Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A perfect Christmas present

If you have read my blog for a while, you know that I am passionate about inspiring people to live healthier, simpler, more sustainable lives.  You also know that I absolutely adore teaching people stuff (maybe that's why I homeschool). 

One of the topics I teach is cheese making, and before you shrug your shoulders and click away from this post, wait a minute!  Many people think that they are not interested in making cheese, that it's too hard or too time consuming or that they don't have milk, patience, or talent for it.  But that's not true!

Do you know how easy it is to make yogurt (and cheaper than buying it at the store)?  Have you ever tasted chevre right out of your own kitchen?  Do you know how fascinating it is to watch the alchemy of milk coagulating into a firm mass when you make Gouda?  Do you fantasize about impressing your friends with your own wine-soaked cheese?

Well.  Let me tell you: Everyone can make cheese.  If you are able to hold a spoon and buy milk (yes, pasteurized cow milk), or maybe even have access to goat milk, or raw cow milk (not a requirement), you can totally make cheese and yogurt with it.

This year, I designed an online cheesemaking course and taught 72 people how to make Greek Yogurt, Chevre, Gouda and Cabra Al Vino.  I was blown away by their positive responses and by the strong community it created.  Also, I loved how much fun it was for me to teach this course.

So I'm putting a little bug in your ear.  You could either take the class yourself, or (wait for this ---) give it to someone as a Christmas present!

I just thought I'd do you a favor and make Christmas shopping easier this year.  Who needs more ties, socks, or junk?  Give someone the experience of providing amazing food for their families, and learn an ancient skill at the same time!

I will teach my online cheesemaking course three times next year (one in spring, one in summer, and one in fall).  

You can find out more information about the course here (it's self directed, so people don't have to be "in class" at a specific time).  

Go to my website and scroll all the way down to purchase a gift certificate.  I will then e-mail you a pdf gift certificate you can forward to the recipient of your gift, or print it out to wrap.

Here are some of the testimonials from people who took my course:

After completing Corina's online cheesemaking course, I have the confidence to tackle cheesemaking without fear. I was hesitant to attempt to make any of the hard cheeses because of the details in the recipes and the specialized equipment needed. Corina explains when you need to be diligent and when you can sort of cut corners. She also shows how you can compromise on some of the equipment. Basically she gave me the confidence to go ahead and try. 
Cindy, PA

I have been making cheese for many years by reading books, talking to other cheese makers. Corina's course has taught me so much more. Her recipes are very easy and realistic. I am a much better cheesemaker from taking her course. I highly recommend it for whatever stage of cheese making you are in. It is so worth it.Kathleen, MA

I loved this class and feel very confident that in a couple of months my cheese will be as good as Corina's. Her videos, writing and explaining the recipes is wonderful and easy to understand. I would say yes you should take this class and you to can make beautiful cheese. Being a neighbor of Corina's I have tasted her cheese and I'm here to say it's very good and feeling confident mine will be, too. 
Cindy Lou, WA

I had always wanted to make my own cheese but was intimidated with all the steps and precision of it all. Corina and her recipes made everything seem easy and doable. And I did it! Made by me cheese! Thank you Corina!
Barb, British Columbia, Canada

​​I absolutely loved this cheesemaking course! Corina's instructions were easy to follow and the videos took all the guesswork out of the process. My family is thrilled with my yogurt and chevre (and can't wait for the gouda!).
Tracey, AL ​​

I have been making cheeses for years, and Corina's recipes yield some of the best I have ever made! Her encouragement and experience help me get the most from my goat herd. I can't wait to take the class again! 
Alexia, WA

Corina's instructions for making the best yogurt and chevre are the easiest in the world. If you were at all worried that you might not be able to make cheese, her course will get you over that. It's fun and delicious!
Renee, CA

Corina is a wonderful teacher. Clear and specific and very available! 
Lenore, WA

Your cheese-making class was perfect--I appreciate your low-key, practical approach and how your craft is an extension of your beautiful homestead. What you have created there is how I wish the entire world would do business--personal, hands-on and based on true experience. I can't wait to get going on making more cheese!
Marjie, WA
I loved this class!  ​It was full of great information, and Corina made it all interesting and fun!
Liz, VA

​Corina's online cheesemaking class is very fun and educational.  She is a wonderful teacher and has the patience of a saint.  She is able to troubleshoot any problems and come up with solutions.  
Leah, WA​
​This course gave me all the support and encouragement I needed to venture into cheesemaking. I have been so inspired and empowered by this experience that I'm even hoping to get my own goats soon. Thank you, Corina, for a wonderful educational experience! 
​Marianne, OR

Corina, you are indeed a cheese wiz! Your ability to teach via an online course is incredible! I looked forward everyday to learning more from you and loved the go-at-my-own-pace,  the way you teach! The time and effort you put into teaching us newbie cheese makers is so sweet and amazingly helpful! Thank you very much! I told my Facebook friends and family it was a great Christmas present idea!
Hope, WA

This course was terrific. I am pretty able in the kitchen and adventurous, but I really needed an extra push to delve into cheesemaking. Signing up for the class gave me the commitment I needed from myself, and Corina is quite clearly a competent teacher, passionate about her craft, and she has thoughtfully put this class together. I highly recommend it!
Sarah, GA 

I highly recommend Corina's on-line cheese-making course to anyone interested in embarking in the art of artisan cheese. Her course is very well put together and easy to follow. Very professional, but also authentically personable. The opportunities for interfacing with class participants from around the world helps to create a fun community.
Maxine, WA 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rest in peace, my beloved Pluto dog

It is with indescribable sadness that I am writing about my beloved dog Pluto who was my favorite animal companion for almost sixteen years.  After I shared my turkey sandwich with him in the back of the van, the vet joined us there and put Pluto to sleep to send him over the rainbow bridge.

I've known Pluto longer than my husband Steve or my kids.  This dog was my first baby (and anyone who rolls their eyes and says, "Phew, it's just a DOG" can go to hell after I punch them in the face.)

Pluto and I came together via divine intervention - literally.  I've never heard anything like it, and I want to share the story with you.

Before I found Pluto, I had a black lab named Deva, who was everything to me.  At that time, I lived in the Ozarks in Oklahoma after landing there during a solo motorcycle trip across the country to study organic agriculture intentional communities for my college degree.  I was establishing an organic farm for a wealthy man who was paranoid about Y2K.  I wanted to learn and work, and he wanted to pay me so he could be self-sufficient, so I moved into a trailer and worked my ass off.  It was quite isolated there, so I got a tiny little puppy dog, and we bonded like crazy.

Fast forward two years when I moved back to the Pacific Northwest, where I finished up my college degree, and where Deva got hit by a car and died screaming in my arms.  This gave me terrible Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I grieved hard for a long time, and when it didn't get any better I wondered if I should get another dog to fill the void inside my heart.

I agonized about this for weeks, not feeling ready to get another dog, but at the same time wanting another dog in my life.  One day I went to the animal shelter "just to look".  The lady in charge showed me a litter of border collie/labrador puppies, and when I sat down with them, all seven of them jumped on me and chewed on me - except the eighth puppy, a black beauty with a white spot on his chest.  This one sat calmly down next to me, chewing on a stick.  I liked him.  But I didn't want to open myself up to another heart break... 

The lady in charge said if I wanted to adopt one of the puppies, they would be ready on Thursday, after being immunized and spayed and neutered.  I waved her off and went home, where I proceeded to agonize about whether I was ready for a new dog or not.

I sat down and mediated/prayed.  With lots and lots of intensity, I asked for divine guidance.  "God/great spirit/universe, I need a sign!  Should I get this puppy or not?  I really, really need a clear sign here, do you understand?  I want it so clear that it can't be argued with!  In fact, I want it in writing, hear?"

I went about my business, and later in the day opened up an astrological calendar, where the phases of the moon and location of the planets were analyzed week by week.  Every astrological sign had their own weekly forecast.  I opened up my Gemini horoscope for the coming week.  Here is what it said:

"Pick up a new friend at the animal shelter on Thursday."  Yes.  I swear, this is exactly what it said.  And you know what I did, don't you?  Yep, I picked up the phone, called the lady at the animal shelter and told her I wanted to pick up that puppy on Thursday.

And I did.  It's the best decision I ever made.  Pluto and I became inseparable.  He rode on my motorcycle with me (in fact, we were quite famous in Bellingham).  He turned out to be the best dog everyone ever met, and everyone always commented on how sweet and special he was.

He was.  I love that dog, and I will miss him something fierce.

Steve and I just went through my whole digital picture library from since when our kids were born.  I wish I had digital pictures of me and Pluto on my motorcycle, but I don't, and I don't know how to scan photos.  Here are the ones from his youth that touched me.  It shows him in the middle of action: at the river, so patient with the kids, ready to play, always, always.

I don't know how to do life without Pluto.  I'm on my second beer tonight, after not drinking at all for many months.  Will I turn into an alcoholic?  Will my heart heal?  Will there be another divine puppy intervention sometime?  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Choosing love

Friday the 13th, noon:
I just came back from a walk at the river, a rainy stroll with typical Pacific Northwest winter scenes of mountains shrouded in clouds, shades of grey and green, the sound of raging creeks nearing flood stage.  Oh, I love all this water after our terrible drought!

I felt quite tender as I wandered in the downpour, reflecting on the past months.  They haven't been a picnic, and if you have read my blog for a while, you know that.  With the events of the past four months I feel like I've been turned inside out, or upside down, with my Ego shaken to its core.

But no matter how painful and stressful the events of the past months were, I am grateful.  They have taught me a lot, uncovered things to be healed, and forced me to either be totally pissed off, or be brave and choose love.  I have been choosing love, which means I have tried to keep my heart open.

It's hard to choose love when you feel like trust has been broken, when you've felt betrayed by people you felt safe with, when old wounds have opened up to be healed.  But I'm proud of myself.  I have chosen love, over and over and over again.  Maybe not right away, maybe after kicking and screaming and fussing for a spell, but still, in the end, I have chosen to be courageous and choose love.

As I ruminated about that on my walk, I kept seeing bright yellow cottonwood leaves shaped like hearts.  I also noticed lots of river rocks shaped like perfect hearts.  Ahhh, yes.  

The same day, in the evening, I learned about the attacks on Paris.
Like many people in the world, I felt sick and heartbroken about this.  I wanted to dive into fear, blame and hatred, and then I remembered all the signs and feelings of love I experienced in nature earlier.  

I can't really put this into words eloquently, but let me say this: Knowing that there is a lot of hatred in the world that I can't do anything about, I can cultivate peace (and love) within myself.  Because this is where it starts, isn't it?  Peace starts with us, on an individual level, inside our own hearts, and then it radiates out to our families and communities.  Especially to our children.

No peace is sown inside those radicalized kids that turn into suicide bombers, and my heart breaks for them.  I think we are all born innocent.  I hope I can keep the commitment to choose and cultivate love, so that my children can somehow absorb that.

I am reminded of my favorite prayer from St. Francis of Assisi:

Make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

Love and blessings to you and yours.  May we all be courageous together and try to keep our hearts open.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Update on my Dad's coma

After nine days of being in a coma, my Dad woke up.  I got a call from one of my sisters this morning (evening time for them in Germany), and she said, "He came back to us."

Things are still critical, and it sounds like he has extreme difficulty forming words, but he DID manage to ask where he was, what the results of the Bundesliga were (German soccer), and if he could have his smart phone.  He is breathing without a breathing tube.  When my sister told him "Du hast einen sturen Schaedel", which means "you have a stubborn skull", he smiled.  Do you know how many muscles, ergo brain functions, are involved with smiling?

This is good news, miraculous even!  It means his brain is gearing up, it means he still knows what's important to him, and it means he retained his sense of humor.

I don't want to go into too much detail here since I want to protect his privacy, and I don't want him to be mad at me for divulging so much personal stuff in case he ever reads this, but I wanted to tell you all that I might have gotten my father back and learned a few lessons at the same time.  Little things like forgiveness, humility, gratitude, and most importantly, the power of love.

I also wanted to thank you, my faithful blog readers, friends and family, for your absolutely overwhelming (in a good way) support after learning what happened to my Dad.  I received a huge amount of e-mails and comments, promising prayers and healing energy for him and my family.  I was brought to my knees by my father's illness, and you all and your care pulled me back onto my feet again.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  I was hesitant being so public about our situation, but I believe in the power of intention and decided to activate my huge network.  So he had has hundreds of people rooting for him, and I tell you, I think this is what made him wake up.  Thank you, peeps.  It means more than I can tell.

I'm gonna stop gushing now, otherwise the tears will flow again, and I've cried enough of them to last me a decade.

The weird thing is that life goes on, even in a crisis.  Although my thoughts were constantly in Germany, my own family still needed to be taken care of, the goats had to be milked, cheese had to be made, ham had to be cured, the kids to be homeschooled.  I made an extra effort to spend time in nature - an easy thing considering we live in the wilderness.

Here are pictures of our week.

Steve put a rub on the ham (from our own pigs) to be cured:

Steve helped wax cheese because I hate waxing it, but love the looks of it:

While poor Steve worked his butt off planting trees (that's his business), I took the kids for walks at our beautiful Skagit River:

We had our first frost this morning.  Winter is coming.  Good thing we have a woodstove and people to cuddle with.

Eva has been begging me to knit her a dress for her Barbie.  So I did.  I think there will be many, many more handknit dresses in all kinds of colors and styles in her future... I bet Santa would love to bring her some of these, don't you think?

I will leave you with a picture I took on the drive home from our downvalley shopping trip: a sign of hope.  Keep that hope coming!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My father is in a coma - please send prayers and healing energy

I'm having a hard time writing this.  I don't know what to say and how to say it, and how much to say about it, but I thought I would bring it up here so we can get as many prayers, healing energy, and positive vibes as possible.  

My father in Germany has been in intensive care in a coma for several days.  I am heartbroken, scared, confused and unsure of what to do.  My German passport is expired, renewal or issuing of an emergency passport would take time, I have my own children and farm to take care of, and it's very expensive to fly to Germany.

On the other hand, I want to be there to hug my father and tell him to wake up.  I want to support my sisters, mother and my father's wife.  

There is no prognosis yet, and all we can do is wait.

It fucking sucks.

It's my daughter's birthday today, and I want it to be all about her.  At the same time, I have to be on the phone with Germany or am locking myself in the bathroom to cry every now and then.  I did bake her a beautiful cake this morning, made her favorite bread for lunch, decorated and cleaned the house, and will host a party with her favorite little friend in a couple of hours.  I played with her and her new doll house and new toy kitchen.

And yet... I am ashamed to say that my heart is not fully in it.  I see my Dad hooked up to machines and remember the good times I had with him.  I think of the gifts he gave me: my love for nature, for bicycling, and for singing are all from him.  These are huge parts of my life, and I am so grateful to him for showing me how to love these things.

Well.  Let me show you what I am grateful for this week, while I'm waiting, waiting, waiting for my Dad to wake up.

I'm grateful for my children, and especially today on her birthday, for little Eva, who turned six years old.

I am grateful that we had a fun Halloween last week.

I am grateful for my goats, who cheer me up and keep me company when I'm sad.

I am grateful for our woodstove, which keeps us warm on these ever colder days.

I am grateful for my beloved 15 plus year old dog Pluto, who is not doing very well and might not be with us much longer.  I wish we could just have one crisis at a time.

I am grateful that the boys are so into the idea of running, which they started doing for exercise.  I love how it makes their eyes shiny and cheeks red.

I am grateful for knitting, which is my therapy and calms me.  I just finished this hat.

Thanks for witnessing me here.  Please say a prayer for my Dad.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Not perfect at all... but then again, pretty perfect

Although you, dear reader, might get the impression from this blog that I am a perfect mother, since I raise my kids in such a beautiful place, and since I offer them plenty of adventures, let me tell you: I am NOT a perfect mother.  Not at all.  In fact, most days I wish I had more patience, were more emotionally balanced, and paid more attention to my kids, which is probably how every mother feels some of the time, if she's honest with herself.

However, there was one day last week when I felt like a perfect mother for about five seconds.  Lukas had a stomach ache all day and didn't act like himself.  So I made him chicken noodle soup with a chicken I had raised (and Luke had slaughtered many months ago), with carrots, onions and garlic I had grown in the garden (and Luke had weeded many months ago), and with herbs and spices I had grown and dried.

I also made him freshly pressed juice from beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers and apples to boost his immunity with vitamins and minerals so his white blood cells could kick better butt.  As I sat rubbing his tummy, smelling chicken soup on the stove, sipping veggie juice, I thought, "Wow, I actually feel like I am doing the exact right thing here."

It's a good sensation to feel like you are the perfect mother, even if it only lasts for five seconds.

Talking of offering my kids adventure: The other day, I took them up the hill behind our house, which is actually more like a mountain bordering on wilderness all the way up to Canada.  Luke carried his bow in case he came upon a grouse, and Kai, Eva and I lumbered behind him trying not to make too much noise.

30 minutes after leaving our house, we reached one of my favorite spots: the fairy pools.

It's a powerful place, with massive moss-covered boulders, a wild creek carving its way through a steep valley, tumbling and falling along the way and making a heck of a racket.  Eva was scared of the loud, raw energy of this spot and kept requesting to go home so she could "hug the house".  The boys bribed her into hanging out there a little longer with hot chocolate and marshmallows later.  On the way back, we felt like fairies, stomping through moss and ferns, and finding more beautiful spots by the creek.

Since I'm showing off nature pictures:  Here are some more, from our fishing adventure at the local fishing hole.  The creeks are all so low that no new salmon are coming up.  The only thing we catch are bear tracks, and Eva.

Oooops.  Eva got caught in the fishing net.
Other news of the week: my goat ladies got a new boyfriend.  His name is Cowboy, and he is a dashing and not too stinky Boer buck.  We hope that he will do his job and breed the girls, so we can have cute baby goats and fresh milk in the spring.  The ladies didn't know what to think of him at first.  They butted heads and sniffed each other a lot.  If you want to read more about the hilarious courtship of goats, you can read my earlier blog post about that here.

This view from the back affords a great view of his... ahhhh, assets, shall we say...
And since I'm mentioning milk, I thought I should show you a picture of my friend, neighbor and student Cindy Lou, who took my online cheese making class in June and came by to cut into her first-ever wheel of Gouda.  She used pasteurized, store-bought cow milk, and the cheese tasted absolutely fantastic!  I'm so proud of her!!!  I will teach more of my online cheese making classes next year.

I will leave you with a couple of domestic scenes of pumpkin carving and a home-brewed kombucha drink.