Category Archives: Travel

Desire, Anticipation, Realization

Remember the old Heinz commercial with the Carly Simon soundtrack? Anticipation has been motivating people long before it was an advertising theme. I’ll bet Mrs. Caveman found saber tooth stew more appealing after waiting all day for Mr. C to bring home the goodies. (Imagine how a little ketchup would have helped!)caveman-159964_640

I’m not a patient person. But I love pre-planning vacations: reading about my destination; researching places to explore and eat; making and revising endless lists of what to bring and wear; creating a wish list of possible purchases. Anticipation extends the trip well beyond the actual time away if I start enjoying it months in advance.

I also find anticipation half the fun of baking – the long, slow rise of the bread or waiting for some delicious dessert to come out of the oven. And what’s nicer than looking forward to a hot cup of tea or coffee after being outside on a cold, rainy day – or a frosty beer after a blisteringly hot one?

Although it can be frustrating, time-consuming or confusing, anticipation is especially useful when purchasing something expensive. When’s the last time you bought a car or house on impulse before taking the time to decide exactly what you wanted? (If you did, you have far more disposable income than I do; please buy me a Bentley!)

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Psychologists tell us that desiring something is more satisfying than actually acquiring it (scientists call this “habituation”). There’s often a letdown after getting the object, which is why prolonging the process can be so enjoyable. (Check out a fascinating article on this topic in The Atlantic.)

I’ve been thinking about this since arriving at our summer house 20 lbs. lighter than last year and discovering that “I have nothing to wear” wasn’t hyperbole. I had exactly one pair of jeans and three sweaters that fit; everything else down to my underwear needed to be replaced.

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The surprise, for a dedicated shopper like myself, is that mass acquisition isn’t much fun. I’ve pretty much had to blitz-shop online (hello, The Outnet) to compile an instant wardrobe. As a result, I’ve been denied the pleasures of anticipation, window-shopping, weighing pros and cons, etc. as part of the experience.

Years ago, on a trip to Milan, my husband and I watched a group of young women return to our hotel laden with shopping bags from every high end store you can imagine (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior etc.) woman-1329790_640

I’ve often wondered: Did those girls really appreciate everything they bought, after the shopping high wore off? If you could acquire anything you desire without a second’s thought, would it be special?

What do you think — is anticipation more satisfying than acquisition? And what about delayed gratification… does something have more value to you when you’ve saved up for it? Are there things you bought that you love as much — or more — now that you have them?

In other words, does the “high” always fade?

Am I What I Wear?

Lately, I’ve been going through an identity crisis. A sartorial one, primarily, stemming from the question, “Who am I if I’m not working?” combined with the dread of becoming invisible with the passing years.

As a freelance writer/retired (mostly) by choice, I could spend the day in ratty sweatpants and no one would notice. But that’s just not “me”; I worked in an office for 30 years and dressing for work is a difficult habit to overcome. Plus, I’ve always loved fashion.

This particular crise du jour is also accompanied by weight loss, which would normally be cause for celebration but is in fact cause for alarm/introspection/analysis as I have to decide: Since I have to buy new clothes that fit, WHAT should they be?

The delightful blogger Lady Sarah offers a brilliant suggestion: Create a pie chart for how you actually spend your time so that you can buy accordingly. Instead of shopping for a fantasy life, I’m taking this a step further to analyze not just how I currently spend my time but how I’d like to spend it.

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• At home doing chores, scrolling through online articles, contemplating working out, watching TV, contemplating cleaning, actually working out, reading, actually cleaning

• At home writing (want to project a professional image, if only to myself)

• Running errands: Stained tees are a non-starter even though the chances of bumping into someone I know — since I know virtually no one in Texas — are slim to none

• Lunch dates: All too few. Goal: expand opportunities

• Dinner dates with husband and friends: Ah, safe ground here. Need to look nice but not overly fussed over

• Opera/Symphony: Unlikely to run into anyone here either but a good excuse to dress up

• Entertaining at home: What to wear that is chic but won’t get stained while cooking?

• Travel: My sweet spot, wardrobe-wise. I’m a big-city girl at heart and enjoy being able to wear my favorite pieces without feeling overdressed. Not that anyone’s looking – but it’s all about how you see yourself, isn’t it?

• Playing with grandchildren: Not the time for a silk blouse, but surely I can do better than an old band t-shirt and leggings even if the baby is likely to spit up

• Summer hiking/walking: Anything goes, as long as it’s waterproof

• Wine tasting (a favorite summer activity): Upgraded casual, mostly dark colors in case I spill something – a real possibility around Glass #3

FullSizeRender 7All in all, what I’ve learned from this exercise is that I shouldn’t buy another leather jacket since I live in a warm climate (much as I adore them) and that I should create more opportunities that are appropriate for my favorite items rather than “dumbing down” my wardrobe to match my mostly-stay-at-home activities.

Sign me up for: adult education classes, more travel, more lunches/dinners with friends, more evenings out, volunteering at anything where you shouldn’t look like a slob, and so on.

Anyone else having an identity crisis as you change jobs, become a stay-at-home parent or approach retirement? Please share your solutions and insights with the rest of us!

Xx, Alisa

House Woes

Have you ever had your pet punish you when you go away for awhile? Sulking, hiding, refusing to be petted when you return home?

I think our house is doing the same thing.

“She” must be pissed off that we took a vacation, because we’ve returned to a garage door that won’t close properly, and then a new crisis yesterday when our sprinklers went all demonic and wouldn’t shut off. Needless to say, this happened on a Sunday.

Owning a home is a bit of a deal with the devil. You try to keep ahead of any possible issue but there’s always something that can leap out and get’cha. Still, it makes more financial sense in the long run than renting. Or so they say.

We have smudged, cleaned, painted, upgraded, decorated, replaced all the pool equipment piece by piece, and generally done everything we can think of to make our house happy.  So I’m convinced this is an abandonment issue. I could promise that we won’t go away again but every traveler knows this is an empty gesture.

If anyone knows a “house whisperer” please send along their number.

Travel Diary: London/Paris

Whew! I’ve finally unpacked, done the laundry, and gotten a decent night’s sleep, having just returned from a quick 10-day visit to two of my favorite cities.

Rather than a full travelogue – most of you are quite familiar with these locations – here are some random impressions/moments from this trip.

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Arrival Day (Hooray for British Airways Austin-London direct flight!)

  • Caught the last day of the history of underwear show at the V&A. Not as titillating as one might have expected, except for the bondage-y innerwear-as-outerwear trend pieces. Grateful I don’t live in an era of wool drawers (itchy!), cone bras (remember Madonna’s?), 18” corsets that played havoc with women’s internal organs, or paniers.
  • Discover I’ve forgotten melatonin. Crap. Turns out, you can’t buy it over the counter. Will tough it out with red wine or vodka before bed.

High points:

  • Dinner with local friends (helps one feel less like a tourist), noting as always that Brits are wittier than Americans. Sorry, but there it is.

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  • Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at Tate Modern. Don’t miss if you’re in town.

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  • The Leopard Bar at the Montague on the Gardens hotel. I do love a leopard pattern!
  • Buying a new animal-head umbrella at one of my favorite shops, James Smith Umbrellas in Bloomsbury. It’s like stepping back in time to the Victorian era, replete with walking sticks and a “vintage” salesman.

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  • Eating (duh) and drinking “cheap and cheerful” dreadful wine with friends.

PARIS

We spent most of our time here, and my overall sense was that people are feeling edgy and a bit under siege, although everyone we encountered was perfectly lovely.

Sadly, the city is looking a bit tired and dingy. More litter and dogs*** in the streets/on the sidewalk than I recall from the last trip two years ago. The métro is smellier. There’s almost a palpable collective Gallic shrug of “why bother?” going on.

However, we had a wonderful visit. How bad can things be when you eat croissants every day? (I recommend finding your local Eric Kayser bakery.) FullSizeRender 4.jpg

Notes:

  • Love the Eurostar! So much easier than dealing with the airport. But my overlarge suitcase was very cumbersome.
  • Wonderful Kiefer/Rodin show at the Musée Rodin. A fascinating “conversation” between artists of different generations looking at the same subjects.

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  • Want to look Parisian? Wear a scarf with everything! I felt I was passing for a native when someone stopped me on the street to ask (en français, bien sûr!) if I lived in the neighborhood. It’s good to blend in, especially these days.
  • People treat you better if you carry a good handbag. Superficial but true.
  • Today’s polemic: French/British children can tell a Monet from a Manet by six years old because going to museums is part of their everyday schooling, not a special event. No wonder we’re raising generations of Philistines in our country, where the arts are considered an elitist luxury and Führer Trump wants to abolish the National Endowment! If you can’t appreciate beauty, you can’t appreciate anything. OK, I’m jumping off my soapbox now.
  • p.s., Where but in Paris does a shopkeeper recommend a museum exhibit? Does this happen in Chicago? I don’t think so.

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  • Chatting with people makes all the difference between feeling like a visitor and feeling comfortably part of your surroundings. A few moments:
    • Conversation with the proprietor of vintage handbag store (specializing in 1950’s Hermès) combining her limited English with my fractured French. A delightful history lesson.
    • Another Hermès moment: my husband chatting with a Saudi gentleman while his wife special-ordered various bags and I spent a tiny fraction of what she did. Although not in the same financial league, our husbands shared a laugh over the common experience of patiently waiting while their wives shopped.
    • Discussing politics with taxi drivers (we’re all worried!)
  • Music is a universal language. Having coffee one evening at a brasserie near our hotel, we enjoyed a playlist of Ray Charles, the late, great BB King and Tina Turner. Thumbs up all around with the owner and other patrons.
  • People dress very casually at The Opéra Bastille, where we saw a beautifully sung Carmen. Glad I didn’t pack a special fancy outfit.
  • Note to self: Buy booze at the Monoprix to avoid paying minibar prices. Who cares if we don’t finish it?

xo, Alisa   IMG_1747

Where to Retire: US Edition

A friend sent me this helpful guide the other day. Author unknown.

You can retire to Phoenix, Arizona where…

1.  You are willing to park three blocks away from your house because you found shade.
2.  You’ve experienced condensation on your rear-end from the hot water in the toilet bowl.
3.  You can drive for four hours in one direction and never leave town.
4.  You have over 100 recipes for Mexican food.
5.  You know that “dry heat” is comparable to what hits you in the face when you open your oven door at 500 degrees.
6.  The four seasons are: tolerable, hot, really hot, and ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

OR

You can retire to California where…

1.  You make over $450,000 and you still can’t afford to buy a house.
2.  The fastest part of your commute is going down your driveway.
3.  You know how to eat an artichoke.
4.  When someone asks you how far something is, you tell them how long it will take to get there rather than how many miles away it is.
5.  The four seasons are:  Fire, Flood, Mud and Drought.

OR

You can retire to New York City where…

1   You say “the city” and expect everyone to know you mean Manhattan.
2.  You can get into a four-hour argument about how to get from Columbus Circle to Battery Park, but can’t find Wisconsin on a map.
3.  You think Central Park is “nature.”
4.  You believe that being able to swear at people in their own language makes you multilingual.
5.  You’ve worn out a car horn.  (IF you have a car.)
6.  You think eye contact is an act of aggression.

OR

You can retire to Minnesota where…

1.  You only have three spices:  salt, pepper and ketchup.
2.  Halloween costumes have to fit over parkas.
3.  You have seventeen recipes for casserole.
4.  Sexy lingerie is anything flannel with less than eight buttons.
5.  The four seasons are:  almost winter, winter, still winter, and road repair.
6.  The highest level of criticism is “He is different,”  “She is different,” or “It was different!”

OR

You can retire to The Deep South where…
1.  You can rent a movie and buy bait in the same store.
2  “Y’all” is singular and “all y’all” is plural.
3.  “He needed killin” is a valid defense.
4.  Everyone has two first names:  Billy Bob, Jimmy Bob, Joe Bob, Betty Jean, Mary Beth, etc.
5.  Everything is either:  “in yonder,”  “over yonder”  or “out yonder.”

6. You can say anything about anyone, as long as you say “Bless his heart” at the end.

OR

You can move to Colorado where…
1.  You carry your $3,000 mountain bike atop your $500 car.
2.  You tell your husband to pick up Granola on his way home, so he stops at the day care center.
3.  A pass does not involve a football or dating.
4.  The top of your head is bald, but you still have a ponytail.

OR

You can retire to Nebraska or Kansas where…
1.  You’ve never met any celebrities, but the mayor knows your name.
2.  Your idea of a traffic jam is three cars waiting to pass a tractor.
3.  You have had to switch from “heat” to “A/C” on the same day.
4.  You end sentences with a preposition: “Where’s my coat at?”

OR FINALLY

You can retire to Florida where…
1.  You eat dinner at 3:15 in the afternoon.
2.  All purchases include a coupon of some kind – even houses and cars.
3.  Everyone can recommend an excellent cardiologist, dermatologist, proctologist, podiatrist, or orthopedist.
4.  Road construction never ends anywhere in the state.
5.  Cars in front of you often appear to be driven by headless people.

 

 

 

Bottling Their Passion

As I’ve written before, exploring Oregon’s vineyards is one of my favorite activities when we’re on the west coast. If I didn’t have other things to do, or a lurking fear of becoming a full-fledged alcoholic, I’d be out sampling wine every week!

For winemakers Scott and Lisa Neal, the owners of Coeur de Terre  (“Heart of the Earth”), winemaking is a year-round labor of love. Scott grew up on a farm in Minnesota and has always felt connected to the land. There are very few endeavors that allow for a product to be grown, made, and sold all by the same person. Even better, he’s able to see customers actually use his product—which they do with gusto.

Coeur de Terre (CdT) is one of the wineries we most enjoy visiting, and not just because the wines are excellent. It’s the particular charm of the venue, the owners, and Jacques, the tasting room master of ceremonies, that make this place a standout. Scott explains that they’ve opted not to have a tasting room in McMinnville, alongside so many other Oregon producers, because they’re interested in attracting a loyal, more serious clientele. This makes CdT a special destination unto itself, rather than something you’ll stumble upon. As Scott says, “We’re on the way to here.”

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Scott and Lisa Neal at the winery

Scott and Lisa established the winery in 1998, starting with about 50 acres. Today, the serene hillside property totals 92 acres and the owners have planted all the vines on the estate. Sticklers for quality and consistency, the Neals make sure that CdT is farmed using organic and sustainable methods. Twenty-four acres are dedicated to Pinot Noir (each block having its own distinct character), along with small blocks of Syrah, Riesling and Gruner Veltliner.

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Future deliciousness!

In 2014, Scott and Lisa added fifteen more acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, which will see its first harvest this year. Current prices range from $19-$21 for Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Rosé to $36-$40 for heritage Pinot and Syrah, with single block Pinots and older library wines at $65+. There’s truly something for everyone, and joining their wine club produces some great savings, too.

I asked Scott to share some of his favorite memories.

This is a hard one to narrow down. Some of the outstanding memories I have are the times that Lisa and I would walk the land when we first came here and dream of what Coeur de Terre would look like. Now, 16 years later, we do that same walk and see that what we were thinking about is actually here. Other memories are the time my mom was able to visit the winery and see the block that was named after her before her passing. More memories are our first open house in the cellar of the current winery where we sold our first bottle of wine, and lastly, the memory of all the great friends we have made throughout our years at CdT.

Besides developing their newly acquired property, Scott and Lisa have expanded distribution to Scott’s home state of Minnesota and hope to expand into Texas and Colorado as well. (Living most of the year in Austin, I can’t wait for that to happen.) Looking ahead even further, they hope to instill their passion for land and place in their two young daughters. Since the 8-year-old already loves to ride the tractor, I foresee generations of the Neal family producing wine well into the future.

MEET JACQUES

Another asset for Coeur de Terre is their charming direct sales manager, Jacques Rendu. The 2017 harvest will mark his 10th year anniversary working in the wine industry in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and his fifth year at CdT.

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Tasting Room maestro Jacques Rendu

The Oregon wine industry is a relatively small world where 2/3 to 3/4 of the wineries are family estates. A close-knit community where everyone is very supportive of each other, Jacques has built connections with his peers through volunteering with the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC), Oregon Pinot Camp and his work as a Board member for some of the industry’s non-profit organizations. Interestingly, Jacques says, “France gave me my palate education but it is Oregon that provided my technical winemaking and oenology training. Both are great assets when interacting with visitors or Oregon wine aficionados.”

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What a cozy place to enjoy a glass or two!

One of Jacques’ most memorable experiences was hosting a catered IPNC seminar at CdT with French and American winemakers and attendees from all over the world. For a family winery with a small staff, this event was not only a great honor but also a logistical challenge. Only at the end did they discover that one of the guests was the wine buyer for the White House. He had served under the last three Presidents at the time and after tasting Scott and Lisa’s wine told them he wanted to order one to be featured at the White House. Impressive.

PLANTING THE SEEDS OF FRIENDSHIP

Jacques’ enthusiasm and knowledge are as contagious as his smile. We always learn something new – such as when a particular wine will be at its peak – and get menu inspiration for what food to serve with whatever we’re buying. Jacques has hosted guests from as far away as Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Africa, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and, most recently, Japan. He says, “Wine is an amazing ‘cultural’ exchange vehicle.” Forget that old Coke jingle… imagine if the world could just sit down and have a glass of wine together!

Some of these simple tastings have resulted in long-lasting relationships. Total strangers the first time, visitors often leave with something more than a few bottles; they leave with great memories and a fondness for a special winery.

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Scott explains the fine points of Pinot

SIDE NOTE FOR TEXANS

Coeur de Terre will be part of next week’s Pinot in The City events with other Willamette Valley wineries taking place January 24, 2017 in Dallas and January 26 in Austin. Scott will be there.

Cheers, Alisa

[Not a sponsored post. Attributed photos courtesy of Coeur de Terre.]