Eating out, dining out.

Eating out, dining out.

So what is the allure of eating/dining out so much?  I live in a community that is populated with so many eating establishments that are always busy from the morning coffee shops, the lunch time cafe’s to the evening bars and restaurants. Come evening time, any day of the week, there is a steady line of cars headed downtown. And, they’re not all headed to the grocery stores which are often quite empty at this hour.

It’s not like the food prepared at most of these places is phenomenal or something that is so unique there is no way one could make this on their own.

I get the social aspect, but, frankly, the few times I eat out I find the ambiance actually annoying.  It’s usually too loud, too bright or too dark and the tables are usually kind of sticky gross. I’m not talking about “fast food” joints, but sit down dinner places with moderately high prices.

What am I missing?  The allure of standing around a bar, getting blitzed on over priced alcohol that is often a cheaper version then what I might serve at home and talking about the same shit with friends is lost on me.  Ok, I get that the people watching can be entertaining. But so is bird watching.

So, we ate dinner out last night. It was dear hubby’s birthday and he likes a good beer on tap, so I thought it would be nice to take him to the local brewery.  Fortunately, he said the glass of beer he had was actually quite nice. But the accolades for dinner out probably end there.

Being one with an auto-immune disease and super sensitive to gluten cross contamination I have to be selective about where and what I eat.  This evening was no exception despite my having contacted the brewery recently and their assuring me they could serve me gluten free food.  Hmmm…. well, the menu had a few little “wheat free symbols”: One starter, one veggie dish, two salads (questionable as one had blue cheese and the other is served with croutons), two more main dish salads with ground beef or Atlantic salmon each at about $20, and one main entree, grilled salmon.  Sucks if one doesn’t like salmon or salads. Yikes!

I ordered the garlic brussel sprouts side dish. They were “so so”.  I make better roasted brussel sprouts at home.  First, they weren’t evenly cooked. A bit too crispy on the outside and rock hard on the inside.  I like my brussel sprouts tender on the inside lending to a creamy texture.  These had way too much garlic and no other apparent seasoning.  I had to add table salt. Yuck!

I was pleased to see a “sort of” local hard cider on tap.  I ordered the Two Rivers Strawberry Apple cider. Granted, I’m a cider snob, but the only thing this had going for it was it wasn’t too sweet and it was fresh.  Otherwise, I would say it had a slightly off taste, maybe from some not so ripe apples.  Like the brussel sprouts, the cider too was bland.

I wanted to order the “wheat free” fries which are cooked in a dedicated fryer, but when the waiter comes back with the message from the chef, “if you’re sensitive to cross contamination, he wouldn’t recommend it as being safe”.  Grrr….. why even have gluten free menus?  Ok, but I need to eat more then just bad brussel sprouts if I’m going to consume a cider beverage and not feel it.  I ordered the seasonal veggies.  O M G, talk about boring!  Probably half a small green zucchini and half a small crook neck squash flash sautéed in way too much cheap oil (at least use olive oil folks), with a few strands of not even sweet white onion and again no other seasoning.  Had to add salt.  And then a bite of “what the heck is this”?  It was definitely a dried piece of pulled pork on my seasonal vegetable plate. Gross! Thank God I’m not a vegetarian or vegan.  And, seriously, seasonal vegetables for $8 and the only veggie is the squash that is currently selling for 0.99 cents per POUND at the local market. This is the end of summer when the summer bounty of vegetables is overflowing with goodness and diversity.

I was sort of hoping that I was being brave by venturing into the world of dining out again and maybe I could make this work. Sadly, that wasn’t the conclusion.  What I was reminded of again, is that it’s okay to buy the better cut of meat, the special vegetable I’m craving and maybe a pint of my favorite frozen treat despite their costing a tad more then my usual daily groceries.  Eating out is not cheap, not particularly healthy and frankly, doesn’t taste very good either.  So what’s the allure again?

For now, when I want a special treat and some good people watching time, I’ll still opt for that over priced and probably bitter cup of coffee from the local coffee shop after a serious bike ride.  Yes, for the price of one cup of not so great coffee, I can make myself a weeks worth of perfectly brewed Aeropress coffee at home. But, sometimes it’s nice to have someone else buy the coffee, grind the coffee, prepared it and clean up afterwards.

I’ll still be brave and try to figure out what the allure is of eating out so often.  I’ve chosen to eat out by choice a total of 3 times this year.  (Eating out while traveling is usually just survival and doesn’t count.) Once this year I bought a gluten free pizza to take to another restaurant.  Once we took our daughter to dinner at a 5 star, white linen place (and it was the exception, the food was amazing and the dishes were ones I truly cannot prepare at home (I’ve tried) and the price tag matched.) The third was last night for my husbands birthday dinner.

Ok, I have eaten at a couple of 100% dedicated gluten free bakeries/cafes when traveling and I could find them.  It has been wonderful to eat a “real” sandwich at these places.  They were in Morgan Hill, Sacramento, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara.  I so miss Miglet’s, the dedicated gluten free bakery/shop in my town. Sadly, most 100% gluten free places that I find and then try to return to a few years later have gone out of business.

I’d like to think that someday restaurants will understand food intolerances and want to serve my type of people.  For now, I guess last night was just a good reminder of why I don’t eat out.  Fortunately though, one big positive from last nights meal out is I don’t think I got really sick.  Felt kind of bloated despite eating nothing more then bad vegetables but so far I haven’t had any of the other food intolerance reactions.

Eating Out Statistics

From: https://www.zagat.com/b/the-state-of-american-dining-in-2016

We asked surveyors how many times a week they go out to eat (not counting breakfast) and ended up with a national average of 4.5 times per week. At the high end, Los Angeles surveyors eat out the most frequently (5.2 times per week), while the country’s least frequent diners live in Boston at 3.8 times per week.

 

Is it gluten free?

Is it, or isn't it gluten free? Will I ever know?
Is it, or isn’t it gluten free? Will I ever know?

Yes? No? I don’t know! Oh, geez! I just want for once to be able to buy a product and not have to think twice about it after I’ve consumed some of it.

So, it happened again. I guess I let down my defenses. Twice in fact, in the last month.

Both times with Trader Joe’s products. I really should just stop shopping there. But the store is so close, it’s small, unlike those mega super marts, the people are friendly and the prices are really good.

So what happened this time? Well, a couple of weeks ago we had some friends in for a casual get together. My friends are amazing and are always trying to bring gluten free products over to our house. We do almost ALL the entertaining because, unfortunately, everyone is too scared to feed me. But seriously folks, still invite me over. I can and will bring my own food.

Anyway, someone brought Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus. A quick glance at the ingredients looked safe. I mean, come on, it’s hummus.  It was good. Someone else also brought some really cute little Trader Joe crackers. OMG, again the ingredients looked safe so I ate a few. I really liked them so I asked the person who brought them what they were called so I could pick up a bag at TJ’s. I get to TJ’s and I look at the fine print, “Processed in a facility with wheat”. Seriously? Seriously!

Okay, well, I can still buy the hummus, right?  I know how to make homemade hummus, but again, sometimes I just want to be pampered a little bit.  And, yes, by pampered, I mean not having to buy the raw ingredients, make it myself and clean up the equipment used in making the item. And, no, I can count on one hand how many times I eat out in a YEAR!

So, for the second time this week, I’m digging into this store bought hummus with my organic carrots and I think, “uh oh, this isn’t labelled GLUTEN FREE”. Well, but, the ingredients sound safe. Hmm…. no allergens are listed but then “gluten” is not required to be listed, just “wheat”.

Google if “Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus is gluten free”?  Well, I come up with a list of products that are gluten free and a ridiculous long explanation of gluten free which is just a bunch of crap that I have to read through and already know. The hummus in question is not on the list. Now I get this weird feeling that this maybe the trigger of some migraine’s and various other unmentionable symptoms I’ve had over the last few weeks.

“Hey, dear hubby, you want to finish this hummus?” Thank God I have a husband who can eat all the products I buy and then later doubt their gluten free status.

I don’t feel safe eating the store bought hummus anymore.

As #45 would say,” SAD, bigly SAD!”

Okay, gluten free rant over. You can be glad the rants don’t come as often as they used to.

#TraderJoes

#glutenfree

#Celiac

My year of iPhonography – 2016.

I was surprised to realize one doesn’t need to travel far to find objects or scenes of interest and intrigue. I picked 12 of my favorite images from 2016. Surprisingly, half of my favorites were taken within yards of my house, others from just a few miles away.

How did I pick these twelve shots? I quickly went through my images and labeled ones that were favorites. I then selected ones that created an emotion, feeling or memory for me.  Not just another record shot. I then sorted the 80+ images into sets: black and white, food, landscapes, macro’s, people, animals, insects, artistry shots and such. I then narrowed it down to one or two from each category.

I’m certainly learning what interests me and along the way I’m surprised that my passion in photography turned out to NOT be just macro’s of flowers. It will be interesting to see what 2017 brings as I acquired my new iPhone and DXO camera attachment towards the 2nd half of 2016. I’m just beginning to learn the new phone and camera features. I hope 2017 allows me the time to take more photos and to explore new ways to see life.

{"focusMode":1,"deviceTilt":-0.002298907437596753,"whiteBalanceProgram":0,"macroEnabled":false,"qualityMode":3}
Make Believe Fireflies
Shot with DxO ONE
First Shot
Shot with DxO ONE Image provided to yosemite conservancy limited one time social media use. 9/19/2016 saved Large 820x1200
The Classic Shot
Shot with DxO ONE
Lornful
Shot with DxO ONE
Fireside Light
{"focusMode":1,"deviceTilt":-0.1756878654148917,"whiteBalanceProgram":0,"macroEnabled":true,"qualityMode":3}
Curl
{"macroEnabled":true,"qualityMode":3,"deviceTilt":0.006695584454808667,"customExposureMode":1,"extendedExposure":false,"whiteBalanceProgram":0,"focusMode":1}
Toy Life
{"macroEnabled":true,"qualityMode":3,"deviceTilt":0.1035838564250131,"customExposureMode":1,"extendedExposure":false,"whiteBalanceProgram":0,"focusMode":1}
Wings Of Glass
Moonlight On The Mountain
Moonlight On The Mountain
Shot with DxO ONE
Evening Layers
Shot with DxO ONE
Forbidden Offerings
{"macroEnabled":false,"qualityMode":3,"deviceTilt":-0.1343905478715897,"customExposureMode":1,"extendedExposure":false,"whiteBalanceProgram":0,"focusMode":1}
One Last Look

On this day, November 8, 2016

Equality
September 2001

EDITED: November 22, 2016

Sadly, the election did not turn out as expected. The poles were wrong and we’re learning about the influence that social media may have played in affecting the outcome of this election.  I had hoped that 2016 would have been the year we saw a woman elected as President.  I still have faith that we will see a great woman leader in my lifetime.  The following is still my hope.

How wonderful it will be for all our daughters to live in a nation where a woman CAN and WILL be POTUS.  Confirmed by a woman leader that will help tear down the inequalities and help heal this nation.

Wondering what it will be like for my future grandchildren to never know any difference between who can be a leader.

WOMEN MUST VOTE

November 8th, 2016

Thankful for my therapy dog who faithfully stayed by my side while through out this election cycle.
Thankful for my dog who faithfully stayed by my side through out this election cycle.

Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote. The 19th amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote.

Will we get our lives back?  Will the anxiety go away? Will “America be great again”? Wait, we aren’t great?

This years election cycle has been really ugly. What it has done is make me even more conscientious of my voting rights and choices as a woman.  I have always read initiatives and propositions but this year I went through them at least three times and read for myself the actual text of the initiatives.  None of this reading the arguments for and against or allowing myself to be swayed by the media.  I decide for myself.  I reflected on my personnel values and ethics and thought hard about the choices I was making.

The final work of filling out my ballot spanned 7 days.  That gave me time to really mull things over.  I like to think things through without being pressured.

It was nice when the first door to door canvasser came by yesterday I could say, “I’ve already voted.”  Yep, the ballot is in the envelop, sealed and ready to be dropped of this morning downtown. Almost a week early.

I am worried though, will the elected candidate for president be able to unify this divided nation?  The ugliness and marginalizing of fellow humans has me really frightened.  I’m concerned that some American’s are living with so much fear of their fellow humans just because they practice a different religion, have a different sexual orientation or are the opposite sex, their skin is a different shade or they are poor, a refugee or from another country. I also want a leader that leads by example with a high standard of morals and compassion demonstrated by their personal life and behaviors. And for God’s sake can speak above a fourth grade level.

Well, the waiting is almost over. I pray that the people of this nation will accept the results of the election.  I fear that there may be violence and unrest after the election.

I know how much thought and education it took for me to make my informed decisions on the 17  state initiates this year on the California ballot. California has the longest ballot in the nation this year.  I’m worried that the average American (a “C” student) doesn’t have the education to comprehend what they are voting for or why. Many are just doing as they are told and voting on emotions based on false ideals. By visiting rural areas of states like Pennsylvania this fall and speaking with locals, I get their frustrations.  It was good to understand better where they are coming from.

Now, back to that 19th amendment thing.  My mom was born in June of 1919.  She told me stories that she obviously was told about how her mother (my grandmother) marched and fought for this right of women to vote.  I wonder if she shared these stories with my brothers.  She always took voting seriously and all women must take voting seriously.

The time is right for a woman, mother and grandmother to heal this nation. This nation is in need of some serious mothering.

Thankful for my therapy dog who faithfully stayed by my side while through out this election cycle.

Minimalist, minimize, simplify, declutter – Help someone in need.

Ok, so if you’re been reading my blog (http://gatoraceae.com/2016/04/my-minimalist-journey/) you know I’ve been on this decluttering obsession for nearly 4 1/2 years now.  I don’t do things fast. I like to think things through and mull them over for awhile.  And, I certainly don’t like throwing things out or putting them into the landfill.  I will hold onto things until I find someone who will buy the item or who can use it or if the item can be recycled, reused or repurposed, then I see that it is taken to the appropriate place.

Yes, sometimes, I hold onto things for an absurd amount of time. Take the large grocery sized bag of feminine hygiene products that I had set aside about four years ago. (Thank you Costco size packages) My daughters have long since moved out and I don’t have a need for these products anymore. Feminine hygiene products aren’t cheap. I wanted to donate them to a shelter but hadn’t until last week. I finally researched where I could take these items. I discovered a homeless shelter that I had not know about that isn’t too far away that had these items on their wish list. I’m sure they will be greatly appreciated. In the past I had taken things to another shelter several communities away but I don’t often go that way. This place is much closer.

Well, this got me thinking. There are other items that the homeless need.

I’ve been on this home “inventory project” for a few weeks now, since I read Joshua Becker’s book The More Of Less. My home inventory app makes it very obvious when we have multiples of the same thing. I discovered that even though I had donated some old car camping sleeping bags a few years ago, we still had held onto two bags. We also have a collection of various backpacking and camping tents. We don’t need all of these bags, tents or sleeping pads.

Ah ha! Light-bulb moment! I now know where I could take these items and they can be used rather then stored in my garage.

My life will become simpler and my/our “stuff” that has cluttered up closets, drawers and garage will be of use to someone truly in need. It doesn’t do anyone any good to hold onto this stuff.

We are getting much better at the rule we now try to follow, for each new item in, one item must go out. If we replace something or update with a newer product, send the older item on its way.

I’ve lived in this home for 30 plus years and we have saved things for “just in case!”.  Well, that “just in case” rarely ever happens and if it did, chances are we forgot we had saved the item let alone have any chance in finding it when we needed it. Its better to recycle, reuse or donate items ASAP.

Thank you for reading and here’s hoping you’ll look at the “stuff” you have and realize how freeing it will be to pass the items on, give them a 2nd life or help someone in need.

Shelter Donated Items:

sleeping bags

tent

sleeping pads

LED camp lantern

Day packs – REI hiking day packs

camp sleep pillows

socks

T-shirts

hygiene products

Forest Walk

Day two of our weekend get away to McKenzie River area of central Oregon found us deciding between taking a walk through the forest or riding out near Cougar Reservoir.

We had thoroughly enjoyed a slow morning, plenty of fresh coffee, a delicious breakfast prepared by our BnB host, Sharon, of the McKenzie River Round House BnB.  We enjoyed the company of the host, her husband, the other guests including a pair of cyclists who are riding their bikes across America.  They are a delightful couple from Munich, Germany.  The other guests were a math professor from Rutgers University and his family.  We had the most interesting morning conversations with them.

BnB hosts and German bike tourists riding across America
BnB hosts with the German bike tourists riding across America

We said our goodbye’s to the German couple after exchanging blog URL’s.  You can check out their progress at QuerDurch!!

On our way back from the McKenzie Pass summit ride the day before we had stopped at the local bike shop in McKenzie Bridge to check it out.  I had noted that they sold a good selection of maps.  Not knowing where to hike we stopped in again in the late morning to pick up a map and to inquire where we could hike and hopefully avoid the crowd of folks hiking into the famous Blue Pool. It was now a weekend day and we had heard about the hordes of people that had descended  on the area the weekend before and the overflowing parking area.  Not the kind of scene I enjoy being a part of.

The young man in the shop had some ideas.  One which sounded promising was a hike out Rainbow Ridge Trail leading to a rock outcropping and potential view of a distant waterfall.  Sounded good to us so we headed up the road and made the turn onto a dirt road.  We continued for a few miles and found the well marked trailhead.

The following are a selection of photos from our hike/stroll through the forest.  What was most delightful about this hike is that we did not see another sole the entire time until we drove back out on the dirt road.

Flowers carpeting the forest floor.
Flowers carpeting the forest floor.
Water droplets covered the vegetation from recent rain.
Water droplets covered the vegetation from recent rain.
A true walk in the woods.
A true walk in the woods.
Delicate flowers offset by the darkness of the forest.
Delicate flowers offset by the darkness of the forest.
One of many creatures living on the forest floor.
One of many creatures living on the forest floor.
One of many fallen trees covered in lush moss.
One of many fallen trees covered in lush moss.
Rock outcrop, Rainbow Falls way off in distance, lunch stop.
Rock outcrop, Rainbow Falls way off in distance, lunch stop.
I loved the filtered light through the vine maples.
I loved the filtered light through the vine maples.
An opening in the forest confirming we really were walking along a ridge trail.
An opening in the forest confirming we really were walking along a ridge trail.
Noon light hitting the forest floor.
Noon light hitting the forest floor.
Meandering trail often hidden by the vegetation.
Meandering trail often hidden by the vegetation.
Banana slug, it's Oregon!
Banana slug, it’s Oregon!
Natural moss covered arch.
Natural moss covered arch.
I'm thinking this is a native fly.
I’m thinking this is a native fly.
Another pollinator of the forest.
Another pollinator of the forest.
Sahalie Falls (After our hike, after the crowds had dissipated.
Sahalie Falls (After our hike, after the crowds had dissipated.
Yes, the water was this blue.
Yes, the water was this blue on the McKenzie River.

 

 

Koosah Falls
Koosah Falls

Our McKenzie Pass Ride Photo Essay

Ready to ride, looking forward to the day.
Ready to ride, looking forward to the day.
Beginning in a fir forest.
Beginning in a fir forest.
Stops to enjoy nature
Stops to enjoy nature
Native Rhododendron
Native Rhododendron
Botanizing
Botanizing
We must be on the right path.
We must be on the right path.
Our first view of lava, popping out of the forest.
Our first view of lava, popping out of the forest.
Two more miles
Two more miles
We made it to the summit.
We made it to the summit.
Road was closed to cars and open to just cyclists. View of road from Dee Wright Observatory
Road was closed to cars and open to just cyclists. View of road from Dee Wright Observatory
NE View - Black Butte Mnt.
NE View – Black Butte Mnt.
Incoming Hail. Yep, about to get a facial
Incoming Hail. Yep, about to get a facial
Heading down, with rain, wind and hail, yet we still have smiles because we made it.
Heading down, with mixed snow and rain, wind and hail, yet we still have smiles because we made it.

The ride up to McKenzie Pass from the west side proved to be far easier then either of us expected.  We realize we underestimate the grade and difficulty of Mt. Diablo which we use to train on weekly.  I really felt over prepared which is not a bad thing.  Our original plan was to ride from McKenzie Bridge over to Sister’s and then back the next day.  However, turned out this was the week of the Sister’s Rodeo and I was finding suitable lodging in Sister’s hard to find.  So we decided it would be just as fun to ride up to the pass and back down the same way.  We stayed at a delightful new BnB in Vida, OR called the McKenzie River Round House BnB.  The next day we had planned to do some more riding but instead found a great hike through the forest along Rainbow Ridge Trail with a view of Rainbow Falls.  We later drove to see two more water falls.  I will post pictures of our hike and the falls in the next blog.  This ride convinced us that we will be doing more touring.

Gluten Lesson Learned AGAIN!

Lesson Learned AGAIN!  I should be blogging about my vacation but here it goes again….

Gluten? Is it hiding in that prepackaged Tri-tip sold at Costco?  The ingredient list looks fine. But the packaging doesn’t say anything about allergens.  Ok, google the product name and gluten free.  Nope, don’t come up with anything. Hmm, there’s a phone number on the package. Ok, I’ll call.  The person on the other end of the line, says, “I’m pretty sure it’s fine, it’s gluten free. But let me check and call you back”.  (This is a local distributor in Huntington Park, California)

This whole Tri-tip issue came up because on our recent travels we stopped to visit some friends who wanted to feed us/me.  They tossed a prepackaged Tri-tip from their Costco in Medford, Oregon onto the grill. The brand sold in Oregon is pre-packaged but WAS labeled Gluten Free.  Unfortunately, after inquiring about cross contamination, I knew I could not eat their offerings.  They have heated wheat rolls on their bbq and clearly they have gluten food products in their kitchen.  I’m really getting tired of trying to explain to kind friends why I can not eat their offerings.  NO, pouring boiling water over your cutting knives and utensils DOES NOT MAKE THEM GLUTEN FREE. Maybe washing several times and scrubbing with a never before used scrubber would work. I don’t really know how to make something gluten free except to NEVER expose it to gluten.

I had not realized until today that meat products are exempt from the labeling law.  What the HELL?

Food Labeling Requirements: On August 2, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a new regulation defining the term “glutenfree” for voluntary food labeling. This new federal definition standardizes the meaning of “gluten-free” foods regulated by the FDA. Foods regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including meat and egg products, are not subject to this regulation. The regulation requires that any food with the term “gluten-free” on the label must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food should contain fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten. The FDA rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

Well, I finally decided while walking around Costco while waiting for phone confirmation if the Tri-tip in my cart was safe, to not buy it.  I wouldn’t receive the confirmation phone call until much later, after I had left the store.

The answer from the company, the certified Angus Beef, Steakhouse Beef Tri-Tip from American BBQ Company distributed by www.GWFG.com is not gluten free.

Once again, an excellent reminder of why I should NEVER eat other people’s food unless they are also Celiac and their kitchen is 100% gluten free.

I was a bit extra cautious this time because recently I had once again slipped up on my diligence of being safe.

I hadn’t been to a Starbucks in years except to purchase a bottled by Coke Cola Starbucks Mocha Frapuccino, which are certified gluten free.  It had been my birthday the day before and I still get those kind emails from Starbucks saying I could get a free drink “on them” for my birthday.  We were traveling and had a very early start.  I was sleepy.  I had a free drink gift certificate.  I goofed up.  I stopped at a Starbucks and redeemed my free birthday coffee certificate.  I splurged.  I got a vanilla latte.

Oh no!  That’s right, Starbucks coffee’s are NOT GLUTEN FREE.  NO PREPARED DRINKS CAN BE GUARANTEED GF AT STARBUCKS. Repeat to self, Starbucks coffee’s are NOT GLUTEN FREE.  Not even a plain regular cup of coffee.

In about thirty minutes after thoroughly enjoying my vanilla latte my stomach began to feel a little off.  Hmmm……  google Starbucks again and gluten free.

Damn, the mix Starbuck’s uses for the vanilla flavor contains gluten.  Oh, and a reminder, ALL of Starbucks teas contain gluten.  Yes, you read that right.

Lesson learned.  Lesson learned until I forget AGAIN!

Play

The importance of play is being lost. At our fundamental core we seem to know that children need to play but more and more we are cramming parent/teacher driven structured lessons onto our youngest children all day long. We have forgotten that children learn through unstructured free play, not just parent or coach driven activities. What’s even sadder is that adults have forgotten the importance of play in their adult lives.  We all need play.

As an Early Childhood Educator, through years of observation, it became obvious to me that a vast amount of learning occurs through play and repetition at the earliest of ages.  There have been numerous studies and scientific papers detailing the early cognitive development in infants and young children in support of the need and power of free play. The role of a good ECE teacher is to mediate, guide and support play. This is done by providing guidance, direction and materials to facilitate play, taking play to new levels of discovery, to guide and nurture social and emotional development.

I could get into a long posting about the detriments of technology, social media and television but that isn’t what I’m thinking about today.  I’m thinking about what is often closest to my heart, the need for all people, no matter what age, to spend time in nature, time at play. (Bonus link if you make it to the end of this post). Combine the two and you have the perfect formula to guide our spirits to a place of balance.

Give me a group of children in a structured classroom setting and after a short period of time I bet I’d be able to identify which children have had nature in their lives and been allowed to play freely.  They will be calmer, more observant, kinder, more compassionate with other students and more respectful of both objects and others.

Heck, if you see an upset, angry, anxious, emotional, frustrated or stressed adult,  recognize that they are probably dealing with more issues then anyone should possibly be handling.  Get them into nature, out to play and watch the stress start to leave their body and mind as they relearn to “let go” and to reassess the issues they are dealing with in their lives and to reconnect to what is truly important for our time on this earth.

By losing play and time in nature not only do I think we are seeing the effects in the increases of behavior issues in young children, but I believe behaviorists and researchers have successfully documented this occurrence.

In adults we are seeing increased levels of anxiety and depression.  It is just as important for adults to play. To spend time in nature. To step away from technology and the 24×7 connection.  We can’t forget to let go and just be present in the moment. If you are interested in learning more about the importance of play for adults and what constitutes adult play, search the topic at TEDxTalks (https://www.ted.com/watch/tedx-talks)

It is so magical to witness the innocents of a child discovering and exploring on their own. There is no better way to learn then to see them self teach through experience.  In my last post, Parenting Philosophy, I shared a favorite quote from  The Training of the Human Plant by Luther Burbank.  It’s worth reading again.

Children and adults that have learned through play and continue to play are more creative, better problem solvers and happier.

Many years ago I attended a training seminar for ECE teachers.  One of the sections I attended was lead by Diane Gordon a local bay area advocate for children and adults in nature.(http://www.childrennatureandyou.org)

She left us with this recommendation on what to teach a child to prepare them for formal schooling.

What to Teach a Child by Diane Gordon <— click for link to original

When I was a young kindergarten teacher, prospective parents would ask me what they could do to prepare their children for kindergarten, expecting I would give them a list of reading and math exercises. As I look back now, I can see that my responses were vague and far from satisfactory. Now, these many years later, I would say something like this:

They will need to know their colors – the blue of the sky, the green of the grass, the colors of the rainbow. And numbers. Count with them: the squirrels in the park, the petals on a flower, how many acorns can be held in one hand. In two hands.

Share with them the wonder and the beauty of the world around them – the sliver of the moon that grows night by night until it is full and round. The snail that travels with his house on his back, and leaves a silvery trail wherever he goes. Or the spider who spins beautiful, intricate patterns overnight.

Encourage them to be creative and different. Walk in the mud together with bare feet. Howl at the moon like wolves. Wriggle or slide through the grass like worms or snails.

Teach them tenderness as they gently stroke a kitten, or pick up a worm after the rain, and replace it carefully in the soil. Encourage their sense of responsibility as you plant seeds together and tend them regularly.

Teach them to read – to read the weather and tell if it will be windy or rainy today. Or to read the world around them – the changing colors of the leaves, the many kinds of seeds, the many colors of flowers.

Introduce them to the magic of stories, both listening to them and telling them. Let their imagination soar. Do this, and I can teach them to read!

If you’ve made it this far, here is a bonus video of the authors adult daughter and husband in a state of bliss, laughter, free spirit, joy and happiness which all equals PLAY and being BALANCED.

Click link to view my 10 second Youtube video of pure laughter and joy: Adult’s at play

Followed by a photo showing a time of peace, tranquility, observation, reflection,  nature, yet another form of adult play and balance.  There are many ways to play, many forms of play and for each individual, play will look very, very different. It’s not play if it feels like work.

What does play look like for you?