Thug Kitchen: It’s not just about aping and appropriation, it’s about privilege

24 Oct

Read it!


Hugh Craft, Big House, 1851 Hugh Craft, Big House, 1851

Slave Cabin/Kitchen House, Hugh Craft House, 1851 Slave Cabin/Kitchen House, Hugh Craft House, 1851

I’m writing to you from “the most Southern place on earth,” the state of Mississippi in the midst of the cotton picking season.  I am sleeping in a house that was built 160 years ago, looking out a window at an equally old slave quarter/outside kitchen.  I’ve waited three weeks to say something about the “Thug Kitchen,” debacle but now I feel I have the spiritual grounding to say what I need to say.  As my hero August Wilson once said, “I stand myself and my art squarely on the self-defining ground of the slave quarters, and find the ground to be hallowed and made fertile by the blood and bones of the men and women who can be described as warriors on the cultural battlefield that affirmed their self-worth.” It’s time to get real about Thug Kitchen…

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Baby shower

24 Aug

Completely raw and gorgeous. AND I’m proud to have a friend who has a blue strobe light in her living room. Seriously.

Rough and Rede II


By Jennifer Brennock

Jane is having a baby shower. From her living room floor, I smile the correct smile and chat the correct chat. In my chest, something has grabbed and is squeezing.

With their easy sperm-meets-egg success, all-natural Joe and Jane won’t have to take a parenting class before they can bring him home. Joe and Jane won’t have to be visited weekly for six months before their status becomes officially recognized by the courthouse and they can change their child’s last name to match their own. Jane won’t be compelled to explain this fact to all receptionists brandishing clipboards of forms. Those receptionists won’t assume Jane is an unmarried mother; they won’t assume she didn’t want him in the first place. I sip my mimosa in Jane’s quaint, recently-remodeled Craftsman, thinking about the social worker who won’t come into this house and open Jane’s cabinets and inspect the…

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19 Mar

I’ve got a lot on my mind these days. Building a brick & mortar store front, installing a kitchen there, pulling apart my kitchen in J’ville (and having no production space for my biz. in the meanwhile), running a successful (yipee!) Kickstarter campaign and oh, you know, Being a mom and a partner and a farmer in the springtime….

Happy Spring to you my friends!  I hope all those seeds you’ve cared for and revealed this winter are humming with life force and blossoming fully!

Past few days my mind keeps wandering back to toast.  Not JUST toast, but the TOPPINGS on toast too!  Long story short, I’m jumping onto the artisan toast bandwagon, as crazy as it sounds, and I’m gonna serve it up right and proper at the Tea Bar.  Not only do we have some AMAZING local bread bakers in this valley, but also it is the perfect medium to serve up the regional farm fresh foods here.

I’ve already made the menu…Toast To Go, party people… You are gonna love it!


As the diamond forms from coal under pressure, so too the genius idea is born… Toast at the Tea Bar for the GOLD!



Immersed in Kickstarter Culture

11 Mar

“The world is a wonderfully weird place, consensual reality is significantly flawed, no institution can be trusted, certainty is a mirage, security a delusion, and the tyranny of the dull mind forever threatens — but our lives are not as limited as we think they are, all things are possible, laughter is holier than piety, freedom is sweeter than fame, and in the end it’s love and love alone that really matters.”

-Tom Robbins


For the past month I have been immersed in a new-to-me culture.  I created and launched a Kickstarter campaign.  Right now we’re 63% funded with 7 days to go.  Check out the link at the bottom of this post.

My Kickstarter campaign has worked me in some deep and holy ways.  The creation, distillation and launch was an experience all to itself.  We’re mid-campaign now and the lessons are all about asking and receiving.  For me these lessons are so deep that they really should read: Asking.  Receiving.  (Repeat!)

Truly you should just go watch Amanda Palmer here:

Because what she says and how she says it is just the best.  If you plan to do a Kickstarter yourself, I’d say this video is a must watch (twice).

Kickstarter is a crowd sourced funding platform. An on-line, super efficient, user friendly platform for crowd sourced funding.  People use it to produce music, make films, launch businesses, publish books and more. A person designs a campaign around their great idea and asks friends, friend’s friends and the world wide web to vote for this dream with their dollars.  People do.  They do it gladly.  And communities form.  Its completely amazing.  On March 3, 2014, Kickstarter passed ONE BILLION in pledges. That’s $1,000,000,000 pledged by 5.7 million people to creative projects! I highly recommend taking some time to surf the projects at  I can almost guarantee you’ll be a backer by the end.  There are many amazingly creative and next level projects.

Like this:  These German guys and their genius wireless ear buds that are 1,027% funded!  They set their goal at 260,000, a bold move for Kickstarter (most successfully funded projects ask for $10,000 or less) and so far they’ve got 2,948 backers, pledging $2,738,411 and they still have 20 days to go.

And OMG this!  A Chicago guy who puts silly cartoons on comfy undies for ladies. In his words, “Fun underwear that high-fives you for having ovaries and serves as a friendly reminder to others!”  I must say that the undies do look comfy, the cartoons are hilarious, the campaign presentation is great and the video is humble and adorable.  But here’s why I’m in love with this campaign.  The guy asked for $10,000 for his first production run. Today, he’s got 31 hours to go and the pledges are at $388,476.00 from 9,209 individual backers!

A clear example of the power of Kickstarter (which is really the power of organized people):  Hello Ruby is a children’s book that teaches programming fundamentals through stories and kid-friendly activities. She was looking to generate $10,000 to publish it.  But with the help of 9,258 backers she raised $380,747.00!

The Dream of a little kid comes true in real life right here.  Since she was 13, artist and photographer, Sequoia Emmanuelle, wanted to make her own coffee table book.  She launched a Kickstarter to do it just a day before I launched my own.  Her work is astounding and addicting, so it is no surprise that with 9 days to go she’s got $19,761 pledged from 264 backers. Her original goal was $15,000.

Lastly, a campaign after my own heart: The Rogue Valley Messenger is “a new, locally-grown bi-weekly newspaper for the Rogue Valley – informed, enthused and crazy-smart!” Their campaign is simple, clear and compelling. They’re out to inform and connect this valley!  Today, with just 111 backers they’ve raised $5,097, surpassing their original goal with 42 hours to go. I’m one of those backers!

Two words come to mind when I think about how to describe the experience of doing this Kickstarter campaign.  The words are big and deep.  Big because your vision must be both clear and clearly communicated. And big because you must love what you are doing. Deep because each backer is voting for your success and each backer is kicking in to your stash from their own to make your dreams come true.  That’s a whole lot of love flowing your way.

So tonight as I’m thinking about all this, BAM!  My friend Micah Blacklight shares these words facebook and captures all of how and where I’m growing in one incredible expression. He says,  “I think it was Ghandi who is attributed the quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” and I think it SUCH a profound exhortation. I would amend it, add to it, transform it a little by saying-EMBODY THE SPACES YOU WISH TO EXPERIENCE IN THE WORLD.

so many of us wait for someone else to be the welcoming space, the open arms, the one willing to lower their guard, and only then do we dare follow suit. What if YOU chose to BE the space more often, instead of looking to others to provide it? What if you BECAME the kind of space, held the kind of energy, you are super attracted to in people you look up to, or admire, or just feel good around?

It might take you a moment to overcome the fear that inevitably rises up when we step outside our comfort zones. It might take realizing we fear all kinds of things: rejection in ANY form including someone not responding to our space in a way we would have liked.. but we don’t get good at things without practice.

You can think of it as another homework assignment Micah BlackLight style; a mission you don’t have to accept at all, but it might do some thangs for ya you haven’t foreseen.. bring a bit of a different kind of fun into your sphere. Because the minute you start BEING the space you’re really attracted to or comforted by, you become a walking realm full of those characteristics, the vibe you’re diggin most. AND, there’s an automatic side-effect: you start attracting a lot more people who hold/are that kind of space, OR, they’re open to being opened BY that type of space and guess what? YOU get to be the key.. Vessel space is a powerful space.

work dat out for a mo.. chew on it if ya wanna, you might already be in the practice of doing/being that, and if you are, keep doin whatcha doin.. it heals a LOT more than you know”.

YES! Think about it.  At this moment my project has 155 backers.  That’s 155 people saying to me with $1 or $1000, “This projects rocks and I’m stoked to help it happen.”  I flung myself off the cliff of small, safe and comfortable, KNOWING that people in the world and in my community would be delighted by my willingness to do it.  That my vision would be shared and supported. And while my campaign is not safely complete well before the deadline like Sequoia’s or a slammed-dunk-home-run like the Period Panties still, I’ve got 155 people voting for me with their hard earned dollars and I have to believe more are on the way!  People are sharing the project on their social network and talking about it with friends and people are getting excited to support the place once we open.  The impact of this is impossible to predict. I like that.

The experience of campaigning for this dream via Kickstarter has been nothing short of amazing.  The way people become backers, the way friends share the link with their networks, the way total strangers become cheerleaders… it exciting, humbling, empowering!  Yesterday one of my High School English teacher gave the link a shout out on her facebook page and I was so damn touched I can’t even tell you.  So you can imagine how I burst into tears when, a few hours later, I realized that she had also become a backer! There’s magic like that in this.  With 7 days left the story unfolds.

The New, The Nearly Complete and Wild Turkeys

3 Mar

It has been a little while since I blog-diddy-blogged and I think I have a lot to say.

Springtime on the farm almost.  We’ve had a lot of rain.  All over town the forsythias are boldly blooming, while the apples and lilacs are just barely leafing. I swear I fall in love a thousand times a day as winter releases into this potent blooming of everything alive!  Daffodils, baby cows, violets, leafing trees, the first farmer’s market of the season…  Oh, you’re right there with me?  Awesome!


Birth.  Emergence.  The Push.

To illustrate the life of a farmer in almost spring one could draw a pair of eyes taking in the entire horizon and connecting that image via dotted lines to a brain full of words that scroll like the words at the beginnig of Star Wars. But instead of an epic saga, its an epic To-Do List.  And that is how it is here with us.

Except that this spring I am in the process of building a brick and mortar, I’m actively fundraising via Kickstarter and I’m moving out of Jacksonville.

Before farm and store and fundraising and moving,  I’m mom. So I’ve got to say here that our silly little child turned 5 last week!  Five is big and doesn’t she know it!?!



On the birthday we went up to the mountains for some sledding.  It was a beautiful outside and we had an awesome time. It was a wonderful break from the construction and hustle that is and has been the focus of my days.

Last week was all about launching the Kickstarter campaign and getting the plumbing into the shop and so many things were out of my hands.  I filled up my nervous idle time with the zen of painting the furniture for our store. Bright colors, physical labor and obvious results were just what I needed!



And BE had fun too.


Today we went to the J’ville house to get the “kitchen”.  The stove, counters, shelves and our beloved bicycle spice grinder.  It was a successful mission.

On our way there, BE and I encountered the biggest flock of turkeys we’ve ever seen. There were easily 50 birds, all crossing the road and headed into the hills.


The encounter was especially auspicious because in folklore turkeys represent abundance and we had just come from the auto parts place where we were trying to get parts to fix the brake lights on our borrowed trailer but instead we got this rhinestone studded Money keychain for the new shop’s keys.


“I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind!”

This brings us to Kickstarter’s genius mode of organizing crowd sourced funding and the incredible opportunity they offer to people like me. Using their platform, I’ve created a project and now I’m asking my friends, family, peers and fellow citizens of the world to back it.  Collectively we are making this thing real. Follow this link to learn more and get involved.  I sure hope it inspires you to!

A successfully funded campaign builds this kitchen and storefront.  Then I’ll take this potent lil’ brick and mortar and ROCK it like a hurricane.

Bling diddy Bling! 

While Kickstarter makes designing the campaign very easy, still it is one of the most challenging and deeply personal experiences of my life. To communicate my intentions clearly, to take a very public, very flying leap out of hibernation and to ask for help from friends and strangers are all uber humbling endeavours.  I am doing my best to muster sustained trust.  Yet,  I’m feeling a bit like these two turkeys…. one moving toward the goal with focus while the other meandering back the way she came.


As I step out and create this brand new thing, I am mining the gems from my previous life.  Some are physical tools and stuff.  But most are rememberings distilled into clear hindsight and rich life lessons.


Lessons that empower the launch of the new and stuff that enhances our now.  Like this plastic toy that entertained BE on our way outta J’ville today.


And the five jugs of Mate Fire that I found in a box today!   A most thirst quentching reunion ensued!  Just. Yum.  (Don’t be jealous.)


My longing for Mate Fire, for Habanero Honey Brew and for Heartsong Chai is the ultimate fire of this gigantic project I’ve created.  It was a true joy to down a good portion of this jug today (6 years in a bottle yet so revitalizing and delicious)!

And so today the kitchen moved from J’ville to GP and our trusty bicycle grinder is one step closer to her next spice grinding mission! And this week the plumber and the electrician will work their magic and bring us even closer.


YOU can help us too! By liking this blog, sharing it with friends, visiting the Kickstarter campaign, becoming a backer, telling all your friends to back it too and by taking a moment to picture it all coming together with grace and ease!

There’s more painting to do too, if’n you are needing some zen in your life. As always, thanks for reading and witnessing the words of my world.


17 Feb

I dance amidst this purging, rising & birthing process grateful as can be. The compost is dank and stinky. It offers rich gems of usefulness and pangs of rememberence. I hold here in my hand a Heartsong Chai tea box. I’m struck by the beauty of it. I feel the collective effort behind it. I remember the team, the trials, our thrilling results… the question is, what can I learn from it now?

ImageToday our little family went to Jacksonville where we excavated for kitchen gold.  Sinks and plumbing things, plywood, kitchen gadgets, and one amazing steamer machine.  Golden nuggets of Heartsong making Uber Herbal possible.  This picture sums up what it is like for me to go to the house in J’ville. ImageThe place is basically a Heartsong graveyard.  There are a bunch of useful things with no users, and many a not so useful things that have yet to be discarded, all the kitchen things are there, all of Heartsong’s festival gear (except our tea cart which got turned into a chicken coop)… Lots of Stuff.  Still there. Lately, I’m sorting it as best and as fast as I can. Progress is being made, I am digging out of that grave!

Meanwhile, of course the new place looks something like this.ImageSo, yes. I have to work to keep my chin up and to stay focused on the end results.  To know how good it will feel to complete with Jacksonville.  How amazing it will be to work in a real kitchen again. A store and tea bar too? Somebody pinch me!

I paid the first two months rent last week, making this brick and mortar project officially official.  The floors go in tomorrow. The plumber gets in after that. Game on! This weekend I’ve been knee deep in the creation of our Kickstarter campaign. My research includes watching many, many, many other videos. Wow! The art of publicly expressing your dreams and asking for help. Surf the site sometime and drop in with random projects, you will be amazed.

My friend Alice and her sweet man Jeffery made it their valentine’s day date to come out to Grants Pass and film our Kickstarter video. Alice completed a successful Kickstarter campaign last year and has really encouraged me to follow suit.  They made it so easy and fun!  She’s letting us use her music on the video which is awesome!  Plus they’re editing it all! I feel LOVED!

All I have to do is set up the site: write the text, add the pictures, set the funding levels and assign them some great rewards. It sounds simple but I’m here to tell you, its hard!  So difficult that I keep finding myself doing everything but that, including writing this blog right now! I can feel the exercise of creating this campaign getting in there and weeding out all of my remaining resistance and feelings of unworthiness.  Its forcing me to announce my dream to the world and explain why it is 1. Worthy of existence.  2. Worthy of their support.  3.  A beneficial contribution to the world.

All things tea flow deep within me and my need to blend and offer it, rises from the flames just as in the epic storys of old.  The power is uncanny. To creat a successful campaign I need to recognize this burning urge in me to make tea as Awesome. It takes just the crazy kind of faith that dashed on the bricks when the doors of the Chai Hut were finally locked.  But I’m diggin’ deep here my friends, I’m mustering my courage and I’m doing The Work!  I hope you’ll see and feel that when the campaign goes live.  (I nearly typed viral… how cool that would be!?!)

Yesterday, while looking for pictures for the Kickstarter, I came across this one on Facebook.  I had forgotten all about it.  I took it this spring when I almost stopped (because I didn’t have a good kitchen space).  I called the market manager to let her know that I wouldn’t be there this season, but once I got her on the phone, I couldn’t say it. The photo’s caption: “i took this at the moment that i realized i was gonna ditch the tea making sabbatical and hustle to get ready for this season….. of course i had a full cuppa tea at the time.”ImageFor nearly 9 years I was Chai Mama. For the past 5 years I’ve been BE’s mama. Now, I’m gonna do both.

If Cupid Were A Pirate

11 Feb

Well, that’d be an apt description of us.  It goes without saying that you wouldn’t want to mess with that.  We be serious about expressing our LOVE…. argh!


My Grandmother made the best valentines.  The kind of homemade wonders that we’d save for years. They were red, they were shiney and they always had doilies on them.  Doilies are the coolest thing ever, like lace but with paper = genius!  By making her own valentines, my Grandma instilled in me a love of Valentines that even in my years of bah-humbug-to-love, I’ve never been able to shake.

Turns out I’m a lucky girl this year because I’ve got a kid, stickers, pinking shears and glitter!  It was BE’s idea to make pirate treasure map valentine’s.  And so we became pirate cupids.  Shiver your timbers, mateys!  First we made a loose plan, then we got to work.

ImageThese are the first few…. notice the burned edges?  Now THAT is Pirate!ImageWe did the glitter thing on the porch outside.  Even so it is all over our house.  Everywhere.  We surely did not skimp on the glitter.ImageThat night, I began the conversation with my man like this, “In my defense, I held out for almost 5 years before glittering with our girl”.  A pretty air-tight arguement, eh?  It worked!  He just grinned at me.Image And just so you fully get the whole pirate cupid vibe there’s this gem:ImageThe next day we shook them off as best we could, took them inside and wrote our love notes.  BE’s signature is so cute these days!  Her B is a line with two circles on it, vaguely resembling an eternity symbol.  The E looks a lot like a city electrical pole. ImageWe got them all signed, rolled each one into a scroll and tied it off with twine.  BE had a blast tying the knots, her level of concentration and dexterity completely amazed me. Pretty soon we were done.ImageMiraculously all the valentines were distributed today, half to BE’s preschool and half into the mail.  And though some of them are sure to arrive late (especially the one on its way to Denmark), they were shipped out BEFORE Valentine’s Day, and that, to me, is quite impressive.  Given the crazy, demanding, roller coaster of a two weeks since I signed the lease at our new storefront… making valentines with my girl this weekend was the perfect distraction.  It helped me get in touch with creativity, love and gratitude.  Plus, glitter!

Talkin’ Shop

3 Feb


As you know, I need a new kitchen for my company, Uber Herbal.  Last week I finally made a move to get one!  I put a deposit down on a space downtown Grants Pass and got the keys.  The familiar construction frenzy ensued.  The space became a buzz with activity.  And so did my life.  It. Got. Hectic.

I’d say that our family is adjusting to this new and busy flow.  We’ve had some growing pains, to be sure.  Most obviously because I have been a bit of a stressball.  Also because BE is in that birthday transition time: fully experiencing and expressing her power.  She’s about to be five and a force to be reckoned with!  And for all the surprises and challenges she presents, I know that I don’t want to miss a minute of it!  So it has been important to me to enroll her in this project.  We have chosen this path collectively.  We’re a mother daughter duo working this project and she’s pretty excited about it.  This morning she greeted me with this post it note saying, “See mom this is the space and the tea will be over here and….” 



Be still my heart!  

So this is what the space looked like when we found it. That behemoth of a desk was built into the floor and (of course) that flooring is discontinued, so in order to get rid of the desk the whole floor had to go. #stupidhumans  



 So out came the desk and the floor.  We also took out the far wall you see through the window above and we’re moving it to that line where the floor meets the carpet.  Behind the wall will be the kitchen and in front, the store.  Here’s how it looked Friday.



Right now it is hard to picture it all.  We hit a plumbing snag last week with an unexpected new code that requires grease traps in all newly constructed commercial kitchens.  The project is on hold while we work this out. I am feeling SO glad it is Monday now because weekend waiting is excruciating!  In just one week there have been so many ups and downs that I kinda feel unattached to the outcome. Don’t get me wrong, if its meant to be, I’ll surely and gladly give it my all.  Yet I feel real clear that I do NOT want to be swimming upstream with this project. And that I have way more important things to do.  Like chase after this girl.



So we’ll see where this code and our trusty plumber take us this week.  And I’ll be sure to let you know if its a go….

Think good thoughts for us!  Loopholes, guardian angels and the like.  Thanks!



Letting It All Hang Out

19 Jan

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?  I’ve been looking at what lies underneath that fear and I’m here to say that If you are anything like me, its a very hard to get to but very sweet relief.  Let it ALLLL hang out!  Simple as that.  Riiiiight.


This post is about getting back on the horse.  About how simple that sounds and how hard it is.  For me, getting back on the horse has been wrapped up in a thousand layers of getting over myself.  And it has been hard.  Real hard.

I’m a reemerging entrepreneur.  This experience is allowing me to realize that ultimately, I operate on faith.  And maybe, just maybe, that should be a capital F.  Now, I can’t explain faith and I sure don’t understand it intellectually.  But I can’t deny that if I had to put a word on that core fuel of my life’s fire, the absolute essence of my heart’s motivation…. its faith: faith in life itself and faith in my own life.

My first venture as an entrepreneur was a 9 year run with a tea company.  It was a wonderful, wild, extreme adventure and I loved it.  It crashed and burned hard in 2008.  The bureaucratic and financial convulsions of the company’s death still reach out and slap me from time to time.  Its. Like. That.


So many of my essentials burned in the flames of that crash: my identity, credit, job, house, self respect … you name it.   And it altered many a friendship, like maybe all of them.  Because it left me questioning my self, my abilities, my worth, and what I’m bringing/have to offer. The investors in my company were people who know and love me, they lost their money by investing in my venture and this is undoubtedly one of the worst feelings I’ve ever experienced.  It weighs heavy in me and I have not been able to forgive myself this.  The results of this heavy over time are obvious: being closed to collaboration, seeing my ideas as a liability, the can’t-commit-but-can’t-quit dance, and a smattering of other small makings.  I’ve been holding this tight and I thank you for listening. **


Look!  A Banana slug!


Meanwhile I’ve been making teas again and selling them at farmers markets, running an itty bitty lil’ tea company called Uber Herbal Inc.  I also sell online at  Business has been going pretty great.  I’ve been integrating the farm I live on into the products I sell with a Farm Direct line of tea blends, soaking blends and gift boxes filled with things like dehydrated watermelon, crab apple chutney, pickled peppers and smoked hot sauces.  The potential here is pretty great.  Here’s the kicker: the way I’ve been able to get back into business is by licensing the kitchen in my stuck-in-the-irons-of-foreclosure home that has yet to be seized by the bank. Talk about rising from the ashes, eh?  And here’s the thing.  I have GOT to get out of there!  It is high time to complete with alllll of the above.  And that means that it is time to get back on the horse.

So now and yet again, it boils down to faith.

There is victory in these words tonight my friends.  These are the distilled thoughts from a two hour drive time.  Here’s me realizing that I’ve been holding everything too close and that to move forward, I’ve got to let it all hang out!  That I’ve got to speak to the heavy till it is light, I’ve got to speak my dreams till they manifest, and then I’ve got to speak the new dreams too.  Tonight when I sat down at this machine, out flowed a 7 page business plan.  And when I sat down again, This!


And once again, YOU!  Choosing to witness my process, that’s awesome!  Thank you.

** Yes, I have read the book ‘Great Failures of the Extremely Successful’.  Yes, I know how common it is for small companies and virgin entrepreneurs to fail.  Yes, 2008 was a hard year. Yes, I learned a lot.  Heartsong was a thing of beauty in so many ways… #habanerohoneybrewforever… best chai ever… I know, I do.  Thank you!  Seriously, thank you. 😉

Everyday Valentines

14 Jan

In these short days of sunlight and long nights of darkness, I’ve been cuddled by the wood stove in the evenings with my honey.  We’ve had quite a bit of down time this winter, what with snow and sickness.  So I’ve been sewing tiny hearts out of vintage fabric.  


And stringing them like so.



And soon I had a lot of them.


And then I had more.


So I opened a new store.

It opened about 10 minutes ago and I wanted you to be the first to know!


Just a goofy one of me before you go!