Daily Vacation

The Daily Vacation

July 02, 2018

Photo by Mohamed Ajufaan on Unsplash

My husband is taking some time off work this week, so I’ll be doing the same. (That means I’m going to try to accomplish in two days what it usually takes me five days to do—wish me luck!) Also, as luck would have it, starting today I’m joining Laura Vanderkam’s Daily Vacation Challenge. The idea of the Daily Vacation is something she learned about while researching her new book, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, which I’ve requested from the library but haven’t read yet.

The Daily Vacation is simply planning 15 minutes of doing something you know you’ll enjoy each day. Laura writes: “Each day for one week, you anticipate your daily vacation. You try to slow down during it, and really notice all your senses. You think of how you might describe this pleasure to someone. Afterwards, you make a note of it somewhere, to help cement the memory.  Then you look forward to your next vacation.”

I’m in! I’ll be sharing my daily vacations on Instagram (follow me here if you don’t already)—and maybe I’ll do a round-up of how it went next Monday, if it seems appropriate. You can share your daily vacations with Laura by commenting on her blog post linked above, or by tagging her or using #offtheclock on social media. I’m sure she’d love to hear what you you’re up to!

And so would I—what simple pleasures will you enjoy this week?


Georgia On My Mind...and My Shoes

April 03, 2015

As promised, today’s post will detail some of the delights of my trip to Georgia last week.

My friend Marianne and her family own an old farmhouse on acreage in Georgia, and she invited me and two other friends for a week’s stay there. We all accepted happily...and then life intervened. Our two friends had to drop out, and what started out as four barn buddies on the road turned into an intimate, two-person trip. Marianne and I have been friends for years, but this is the first trip we’ve taken together.  I was confident we’d do well, and from my standpoint, we did.  (You’ll have to ask Marianne how she feels…) We talked about everything from awkward childhoods, first loves, how we met our husbands, how our college-age kids are doing, to what’s new with our horses. After two long drives and a week’s togetherness, we’re still friends!

Some trip highlights:

The first morning after we arrived, we drove to Blue Ridge, where we visited the Blue Ridge Art Center, and ate lunch at a little coffee shop/restaurant. We explored some of the charming shops, both of us reveling in the ability to browse without our male family members hurrying us along. We scoped out a used bookstore and wondered about the fluffy white trees blooming everywhere (anyone know what these are?).

After Blue Ridge, our next stop was Mercier Orchards, where we stocked up on essentials: cider donuts and cinnamon pecan bread.

We picked up some groceries and fortified ourselves at Starbucks, then hit the meadow for some quality rambling.

On day two, we packed up the camp chairs to sketch. No sooner had we settled ourselves on the hill than we felt sprinkles of rain, so we adjourned to the front porch, where we both sketched the corn crib (see my sketch below). It had stopped raining by the time we were done with our sketches, so we moved our chairs down by the creek. We sketched a bit more, read, or simply listened to the music of the water.

After lunch, we carried bucket and shovel down to the meadow to collect some daffodils for transplanting up near the house and corn crib. Marianne performed the labor (and I do mean labor) wrestling the bulbs from the thick Georgia clay, and digging holes for them in their new locations. I planted the bulbs and helped water them in. Our reward: a cold, hard cider on the front porch before taking a hike up the hill at the far edge of their property.

We enjoyed comfortable temperatures the first few days, but the weather turned cold and damp towards the end of the week…just in time for us to go trail riding! Suitably bundled up, we mounted our trail horses (Polly and Diesel), and proceeded to learn the outfitters were called Adventure Trail Rides for good reason. The trails wound mostly up and down hills, one so steep the horses had to take a running start to get up it! The trails themselves were thick, slippery clay laced with rocks, but our horses slithered surefooted through them anyway.  As long as I gave my horse his head and let him pick his way up and down, we did fine. It was fun riding in a completely different environment—at home we mostly ride in a ring or at the very “roughest,” on flat, sandy trails. We joked that our horses would take one look at these trails and go on strike. Yes, we have sissy horses. (We didn’t take cameras or phones on the ride, so I have no photos from this experience, unfortunately.)

We woke up Sunday to 16 degrees Fahrenheit, and a car covered with frost! Reluctantly, we said good-bye to the farmhouse and hit the road.

The farmhouse had wireless Internet but no TV, and I didn’t bring my computer, deliberately giving myself permission to disconnect. Without the distractions of TV and hours spent on the Internet, we had plenty of time every day to take long walks through the meadow and up the hill. Our meals were quiet and relaxed. I wrote in my journal nearly every day, and read whenever I got the chance. It occurred to me that at home I make myself artificially busy by thinking I have to read all my emails, keep up with umpteen bloggers, and do so many other little things that don’t really matter. As usual, I came home determined to tweak my daily routine to make it more fulfilling. I’ve started unsubscribing to email newsletters and skimming (or even skipping) blog posts in my feed reader. At the farmhouse, instead of TV, we played music from Marianne’s iPod (she’s the playlist queen!) and that’s something I want to do more here at home. I’ve started making my own playlists and I’m looking into getting an iPod dock with speakers so I can listen to music without using ear buds.

Travel, friendship, sketching, wandering outside, having precious time for doing nothing—these simple pleasures and everyday adventures mean so much to me. Thank you, Marianne, for giving them to me last week.


Be In It

June 25, 2014

If we haven’t done it ourselves, we’ve known people who have, it seems: taken a vacation mostly to photograph a vacation, not really looking at what’s there, but seeing everything through the viewfinder with the idea of looking at it when they get home. Wendell Berry of Kentucky, one of our most distinguished poets, captures this perfectly. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Wendell Berry, whose most recent book of poems is New Collected Poems,
Counterpoint, 2012. Poem reprinted from New Collected Poems, Counterpoint, 2012, and used with permission of Wendell Berry and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


Book(ish) Ends

December 23, 2013

I did it! I completed both the reading challenges I joined in 2013. 

I got off to a strong start with my Mount TBR challenge, and actually read more than 24 books from my own shelves, but the rules said I could count only those books that were on my shelf prior to Jan. 1, 2013. I continued to buy books throughout the year (possibly ending up with more than I started with—I’m afraid to count) and read quite a few of those during 2013, too. I will continue to read from my shelves in 2014, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the only way I’ll be able to make any real headway in reducing the stacks will be if I put myself on a book-buying fast for a few months. I may do this, though I know I’ll find it quite painful!

While I came it at “just” 24 (my goal) for the Mount TBR challenge, I exceeded my goal for the Vintage Mystery Challenge. It was so much fun! I loved the different categories, with names like “Colorful Crime” (“a book with a color or reference to color in the title”) or “Country House Criminals” (“a standard—or not so standard—Golden Age country house murder”). I plan to join 2014’s Vintage Mystery Challenge, which has a Bingo theme. (Click here for a complete list of the books I read for each challenge.)

I’m down to two books left to finish for my year-end reading, Personal Pleasures and Wherever You Go, There You Are. I don’t think I’ll finish them by the end of the year, but you never know. I plan to take the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to relax and do some extra reading

Other than the two books mentioned above, what will I be reading? I’m so glad you asked!

I went a little crazy with the library holds, which, of course, all came in at the same time. (I don’t expect to finish all these within my three-week borrowing period—I’m sure several of them will have to be renewed.)

Here is the book bounty:

Unpacking My Bookshelves—Writers and Their Books, Leah Price. I can hardly think of a more appealing book to a nosy book fiend like me. This book will probably inspire a post all on its own. 

The Heroine’s Bookshelf, Erin Blakemore. I’ve only just flipped through this book, but already I wish I had written it.  

Thin Is the New Happy, Valerie Frankel.  I’m already halfway through this memoir of Frankel’s efforts to “exorcise her bad body-image demons, to uncover the truths behind what put them there, and to learn how to truly love herself.” 

Ten Dollar Dinners, Melissa D’Arabian. I am always looking for creative and inexpensive ways to feed the family. 

The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky. Subtitled: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does.” I’m looking forward to reading this book that “empowers readers to look beyond their first response, sharing scientific evidence that often it is our mindset—not our circumstances—that matters most.”

Why We Ride: Women Writers on the Horses in Their Lives, edited by Verna Dreisbach. I can’t wait to read this collection of essays exploring the ways horses have enriched the lives of the contributors, including Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries. With an introduction by Jane Smiley.

You’re probably wondering where the fiction is. I’m already reading Every Secret Thing by Susanna Kearsley, and I’ll pick something else from my own overloaded shelves when I finish that. 

So you see I’ll have plenty to occupy me as the 2013 reading year comes to an end. I’m looking forward to curling up with a cup of tea or coffee and immersing myself in some of these.

What are your plans for year’s end, reading or otherwise?


What I Did on My Vacation

April 05, 2013

Too much.

My spring break wasn’t really a vacation—my son had already had his school break and we didn’t go anywhere, but I recognized that I needed a break from blogging and took one. I didn’t try to fill the days—in fact, I tried to empty them! But life, as usual, got in the way. While I was “taking a break,” Scout had some problems and had to go to the vet (she’s feeling better now) and we helped my son complete a community service project which involved making 1000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to be distributed to the hungry and homeless. This is what 1000 sandwiches looks like:

I did manage to do a little extra reading (Mr. Skeffington, The Olive Grove),   ride Tank several times and make a new vision board (better late than never). And—ta da—I finished painting my sketches from Sunken Gardens

The original sketch:

Have you noticed that when you cut back on doing one thing, something else leaps forward to take its place? The time I spend writing posts and visiting other people’s blogs was easily consumed by other tasks, and by the end of the week, I didn’t really feel like I’d had a break. I extended the break into the first part of this week, and what do you know? I spent hours on Monday doing errands. Clearly, I need to work on the concept of taking a break.

This non-break taught me something about myself that I already sort of knew: I feel guilty if I’m not constantly working to contribute in some way. Since I don’t have a paying job, I drive myself to work for the family nearly constantly. I have a terribly hard time allowing myself the time I need for study, thought and yes, doing nothing, in service of feeding my creativity and my ultimate writing goals which I am ashamed to say have almost completely fallen into obscurity. I feel bad about this, and instead of rerouting my energies to fix it, I go for the more obvious (and endless) to-do list where I can mark off things achieved and actually see a result—a bathroom cleaned, groceries in the fridge, etc. I’m having a hard time letting go of tangible results for intangible ones.

I’ve written about this before, and as you can see I haven’t come up with a solution yet. I’m not giving up, though—I will figure this out! In the meantime, I’ll try to cut myself some slack, to do a little bit less in order to do more, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll plan a vacation that really will be a vacation!



June 04, 2012

Spent the weekend on the beach with my wonderful husband celebrating our 24th anniversary (very belatedly—our actual anniversary is in January!). I’m a little sunburned, despite sunscreen and shade, but more relaxed than when we left. It was such a pleasure to be away from responsibility and to-do lists, to be with each other with only fun on the agenda. We walked on the beach, swam, did a lot of reading and poked around in some antiques stores and a flea market. I even did a little sketching:

Our room:

Sea grapes--I've never seen the grapes before!

Don't these look inviting?

It was a great way to start our summer. Hope your weekend was just as happy!


Where We Love

September 30, 2011

After spending a few days with my mom and step dad, I headed back down to Sacramento to return my rental car and meet my dad and step mom. My companions on the drive:

I loved the drive to and from my mom’s house—it’s straight and easy, up Interstate 5, a trip we took many times when I was growing up. The drive gave me time to think, to sing along with the iPod, to watch for landmarks from my childhood letting me know I was getting close to my destination. I love the openness, the flat fields backed by misty little hills in the distance.

Sacramento was HOT. One hundred degrees a couple of the three days I was there—but, say it with me, it was a dry heat! And it was cool in the morning and evening, so still not as uncomfortable as Florida.

My step mom and I spent our time doing all the things we enjoyed when I was growing up: shopping, going to the movies and visiting with family. My step brother came over for dinner and we visited my step grandma at her assisted living facility, where my step uncle met us. (My dad and step mom have been married for more than 30 years, so her family is my family.) And, of course, there’s my “sister”:

One of the highlights of the trip: Harness racing at Cal Expo. My dad used to take us to these when I came to visit him in the summer. I adored watching the horses race, and one memorable evening, we got to ride in the starting car. Occasionally we’d arrive early and walk through the stables where I breathed in the scent of hay and horse and walked on air for hours afterwards.

Harness racers are standardbreds, who trot or pace around a track pulling a two-wheeled cart (called a sulky) and driver, at up to speeds of more than 30 mph. (In the pace, the two legs on the same side of the horse move forward together, unlike the trot, where the two legs diagonally opposite from each other move forward together.) Most races are a mile long. The most famous race is the Hambletonian, held every year in August at The Meadowlands racetrack in New Jersey, but you can see harness racing at many county and state fairs all over the U.S. (For more information, see http://www.ustrotting.com/. To learn more about standardbreds, go here.)

We ate dinner at the Turf Club and spent several hours watching the races. And let me tell you, it’s far too easy to place bets. You can buy a voucher for whatever amount you want, then slip your voucher into a machine, use a touch screen to place your bet and away you(r money) go(es). I limited myself to a $20 voucher.

My system of betting was highly scientific. First, I chose a horse whose name had some meaning for me. I got my dad to decipher the racing form and quickly read up on the horse’s stats. I usually placed a “win, place, show” bet, so that I would win if my horse came in first, second or third, and I liked to bet on long shots (or at least not favorites). My first race, I chose “Racetrack Diva” in honor of my friend’s horse, Glory, an off-the-track thoroughbred. Diva obliged me by coming in third. The next race I bet on, I chose “Amazon Dot” because of my love affair with Amazon.com. Dot won the race! I began to feel pretty proud of my system! You can guess what happened next. For the rest of the evening, none of my choices came in better than fourth. I ended the evening with a net loss of $3.90, which I consider well worth it for the amount of entertainment I got.

My family—both sets—basically spoiled me while I was in California, and gave me a much-needed break from my everyday responsibilities. I felt so lucky to be able to see my California family while my Florida family took care of themselves.

Monday, I asked, “What makes a place home for you?” This morning, I found an answer: “Where we love is home—home that our feet may leave but not our hearts.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)



September 26, 2011

I returned late Saturday from my trip to California—and thank you all for your good wishes! All went well, and I came back refreshed in body and mind: no alarm clocks (except for the day I left: 3:45 a.m.!), and plenty of time to eat, drink, talk, read and even think (occasionally).

Before I go any farther, I’d like to thank my husband and mother-in-law who kept things running on the home front, making it possible for me to make this trip—love and gratitude to you both!

I flew to Sacramento, where I was born and where my dad and step mom still live, then rented a car and drove a couple hours north to where my mom and step dad live. I split my eight-day visit between the two of them. This blog post will cover the first half of my trip, and Friday’s will cover the rest.

I’ve written about where my mom lives before. Since we moved a lot as I grew up, this house is the closest thing I have to a childhood home. Many of my happiest memories occurred here, and it will always be one of my favorite places. It’s strange to me that though I grew up in California, went to college and got married there, I’ve now lived in Florida almost as long if not longer. (I don’t want to do the math!)

My first full day at my mom’s, I took a walk through part of the property, revisiting places I’d loved as a child:

 The acreage behind the house

The bee hives

The barn

The irrigation ditch

I returned covered in burrs:

I’d made two requests of my mom: visits to Trader Joe’s and to Cal’s Books, an awesome used book store in Redding, CA. TJ’s, as we always used to call it, was more an exercise in torture, because I couldn’t bring back much of anything…though I did buy some snacks and wine to enjoy while I was in California. And Cal’s…well, if you know me at all, you know the attraction there. I found only two books this time, which was probably just as well because I didn’t have room in my suitcase for more.

The last day of my stay with my mom, we checked out Anderson River Park, on the banks of the Sacramento River. After eating our lunch there, we spent the afternoon reading, chatting, relaxing and playing musical chairs trying to stay in the shade. Every so often, a breeze would blow off the river to cool us down. I wandered about a little, taking pictures.

This trip brings up the complicated question of where my “home” really is. Is it the place I grew up, where my birth family lives, and that I still love? Is it the place my husband, son and I live? For me, it’s both—the place of my roots that I will always long for AND the place I currently live with the people I love. I don’t have to choose—the more places that feel like home, the better.

What makes a place home for you?

Everyday adventures

California Bound

September 16, 2011

 By the time you read this, I’ll be in the air, on the way to California to visit my family—all by myself. My husband and son get to spend some quality time with each other (heh) while I take a break. I spent much of yesterday afternoon packing clothes and deciding which books to take (yes, I know an e-reader would be easier to pack, but I’m not there yet—plus I’m still working on reading challenges!). I’m only carrying on (it's been my experience that checked luggage is lost luggage) so space is an issue. I won’t be posting for a week or so, but instead plan to fill the well a bit.

Have a great week!

Everyday adventures

Sweating in Savannah, Part Two

August 19, 2011

When we last left our heroine, she was raving about The Olde Pink House. Let’s see what happened next....

Day 2
We started the day by joining a one-and-a-half hour trolley tour of the historic district. We figured it would give us a good overview and we could choose areas we’d like to go back to. The tour itself was forgettable, but we did spot several places we wanted to visit, such as:

When Oglethorpe and his fellow colonists arrived in Georgia in 1733, they set up an experimental garden in this area, called the Trustees Garden. In 1734, the Herb House was erected to house the gardener for the Trustees Garden. The Pirates’ House was built around the Herb House and is now a restaurant, but it began as an inn for seafarers when it opened in 1753. The Pirates’ House is said to be haunted by several ghosts. We chose to sample the buffet of southern food specialties—thumbs up to the macaroni and cheese and barbecued pork, thumbs down to fried okra (I just had to try it—you can’t live in the south and not have tried okra). Savannah is Paula Deen country, but her restaurant, The Lady and Sons, is always packed, so we chose another place to sample southern cooking.

After lunch, we took our time walking down Bull Street, the main street of the historic district. We took pictures, popped into shops (bless you, air conditioning) and checked out the shady squares, each of which is slightly different in character. There’s even a Johnson Square!

After dinner, we met our tour guide for our ghost tour…at the gate to Colonial Cemetery! There are several tour companies offering ghost tours, which are really walking history tours with an emphasis on unusual, scary or tragic tales. Sadly, the Haunted Irish Pub and Ghost Tour was completely booked, so we had to have our boos without booze. The American Institute of Parapsychology has named Savannah “America’s Most Haunted City,” and our tour guide told us that Savannah is a “city of the dead” because so many people have been buried outside of cemeteries, beneath the streets, on the grounds of the older homes, and so on. As our group walked through the darkened, nearly empty streets, it was easy to imagine Savannah’s historical denizens walking with us.

Gravestones the Yankees displaced during the Civil War

Haunted hotel
After our spooky—and let us not forget, sweaty—tour, we stopped for ice cream at Leopold’s,

another Savannah tradition. Leopold’s makes all its flavors of ice cream one batch at a time on the premises, from secret recipes handed down by the original Leopold brothers. The original ice cream parlor closed in 1969, but was reopened in 2004 by Stratton Leopold and his wife, Mary, at a new location, using many of the fixtures from his father’s and uncles’ original shop.

Day 3
On our last half-day in Savannah, we chose to visit Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace. Ms. Low founded the Girl Scouts of America. Having never been a Girl Scout, I did not know anything about her, but she was quite an interesting lady, and I’d like to learn more. She was an artist and animal lover, so I felt a kinship with her. The home itself contains many pieces of original family furniture and Ms. Low’s art work. (We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, or I’d show you examples.)

Exterior of house

We also strolled through Forsythe Park,

Fountain in Forsythe Park
saw the exterior of the house where there events recounted in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil took place,

grabbed a quick lunch at Zunzi’s and, finally, returned to City Market to purchase freshly-made pralines.

Why, yes, I'll try a sample...
I spent just enough time in Savannah to intrigue me. I hope to go back one day and sample more of the history, charm and delicious food.

But not in August.

Where have you been this summer? Would you like to go back?