I made a good living off both and sold them both for a good profit. I call that success. But here I am with my hands in my pockets kicking the pebbles on the ground in front of me really not knowing what or how to do the next thing.
I tried working in a barber shop too far from my new home in Haarlem but it was worth a try. When I had to quickly go back to Sacramento to deal with an emergency related to the house I still own in Sacramento, I was told I did not have enough passion for barbering. I was told this from a 26 year old who I think was not yet born when I was learning to cut hair and was probably still eating his boogers when I was opening my barber shop. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate him letting me pay him to sit in his barber shop. (I was renting a chair.) First, it is hard to be passionate when you have almost no business and it costs you 60 euros a day just to go to work. Again, another mistake “misunderstanding in business ” I was told he had over-flowing customers and he did not.
In my few interactions doing business over here I find there is a lot of misunderstandings. I am told one thing and then I always get screwed. It seems it is only about contracts and what they say verbally means absolutely nothing.
But maybe he was right. I have been cutting hair for well over 20 years and it is not as exciting as it was in the first few. Like most things in life. However, I do still enjoy cutting hair and though I may not want to do zero fades all day long, I am good at what I do. However, I do realize I do not want to work in someone else’s barber shop.
So what do I do? Do I take the last of my money and open a barber shop? I am now a bit timid about renting after the last experience. So I have worked on other ideas: mobile barber, repping for Cock Grease AKA Hair Underworld, making Mexican-style tiled tables, selling stuff from Oaxaca, making and vending tacos, catering and now, hot sauce . Do I sound ADD? I am starting to feel like it. In some form I have now tried all of these things since moving over here. I have worked in a barber shop and I was a mobile barber one night and I had one customer. Not the confidence-builder I was looking for. I have one Cock Grease account but I wait for the manufacturer to complete a few things before I can go further with it. I made one Mexican tile table with some tiles that were laying around the house. I really enjoyed it but I have not been able to find a place that sells single tiles. I did vend my Mexican goods one time and I sold three things. Not a big money maker. I made and vended tacos one night and broke even. That was good. Now I have completed my first catering gig. I think it went very well. It was some hard work but I can see making something out of it. Then there is HOT Sauce, my latest idea. I have made a few batches of hot sauce so far and I think they are Yummy so that means I need to make them a lot hotter seeing as I think people here like HOT.
Perfecting the secret recipe, stage one. I find this idea exciting because in so many ways I have done this before. When I was creating Cock Grease I had no idea what I was doing but after growing a brand, manufacturing and distributing my pomade for eleven years I learned a few things. I imagine I can avoid a lot of wasted time and obstacles I didn’t know existed before.
So here I am still with my hands in my pockets feeling really unsure how to make things happen in the new land I now live in. Maybe in the end it is not really about reinventing myself. Maybe it is just about continuing to be an entrepreneur.
I thinking it is called following your dreams. Or at least in my case it is.
When I was a little girl my father took a one year sabbatical from his teaching job at Half Moon Bay High School. Me and my three siblings were moved 6000 miles away to Vienna Austria. I don’t remember being very happy about it. But when you are 5 years old you don’t really know what is going on or that your parents are doing something amazing that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Living in Vienna was a whole new world. A world that was in a big city. Half Moon Bay / El Granada were we lived was a small beach community 25 miles south of San Francisco. Now we where smack dab in the middle of a big city, apartment living with public transportation, paved streets, shops and parks. Also a foreign language, different customs, people who looked and dressed differently, new foods and smells .
We traveled a lot during that year. My parents had bought a VW bus that was pretty beat up but it got us around Europe on school holidays. I wish I had been older so I could have understood where we were and therefore have stronger memories.
Coming back to California and starting the first grade I was different than the other kids. I had seen things smelt things and tasted things I could not explain.
For a good portion of my life when I smelled things such as cured meats being made or taste some unique cheese, or the one memory that really sticks with me the flavor of some raspberry soda I have only tasted a few time since. All sorts of smells and flavors take me back to living and traveling in Europe as a kid. These things stuck with me. Also the travel bug bit me and never let go.
In my mid twenties I distinctly remember thinking I did not want to travel back to Europe. That I wanted to travel around the United States. But as America became more and more one big housing tract with too many nondescript shopping malls and not enough Main Streets left I started thinking more about Europe.
In my late thirties I decided that somehow I wanted to give my son the European experience. I did not know how I would do this but the first thing I needed was passports. I had fantasized about taking him for 3 month but I knew I would never have that kind of money or time. Also I had no idea where to go what to do. I knew no one in Europe and I only spoke English. The thought was scary. But as I find in life if there is a will there’s a way. If it is meant to be it will happen. I got us passports and three months later I was given the opportunity I could not pass up.
I was that person who would let bands crash at their house. Back then I had a lot of bands staying at my house. One band was Arsen Roulette and the Ricochets. One of the guys in the band had suggested I go on tour with them through Europe as their merch girl and I could sell my hair pomade along the way. I got very excited at this idea, seeing as it would be a great way to get my hair pomade “Cock Grease” over to Europe, to meet people and get the lay of the land. Then I would have a better foundation for taking my son over. Well not all guys in bands want a woman on tour with them. So that idea got shot down but on the heels of finding that out Three Bad Jacks were staying at my house and Elvis suggested that I go with them on a three week tour to Europe as their merch girl.
Above: Three Bad Jacks, on stage – In my son’s bedroom
This was great! I had two weeks to get my life in order to leave. I would be gone a total of 4 ½ weeks. From Europe I would fly into LAX and drive straight to Viva Las Vegas (the worlds largest rockabilly event) It was a long time to be away from home, my son and my barber shop. But there was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity.
I met up with the band in L.A. and we got on a plane and flew into Frankfurt Germany. Wow, as soon as we got off the plane the old familiar smells from childhood hit me. Yes, I was in Europe. Everything was different and exciting. I was amazed when a few words of German came back to me. We found our van and hit the road. It was non stop from that point on till laundry day in Helsinki Finland. We traveled through Germany and met The Booze Bombs who treated us great. Wonderful people who I am now proud to call my friends. We traveled to France, yes Paris, and to England, Scotland, Norway and Finland. In Finland we had a day off. Time to relax just a little. Then back to Germany. We still had a few more shows in Germany and in Belgium but I had come down with a cold and was quite worn out.
Above: on tour with 3BJ. 1 in Helsinki Finland, 2. Tired band guys, 3. Tristan out side at Flaming Star Speyer Germany, 4.Elvis takes a nap Germany, 5.The band setting up in Paris France, 6. 3BJ playing somewhere in England, 7.At Stephan’s “The Booze Bombs” house Calw Germany, 8.3BJ playing in Paris France, 9. Boys in the band, Tristan and Nick in Nancy France
I had made a new friend in Paris, I asked him if I could come back and spend a few days there till it was time to fly back. He agreed. So in Cologne Germany I left the tour. I took the train (high speed train) to Paris. It felt amazing to me that I was doing this. Yep, my new friend picked me up at the central train station, “Paris Nord,” and I spent four amazing days: drinking wine, smoked cigarettes and eating baguettes with amazing cheese I went to the Eiffel Tower and to some French biker bar. Again the smells. I was in heaven. I fell in love with Paris, what I would say is the epitome of European life. (according to a Californian).
Then back to the states. It was culture shock all over again. To Las Vegas, Ugggg, What a contrast. I was still on cloud 9 from my time in Europe. It was like I had been to the promised land. I did not want to forget a single view, taste or smell. Going home was bitter sweet.
Above:1 & 2 Paris, 3. My french friend Rock-in out on the up right, 4 The Cat club in Paris where 3BJ played
After being back for a short time one of my new friends from The Booze Bombs invited me to join them in Spain for a fun weekender called The High Rockabilly. This gave me around four months to get it together to go back. I was not going to pass up another great opportunity to meet people and have fun in Europe. So come September I was back in Germany and then Spain. This time I was only there 1 1/2 weeks but it was great. I meet all sorts of people and had the best of times with my German friends. I left that trip knowing I wanted MORE OF THAT!
Above: 1.The Booze Bombs, 2. Annie with The Neanderthals, 3.Me and The Cock Grease Girls, 4. My gang at the High Rockabilly, 5. Me and Willy, 6. Making a toast to my wonderful friends in Germany, 7. My collection of yummys to take home
After a short time I made the mistake of marrying a Swedish man who I had met in Las Vegas. I must have been wooed by the fact he was from Europe. The facts are I did not know this man and after five years with him I still did not know him and no longer wanted to know him. Enough about him. I only bring him up because I started traveling to Europe more and mostly to Sweden.
On my trip to Spain with The Booze Bombs I was invited to come back and cut hair at The Rockabilly Bombardment in Vorarlberg Austria. A fun weekend hosted by The Bombardiers Car Club in September of 2009. Now married I brought my husband and my son to Europe. I wanted my son to see it so we did a whirlwind trip. First to Calw, nestled in the black forest region in Germany to see my friends The Booze Bombs. Then to Austria to cut hair then a amazing one night in Liechtenstein. Drove through Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands and then to Hamburg Germany for a few days. Two quick weeks. Not really the trip I had dreamed of to show my son Europe but it was a start.
Above: 1 & 2 In Lichtenstein, One of the best meals I ever ate and My Son our host and me, 3. a castle in Luxembourg
After that trip we mostly went to Sweden in the summer time. That was also great, but Scandinavia is not the same as the central Europe and my husband was not really interested in showing us the sights. For him it was just going home to visit. For me the high point was having the opportunity to cut hair in Stockholm at the very hip and cool shop called Sivletto. I did this most every time I went to Sweden. In 2012 I was invited to go back in February 2013 to cut hair on a one night Hot Rod, Raggar cruise called Wheels Nationals Winter, a cruise on the Baltic Sea. I had never experienced anything like it. First the ship was full of Raggares something I believe it truly Swedish. (Look them up. It is a subculture.) The large chunks of ice all around the ship and banging into the hull. This kinda freaked me out. But I guess that is just normal? Needless to say it was very cold in Sweden.
Above: the barber shop inside Sivlettos. Pictures taken from the internet
Above: A few pictures I took in Sweden
On that trip in 2013 I also wanted to get back down into central Europe. We went to Spain. Now I like Spain a lot but where we ended up was truly a waste. We went to a town called Playa Flamenca on the GOLD COAST. This is where northern Europeans go and buy condos so they have a warm place to go on holiday. All I saw were condos, English pubs and Chinese restaurants. Not what I go to Spain for. On that trip however I did get the opportunity finally to do some tourist stuff. We took the long driver to Granada to go to The Alhambra. Something I strongly recommend doing if you have the chance.
I did make it back in 2014, again with my son now 17 and me no longer married I was able to travel with one of my long time and good friends. On this trip we wanted to DRINK BEER. My plan was to show my son what good beer was all about. We had planned to just go to Belgium at first. But it turned into Sweden, Spain, Belgium, and a tiny bit of Germany. This was now the 4th time I brought son to Europe. Turns out he was really not interested in tasting beers and stood his ground saying to me “Mom you can’t make me drink!” So my good friend and I enjoyed the yummy beers that Europe has to offer.
After that trip I thought, “ Well maybe I should start traveling in a different direction or spend my travel money on my back yard.” I started planning a trip to Polynesia. Then I started to make my yard my own travel destination. I wanted a yard that felt like I was on vacation when I went into it. So I did that . I never have made it to Polynesia.
Instead I went to Europe again this time with my good friend Sasha who I had done the Mangiamo Dinners with. But this time was very different for a few reasons. On the last many trips I was either married and or had my son with me and I was also always in Europe representing my pomade line, Cock Grease. This trip I had none of those responsibilities and I went knowing that I was planning to move to The Netherlands in the not too far off future. That trip must have been the most fun I have ever had traveling.
Yes, I had decided that I no longer wanted to live in The United States of America. I had grown totally disgusted with how the medical system works. Not just the health insurance but the treatment as well. I had also become horrified at what is allowed to happen to the food that we eat. It’s a long story and I would have to find my soapbox to stand on to tell you all about it. So I will hold off on that for now. But needless to say I was not happy with things I could see going on in the USA. I had found out that one can move to The Netherlands on a visa called the DAFT. So I learned about it and once the 2016 presidential elections were over and I could clearly see thing where only going to get a whole lot worse than they already were. I decided to leave as soon as I could. I sold off my company “Cock Grease” had a few big yard sales, packed up my belongings and got the hell out of there. I did it in less than a year.
Above: My farewell party. Great music all night long. Some just past out at the end.
I was so busy saying goodbye, packing and organizing my things I had no time to really think about what the hell I was doing. It was my first day after landing in Amsterdam that I started to freak out. “WHAT DID I JUST DO??”
I sometimes have this view of myself that I can handle anything and then I often find myself in the middle of something I can not handle. Well this really felt like one of those times.
I first stayed in Amsterdam with a friend, a woman I had meet in many place as I traveled around always with the rockabilly scene as my backdrop. She is a rockabilly and a true traveler. She had offered to let me stay with her when I first arrived. She was off to Spain or Portugal for some cool festival the very next morning so I was alone in a new country in a city I had only ever spent a few hours in. This was so very different than going on vacation. I cried a lot and sleeping a lot. I was afraid to leave the house. I was so freaked out at what I had just done. But within a few days I was off to see my dear friend in Paris. I knew that would make everything seem a bit better and it did as long as I was in Paris. There it’s just about having fun. Back in The Netherlands I needed to find a place to live and a place to put myself while looking. I had planned to move to Eindhoven a city in the south west of the country. I had chosen Eindhoven for some really good reasons:music and cars. Yep If I was going to open up a barber shop I thought Eindhoven would be the perfect place and it probably would have been if I had ever gone down there.
Once I realized this was a lot harder then I had hoped I decide that I should stay with in visiting distance of the only 3 people I knew in all of The Netherlands. The first of course was my friend in Amsterdam and the other two were a couple I barely knew from Sacramento. They had just moved over four months before me. They were living just outside of Leiden in South Holland, a beautiful city that was once a walled. I decided I would live there. It was close to Amsterdam 25 minutes by train. Not bad. I found a great little house to sublet for 5 ½ month. It was a great place to plan my new life. I got to do some traveling. I got to also spend more time with myself than I ever had before. Wow, thank god for Spotify, the liquor store one block away, and Facebook. I cannot imagine making a move like this without the internet.
I was looking for a place to open a barber shop. I found what I thought would be a great spot where I was told I could live upstairs in a really cool old city called Delft nudged between The Hague and Rotterdam. I was entering into something I really did not understand. I had rented commercial space before “in Sacramento” I still believe most people are honest and good. Well nothing went as planned and I lost a ton of money. I was screwed and screwed over by everyone involved.
Above: The place in Delft, once rented the owners did this. Hard to open a new business when no one can see it.
During that same time I had met a man I was sure we would become good friends. Turns out he was to become my best friend. I had gone to a show with my friend from Amsterdam but I lost her early in the night. I spent the whole night looking for her all the while meeting new people. One of the people I met was Leo. He was wearing a Dead Boys t-shirt, a band I really loved from the 1970’s. I had seen him earlier in the night and commented on his shirt. After spending some time drinking with some guy that got too touchy for me I laid eyes on the guy with the Dead Boys shirt and his friend. I went over and struck up a convention with them. By this time it must have been 4 am and I still could not find my friend. Turns out she had left.
These guys were pretty cool and pretty drunk. We soon we’re getting asked to leave the building. Turns out we all needed to get to the train station and we all needed to get on the same train. They both got off in Haarlem I rode the rest of the way to Leiden by myself. I was so happy and excited that I had met some guys I could be friends with. That is also the morning I learned there is no bus running at 8 am on Sunday morning in Leiden. That was a long, cold walk home.
We all connected on Facebook and I was soon invited to join Leo at a punk show in Leiden. Not really to my taste I suggested that we meet up for a beer before he went to his show and that is what we did. A week went by and a trip to Barcelona and I contacted him and asked if he would like to have a beer with me again. We agreed to meet up in Haarlem on that Saturday late afternoon. I was thrilled to go hang out with a new friend. During the evening it crossed my mind I may be on a date but he was a perfect gentleman. At the end of the night he walked me to the train station and we agreed to meet up again the next Saturday. He gave me a quick kiss goodnight. Now In the Netherlands it is the custom to give three kisses. First one check then the other and then back to the first. It’s a lot of kissing, mostly when its a group of people. I sometimes get confused. So this was not that . It was a quick kiss on my lips and he was gone. I walked up the stairs to the train platform thinking “ Ya, I think I was on a date and I think he likes me.” I was not expecting that. I had to think about it, but I had a few days. Don’t get me wrong I thought this guy was very cool and a down to earth. I was just not sure that that was what I was looking for. By Friday I had decided that I was indeed interested in him. I invited him to come to Leiden for coffee that Friday afternoon. We never did drink coffee that day just a lot of beer. We stayed together the whole weekend. That was it! We were calling each other girlfriend and boyfriend with in a few weeks. The word love came out of my mouth after spending a weekend in Berlin without him. Just two months after meeting him I was moving in with him. This was all just as my barber shop plans where falling apart. Talk about “knight in shining armor.” Well that is Leo!
The whole barber shop fiasco was very stressful and expensive. It turned out to suck up about six months of my life from beginning to end. During that six months I really could not get my footing in The Netherlands because I was never really sure what was going to happen next. But Leo had me covered. I had moved to the beautiful city of Haarlem.
Above, the beautiful city of Haarlem
The facts are that this is hard. But as the old saying goes “Nothing worth having comes easy” And I am afraid that is true. I can also tell you this “when the rewards of doing something so hard come through it is one of the most amazing feelings.” That has just happened for me. With a lot of help from my guy Leo I now have five years residency in The Netherlands. After the 5 years I can then apply for permanent residency.
I can not predict what the next five years will bring me. There are still some hard choices to make ahead of me. But if it is meant to be it will work.
Follow your dreams. Dream big and make goals and DON”T let others tell you you cannot achieve them.
If you know me you know I LOVE to cook! Most of all I love to cook for other people.
It all started I think when I was around 3 years old. Honestly I don’t have a clear memory of it just bits and pieces, I would make my own scrambled eggs in a tiny cast iron pan. I called them “Jambled eggs” it was just the beginning.
At 3 years old I started to cook – Cup cakes at Butterscotch’s birthday
I do have fond memories of cooking in the kitchen with my mom making custard and watching her make fresh bread. Fresh bread was a normal thing in my home as a kid. I remember being embraced taking my lunches to school on homemade bread. Now something that I would be proud of. But back then I did not understand that fresh bread is a great thing and what was strange about my sandwich was maybe not the olive loaf lunch meat but the chopped olive or liverworst sandwiches that I loved. Surprise surprise no one ever asked to trade sandwiches with me.
I can remember making triple decker sandwich with anything we had. Not always good. But I tried. I was always eager to help make jello or instant pudding that was so popular in my house. I have fond memories of making apple fritters and best of all the time my sister and I tried to make lollipops out of the Peanuts cook book. What a mess.
I do remember when my love of cooking did help me during my punk rock days. I was a very poor punk kid. I was living in a great big house in Vancouver Canada called The Plaza It was kind of the DOA band house with the Randy Rampage, Chuck Biscuits, Joey Shithead and their then manager Ken and many more of us living in this big house. All I could afford from my panhandling to eat was one decent size potato a day. I would “barrow” ketchup out of the refrigerator to gussy them up. Ken took pity on me and would let me cook for him. He would buy the groceries and I would cook and I would get to eat a real meal. I was very grateful to Ken. He was a good friend.
Finally living in San Francisco and in my early 20’s I got back to cooking. I was not a good cook but I loved doing it. I would cook for anyone that would sit at my table. I bought a typewriter at Montgomery Wards and started to write a cook book called The Eager Eater. Never to be finished. I would dream of opening restaurants but never worked in one. I grew a vegetable gardens so I could have fresh veggies to cook. I kept cooking, always learning more trying new things and not afraid to change recipes. It took a lot of years and a lot of dinner party.
I feel a really turning point in my cooking was Monday Night Dinners. A dinner party that started at my home in Sacramento it was early 2006. Mondays where my Sundays and I would invite friends over for dinner. This quickly became a weekly event and soon everyone was taking turns cooking dinners at my house on Mondays. After a year we started rotating houses. (This event still is going on to this day but has recently turned to once a month.) This was like the big Sunday family dinner you may have had with your own family or seen in a movies. For the children in this group it was like seeing all your aunts and uncles whether you liked them or not every Monday. I always felt this was a good thing for the children of the group. They were mostly only children and some with only one parent and small families. So this gave them, me and I would guess all of us a real scene of family.
Monday Night Dinner for me was a chance to cook a great big meal with the task of getting everything done at the same time. I would try out new recipes, work with other peoples food allergies and yes vegetarian diets. I also often tried to not spend more than $50 when cooking for 8-15 people. I loved the challenge and I love the smiles and the sound they would make when the food was good. I also loved all the laughing, all the wine and even the tears that come along with this big family.
After cooking a lot of big Monday Night Dinners as well as many other dinner parties my good friend Sasha and I set out to do larger, sit down, pop up dinner parties. We called them Mangiamo Dinner Party’s
Sasha and I wanted to take a trip to Europe but neither one of us had extra money. We decided to feed people. Sasha was in charge of setting up the ambiance and serving the guests. I was in charge of the menus, shopping, cooking and plating the food. I was in heaven. It was hard work but I really loved it. We had a lot of help from a few friends and my son.
We did these in my backyard, when fall and winter came we did them in Sasha’s living room. It was really amazing the transformation that would happen. The space she would create was really special, the music always went with the food as well as the decor. We would always serve appetizers and one adult beverage at the beginning of the meal. Guests where encouraged to bring their own beer and wine that Sasha would then politely pour out for them. There was never less then 4 and as many as 6 courses always ending with a home made desert, coffee and a home made liqueur. One time we had a special beer Sasha and a brewer from a local brewery had made just for one of our Dinner parties.
I have to say we really had it going on. Working with Sasha was really a joy. Having someone at my side I knew would do their part and do it well left me to only worry about what I needed to do.
It was a time of a lot of creativity, learning and hard work. One of the best parts was when we were all finished and the guests had all left, I would cook us all up something special with the food of the night and we would all sit down and talk about all the goings-on of the night, relax and drink some good red wine. That was always the best part of the night.
Not only was the cooking and the relaxing afterwords and of course the trip to Europe that we did go on, but watching the creation of a new community. Not everyone that came to the dinner were close friends of ours that were taking pity on us. But many were acquaintance or friends of acquaintance. In other words strangers. We got to see them build friendships through the dinner party. It felt good to contribute to bettering society even if just a little.
We had a total of 9 Mangiamo parties. Here are just a few pictures of the food made for these parties.
Since the great days of Mangiamo Dinner Party’s I have not had many opportunity cooking for large groups of people. Not long after those parties I move to The Netherlands. I have had the pleasure of a few small dinner parties no more then 10 people and the start of Rea Tortillas Taqueria.
What is Rea Tortillas Taqueria? Well I am not totally sure yet. I am trying to find my way in this new country. It looks like that may mean reinventing myself. It’s look like tacos may be the way. I was given a opportunity at a rockabilly club in Amsterdam called the Cruise Inn to make taco for their Mexican night. With the help of my new friend Masa Mama I went to Amsterdam and made tacos. I was so exciting to bring fresh corn tortillas and carnitas to the Dutch. Many do not know tacos like this. For the Dutch tacos are what we in California may affectionately call White Trash Tacos. From that I have been given another opportunity to cater a birthday party with my tacos and some Caribbean style food.
I will see where this Rea Tortilla adventure takes me.
Today I am making hot sauce for the first time. Some may think that that is pretty funny seeing as I am a total wimp when it comes to spicy food. But the truth is I really do like the flavor that peppers give the food. I am a big fan of Tapatio. A Mexican hot sauce made in California.
When I was last in California I made sure to go to may local “Mercado” Mexican market in my neighborhood and buy some dried chilies. Yes I can buy hot sauce here in The Netherlands but they normally are A, too hot for me or B, too vinegary. More like a Louisiana hot sauce. That is fine if I am eating Cajun or creole food but for Mexican I like it less vinegary, smokey and maybe a little sweet. So today is the day I have been waiting for. My first attempt.
2 Ancho peppers
1 Pasilla peppers
4 Japones peppers
2 cloves garlic
3 cups water
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Put the garlic and peppers into 3 cups water, bring to boil and then let simmer for 20 min. Let cool. Add peppers, garlic and one cup of the pepper water into the food possessor with vinegar and spices. Do not through out remaining pepper water. Blend till smooth. Strain out all the seeds and skins then add more of the pepper water if you need to thin it out a bit. Return to the stove and let simmer for around 5 min. This is to thicken it up just a bit. Let it cool, put is sterilized jar and it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Easy peasy. I am thinking this is like making mustard. Once you get the basics down it can be anything you want. This is just my first time and I have many more peppers left over so I will be getting more creative with this process.
Mexican food is normally very easy and simple good fresh food but it can be a bit time consuming. Well worth it. Like when I was first shown how to make Salsa Verde.
I was so blown away how easy it was, I knew at that moment I would never buy it in a jar again. I always made it after that. But here in The Netherlands I will need to grow my own tomatillos. With luck I will have some fresh yummy Salsa Verde at the end of the summer.
Keep life exciting. Heat it up with some homemade hot sauce or fresh salsa. There are no little elves making our food, its not magic. Life is too short to eat over processed food. Some of the best things in life are simple.