Taste and see. . .

woman-tasting-kiwi

(Image from the WiseGEEK site)

This post is going to be one of those thoughtful ones. If you are hoping for something light and amusing, then wait until the next one. Now that I’m back home, I have time to reflect on life, and something has been bothering me this week.

Why the image? One of the effects of getting older has crept up on me and taken me by surprise. I have been quite pleased that my eyesight is still good (at least well enough to drive without glasses, but I do need to use reading glasses). My hearing is so/so – in a crowded cafe I strain to hear a person talking softly to me, and I know I inch the volume up on the remote control more than perhaps the average younger person of my acquaintance. But in general it’s fine. What ISN’T so fine, is my taste. A few months ago I thought my sinus problems after a cold were affecting my taste, but it is now a good while since I suffered issues in my nose, and yet I feel I’ve still not got my ‘flavours’ back.

What clinched it for me was the trip overseas to the States just now. You see, here in NZ, we generally have food which is less processed, and meat, particularly, straight from the fields – which gives it a strong flavour. Visitors from the USA have commented at how much it tastes like game. While I was over there recently I was disappointed when I cooked up a pork loin, because I could barely discern that it had come from a pig. Same with beef. So I returned home prepared to enjoy a burst of flavour on my tongue. . . but ZIP. Nada.

See this delicious looking salad:

salad

It’s a black rice, turmeric chicken salad, with nasturtiums, scorched lemon, cauliflower, and mesclun, and the textures were just great. I KNOW it was bursting with flavour, but I struggled to feel the impact. My heart really did sink. I immediately googled ‘losing tastebuds in old age’, and sure enough, it really DOES happen. I can only imagine that is what is happening to me.

Now before you get too downcast on my behalf, I did take myself in hand – pulling myself up by the collar, so to speak. I found that it is possible to improve the sense of taste – one of the most obvious things is to season my dishes more with herbs and spices. I could quite possibly endure the hot curry flavours I’ve hitherto found too hot. And most importantly, I pondered this profound thought:

I’ve always taken great pleasure in eating food – and at this stage, that is really starting to show in my body shape. One thing that could well HELP me take a firm hand on my eating habits, is if I let this sense of failing taste be a guide to my intake. Seriously. Eat less, find that which I can enjoy and sample a smaller portion of it. Do ye ken what I mean? I felt better when I thought of that. The other thing I want to grapple with, as I consider this, is the idea that although my tastebuds might be failing, my sampling of LIFE need not be at all affected. In fact, I could actually swap some of the time I have spent transfixed upon my next culinary treat, becoming caught up with things far more profitable. I have an inner life as well, that could do with going deeper, and the experience enjoyed on that plane can only get better.

So, I’m going to move on, and transfer previous sensory experience for new as yet unchartered territory. I’m happy to hear your own experiences in this area too.

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Back in the Land of the Long White Cloud

walkway

I walked my old favourite pathway beside the inner harbour again this morning – for the first time in two months. And it FELT like the first time in a while too. Sad to say, I’m still pretty stiff in the legs after all that sitting on the plane, and er, non-exercise in the States. However, after briefly touching down in Atlanta and then Houston. . .

Plane.JPG

. . . I arrived on Saturday morning at 5.30, missing Friday altogether, and spent much of the day up and about. Then out to a party for a friend that night.

CouttsieandI.JPG I’m not sure how I did it, but I’m still feeling pretty perky. The thing I’m NOT feeling is pretty fit.

Which is why I am going to start My Peak Challenge in earnest from this moment on. Yes, you read it first here. I have actually put on a chunk of weight since my sturdy footprint landed on American soil. Having a propensity to enjoy life, and all the experiences it brings, food included, I did not expect to actually LOSE weight, but I was hoping to maintain. Huh!

My main reason for taking myself in hand is that I want to continue to travel. It becomes harder and harder to do so with an expanding waistband and the ensuing health issues that come from being overweight. So, I’m putting it out there now, and you can all watch and critique my attempts. (Please – I hope you will.)

HOW am I going to do it? It’s going to be mostly about the food habits and indulgences initially: NO sugar, lower carbs, and I’m taking various aids for the digestive system. My sis makes a great Kombucha. I’m making myself some sauerkraut (sp: pickled cabbage). I’ve got digestive enzymes, good bacteria, green tea extract, and make up a turmeric-rich almond milk shake every day. The more help I can give my digestive system and liver the better I think. I am also convinced that merely cutting sugar out will be the best thing.

Aside from that, I am picking up the pace again. I don’t know why it’s so hard to do when travelling. . . but I get out of routine and start taking short cuts or end up sitting around chatting to whoever I’m with, or watching movies, or eating out. I must have very powerful dorsal muscles by now. Have charged up my fitbit, and set up Map My Walk on my new iphone, and so it’s a happening thing. I know it will all make a difference when I set off for the UK again next year (May).

It HAS been a wonderful holiday, both catching up with cousins and rellies in PA and NY, and then friends in the far south. I’ve loved every single minute, and done all I wanted to do. NEXT time it will be about meeting up with more Outlander friends, promise.

I’m in my eighth state since I arrived

We came up to Savannah, Georgia, for my last weekend here – I’ve never been here and always been curious about this very old, steeped-in-history town. Unbeknownst to me, when I booked a place to stay I chose Hilton Head, which just happens to be above the State line in southern Carolina. The huge billboard that stands in a swamp north of the elegant bridge leading out of Savannah reads ‘Fire an Automatic Machine gun! Details…’ Soooo bizarre. 

Anyway, back to Savannah. We enjoyed a drink on the deck of a hotel overlooking River Rd, the old port of the city. 

Then we continued our journey north into South Carolina, out along a string of arched bridges into a very classy holiday area – Hilton Head. After dropping our bags at the Park Lane Hotel, we set off and researched the eating establishments whose lights gleamed beguilingly through the trees on the road leading in. Eventually we found one called Porter & Pig, an upbeat bar with a ‘Cheers’ style central bar stool area and tables around the side. Naturally we both tried an Irish ale, and ordered some very passable tapas. 


This morning we set off to properly explore Savannah. It seemed the best option initially would be to take one of the many trolley bus rides on offer, and indeed, it was a great way to hear the history of the central historic district. So many fabulous old homes – from the 1700s through to Victorian times, all situated in leafy splendor around a number of green parks. The trees are all old and gnarled with spanish moss trailing lacily from their boughs. 


Our driver was most informative – not at all put off by the fact that the bus broke down and remained motionless for about 15 minutes. Down on River Road, the cobbles are authentic, and the Factor’s homes with their iron walkways at the back where they bid and bargained for the bales of cotton on the walkway below. 


We were dropped off at the Market square, and had a lunch of steak sandwich and blackened groper that we relished. After walking down River Road and sampling fudge and wandering the open markets, Marcie and I took the free Red Dot bus back to our car. I drove over the State line again and this time we went to find the sea front of the island we were staying on. The beach is gorgeous with fine white sand…and a long twisting ugly pipeline running its length. If anyone can explain what it’s doing there I’d be most grateful! 

What a day to be in America!

Yep, I was here on this day of all days. I held some fairly strong opinions when I ventured over here fron New Zealand. Our media and Trump himself, have been filling us with mingled awe and horror in the leadup to this election. HOWEVER, I had the very great privilege of staying with friends and family from both sides since I got here, and my voice has grown much less strident until I actually stopped to listen to what the dear souls who live here had to say. The general feeling has been that there are two weevils …


… neither one much better than the other. Today’s outcome was a shock to many, but the people around me right now, are quietly relieved that a republican congress has replaced the much more liberal democrat one, and perhaps – in the long term – the VP will be more than he presently is. 

I don’t know. I am glad I got to hear so many sides expressed without needing to push my own views. If indeed, the lesser of two weevils has been picked, then I hope everyone in supporting roles in this government manage to keep the ship afloat, and Americans cling as hard as they can to the freedoms and spirit that made them who they are. It matters to those of us in the far out reaches on the corner of the world map a great deal, too.

That’s it from me. I barely have a political bone in my body so don’t tear me apart for expressing something here. I felt that since I was here in Florida on THIS day, I should. God bless America! 

Poker, parties and perambulations

You know the old saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans”? I’ve done my utmost to don the habits and manners of the North Dakota family I’m with – all scattered now but celebrating the birthday from this midwestern town. It has been a joyous experience – particularly once I stopped resisting ‘going with the flow’. The party day went well, with some speeches and toasts…


There is a lot of love for this remarkable and giving woman. She has given of herself for years and continues to do so, with an energy and abandon that I can only marvel at. I had the privilege of hosting Penny and her daughter’s trip to New Zealand over ten years ago, and we have been friends ever since. When the ‘formalities’ were over, the card tables appeared and a long tradition of card games took over. Everyone eagerly joined in, but the ‘ferriner’. I haven’t played anything in decades, and 500 was my game of choice, but I watched. And watched.


I found myself upstairs on my bed listening to my audiobook at the end of the evening, which just happened to be an 18th century romantic tale set in upper class English society. In between the balls were evenings of parlour card games, which appeared to be how the ‘ton’ engaged socially. How similar it all seemed to the activities downstairs.

Anyway, yesterday I girded my loins and descended the stairs determined to enjoy participation in this activity. I had been told which uncle to ask for advice and who to sit next to, but in fact, I was given more than enough help by anyone nearby and the chips piled up beside me. (I know they were being kind). Without my noticing it, hours went by. I can well imagine how many cold snowed-in winter evenings are spent enjoying the company of other similarly snowed-in folks around these card tables, nibbling on meatballs and rice, and with a football game playing on a screen nearby. At around 2pm, Marcie and I headed out on this glorious Fall day – warmer than Auckland right now – for a walk in meadowland not far away. We headed out for a movie a bit later, and after all relatives and friends had departed, enjoyed some Thai takeout before bed. Tomorrow: Indianapolis! 

In a place called Indianapolis

So I’ve arrived in the midwest. It’s flatter than the flattest flat thing. First thing this morning I looked out to see the mist on the mountains and saw this.


I have been told it’s a long way before the land rises or falls. So anyway, after a leisurely breakfast and cuddle with the old dachshund, Merys . . .


We set off to see the old part of Greenfield, the part of Indy where I’m staying. I’m here to celebrate a friend’s 75th birthday and all manner of extended family and friends are making their way here over the course of the next few days. Our trip from Indianapolis airport was grim, yesterday. I was rather foolishly hoping for glowing vistas of Fall color as the late Autumn in the upper parts of the country is meant to be stunning. Alas, it was not to be. My friend Marcie rented a car that must be the smallest in the range. Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous. The car I rented in Jacksonville – supposedly midsize – was a monster SUV. When the dealer guy looked over Marcie’s shoulder and saw me, he questioned her choice, “Surely your friend would be more comfortable in something . . . taller?” “Oh, she’ll be fine!” Marcie said airily. So three of us squeezed into a tiny blue Yaris and set off through rush hour traffic. With my nose pressed up against the windscreen (not out of enthusiasm, merely necessity), all I saw as we inched forward for interminable amounts of time were semi trailers and lanes of slow traffic, bracketed on either side by grey industrial areas. I KNOW I have not seen the best Indy has to offer as yet. I was much heartened when we took a trip into the old town of Springfield today and found some rather charming sights.


I couldn’t find a cafe but I did find a pancake parlor that served a very passable caramel macchiato. Oh, and I found a bison. 


Oh, and in case you think I only ever have pics taken of me – it’s not true. (My friend has equal numbers taken of her but is much too shy to allow them on here.) I’m with a very fun assortment of family here, who have taken me into their midst as if I belong. Downstairs a game of cards is in progress, and clusters of folks are sitting around yakking and nibbling at endless amounts of food. The waves of laughter and conversation ebb and flow up the stairs and into the bedroom where I am writing this blog. Marcie has just popped up to report that her Mom just asked, “Is Jenny having another break?” “Yeah, she is.” See, they know me well. I can hear the voice of the Uncle who, when dropped off at the Super8 motel last night called loudly over his shoulder to his nieces (in front of a couple guys outside the doors) “Did I pay you two gals enough?” (He forestalled their own intended shout of “Goodbye Honey!”) They were still laughing when they got home. The dachshund is still growling softly at the various men in the party. And this is just the pre-party night. I’m so glad I’m here, but I’m pacing myself. 

I’d better go on down again and show my face. It wouldn’t do to show that kiwi lasses don’t have staying power.