I love Pinterest. It’s my new cookbook, wish book, look book, inspiration board and personal stylist. I create weekly menus and meals from just that site. I take it shopping with me. I show my posts to salespeople so they know exactly what I’m looking for. And I love sharing the beautiful things I find.
This past week, I planted my own lemon trees from seed. Earlier this spring when I was moving my life all around I had to part with both my lemon and orange trees. I had them for several years. Summers when it was warm enough to take them outside I could almost watch them grow as I enjoyed a cold beer on the porch. Winters in Montana forced me move them inside. I had to buy a grow lamp to keep them alive. They love the sun. Then I almost lost them to mites. Their sweet demeanor and glossy leaves attracted a kind of mite that thrived in a sticky web, slowly killing the tree. Watching all the leaves fall from my beloved trees was a little heartbreaking. So, then I discovered Neem oil to coat the leaves to kill the mites. Once I finally figured out this seasonal cycle, I had to sadly part from them. Now settled and ready to homestead my little heart out, I am starting over with citrus trees. From seed. © 2013 Homesteadchronicles.com used with permission. Continue reading
For the first time in my life I am living in a house that requires a de-humidifier. I’ve said “so long” to the dry climes of Montana and California only to be confronted with the possibility of real mold issues. Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, so humidity is constant. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little humidity–it does wonder for my skin and hair, but I like to breathe without getting sick. As we continue to settle here, the one thing I always want to make a sense of my own space is to buy plants. Simply it’s my way of setting down “roots.” And with the presence of extra moisture and possible mold, I get two benefits from the plants I’m buying: one, they are beautiful and calming. Two, I’m buying only air-purifying plants for the indoors. (I can’t wait for spring to get busy planting outside, but it is too late now in the season to do much. I’m thinking ahead to those plants we can eat or that are beautiful and beneficial in some other way.)
Research on the world wide web has different lists with different plants:
But the few that appear on every list include aloe vera, spider plant, Continue reading
One of the first things I did when I moved to California was to buy herbs: rosemary, mint and basil. I needed something to root me here and give me an immediate sense of permanency. So here I am, in the heart of Napa Valley, the pulse of Wine Country on the main artery of highway is a few hundred feet from my front door. I live in the middle of a vineyard.
After my weeks of traveling through Italy, spending time in the frigid tundra of Montana, I am finally settling in to my new home. The sun and heat, even in April almost verges on overwhelming. It’s only the beginning of May and the temperatures are reaching into the 80s. It won’t rain now until the autumn season, and the sun bakes off the fog on cool mornings into brilliant afternoons with a cooling breeze, if we are lucky.
There’s a lot to do when you move. Those little things like power strips, filtered water, job searches, mechanics, establishing a routine, getting Wifi, revisiting my blog . . . . I have a long list of things to do.
I’m trying to keep my life simple. After lugging around my suitcase through Italy, packing and moving my apartment in Montana and having a smaller living space now in California the last thing I want to do is accumulate “stuff.” I’m being mindful spatially and financially of those bad retail habits that I’ve been known to have.
And now as I settle into West Coast living, I am back to the writing. And this time like a reporter from the deep trenches of combat, I will be writing about wine and life from the vineyards and backyards of California’s wine country. But first, I need a job. That is my assignment today. And wine this afternoon. Cheers to that! Look for updates soon! GoodTasteBook is back.
I took the train from Alba to Florence to begin my adventure in Tuscany. I was still battling a bit of jet lag and restless nights, often not sleeping at all. So I was already in a surreal state. But traveling, especially to foreign countries, is already a kind of surreal state. New sensations, different sensory reactions, exaggerated feelings, and a new language stimulates an unfamilar anxiety. Those changes, plus time differences, train schedules, new foods, late meals and strange beds make for stress that envelopes one in a state of hyper-sensitivity. I tried to maintain as much as a routine as possible, but going gluten-free or getting enough rest just wasn’t going to happen.
I ate a lot of pizza.
I had to take anti-anxiety pills to help me relax enough to sleep.
I started smoking, again. It made me feel, well, a little more European, and helped pass the hours or minutes between trains and meals.
The arrival in Florence shouldn’t have been a big deal, but I was to leave the station and take a bus to the airport to pick up my rental car. For the first time in my foreign affairs, I was going to drive, by myself, through a country that has cameras to record speeding violations, and signs I didn’t quite understand. (Is that sign for no parking, or does it mean “one way?” I think, by the end, I had it figured out.) My level of anxiety was pretty high. I tend to have what I call “potential anxiety,” I start thinking of the worst before it actually happens. And it was raining. And it was getting dark.
Have I mentioned, too, that my luggage was kind of clumsy and weighed a lot. My back and body were a little tired. Next time I am packing like a man.
I lived in Spain years ago in the age of the Internet cafe. These ubiquitous oases were in every plaza and square in Europe. Now, good luck trying to find one even in a city like Amsterdam or Milano. I now know that I am a little naive thinking I had the convenient luxury of traveling with a fancy iPhone. I imagined local wifi hot spots everywhere. I could pull up emails and itineraries at a moments notice. Nope, not the case at all. Having a fancy iphone means nothing when your server in the US doesn’t even exist in Europe. That’s right, Verizon doesn’t have a European market. Everyone and their dog has a cell phone now in Europe, just like in the US, so buying and using an antique calling card was nearly as impossible. Nearly missing connections and showing up late was my arrival style. I was finally able to contact my first wine host, Achille Boroli. I was able to buy one of those antique calling cards to finally reach him.
Plus, I think I overpacked. My bags are so heavy by the fourth trip up a set of train station stairs. I did pack set pair of rain boots, and I am glad I did. Alba has had rain for days, and the forecast in Florence and beyond says all rain and more rain. And what was I thinking to pack Berryman’s “The Dream Songs” and Jack Gilbert’s “The Great Fires?” You would think I’m a poet or something. Or that I would have loads of free time to read. I will need a long massage when this trip is over.
I was late and confused, too, for my first couch surfing experience. This is just another part of my adventure. Couchsurfing.com is a website connecting world travelers with hosts from around the world. I spent my first night in Milano with Elena, who took me out to a big Italian dinner and wine. (I’m eating way too much bread.). I’m taking a big risk, too, when I get to Rome and spend four nights with an Italian man whom I have never met. He feels like an old friend already, but my bullshit detector is on. But he does have a scooter for night tours around Rome. It sounds like the set of “Amelie.” Continue reading
Break-ups are always tough. Even the unconventional break-ups, the ones we suffer through, even those with social media sources and other guilty pleasures. Just remember Facebook will never forget you. And Facebook always wants you back. Its presence or absence will be a constant reminder of what you are missing out on (nothing) because you will hear everyone around you talking about “friending,” “liking,” “posting.” The new verbs of our century. I’m not breaking up with Facebook, at least not yet, because having a blog becomes a greater committed relationship with the greater connections of the universe, the often brief, meaningless interactions we get fed through instant synapses of the world wide web. We are gathered around the new fire: screens, computer or phone, that beckon with that familiar lambent glow: the promise of perfect bodies, celebrity gossip. Now: pornography on your phone, quotes, weird pets, and documentaries on everyone’s private life, now made public. It’s love and hate, this new relationship of connection, and I accept its necessary evil.
But I am breaking up with Netflix.
This time of year is hard on me. I want to sleep all day. I suffer through a version of Seasonal Affective Disorder that zaps my energy, encourages a state of depression, and a cycle of guilt starts: I want to sleep all day, but I have so much to do! A long list of projects, goals, deadlines to finish. I procrastinate, I make fake promises to myself. I eat too much, figuring tomorrow I will go to the gym, get motivated, have more energy. On a particularly bad day recently (I realize it’s the holidays, but there is really no excuse for watching movies and napping all day) I was scanning the Netflix streaming selection and discovered the evil inside my seemingly innocent computer: GLEE. After watching, I don’t know, seven or eight episodes about high school students that sing and dance and get pregnant, I realized the slippery slope that was becoming too steep, and I wanted out. Sure they are cute and certainly catchy, but I want to write a novel and poems about heaven, Continue reading
I’m going wheat-free this month. I have some skin issues that won’t go away, mostly redness and sensitivity on my right cheek, and those annoying red bumps on my upper arms. I don’t eat a ton of wheat, but lately have been indulging more than necessary. I enjoy and thrive on a mostly vegan diet, I mean vegetarian diet. I can’t officially call myself vegan, I guess, because I do eat some dairy, including goat and mozzarella cheese (I can’t live without my daily Caprese salad), cream for my coffee, and butter for my popcorn, but that is about it. I’ll probably phase the cheese out once the summer produce bounty diminishes. Oh, and I eat eggs occasionally. It’s hard to really enjoy heavy red wines with a plate of vegetables. So once a month or so Continue reading
It’s already September 1st, and I am so thrilled about this time of year. I love the smell of new pencils, the soft crush of wool on cool nights, the scarf around my neck on the bike ride home from work. I love the texture of autumn: the cozy knits, the soft leathers, the decadent furs, layers of plaid, the romance of wool and cashmere, the thrill of boots and black eyeliner. I love the shift from lip gloss to lip stick: pinks to reds. The reading schedule gets heavy with the classics, fine romances and new books of poems. Long walks with cups of tea. I look forward to hunkering down like a domestic mystic with books I’ve neglected all summer, the poems I haven’t revised, the letters I haven’t sent. Continue reading
I have heirloom tomatoes varieties that are indeterminate, so pruning is a great way to make those plants produce more fruit. This is a great article on how to do it right. I also like to fertilize my garden with fish meal. The smell is heinous but the results are pretty apparent. Happy Gardening.
I don’t know if I will ever run a marathon. But we can all watch and cheer on those that do. If you get a chance this summer, go to a finish line and see what inspirations happen. I recently watched a dear friend Amy Rosendahl and her new friend, Sue, whom she met on the course, finish the Missoula Marathon. I couldn’t help but get choked up.
Runners in their 70s were crossing the finish line, couples, first-timers, and those with limps made it across. They got up early that morning for the 6am race time, had dedicated time and their bodies to finish a thrilling race. Some of them were trying to run races in all 50 states, others had run over 200 marathons! It was just amazing and emotional to see these runners sweat it out, give each other high-fives and cheer each other on. Watching those accomplishments has set me back into a running mode. A persistent knee injury keeps me from increasing my distance, but I love running outside, especially in the rain and through the woods. My mantra right now: slow and steady wins the race. Maybe next year I will be crossing the half-marathon finish line! You have to start somewhere.