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Travel: Home Cooking

   The routine is always the same.

   I walk into our kitchen, a place that is deeply familiar and filled with all the pleasant associations of my family, and I pull out everything I will need. Methodically, listening to the radio or letting my mind wander, I chop onion, celery and carrots into the mirepoix that will form the base of a pot of homemade soup. Sauteing the vegetables, I separate two, three, sometimes four garlic cloves and chop them, tossing the aromatic pieces into the olive oil and butter with the other ingredients. Then I fill the big pot with stock, chicken or vegetable, add seasoning and put it on the stove to simmer. Sometimes I add leftover chicken but usually it is meat-free. In an hour or so our meal is done. I slice the bread, set the table and call out that dinner is ready. We pick up our spoons, take the first sip, and I know I am home.

   Food, as we all learn quickly enough, as newborn babies crying out in hunger and frustration, does more than just feed us. Food comforts. Food connects and unites us. It brings us closer and broadens our tastes. Food carries us forward and, as we get older and years escape us,  reminds us of the past.

   In some elemental way, soup captures all of that for me. It is simple, inexpensive and quickly prepared but it carries so much more than just flavor.

   For years now, after returning home from a trip, especially when no one could get away to come along with me, I’ve made soup when I got back and I’ve come to realized it is more than an act of putting food on the table. Sometimes, when I grabbed a cheap fare and took an impulsive journey, giving in to the temptation to travel, the meal is part apology. Other times, when my work took me away and I was busy and frustrated, it is part recompense, a way to make up for my short absence.

   But always, whether anyone sitting around the table knows or even cares, the act of making and sharing a pot of homemade soup, of gathering over the savory fragrance of simple ingredients, is an act of love. It is a way to say leaving this place and these people always hurts a little. And that coming home to chop and and stir and season a meal to feed them, somehow feeds me more.


For more about travel and homecoming, read Traveling Mothers

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington, whose essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Travel Brings Couples Closer Together

   If you're looking for a way to strengthen your relationship, try hitting the road. Together.

   According to a survey by the U.S. Travel Association, couples who travel together find more satisfaction. They experience better communication and have longer-lasting relationships. They are more romantic.

   Today is Valentine’s Day and millions of cards, boxes of candy and restaurant dinners will be purchased. And then tomorrow morning life will go back to the old routine. But that’s the thing important thing about travel. After a trip, nothing is ever quite the same again. Even if it is only the addition of a few more photos on your cell phone, or a kitschy souvenir on a shelf in the living room, the everyday world we live in has been subtly changed.
 
   Shared experiences deepen our connection with one another. We can be one of thousands of passengers on a cruise ship but the memories we will bring home are intimate and singular: sunsets watched from the deck, wine at dinner, a kiss in the dark.

   Whether it is crossing Europe by train, watching geysers in Yellowstone, thrilling to the sight of whales breaching off the coast of Alaska, exploring ancient ruins in Mexico or even a spur-of-the-moment weekend in the city, what comes back with us after any shared travel experience is the sense of having been a part of something that now belongs to us alone. We linger over memories of having had an adventure, of overcoming the ordinary obstacles that complicate any kind of travel. We celebrate the planning and saving and scheduling that made the trip happen or the exhilaration of giving into an impulse to escape.

   Travel with the one we love sparks the imagination and teases curiosity. It soothes us and relaxes us. It helps us remember what drew us to one another in the first place.

   Humans are hardwired with a need to share and couples who travel together fall into another kind of love. They get hooked and want more. They look forward to another destination, another pin on the map, more photos in the album. And, always, one more kiss.


Read the U.S. Travel Association study here

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

  

“Well, that was a good outing”

Do all couples have at least one person who, upon returning home from doing errands together, issues a general pronouncement on the merits of the excursion?

Just wondering

Is this seating arrangement generational, socio-political or purely a matter of couples dynamics?

www.flintstonesgaleria.blogspot.com

And if it is a comfort thing, surely Wilma and Betty had longer legs than Barney.

Valentine Swan Song

  (photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

 

    The wind slipped cold, cruel fingers down my collar and teased at the heavy scarf around my neck and it fluttered and danced around my face as I walked carefully down the slushy sidewalk. The afternoon sun was high and bright but the temperature was still bitingly cold.
    I’d been wandering in and out of the shops that line the main street of Traverse City, Michigan,  looking for some kind of token to bring home with me. Valentine’s Day was coming.

    I picked up a few things as I shopped: jam made from Michigan cherries, a postcard, a pair of gloves. But nothing carried the true weight of what I wanted to say.

    Finally, running out of time, I turned off the main street and walked toward the shore of the Lake.


    As I navigated the path, I was careful to avoid the iciest patches. The deep snow formed a high white wall around the edge of the lake and I noticed there were no other footprints. A few cars were parked at the edge and the occupants were protected as they ate their lunches and gazed out at the water, but no one else was foolish enough to get out and face the relentless cold.

    I stood there, open to the wind that poured across the lake freezing everything in it’s path. My face was numb, my eyes watered. My toes and fingers ached.

    The deep azure color of the lake, rimmed by snowy beaches and green hills, flowed up toward the sky in bands of blue broken only by small clouds.  There was a skim of ice on the water closest to the shore and for a few minutes I watched a pair of swans, side-by-side, floating languidly in the frigid water. I remembered reading that swans mate for life and wondered, again, if it is true.

     
     Finally, surrendering, I pushed my hands deeply into my pockets and started to turn away but stopped when the pair of swans moved. As I watched, in a slow, subtle, water-ballet, the pair turned slightly toward one another, long necks gracefully arched, heads pointed down to the water, swimming breast to breast. And for a moment, at least from where I was standing, the space between them formed the shape of a perfect heart.

    Swans live their lives the same way so many humans do, it’s just that our seasons are longer. We court in the spring, have our young in the summer and in the winter, after the young have left the nest, we are content to swim alone, close to our mate for comfort and company.


    My fingers were cold and too slow to bring out my camera and by the time I pressed the shutter the swans had turned away. But I had found my Valentine.


    I was looking for a card or a gift but it took a pair of wild winter swans to show me the way.
 This Valentine's Day, all I really want to say is that when we are winter birds, I will still be here. I will always be the other half of the heart.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Religious conservatives vow to overturn “everything but marriage” bill at the ballot…

Conservative religious groups are preparing a voter referendum to overturn a bill granting same-sex partners most of the rights and responsibilities of spouses.

Senate Bill 5688 passed the legislature yesterday and is headed to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law.

Proponents say it’s a simple matter of fairness, that same-sex couples and their children deserve the same sort of protections and rights that married couples have. Opponents argue that the bill, after a trip through court, will lead to same-sex marriage.

This afternoon, Faith & Freedom’s Gary Randall emailed a note to supporters:

While the lawmakers were voting in favor of homosexual marriage in the Capitol, I and several other leaders in the faith community were meeting a few blocks away, finalizing details before filing a referendum to overturn this legislation.

…Their next step will be an easy one them. Litigate, correctly claiming there is no legal difference, then claim discrimination and it’s a done deal.

They will have successfully done an end-run on the State Supreme Court ruling which upheld DOMA and will have dismantled the Defense of Marriage Act.

If same-sex marriage becomes reality in Washington (as it has in four other states), he argues, Washington “will become a national attraction for homosexuals” from other states and countries.

More from the e-mail:

We know we will be outspent probably 6 to 1 or more on this referendum campaign, however we are equally confident, people of faith and conservatives will do all they can do to help us.

Proponents of the bill have repeatedly said they expect a referendum, and are prepared to take the debate to the public.

Voices: quotes from the House and Senate hearings on Washington’s everything-but-marriage bill for domestic partners…

Rather than try to shoehorn my lengthy print story into a blog post, here are some quotes from yesterday’s standing-room-only hearings on the “everything but marriage” law for state-registered domestic partners in Washington.

“You may not consider my family a family, but I know in my heart that they are. So will you please pass this bill, so that everyone can know that this is my family?”
-Benjamin, the 10-year-old son of one Seattle lesbian couple

“Genuine marriage has provided for the foundation of healthy and harmonious family living for civilized societies for centuries. It does not exist just for the emotional satisfaction, affirmation or validation of individuals, but for the greater good of the social order.”
-Larry Stickney, with the Washington Values Alliance

“When our kids now ask us if we’re married, we say, ‘Not in the eyes of the law, but yes, we are married in our hearts.’”
-Amie Bishop, a social worker and mother of Benjamin.

“It was said that (same-sex marriages briefly performed in Oregon) never existed. It was a devastating and humiliating experience. All of sudden, we felt totally negated, and that we and our relationship did not exist and there was no protection for us.”
-retired National Guard Col. Grethe Cammermeyer.

“They should be satisfied withthe status quo. Enough is enough.”
-a grandmother whose name I didn’t get.

“I say this respectfully, but there’s going to come a time when we’re all going to have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for things done in the flesh.”
-Roy Hartwell, pastor of a church near Olympia.

“We’re here, we’re coming, we’re voting…We’re voting in your districts … We’re voting for this.”
-David Iseminger of Seattle.

“We vote as well…We will be back.”
-Gary Randall, with the Faith and Freedom Network

(For more context on the quotes, click on the story link above.)