Carneros – Wide Open Spaces

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Carneros, Napa Valley

Sometimes I feel surrounded by traffic and noise.  All the progress and construction going on in Napa!   Maybe it’s good to just get away from it all, alone in wide open spaces to stretch our legs, our minds and perspectives.  I know just the place to do this, out on the edge of the Carneros.

The Carneros is the largest of the Napa Valley wine growing regions and shared, as well, with Sonoma County.  Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are its most famous grapes, others include Merlot and Syrah and it was the first region to be designated an appellation in 1983. Continue reading

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Have you wondered what you can do?

Sometimes we wonder how we can make some little impact. Sometimes we think that it must be special people, maybe they “have no life”, that they just give of themselves and hopefully they’ll get it all done for us. But the truth is, those “special” people are just you and me and others like us who know in our hearts that we love our life here on Earth and we want to contribute in some way.

Check out this simple…yes, SIMPLE, way to learn more and find a way to fulfill your heart’s desire. Thanks!

Pachamama Alliance: Awakening the Dreamer

I may see a Tarantula and I have to get shots.

In the past I’ve talked about being in my prime; that at 55, I am in my own personal Prime Time. Prime Time is for all of us between the age of 50 and 70 (and beyond! who knows?). We’ve got so many strange and wonderful experiences behind us and we have EARNED our wisdom. (see my post from January) So, with all those happy and motivational thoughts, the next thing I came upon is CHANGE. Ohhh; with all this knowledge and ability to choose wisely, now I realize that many decisions will require a change in myself. You see, I am accutely aware of what and how I did things before…how I handled relationships, obligations, commitments, goals, obstacles and on and on. About 35 years, a entire lifetime, of gettin’ it all together. Now, in my prime I know that to move forward I may…most likely…certainly will, have to change: me. I have been embarking on new work/career/income/creative projects for about two years now; navigating the prime of my life. Today I can tell you that when you make changes, big changes, changes to your environment, body, home, relationships, hair, shoes (whatever!) you will be immediately presented with the big, fat fears that have kept you from even considering these wonderful adventures in the first place! In 2006 I had the amazing opportunity to travel to East Africa. It would be in the category of “humanitarian” trip, visiting projects for clean water, schools, and micro-business being developed in Kenya and Tanzania. And it would include 3-4 days of awesome safari. I jumped at the chance! I was elevated, like feet barely touching the ground at the prospect of me going to Africa! Yes! Yes! Yes!…what? inoculations? how many? five?! shots? needles? oh. And my phantom phobia of big, hairy spiders!! jungle! banana trees! wide-open landscapes! they are everywhere! I just know it! Continue reading

Zawadi African Tea

Sometimes shopping for Fair Trade items takes more time and effort. But there is way more satisfaction in knowing that your dollars are making a difference worldwide. Our dollars can be a gift – a gift with purchase! There’s something for everyone. I am so glad to have discovered this tea and its founder, Robert Kihanya. Please read on to learn more about this great venture, Zawadi African Tea.

Shortly after my return from East Africa, in 2006, I was doing my usual grocery shopping at Vallergas, a locally owned store in Napa. I was browsing the tea isle with my new awareness of Fair Trade products. In Kenya our group visited the Kimlea School for Girls and I had met these smart, clever, industrious girls and learned that most of their families made a living from picking tea in the Kenya plantations for $3.00 a day. A day.Now, back home in my cool, abundant American grocery store, I looked over all the beautifully colored packages of tea from all over the world. I narrowed my search for Kenya tea, and Fair Trade. On the bottom shelf there was a simple brown box with a black tea leaf and hand logo; Zawadi African Tea. I picked it up and sniffed through the cellophane wrap.
In my mind I was instantly transported back to Kenya – flashes of the dirt roads, the bright cloth, simmering stews, leather and beaded belts, and the wide, wide sky. “Wow!” I thought. “Who makes this? How come it’s so much like Kenya?” On the box I read: Zawadi means Gift in the Swahili language. The box told short stories of “Kenya family farmers” and “The Zawadi Gift” of giving a portion of the proceeds as a donation to the Kenya AIDS Intervention/Prevention Project Group, KAIPPG.org.
I had to know more and researched the company’s website, http://www.zawadiafricantea.com I was delighted to discover that the founder and his company were right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I wanted to know more about this project and I knew I wanted to contribute to it somehow. Longer story shorter…I am now working with Robert Kihanya and Zawadi African Tea as an Account Manager for Sales and Distribution. Who knew?!

When and why did you create the project of Zawadi African Tea?
I came from Kenya in the mid-1980’s and went to college in Texas. In the summer of 2002, I was visiting Kenya and I saw a lot of kids without a place to stay, orphaned by the AIDs virus. When I got back to the United States I wanted to create something to help. I wanted to create a project where people could buy a product that is essential to them and the proceeds would give back to the community. In Kenya I met a lot of members of the Kamuchege tea co-op. Kamuchege is the village in Kenya where I grew up. They asked for my help to look for a market for their product. Their problem is there are a lot of agents to buy the tea but the system is divided up among so many “hands” that it reduces their profit.

Is it a non-profit project? How is it funded?
Not a non-profit, but part of the proceeds go to the Kenya Aids Intervention/Prevention Project Group (Kaippg.org) to help the orphans. Janet Feldman, Director and Founder of the organization reports to me on what the money is used for; for example, blankets for the children. Zawadi African Tea is a licensed, sole proprietorship and I am the President and Founder. In the beginning I funded the company with a loan from my 401k plan. This went to purchase the tea, shipping and to hire people in Kenya to get the product here. I also needed to fund the website design, packaging and marketing. My former girlfriend worked with me on the marketing and distribution. Now it is myself and two distributors. I also had help from friends and an intern from Golden Gate University majoring in Computer Science and Website Design. By the beginning of 2003 we had the samples and started marketing to stores and restaurants. Our first sale was in June of 2003 to Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco. They are still a steady customer for us.

What is your vision for the Zawadi African Tea business?
The entire project, Zawadi African Tea includes other items such as gift baskets with African art objects. The vision is to promote African products worldwide and for the business to grow and become self-sustaining. My goal is to quit my job and work this full-time, with staffing and partners and that it provides an efficient, sustainable source for the children in Kenya. I envision an annual income that would cover all the expenses and sustain substantial growth. The vision goes beyond the tea. It is to promote all kinds of African products, Fair Trade and organic products to support small farmers and artisans. And I have a vision for a future Zawadi African Tea Shop!

What are your biggest challenges in keeping the project going?
Advertising and sharing the products and getting customers. Tea has become a very competitive product on the shelf; it’s a challenge to stand out. We need to do demonstrations and tell the story. I look for committed partners to run with the project; people who have a passion for the story and the purpose and not just the tea. People who are supporting the project are consumers of Zawadi African Tea as well as well as business partners; not just looking for a job but enrolled in all aspects of the project.

What would be the best support, right away, that someone could do for Zawadi African Tea?
Buy the tea, drink the tea, learn about the story and then contact a store manager and ask them to stock Zawadi African Tea. Be an advocate for the whole project of Zawadi African Tea and Fair Trade and share this with their friends and community. If there is a store or retail outlet that someone has in mind, they can contact us by email: Robert Kihanya, Robert@zawadiafricantea.com; Arvis Northrop, arvis@ecotravelconnections.com

Alrighty then, let’s get started

I was going to call this blog “A Woman of the Middle Ages”, because that would be me and I thought my musings and trips and tumbles now at 50-something would be of infinite interest to many. Maybe…

But mostly I want to keep yakking and prodding about my advocacy for responsible travel and Fair Trade. I’m not perfect, I still shop at a big box now and then; but I spend extra time reading labels and browsing websites of products and companies to make sure I’m not contributing to ugly, unfair practices. And I want to include my brilliant friends and colleagues to contribute their passions and expertise on who knows how many subjects!

So this is the intro post. I haven’t even had breakfast yet; so I’ll be back….
(this is a short post, forget the “read more”…that’s a Blogger thing)