NEW COLUMN! ADVICE FROM THE PURPLE MOUNTAIN SAGE: Reflections, Tips & Recipes from East County's Backcountry

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by Sharon Courmousis, Sacred Rocks Reserve

The Gift of Today


The land is getting ready for winter. Flowers have died back mostly. The leaves have changed colors and dropped to the ground, a carpet of reddish-yellow, soon fading into earth colors. The seeds have popped from their husks and been harvested by birds. Squirrels have tucked away tons of acorns. Daylight pales early. Temperatures drop quickly as the sun disappears over the western sky. I want to sink into my own ‘cave’ with a fire in the fireplace, a good book, visitors dropping in for a cup of chili (recipe below) and a rowdy game at the community table.


The holidays are coming soon, and this time of year can bring joy… or dread.


Times are tight for some, and gift giving is just around the corner. What to do, what to do? I remember growing up in a rather large family in a small community [even smaller than Boulevard!] and though we loved each other greatly, we had little money. Many holidays were about what we made for each other. One of us had the bright idea of offering services to each other, like a coupon book with things like “take one turn at your kitchen chores”, or “wash the dog” or “bake a favorite treat” or “foot massage”. How delightful it was enjoying that ‘gift’ far beyond Christmas Day. Gifts do not have to cost money, however, a gift of service does require some thought.


A wonderful book called The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, brought me to understand that love can be expressed in many ways other than with wrapped up stuff. In fact, the Gift of Service is one of the love languages. You might find others that work well as gifts for different family members and friends, so I invite you to read the book!


As I walk out this morning into nature, the beauty of the land and the sky and the trees remind me to be thankful for my life. Someone once said, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.” I do enjoy giving people gifts more than receiving them, however at this particular moment, I bask in the gift of today.


“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.” -- Unknown


Squash and Chipotle Chili with Black Beans and Hominy

(Great chili for a group for dinner -- and breakfast the next day!)


5 tablespoons olive oil, 3 lbs chopped beef chuck, 2 onions, diced, 6 cloves minced garlic, 2 diced jalapenos, salt, 3 C beef broth, 2 12oz bottles dark beer, 2 T ground cumin, 2t oregano, 1 buttercup, kabocha or butternut squash [steamed and cleaned and cubed], 2-4 canned chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, 2 15o oz cans black beans, 2 15oz cans drained hominy, plus sour cream and chopped onions for garnish.


Directions: Cook meat, remove; cook onions, garlic, jalapenos, add back meat and spices, broth, and beer. Cook until meat is tender. Add beans, squash, and hominy. Cook one hour. Serve with heated corn tortillas or cornbread.

Cleaning tip


* Disinfect and clean wood cutting boards: Rub with vinegar to disinfect and clean. If your cutting board has deep grooves, you can also soak the board in vinegar for 5-10 minutes

The Purple Mountain Sage welcomes questions from readers! Write to us at: The Purple Mountain Sage is Sharon Courmousis, co-owner of Sacred Rocks Reserve and RV Park, a 163-acre wilderness preserve and campground in Boulevard, CA, which is also home to the Sacred Rocks Artists’ Colony. Sharon can be reached by calling: 619-766-4480. Visit the Sacred Rocks Reserve website at:


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Gracious Lady

Sharon, this gracious and spiritual lady, gave me a guided tour of Sacred Rocks in her golf cart, and I saw all the sights and pictures displayed in her article, and more. It is truly a sight and experience to behold. I am looking forward to the time when her idea and conception of a "Writer's Retreat" at Sacred Rocks becomes a household word throughout the country, sort of like the Newport Jazz Festival. Sharon is a visionary, that can make this happen. I want to be a part of it. But, more than that, I want to get some of that chili! I love the Labyrynth!



Thanks, Sharon!

Hey, delightful lady, I'm not surprised to find you here! And you are a perfect "fit" for the excellent overall quality & diversity.
Thank you for the reminder about "love languages." This is a key to living a Good Life. You and your Reserve both "speak it" well.
Oh--let me know when the chili's brewing. I'll bring an empty cup! :)

The Five Love Languages

I've read it and practice it all the time. It really makes sense. And, once you know a person's love language, you can be much more effective in showing love to them; your love actions have meaning for them. Great article Sharon.