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One last post of how lovely New York was. To start, I have to talk about a book, Cork Dork. I read this as an audiobook while travelling to Europe early this summer; it was really nice when waiting for delayed flights and when I had a bout of food poisoning that laid me out for a while. The journey Bosker takes is beautiful: from knowing nothing about wine, to learning everything about it, to choosing an unconventional landing place of a bar called Terroir. I was obsessed: what a cool place to visit! I wanted to see it for myself.

I knew that I wouldn’t make it to the flagship location while I was in NYC this time, so I had somewhat forgotten the dream. When I got to the High Line park, though, I saw that there was a seasonal popup called Terroir on the Porch! I made a plan to go there for lunch.

While there, I got to try their amazing farro salad – it was tasty without needing any cheese or nuts or creamy dressing (normally my weaknesses), and just felt so healthy after a million miles of walking. My waitress helped me pair it with a crisp glass of Chilean white wine with a grapefruity but dry bite. When I told her I had to go catch a train, she looked a little sad, and said: “Aw, I thought you were gonna stick around for a red!” I loved every minute of it.

I don’t normally have a glass of wine at lunch, or eat alone, or chat with my waitress for that matter, but something about Terroir’s vibe seeped into me, and as I noshed my arugula, I was pretty happy to be alone and looking out over the water, surrounded and yet solitary all at once.

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I have been finding it astoundingly easy to focus on the future lately. How will I (make more money) (find more happiness) (have more friends) (grow more plants) next year? I’ve tried, on purpose, to think about why I feel the need to do this so much.

One part is natural: the future is exciting. Any day with me is probably a little humdrum by comparison with all that possibility. This part of my personality has always been with me, making me look forward to things even if I am also quite content in the present.

Lately, though, I’m afraid I’ve stopped giving the “now” enough credit. At work, I’m trying to get things done in the hope that some abstract future date will be less breakneck, less busy. I don’t know that such a day will truly come, but I do think that it might be beneficial to slow my roll a little and try to notice some of the cool things I’m doing before I immediately move on to another task.

I notice this tendency as well in (ironically) yoga class. I quantify (how many more leg lifts this week than last week) and I think about my cell phone and I think about how close we are to the end of class. I’m not proud of this: I don’t do yoga to somehow get a cool spreadsheet of facts and figures about how good it was for me! I do it because I want to be present, and the sensations in my body are usually good and challenging and healing.

So I’m telling myself more often that, while I can definitely daydream and definitely note my progress on things, I need to give myself space, even on Monday (“most high octane of all the days”), to do these things, participate in each minute of my life, without making it just a day to add to my growing stockpile of past days on the endless march toward “not quite yet.”

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I love travelling with Husband, or with my family, or to see friends. However, once in a long while I take a trip where for at least one day I am on my own. This week’s trip is a whopping 4 days long and while I will spend a little time with a friend on one of those days, and two others are taken up with my conference, I have learned what I need when I’m on my own.

I developed these when, after a couple of years living in Europe, I took a trip with a larger group of friends and acquaintances who wanted to go clothes shopping and take pictures of themselves in front of monuments but weren’t interested in learning anything about those monuments at all. I don’t have a problem with people who like these things, but they threw into sharp relief my own loves when it comes to a day of travel. If I get to do it my way, I do this:

  1. Vegetarian Restaurants – I don’t like them better than other restaurants, and I am not a vegetarian, but I think their food is interesting and I’m always a little weird about forcing others to eat veggie with me… so I try to frequent one of these whenever I can by myself.
  2. Bookstores – I don’t buy many books any more unless they are actually used, but just wandering through a bookstore makes me long to look every title up at the library. I will occasionally splurge and get a book that I can read without messing up the spine and give to a friend as a present – two birds, one book.
  3. The Most Unique Park Possible – I like to take a stroll as much as the next person, but I really like something that also gives me interesting things to look at. The High Line in Manhattan is a good example – a raised park that’s more than a mile long? Sign me up. I do this with other people too, but rarely can anyone else handle the level of overdoing-it-on-the-walking that I can.
  4. A Modern Art Museum, or Preferably, Independent Art Galleries – Modern art is another of those things that I love but don’t like subjecting my friends and family to. I understand that it is hard to understand why blobs and splotches are art, but I love it, and I love the way that seeing new possibilities makes me feel.
  5. Coffee Shops – I try to stick with black brewed coffee when I’m home, for the sake of my wallet and the sneaky calories of milk-and-sugar. However, all bets are off when I’m travelling: a cortado? yes! a cool nitro cold brew coffee? Sounds delightfully hipster! Coffee in hand, I’m set for overdoing it on my long walks.

Do you have any must-dos when travelling alone? You can obviously do them with other traveling companions, but are there any things that are uniquely you in your travel itineraries?

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So, it seems like the time to tell you about GoSun, because recently, they launched a Kickstarter, which has already funded itself 8 times over. That is some very exciting news. 🙂

I’ve loved GoSun for a couple of years now, but it was a pricey love; even with coupons and a sale that was running at the time, my own GoSun Sport cost more than 200 bucks. It was a combination birthday gift and my own desire to own one at a time when we were doing okay financially… But now people can get an arguably cooler version, the GoSun Go, for less than 100 dollars!

So what is a GoSun? It’s a solar stove made of a parabolic dish (think concentrating light rays with a mirror) and a vacuum tube that lets heat in but not back out again. Basically, when this thing is facing the sun, it is also getting super warm inside. Depending on what you are cooking, it can taken anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes to cook things.

My best luck with my GoSun Sport has been with cut vegetables. If I know I want a veggie side with dinner, and I don’t want to turn on my own oven, I chop up peppers or onions or whatever and put it in little silicone pans that fit nicely in the tube. I leave the tube out in the sun while I make everything else for dinner, and by the time I am ready, the veggies are super-steamy or ready to be added to some other dish.

I know that I save pennies of energy whenever I use the GoSun, but I really love that they are totally fuel-free pennies, and I need to cook my food somehow. If over the years it eventually pays for itself, that’s great, but I am also pretty happy that the company was started by a friend of a friend of mine, and I’ve loved the work they’ve done in other countries, bringing clean energy to families that otherwise would have to use wood and coal to make food.

If you want to try out the GoSun Go, the kickstarter is here; for other GoSun products, check out their website.

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Looking up at Curry in a Hurry, where I had dinner.

It is hard for me to turn off my planning brain, but when I’m travelling, I work harder than usual to do it. I’m in New York City this week for a conference, and while a part of me is already doing a Google Maps route of where I want to go before I’ve even gotten to the bottom of my coffee cup, I’m also more present than I’ve been for a long time.

I feel self-conscious in big cities because I feel like everyone else is laser-focused on getting where they are going and I feel like I am always looking up, reading signs, noting plaques, lingering. New York City is a miracle to me – our small city can barely sustain a few blocks of downtown shops and living, and nothing is walkable, really. Here, however, everything is miraculous, built up into the sky, NEARBY.

I could spend today working on my presentation for tomorrow, which is only half-done. I could spend today working on writing and reading and all the other things that tickle the back of my brain all day when I do something else, something for fun. But today I’m choosing New York, and I’m choosing to look up. The last time I was here was 10 years ago, when I was a stunned college student who didn’t know just how freeing being an adult would be. Now, I have to break out of the routine of adulthood to feel that again.

I’m hoping that some alone time to wander galleries, to taste delicious foods, to see the High Line, and to browse a bookstore will all put me in a mental space for all my favorite things. Yes, I do have to go back to a productivity stint tomorrow, but today’s to-do list looks a little different, and a little more like a map than usual: where can I walk and where can I look? What can I see if I don’t let all my priorities sneak up and overtake this happiness?

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I’m heading out on a trip today, and to save money I got a ticket on a low-cost airline. They call it “low cost,” but what they really mean is “low base price, plus add-ons.” What I do love is that I’ve developed a method for using a personal item sized bag as my entire luggage, and it saves me tons of money on low cost airlines and tons of time getting in and out of the airport.

I cut a few corners, so not everyone will love this method. For instance, I focus on having one or two important outfits (business casual for a conference, for instance) and otherwise wear the same outfit on any days that no one will notice (each of my travel days, and any days I have to explore on my own). Once you realize that on a trip there will be few people to judge you for re-wearing the same jeans, you can survive on a lot fewer clothing. I then have more room for all the socks, underwear, and a pair of pajamas.

I also limit my “fun” packing to one laptop, one cell phone, their chargers, and a single book (for when everything is dead and I cannot charge anything). More than that would make it totally impossible to fit everything in my bag.

This means that when I’m out exploring a city, I can usually bring the whole bag with me and not worry about where I left something. It makes me feel like a light-travelling turtle with everything I need nearby. I’m also less likely, in my silly way, to lose things, and that makes me more capable and ready to handle whatever life throws at me when I do need one of the two or three things I did manage to fit in the bag.

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More and more, I’ve realized that the choices we make about what kinds of meals to make in meal preparation mode for ourselves and our families are less important than the puzzle pieces of how they fit together. What in the world do I mean? I mean that few items in the grocery store are perfectly portioned for my specific family.

Take a package of hamburger buns. There are usually 8 of them, so even if I budget well, get the sale hamburgers and the cheapest buns, Husband and I will usually eat one, maaaaybe 2 burgers and then have frozen burgers and buns in the house for a while yet. I might use them, but eventually, they often get thrown away.

I hate food waste, but I haven’t figured out how to avoid this project until I realized that most meals are actually puzzle pieces, and that if I really want to save money and avoid waste, I have to fit them together in each week’s meal plans.

This means that if I buy hamburger buns in particular, I want to plan to make some crockpot pulled pork AND serve burgers at some point that week; that way, I get two different meals but I use all or almost all of the hamburger buns.

Many things easily freeze and thaw into nice, easy-to-use meals, but other items seem to be… less… after they’ve been frozen. For me, this is true for most soups. I’ve had to learn the hard way that if I make a soup, I need to eat it in a few different meals immediately or it will end up frozen and eventually thawed and discarded. I applaud people who are better at eating their leftovers than I am, but I think many people have certain leftovers they’ll eat, and certain leftovers they can’t abide.

So the puzzle pieces are the most perishable parts of any meal. If you make a curry with half a can of coconut milk, there needs to be another dish to use the other half of the can. Obviously, we cannot predict all of these, but just by thinking this way, in terms of the perishable leftovers from any given recipe, I’m having an easier time planning my meals and seeing the benefit in less lingering sad food in my fridge, and more money in my pocket.

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The Monday after a road trip – even and awesome road trip where I saw beautiful Fall foliage, a cute 1700s-era town, a cool digital media conference, and a particularly tasty glass of apple cider – can be rough because I feel like I am teleporting back to reality with no lead-up or planning. To-do lists obviously help with this a bit.

In my stocking a few years ago, my mother in law included an adorable notepad of list paper that I have now used more than half of. The little eyeglasses motif and the goofy phrase “Nerd is the word” have been on every to-do list I’ve written for two years. I need these lists the way other people need their morning coffee; they energize me because once I can actually see everything I have to do written out in front of me, I feel like I can actually do all of it.

I came home to a (mistaken) unpaid toll violation notice, a jury duty summons that conflicts with a big trip, and a check I need to cash, but by putting all three of them down on a list, along with some of the bigger start-of-week work tasks, I start to calm myself down.

I know that I don’t really need to have physical notes now that so many to-do list applications and softwares exist, and I do use Evernote to organize my day at work along with some of the drafts of documents I work on, but I really cannot substitute them fully for the paper to-do list.

Today’s intention: mark off items from my to-do list at double-time today so that I don’t feel overwhelmed for the rest of the week, which has more travel coming. Also an intention: accept that things are a little bonkers and that is just how it has to be these days!

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We’ve been loving our small city pretty hard lately, and this weekend feels like the perfect time to take a 3 day weekend and get out for a little while. We want to see something new, and I also have to go on a trip for work anyway, so Husband is coming along, as well as a colleague of mine. Both of them are big sci-fi novel dorks, so I think the 8 hour road trip will be well worth it.

I’ve had multiple schools of thought when it came to road trips in the past. I had a distressing phase where I liked travelling in the very early morning or late at night so as to maximize time with friends and family when I arrived places, but it didn’t account for my own lost sleep so my parents pretty much constantly worried about me dozing off at the wheel.

Then I got into a place where I was studying my graduate school degree while the rest of my friends and family were working full time jobs, which meant I could take more time “off” – in reality, I just brought all my books with me – to travel around. I road tripped in any direction feasible to me, making very infrequent stops because I wanted to get where I was going whenever I could.

There was a year of long-distance dating with Husband (then, he was Boyfriend), which meant that I would have awful weeks of withdrawal when I returned to regular life; while I never missed anyone else as much as I missed him after those trips, I think I’ve always been a person who wishes the trip could last forever.

Now, my trips are usually with him even though we also live in the same place, to coming home isn’t quite as big an adjustment. We have a joke that every time I travel with him, I’m required to spill pretzels in the floorboard of the car, because I’m clumsy and we always pack snacks and this seems to inevitably result. He makes me take things slower and drive safely and stop for as many rest areas as we need. It’s a nice change, even if my personality is still always pushing the envelope and trying to get places faster, cheaper, more often.

How do you organize yourself for trips? What are your trip quirks? Road trips are a pretty common part of United States life, but every family does them differently.

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So, even more so than my first year of gardening last year, this year’s garden was a crazy mixed bag. I’m giving each crop a 1 (bumper crop), 2 (grew, but barely harvested anything), or 3 (dud) rating this year, and trying to remember the lessons I’m learning.

1 – Bumper Crops

Cucumbers

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Zucchini

Butternut Squash

Basil

Kale

Lettuce

2 – Mixed Bag

Carrots

Strawberries

Blueberries

Potatoes

Bell Peppers

3 – Duds

Onions

Garlic

Yellow Squash

Watermelon

Herb boxes in general on front deck

I had felt like this year’s garden wasn’t so successful till I divided them up, but then I remembered all the early batches of kale chips and the massive quantity of cucumber water I drank this summer to keep cool, and I realized that so much good is yet to come in future years and this year was actually pretty great all by itself. I learned more about how much sunlight each of my varieties of plants could handle, and I enjoyed the huge expanded areas for planting that Husband built in two beds… I am so pleased with the progress, especially my surprise – 11 big sweet potatoes buried deeper than I expected on skinny roots so I didn’t find them till last week! I didn’t can piles and piles of tomatoes (my one huge success of last year) but I sure did learn a lot and get a ton of bug bites as I gathered crops all summer. I’m officially a gardening addict, even if my green thumb is always gonna be kinda blotchy and inconsistent.

 

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