Solitary Pursuits

Stimulating Our Creativity

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

With much of the world staying at home now and engaged in solitary pursuits, an artistic renaissance is blooming as we explore the different ways to express ourselves.

People are passing the time developing their creative abilities. Writing, painting, making videos, playing musical instruments, perfecting culinary skills, gardening.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) recognized the value of solitude. He wrote his introspective American classic Walden in 1854 while living alone in a log cabin on Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts.

Thoreau moved into the remote cabin where he spent two years so he could be closer to nature and explore his own thoughts: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.”

Reflecting on the benefits of solitude and the healing powers of nature, he wrote, “The only medicine I need is a draught of morning air.”

Many others have channeled solitude into creativity, from poet Emily Dickinson to scientists Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein – who literally changed the world with their theories of gravity and relativity.

– Albert Einstein

Dickinson (1830-1886), an avid gardener, spent much of her life alone tending her plants…and writing poems – close to 1,800 in all, making her one of America’s premiere poets.

Now, while spending time at home, people are nurturing creative talents they didn’t even know they had…and opening themselves to new discoveries each day.

Even everyone’s favorite dog Snoopy is unleashing his inner artist!

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Audubon 2020 Photography Awards

Photographs “Display the Magic of Avian Life”

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

It’s the eleventh year for the National Audubon Society’s Annual Photography Competition. In announcing the winners, the Society said the photographs were “spectacular, artistic and playful” and that they “display the magic of avian life.”

Including both amateur and professional photographers, there were more than 6,000 submissions from across the United States and Canada.

With so many North American birds at risk of extinction from climate change and other environmental hazards, the Society hopes that the contest draws attention to the different bird species and the need to protect them.

SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel salute all the photographers who waited, watched, and clicked the shutter at just the right moment to showcase each bird.

Taking viewers into the birds’ domains and everyday lives, each photograph truly captures the wonder and magic of the birds.

Joanna Lentini won the Grand Prize with her underwater photograph of a Double-crested Cormorant diving beneath the sea.

It was taken in Los Islotes, Mexico. Lentini, who was in the Bay of La Paz observing “playful sea lions,” redirected her attention to the nearby cormorants. She says, “I watched in awe as the cormorants plunged beak first into the sea to snap at the sardines swimming by.”

Now, at a time when people are looking for something to cheer about, it’s uplifting to see these magnificent birds take flight.

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Rock it to me!

Spreading Joy in the Neighborhood

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

In neighborhoods all around us “The game is afoot,” as Sherlock Holmes would say, to find hidden treasures. Not gold or diamonds, but rocks of a different sort – painted rocks hidden by neighbors to bring smiles to the people who find them.

In a movement that has spread throughout the U.S. and other countries, people are decorating rocks with uplifting messages, ladybugs, flowers, butterflies, and other images and leaving them along pathways for their neighbors to find, keep, or re-hide for someone else to find.

At a time when we all need cheering up, it’s a safe, social-distancing way to share a smile with someone you don’t even know.

Kids, families, seniors – anyone out walking – are finding these special, handmade treasures and knowing that someone went to the effort to leave them there.

SurfWriter Girl Patti even found a rock – this blue bug that was looking up at her from the base of a bush. Written on the back of it is the word “Joy.”

Maybe there’s a rock waiting for you to find. Or why not channel your artistic abilities and leave a magical rock (or a few) for your neighbors to find?

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Pan American Airways

It Expanded Our Horizons

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

Today, when we’re all staying close to home and airlines are struggling, it’s hard to imagine the early 1930s when the airlines were just beginning to circle the globe and travel opportunities seemed endless.

Prior to the dawn of commercial air travel, it took weeks to travel across the Atlantic from New York to Europe by ocean liner. That all changed when Pan American Airways came on the scene, reducing the travel time to hours.

From 1927 – 1991 Pan American Airways was America’s largest air carrier, taking travelers on around the world adventures to far-flung, exotic spots.

It started out delivering mail between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba.

The airline soon began offering passenger service and expanded its route to include destinations in Central and South America, Europe, Asia, and points beyond.

Propelled with backing from shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and Union Pacific Railroad heir and governor of New York Averell Harriman, the sky was the limit. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh helped negotiate foreign landing rights.

In the early years its Pan Am Clipper planes – borrowing their name from 19th century clipper sailing ships – were the only passenger planes capable of intercontinental travel…and tickets cost up to $20,000.  World leaders, businesspeople, and adventurers alike would come aboard and put themselves into the hands of “the world’s most experienced airline.”

With colorful ads and billboards showing exotic locales, eventually the entire world was just a flight away and everyday travelers could go.

SurfWriter Girl Sunny Magdaug knew Brad Dressler, Pan Am’s top public relations executive, who was her mentor, and learned how he helped shape the iconic airline’s image from the 1960s – 1980s with stories and ads conveying glamor and adventure.

Even though Pan Am ceased operations, it paved the way for the airlines who now face today’s challenges. When times are better, SurfWriter Girls hope that airlines can connect the world again and soar to new heights.

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Cooking The Washoku Way

Japanese Honor Nature and Harmony

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

 With hearth and home so important now, this is a good time to explore the Japanese cooking style of “washoku.”

This traditional method of Japanese cooking gets its name from the Japanese kanji character 和食 (wa), which means Japan and harmony, and 食 (shoku), the word for food.

SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel were drawn to washoku because of its harmonious approach to cooking that satisfies all the senses. The food is beautiful to look at and delicious to eat, in tune with the seasons.

Included on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, washoku is a study in contrasts with food that is both simple and sophisticated.

A key aspect of washoku is its respect for nature and the four seasons. Food is prepared during its peak season (its “shun”) and cooked in a way that best showcases its flavors.

Spring is the time for asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, snow peas, shitake mushrooms and sanshou (prickly, green berries). Bonito tuna, cuttlefish and rock fish are plentiful then.

Summertime is the shun for edamame soybean pods, kyuri cucumber, and Japanese ginger. Fruits include cherries, peaches and watermelon (often blended into Kakigori, a shaved ice concoction). Eel, flounder, sea urchin and sea bass are in season.

In autumn, during harvest season, some of the fruits and vegetables in their shun include the Asian pear, Matsutake mushroom, persimmon, sweet potato, Japanese pumpkin, sudachi citrus fruit, and kuri chestnut.

The first rice of the harvest, shinmai (or “new rice”), is a softer and sweeter rice that’s greatly anticipated and only available from September to December.

In winter, yuzu, a citrus fruit like an orange, and strawberries come into their own, along with daikon, a winter radish. This is also the season for fugu, the Japanese blowfish that’s both highly desirable and potentially deadly, if improperly prepared.

Wagashi, Japanese traditional sweets often served with green tea, utilize seasonal ingredients, too, especially sweet bean paste.

Whatever the season or the dish, washoku always strives to embody the concept of “omotenashi” – hospitality – making friends and family feel warm and welcome. Things that are more important than ever now.

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Hawaiian Shirts Brighten Our Days

Chill Out in Style!

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

Now that every day is casual Friday, what better shirt is there to brighten our days and chill out in than a Hawaiian shirt?

Also known as an Aloha shirt, the colorful, short-sleeve shirts originated in Hawaii in the 1920s and became popular on the mainland after WW II when soldiers stationed on the islands brought them home.

Movies like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s blockbuster musical South Pacific (1958)

and Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii (1962) jump-started the island-themed fashion trend even more.

President John F. Kennedy added to the Hawaiian shirt mystique, too, wearing them while sailing or relaxing at his family’s Cape Cod home in Hyannis Port, MA.

So did Tom Selleck in the hit TV show Magnum P.I. and singer Jimmy Buffett while “wasting away” in Margaritaville.

And now, fashion brands from Tommy Bahama to Ralph Lauren and Prada feature the carefree shirts in their lineups.

Originally embellished with traditional Hawaiian quilt and flower designs, the shirts have taken on a wilder life of their own with palm trees, birds, sunsets, cocktail glasses, and more showing up.

If you’re looking for an authentic Hawaiian shirt made by descendants of the original Polynesians, SurfWriter Girls friend Jeffrey Sakamoto, who’s become an expert on island lore, recommends the shirts from Pili Pacific, which utilizes the Tahitian-inspired designs of co-founders Sue Pearson and Herman Pi’ikea Clark.

A must-have for anyone spending time in the islands, whatever you choose, the fun-to-wear Hawaiian shirts bring a taste of the tropics wherever they go…and bring out the party animal in us.

A shirt you can wear tucked in or out – no necktie required! – a Hawaiian shirt takes you anywhere in style…even if it’s just inside your own home.

Mahalo to SurfWriter Greg for taking the photo of us…and all the other photos he always takes! He’s our production crew working behind the scenes.

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The Artist’s Touch

We Need It More Than Ever

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

There’s a lot of news about the economic effect the coronavirus is having on businesses, which have limited their activities or even closed their doors. The virus has affected restaurants, retailers, shopping malls, manufacturers, farmers, and just about every type of business.

One group that’s feeling the pain, but doesn’t get any media attention, is artists. Making a living as an artist is difficult in the best of times. Now, it’s harder than ever with studios and galleries closed and everyone at home.

SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel know how important art is in enhancing our lives and lifting our spirits. Throughout history artists have used their brushes and pens to create beauty out of chaos and despair.

 

Now, at a time when not only mankind, but the environment, is under assault…

beach and surf artists are capturing the joy of the ocean and the thrill of surfing in memorable images that enable us to transcend the confines of our stay-at-home days.

 

SurfWriter Girls love Robb Havassy’s glorious sunsets and Colleen Gnos’s mermaids.

Ron Croci’s bold paint strokes celebrate the surfer’s strength and Nathan Gibbs’ mystical paintings remind us of the fragility of the ocean ecosystem.

Dave Reynolds’ minimalist surf art has maximum impact and Heather Brown’s whimsical island scenes put a smile on your face,

while Drew Brophy takes you to a fantasy world…

and Kim Hamrock expresses the excitement of surfing as only a champion surfer can.

To get us through the rough times and help us to make sense of the world, more than ever we need the artist’s touch. Brophy’s wife Maria Brophy has started an online writing group to help people find inner peace and tap their creativity.

Bridging the gaps in a new age of social distancing, art gives us a sense of community and reminds us of the wonders around us…if we take the time to look.

Even though the art galleries are closed, the works of all these artists are available on the Internet. Just click on their names. When you’re online shopping for “essentials,” why not add art to your list?

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One Day At A Time

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

Faced with empty food shelves in supermarkets or the difficulty in going shopping – especially for seniors – we’re all thinking about food…and toilet paper, too.

SurfWriter Girl Patti woke up this morning thinking about the 1962 book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn. How’s that for a strange thought to start the day?

Like many of you, she read the book in high school and remembers the deprivations that Denisovich goes through trying to survive in a Russian gulag (prison work camp) in the freezing Siberian cold with minimal food to eat. He ate every morsel of the meager fish portion he got and then boiled the bones for broth and sucked the marrow out.

Things haven’t gotten that bad yet. And, thankfully, members of our communities are stepping in to help neighbors in need.

Around the country mini food pantries the size of kids’ lemonade stands – like this one SurfWriter Girls friends Cindy and David Kirby in Anaheim, CA, put up – are popping up on lawns and driveways to help get food and necessities to neighbors.

If you need a can of soup or a fresh tomato, just take it. Or even a book to read. And, if you can drop off something for someone else, just leave it. The motto is: “Take what you need. If you have something to spare, please share.”

At SurfWriter Girl Patti and Greg’s house they put this big teddy bear in the window so the kids can see it when they walk by with their parents. Ted puts a smile on everyone’s face…something we all need now.

With good will and charity to others like this, we’ll find a way to get through the coronavirus situation. Just remember Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He survived eight years in a gulag.

We will survive, too…one day at a time.

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Tea Time Treasure

Incredible Journeys by the Cuppa

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel 

With all of us staying at home and having to make do with limited food supplies, SurfWriter Girl Sunny Magdaug made a great discovery in her cupboard – a treasure trove of teas to choose from.

“I didn’t realize I had so many,” she says. “A tea chest, half-filled boxes and tins of teas gathered over several years. From everyday Lipton to upscale Earl Grey, organic to exotic.”

SurfWriter Girl Patti Kishel looked in her cupboard and was pleasantly surprised to find a stash of teas, as well. “Not only are they delicious and soothing,” says Patti, “but, in these home-bound times, they take us on journeys to faraway places that are just a cup away.”

Patti’s sister Eileen Ferris, who lives in Newington, CT, found some interesting teas, too, including a Bigelow green tea with pomegranate.

Some of SurfWriter Girls’ teas were gifts from our friend Lesley Meredith, who lives in Sammamish, Washington. Of Scottish descent, Lesley is always ready to share a “cuppa” with friends.

And, after a visit to the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, with her husband Steve, Lesley sent us a box of tea from the world-renowned hotel.

This past summer Lesley also sent us teas from the exclusive tea purveyor Harney and Sons, including one called Murder on the Orient Express – that really takes us on a journey!

Whether it’s tea, coffee, spices, wine, or some other special find in your pantry, there may be a treasure waiting to cheer your day…

and spirit you away on an adventure – while staying safe at home.

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A Bowl of Comfort

Sunny’s Special Soup

Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel

With the stress and strain that all of us are feeling, it’s nice to know that little acts of kindness can make things better.

When SurfWriter Girl Patti talked to her longtime friend Kathleen Mulcahy this week Kathleen told her that she and her neighbors are helping each other and that she made chicken soup for a neighbor in her eighties who is recovering from pneumonia.

It wasn’t easy finding ingredients, but the woman’s smile made it worth it.

Inspired by this, SurfWriter Girls decided to make a pot of Sunny’s Special Soup – her homemade vegetable soup that keeps the chill away – and share the recipe with you.

Given today’s difficult shopping environment, it’s a recipe that encourages you to be creative and use whatever is on hand whether it’s fresh, frozen or canned veggies.

If you have any chicken, you can add it, too. Or maybe some sliced sausage or even hot dogs. Sunny made some changes this time by adding a can of diced tomatoes and a couple of sliced potatoes – “Because I happened to have them.”

The recipe is easy. Start by sauteing chopped fresh or frozen onions. If adding meat, brown it in the pot. Then add 32 oz. of broth (any kind you like) and two cups of water. Season to taste. Sunny uses salt and pepper, assorted spices from the cupboard, and parsley and cilantro (if available).

When the meat is done she adds the veggies and cooks everything for 20 minutes. And, to jazz it up, If you have a lemon or lime, squeeze in a little juice at the end.

Serve with bread, rolls or crackers…and enjoy a warm bowl of comfort – with enough to share.

Kathleen says that if you know someone in need, help them as much as you can. And, if you’re the one in need, let others help you. Even if we’re temporarily distanced from one another we can still build community…

 a spoonful at a time.

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