Some words of wisdom.
I just returned from a month sabbatical in India. I left my computer, phone, children, husband, business and all other cares behind. There were moments of doubt leading up to the trip as to whether it was the right thing. I am very directly involved in being a parent and in running my business (a lot of overlap as Happy Girl is truly my 3rd child). I wasn't sure if it was too selfish of me to leave both for so long and I was not sure what consequences I would return to. I am happy to report that everyone did great with out me and although I was missed, it didn't fall apart without me. It was actually perfect timing. Life can be so intense that it is great to take a true break for reflection and wisdom and I am sure that I have returned a better wife, mother and worker due to my time away (once I get over my jet lag!!!!).
I had an amazing time taking walks, boat rides and rickshaw rides. I ate the most delicious food I have ever had and actually gained weight! I gained a lot of inspiration from taking classes. I received peace from visiting ancient temples and singing and dances. I even had a lot of fun spending a day shopping in New Delhi for all the latest fashions. It was a perfect mix. While there I discovered that my word for this year is going to be "deliberate". I meditated on this word and on bringing deliberate actions into my life. Last years meditation was my year to say "no" and now I further that with deliberate actions and ideas for 2016. If you are deliberate then you have the time to deliberate. Making decisions with a thorough consideration, weighing the consequences and staying focused and determined on the goals. This takes discipline and intention. I am ready for it!
Pictured below: 1. A funny sign that I wish was posted whenever I was veering from my path. 2. A local sadu who discovered the coziness and fashion of micro fleece. 3. I was trying to explain to our driver that riding on the back bumper was just not allowed in my country! 4. A desire tree where people tie on a wish and when it falls off it comes true. What is your desire? 5. A huge feast cooked in an outdoor kitchen on the dirt floor (none of us got sick!). 6. a beautiful larger than life temple I visited in Mayapur.
Take some time to reflect and refresh!
We have taken a much needed break and it has been very refreshing. It is amazing how getting out of your own environment and rhythms and visiting new places and old friends can be so inspiring. First thing on this trip we visited the Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, Vermont. It is the last woolen spinnery in Vermont and if you are ever in the neighborhood you should definately stop in and ask for a tour. Their collection of old equipment is really amazing. I came out of my knitting slump of 10 years and let each of the kids pick out some wool that I would make them whatever they wanted with. My son asked for mittens and the helpful lady behind the counter printed off some free pattern for simple mittens. It was a perfect engagement for me to do while we were driving or relaxing around friends wood fires. It can be hard for me to relax and so it is great to have a small social project that was easy to do.
Next stop was our dear friend, jemima's homestead where she grew up. Jemima is my stunt double (she is pictured above holding my daughter) and has worked markets with Happy Girl for a decade now. We have always appreciated her mood and visiting her homestead helps us understand why! It was truly amazing to see the 175 acres of land she grew up on. We hiked the property until we froze and then tumbled into the tiny kitchen and cooked a simple feast. She later remarked that she did not think such a spontaneous and delicious party was had in that kitchen for 20 years. The simple pleasures ring true once again!
When we were packing for our trip, there was no snow in the forecast and it was 50-70 degrees in the North East! But, we kept hope alive and continued to sing the song "snow" from "White Christmas" our whole way up to Vermont. We woke up to a happy surprise of a snow storm our first morning in Vermont! We put on whatever layers we could and hit the sledding hill with a pack of kids, sleds and even a dog named fiddle. Our friend is a wood-worker and has even made some snurfers which are modeled after some of the first snowboards ever made. It was a beautiful morning!
We then visited another friend a little farther up in a place called Craftsbury. He is an organic farmer and has a 600 member CSA year round! We arrived on the farm sharply at 6 pm just as the broom ball game was about to begin. None of us had ever played Broom Ball, but the sight was truly amazing. We pulled around the back of the processing building and saw a field that had been plowed with the tractors and the tractors were sitting on the perimeter of the field with their headlights on to light up the field. The game was intense! Everyone was very passionately running and chasing the ball with the brooms. We were a little intimidated to join in the intensity of the whole game with our whole family including our 8 year old. But we were heartily welcomed in to the scene and we had a blast in our tennis shoes and with socks on our hands for gloves! It was a wild romp with our long lost friends and a great way to reconnect.
I eventually finished the children's requests much to my husband's surprise! It was fun learning a new pattern and having the time and patience to tear it all out and start over again and again. I felt new brain paths being paved that have been inactive for years. The perfect way to get refreshed to return to my world with new life and vigor. Learn or do something new this winter. Get refreshed!
This week we have some fun events going on.
Happy Girl Holiday Craft Fair - December 4th 6-8pm, December 5th 10-3pm
Come join us at our casual, carefully curated fair featuring local artists. Come eat some wonderful food, meet great people and revel in the holiday cheer!
December 9th - Pop up dinner honoring Tom Coke
When I say "everyones favorite farmer" you know what I mean. The older couple who have been farming forever - you can see it in their eyes, from their boots and on their hands. We have such a farmer at our local, Friday farmers market at MPC and his name is Tom Coke. He is the older guy who pulls up in his old flat bed truck and pulls the awning off of his truck and immediately has a line 10 people thick. He knows many of them and offers a brief conversation for a chance to connect. He wears his overalls and packs up and drives off from market promptly at 1pm every week because he needs to get back to the farm to prepare for Saturday's market. He mildly chastises us that we need to show up early if we want the selection that he offers. We all adore Tom Coke and so I decided to throw a dinner for him.
The dinner that night will be sourced largely from his farm. He grows the world's best polenta, cannellini beans and even his own flours. He grows an amazing variety of vegetables and the best Meyer Lemons. Please join us to gather around great food during these holidays! Reserve your spot HERE!
Proposed menu to whet your appetite:
Pickles + Cheese + Crackers
Turnips 3 ways + Sorrel
Herbed Polenta + Rustic Greens
Cannellini Beans + Dry Farmed Tomatoes
Mixed Baby Lettuces + Watermelon Radish + Lemon Balsamic
Lemon Curd + Yogurt + Hazelnut Crumble
December 10, 5:30-8pm PIZZA NIGHT AT HAPPY GIRL
You know you want it! A fun gathering of families and friends eating Cayley's amazing pizza and listening to the player piano. You can also take pizza to go!
Pictures are worth a thousand words. We couldn't be happier with our new roaster. It is amazing what can happen when the right partnerships are formed. I wish that every business alliance I had felt this good. Please enjoy this photo montage of our launch party and know that we wish you were there!!!
Happy Girl switches roasters.
So, you may be wondering why Happy Girl Kitchen Co. switched coffee roasters anyway….It was a midsummer nights dream (or was it a nightmare?). Blue Bottle sent out an email one day that said, "It is bittersweet that I bring you news of a change in direction for Blue Bottle Coffee. After careful consideration, Blue Bottle Coffee’s leadership have made the difficult decision to close the wholesale division
". I was so upset when I received that email. We have known James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle, since his farmers market days, and as soon as we opened our cafe it was obvious to us that we were going to go with Blue Bottle Coffee. I have loved it since the day I tried it and I was not even a coffee drinker. As a business owner, I am used to being the one to call the shots and since this major change did not come from me, I was taken aback.
We were given a 3-month notice and so the mandatory search for a new roaster began. Some asked "why not go with a truly local roaster close to home?" I really respect our ultra local roasters and appreciate what they do, but here at Happy Girl we want to provide this area with a unique experience. We also spend a lot of time in the Bay Area and our delivery driver, Randy, drives through the city every week on deliveries and pick ups and so a roaster up there is just as local for us. And so our search naturally took us beyond our ultra local roasters to the city.
There are A LOT of third-wave coffee roasters in the Bay Area and we were really impressed. One of the problems about us finding a new roaster is that, as I mentioned before, I have always loved Blue Bottle Coffee, but I really did not know quite why. I wasn't sure what I liked about it, but now I have to figure out what it was and there is a lot that goes into the relationship with your roaster. There are so many factors that make a difference. The careful sourcing is a huge part of it as coffee beans have a lot of drama and abuse surrounding them. It is important for roasters to have a personal relationship with all of it’s farmers, just as Happy Girl does with all of her farmers. The flavor of the coffee and its consistency is another huge factor. The quality of a roasters training program for our baristas is very important to me. It is a chance for them to impart their lives passion on our baristas and get them fired up about the quality and the product after all, the baristas are the last in the long chain of a good cup of coffee! This is a complicated partnership to develop.
Wikipedia defines third wave coffee roasters as "The third wave of coffee
refers to a current movement to produce high-quality coffee
, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine
, rather than a commodity. This involves improvements at all stages of production, from improving coffee plant growing, harvesting, and processing, to stronger relationships between coffee growers, traders, and roasters, to higher quality and fresh roasting, at times called "microroasting" (by analogy with microbrew
beer), to skilled brewing."
(PHOTOS left to right: amazing choices, stamp of approval, our tasting chart of roaster visits by 7 year old Jaya)
Having so many options within the Bay Area was a good problem to have. I had my initial prejudices and I even made grand proclamations that "I would NEVER choose this or that roaster." I am known to enjoy using the words "never" and "always" even though I know they should be used with extreme caution. I think we should all just admit that we have prejudices and it is really all about how we act or do not act upon them. I kept an opened mind. The last roaster that we visited in our journey of 8 different roasters was the one that I said we would NEVER choose. I just thought they were way too Portland for me. Too hip. Too specialty. Too obvious. Of course, within the one hour tour of their facility I was 90% sure that this was going to be our roaster. Our kids were in tow that day and my daughter immediately fell asleep at the bar sitting on a high stool with her head nestled into her folded arms (no, I did not take a photo!). She slept there for our entire visit. Our son tasted their coffee and immediately approved of the roast.
We continued to ask them the same questions we asked the other roasters and really appreciated the answers they gave. You know when you meet someone and feel like long lost friends, well that is how it was over at this final roaster visit. For me the clinch moment was when my preconceived notion of how they got their name was shattered. I pictured 4 whiskey barrels lined up in a cellar somewhere, which were tapped into on occasions reminiscent of the prohibition. We were led up 5 narrow stairs to their little micro-roasting tower for testing coffees. When I say micro roaster I mean it as the little roasters up there hold about 1/4 pound of coffee beans. He explained that this tiny micro roaster with four barrels is where their name comes from as it is used to test all of their coffees before purchase.
(The happy girls group visit, tasting back home, mini roaster!)
Our tour continued like this with my every preconceived notion being shattered one after another. Nothing excites me more than being wrong as I am a very opinionated woman. And so we brought the samples back to our staff and we all unanimously agreed, the votes were in and Four Barrel became our new roaster at Happy Girl. We have all since went up for trainings and introductions and we all love the company. The training is superior to anything we have ever experienced anywhere and their passion for quality really shines. It dawned on me early on that Happy Girl and Four Barrel share some very important values and that we are both very serious about quality, but not about life. I am excited for this new journey with this partnership and realize that what I initially saw as a huge negative turned out being the best thing that could happen to Happy Girl. We know you will agree!
(Kylie up at a training and LOVING IT - you can see the love in her latte art!)
Join us on Thursday evening at the Happy Girl Kitchen Cafe for an amazing dinner spotlighting local farms and everything that is wonderfully in season the day of the feast. We bring in top chefs from the Bay Area to spotlight some of our favorite Central Coast farmers, setting the stage for a magical evening of community, new friends and great food. We are very fortunate that the chef of the evening will be Chef extraordinare Matt Millea.
Chef Matt Millea has the skills to delight your pallete and satisfy your cravings for great food. We feature a different local, organic farm each time and Matt is a master of turning the local harvest into a meal to treasure. We also will highlight a local artist to informally show their work to the community and we raffle off a piece of original artwork. FUN! Live Music and lots of engaging conversation too. Our dinners are always a night to remember!
This event will be BYOB - feel free to bring a bottle of wine for your party... or two to share with new friends!
(this menu is only meant to whet your appetite. The menu for August 13th will be a little different and will depend entirely on what is available on the day of harvest)
- House made pickles + Toma Cheese + crackers
- Houes made Sourdough bread and butter
- Heirloom tomato + Avocado + Basil + Mozzarella
- Ricotta stuffed squash blossoms
- Cannellini Beans + dry farmed tomatoes + garden herbs
- pan-seared Guindilla Peppers
- Corn Risotto + brocollini
- fresh heirloom lettuces with herbs
- blue bottle coffee
- Roasted Peaches + yogurt + Lavender Shortbread + lime drizzle
Dinner starts at 7pm at our cafe and space in Pacific Grove:
173 Central Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
I have a thing for cows! Jordan and Ninny in Norway 1999!I was a staunch vegan until I met Ninny. Taking a half an hour hike to call out for her in her open pasture as the endless sunset of the northern climate was taking place is just the beginning. Sitting in the barn and nuzzling into her side as I milked her and listening to the rumblings and grumblings of her stomachs completely won me over. Cows are such tranquil creatures and their milk is so SWEET!!! I did not remain a vegan for very long. I caved to the pressures of fresh cream and hand picked raspberries - one of the most exquisite desserts on the planet.
With 6 gallons of milk a day, there is a lot of experimenting in the kitchen that can happen. When you hang out with a family cow you really understand why humans discovered so many different ways of preserving the milk....there is so much of it! Can you think of a more diverse single ingredient? Through my travels far and wide, I have been keenly interested in the different ways of preserving food and milk is a true standout. Even amongst the fresh cheeses, yogurts and kefir there is such variety! I can hardly contain my enthusiasm in my cheese workshops and the one last night proved no different. They become a hybrid of preservation workshop and cooking workshop where we make such things as paneer and srikand (a traditional Indian dessert). The possibilities are as endless as the milk supply! Below see some photos from my travels and fun with cows.
Oxen in the winter in Sweden pulling a sleigh!Oxen in India working the field.
Sunrise on the pasture grounds. Friends at Live Earth Farm visiting their ahimsa cow "surabhi". She is who I am currently getting my milk supply from. For inquiries in getting her milk email me at firstname.lastname@example.org