Archive for ‘stories / tips’

My Summer Essentials —MAV

Monday, August 8th, 2011

My Summer Essentials: pretty much stays the same every year.

Let’s start with what you would find in my bag …
~ a linen towel (Never know when you might swim or sit on damp grass with a cool drink.)
~ a water bottle (If you think I drink tons of water in other seasons summer has me drinking like a mad woman.)
~ sunscreen (I’m a real stickler for SPF 30.)
~ sunglasses (Always.)
~ a little camera (Always.)
~ a notebook (Summer is when I think of my best ideas so I have to be on the ready at all times.)

Beyond the bag my Summer Essentials include …

~ fruit (I really don’t eat fruit in the winter or even spring but in the summer it’s all I can think about morning, noon and night.)

~ my nephews (Always love them more than anything ever {as of two weeks ago I now have two!} but in the summer we can play outside … life doesn’t get much better.)

~ swimming in ponds (Can’t get enough swimming and I’m a real sucker for ponds … don’t even mind the murk!)

~ stripes and patterns (I’m not usually one for a lot of pattern but in the summer I like to mix it up. This year in particular I have definitely been feeling the mash-up.)

~ sunsets (Come on now. What else can be said?)

I wish you a wonderful mid-Summer, friends. See you back here very soon.

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Please note: We are now on Summer Holiday. We will be back August 12, 2011. When we return look for some exciting news including a new look for 3191 Miles Apart, new collaborations and an update on the return of our beloved publication ‘3191 Quarterly’. See you in August!


My Summer Essentials —SCB

Monday, August 8th, 2011

My Summer Essentials: This motley list includes old stand-bys as well as new favorites, but it’s all summer to me.

1. My cameras. Obviously, I am behind the lens all year long, but summer is my favorite time for photography. The days are long, my home is finally well-lit, and I love to document the full days I get to spend with my kids along with our travels.

2. Fresh herbs. The taste of summer. Eggs, sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas, cocktails—all get a handful of fresh herbs tossed on at the end.

3. Shallow baskets. Perfect for berry picking or for holding food to take to a picnic or potluck. Look for them at thrift stores and yard sales.

4. Hammam towel. A new discovery this year. I throw it in my bag when we go on our outdoor adventures. Lightweight, but surprisingly absorbent, it makes a great picnic blanket, a shawl for a cool night, or a way to dry off after a dip in the creek or fountain. I found mine secondhand, but you can search for them on Etsy.

5. Bobby pins. In the heat (which hasn’t quite arrived here, but it will!), I like to keep my hair up all day. You’ll always find a handful of hair pins in my pockets in the summer.

6. Popsicle maker. We make popsicles nearly every day in the summer. As simple as lemonade or as rich as yogurt fudgesicles (find the recipe in the Summer Quarterly). This batch was vanilla yogurt and a raspberry puree sweetened with maple syrup.

7. My Aurora sandals. I first discovered these when I worked at a boutique that sold them 18 years ago, and they have been a summer staple ever since. With their Vibram soles, they are great for everything from canoeing to hiking to crossing rocky creeks to biking. A great alternative to ugly sport sandals. (In the photo above, I am wearing them at our favorite riverside camp spot last summer).

Have an amazing July, everyone!

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Please note: We are now on Summer Holiday. We will be back August 12, 2011. When we return look for some exciting news including a new look for 3191 Miles Apart, new collaborations and an update on the return of our beloved publication ‘3191 Quarterly’. See you in August!


The Woman’s Day Book of Houseplants —SCB

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I do not have a green thumb. In fact, on close inspection, you might find it to be almost black. As much as I love plants and the natural world, I have never really learned to care for and tend them as one should. I figure, however, that if Julia Child could only begin to cook in her forties, I can learn to garden and care for plants in my forties, right?

I found this book, published in the mid-sixties, in the discards at our school library the other day. I originally brought it home because I was charmed by the cover and illustrations, but soon found it was a wealth of information that just might save my crumbly-brown indoor garden.

Along with general instructions on indoor plant care, there is an illustrated guide to specific houseplants, with information on their optimal light and water conditions, along with tips on transplanting and propagating.

A few things I learned while browsing:

—I am most likely way over-watering my aloe and succulents.

—Most house plants benefit from a summer outdoors (in the shade). I am going to give my plants a little summer vacation!

—If you don’t have an outdoor space, move your plants to a shadier spot and give them fresh air through an open window for the summer months.

—Loosen the soil of your plants with a fork every few weeks.

—Prune the dead or wilted leaves of house plants regularly and dispose of them (the book suggests burning them). This keeps pests and disease away as well as keeping them shapely.

At the back are some suggestions for indoor gardens. This one is called Garden of Cool, Quiet Greens. I love that.

If you want to visit some women who do have lovely green thumbs, head over to Tend Collective.


A Day Off —MAV

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I really needed a day off. I know you know what I mean.

I had been saying it for a while but as this past week spiraled to a chaotic close I knew I could no longer wait. I really needed a day off.

My day off started as most days off do with an early rising time and one quick email check. Finding  a few notes I could leave for another day (or I could force myself to leave for another day) I closed the laptop and said out loud, ‘see you tomorrow.’

Then it began … a quick shower, a few hard boiled eggs, coffees to go from Arabica, a bottle of water and time to hit the road.

You see, for me to truly have a day off I need to get the hell out. I need to get away from my home where I live and work. I need to get away from any opportunity to cross the threshold into my studio. A usual Saturday starts off with the best intention but then I find myself saying ‘I’ll just check my email really quickly before _________.’ Yeah, right. And a few hours later my supposed day off is anything but. I know you know what I mean. So, on this day off I quite wisely got out of town and far far away from any of the usual distractions.

Two hours on the road and we arrived at my favorite spot. The only place I ever want to go on a true day off (short of a few little cafes I’ve spent time in Paris or London).

We sat. We treasured the moment where we realized there was no one there and yet in a few short months the summer crowd would swell in this room. For then, however, it was just us and our day off.

We ordered. An odd but fitting combination of hot tea and beer. A mess of fresh hot beautiful food. We took our time to eat and talk and sit on the same side of the booth. The pace was deliberate and slow and we lingered as one should on a day off. I know you know what I mean.

Then after a walk about town it was back in the car for a slow ride home. We made a few stops, new and old, and sat in the fast-moving car with our own thoughts. We were not aware of time or any sense of where we should be or why. We were just driving with the showy trees passing by. It was the best feeling and for me the driving always encompasses just what I need on a day off. The tease of absolute nothingness or at the very least nothing of importance. It feels so good to be moving but with no real purpose.

Then, as if the day off couldn’t get any better, we quickly found ourselves back at home and still with a bit of light outside I got back into bed for a nap before my evening was to begin. It was quiet and I smiled as I laid my head on the pillow.

There is still nothing quite as good as a real day off. I know you know what I mean.


Battling Late Winter Fatigue —SCB

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Do you feel it? That February sluggish slow-down? We all need a little fresh air, I think.

This week, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been doing to battle my own late-winter fatigue. I’m all for joining the gym, going on a road trip or picking up a bright bouquet, but this is all stuff that you can do at home on any budget.

1. Shop your closet.

I revisited MAV’s CLEAR-OUT post and gave my closet a thorough and relentless purging. I took an evening to make sure what remained was mended and pressed Downton Abbey made for good company while I was ironing). The rest of the week, I challenged myself to combine and layer clothing pieces in ways I never had before. I felt like I had a new wardrobe.

2. Browse some cookbooks.

I sat down with a stack of cookbooks—some old favorites, some borrowed from the library, a new one gifted by a friend—and just spent some time turning the pages. No agenda. No menu planning. Just browsing.

I didn’t end up trying any new recipes this week, but what I did do was take inspiration from what I saw and applied it to some of our family favorites. I roasted the fish in the oven rather than cooking it on the stovetop. I added a panko topping to baked pasta. Just little stuff that helped things feel fresh.

3. Rearrange a little

After spending so much time indoors, I become a little tired of my surroundings. I get a pretty big hankering to move furniture and change things up (heck, I even start looking at real estate listings). Knowing a full-scale redo (or move) is not in the cards, sometimes it helps to rearrange just a tiny corner. I created this small display on my neglected bedside table.

The cat came along later in the day and knocked it all apart, but it’s okay. Sometimes it’s just in the doing.


Welcome The New Year With Ease & Calm —MAV

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Here we are … a new year. We’ve been through the busy festive season full of parties, sweets, drinks and family gatherings and we’ve come out the other side to … a new year. Yep. Here we are.

Am I the only one who is just a wee bit intimidated???

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the best ways to approach this new year. What should my attitude be? What should I change or keep the same? How can I keep from feeling so overwhelmed by the sheer damn newness of it all?

Well, I think it’s time for one of my lists! (You know how I love lists.)

Welcome The New Year With Ease & Calm

+ Listen to classical music a few hours a day.
It just makes you feel harmonious. And smart! I like to listen from about 9–11A when I’m just getting into the day and things have not gone wild yet. My public radio station happens to play classical during this time but if yours doesn’t try listening online.

+ Bring nature inside.
There is something about ushering in a new year with nature. It’s somehow very intimate and grounding. I remember last year I had these three large rocks. I had picked them up on a Christmas Eve beach walk. After all the bright holiday decorations came down there were the rocks sitting on my mantle. They were a reminder to me that even though the house was stripped of its sparkle I was still grounded by those memorable merry times. The feeling of warmth and remembrance stayed with me throughout the beginning of the year.

+ Put new photographs on your fridge.
By now you probably have a long list of resolutions or projects you want to accomplish this year. Well I say start small. Update those photographs! These days everything is digital so I know it takes a bit of effort to go through your images and get them printed blah blah. Just do it. You’ll feel the satisfaction of having done something major when really it was not that big of a deal at all.

+ Drink an extra 3 glasses of water a day (in addition to the 8 I know you’re already drinking).
I can’t tell you how strongly I feel about staying hydrated. I swear it makes such a difference in bringing balance to your world (not to mention your complexion, hair and digestive system). Try keeping a carafe of water out on your kitchen counter and near your desk. If you have the water right at hand it will be easier to drink. Add lemon or orange slices if you need some enticement to drink up.

+ Rearrange your artwork; buy new or make your own.
Now is the time to look around at what you have up and shift some things around. Add a few more pieces on a sparse wall or clean an entire wall off and start over. We live in a time where incredible artists are selling their work online. Seek them out. Buy art! Or if you don’t have a small art budget right now, make some. Get out your pens and pencils and draw or print some of your photographs in various sizes and frame them cheaply. Or use tape. It’s inspiring to be inspired!

+ Do a ‘year in review’.
I’m doing one in my Flickr account right now. It’s so good to take the pressure off the looming future by looking slowly and commemoratively at the past. Of course it’s always nice to move on, especially if you’ve had a hard year or month, but it’s also important to learn from the bits and pieces of the past.

+ Take walks.
This is crucial. I have talked about the power of walks before. Creating your own internal pace using your steps and your breath really helps settle the mind and prepare for the next big thing coming up in the day. 20 minutes is an easy commitment of time. Feel your feet hitting the ground, explore your own movement, listen to the thoughts in your head, be easy. Just try it!

I trust you each have your own lists of how to welcome in the new year; thanks for sharing in mine. I hope you enjoy these early days of 2011. We can only dream of all that lays ahead …


Getting Through the Dark Days of December —SCB

Monday, August 8th, 2011

It’s been a dark and dreary week here in Oregon. Record-breaking rains, coupled by approaching the shortest days of the year, had me feeling pretty grim. This week, I thought I’d revisit some of my tried-and-true tricks for getting through the dark days of December. I know I need the reminder.

Get outside. This, I believe, is the most important. I know, I know. It’s wet (really wet). It’s cold. But you need to find the right gear and get out there every day. Look up, look down, breathe some fresh air. It’s about more than just getting some exercise, it’s about being a part of the world and seeing your place in it.

After you’ve been outside, bring some inside. Besides having a fresh tree and greenery (I keep my greenery up through January), I love to bring in fresh flowers and forced bulbs like paper whites.

Citrus! Lemons, limes, mandarins, but most of all, grapefruit. It’s like a little piece of sunshine, plus our bodies could really use the extra Vitamin C.

Add a little sparkle and brightness to your wardrobe. For a little unexpected glam, I added silver leather elbow patches to a favorite cozy wool cardigan. I also bought some electric blue tights to perk up my otherwise gray and navy wardrobe. A little bit of flair can go a long way to lightening your mood.

Wishing everyone a merry and bright December!


Tips For Savoring Your Holiday —MAV

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Who out there doesn’t love vacation!?

Right. Vacation is brilliant!!!

Packing a bag, leaving your home and venturing out into the world is, in my opinion, an essential part of understanding and appreciating your own everyday life. Sure there’s always some stress or trepidation surrounding all of the preparation needed to go on holiday (budgeting, packing, dealing with pets or family members left behind, taking time off work, etc) but once you walk out the door it’s on!

One of my favorite aspects of travel is all you bring back. Not the souvenirs and trinkets themselves or even the memories of activities but rather I am referring to the feelings. Perhaps you spent time on an island and relaxing on the beach was a main activity … how did that make you feel? What were the smells and colors? Who did you talk to and what did you talk about? How did your mind feel and your heart?

Sort of surprisingly I am finding, seeing that I am just back from my own holiday, that my travels are still very close to me. I think I may have finally cracked the code on how to keep it this way … how to hold onto the feelings and the little things, how to savor it. Today I want to give you my tips on how best to savor your own vacation and more specifically how to bring those holiday feelings back with you to enjoy for a long time to come.

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Please note: These are things you need to do on, or just before, the trip.

••• Pack Only Your Favorite Items (And Pack Slim)
I packed a very small bag for a 2 week trip (just to give you an idea, I didn’t check it). I wore everything at least two times and brought items I could easily mix and match up. I had no idea how perfect this would actually turn out to be. I’ll spare you the part where I pat myself on the back for my great packing (or have I already done that?) and just encourage you to really think before you pack. If you love to wear it, bring it, period. Because you know what, you’ll love it even more when you get back. Now when I slip on that pink cotton summer dress I can almost smell the travel within its folds. It has been on an adventure of its own and both the dress and I know this so we have a special new bond that lasts well beyond the suitcase.

••• Meet New Friends
I was lucky enough to meet many new friends along my journeys this time around (above is the beautiful and talented Fanja). My friends showed me their favorite spots around their cities and I went along for the ride. Upon returning home I spent the first few weeks recalling conversations and filled up with new inspirations. When you come back with these long dinners or fun wanderings in mind, and you can still reach out to those people who you were with along the way, it creates a wonderful lingering feeling of connection … not just with those new friends but with the trip itself.

••• Take Photographs of Yourself In Places You Love
This one is so simple it almost didn’t make the list. It’s sort of silly in fact. What can I say? I like to take photographs of myself in some of my favorite spots so that I have those images and I can see that I was there. It helps me, a very visual person, transport myself back to those moment and therefore those feelings. It’s a lovely way to savor where you’ve been and an easy way to bring back smell, light, sound and color.

••• Eat Whatever You Want
Leave the diets and the ‘watching what you eat’ at home. Come back with 5 or 10 extra pounds on your body. I mean, what could help you remember the trip more than coming back soft and happy? You’ll shed the pounds when you get back to your regular eating and drinking but in the meantime it’s sort of fun to come back changed, literally, by the wonderful meals and sweets you ate.

••• Bring & Wear A New Scent
I bought a small roll-on of the scent MAINE (how original of me, right?) just before I left and I wore it every day on my holiday. Now, when I dab it on at home, I am instantly transported to those traveling mornings when I didn’t know what that day would be filled with … instantly brought back to that sense of openness and adventure. This scent might be called ‘MAINE’ but for me it takes me away from Maine and out into the world and out nto what I’ve seen and where I’ve been. This might be my favorite trick about bringing the vacation with you.


Portland Favorites I —MAV

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

a favorite: Crescent Beach — 2010

PLEASE NOTE: I have updated my Portland Favorites list. Find the 2013 list here.

post-bagel at 158 Pickett Street Cafe — from A Year of Mornings, 2007

beer at Novare Res — from 3191: Evenings, 2008

post-dinner at El Camino (with Lisa Congdon) — from 3191: Evenings, 2008

farm fresh goods at Chase’s Daily in Belfast, 2009

post-dinner at Fore Street, 2008


Cereal II —MAV

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

This dispatch contains part two of my cereal exposé. See part one here.

The first thing to report is that after a week of trying cereals the only box that is now empty and in the recycling bin is the box of Barbara’s Original Puffins. This should tell you a lot considering I have six boxes of cereal in my flat right now (meaning I have been eating a TON of cereal anyway so you can imagine that I’ve been doubling and tripling up on the Puffins!).

So why not just cut right to the chase … Barbara’s Original Puffins wins my top all around cereal prize hands-down.

I had it in soy milk, hemp milk and mostly on its own. It stays crunchy in milk, I didn’t need to add a thing to the bowl and each time it was delightful. It is, however, sweet. When I eat it my face gets all warm and flushed and I know I’m tipping my blood glucose levels. And this is why, ultimately, I will not be stocking Barbara’s Puffins in my cupboard. Interesting, right? Sometimes the winner takes home a prize but not the heart of the judges and that is just the case here.

I’ve had a great week with Puffins but I just don’t want it around. It’s not comforting to me and instead made me feel on more than one occasion sort of ‘bad’ to be dipping into the box again and again. This ‘guilt’ is something I never feel eating a big square of quality dark chocolate at the end of a meal or for an afternoon snack. I guess after this week with cereal in my world I have learned that although I’m happy to have a cereal box in my life again, I just don’t want to choose to this particular box of processed food that is so saccharine.

Make no mistake, however, I am still giving Barbara’s Original Puffins the top prize for overall yumminess!

Moving on with other major revelations: I had to disqualify Kashi Go Lean from the project entirely. I gave my box away this week because it was absolutely not for me. I had a few bites of a bowl in milk and felt, well, bloated. I wanted to understand the Go Lean craze but I did not. I love that there is something for everyone out there in the cereal world.

And you’ll be interested to know that I replaced Kashi Go Lean with a box of Nature’s Path Heritage Bites (as it was recommended by a dear friend while in the midst of my cereal-trial-week). And as fate would have it … this is the cereal I have chosen to stock in my home regularly! I LOVE it. It’s the perfect combination of everything I was looking for and it’s wonderful with and without additions; in and out of milk and to top it all off it has the perfect touch of sweetness (from cane juice). So welcome Heritage Bites (seen above). I think I love you. You have won my heart and a spot in my cupboard where very few other boxes of anything sit. Yippee.

And finally notes on the other three cereals are below (in order of favorites):

3rd place:
Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice — I really like this cereal. I contemplated stocking this in my home but I just don’t dig it enough on its own. It does, however, win the prize for ‘Best With Add-Ins’. I would recommend trying toasted coconut flakes + toasted almonds. Also currants + toasted walnuts. I did not have it with fresh fruit but I am sure that would be a winner as well. I grew to love how earthy this cereal tastes and the ‘crackling’ and ‘popping’ reminded me of being a kid. I will keep it in mind for recipes and I might switch to it for a while this summer when fruit comes straight to my table from the farms.

4th place:
Nature’s Path Fruit Juice Sweetened Corn Flakes — I just don’t reach for corn flakes anymore. This cereal stands up quite well in milk (very crispy the entire time) and it also does not have a weighted down feeling that other flakes can have but I couldn’t get over the aftertaste. I guess at this point in my life I also want a bit more than just corn meal in a bowl with milk on top. I would recommend this to someone who is trying to make the switch from a sugary corn flake though so keep it in mind if you want to get away from the sugar, malt flavoring and corn syrup you will find in Kellogg’s.

5th place:
Cascadian Farm Purely O’s — After winning last weeks dry cereal prize, I was surprised to find that I did not like how this cereal sat with me. I liked the taste in milk and it certainly would fit the bill for someone who might want to ‘Cheerios-like’ natural cereal but for me it sort of upset my system. It felt heavy as a snack and heavy as an addition to my regular breakfast. I would take a handful of this at someone’s house to be sure but I will not look this way again in the cereal aisle. Goodbye cute little O’s.

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Well that was quite a lot of talk about cereal, eh? For those who are completely bored I am sure I’ll be obsessing about something completely different next week. Hope you’ll come along for the ride. Cheers!