Every year for the last couple of years, I’ve been sequestering myself for several days at a time, borrowing beautiful homes in beautiful places for self-imposed and self-directed writing retreats. I find myself checking off a huge number of tasks on my to-do list in just a few days, more than I’m usually able to do in a week in my own home.
And why is that?
Because there are no distractions. There are no husbands to cook for, animals to pick up after, dishes to load, laundry to fold, or errands to run. While I adore my home and see it as a sanctuary, the reality of being home is that there’s always something to do here… something other than work. It’s especially difficult considering I work from home, and every day as I’m typing away on my laptop, the garden or the kitchen or the ocean view always calls to me.
So, I am a big fan of self-imposed writing retreats. I love to get away, focus on my passions, and find inspiration in a new environment. I love to hunker down and tackle projects that would otherwise be near-impossible for me to start (or finish) at home. I retreat in order to move forward.
As children, we’re often told little white lies or half-truths in order to be coerced or persuaded into doing something we resist. I didn’t think this was fair game until I became a parent myself, and find myself making promises to my toddler that, at her age, she easily forgets. (I’m sure this will come back to bite me in the butt in a couple of years.)
So it makes me smile when I remember the oft-repeated “motivations” (read: manipulations) by my parents to encourage me to eat more vegetables: carrots will give me crystal clear vision or — my personal favorite as a kid — spinach will make me stronger (like Popeye!). While I eventually figured out that spinach won’t give me superhuman strength, I’d always accepted — even as an adult — that carrots were good for the eyes and we needed to eat a lot of it. I think my ophthalmologist even told me so at one point.
You can imagine my reaction when I learned in later years that the carrot’s claim to fame is nothing more than an urban myth, born from propaganda spread during World War II.
Surprised? So was I.
In her first year of life, Gemma camped in the snow, hiked the Cascades, explored the Colorado Plateau, and visited a variety of terrain from sea level to 12,000 feet above. Through it all, she remained a happy, healthy baby and simply adores being outside, rain or shine.
What’s your secret to bringing a baby outdoors? other parents want to know. And while they think my answer will be one of the many pieces of gear we’ve acquired since becoming parents ourselves (we definitely don’t travel lightly!), I always tell them it comes down to one thing: layers.
Starting the New Year always means taking a look back on the blog, finding out what worked, why it worked, then making changes and setting goals based on those findings. As a blogger, I want to learn what you like to read and share. I want you to relate, linger, like, comment, engage, come back to, and feel inspired by my content. If you did any or all of these things in the last year, then I consider that post to be a success.
A few weeks ago, The New Camp Cookbook was named one of the best cookbooks of 2017 by mega lifestyle site PureWow. It was the best news with which to close out the year, especially considering how many thousands of cookbooks are published every year. Somehow, this little niche title stood out enough in a crowded cookbook market to garner such an honor!
This post is sponsored by Minted. All words and thoughts are my own.
Christmas and cocktails go hand in hand for my family and me, and it’s always a time of festive drinks and finger foods in between the reunions, the traditional meals, and the present opening.
We like to start the day with mimosas and gin fizzes, move on to a second round of gin fizzes after brunch, and preface dinner with a creative cocktail or two. If it weren’t for my brother-in-law, a mixology aficionado, I probably wouldn’t stray too far from tried-and-true favorites in the drinks department… Because honestly, every time I source the web for Christmas cocktails that feel special, they all seem a little too fancy for my liking.
I always land on recipes that call for exotic liqueurs or time-consuming infusions, all of which I’d maybe use once and never again. For me, the ideal holiday cocktail involves hard liquor we already stock, seasonal fresh fruit, and a little fizz. That’s why I love these cranberry moscow mules! They’re simple enough to make but still look — and taste — like you put some effort into it.
This post is in partnership with Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products. All thoughts and words are my own.
Over the summer, I was invited to the headquarters of Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products, to learn the history of the iconic jars and to tour the test kitchen, where a team rigorously develops and tests hundreds of canning and preserving recipes for the brand’s site and books.
Part of my role as a Fresh Preserving ambassador is to share the joys of home canning and teach essential preserving skills, and you may have watched the Facebook Live episode that I filmed a few months ago where we made bread-and-butter pickled beets.
But on top of canning techniques, one of my most-asked questions is… How do I use this stuff?!
I recently moved a number of outdoor plants inside my house for the winter, and all have been doing well for the last few weeks until this week… when I found a colony of tiny pests on the windowsill, on the rim of the pot, and on the stalk of my banana plant.
I had hosed it down, inspected the leaves, and put it in fresh potting soil to prep for overwintering it, but even in the absence of pests to the naked eye, hitchhikers are always a possibility. They lay eggs on the undersides of leaves or hide in the garden soil that was still clinging to the roots.
The aphids seemed to appear overnight, and I needed to get them under control quickly yet naturally — a high concern since the plants were overwintering in our bedrooms. (Those little white specks are nymphs, or young aphids.)
Luckily, when it comes to fast and easy (and cheap!) pest control, organic gardeners know that it takes just two ingredients to make a safe and effective pest spray: liquid soap and water.
In years past, my husband and I always kicked off the Christmas season with a visit to a Southern California tree farm. Out in the suburbs of Orange County, we wandered past row after row of perfectly pruned pines in 75°F weather while palm trees swayed in the balmy breeze above our heads.
I liked to think it was just as much a novelty for him as it was for me. He grew up going to “real” tree farms in rural Northern California, and my family did what most families did — stop by one of the many Christmas tree lots that popped up in front of supermarkets after Thanksgiving.
We’d once considered doing the same — before we had a toddler in the mix and whimsical memory-making wasn’t as much of a focus — but I love any excuse for an adventure (even if it’s an urban adventure) and Will’s DIY spirit never turns down an opportunity to wield a saw, so the U-cut Christmas tree farm became a fun tradition for us.
After moving to Bend, I wanted to continue that tradition so our daughter would have something festive and outdoorsy to look forward to every year. I Googled “Central Oregon Christmas trees” with the hope of finding a list of tree farms near our house, but instead found out about the US Forest Service permits that blew my city-girl mind away.