A New Patio!

Phew. What a day! Today, Florence earned a stylish new patio!

Last year, I put in some pavers, but had some difficulty because at some point, there was a driveway (or blacktop) put down but grass had grown well over it, probably for years.

To do the job correctly, it was necessary to bust up the blacktop and set the pavers properly. Thanks to my contractor, Terrence, we were able to do that today!

The plan was to augment the pavers I bought last year with more gray pavers. I called Lowe’s to make sure they were in stock and made the long trek to pick them up. When I arrived at the store they didn’t have a single gray paver in stock. So, the red pavers were the only option… and the unintended retro checkerboard turned out to be a perfect throwback fit for Florence. I think it looks great and is a BIG improvement. Some lillies of the valley from my parents garden set the patio off from the grass.

Here it is in progress:



And complete:






More about the water heater repair later this week.

Summer Landscaping

I finally found a little time in my summer break to do some gardening, landscaping, and exterior maintenance at the Airstream! I have found, when full-timing, that on the north side of Florence, a green, slimy algae seems to grow on surfaces. Well, no longer. Thanks to my Aldi power washer, Florence got a very good bath (and waterproof test) today. The power washer blasted every last bit of slime and dirt from her surface, and even blasted some mold from the concrete around her base. The concrete looks brand new.


The pots with little ornamental shrubs also look great. I filled the pots with dirt and weighted them so they won’t blow away or tip over (like the ones last year.) If I learned anything, I learned, go low not high with plants in buckets.

Against my better judgement, I sprayed weed killer around the concrete pad and in the cracks on the concrete pad. In the midst of doing it, a big bumble bee got in the way, and got a dousing. I feel terribly about that.

While mowing, my good friend, Monsieur LeFrog came back for a visit. He’s about twice his size from last year. Nice to see him again.


After a thorough bath and power wash, I mowed the lawn and added some mulch around the trees I planted last year. Hopefully, the mulch will keep the weeds at bay!

My neighbor, Teddy, loaned me his hose to use with the power washer today, and I noticed he had planted a little garden. I never did, because I assumed the deer would eat it. He said that’s never a problem, so I might plant some tomatoes and/or lettuce for snacking.

Tomorrow, I tackle the patio and washing windows (inside and out!) Next week, I’m going to tackle the cracks in the concrete pad, and repair of the hot water heater (gulp!)


Harry’s Razors

For the last 35 years, I have used Gillette Razors. They are available everywhere I’ve traveled around the world, and they work reasonably well. The trouble is, they are expensive. Really expensive. And the razor cartridges are usually under lock and key in stores, which makes you feel like a criminal when you buy them.

So about a year or so ago, I switched, to Harry’s. I received a Harry’s razor in a Birchbox that I tried for a few months. The Birchbox left a lot to be desired, but Harry’s was a hit.

The razor they sent me was a smoky blue (my least favorite color) but they are available in orange, green, and white. I’ve since purchased an orange one for travel and a green one to keep at my Airstream. The travel cover is a great accessory. I seriously can’t tell you how many times my unprotected Gillette razor cut me or my bag. No problem with Harry’s handy cover!

The blades are handcrafted in Germany, and they are—literally—razor sharp. They seem to last about 3x longer than the typical Gillette blade too. From the Harry’s site:

We spent over a year meticulously crafting our first Harry’s line. Our blades are made by German engineers with decades of experience honing high-grade steel. Our handles were designed to blend timeless simplicity and modern ergonomics. Our shaving cream comes from the same chemists who make creams for high-end brands. The result: a set of modern shaving products made with respect for the tradition of a good, clean shave.

Try Harry’s here. The trial pack is $15—or less than half the price of one pack of Gillette refills—Harry’s definitely gets my vote. I’m 50/50 on their shaving cream (I still prefer my time-tested Nivea brand), but their razors and refills are top shelf, as is their service, and speed of delivery. Plus, they have nice packaging!

Harry’s also offers a subscription service to make sure you’ll never run out of blades. I haven’t used that… but it seems like a nice option. I simply jump on the site and order replacements whenever I’m running low.

I like that Harry’s helps me to buy less, and buy only what I need. So not only are they less expensive and better quality, but they are also kind to your budget!

Florence Gets a Birth Certificate!

Airstream official name registryWow. Airstream really is a cool company.

As many of you know, when I adopted, er, bought my Airstream, I named her Florence in honor of my great aunt who had passed away only a few weeks before.  Aunt Florence had a great spirit and was always smiling and kind. She was unfailingly polite and always made me smile. She passed away just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday. So, when the Airstream came along, it seemed fitting to name it in her honor.

That’s why, when you read posts about my Airstream, you will see me refer to it as Florence.

In any case, I am apparently not the only person to christen their Airstream. From the Airstream site:

You know how it goes. You fall in love. Get close. Give your significant other a pet name. It happens that way for a lot of Airstream owners. We totally get it – here’s your chance to share your Airstream’s name, swap stories and photos with your fellow Airstream enthusiasts. If you believe your Airstream is a star, you’ve come to the right place. Time to let your baby shine!

So now Airstream is allowing Airstream owners to register names for their Airstreams (think: Cabbage Patch Kids), and with it, the owners get a web page, a certificate (with the Airstream name), and other perks. Definitely a worthwhile effort in my opinion!

So, all you Airstreamers… get clicking! You can sign up at http://nickname.airstream.com.

Tis the Season!

As we all prepare for the Christmas and Holiday season, we’ll inevitably have to wrap a gift or two in a jiffy.

The wrappers at one of my favorite Japanese department stores, Takashimaya, have perfected the art of quick wrapping (using only two pieces of tape!)

The first video shows the technique, and the second explains how to do it!


I ran across this great blog a while back about a woman who lost 30lbs by eating a bento lunch each day. Now, I should say that the food service on my campus is unparalleled and the quality and variety of what is served is consistently outstanding. Which, for me posed a problem. In my first year, I gained about 30lbs because I just couldn’t pass up a plate of fries and the outstanding soft serve chocolate ice cream.

Until I started my bento box lunch.

First, the bento is really satisfying, and very healthy. As I learned from the JustBento.com site, there’s a method to filling the bento, and it’s centered around not only nutrition but also aesthetics.

I like that the form factor of my bento box is similar to the form factor of my Airstream, and that it keeps my lunch separate, organized, and portable until it’s time to eat it.

Bentgo bento box

I am using the Bentgo grey, which I picked up (of course) at Marshalls for $7.99. I like the Bentgo brand because they are BPA-free made from EU food-safety authority approved all food grade materials. The top container nests inside the bottom one for compact & easy storage, and includes built-in plastic silverware (fork, knife and spoon) with room for a packet of gluten free soy sauce and travel chop sticks.

One Pot Simple

White Bean Soup.
Delicious white bean soup, with kale garnish.

I’m always on the lookout for simple, one-pot, rice cooker and crockpot meals. I truly enjoy cooking, but sometimes, after a long day, it’s nice to come home, throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot and have a delicious dinner 15 minutes later.

Over the past two months, Dan and I have been trying to eat better (he’s lost about 10lbs, and I’ve lost about 20lbs.) So, we’ve been on the prowl for easy-to-make things (so we don’t slip into our old eating habits when we’re short on time or feeling lazy.)

We’re learned a bunch of great—vegetarian and healthy—recipes that use off-the-shelf ingredients from any store. No strange or difficult-to-find items necessary.

Our favorite is White Bean Stew that takes—seriously—about 5 minutes to make from start to finish. I don’t know why anyone would eat Campbell’s soup, because this is seriously easier.

The base of the stew is a mirepoix—a cubic concoction of roughly equal parts onions, celery, and carrot. Just chop it up, throw it in a pan with some oil and sauteé with salt and pepper. Then add a can of white beans, slightly rinsed. Add a touch of water (as much as you’d like, actually less=stew, more=soup.)

That’s it.

Bring it to a boil and serve. It’s delicious, simple, and healthy… and best of all, there’s only one pot to clean up!

At home with Sr. Corina Kent

I am a huge fan of Sr. Corina Kent.

If you don’t know Sr. Corina, you should. She was an amazing artist and a fascinating individual. Sr. Corina became a sister in the order of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1936 and later took art classes at what is not Otis College of Art and Design and the University of Southern California. For nearly thirty years, Sr. Corina created art while living in community with the Immaculate Heart sisters. She taught in the Immaculate Heart College and was the chair of its art department.  Later, Sr. Corina moved to Boston and interacted with Andy Warhol and further piqued his interest in appropriating commercial icons in the service of art.

Like Warhol, Sr. Corita used popular culture as raw material for her work. Her brightly color-blocked screen prints often incorporated the archetypical product of brands of American consumerism alongside thought-provoking spiritual texts. Her design process involved appropriating an original advertising graphic to suit her idea; for example, she would tear, rip, or crumble the image, then re-photograph it. She often used grocery store signage, texts from scripture, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and writings from literary greats such as Gertrude Stein, E. E. Cummings, and Albert Camus as the textual focal point of her work.

Sr. Corita died of cancer in 1986 only six months before Andy Warhol passed away.

A few weeks ago, I decided to splurge on an authentic signed print by Sr. Corita Kent, because she is one of my favorite artists of all time! I framed the print in a frame that I picked up at Target for $15.00 and hung it in my “bedroom” in place of one of the magazine holders that I never used (except to collect junk).

I think it’s a nice improvement and makes the stock Airstream interior a bit more personal.

Modern Farmer & Hipster Homesteading

Modern Farmer

I was disappointed to hear of the apparent demise of Modern Farmer magazine recently. I’ve been thinking a lot about the “new market” for “hipster modern farmers” and how rural America is changing. If you would have told me three years ago that I would be living and working in a rural area and living full time in an Airstream, I would have told you that you were crazy. I have long been a city person. I enjoy the energy of the city, and have spent a better portion of my career researching and thinking about how cities work. In my world “the country” was some vague place where farmers lived, and that allowed for some pretty drives in search of vegetables in the summer and leaves and pumpkins during the autumn. Other than that, I believed the (mainly) mainstream hype that rural America was a somewhat scary place, filled with ultra-conservative city-fearin’ rednecks.

Wow, was I wrong.

I have been amazed by the diversity and quality of life that I encounter every single day in my Airstream environs. Here’s a few observations:

1. The economy in rural America has been punched in the arm by big agri-business, but a resurgence in interest in healthy, locally-grown food is creating a new economy. Younger generations of “boutique farmers” are growing heirloom crops, hydroponic and aquaponic crops, and encouraging bio-diversity with enthusiasm. This seems to Williamsburg-centric hipsters to be something new, but really, it’s not. It’s been going on for generations, but the resurgent interest in it among city-dwellers is a leading indicator that the economic potential of this sector is huge.

2. I’m not sure where all the ultra-conservatives have gone, but daily, I meet genuinely nice people who take the time to make eye contact and say hello. Time seems to move at a slower pace in rural areas, and that provides opportunity for discussion and conversation with everyone from the person working at the bank or post office, to your next-door neighbors. I’m yet to meet anyone who seems truly scary… everyone is kind and polite, which is more than I can say for a lot of cities.

3. At one time, most of the country looked like this. Until we ruined it with cars. It’s pretty interesting to see the number of small towns that still exist, and learn the stories of these amazing places.

4. It’s really pretty. Every day on my 20 minute drive to and from the office, I drive rolling hills that are simply stunning. Sometimes it looks like Santa Fe, sometimes it looks like Austria, sometimes it looks like the Rockies, sometimes it looks like Vermont. More than once I have come home to be greeted by a universe of stars and planets, all visible with the naked eye. I have a field mouse that lives nearby, and deer that stop by and visit from time to time.

5. Radio Shack will be missed. It’s sad that big box America has abandoned rural America. Save for a few Wal*Mart stores, the pickings are pretty slim. Despite that, I have come to learn that Dollar General is the best store in America. They are everywhere and have everything. Surprisingly, it all tends to be decent quality stuff at fair price. I always sort of assumed that Dollar General was kind of trashy, but it’s really not. Again, everyone is always pretty friendly, and the stores are well stocked. Some are literally in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but fields. I pass about a dozen Dollar General stores on my weekly commute, so not only are they ubiquitous, but they’re convenient and quick too.

For rural America, the best is yet to come. I am even going to coin a new term to describe it… wait for it… hipster homesteading. I deeply believe that the hipster generation will “rediscover” rural America for the same reasons as our forbearers:  It’s a place where you can live, grow your own (healthy and organic) food, get a house and land for under $50,000. I estimate that this change has started to occur, but will hit critical mass in the next 15-20 years, around the time that many hipsters will flee cities in search for a “better” or “more meaningful” or “real” life, after running the rat race for a few years. With this resurgent interest will come the makers that will foster new business opportunities  and the critical mass that will make rural America the natural counterbalance to the great inversion. In the meanwhile, I’ll be here waiting in my tiny Airstream!