CONFESSION TIME – HOPPY TALES

img_0829All right. I have a confession to make. I love beer.

Now that it’s out in the open, I can confess that not only do my husband Robert and I share a love of the suds, but we’re also homebrewers and seekers of other homebrewers turned into craft brew entreprenuers.

Let me clarify our love of beer. For us to love, truly love, a beer it must be robust and ‘hopping’ with flavor. India Pale Ale (IPA) that is strong in hops and in bitterness tops our list. But there’s nothing like a true Belgian with its high sugary notes in its finish. And then, finally, for my choice for dessert? A chocolatey, coffee-infused imperial stout. Yummy.

Craft breweries have become popular in recent years. One of the first, Sierra Nevada, began in Chico, California. I visited their restaurant and brewery in 1998–my first venture into the world of craft brewing. It was a nice site with the copper brew pots within view of our table. A tour followed lunch. I fell in love with their beers–always a good choice. Until the past ten years or so when other craft breweries began popping up all over the country.

Our home state of Michigan is becoming famous for their breweries in Marshall, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Holland. A few began popping up around the Pittsburgh area while I lived there. We even have a few recent start-ups in our small area in North Carolina.

 

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Andrews Brewing Company and Calaboose Wine Cellars

Hoppy Trout and Andrews Brewing Company are our favorites. Hoppy Trout was opened by a homebrewer, and everything we’ve sampled there is outstanding. Andrews Brewing Company – same thing. Plus they also make their own wine at Calaboose Wine Cellars. The setting is spectacular for listening to music and watching the sun set over the mountains and small vineyard on site.

 

It was only natural for us to seek out some other craft brewers on a recent trip to Blacksburg, Virginia. When we learned Sierra Nevada had opened a brewery two hours from us, we had to visit. We stopped at three breweries on our journey. First, near Hendersonville, North Carolina, in Mills River, we went to the recently opened Sierra Nevada brewery.

We drove up a long windy road, loving the scenery and the rural setting. At the top of the hill we looked down at the largest brewery–I’m not counting Anheuser Busch here–I’ve ever seen. Rows of buildings with smoke stacks spewed forth white clouds of steam and gleaming copper pots dominated the glass fronts.

At the end of the ‘mall,’ sat a restaurant and gift shop. A separate entrace swarmed with visitors lining up for the tours which required reservations. We searched for a parking space and finally found one in the furtherest parking lot from the restaurant entrance. I desperately tried to put this Disney-esque place in the same category as the restaurant/brewery I visited eighteen years earlier. The bustling restaurant with two bars, outside terraces, and a cavernous room with tables provided good food and outstanding beer, but it sure didn’t feel like a craft brewery any longer.

Then we visited the other craft brewer in town–Mills River Brewery. This place sat in a strip mall and was a simple tap room serving a few of their own brews, but also the brews of other craft brewers in North Carolina. They are small and new–opened ten months ago–and made a decent IPA, but they have a ways to go to compete with the more established places. We wish them good fortune.

The next day we landed in Boone, North Carolina, at Appalachain Mountain Brewery. There are several breweries in this college town, but we chose this one because their porter, served to us at Parsons Pub in Murphy, North Carolina, really impressed us. When I read about them on their website, my admiration grew.

Here’s their motto:

Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s mission is to sustainably brew high quality beer, support local non-profits and help our community prosper. Our mission is simple: sustainability, community and philanthropy.

The tap room is unpretentious and simple, but that’s not how I would describe the beer brewed there. I did a sampler and can attest to the high quality of product. The pub doesn’t serve food, but a food truck sits outside waiting to serve up a delicious snack. We ordered black bean tacos and cheese bread–perfect accompaniments to all that we tasted.

And best of all, we met the folks who work there and discovered they work there because of the values set forth by the owners. We chatted with Danny Wilcox, the director of retail operations, and he told us that the publicly traded company stands by their mission statement of sustainability, community, and philanthropy. In our troubled times, it is refreshing, and hopeful, to find a small business doing their part to help their community.

Appalachain Mountain Brewery sets a tone and a mood that inspires others to do more and reach higher. We raise our mugs and say, “Salud.” And also, filler up.

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We’ve taken a break from our homebrewing adventure while we moved and settled into our new routine. All of our brewing equipment is now in one place and very soon we’ll start up the boiling pots and fermenting pails. I’ll be sure to report on our first batch from Florida very soon. We need to get our holiday brews a’ bubblin’.

January in the Smoky Mountains.

DSC03464After five days of staying in our cabin as the wind, snow, and ice played outside, we ventured out this afternoon when the sun came out and blessed us with fifty-degree temperatures. We headed over to Fires Creek Recreation Area where Fires Creek meets up with Leatherwood Branch and Falls. It’s a lovely spot very close to our house with falls that are easily seen from the parking area. Paths lead up to the top of the falls.

 

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BRUSHING UP AGAINST FAME

A brush with Buddy Guy at his club in Chicago

A brush with Buddy Guy at his club in Chicago

Fame is fairly easy to achieve these days with the advent of social media. Criminals post their whereabouts on Facebook and even post video of the criminal act on YouTube The fame that might ensue entices and lures them to stupidity.

I’ll admit I’ve yearned for fame as a writer, but these days I’ll settle for adding “bestseller” to my author moniker. I’ve also brushed up against the famous, sometimes without even knowing it. In 2007, as my friend and our daughters began our Route 66 adventure in Chicago, we met the famous blues musician Buddy Guy. Yes, we took the obligatory photo, but he was gracious and precious to two giggling middle-aged women on an adventure.

As I wrote this post, I sat in the library. Two women were at computers next to me reading about the stars. “She’s beautiful, but wears too much makeup.” “He’s going to have his ninth child. I love him, but he’s going to be working the rest of his life.” “I can’t believe someone said that about her. She’s such a nice person.” They mentioned the names of the stars, but if they hadn’t, I would have thought they were taking about family. No, they were brushing up against fame as if the famous were a part of their lives.

In 2004, I visited a friend in Casablanca where she worked at the U.S. Consulate. Among her duties was the handling of Visas for U.S. citizens working and living in Morocco. One day, I visited her office to check my emails. She had gone to another office to work on some papers for an actor filming a movie in the desert. Before I went into her office, I chatted with a beautiful young woman in the lobby who was waiting for her boyfriend to get his Visa extended. She was enjoying Morocco, but she missed some things from home, such as her dog. We chatted for a few minutes before I headed to my friend’s computer. As I read missives from home, a young man with scraggly dark hair and a blue bandanna on his head came into the office and asked for my friend. He smiled sweetly when I pointed to another office nearby. Then I went back to work. A few minutes later, several young women ran into the office.

“Did you see him? Did he come in here?” They were giggling and bombarding me with questions.

“A young guy was here, and I sent him over there.” I pointed. “Why?”

OrlandoBloom“That was Orlando Bloom,” one of them said. “And his girlfriend, Kate Bosworth, is sitting in the lobby.”kate-bosworth-80284

Seems Mr. Bloom was in Morocco filming Kingdom of Heaven and his Visa has almost expired. He was an average looking dude with a nice smile. I felt nothing more for having encountered him and his then girlfriend. Nice folks, but I’d met many of them on this trip. They just joined the long list.

Why do we get so excited and flustered in the face of someone famous? They bleed and use the bathroom the same as the rest of us. I’ve never quite understood it, but I’ve felt the flush of nervousness when encountering it.

Several years ago when Charlie Crist was governor of Florida, I needed to get a quote from him on an article I was writing for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. I’d been assigned to write a piece on the agency’s Commission Chairman, who was friends with and appointed by Gov. Crist. The protocol for getting such a quote involves calling the press office, which I did, and then waiting for the press secretary to respond with a statement, supposedly from the governor. I waited patiently for the statement when late one afternoon my blackberry rang.Gov_charlie_crist

“Hello, Pat, this is Charlie Crist, and I understand you’re writing an article about my friend.”

I was certain one of my friends was pranking me because I had just started the job, and this was my first assignment. But then I recognized the voice I’d often heard on the news. Of course, I couldn’t find my notes for the piece, along with my questions.

“I’m a little nervous,” I admitted.

“Don’t be nervous, Pat. Let’s just chat.”

And so I chatted with the governor. Then when I’d finished asking him everything I could think of without my notes in front of me, I attempted to thank him.

“I’m sure you have plenty of other things to deal with besides helping me with this article,” I began. “Like, like. . .” My mind went blank. “Like water,” I finally blurted.

Really? Water? That’s all I had. Florida is a peninsula surrounded by sea water and dotted with rivers and lakes everywhere. He deals with water.

president_jimmy_carter_nobelPrior to my Charlie and Orlando encounters, I almost met another famous person. A friend and I were in Georgia and decided to visit Plains, the home of President Jimmy Carter. We went into the general store and the clerk told us if we stuck around, we might get a chance to meet the President and Mrs. Carter who were in the back room attending a luncheon. My friend and I wandered around the store set up as both a tourist attraction and museum to anything Carter. We stood in the aisle on the far side of the store, laughing at an unopened six-pack of Billy Beer on the shelf, named after the President’s brother. A couple of people brushed by us. We moved a little closer to the shelves to let them pass, then we went to the counter to pay for our purchases because we’d decided we had waited long enough.

“Did you get to say hello?” the clerk asked.

We stared at her blankly. “Hello?”

“Yes, the President and Mrs. Carter just left the store. They must have walked right by you on the way out.”

We’d been too busy laughing about Billy Beer to notice that fame had literally brushed right by us.

The air hadn’t rarefied, and we were unchanged, except now I had another story to tell.

A brush with fame brings me great stories to tell on dark nights around a campfire, which makes me famous to my friends. I make a great guest around that old campfire because even as slight a thing as President Carter passing behind my back, with secret service agents in tow, becomes the fodder for flames and fiction.

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And in my ever-present quest for my own piece of fame, I’m happy to announce the completion of my first series, the Behind the Love Trilogy. Download the first two books in the series November 6 and 7 for FREE! The third book releases on November 10, but is available for pre-order now. Enjoy!

Behind the Altar, Book 1 – Click here to download FREE Nov. 6 and 7

Behind the Bar, Book 2 – Click here to download FREE Nov. 6 and 7

Behind the Curtain, Book 3 – Click here for New Release

Serendipity at Sixty

Serendipity in San Antonio

Serendipity in San Antonio

Next month a milestone birthday visits me when I turn sixty years old. Sixty? Are you kidding me? How can I be sixty when I still feel thirty?

I’ve become more intro- and retrospective this year because I know for sure I’m beyond what we refer to as “middle-aged.” And I’m not sure how it happened.

Serendipity seems to follow me these days, or perhaps because I’m contemplating my life from all angles, I’m much more aware of those things. The latest serendipitous moment occurred this week when I traveled to San Antonio with my husband, who was attending a conference in the river city. I happened to be cruising on Facebook our second morning here when I saw that my childhood friend, Jodi, was also in San Antonio visiting her son and family.

Such a serious child

We grew up together in a small Michigan town. Her family lived four doors up from me, and Jodi and her brothers were my only childhood friends until I started school. My mother was very protective of me, and I was not allowed to play much outside of my own side and back yard. So Jodi and Jimbo often came to me, thankfully. I didn’t have a happy childhood for the most part, but Jodi’s free spirit and friendly smile brought some of my happiest memories to me there on Cherry Street.

Jodi moved to Denver, and I moved to Florida. We lost contact with one another until the advent of Facebook, where we reconnected once again. We met up at her house two years ago in Colorado when we traveled there from our home in Pittsburgh for yet another conference. It was lovely meeting her husband, seeing her house, and catching up.

So when I saw she was in the same city, I messaged her, and we met for lunch yesterday, without the hubbies. It was a lunch where we lost track of time–Jodi was almost late for picking up her granddaughter from preschool.

Here’s what I most enjoyed about the lunch: I’ve known this woman since my earliest memories, which means I’ve known her almost sixty years. We’ve borne children, gone through serious and fun times without each other knowing; we bear some lovely white hairs, have a few wrinkles around our eyes, and we’ve lost loved ones. Yet as I sat there amid the dirty plates and mostly empty margarita glasses, I saw her as the young playmate who brought her toys down to play with me in my yard. And I realized that because of this pretty woman sitting across from me, I do have some childhood memories worth remembering.

When Elvis walked by our table in his white cape and pumped-up black hair, our day was complete, even though he ignored our requests of a photo with him. He didn’t even throw us a scarf as he left the building. But we giggled like ten-year old kids when he swept by without a word.

Serendipity is the “phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for” according to Merriam-Webster. Our lunch together was both valuable and agreeable, so if turning sixty means these phenomena happen more frequently, then bring it on. I’m ready.feather

Serendipity can come softly like a feather floating down from the sky or it can hit us like a sledgehammer on the head. No matter how it enters my life, I’m ready to embrace it.

Do you recognize serendipity when it floats softly into your life?

 

Odyssey to Myself – #New Release

I named this blog “Living Lightly” because that is my intention every single day of my life–to live lightly. I didn’t start out with the lightest of hearts. I’ve had to travel down many roads to arrive where I am today. Perhaps the most traveled decade of my life occurred from 2000-2010 on a physical, mental, and spiritual level. During that decade of falling down, standing up, falling down, and standing up once again, I wrote.

I finally took all those writings–from my columns, blog posts, and journal writings–and put them together in my new book, Odyssey to Myself. The book is available in paperback and on Kindle.

Click here for Kindle version

Click on cover for Kindle version

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Click on cover for paperback

Odyssey to Myself is a world travel guide for trips to Morocco, Italy, Panama, Chile, and down Route 66 in the United States. The compilation of essays show Muslim women dressed in hijabs and working in Casablanca. Moroccan history and food provide a colorful backdrop as the author explores her place in the world.

About Odyssey to Myself:

Take a trip to Casablanca, Marrakech, Tuscany, Bocas del Toro, and Santiago as P.C. Zick writes about her experiences traveling outside the confines of her small world. Observations about life and culture bring to life the sights, sounds, and smells of the ancient alleyways of Fes, the masters of Italy, and the strategic location of Panama. The people of Morocco, Italy, Panama, and Chile come to life through the experiences of the author as she absorbs the cultures so different from her own.

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A Couscous Luncheon in Casablanca

From Odyssey to Myself:

“Traveling removes us from our small safe environment and thrusts out into the world. When I travel, I realize what a tiny ripple my life is in the ocean’s constant waves. A few months ago, I had to endure a full body MRI that lasted more than two hours. I almost swooned when the nurse told me how long I’d be in that long encompassing tunnel. She recommended I remain awake because if I moved after falling asleep, they’d have to pull me out and begin again. I did not want that to happen. My brain fought against any touch of claustrophobia as they closed me in the tube and sent me inside the machine. I frantically searched through the files in my brain. With a little prayer for help, I went into the tube and decided to travel in my memories back to the most important trips of my life.

The first trip I remembered was my visit to Morocco in 2004. I knew it was a watershed year as many things had been happening in my life, and I went on the trip to heal and find direction. I began with my arrival in Casablanca in the early morning hours after flying all night from New York City. It came back so vividly I could even smell and feel the air of my travels during a magical two weeks. Then I started on Italy from 2005, where my daughter and I went for a month to celebrate her graduation from college. I’d only gotten through the first two days when I heard a voice say they were pulling me out of the tunnel. I cursed silently, thinking I must have moved as I remembered walking the streets of Milan and marveling at all the beautiful shoes.

“You were a great patient,” the nurse said. “It didn’t take quite two hours, but almost. You’re done.”

That’s the beauty of travel. It removes us from our world into a kaleidoscope of colors, smells, noises, and textures. This book explores some of those experiences as I embarked on an odyssey to find myself during one of the darkest decades of my life.”

Drinking from the fountain in Assisi

Drinking from the fountain in Assisi

Living #Diego Rivera’s A Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the #Alameda Central

Alameda, Mexico City

Alameda, Mexico City

Our first full day, Sunday, in Mexico City brought us to the Alameda Central seeking a late lunch and the Museo Mural Diego Rivera. We found both with unexpected pleasures.

It took us a little while to find a restaurant serving authentic Mexican food. We passed three Burger Kings, two KFCs, a Pizza Hut, and a Krispy Kreme as we walked down the sidewalks lining the Alameda Central. Finally, we spied something that looking interesting. La Trainera beckoned us into its open doors where Jimena Garcia greeted us.

“Are you open for lunch?” I asked.

Jimena answered, “Si, si.”

She brought out a large platter of seafood from which to pick our lunch selection. “I’m sorry I don’t have a menu in English,” she said in impeccable English.

Jimena Garcia, manager of La Trainera, Alameda

Jimena Garcia, manager of La Trainera, Alameda

We chose the red snapper, plus lots of other suggestions by Jimena.

The staff spoiled us for eating anywhere else. The minute my glass of Perrier came close to empty, a waiter materialized to fill my glass. We ate the best cerviche so far on our young trip (and still the best we ate while in Mexico). It was stocked full of shrimp, octopus, and a white fish–all cooked. They began bringing dishes of black beans, rice, corn tortillas, guacamole, salsas, moles, and chips. Then the beautiful red snapper broiled with mild crushed red chiles spread on the fish appeared. The best fish I’ve ever had in a restaurant. Jimena told us the restaurant began as a seafood market and expanded to a restaurant. We’re very grateful it did. The meal we ate there ranks as the best meal ever.

We then began our journey through the park of the Alameda Central, which takes its name from alamos or poplar trees, planted there in the Sixteenth Century. The many fountains are interspersed with trees and lavender bushes in full bloom.naturalspace The park is a gathering place for families on Sunday afternoons. Many of the museums offer free admission so folks can get into see some of the best art of Mexico.

Museo Nacional de Arte

Museo Nacional de Arte

There are several fountains where children and some adults splashed while other family members looked on.

fountainsI’m impressed. Here we were in one of the biggest cities in the world, and yet folks have found their community in the middle of it. We’re not sure why, but many folks were wearing red plastic noses and Santa Claus hats. No matter to us why it was happening; it was wonderful to see such abandon by adults, teenagers, and youngsters alike. I’m not sure we have anything like it in the United States.funtimes

We continued our journey to the Museo Mural Diego Rivera where Mexico’s favorite artist painted and lived. The museum displays his Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central.

The mural shows the history of Mexico along with the dreams and recollections of Diego Rivera. mural1 mural2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It includes two-self portraits and a portrait of his wife and fellow painter, Frida Kahlo.

The small boy is Diego Rivera and standing behind him is Frida Kahlo

The small boy is Diego Rivera and standing behind him is Frida Kahlo

As we gazed at the long mural, musicians began setting up in front of it.  Eventually, they began a program of music with a flutist, pianist, and two operatic vocalists. They stood in front of the painting and serenaded us with songs all in the beautiful and flowing language of Spanish. After two songs, we went up to the second floor rooms to view paintings by other famous Mexican muralists. As I wandered, I could still hear the music as the upper floor was almost a balcony over the main gallery room.

The chords of a familiar song began, but I was certain it couldn’t really be Somewhere Over the Rainbow, but it was. I went to the balcony railing and looked down upon the two female vocalists standing in front of Rivera’s masterpiece. It was difficult to take a photo because of my tears. The women looked up at me as they sang. I threw them kisses at the end, and they bowed their heads slightly in my direction.

 

It was the perfect ending to our Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Crabs and Writing

DSC02602 By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from writing regular blog posts. I suppose I could blame it on summer. Having more daylight hours means having more things to do, such as gardening, boating/kayaking, and golfing.

The garden isn’t doing much these days because the added rainfall has made things a bit too soggy for our tomatoes. I haven’t canned one single sauce yet this summer. But I have been out on the water relaxing and thinking up all sorts of topics for my blog. I have so many topics written down on a pad of paper that I don’t know where to begin.

So I’ll write about Maryland crabs. We recently went to the Maryland coast and visited the Red Roost restaurant near Assateague Island. The place is an old converted chicken farm, which lends itself well to the casual atmosphere inside.DSC02600

My husband and I had never experienced eating Maryland crabs, but our waitress was pleased to help us. It’s not unlike lobster, except it’s a lot more work.

We ordered the bucket which came with scallops, shrimp, clams, and corn. And six crabs, which we thought was plenty for us newbies.

Our bucket came with ten crabs instead. We set to work becoming experts after the first one. The meat is sweet, but in small bites. It might make for a good diet because you are forced to eat very slow.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely as we experienced something together for the first time. But we both agreed we’d had our fill of Maryland crabs for a very long time.

???????????????????????????????What have you been doing this summer? Anything exotic (I know it’s hard to beat eating crabs in an old chicken house, but I bet you can!)?