Monthly Archives: November 2014

Garfield Produce…the movie!

This blog is about creativity and the things that inspire it. Though recently my posts have focused on travel, (which is relevant because travel provides incredible stimuli for creative work), today I want to share an inspiring story of a new company that is creatively tackling a mighty challenge. What is the challenge? Creating lasting and meaningful jobs for disenfranchised people in urban Chicago. What is their solution?

Drumroll…Start a farm! 

Wait…what?

The creativity continues! Here is a scallop martini handcrafted by my friend, Doug, using Garfield Produce greens.

Unusual? Definitely. A pipe dream? Definitely not. Garfield Produce emerges out of the confluence of people needing good work and people needing good food. Meanwhile, Chicago is full of empty lots, old buildings, and unemployed people. Garfield Produce sees these as assets, not liabilities. The Garfield team has devised a way to use these neglected spaces, employ people in the community, and make a sustainable farming business thrive in strained inner city neighborhoods. Through hydroponic technology, Garfield can grow crops indoors year-round and supply grocers and restaurants with healthy, local alternatives, while simultaneously creating opportunities for people to develop new skill sets and find new livelihoods.

This is serious out-of-the-box thinking that continues to inspire me. When my friend Steve told me about his businesses, his passion was contagious. I wanted in on this creative flow. Specifically, I wanted to tell this story. The challenge was how. There were many different angles to take. Should I focus on Steve’s personal story? He is the child of immigrants who had to reconcile his family’s expectations with his own longing to serve others in innovative ways. Or should I focus on the diversity of the group? The staff could hardly be comprised of more different people: a Chinese American 30-year-old engineer, two suburban retirees, and one middle-aged African American gentleman starting his life over. Or should I talk about the hydroponic technology? It miraculously recycles 95% of the water! As you can see, I had a lot to noodle through.

In the end, I realized that the reason Garfield is unique is because it’s not just about the food; it seeks to bring redemption and renewal into people’s lives. The story of Larry, their first employee, exemplifies this purpose, and therefore it was his story I needed to tell. See what you think! Enjoy!

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Photo Friday: Music of The Emerald Isle

One of the reasons I love traveling is seeing the places where art forms were born. Being in these places adds an appreciation for the art that you can’t get from museums or books. I often find that art forms make more sense once you see the people and landscapes that inspired them. For instance, Spanish surrealism seems somehow less surreal when driving through arid regions of Spain surrounded by rainbows. Similarly, I have a deep appreciation for the realism Impresssionism achieves now that I have witnessed the speckled light that dances along the rolling hills of Southern France.

And now, having explored the Green Isle, Irish music just seems to make more sense. Austria may be the home of hills alive with the sound of music, but the dramatic landscapes of Ireland just make me want to sing and dance. When the sun reveals the white sheep that dot the green hill, or shimmers on the waves as they roll and crash on the crags, or illuminates the red roses climbing their walls, I just want to celebrate with song. And that is what the Irish musicians do in every pub, every night. It just makes sense.

To illustrate my point, listen to one of my favorite Irish traditional tunes*. As you listen, scroll through these photos and take in the wonderful pairing between the music and the land.

 

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(*By the way, last March Pandora placed a St. Patrick’s Day station on my playlist, and since then it has been one of my favorite things. I find it really helps me focus when I work!)

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Top 6 Reflections on Ireland

“Eight days is not much time, I must say,” said a friend who has spent many summers in Ireland. She sounded as though there was no point in going unless I planned to stay a good long while. I brushed off the comment. Eight days was what we had and we were going to use them well.

But after eight days, I see what she means. Once you are in Ireland, you just kind of want to stay there.

It is not to say that we didn’t use our eight days well, but travelers sell Ireland short by trying to “conquer,” i.e. cover as much territory as possible. It is a “smell the roses” kind of place, through and through. As I look back at the highlights of those eight days, the touristy things like the Jameson Distillery or the Beehive huts aren’t what I remember first. It is the conversations we had with the people we met. It is taking in the colors of the town of Kinsale. It is the taste of Guinness and stew. It is the smell of conifers and sea water along the Ring of Kerry. It is the sound of the rain on the windows as heard from the toasty fireside. I feel so grateful that we had these moments. I want more.

And this leads me to my five bits of advice for you…

1) Take your time. It is clear that going back to Ireland is not an IF but a WHEN. Because this will likely be the case for you as well, I urge you not to feel like you have to see as much as possible. Choose just a couple destinations and stay there long enough to pick out your favorite pubs and catch as much live Irish music as possible. You will be happy you did.

Beware.

2) Driving, umm…. They drive on the left in Ireland. But this is not the problem. The problem is that they have ridiculously fast speed limits. No one in their right mind should go as fast as they suggest, especially when the stone walls are only four inches away from your car (no exaggeration). Also, signage may or may not be there for you when you need it. Yet another reason not to rush.

3) Talk to people. So Josh bought this sweater. The whole process ended up taking almost an hour. Some people might be annoyed by this, but our conversation with the shop owner is probably my favorite memory from Ireland. “What do ya do in America for Lent?” he asked in a thick Irish brogue. “Do ya know what we do here? We give up drinkin! It’s da hardest six weeks of der year. Now you know dat some people say dat Lent ends on Maunday Thursdee. But do you know what dey do on Good Fridee? Dey close da pubs! A real shame, dat is. Der was dis one Good Fridee dat I went down to a hotel because I heard dat dey served beer. So I go in an have a dinner and ask for a Guinnesss. And do you know what dey say ter me? ‘We only serve to guests.’ So I book a room, and 200 euros later, I have my beer!”

4) Get excited about the hospitality. Midway through our trip, we stayed two nights at the Seaview House in Ballylickey, the nicest hotel I have ever been to in my life and in the town with the greatest name ever. It was there we met Mary, the paragon of hospitality, who had been working at the hotel for 30 years. After getting lost in the dark and finding the hotel much later than we planned, she welcomed us in with open arms and made sure we were warmed and fed. Her jolly demeanor immediately set us all at ease. The next day, the wet weather changed our plans, but she was not phased when we asked to have our packed lunch saved for dinner. When we came back and sat by the fire, she brought in sandwiches, cookies, fruit, tea, and coffee on a platter and knelt down to serve us and entertain us with little jokes. Then when my mother-in-law offered to help clear the table, Mary was so flattered she gave her a big hug.

5) Drink Stonewell Cider. Best. Cider. Ever.

6) Prepare to get wet. It rained every other day we were there, and threatened to rain the rest of it. I am told this is very normal, so gear up and don’t fuss about it. No one likes a sourpuss. Plus, when the sun does make an appearance, it makes you all the gladder.

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Photo Friday: Rome at Night

DSC_0198Again, let me express how wonderful Rome can be. As I said in my last post, each day in Rome we just kept walking until our feet refused to take us further. I can’t remember a moment when we weren’t 110% fascinated by the sights, smells, and stories all around us.

And then, there’s Rome at night.

Let me pontificate a minute. I’m a big fan of third spaces. For instance, I’m writing this from a coffee shop. But America is late to the third space game. Even with our coffee shop culture we struggle to feel at ease in public. There are few places where we go to just BE. This is especially true in the evenings when coffee shops close, restaurants do everything they can to get turnover, and bars get so loud you can’t hear yourself think, let alone hear your companions talk.  By contrast, many European cultures thrive through their third spaces. London has its pubs. Paris has its cafes. In these spaces you can come and go at your leisure. You can be social or you can be alone. They are places to relax and to smell the roses.

And Rome? Well, Rome has piazzas. Piazza Navona, Piazza di Santa Maria (well, really all of Trastavere), and Campo di Fiori, among others. These open spaces in the middle of the city fill up at night with people of all ages coming to watch street performers, eat and drink in the cafes that line the square, and soak up the thrilling atmosphere. I treasure our evenings in Rome sitting by fountains to people-watch, and seeing the sunlight turn from gold to pink to purple, slowly yielding to the soft yellows and reds from lights in the homes and restaurants. Magical. That’s the word. Magical.

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mesmerized by the street performer

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caught the moment

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At night AND in the Rain…double fun!

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AmoRomA

DSC_2591I friggin’ love Rome. I didn’t think I would. But I do.

Actually, I didn’t know what to expect from Rome. Friends who shared about their trips to Italy never talked much about Rome. The city was conspicuously absent from their tales, and as our train approached Rome, I wondered why. Of course, you hear about the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Forum, yada yada yada; everyone knows about them, everyone goes to them, so they don’t warrant further explanation. But other than hearing about how many of the Roman sights required advance booking (FYI, this is very true; don’t skip this step for either the Vatican or the Borghese Gallery), and that my sister thought the pizza was bad (FYI, she was very wrong; you just need to know where to look), we learned precious little about it.

But what about Rome itself? What is the city like? Would we be enchanted like in Paris? Would we be charmed as in London? Would we be jumping out of the way of mopeds like in Florence? No one ever told me what to expect.

And so it was we set out from our guesthouse with some apprehension. Our landlady, Vitoria, had armed us with a map on which she had circled the important things and scrawled the bus numbers we needed to know. When she described –in a combination of English, Spanish, and Italian, mind you–the order in which we were to tackle the sights, it sounded like a military operation. So off we went, uncertain.

Strolling in Rome But the further we walked the more we appreciated the colorful plaster facades, the gleaming stones that paved the streets, and the vistas that emerged at the crests of the hills. We turned corners and found pieces of ancient buildings and monuments interspersed between more modern ones. The hodgepodge delighted us. The whole city seemed like a patchwork quilt, its makers unperturbed that the squares all came from different millennia. The late September sun warmed us throughout the day at a perfect 73 degrees. DSC_2602So we just kept going.

Oh my, that’s the Colosseum right in front of us! Ooo, that building has such beautiful flowers. See Trajan’s Column? It has 2500 figures carved into its spiraling frieze. Look, there’s an older couple singing a duet on the street corner and they can only kind of carry a tune. Those columns on the Pantheon are ginormous. Is that St. Peter’s? It is St. Peter’s–All lit up at night!

We just kept walking until feet refused to take us any further.

And as if I didn’t have enough reasons to be tickled by Rome, I just discovered that “I Love Rome” in Italian is a palindrome: Amo Roma.

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Trajan's Column

Trajan’s Column

Trajan's Column

Trajan’s Column

Josh sitting on Ancient Rome

Josh sitting on Ancient Rome

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Hello, Spello!

It’s a rainy, gray day here in Nashville. Bleckh.

But what better remedy for the dismal grayness than to let my mind wander back to a brilliantly sunny day when we biked through the Umbrian countryside to the charming hillside village of Spello.

Hello, Spello. Hello, Spello. That is really fun to say.

Oh, Spello. How I long for your blooming flower boxes and squiggly streets. How I long to taste the delights of your prosciutto or your gelato. It was a charmed day, that day in Spello.

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