Now is Now

I just finished reading the first of the Little House books to Van.  I’ve never read them myself (shocking to those of you who know me well), so I’m probably even more excited to be reading them than he is.  As I turned to the last page, I came across this gem: “She thought to herself, ‘This is now.’  She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now.  They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now.  It can never be a long time ago.”

Reminds me to appreciate where we are right now, even if we don’t know where we are going to be next month.  And to all of you out there who know exactly where you are going to be living next month, rejoice in the clarity.  We are living this way by choice at the moment, but there are many, many, many people out there that are not.  I cannot imagine the stress of not having a stable home, especially in the winter months.  It is my hope that once I have a home, I can make life for those in the community with a home or who are “house-insecure” a little more comfortable and secure.






Move Over Harold, I Have My Own Purple Crayon

Van is a reader.  Cue the applause!  I couldn’t be happier about this, even when I’m reading the same book for the seventh time in a day.  His latest book on repeat is Harold and the Purple Crayon.  Since I’ve been reading it again and again, I’ve been trying to read it with different eyes.  Last night, a few parts hit me.

Harold, with the moon in tow, goes out on an adventure when “he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path.”  He winds up in one-tree forest, in the water, on a boat, on a mountain, and in a hot-air balloon before trying to find his home.  He spends a long time looking until he realizes that he was doing it wrong all along.  “He remembered where his bedroom window was, when there was a moon.  It was always right around the moon.”  Upon remembering that he could make his home anywhere, he drew the window for himself and his bed so that he could crawl in and be at home.

While there are many clear parallels to my life at the moment (even down to his obsession with the moon), isn’t this true for us all?  Very few, if any, of us take the long, straight path.  Instead, we alternate between a stride with purpose and a wander that leads us down new paths that we may have missed if we were too focused on the goal.

When we planned to leave our lives of comfort and convenience for a journey on four wheels, we had two intentions, to have adventures and to find a new home.  What I failed to realize was that the latter goal would have more to do with how I would change over the course of our travels and less to do with the places themselves.  Yes, we found places that we loved that surprised us (central Kentucky, anyone?), and we added places to our list of dream towns (Bozeman, Bend, Crested Butte…), but ultimately, our priorities for a place to call home changed in some significant ways.

Proximity to wilderness is still a top priority, but living in the middle of it is no longer something we’d prefer in this season of life.  A sense of community is still important, but what that means to us has shifted.  I’m less concerned with the specific interests and make-up of a community and more interested in general community traits like kindness, generosity, self-sufficiency, and a lack of self-centeredness.  Snow is still at the top of our list, but less because we like snow (we do) and more because I like what snow does to people.  It forces us to check any misguided notions that we are the center of the universe.  Snow makes us contend with forces greater than ourselves and helps to deflate the ego, even if just a little bit.

All this adventure has brought me a lot of introspection.  I’m different now than I was two years ago.  But as my friend Saskia recently reminded me, home is something that I’ve had with me all along.


Book Review: The Nourished Kitchen

Although the past nine months have been radically different from the nine months before, we are now approaching the official 18 month mark for our nomadic lifestyle.  Friends often ask what the most difficult part of traveling like this has been.  The answer is easy – food and friends.  Sourcing and cooking good and healthful food while traveling (especially camping) is much harder than when you have a home.  Thankfully, the past nine months of slow travel (staying in one place for a couple of weeks to a month or more) has made the food situation somewhat better, but still not ideal.  Not seeing friends regularly is by far the most difficult part of traveling.  Though we’ve been fortunate to see many friends through our journey, we typically see them for a day or few and then move on.  It has been amazing to see friends in far-flung corners of the country who I don’t see regularly, but I’d love to have a friend or two that I can see each week or couple of weeks.  Our time in Western Mass was amazing for that reason.  This will be one of the things I’ll most appreciate when we settle down somewhere.

To improve our eating habits while traveling, I picked up The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther through my affiliation with Blogging for Books.  It is subtitled “Farm-to-Table recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle.”  Perfect, I thought!  And it is truly a beautiful book.  The photography, layout, fonts, all of it, make this a book you just want to curl up with.  From that perspective, it is a fantastic book.  But, since I wanted this book for the recipes, I quickly decided to put it to the test.  Unfortunately, the recipes, though good, did not live up to the beauty of the pages.


The book is divided into eight sections: from the garden; from the pasture; from the range; from the waters; from the fields; from the wild; from the orchard; and from the larder.  The recipes range from the simple – delicious looking salads and dressings – to the adventurous – stewed beef heart with root vegetables and porcini mushrooms looks particularly interesting.  I may have to try the chicken foot broth after Van gobbled down chicken feet a few weeks ago when enjoying Chinatown dim sum with our friend, Gina. Given Van’s broad palate, there’s not much in here that he would turn his nose up at, but it’s not for those with a more restrictive palate.

I’ve given it a good go, making six of the recipes in the book with easier to source ingredients (be aware if you buy this book, some of the recipes look great, but call for harder to find ingredients).  This evening my family enjoyed the cider-brined slow-roasted chicken, which probably came out the best of the set.  My problem was less with the end results, but more with the actual recipes themselves.  I’ve come across several glaring mistakes.  For example, the caption under a recipe photo mentions as a main ingredient, something that is not in the recipe.  If it were only one typo, I wouldn’t even mention it.  But for a book of this caliber, I wouldn’t have expected repeated errors.  I’ve also noticed that several of the recipes leave out steps; I’m assuming under the assumption that they’re obvious and do not need to be stated.  However, to a novice chef, this will only cause confusion and a less than complete meal.

That being said, I’m still very happy to have this book in my library given the breadth of recipes that, though traditional, are hardly traditional in today’s society (stinging nettle soup with cream, anyone?).  I look forward to trying many of the recipes while we travel, and some of the more complicated recipes once we have a home.  I’m definitely excited to try my hand at making kombucha.  While camping, my treat to myself (when I could find it) was lavender kombucha.  An acquired taste for some, but I think it is absolutely divine.  It will be fun to experiment with the aid of this book and a proper kitchen.

If this beautiful, interesting, but less than perfect book sounds like it may be up your alley, you can check out a few excerpts here.  If you want to find out more about the author and her take on food, check out her blog, Nourished Kitchen.


Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Lessons Learned v.5

It’s getting colder, and our thoughts turn from where to travel next to where we’d like to live.  As we run through the possibilities and all of the pros and cons, I’m getting a much better sense of my priorities.  Between that, and the thoughts that come as we approach a transition in our life on the road, the lessons are coming hard and fast.  Here’s my latest installment of lessons learned.

1. I do not want to live in a home that is part of a Homeowner’s Association.  In certain areas, this eliminates large portions of housing.  So be it.  I don’t want anyone telling me I must have a two car garage, can’t hang my laundry out, can’t paint my house pink and purple, can’t have chickens or bees or goats or llamas or pet tigers (ok, maybe it’s ok if they tell me I can’t have a pet tiger).  Nor do I want my neighbors to be so constrained.  I understand that this opens me up to more “risk” of my neighbors opening a junkyard next door.  Oh well.  Homeowner’s Associations are great for some people, just not me.  I’m glad I’m fully aware of this before buying a house in an HOA.

2. It is easy to travel far and wide and still only associate with a certain type of people, eat in certain types of restaurants, and stay in certain types of places.  I think it is more important to travel half an hour away to a place with people very unlike you and your cohorts than to travel halfway around the world to associate with similar types in a slightly different cultural context.  Some of the worldliest people never hop onto a plane, but instead fully immerse themselves in all the worlds around them.  After traveling to so many places but never staying in one place for very long on this journey, I’m looking forward to getting to know a new place in depth.  And not just the parts of that place that immediately appeal to me, but all the parts I may first overlook or turn away from.

3. Fall feels like home.  Fall is my favorite season.  Fall is Alan’s favorite season.  What is the one season we missed this year?  Fall.  In order to attempt to outrun cold nights in the tent, we missed this most magical and cozy of seasons.  I hope that this is the very last fall we ever miss.  I’m not sure winter will feel the same without having been welcomed by the golden hues and smokey, sweet, crisp air of autumn.

4. When the choice is more land or more house, I will (almost) always choose more land.  I don’t need a big house, but I want to be able to see lots of green from my window.  I also don’t need a lot of land, but nine times out of ten, more land will satisfy me better than more house.  For me, a house is really just a place to take a break from the sun, the wind, the rain, and the snow.  Oh, and a place to curl up in front of a fire with a good book.  Can’t forget that!

5. You can’t have it all.  Certainly not at once.  This is fine, but it’s a myth that gets perpetuated for young people, especially young women.  When we finally realize that we can’t have it all (if we ever believed that to begin with), the truth can sting a bit.  I already knew this, but when you begin to prioritize all your goals, it crystallizes this truth in a new way.

6. Having a place that feels like home is almost as important as having a place to call home.  I’ve had many places to call home in my life, but only some of them actually felt like home.  I spent the past two years in a very nice town home in the suburbs.  It was clean, safe, and nice, but it never actually felt like home.  I realize that I put off so many things that I would have done had the place felt like home.  I never felt invested in the place, and in turn, it only served as a place to live and not a true home.  Besides becoming invested in any place I live in the future, I’d also like to prioritize finding a place that feels like home.

7. It’s hard to go wrong with green chile sauce in New Mexico.  Not much I can add to this, except for the fact that I am loving New Mexico, its people, and its delicious (and inexpensive) food.

8. I scare a lot less quickly than I did eight short months ago.  There are so many ways I could illustrate this, but I’ll stick with one.  Coyotes.  I like coyotes.  They’ve never scared me and I’ve found their cries hauntingly beautiful.  But that didn’t stop me from scrambling out of my tent in Kentucky when they were making a kill very near by.  At that point, we still had our van, which is where the three of us spent the rest of that night.  Fast forward about seven months, and we’ve heard numerous coyotes, but none as close or as constant as when we were camping in Tucson Mountain Park.  There were dozens in the area around us, some near by, some far.  But even when they were howling mere feet from our tent (and even when our semi-crazy camping neighbor joined in with the coyote howls), I felt warm and secure in our tent and enjoyed the evening serenades.  I’ve come a long way, baby!

Lessons Learned v.4

Van Enjoying One of His Many Meals out in the San Fran Area - thanks Jess for the great dinner and the pic!

Van Enjoying One of His Many Meals out in the San Fran Area – thanks Jess for the great dinner and the pic!

In my last post we were leaving Washington, which feels like ages ago.  Probably because it was.  We spent three weeks in Oregon and two weeks in California since we saw Mt. St. Helens.  We’ve had some ups and downs along the way – the most significant down being when Alan sprained his ankle – but we’re still trucking along.  One of the big ups was a jam-packed week full of seeing friends.  We had plans with different people every day for six days straight!  It was a bit of a whirlwind (and part of the reason I haven’t had time to post anything on here), but so refreshing to see wonderful friends in the San Francisco area.  We’re now headed further south, but I thought that it was about time for another “Lessons Learned” post.  I’ve been spending a lot of time in my head lately as we think about our transition to a more stationary life, and hence the lessons keep piling up.

1. I would rather spend time with someone who thinks deeply about issues and disagrees with me on every point than someone who follows a set script of ideas and agrees with me on everything.  I’ve thought this before, but never with such intensity.  In finding a place to live, I realize that I was focused on finding a place with a community of like-minded souls.  But really, I should just be looking for a place where people care and connect and think, regardless of whether they’re like-minded or not.  Besides, it’s not like my views fit some mold, and they differ plenty from Alan’s.  That’s part of what we love about each other.  We push each other to think deeply about things from many angles.  I’d love to live somewhere where I’d have the opportunity to do that with people of all stripes.  This is increasingly important as our politicians become more polarized from one another.

2. Full moon + fog = A very bright night.  Since we’ve been in the San Francisco area for the past week or so, we’ve experienced the morning (and overnight) fog.  Our visit happened to coincide with the full moon.  If you get lost in the woods at night without a flashlight, wish for a full moon and fog.  It lights up the sky like no other.  It creates a great effect, but also tends to make little boys restless sleepers.  Oh well!

3. After living on the road for so long, washing dishes with a faucet and hot water feels similar to a spa experience.  No joke!  I could have washed dishes in our portable “sink” with cold water, as we’ve been doing for months.  But there was an outdoor sink with hot water just down the dirt road.  I made that walk – several trips for each meal – just to feel the hot water over my hands as I scrubbed each dish.  Well worth the walk!

4. California is expensive.  Not sure what else to add here, but this state has been making our bank account balance fall faster than any other state.  I’m not  sure there’s even been a close second on this trip.  As an example, state parks campsites have been averaging $35 a night!  Insanity!  Needless to say, we’ve been enjoying our first private campgrounds with more amenities for a similar price.

5. The colors of the Pacific Ocean are brilliant.  I grew up with the ocean – the Atlantic is my ocean, and always will be.  But the colors of the Pacific are amazing.  The blues, the greens, only once did I think the color looked similar to the blue-gray I’m used to on the East Coast.  I could look at the Pacific for hours.

6. Letting a two-and-a-half year old hold sticks (or pinecones, or acorns, or…you name it) near your car is a bad idea.  Lesson learned the hard way (check out the nifty scratch on the side of our car), but luckily before he had his way with someone else’s car.

7. When packing to camp, take half as many clothes and twice as many socks and underwear as you think you’ll need.  We’ve become experts at wearing things over and over, making the spans between laundry visits that much longer.  Whereas we used to do laundry when we were running low on clothes, we economize our clothes so well now that we only have to do laundry when we’re low on socks and underwear – the true necessities.

8. 45 degrees at night is not too cold to camp with a toddler.  Neither is 35, for that matter.  25, that’s another story.  I’ve had a few people (including a park ranger) tell me that 45 degrees is too cold at night for camping.  25, I agree, although we’ve done it.  But 45?  No problem!  As long as you bring the right clothes, 45 can be downright toasty!  Alan and I are notorious for keeping our thermostat pretty low in the winter.  I’m wondering what effect this trip will have on our thermostat once we return to living in a house.

9. A home is one of the most wonderful things in the world.  If you’re reading this and you live in a home, be it an apartment, a house, a cabin, or even a home on wheels, take a look around you and realize how lucky you are.  I am craving a home and all that comes with it.  Warmth, protection, a place to prepare meals and lay your head at night, a nearby community of people who care about you, a plot of land to cultivate, a furry friend (Hickory, to be specific) to curl up with, and family.  I have the last of these covered, but I am so looking forward to the rest.  When we finally do have a home, I hope that I never forget to feel grateful for all that we have.

On that note, I am so, so grateful right now for the time that I’ve had with Alan and Van on this trip thus far, the time we’ve had with friends and family, and the opportunities to see and do new things every day.  There can be days when it’s tiring or hard, but most of the time, it’s amazing.  And I feel so lucky to be able to share this journey with my two favorite people.  Even as I begin to long for a home, I am so thankful to have the opportunity to live one of my dreams every single day.  Here’s to hoping that we all have many more days of living our own dreams, whatever they may be.