Category: Blog – Food

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Heat Maps & Visitor Trails – Make Your Website A Blazing Force!

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Night Vision For Websites – A Case Study!

A Northern California client came to us for help with increasing leads for their environmental clean-up business.  They have a pretty high volume of traffic for a small local business.  They receive 30,000+ visitors per month.  By looking at Google Analytics, we were able to see that most of the visitors are going to five blog articles discussing Carbon Monoxide and a few other home environmental topics.  InfusionSoft is operating in the background, collecting leads, but leads were only trickling in, perhaps just a few per week.  We could also see that only 1/6 of users who started the Request A Quote form were completing it.  Two thirds of their site traffic comes from the East coast (3000 miles away), and Southern California, so does not represent potential clients.  The site has an average on page time of 6 minutes with a bounce rate of 90%.  How odd!

What would you do?  This is the fun part of our work:  playing detective.

Our first objective was to follow the rule that it is cheaper to get business from existing clients than to go out and find new ones.  Rather than trying to bring in new traffic, we wanted to try to convert more of their existing traffic, and monetize the traffic from users who are geographically not potential clients.  The client would be overbooked if they had 40 projects in a month.  It certainly should be possible to convert 40 users out of 30,000 into customers!

The Never Ending Form

The first thing we did was ask the client about the request a quote form.  Why were people dropping off?  How long is the form, we asked?  Six pages long was the reply.  When they created the quote form, they were concerned that they would be flooded with requests, so they made the Request A Quote form intentionally long, and required a response for every single question so that only someone who really wanted a call would go through the trouble of filling it out.  They certainly were successful in deterring responses!  Isn’t that thought process just adorable?  We have seen this many times.  “Make the user really try hard to reach us because then we know that for sure they want our help so that we don’t waste our time with people who aren’t going to turn into customers”.

We recommended using a short form first, and if calls did in fact start flooding in, THEN adjust.  We replaced the six page form with a five question form.  Within a week the number of form completions doubled.   We are testing this short form and then will test an even shorter form.

By utilizing Google Analytics and heat map technology we were able to determine that there was too much of a barrier to collect qualified leads, and shortened the form, plus removed the annoying pop-up.  The high volume of traffic is mostly comprised of actual human users who find the content extremely relevant and compelling.  They are not potential clients for the services offered due to their geographic location, but it should be possible to provide additional value to them by making recommendation for trusted products this generate a bit of additional income through affiliate and referral agreements.

Bounce Rate And On-Page Time

The next piece of the puzzle is this high number of visits to six of their blog articles.  The articles receive several hundred visitors per day.  An SEO analyst had told them that the traffic was all bots.  We disagreed, based on what we saw in the data and “sensed”.  But how do we know for sure?  How can we solve this mysterious data showing long on-page times yet a high bounce rate?  It appeared from our initial examination that these are real users who land at these blog entries, read the ENTIRE thing, and then leave.  We didn’t think they were bots.  But to try to engage with these anonymous users, and to know for certain that they are real, we had to learn more than we could get from Google Analytics.

This is where the heat maps and user trails come in.  What we learned was incredibly valuable.   When we studied reports made on the  carbon monoxide blog article, a stunning 75% of users scrolled all the way to the bottom of the page reading carefully and slowly.  By recording over 100 user’s movements, we were able to see that the opt-in pop-up was a huge annoyance, yet it didn’t send them running, they simply closed it and continued reading all the way to the end.  They often scrolled up to read a section again.  Folks!  We have real users here!  Plus, they find the information in the article so compelling that they read the entire thing!

Summary

By utilizing Google Analytics and heat maps, we were able to determine that there was too much of a barrier for users to request a quote.  We removed the pop-up and reduced the Request A Quote form to just a few questions.  The high volume of traffic was found to be actual humans, who find the information in the article very compelling and relevant.  They are not potential customers due mainly to their geographic location, but it should be possible to engage them in other was such as through affiliate agreements or referrals to businesses that are located in their area.

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Elsie Green Shelf

North Bay Getaway – Discover “The Barlow” In Sebastopol, CA

My view of Sebastopol being a retreat for aging hippie artists (note:  my mom is in that category) was turned on its head this week.  I am not certain at which point in recent history “artists” began to share the limelight with “artisans”, but I am certain that it must have been some time around the slow food movement, which led to the farm-to-table movement, which led to mason jar water glasses in Michelen star restaurants, and the rest is history.

The continuous gutting of small shops and downtowns by big box stores, and the lingering recession of 2008 resulted in thousands of vacant retail shops of all sizes in neighborhoods with shuttered and abandoned warehouses around the country.  This created affordable spaces for artists, craftspersons, and chefs to set up shop not only in cities, but in the outer reaches.

The Barlow
Elsie Green Boards

Photographs By Wendy Louise Nog

The artist retreat of Sebastopol was faced with a similar challenge of lost industry, and a twelve acre apple processing business was mainly unused and in disrepair.  Recognizing that this space provided an opportunity to develop a craftspersons and boutique retail area, it was purchased by local Barnie Aldridge, who planned and executed a revival and renovation of the buildings and area, and named it “The Barlow” after the Barlow Family of apple growers that had once used this space.

It is fascinating to observe that the further we advance technologically, the further back we reach to revisit the past, to a time before plastic when all that was made would over time return to the earth to be recycled by its systems.  There is something fundamentally relaxing to hold an object that is of completely natural materials.  I believe that even though we may not be aware of it, our brains are analyzing the objects we interact with far beyond identifying the color, but also where it fits into this complex system that it must interpret correctly in order for us to survive.  Our brains can recognize that a plastic container we toss into the trash has a life cycle that is not natural, and we experience this awareness hundreds of times each day.  This creates a sense of unease, and we may not even be aware of its source.  When we bring natural fabrics and materials into everyday use, there is a palpable change that takes place in our sense of well being.  This is why artisan products made with natural materials have become so sought after.

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Sebastopol sits just West of Santa Rosa, CA an hour’s drive from San Francisco, and is the last large town when you head West, leaving way to farmland and then the rugged hills and coast of Mendocino.  The Wine Industry has spilled over 101 and headed towards Sebastopol, and you can now see vineyards where there once cows and old fences.  The Barlow is a modern shed experience on twelve acres of land right in downtown Sebastopol.  There are forty retail and industrial use spots in The Barlow, and as you wander along the streets you will observe wine tasting, the weaving of gorgeous fabrics, brewing of beer, the making of ice cream, and so much more.

As always, I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so will not tell you everything about the wine tasting, the breweries, the galleries, but I will share with you three of the spots that we visited.  The first is a clothing and gift boutique called Scout.  As a logo buff, the Scout logo is a head turner for me, and I had to go see what was inside.  The Scout shop is a curated collection of simply designed, artisan objects to use and wear.  The shop features artisans from around the country and overseas, and you will certainly find something to bring home.

Scour West County Logo On Wall
Scout Store
Scout Infant Sweater

Taylor Lane Organic Coffee, Sebastopol, CA

A second spot we got to know very well was Taylor Lane Organic Coffee, because we spent the entire work day hunkered down on their open upper level, and it was fascinating to observe the clientele passing through.  There was a wide range of the before mentioned aging hippie artists, and also hipsters, farmers, young artists, and people who seemed to be in the wine and beer industry, which requires a whole swath of different types of people.  Creatives have been retreating further north from the high prices of San Francisco and Southern Marin.  The wine country has spread west over 101,  and there are expansive preserves of farmland to the south and west where cheeses of all types are emerging from creameries.  The now legal cannabis industry is filtering south from Humboldt County, and Sebastopol is the epicenter of all of these.

Elsie Green, Sebastopol, CA

The third shop that we spent a great deal of time in is the Elsie Green shop.  This absolutely beautiful shop made me cry a little, that my life’s journey hadn’t landed me in an old French house with a kitchen filled with old wooden spoons and copper pots.  But I picked myself up by my bootstraps, or rather, sandal straps, and wandered through the store imagining myself cutting flowers on a big wooden chopping block, or setting the table before whooshing out to the garden to pick warm tomatoes and fresh fennel for a salad that I had to toss together quickly because I could hear my guests’ car winding up the hillside to my home, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Elsie Green Wall Hooks
Elsie Green Table

Fern Bar, Sebastopol, CA

My absolute favorite was the Fern Bar.  After going to a folk concert at nearby HopMonk, we walked back over to The Barlow to visit FernBar, where we were greeted by bartender Matt, formerly of SpoonBar in Healdsburg.  Matt was mixing up a delicious array of cocktails, and since I had already reached my three-is-really-all-I-can-handle limit, he created the most delicious mohito I have ever tasted…and there wasn’t even any alcohol!  A three-piece band consisting of a stand-up bass, piano, and since I had three beverages by then I can’t remember what the third was, but in any case, I was happy sitting on that bar stool in that beautiful space with a good friend, sipping a fizzy drink and listening to jazz.  It doesn’t get any better than that for me.  Alas I did not get any photographs, but all the better, so that you can find out for yourself.

Fern Bar Matthew
Fern Bar Drink
Future Bright Wendy & Stephanie

The author, and friend Stephanie Guaiumi, who introduced her to The Barlow.  Stephanie and her husband make their own wine, and she often brings the author preserves made in her kitchen. You need a four-wheel drive truck to get to Stephanie’s summer home, which is perched on a hill  behind their orchards in Lake County.

FOOD & ARTISTRY & DESIGN BLOG

Ariana Bundy Restaurant In Dubai

Persian Restaurant Ariana’s Kitchen To Open In Dubai

Ariana Bundy Restaurant In Dubai

 

 

My young daughter and I sat in an outdoor patio of a cafe whose entrance was piled with desserts and pastries of every color in the rainbow, and that looked out over the calming pool below.  Far below.  We were on the seventh level of cafes that line the edge of the Dubai Mall, and as we sat and breathed in the air, and wondered at the slightly orange tint that a distant sand storm gave the surrounding buildings, for the first time in two weeks, we felt totally at ease.

Our trip from California to visit family in Kolkata was punctuated by the extreme opposites that you experience when traveling anywhere in India, and we had arrived in Dubai fairly well shaken.  Being a woman traveling alone with a young girl had required a focused alertness that was exhausting.  We were very excited to have landed in Dubai, and of course had seen the Burj Khalifa as we approached from the air.  We took a pristinely clean train from the Dubai airport, exited at the great mall train stop, and walked along the never-ending corridors of moving sidewalks until we finally reached our destination and discovered a cafe where we could sit, relax, and take in this new environment.  As we sat in the sun listening to the ambient music surrounding us, I felt all of the worries, the stress of travel, the concerns about anything at all, completely melt away.  We sat there in wonder, experiencing together that feeling that can only be had in Dubai.

My purpose for visiting this incredible city was to connect with my Website Design client, Celebrity Persian Chef Ariana Bundy, who is opening a Persian restaurant, “Ariana’s Persian Kitchen” at the astonishing Royal Atlantis Hotel & Residences.  Her Persian cuisine is infused with rose, saffron, pistachios, and will feature an amazing menu of ancient recipes.  She is also renovating a 300 year old residence at a separate location to serve as a cooking school and destination inn.  Her story is one that reflects the story of Dubai.  It is a place where you can dream, and make those dreams come true.  It is a playground for architects and developers, chefs and designers, artists and travelers, and absolutely anything that you can imagine is possible, including creating a map of the world with islands.  Future Bright has been so honored to have accompanied her on this journey, and as a boutique website design agency that specializes in food, this was an incredibly special visit.

We were able to easily take Uber everywhere, and every driver we had was kind, friendly, and open to share about their origins and family.  We also felt completely safe.  Like most of the residents of Dubai, the drivers were all from somewhere else, which is very much like our residence in California.

Our gracious host Paul Hughes, husband and partner of Ariana Bundy, gave us a tour of the area around where we were staying, and it was simply mind-boggling to suddenly come upon another and yet another cluster of 100 skyscrapers.  The construction of new buildings was happening everywhere, and it was exciting to see and imagine how they would be when they were finished based on the impossible angles that seemed to be emerging beneath towering cranes.  We had dinner at Jumeirah Al Qasr, a five-star resort, and sat in a lounge overlooking the canals lined with palm trees.  The entire structure was built of beautiful marble and granite.  The food was incredibly flavorful, and the wine completely unfamiliar, which is disorienting and wonderful at the same time.

The always futuristic World Expo is to be held in Dubai in 2020, and construction has already begun, with countries building astonishing representations of their most creative architecture.  It is tempting to list all of the details of our time spent exploring the amazing city of Dubai, but it is so much more fun to discover it yourself.  We will definitely be returning, and can’t wait to taste a saffron infused ice cream from Ariana’s restaurant overlooking the salty expanse of the Persian Gulf waters.

Wendy Louise Nog, MSTMWendy Louise Nog is Founder and Digital Strategist for Future Bright Interactive, a website development agency based in Silicon Valley, CA.

Future Bright The Future Of Chinese Food

The Future Of Chinese Food

Panel Discussion: “The Future of Chinese Food in San Francisco.” Held by the San Francisco Professional Food Society,

Future Bright The Future Of Chinese Food

HOST:  
George Chen, Owner of China Live, Eight Tables, and advocate for fine Chinese cuisine

MODERATOR:
Carolyn Phillips – Nominated twice for a James Beard Award  is a food writer, scholar, and artist.

PANELISTS:
Jonathan Kauffman – San Francisco Chronicle Food Reporter 
Luke Tsai –  senior editor at San Francisco magazine
Carolyn Jung –  James Beard Award-winning food writer based in Silicon Valley

There is nothing I love more than to be in a situation where everyone feels totally comfortable, and I feel completely out of place.  It means that I have gone outside of my bubble, and that there is a whole expansive space that I have yet to explore.
– Wendy Louise Nog, Founder, Future Bright

Late afternoon one fall day in San Francisco.  One of my three children didn’t feel well, and was suddenly taken with a tummy ache as we were walking through the city.  Being a believer in the healing powers of food, and based on her coloring, I thought that she needed chicken soup, and fast!  We ducked into a Chinese restaurant and sat down in the lively dining room filled with Chinese families.  All around us were tables filled with steaming bowls of noodles and broth.  We were handed a menu.  I could not actually read it, as the only English words were pretty non-descriptive.   Chicken…it said, hand-written onto the paper, with beautiful chinese writing next to it that probably told the whole history of the recipe.  I will take the chicken, I said, and pointed to it.

I have always felt that a truly authentic Chinese restaurant has a lot of shouting between the person taking the order and the invisible cooks in the kitchen, with a lot of doors swinging back and forth with banging and chopping sounds emanating from somewhere in the back.  This particular restaurant fulfilled those requirements.  Within moments, a small plate with tiny pieces of chicken appeared in front of my daughter.  We all looked at it feeling bewildered, as it was very much not soup.  There was about a teaspoon of meat on the bones.  I raised my hand, and the server came rushing over.  “Could we have chicken soup,” I asked sheepishly?  “Soup, Yes!” she said, and began yelling at the cooks again.  A few minutes later, a steaming bowl of chicken soup arrived.  My daughter weakly began eating the soup with a big spoon, and I noticed that there were chicken foot knuckles floating to the surface.  I said nothing, as it would have meant an immediate pause in the soup consumption.  My daughter ate the soup, she felt better, and we left, happy.  “I wonder what kind of chicken that was,” she pondered out loud after we left.

I was reminded of that soup day during the panel discussion at George Chen’s China Live restaurant focusing on “at “The Future Of Chinese Food”.  George Chen has been tirelessly working to raise the status of Chinese cuisine.  One of the panelists said that with European food, traditional is considered good, but with Chinese food, it is bad.  I understood exactly what they meant, because on that soup day, one of my kids said, reflecting on our experience, “Mom, that restaurant was too traditional!”

The discussion brought up for me fond and (also gory) memories of walking down Stockton Street on my way to work through China Town every morning, smelling the strange smells, passing the halves of pigs and decapitated fowl, wild looking roots, dried fish, mushrooms of all sizes and shapes, giant tanks of sea creatures, all pungent to my nose.  Those aromas did not make my mouth water, they made my eyes water, which has always intrigued me.  How is it that we as humans develop such varied tastes?  The wide ranging contents of my children’s classmates’ lunches proved to me that we learn to love foods by association and comfort.  Unless we grew up eating these foods, our palette is unfamiliar with traditional Chinese spices and ingredients, and while we devour plates of noodles and spicy shrimp, we do not even scratch the surface of this complex cuisine, that varies vastly from region to region within China, and as the cuisine has adapted to its arrival in new places around the world.

Why Is Chinese Cuisine Stuck In A White Cardboard Box? – George Chen

Judging the authenticity of a restaurant’s cuisine based on the heritage of the guests in the dining room is an often used method for guessing the quality of taste.  I would definitely think that an Indian restaurant with a lot of Indians would have delicious food.  A Japanese restaurant with a lot of Japanese people inside would be good.  Same with Italian, Jamaican, Mexican, and on and on.  But I am wary of Chinese restaurants that have a lot of Chinese diners because I worry that I may not like the food…or rather, that I will be afraid of the food!  (It isn’t just Chinese cuisine, I have the same feeling about Spanish food…I am just not a fan of tripe!)

Why can’t Chinese food break past being cheap and served in white paper boxes?” George Chen, owner of China Live, lamented out loud.  “Why is it hard to imagine a $400 Chinese meal?  Chinese cuisine is 5000 years old, the oldest in the world.  Why is it stuck in a white cardboard box?

The answers unrolled from the panel and the audience.  First generation Chinese elders will scoff at expensive food.  In Chinese restaurants, chefs are hidden in the back, not out in front as celebrities.  Ingredients are hard to come by and replacements are required.  And most soul crushing, food from poor countries is expected to be cheap.

The Opium wars are barely touched upon in history classes, even though they are the most fascinating, fortune making, culturally devastating events in modern history.  Opium, Spices and Slave trade brutally carved deep scars throughout India, the Middle East, and China. When I studied the Opium Wars for the first time in college, I learned of a moment that forever etched in my mind the folly of European belief that theirs was a superior culture.  Before the wars began, when the British delegates had arrived in China with their wives to negotiate the importing of opium, the Chinese wives refused to dine with the new arrivals because they smelled badly.  It was a pristine moment when an ancient, culturally advanced population clothed in silks was confronted by a rough, brutal group of people who didn’t bathe, destroyed silk factories to replaced them with cotton factories to process the bales of cotton picked by their slaves, yet who believed themselves to be from a more civilized race.  Sadly, advancement in weaponry and machines of destruction motivated by greed will always win over advancement in intellectual thought, artistry, and culture.

A wave of men and a few families left China for the US to escape the Opium Wars in the 1800’s and many landed in the US and were employed to build the railways.  In the mid-1800’s, 10% of the population of California was Chinese.  Today it is 4%.  They were met with intense discrimination, as were other new arrivals such as Indians, and really all new influxes.  Because of this early arrival and in great numbers, as one panelist said, the cuisine has been a part of our cultural landscape throughout the US for a long time, and is often the first “exotic” food that Americans eat.  This was certainly true for me, growing up in rural Minnesota.  Chinese cuisine has always adapted to the available ingredients and cultural norms of the region.  In Minnesota that meant thick gravy, canned vegetables, and lots of onions and celery.  As the global transportation system has transformed the availability of ingredients, of course that has now changed.

The memory of the British forcing opium upon its population and the damage that it did has left a mark of distrust with China of the West.  A devastating attempt to reject the West’s economic influence on China took place in the mid-1900’s in the Cultural Revolution, and sadly millions starved or were killed, rationing went too far, and Chinese cuisine was reduced to survivalist cooking with whatever could be found, including grass. George Chen shared that during the Cultural Revolution in China, restaurants were closed, and much was lost to the culinary world within China.  There have not been culinary schools providing certificates, or the culinary training and infrastructure that exists in much of the rest of the world.  He can’t bring over chefs from China because in spite of their skill, they do not have certificates proving that expertise.

Our experience with Chinese food is a complex web of our own country’s short and often dark history, the global competition for goods and resources, the 5000+ year old history of China, which now has the world’s largest population, our culinary curiosity, or discomfort with the unfamiliar, and the exciting emergence of a movement to introduce the world to fine Chinese foods.

What I lack is the language of Chinese cuisine, an understanding of the ingredients, and the story behind the recipes.  This was a common thought expressed by the audience of the panel.  What is the difference between traditional and American Chinese cuisine?  The preparation?  The ingredients?  I know the somewhat unsavory story behind my favorite Italian dish, Spaghetti alla puttanesca.  I have been in tiny villages in France where cheese is made. I have hidden in a room with towels blocking the crack under the door while cooks in our kitchen in Kolkata chopped peppers that turned the air into fire for your lungs.  But when it comes to Chinese cuisine, all I have is images in my mind of rice fields with people walking through them wearing wide grass hats.  One participant said that perhaps the next step is for Chinese food artisans to begin to educate us, give us the stories, give us the language we need to understand the nuances of the ingredients and preparation.  The first time a Chinese restaurant achieved three Michelin stars happened just in July of 2018, a status 5000 years in the making.   Chinese cuisine is just at the cusp of taking a long overdue spotlight, and if you are ignorant like me, feeling out of place in the expansive world of Chinese cuisine, a wonderful journey awaits us!

Future Bright - Laurie Gaugan At The Future Of Chinese Food

Laurie Gaugan, Personal Chef To The Stars (with special diets), far right, Wendy Louise Nog, Second From Right.

To learn about Laurie’s incredible specialty of creating delicious cuisine for restricted diets, visit her at her website:  https://www.cheflauriegauguin.com/

Books By Carolyn Jung and Carolyn Phillips

Photos From Inside The Shop And Restaurant
China Live

Future Bright Blog | TedX Salon The Future Of Food | Glyph Scotch

The Future Of Food Is…Sooo Delicious!

Local / Efficient Land Use / Better Flavors / Healing Nutrients

Cottage Food Directory Our Mission Image

The TedX Marin Salon – The Future Of Food

What a spread!  CBD infused chocolates, scotch made in a few hours’ time, taste tablets that trick your taste buds into thinking a dessert with absolutely no sugar tastes sweet…it was so cool to attend the TedX Marin Salon focusing on “The Future Of Food!”  Nearly 700 attendees circulated around the collection of new and inventive food and beverages, and after we had each drunk just enough scotch to take off the edge, the doors opened and we were ushered into the theater where four individuals gave talks, followed by a lively 40 minute Q & A session, with the questions submitted prior to the event.

HU Chocolates

I am always looking for cool packaging and logos, and my favorite tonight was Paleo and Vegan HU Chocolates.  The HU is short for “Human”.  The chocolate is tasty!  Hu Chocolates 

Good Earth founder Mark Squire talked about the difference between organic farming and non-organic farming.  Organic farming is about richness and diversity of soil, plants and creatures.  Non-organic farming is about emptying soil and space of everything but the particular seed they want to grow, and then adding chemicals to feed those seeds and kill everything else.  A bio-diverse soil and environment produces a sturdier and larger yield.  It takes ten years, he said, for a field to reach its fullest potential for growth.  He also said that having huge industrial farms is not the best way to feed a growing world population, it is really the creation of local small farms that will feed us all.

The talk was hosted by Edible Marin founder Gibson Thomas, and she asked a really good question that struck me, why is it that Organic Farmers need to pay A LOT to show that they are not using chemicals (which adds to the cost of organic foods), while the growers who ARE using chemicals do not have to show any documentation of what they are putting in our food, and pay nothing extra?  She is so right!  Why is it that farmers have to pay to say that they are NOT putting added chemicals in the food…isn’t this the opposite of labeling?

MOST POPULAR BOOTHS

No question, the two most popular booths were the scotch and CBD infused chocolate booths which conveniently were right next to each other.  Glyph Scotch and Resonance Spa And Welnesss were an excellent pairing of booths!  Rather than age their scotch, Glyph extracts specific molecules from the yeasts of their preference to almost instantly create the flavors and taste that they are looking for.  It is Scotch Science!  I am sure that if there were Scotch police these guys would all be arrested immediately, thrown into a dungeon and forced to drink wine coolers for the rest of their lives…but they have a very cool bottle, and are excited about playing with ingredients on such a micro-level.  The CBD infused chocolates were presented by Resonance Spa, located right near me in Corte Madera.  They offer CBD infused oils for their massage…and chocolates!

Future Bright

MOST DELICIOUS BOOTH

Miyoko Schinner herself was at the event presenting her incredibly delicious vegan cheeses and butters.  These butters, spreads, and harder cheeses are so delicious that you seriously would not miss regular cheese if you were forced to switch.  But there was no arm twisting, this booth was crowded four people deep.  This was partially because there was not much other food and many people including myself had had a couple of samples of scotch on an empty stomach, so this delicious presentation came to my rescue.

It can’t be understated how damaging the farming of livestock is to our environment.  Not only does livestock need pasture, but vast areas of land are used to grow their food. In natural circumstances, cows don’t continuously produce milk year after year.  Like other mammals, including humans, a cow begins producing milk for the first time after their first calf is born.  A dairy farmer will immediately remove the calf from the mother and begin to harvest the milk.  If you have ever heard a mother cow wailing for her calf, you would have pause to eat dairy.  I have, yet I push it into the back of my mind.  The mourning and wailing can last for days.  During calving season, there are hundreds of wailing cows.  Cows are sentient beings who live in groups with complex social structures.  They look funny because their horns are burned off at the root with chemicals.  Yes, it is excruciating.  Anyway, back to what happens next, the cows then become milkers, and they are forced to produce milk for two or three years before they are given a break, and are sometimes given drugs to keep their milk production up.  A cow is selected to stop producing by the farmer.  The real story behind dairy cows is very heartbreaking.  I grew up around dairy farms and I witnessed all of these things, but it did not register with me as wrong, because it was so taken for granted that this is just the way it is done.   Now as an adult, I am aware of the truth, and although I love ice cream and cheeses, I can feel a shift begin to happen in my own mind.

The Future Of Food

While mingling, I spoke with a gentleman about the new exciting law that goes into effect on January 1 in California.  It extends the cottage kitchen law to include the option of people to actually serve prepared meals in their home or for pick-up or delivery.  He told me about visiting Cuba years ago, and there would be little homes that would put up holiday lights on their porch.  This meant that you could go shopping for ingredients, like vegetables and a lobster, drop them off at the home, and they would cook all day preparing a meal for you.  You would arrive at dinner time and sit down in their home, listen to music, and get to know them.  This sounds incredible!

At Future Bright we believe that buying and growing local will solve so many problems with health and our environment.  That is why we are launching a Cottage Food Directory, where you will be able to find local kitchens who can prepare your meals for pick-up, or create dining experiences for you in their home.  The possibilities are so endless!  You can have a sneak peek and sign up to be notified when we launch the directory by visiting CottageFoodDirectory.com.

Future Bright Wendy Louise Nog Signature

Supporting The Arts – Pie Eyed Gallery – Sebastopol, CA

It is worth setting out solely to visit this special place just outside of Sebastopol.  The area is home to many artists who have retreated from the hustle of city life to dwell in the calm open spaces between rolling hills and small farms.  The Pie Eyed Gallery is part junk yard, part scrap metal collection point, part maker’s heaven.  There is an actual gallery space that features artists ranging from metal sculptors to puppet masters.  There are also several resident artists.

Smoke + Children = ROAD TRIP!! Discovering A Thankful Refuge In The Benbow Inn

Ten thousand homes burned.  Staggering.  Countless lives lost…we don’t even know yet how many.  The thick smoke that moved in to the Bay Area was filled with the remnants of lives identical to the lives that we also live, creating a confusing mixture of fear, as it could be us any day, a connection to those who are suffering, because we are breathing their suffering into our lungs,  claustrophobia due to the oppressive toxic air as we huddled in small rooms with air purifiers, and a strong urge to escape, all mixed in with guilt for being able to escape what so many have no escape from.

On this day of Thanksgiving, a marker for most First Nation persons of their own grief and loss at our ancestor’s hands, we pause to take note of having.  Having life.  Having each other.  Having choices.

Benbow InnAs the air quality approached 300 on Friday, and with all schools closed, I was thankful that I was able to stuff my kids and our dog into my truck and head North to fresher air.  This trip did not have our usual excitement for the unknown as our other road trips have had.  This one was a bit traumatizing for them. I hadn’t grabbed the right clothes for one of my kids, and had intentionally left their electronic devices behind.  But also, they are old enough to understand that our small discomfort is nothing compared to what others are going through.  As we traveled North, in each of the three locations we stayed there was a feeling of displacement.  No one was where they were supposed to be.  Hotels and streets were streaming with cars and people heading “away” rather than “to”.  The places we stayed were also new homes to people who had lost everything.  We saw cars covered in black soot, and I shuddered knowing that to look like that they had to have driven right near very large flames.

We followed Highway 1 through the beautiful Mendocino coast until the coast veered away, and we entered a deep redwood forest, winding through beautiful and rugged terrain, until we met up with the main artery, CA HWY 101.  There are only tiny little towns with few amenities for 100 miles on that stretch, and when we saw a Lodge emerge around a curve, we were relieved!  We had stumbled upon The Benbow Inn, a Tudor styled historic lodge built in 1926 by the architect Albert Farr, who also built “The Wolf House” for author Jack London.

If you have ever traveled a difficult journey and arrived at a place of familiar refuge, where you know there will be hot coffee, good food and good wine, you will understand how it felt to enter the doors of this historic place.  If you have been to any of the lodges in a National Park after traveling for days, the Benbow Inn will feel very familiar.  It is a place designed for contemplation…for sitting quietly in wonder and looking out at the beauty of nature, looking at maps like people did 100 years ago when the roads were not yet paved, and studying the dinner menu for interesting local ingredients.  Tea and scones are served at 3:00.  It s a starting place for a beautiful hike, and a welcoming home to return to with a roaring fireplace, delicious wine, and hearty dinner.

It is always wonderful to discover a place on your own, so I will not over-describe our visit, I will only say that the Benbow Inn is a place to seek out.  It is surrounded by forests of giant trees, and sits along a beautiful river.  Stay for a few nights.

Benbow Inn
Toll-Free: 1-800-355-3301
445 Lake Benbow Dr., Garberville, CA 95542

Benbow Inn
Benbow Inn

CALL US! 415-275-0970

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