Category Archives: family

3 Non-Food Criteria for Visiting a Place

Half Dome morning sun view

I certainly talk a lot about food here on TLT.

Raven at Mariposa Grove

But food is only one of the ways we can discover the habits of another culture, and step out of our own familiar routines. Another one is sound: for example, exchanging your city life with electric-appliance-hum, police sirens, and random yelling people for quiet and crickets and birds (yes, that’s a raven, and yes, they got very close).

Do you see the face under Taft Point?

Do you see the face under Taft Point?

Giant Redwood at Mariposa Grove

Giant Redwood at Mariposa Grove









Another way, that often comes with sound, is scale. I live in Washington, DC, where there are no skyscrapers, parks are squeezed into whatever space they can keep (except for the Mall, of course), and there are suburbs as far as the eye can see.. which is not far, because of all the developed land. Take me out of that environment and plop me into a forest high above a valley, and I have the chance to become a different person.

The sun above Yosemite is bright

Yosemite National Park, where I visited this July, is a familiar place to me. My family has gone there for summer reunions since time immemorial (at least in my lifetime) every few years. Even though it’s familiar, I learn.

Yosemite Valley View

With the valley floor that far below me (over 7,000 feet down, or 2,200 meters), I seize a feeling of expansiveness and freedom, like being let out of a cage. While I do my best to keep my creative machine going while I toil away in D.C., when all the restraints fall away in a setting like this, it’s easier to see what your life looks like, what’s working, what’s not. In a sense, you’re stepping out of your life when you go on vacation, and from there you can examine ‘how the plane is being flown,’ without having to ‘fly the plane.’

One of my favorite themes here at TLT is delight, and delight is one of the benefits of getting out of the routine. Sure, you can feel the satisfaction of a job well-done when you accomplish a task or project, but delight implies a bit of surprise: you admit there are things in the world that you don’t know about and you don’t control, and sometimes they sneak up on you and delight your senses. Sometimes I can find this on walks around D.C. when seasons are changing, and this is my intentional stab at routine-smashing while at home.

Yosemite light illuminates

The Pocono Trail weaves between forest cover and rock promontory as it winds from Glacier Point to the Wawona Tunnel near the Yosemite Valley floor, and one of the scenes that gave me the most delight was the forest-filtered light hitting this silvery-green ground cover.

Kids Smile with Family at Wawona

Besides sound and scale, there is a third change of scene that will recharge your batteries and refresh your mindset: different people!

I don’t encounter a lot of little kids in my daily rounds, so connecting and spending time with my niece and nephews made me think differently (“No, I don’t suppose that table edge WILL taste good.”). And even though they were rowdy and always in motion, kids can give you occasional moments of quiet, where you feel balanced, collected, at peace…

…when you’re tired and a little cold from swimming in the water-hole of the Merced River, but feel alive and connected to the late-afternoon golden sunshine, the tamped-down path trod by other Wawona vacationers, the breeze bending the rye, and these two people walking in front of you.

Finding Balance in Yosemite

This trip to Yosemite was a nice break. I connected with people, disconnected from ‘real life’ (more to come on that in future posts), and took the space I found with me.

Sunset Illumines Half Dome

What helps you get out of your routine, either at home, or while traveling? Do you have criteria to add to the list? Let us know by leaving a comment!

And a special welcome to readers who have come via A Dangerous Business, where I guest posted today- thanks for checking out Taste Life Twice!

Arctic Char in Sustainable Lemon Cream Sauce

Lemony, flaky goodness…

The cherry blossoms were beautiful, and finishing the 10 Mile Race was a sweet topping-off of all the work that went into training to become a runner. I think I’ll hang up my spurs for a while though, so that I can give my full attention to other pursuits

One of these other pursuits, as you may have deduced, is cooking sustainable and delicious food, for myself and others. Right on the heels of running that race, I was already brimming with ideas about supper clubs and cooking classes- I’m sorry, is that my multipotentiality* showing? Good!

One of the things I tried out on myself was a recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes: Arctic Char with Lemon Cream Sauce. Elise adapted it for salmon, but the original recipe from the Country Cooking of Ireland used Arctic Char, a sustainable alternative to most of the over-fished or inefficiently-caught salmon out there (not that there isn’t good salmon– it’s out there, too!).

The recipe is fairly simple: lemon juice, chicken stock, and heavy cream combining and reducing to form a warm and piquant accompaniment to the crispy-skinned, flaky-fleshed arctic char. YUM. I loved how the defrosted fillets had such glistening colors on the skin side- don’t be afraid to say it: fish scales can be beautiful!

As Elise notes, it’s best to 1) fry the skin-side-down first, to crisp it up and 2) turn on the fan above your stove, since frying fish tends to leave a lingering, odiferous signature.

Skin-side down first

There are an awful lot of details involved in judging whether a fish species is being overfished or caught in a way that doesn’t harm other species, so I leave it to Seafood Watch, a widely-trusted program of the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, which I visited on a field trip as a kid in California. They study, research, and verify claims of sustainability to protect the health of the ocean’s seafood species.

Now, I have come across some conflicting reports from supposedly trustworthy sources- Whole Foods for example, listing their fish as a yellow (not great) when SFW lists them as red (avoid). Any ideas about how to determine who’s right? This might be a question for Twitter… (yes, I’ve joined Twitter. It’s kind of exciting!)

Ready for its close-up

Where are you on sustainable seafood? Is it not an issue where you are? Are you confused about who is a good authority? Or are you waiting on a few, good fishmongers to show up in your neighborhood? (Me, too!) Let us know in the comments if you’ve found some good sources of info which you can share!

Oh, and by the way, the cream for this was organic, and the lemons were sustainably farmed, if you can call the trees in my parents’ backyard a ‘farm.’ SO glad I’m still the occasional recipient of their care packages!


*Please note that these are affiliate links. This means if you click through and purchase something, I receive a tiny percentage of the sale. Thanks for supporting those pursuing their dreams in any way possible! :-)

My Kind of Advertising

We take a break from our regularly scheduled (Food, Travel, Nature) programming to present you with Unmitigated Youthful Joyful Goofiness.