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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for the Personal Reflection Category

The Cultivators: Farming with a Social Purpose

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photo by Giles Clement

In our next installment of The Uncommoners: Exploring the Other Side of Ordinary, Lindsey heads to Long Beach, Washington to get her hands dirty and learn what it means to farm with a Social Purpose.

When I accepted an invitation from Starvation Alley Farms to join their cranberry harvest last month, I didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps, an idyllic Ocean Spray commercial or another episode of Dirty Jobs. (Yes. Mike Rowe visited a cranberry farm.). But what I found was hard work, laughter, great cocktails and a deep sense of community with people who were passionate about food, family and local farming.

After a few cranberry cocktails, I sat down with farmers, Jessika Tantisook and Jared Oakes, to learn how this small family-run experiment expanded into a corporation with a unique uncommon product and an even more uncommon purpose.

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From Schizopolis to Standells: 5 Things You Should Know from musician Erik Menteer

Posted by Bryanna | October 22nd, 2013 | Filed under Music, Personal Reflection, Who We Are

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It seems everybody loves lists these days. Our facebook feed is crammed with headlines like, “Five ways to do this, ten habits of these people, six ways to yadda yadda.” So we took it upon ourselves to create our own. Over the next few months, we’re gathering a “should” list from some of our favorite musicians, artists, creatives, and changemakers. We posed the same five questions to each person and compiled a list that has just as much grit and intrigue as Ten Ways to Kill a Pig. At least, we think so. First up: Erik Menteer, multi-instrumentalist for the weirdo folk and rock band Blitzen Trapper

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On the Frontlines of the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Posted by Guest | September 10th, 2013 | Filed under Partners for Change, Personal Reflection

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If it wasn’t for global aid organizations like Mercy Corps, the nearly two million Syrian refugees would have little hope for survival. This month in the Thought Kitchen, Cassandra Nelson, Mercy Corps’ Director of Multimedia Projects, travels to Lebanon to document the work the organization is doing to bring renewed comfort and confidence to refugees like Hannah and her seven children.

August 1, 2013: Cassandra Nelson reporting from Lebanon

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Why We Travel: Offline on the Umpqua

Posted by Josie | June 27th, 2013 | Filed under Bikes, Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection, Travel, Who We Are

This summer, in the Thought Kitchen, we explore why we love to travel. First up in our series—Josie Norris—our beloved producer and wild queen of single track, goes offline on the Umpqua. 

En route to Ashland from central Oregon two weeks ago, I accidentally found my new favorite wild place in Oregon. The Umpqua River sucked me in and I never made it to Ashland.

On day one, I spent hours on the North Umpqua River Trail (79 miles of beautifully maintained single-track) and didn’t see a single person. In the absence of cell reception, I left a note on my car the second day that said “if you’re reading this note after 8:00 p.m. on Saturday June 15th please send help…..”.

Thank you Verizon and thank you Oregon, for reminding me what it means to be truly disconnected.

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Nau Takes NYC By Bike

Photo: Lavish Livez Instagram

To commemorate bike month, we took a small group of friends on a curated bike tour from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Each stop along the way brought to life our unique perspective on sustainability, craftsmanship and the modern, mobile lifestyle. Here’s a quick glimpse into our pedal-perfect day.

Getting Oufitted
We started at HUB in the West Village where we were each fit with our custom Dutch-inspired Brooklyn Cruisers. While the week’s sunny weather had taken a turn, it only added to the spirit of the tour. Most of us simply put on an extra layer with a Dose Jacket or Motil Trench, and we were on our way.

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Postcard from the Alvord

Posted by leighann | March 26th, 2013 | Filed under Personal Reflection, Travel, Who We Are

Alvord Desert Hot Springs

Last Friday, around 2pm, Mark, our GM disappeared. It was shortly after consuming a pomegranite margarita (no salt) and a taco platter. Of course, this is not unusual. Mark has been known to mysteriously vanish only to suddenly reappear days later with a grin and a suntan. This time, he resurfaced on a Monday morning smelling of sulpher and parched earth, surely evidence of a desert escapade. But he was gracious enough to write us a virtual postcard so we wouldn’t have to rely on an Edward Abbey quote to complement these few captured moments. 

The desert is a diaspora for the displaced, a refuge from our hyper-saturated social scene, attracting the margins of society— mystics and malcontents, desperadoes and drug runners, rednecks and ranchers, artists and anarchists.

It’s an environment that expands our visual and perceptual horizons. —Mark

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Postcard from Home: The Oregon Coast

Posted by Bryanna | January 21st, 2013 | Filed under Personal Reflection, Travel, Who We Are

One of the most scenic landscapes in Oregon spans 363 miles along the Pacific Ocean. The coast is home to sand dunes flowing into cliffs that drop straight to the sea and a rocky coastline that has served as a backdrop for countless Hollywood movies.  Yet with all this majestic beauty so close to our daily life, we barely take the time to truly enjoy all this state has to offer. So I am dedicating this Postcard to exploring home, to taking time to stop at every scenic outlook, tourist trap, trailhead and gravel road.  Because when you abandon being a local, you notice more about your surroundings.

Unlike your typical beach, the Oregon coast is the most magnificent during the winter months. I find it quite suiting that we don’t call it the beach, but the coast.  For the word beach does not describe the natural wonders that live here. From the oversized crushing white waves, to the small fishing towns, high view points and populated tide pools, an hours drive from Portland has so much to offer.

Driving south on the 101 from Cannon Beach to Manzanita, the winding two-lane road creeps up and down a jagged cliff.  Though icicles hang where water once dripped, the sun is at its highest point of the day. The radiating heat from the sun hitting the car makes it almost feel like summer.  We slam on our brakes to soak in every view of the ocean, slide around corners for signs of beach access, and jump under ropes for a closer viewpoint.

As the evening sun sets,  people rush from their condos, cars and storefronts to catch a glimpse of the yellow, then orange, then purple and red skyline. Couples hold hands, kids play in the sand, and the sun slowly fades behind a curtain of splashing turmoil. We wonder to ourselves, are we the last people on the west coast to see the sun tonight? We cheers a toast: Here’s to adventure, to getting out no matter the distance, and taking a finer look at what’s in front of you every day.

Wish you were here.

 

On the Border of Syria: A Dispatch from Mercy Corps

Posted by Guest | January 2nd, 2013 | Filed under Partners for Change, Partnerships, Personal Reflection, Positive Change

Hasna and her seven children fled the civil war in Syria with practically nothing. Mercy Corps-distributed clothes, blankets, mattresses and gas heating supplies will help them through the winter. Photo: Jeremy Barnicle/Mercy Corps

This week in the Thought Kitchen, Jeremy Barnicle, Chief Development and Communications Officer for Mercy Corps, one of our longstanding Partners for Change, travels to Jordan to give us a first hand account of the Syrian refugee crisis and what we can do to help.

Mafraq, Jordan — I am sitting on the floor of a cold, crumbling single room dwelling just on the Jordan side of the Syria-Jordan border.  I’m sipping Turkish coffee, surrounded by a family of Syrian refugees.  The coffee isn’t warming me up much: it is December and it is freezing.

My host is a lady named Hasna Erhael.  She’s a 36 year old mother of seven, six of whom are girls and are sitting with us.  Her oldest child, a 15-year-old boy, is out collecting recyclables to make some money.  Hasna and her family fled Syria a few months ago when their town came under attack by the Syrian army.  Her husband is back in Syria fighting the regime and says he won’t stop until they have taken Damascus.

They came over the border with nothing, and nothing is pretty much what they still have.  They rent this room with help from relatives.  No work.  No school.  No toys or art supplies.  No furniture. No electricity or heat.  No running water.

I don’t want to make Hasna sound like a victim — that’s certainly not how she sees herself.  She tells me she and her family just need to be able to eat a little bit and they’ll be able to hold out until the fighting ends and they can return to Syria. But she is nervous for her girls: “They have nothing to do.  They miss school and they are totally bored.”  They are clearly struggling, and that’s where Mercy Corps comes in.

We are working with a local religious leader to identify Syrian refugees — more than 15,000 of them are hunkered down among the 60,000 permanent resident — and help meet some of their basic needs.  Right now, we have the money to help about 1000 refugee families in Mafraq get prepared for winter: that means we’ve giving them winter coats, blankets, kitchen supplies, food packages, gas heaters and gas.  In general, we are a “hand-up not a hand-out” kind of operation, but in times like this we do our best to bring struggling people some measure of material comfort.  Mercy Corps is providing similar support to Syrian refugees throughout the region.

Mercy Corps is proud to be a partner of Nau.  Support from Nau and its customers allows us to meet the needs of people like Hasna and her family.  For more on our response with Syrian refugees, click here.  

Jeremy Barnicle at the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan. Mercy Corps drilled the well, which will serve all 40-plus thousand Syrian refugees in the camp, plus tens of thousands who live in neighboring communities.

Postcard From Slovenia

Posted by Alex | October 2nd, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection, Who We Are

Slovenian Alps

“Excuse me, but why would Americans come here?”

By ‘here,’ my Italian bunkmate doesn’t mean the attic dormitory of the Valentina Stamca Hut; he means Slovenia. We’ve met in one of high refuges of the Julian Alps, a range of dolomite just across the border from some better-known Italian peaks made of the same stuff. But while visiting the Dolomites conjures up images of flights into Venice, hand-pulled espressos and lasagna dinners, Slovenia…well, where the hell is Slovenia, anyway?

A pocket nation of just two million people squeezed between Italy, Austria and Croatia, Slovenia secured its independence from Yogoslavia in 1991 through a ten-day war. Yet while that conflict was largely bloodless, Slovenia still bears the scars of earlier battles. As in the Dolomites, Austrians and Italians fought in the Julian Alps from trenches and gun nests dug into the mountains. It’s here that Hemingway wrote about in A Farewell To Arms, where mountain peaks were crowned in barbed wire, and where 60,000 soldiers lost their lives just to avalanches.

Today in the Jullian Alps, the vestiges of that war remain: crumbling stone barracks, rusting gun carriages, blunted barbed wire. But it’s not this that’s brought us here. It’s the paths: beautifully graded army roads and fantastically engineered high-mountain via-ferrata. Built to give access to the high mountains, these war-time paths established new ways of moving through the steep and exposed terrain. The result is that Triglav National Park offers remarkable access to some of the world’s most dramatic mountains. What once was used to make war now accesses beauty.

Outside the bunk room window, one such peak rears up above the Austrian horizon. I point, and smile. Sure, it may not have Italian coffee, but after a long day in these mountains the goulash is pretty darn good.

Postcard From Amsterdam

Posted by Alex | August 21st, 2012 | Filed under Bikes, Personal Reflection, Who We Are

postcard[Editors Note: Our friend and copywriter Alex left Portland in 2010 to start a new life in Europe. This month, he’s returned as a Guest Editor of The Thought Kitchen to share some of his experiences.]

Right now I’m sitting in the shoebox-sized office of my apartment in Amsterdam, listening to the street through window blinds drawn against the sun. The electric whirr and rumble of the number thirteen Tram mixes with the squeaks and rattles of rusted-out second-hand bicycles. As waves of cars stop and go through the traffic light, snippets of Indian pop, Tupac, Turkish dance music and Goyte drifting up by turns to my window. A car horn, a shout in Dutch, a lull. Another Tuesday afternoon.

It’s the third day of the first heat wave of the summer—a season that the locals, with characteristic stoicism, had suggested might not make it to this corner of Europe. It seemed an apt prediction to my wife and me as we piled on sweaters in May, rode through the rain in June, and woke to the thundering of our downspout in July. The Netherlands has a reputation for bad weather, one we’re thinking is pretty well deserved.

windmillBut the Netherlands has other reputations as well. Depending on whom you ask, it’s a country of bike lanes, a haven of  diversity and tolerance, or a playground for drugs. It’s a land reclaimed from the sea, where global warming and rising sea levels make “sustainability” more than just a liberal buzz-word. It’s a nation of tall women and even taller men drinking small beers and (occasionally) wearing wooden shoes.  A place for cheese and windmills and international law. A place that once had an economic collapse because of the price of tulips.

But part of living in a country is sorting out what’s real, what’s imagined, and what’s simply been lost in translation. So six months ago, my wife and I—inspired by family heritage and an overdeveloped sense of wanderlust—moved here, to work and sort it out for ourselves. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing some of those impressions, from what “bike culture” really means in a place with more bikes than people, to how one restaurant is designing vegetarian dishes with help from landscape architecture.

As we’re learning, moving isn’t always easy. But the rewards of movement—across space and through cultures—is that it can change your perspective on everything: even what’s just outside your window.

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