Archive for ‘stories / tips’

Cereal —MAV

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Lately I have been in the mood for cereal and I honestly have no idea why. After graduating college I moved to Chicago and got my first real flat with Hilary, one of my best friends. We ate our bowl of cereal most mornings for years. It was our standard breakfast, we never questioned it and we loved it. Somewhere into my late twenties cereal stopped making its way into my shopping basket. I just sort of lost interest. Then into my early thirties most items packaged in boxes basically jumped off my radar entirely and I even started thinking ill of cereal. ‘Just a bunch of sugar!’ I scolded and tipped my nose in the air as I walked past the cereal aisle.

But lately … well, lately it’s all I think about! I can’t honestly say that I think about having it as my main course for breakfast, I need a hot plate of food these days, but as a snack in the late morning or afternoon, as a compliment to my hot breakfast or as a late-night snack. Cereal! Bag broken open, fresh and crispy, poured into a bowl and topped with cold rice, soy or hemp milk (cow milk straight up doesn’t agree with me). Mmmmm!

And thus begins one of the silliest dispatches I have and probably will ever make here at 3191 Miles Apart. I am doing a two-part cereal exposé!

Now, mind you, I’m not talking about your basic cereals, I’m still too sugar-weary for that. My cereals have all been chosen from the ‘natural’ aisle at the grocer and are somewhat ‘wholesome’. I made sure the ingredients list was not too long and that I basically knew what those ingredients were (it drives me crazy when I look at a box and don’t know an ingredient). I also tried to keep the sugar below 6g which is no small task in the cereal aisle.

This week … a basic taste test without milk (see below).
Next week … I will have a bowl each day, see how they ‘sit’ with me (by ‘sit’ I mean do they stick with me, make me feel nourished, balanced and all around happy) and report back to you.

Please note: I like to add my own little details to everything so I chose very plain cereals in hopes that when adding milk next week I could also add toasted coconut, fresh raisins, chopped walnuts, whatever. I’ll let you know the best combos I find! And one disclaimer: no cereal was wasted in the making of this dispatch.

Who loves cereal???
Are you with me???
Let’s go!

I have listed these in order of my preference taking into consideration only the dry test.

Top Prize: Cascadian Farm Purely O’s — First thing I thought when I tried these is, ‘Oh yeah. These are tasty!’ I really like the feel of these (light), the taste (a little sweet but still oat-y) and I have a good feeling they will be even more delicious with milk.

2nd: Barbara’s Original Puffins — Love that you can taste the molasses in these. Definitely can feel the balance of 5g of sugar to the 2g of protein … these are nearly a sweet treat in my book. Very light and all around outstanding!

3rd: Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice — Um, this tastes just like brown rice. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s not sweet at all, which I like, instead it has a very earthy flavor. I will need to add goodies to this once it’s in milk. Might win the prize at that time but right now it’s dead in the middle.

4th: Nature’s Path Fruit Juice Sweetened Corn Flakes — I added this into the mix for purely sentimental reasons. This was one of my top cereals back in the day (I ate gluten-free for a while) and I was even eating a bowl of it when I found out about the World Trade Centers on 9/11. Today I feel the crisp here is still unmatched. It’s like having corn chips but they are tinier and sweeter. I do find, however, that there is almost a machine-like taste to these dry. Hard to explain but they don’t taste natural; they taste a little metallic. We’ll see what the milk adds if anything.

5th: Kashi Go Lean — I wanted to include one of the Kashi cereals since they seem to have so many in the cereal aisle but I am already kicking myself for choosing this one. It’s too sweet! And it sort of has a heavy-handed bulkier taste. I’ll see if the milk calms it all down a bit … still trying to be open-minded. I will say one thing for it, it would make wonderful confetti at a party!

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Whew. I don’t know about you but I’m hungry! See you next week for installment number two. Cheers!


Spring Cleaning Checklist —SCB

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

This week I thought I’d share my spring-cleaning checklist. It’s really just a little pep-talk I developed for myself, but I thought it might be helpful to those of you who are equally overwhelmed by the task. Here’s to sparkle and order and calm.

tackle the unintentional clutter.
Take a look at every open surface and find a proper home for all the things left unintentionally behind. The jar of candy canes, the kickstand that doesn’t fit your bike, the terrarium that withered back in September, the half-finished art projects, the glove hoping to find it’s mate, the outdated paperwork and catalogs. File it, store it, recycle it, donate it, and as a last resort, trash it. Don’t forget your bathroom. Nothing is more depressing than a bath full of unused lotions and potions. If you don’t use them weekly, dump them or offer them to a friend. You’ll be so glad you did.

tackle the intentional clutter.
Once you’ve tackled the unintentional clutter take a look at the intentional clutter—the knick-knacks and objects you have displayed. Does that object bring you great happiness? Does it hold a memory or significant sentiment? If not, let it go or maybe just store it out of sight for a while. Be ruthless and honest with yourself. Just because something is considered highly collectible, valuable or fashionable by others does not mean it belongs in your home. Pass these things on to others who might enjoy them more than you.

Now that you’ve decluttered, it’s much easier to actually start cleaning. I always work top to bottom which in my house means starting with all the high picture rails and mouldings. I dust these with a wool duster or sometimes a vacuum attachment. I work my way down dusting and removing things from shelves and open surfaces. I end with the floors, moving all the furniture to clean underneath.

let the light in.
I know that cleaning the windows inside and out will go a long way to making things feel brighter, but somehow I dread this job. I am going to think up a nice reward for myself for getting this done.

stay focused.
I can get easily overwhelmed by all the projects that I’d like to accomplish in every room in my home. This can quickly lead to improvement-paralysis. During my spring-cleaning jaunt this year, I plan on choosing just *one* neglected project in each room to tackle and leave the rest of the to-do list for another time. In my house, I’ll be patching holes in my ceiling and painting some trim, but, if you’re lucky, you’ll just be replacing a dented lampshade or hanging a mirror.  Spring cleaning isn’t about making everything house-tour perfect, it’s about refreshing your surroundings. Fix something. Feel good about it. Move on to the next room.

spruce it up.
After everything is clean, take some time to bring new life and a reflection of the season into each room. Arrange new vignettes (with all your favorite objects!). Reposition furniture to take advantage of a pretty view. Bring out an unused bright and cheery tablecloth. Hang artwork. Display some fresh flowers or blossoming branches.

Time to put my apron on and get to work. Wish me luck!


Library Love —SCB

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

When I was in high school, I used to stop by the local library several times a week on my way home from school. I would look at fashion magazines, check out cassette tapes of Bob Dylan, and browse through the card catalog to find the subject area for whatever was interesting me that day. I don’t think it was lost on me—even as a fifteen-year-old—what a precious resource it was to have this unlimited and free access to information. I realize this is a bit of a cliche, but it truly did open up entire worlds to me. Of course, now we have Google and Wikipedia and a dizzying amount of alternate sources of information, but I still do love my library.

The library has changed with the times too. Now when a friend mentions something she’d read and enjoyed or I am suddenly taken over by a new interest (tanning my own leather? building a canoe?), I just head to my library’s web site and search through their collections and place a hold. I receive emails when the books are available and again before they are due. Couldn’t be easier. Our family checks out hundreds and hundreds of books, DVDs and CDs every year. Sure, sometimes I have to wait months on end for the latest Michael Pollan or season of Mad Men, but that’s okay.

My kids like to use the library the old-fashioned  way. Our branch is halfway between home and school, so we stop there often (sometimes daily in the summer months). They browse the shelves, making new discoveries and returning to old favorites again and again. What I love about taking my kids to the library is that after always being the naysayer—telling them that’s too expensive, too unhealthy, too unsafe—I get to say yes. Yes to excess. Get that book. Get the whole five-part series while you’re at it. Yes, we can come back tomorrow.

You know what was pretty great? Visiting the central library and seeing A Year of Mornings on the shelf—bar-coded, taped and a bit dog-eared from use. I felt like we’d come full circle, the library and me.


Winter Survival Tips —MAV

Friday, August 5th, 2011

MAV’s Winter Survival Tips:

1. Eat. Eat a lot. In the winter I’m always more hungry. I find the best thing to do is amp up my eating and that makes me sort of naturally amp up my desire to move/exercise more. It’s a nice little trick.

2. Go to bed earlier; get up earlier. I am pretty serious about listening to my body in the winter. Here it’s dark at 5p so I move everything up by an hour or two. I think it makes the days feel longer.

3. Layer. And tuck. I usually do tights under jeans and always wear tank tops tucked-in under shirts, sweaters, etc. The tuck is your best secret weapon against the cold creeping up into your soul.


Winter Survival Tips —SCB

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Stephanie’s Winter Survival Tips:

1. Get a breath of fresh air. Gear up and get outside. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, it will do you such good. A bonus is that you’ll often have public parks, beaches and trails mostly to yourself. It’s a great time of year to explore.

2. Bring the outside in. Pick up a bouquet at the market. Force some bulbs. Plant a pot of herbs on your kitchen windowsill. Take a cutting from a friend’s houseplant. Green living things are good for us.

3. When all else fails, I pour myself a couple of fingers of whiskey. Takes the edge off  the winter doldrums and warms me from the inside out.


Closet Clear Out —MAV

Friday, August 5th, 2011

When I moved from Chicago to Maine six years ago an addiction grabbed hold of me. It’s an addiction that lives with me to this day and I call it — THE CLEAR-OUT.

I am addicted to giving things away.

I remember one of my best friends saying to me, ‘I know one of these days I’m going to come visit you in Maine and you’ll be sitting on the corner in your underwear!’ And while that has not quite happened yet … the possibility happily lingers.

Now, it just so happens that I have had the occasion in my life of late to indulge in some major clearing-out. In fact, I have given over the last several weekends to this line of work.

A dream come true! Liberation at last!

There are always a few items that automatically make ‘the cut’ (some of which you see photographed throughout this dispatch). These are items, that for either sentimental or love reasons, I won’t hesitate to put right back into their spot in the closet. ‘The Rules’ don’t apply to them and they never will. Everything else, without fail, is taken out, looked at, considered and either tossed into the Salvation Army bag, into the letterpress-ink cleaning bag (the item has to be quite scrappy for this bag) or put back in the closet … saved by the bell.

Here’s a peek into my thinking about the closet/dresser clear-out. Get ready for some serious hard-line tough love goodness! You’ll thank me for it, I swear.


Notes: Give yourself a few hours to go through your clothing; don’t be in a rush. Take out every single item and throw it on the bed or the floor. Make your way through the pile using ‘The Rules’ below as a guide for your decision-making. You will have one hell of a mess on your hands but you’ll feel amazing afterward and the Salvation Army (and thrifters alike) will thank you!

1. Ask yourself, ‘have I worn this in the last six months?’ For me it’s ‘three months’ but let’s say six for non-clear-out-addicts. Obviously this does not mean that seasonal clothing should be gotten rid of. What I am trying to say is that if you have not reached for it in the last six months you’re not going to reach for it. Trust.

2. Ask yourself, ‘does this fit?’ and ‘does this make me feel like a million bucks?’ Don’t save clothing that is the wrong fit/size. Whether it’s the huge sweater you used to wear in middle school (although perhaps this falls under sentimental value, of course) or the skinny jeans you bought on sale because you figured you’d fit into a 29 someday soon, if it doesn’t fit, it just doesn’t fit. Clothes that fit make you feel like you; why wear anything else?

3. Ask yourself, ‘do I really need another t-shirt?’ Feel free to swap out the word ‘t-shirt’ for ‘tank-top’ or any other basic item you might have too many of. T-shirts and basics are major culprits for clogging up the closet or dresser. Why bother? Trim down and try having just a small stack of basics. You can rotate them in, take care to wash them well and love on them all the more. Also consider the case of your t-shirt from Disney Land circa 1979 … you don’t wear it anymore but there is something sentimental about it. Why not trim/rip out the graphic (and that of any other t-shirt you feel this way about) and make a nice stack of worn cotton swatches that can sit nicely with your photographs? A great way to remember those trips/college days/boyfriends/girlfriends without having those memories taking up so much space!

4. Ask yourself, ‘how often am I really going to go to a black tie New Years Eve party?’ Feel free to swap out ‘NYE party’ for any fancy event of your choosing. My point? It’s great to have some fancier items in your closet, everyone needs them, but don’t keep that horrible bridesmaids dress that your friend made you buy for her wedding and you’re still hoping you can talk yourself into wearing at another event someday, maybe, hopefully?! Nah. You’re not going to wear it. Ladies, keep your sexy dresses and men, keep your swanky ties but just keep ones you LOVE. It’s all about the love when you’re going through your closet/dresser to be sure.

These tips should help you trim down and pep up about your clothing. And the best part is seeing in front of you only what you need and what you wear quite often. It will help you layer creatively and come up with interesting, and complimentary, ways to wear your clothes. It will also help you appreciate what you have … and we certainly could use more of that in the world, don’t you think?


Spoon Oil —SCB

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Happy New Year! I do love a fresh start (it’s why I love mornings too). Right now I feel energized to change and to try new things, while at the same time, to simplify and to focus my energies. I know that I can’t possibly keep up with all that I have swirling around in my head, but it’s great to start the year out so earnestly, with all the best intentions. January is a time when I really love to clean up, pare down and develop new rhythms and habits.

Last weekend I gathered all my wooden spoons, bowls, cutting boards and serving pieces and polished everything with spoon oil. Spoon oil protects the wood from drying, cracking, staining and collecting unwanted bacteria. It was a really relaxing activity and would be safe and fun for even small children (the making of the spoon oil would be for adults-only, but the polishing is totally kid-friendly).

Spoon oil is a blend of beeswax and mineral oil and is completely food safe and non-toxic. I made my own, but you can also buy it bottled. I developed my spoon oil recipe after lurking around a few woodworking message boards when we were installing our wood countertops in our kitchen (which are also finished with spoon oil). All you need is natural beeswax (check craigslist or your farmer’s market for a local supply) and mineral oil  which is sold in the laxative section of the pharmacy or supermarket (right there next to the milk of magnesia). For every 16 ounce bottle of mineral oil, I used about a quarter of a pound of beeswax (that’s a one pound brick in the photo). This makes a quart jar of spoon oil which should last you quite a while if you’re just treating kitchen items.

In a large sauce pan of boiling water, I placed a quart mason jar with my beeswax (a quarter of a pound) cut into small chunks. Once the wax was melted, I placed another jar with the 16 ounces of mineral oil in the water to gently heat. Then I poured the mineral oil in with the beeswax and allowed them to continue to heat and emulsify, gently stirring until smooth and even. Take your jar out of the water bath, allow to cool and it’s ready to use.

To treat the wood, you may want to sand surfaces that are stained or nubbly with fine grit sandpaper, then simply dip your hands into the spoon oil (it’s a thick consistency) and rub into the wood. Any spoon oil left on your hands can be just massaged into your skin (it actually makes a great moisturizer for weather-beaten winter hands). Allow the wood to sit and absorb the oil for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, then buff dry with a clean cloth. That’s it!

Wishing everyone happy new routines for the new year, whatever they may be.


Fighting A Cold —MAV

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

As much as I’d like to deny it I have been fighting a cold all week. I really love that phrase, ‘fighting a cold’. It’s a battle that at this time of year, for me, always arrives early in the season. The dry heat starts kicking in, the air pressure changes drastically and my sinuses get angry. My strategic goal is to make sure I don’t let it take me down!

To that end, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my top five tactics for ‘fighting a cold’. Now let me say for the record that this is what I do when I am actually feeling okay but just starting to have symptoms (sore throat, stuffy head, runny nose) and not what I do when I have the really bad symptoms that mean I am actually sick (fever, aches, sluggish, green gunk). If you’re really sick I advise, like everyone else does (most especially doctors who know what they are talking about), to stay home and nurse yourself, period. This list is for those who actually feel okay but deep inside have a little something lurking and they are ready to fight the good fight!

1) Drink lots of hot stuff. On Tuesday when I felt the scratch I went straight to my local tea shop and got my own sinus elixir which I have been drinking at least 3-4 cups per day. I have also had soup every day (at least once) and made up a batch of broth (garlic, chicken, salt, celery, onion, water) which I have had (broth only) in a mug every evening before bed. Think hot, hot, hot you’re starting to feel scratchy and stuffy.

2) Groom yourself and wear something you love. I am not an advocate of giving in to the cold even an inch when you’re just starting to ‘fight it’. I say get out of bed (after 8 hours of sleep minimally, please), shower, comb your hair, put on your makeup, etc. The last thing you need is to be drooping around the house when you’re truly not sick. Maybe you don’t wear those high-heeled boots (or maybe you do, yeah; that is the way to fight it; go girl!) but rather your old chuck taylors or comfy work boots. Perhaps you can grab a cozy over-sized sweater from your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s closet or that old work-shirt with a hole in it (draping yourself in something well-loved is the way to go, trust me) but regardless get up, get moving and find something you adore that makes you feel good and wear it. This will help your overall mindset as you face the cold head-on!

3) Take walks. I have written about the power of walks before and in this case I feel it’s back to basics. Skip the gym for the week or even the yoga classes where you sweat like mad and just take a walk every day for 15–20 minutes at your own pace while breathing deeply. Don’t forget to bundle up if it’s chilly out, of course, and try taking your time while being mindful of the ‘fight’ you’re involved in. It helps, I swear it does.

4) Buy the tissue with lotion or use a handkerchief. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing worse than a red/worn nose. I consider myself to be a pretty ‘natural’ person and quite honestly I don’t really know what is in the lotion-tissues but I can say that I went straight out and got two boxes earlier this week. I have also had two soft cotton handkerchiefs in my bag each day as well (replaced daily of course). You won’t want to look like you have a cold when you really don’t, do you? No way. No how. Fight it!!

5) And lastly, take up a new hobby. This one is odd, right? Well of this one I am more sure than any other on my list. So you’re starting to feel a cold and you have decided to try to keep it mellow maybe passing up drinks with friends or a night out to dinner and that means you’re home all week which is just fine. But what the cold wants is for you to feel down about it. The cold wants you to feel depressed and sad that you’re getting sick and you’re quite home-bound. Well, forget it! The sure way to feel good and up-beat while staying home in the evening with an early bedtime is to take on a new hobby. Have you been wanting to try your hand at drawing or baking? Do it. Have you been wanting to recover a chair or try to write a short story? Try it. I promise that it will make you feel productive and whether it’s ‘good’ or not you’ll still feel like a hero and keep those spirits up. My new hobby this week has been sewing. HA! I have not sewn since I was a kid and was handling two papertowels stitched together but this week I have started to sew a little soft animal for someone I love. No … I won’t be selling softies anytime soon or ever (I’ll leave that to my favorite soft-sculpture-maker) … but at the end of this fight I’ll have a little something that I made and can share and when it really comes down to it there is nothing better for ‘fighting’ a cold than love, love, love.

Be well!


Back To School —MAV

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

I can still picture it … laying in bed around 5 a.m. waiting for a reasonable hour to get up and get ready for the first day of school. As many of you know I am a morning person and I think I was a morning kid too (although when I was a kid I didn’t eat a thing for breakfast; isn’t that crazy?). During that 5 a.m. hour I would simultaneously have a stomach ache with worry about going back to school and a stomach ache with excitement about going back to school. This early morning lay-and-wait is a scenario I can place all throughout elementary, middle and high school. I have found that this particular type of jitters is an incredible one-of-a-kind feeling never to be replaced by any other kind of nervousness.

In elementary days I felt anxious enthusiasm about ‘the outfit’. My mom would take me to buy one outfit (if it was a good year in our house, two) for school and I would wear it on day one as well as picture day—the rest of the time we wore a uniform. I recollect hoping that I wouldn’t get it dirty (which I’m sure I usually did).

In middle school I remember it was all about faking sick. I hated everything about middle school so even on day one I was crafting my escape. How could I give myself a stomach ache during week one? Would it all seem too obvious to my parents?

In high school I was full of energy and the first days of school were for catching up with friends whom I had not seen on all summer. What would they look like, what stories would they have, how would it all have changed? I was social enough so there were the usual butterflies over seeing boys I might have liked and girls I hoped liked me.

Today I have no real ‘back to school’ rituals or nerves because, well, I’m not in school. But I must say I still go through the entire thing in my head and I certainly start to see the world around me under the influence of ‘back to school’. This week I took my usual random photographs which I sort of think go together now that I see them here. The whole thing just sends me back down memory lane … scribblings with new markers or pencils, special treats, new papers and notebooks, vibrant inspirations and the lazy light of getting up early. I guess in my head I’m heading ‘back to school’ … I sort of wish I could feel those exhilarating nerves again one more time … but this time I’d eat a good breakfast first!


Evenings Outtakes —SCB

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

This week I’m feeling really excited about 3191: Evenings. I’m hoping to hold it in my hands really soon. I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the evening images that I didn’t choose for the blog. I know that people are often curious how we chose what to photograph each day and why we chose the images we did. I tried not to spend more than 5-10 minutes a day shooting images for 3191. Usually, I would shoot 4-5 images from which to choose. There were days when I shot a lot more—sometimes for fun, sometimes out of frustration. It was just a gut feeling that led me to choose each image each day. They weren’t always the most perfectly composed or technically astute, but they were somehow always the one. That’s part of the magic of 3191.

All of my out-takes are on the left. My images that were posted are on the right.

January 14, 2008 (at top): This was our very first day. I headed outside right at 5 pm—the time that we had agreed upon as the start of evening—it was dark and rainy and cold. I remember feeling quite insecure about the project and taking photos without natural light. These are two views of the tangled wires, foliage and street lamp in front of our house.

January 30, 2008: OK, this one was never really a contender for 3191, but it gives you an idea of the chaos that was usually going on in the background (this is our dining room/fort-building area).

September 2, 2008: There was the most amazing late-summer glow and dappled light this evening. I am happy that this images was the one because it became the front cover of 3191:Evenings.

November 3, 2008: I had just arrived with MAV in Maine and was spending my first night in her apartment. As thrilled as I was to be there, I just couldn’t get comfortable photographing things that I had seen through her lens so many times. I felt like an impostor!

December 25, 2008: A magical, snowy Christmas day. We were coming home from visiting friends. I loved the Christmas tree photo, but chose something less obvious which ended up being the perfect companion to MAV’s image.

January 15, 2009 (our last day): Sometimes it’s just hard to figure out how to say goodbye.

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Don’t forget that pre-orders for 3191: Evenings will close in just one more week (September 18)! Make sure you get your signed copy. I will be traveling the 3191 miles to Maine in two weeks to sign them all!