Sunrise in Templeton

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 26, 2017 7:47 PM

It is early this Sunday morning, three days after Thanksgiving 2017. The sky has brightened, drifting from dark to gray to a pale blue. Wispy clouds streak across in oranges, reds and purples. It’s amazing how much sunrise mirrors sunset. It’s softer though, more muted. Perhaps more promising. Maybe because it fades into sunshine as opposed to darkness. We’re leaving Templeton early. The clock on the dashboard of the Sport reads 6:32. We had set a time of departure for 6:30. We’re doing well.

As we drive across Santa Rita Road, towering oaks form a covered bridge above us. Fallen leaves have collected on either side. A deer walks through and bounds away as we approach. Yesterday Roy said he encountered a gaggle of wild turkeys, 50 or so, celebrating the fact that they made it another year without being someone’s dinner.

The house we always seem to stay in - this is our third time - isn’t far off the freeway but seems completely removed from m the world, nestled as it is among the trees. A creek is just below. A trickle of water exists now as there hasn’t been much rain. Across the creek, a hillside flows up. To the east are more trees and somewhere, the road. To the west, vineyards have been planted. In the gray light of this morning, under the canopy of oaks, the stakes and white conicals covering the new growth are barely visible, tiny ghosts in the sunrise. By summer, they’ll be spilling over with green leaves and green grape clusters. By next Thanksgiving, they’ll be covered in fall oranges, rusts and golds.

When we sit outside in the evenings, gatherings around the fire pit we can hear creatures scurrying. Somewhere there are squirrels and rabbits, raccoons and more deer. It’s far removed from any civilization which is why we love it. We know the vineyards are there, too. We dream of the wine to come.

As we drift across the narrow bridge and ease our way up to Vineyard where we’ll head east toward the freeway, the sky is already losing its color. Soon it will be, simply, blue. There are rolling banks of clouds in the distance. The weather app had said rain but I never saw any time when it was actually supposed to fall.

Another Thanksgiving weekend is ending. The journey toward Christmas begins. But first, we travel 750 miles toward home.

We’re leaving Templeton under a rising sun and a brightening sky. And thinking about how we lived it out loud.

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live out loud

Save the wine. Save the trip.

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 20, 2017 10:15 PM

A week ago today we went to California. We dropped Riley at the pet resort, a nicety that he didn’t seem to appreciate at all, and then peddled our way across the desert. We did this last summer, too. It’s become a new tradition. We go twice a year now, the other time being for Thanksgiving. Both trips involve Roy and Bobbi and a house we all rent together. For the summer trip, we always stay in LA overnight on Thursday, then get up to drive the remaining three hours to Paso on Friday morning. At Thanksgiving, we stay for four nights. During the summer, just two.

We arrived at our hotel just after 5, took a shower and then met Roy and Bobbi for dinner on the lake in Westlake Village. It was a lovely way to start our long weekend. 

By Friday at 11, we were at Rabbit Ridge, on the north west side of Paso. It’s one of our favorites and we’re members, as we are of at least five wineries in the area. Normally when we go wine tasting, we explore mostly new ones – wineries we haven’t yet visited – while also hitting maybe one or three of our favorites. This trip, Kevin decided it might be fun to do a greatest hits tour. So we were only going to visit our favorites, ones we’d already visited, ones where either we were members or Roy and Bobbi were. 

For the next two days we visited places like Zenaida and Niner, Barr, Sculpterra and Vina Robles. We close every wine tasting trip at Vina Robles. They have a members-only lounge where they have comfortable couches, pour all the wine you want and then some, and even serve gourmet appetizers. It’s probably the best wine in Paso, and while we always worry that one time it will finally disappoint us, it never does. 

We bought seven plus cases of wine on our trip. We had great conversations with great friends. We ate well; we slept well. We had fun. 

On Sunday morning, Kevin and I packed up the Sport and left at 6:30 a.m. We had an 11 hour drive ahead of us and we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour. Kevin drove the first part, just until we got to Calabasas where we were going to stop and get coffee and something to eat. I had a bit of writing to do that I needed to finish before the end of the day, so it worked well. I took over in Calabasas, and off we sped, across the Valley, through Burbank and Glendale, into Pasadena and then off into the desert. 

Before we left Arizona, Kevin and I had both noticed that the Sport’s AC didn’t seem to be as cool as it was before. We took it to the dealer and asked them to check it, telling them that we would be driving through the desert in July and really would need our air conditioning. They assured us that it was blowing cold; that all was good. 

And it was. It was fine on the trip on Thursday. It was great all through Paso Robles, and it was hot in Paso. High 90s/low 100s. And it was fine early on Sunday. But then, it seemed to get warmer in the car. We kept turning the temp down on the climate control and nothing happened. It became clear that the AC had stopped working at an optimum level. While it was still cooler in the car than outside, it was not comfortable. It was not right. And it was cooking our wine. 

Wine does not like to be in warm temperatures. It prefers about 58º, which is what our wine room is set to. On Sunday, we were hell and gone from that room. We got cranky, we started to fight. We knew that riding through the entire desert and into more desert would ruin the seven plus cases we had in the back. 

So, after screaming and yelling at each other, we exited the freeway in Blythe, California, a lovely hole of a town that we refer to as Blight, found a rite-aid and proceeded to buy five Styrofoam coolers and several bags of ice. In the parking lot, under intense sun, and horrendous heat, we opened our cases, distributed the wine into the coolers, poured ice over each, reloaded them into the back of the care, disposed of the broken case boxes, and climbed back into the Sport. I fired up the ignition. And voila, the AC was working.

Still, we saved the wine. Because if we hadn’t, it would have ruined the trip. We celebrated rite-aid last week, something we’ve never done previously and not sure we’ll do again, but they were there when we needed them. And when the wine needed them. And for that, we were and are very, very, very happy.

What vacation

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 27, 2016 7:21 PM

It always amazes me how quickly we return to our regularly scheduled lives, already in progress. We spent the last three full days in Paso Robles, on California’s central coast, cooking, visiting, hanging out, and of course, tasting wine. We arrived on Wednesday at 3 having left Tucson at the ridiculous hour of 4:30 am. We wanted to beat the traffic, or at least as much of it as possible, and for the most part we did. It got a little cranky as we made our way through Pasadena, and then again through Ventura along the coast but once we got past that snark and hiccup, we were fairly flying. 

We met Roy and Bobbi, our partners in all things wine, on the side of the road at the Vineyard exit. We hugged, and then we drove the rest of the way to the rental house, caravanning. Thus the adventure began. On Thursday, we went to one winery – believe it or not, four were open – and bought some wine for Thanksgiving. We cooked and had a meal that made us all want to curl up in a ball and sleep for a week. Luckily more wineries awaited on Friday and Saturday. 

We went to new places, as we always do, and found at least one new favorite in Ranchita Canyon. It’s small. But they make some lovely rich, dark reds. Reds with attitude. The kind of wine that puts hair on your chest. Our kind of wine. We bought a case and joined their wine club which gave us an automatic 25% off the case price. And because it was Black Friday, they were having everyone who purchased spin their wheel of fortune wheel for an additional percentage off. Yes, it was cheesy. But when I spun for an additional 25%, I didn’t think it was so dumb after all. 

We went to Rabbit Ridge and Graveyard, Villa San Juliette and J & J and Four Sisters. We bought wine at several and skipped the others. We went to our old favorites and proverbial stomping grounds: Niner, Vina Robles, Sculpterra. We tried another new winery on Saturday, Turley. A beautiful facility that specializes in Zinfandel. We’re not huge fans of Zin. Luckily they also had two Petite Sirahs.

And then, this morning came. Again, early, though not as bad as Wednesday. We got up close to 5:30 and after throwing some clothes on and brushing our teeth, hit the road for the long ride to Tucson just before 6. We wanted to beat the traffic, and we did, for the most part. After 10.5 hours, we pulled up our drive and into the garage. Home. 

We unloaded our six plus cases of assorted wines, as well as our suitcases. We unpacked quickly and put the suitcases away. The wine still waits outside the wine room door for entrance and sorting. We took showers, I started laundry. And now, as I type this, it’s just before 8 pm. I’m on my computer, working (and blogging). Kevin is at the eat-at bar, checking email. The football game is on. We settled back into our routines quickly and easily. Tomorrow, work begins with a vengeance. In some ways, it’s like the vacation never happened.

But it did, and as always, I am grateful. For friends, for wine; for great rental houses, for fun menus. For life. Let the holidays begin.

108 miles and not yet to Phoenix

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, November 23, 2016 6:48 AM

The first thing that happened was a text message at 12:17 am. We're selling our old artificial Christmas tree on Craig's List for $35 and there is evidently a desire for a six-foot tree in great condition. We didn't answer it because technically we were sleeping and conducting business regarding a used tree at that time of the morning/night is obscene.

At 3:15 I heard the hiss and snarl of the coffee maker as it finished brewing the 12 cups I'd asked it to make last night when we went to bed. I rolled over and clutched my pillow, balling it up under my head and snuggled in.

At 3:23 Kevin's alarm went off, a melodic song that always reminds me of Japan. He likes to set his alarm for strange times for reasons that I've never fully understood and he's never fully explained. I think he just likes to think he's being unpredictable. He sat up, reached for the phone and the chime was silenced.

At 3:30 my alarm went off, a chipper sound that belied the time of day. My ring tone for the alarm is more like a xylophone and way to happy for such an early hour. I sat up, turned it off, yawned, and said I miss my dog. 

Riley is in the kennel. We took him yesterday afternoon about 4:00. We've never left him in a kennel before. Last year, we left him at our vet's office. They board a very small number of animals and while it was fine, we didn't like that he was cooped up in a small room with no way to get outside to pee or poop. He had to wait for someone to come walk him. This year, we made a reservation at a traditional kennel with indoor/outdoor runs and we fretted about it the whole time. About a week and a half ago, Kevin stopped at another place near us, took a tour and came home to announce it was probably the nicest kennel he'd ever seen, also with indoor/outdoor runs. Plus the dogs are taken out into a little park type area every day to romp and play and sniff. Naturally they were booked but they put us on a waiting list. Yesterday, at about 11, they called. They had a cancellation and now had a run for Riley. It's a veterinary center which we like because our boy has anxiety issues. If something were to happen, if he gets too upset, they can help him. He was a nervous wreck when we took him in. It broke both of our hearts. We pick him up Monday morning. Until then, I'll call every day.

By 4:29, we pulled away from the house, the Sport loaded with suitcases and coolers. We reset the trip counter on the dash and started on our journey. We had a full tank of gas and hoped to average 22 miles per gallon. We didn't buy this car for its fuel efficiency. Last night Kevin checked all the fluids and the air in the tires. We scrubbed the windshield inside and out. We prepared.

It was dark and cold. The temp on the dash read 42. By the time we turned onto Catalina Highway it had dropped to 39 and a little snowflake appeared next to the numbers, the car's way of telling us it could snow soon. I reached over and turned on my seat warmer. Might as well have a hot butt, especially since we were both in shorts. At least I wore a sweatshirt.

The journey up the 10, then west through the desert and finally north along the ocean is 715 miles. 10 hours. 

The headlights lit our way. Kevin turned on the driving lights, too. Tonight we'll be in Templeton, just south of Paso Robles. We'll have pizza and wine. We'll sit outside by the fire pit or inside next to the fire. It's supposed to be cold there too. 

But first we needed to get to Phoenix. Phoenix always seems like the official launching pad. When we come home, it always signifies the start of the final leg.

I looked over at the dash. 108 miles. I could see the lights of Phoenix sparkling ahead. Ready, set, go for vacation.

The international travelall

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 19, 2016 10:19 PM

On Thursday night, after traveling through the desert all day, we arrived in Simi Valley. We had reserved a room in a Best Western, a brief respite in our journey up to Paso Robles. It’s a very long drive from Tucson and while we do it as Thanksgiving, we decided for this trip that it would be nice to break it up a bit. Even then, it was still 8 hours to the hotel.

I am a hotel snob as most who know me know well. I go away so seldom that when I do, and when it’s vacation, I want nice. If it’s just a place to lay my head, I don’t need five star. But I do want decent; I want clean. I don’t want to walk into a hotel room and feel like I can’t take my shoes off for fear of what lives in the carpet. The Best Western we stayed at was actually quite lovely. We arrived and they were serving wine and cheese in the lobby. We helped ourselves to a glass of wine each and walked to find our room. It was in the back, off of the main road and away from the pool so it was relatively quiet.

After we inspected the room and sipped a bit of wine, we went back to get the car. The spot we found near the room was right next to a very old, turquoise-colored station wagon, something from before station wagons were all the rage in the 1970s. This was probably from the 50s, maybe the 60s. 

It was very low to the ground, like it had been lowered no doubt for an enhanced cool factor. But the paint was dull, and there was rust along with wheel wells. A small visor jutted out over the the front windshield and another over the back window. It had four doors, bench seats in the front and the back, and white wall tires. It was fascinating. Not necessarily attractive but definitely distinct. I made brief mention of it. Something along the lines of “look at that car.” This usually leads to a bit of an education from my husband as to what it is. While I’m a car person, and know quite a bit about current cars, or at least cars from the 70s forward, I know little about anything preceding. I know what I like – the big gangster like cars from the 40s, with the big wheel covers and lots of chrome – but I don’t usually know what they are until I’m right on top of them and can see an emblem. Kevin knows what they are from a far. 

We took our stuff and went inside for the night. The next morning, the car was gone, and I didn’t give it a second thought. 

Today, we were on our way back down the 101 from Paso Robles, heading south and then east into the inferno. The traffic started to bunch up right outside of Santa Barbara and down into Ventura. There were sporadic pockets of not bad, but then it came to a screeching halt. We were close to the 126 east so we made a fast decision to jump on that to avoid the traffic that would no doubt get worse the closer we got to LA. Because LA. 

So there we were, cruising along the 126, through Santa Paula, heading toward Fillmore, and there it was, putting along. The same turquoise car, with the same white wall tires.

“Hey!” I said. “Isn’t that they same car from Thursday night?” 

“It is,” my husband concurred. “I think it’s an international travelall.”

There was a youngish couple inside, sitting very low to the ground. The windows were down – I’m sure they didn’t have air conditioning and if the car ever did, it ceased to work a long time ago. This was not not one of those old cars that’s been kept in pristine condition. This was a car that is all original, save the tires. It had character.

I laughed. What are the odds of seeing the exact same car again – because there can’t possibly be two – within days? In Los Angeles. There was something weirdly serendipitous about it. Perhaps it was us in a former life. Or us in a future life. Regardless, we waved as we went by and they waved back.  

I smiled as they faded to a speck in the side view mirror. It was, somehow, a perfect way to end the weekend, seeing the same old car we’d seen at the beginning of our trip. It was a sign, of what I don’t know, but it had to be something to celebrate.

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live out loud

Something about sitting in an Adirondack chair looking out over rolling hills and vineyards

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 18, 2016 6:52 PM

We took our coffee, the first of the morning, and went to sit. The trees were rustling in the breeze, birds were arguing good-naturedly, somewhere a tractor did what tractors do. I heard a dog bark. From inside the house, music. It might have been Eva Cassidy. I found out later it was someone named Lisa Tingle. Roy has a great collection of music. He is our designated disc jockey.

A lizard squirted by, black and scaly, a miniature version of an alligator. 1:100 in scale. Probably more. Or less.

Kevin was walking in the field below though it wasn't much of a field anymore. It's been plowed and staked. New vines will be going in soon. Ever the would-be vintner, he was looking for tips, maybe for validation. He had a cup of coffee with him. A hawk soared above.

Roy was off somewhere taking pictures. Bobbi was still in bed. I was sitting in the back. I had turned one of the old, weathered and nearly broken Adirondack chairs toward the sun, feeling it warm my legs.

This is a different house for us. The past two trips, we've stayed in a two-bedroom guest house in the J & J Vineyards. We fell in love with the space, with sitting out on the porch in the morning, having coffee, overlooking the vineyards. Kevin and I often were up before Roy and Bobbi and we’d go for a walk. Last November, it was cold. We walked anyway, crunching through the vineyard, finding passed-over clusters of grapes. Cold.

But that house, for whatever reason, isn't available anymore. We had to find something new, equally interesting and obviously different. When you get used to a place and really like it, it's harder to change. Bobbi and I want back and forth, comparing places, locations, amenities, and finally decided on Homestead Hill off of Kiler Canyon. We arrived last night near 6 pm. It's definitely different, atop a hill rather than snuggled in and amongst vines. I didn't like it at first; I was disappointed. I don't know why. I think just because it’s new and different.

We made dinner; we relaxed. We went to bed. The windows were open in our rooms. We listened to the crickets and the quiet of the night. We felt the cool air drift over us. We woke up to the birds and the rustling leaves.

I sat with my coffee in my Adirondack chair, my feet on the edge of the dormant fire pit, peering out at the world through my Maui Jims. It had been cool when I came out but the sun started to warm the day. A heat wave starting. It will be all over the west. 

The house is growing on me.

The sun was comforting, comfortable, the day just beginning; beckoning. The vineyards glistened next to the dried brush. It was glorious. A perfect morning beginning a perfect day.

Sitting in an Adirondack chair.

The long road ahead

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 29, 2015 9:05 PM

One of our favorite things to do is go wine tasting. We are people of limited interests and for the most part we're fine with that. We don't travel very often; it's not really our thing. We're home bodies and with the new house, it's a bit like being on vacation every day, albeit a working vacation.

When we do travel, we prefer to drive and we almost always set a destination for wine country. We have been to Napa Valley; we've done day trips to Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez. We've been to Paso Robles now at least four times. Bobbi and I think it's five but for some reason we can only come up with four places.

Paso Robles is located in the Central Coast of California. Not at all on the water but close enough to get there for the day if you so desire. We don't desire. We like to drive into the nooks and crannies, twisting along impossibly narrow roads, watching for deer, watching that we don't get too close to the edge because there are no guard rails and in some cases, the road drops off steeply.

In late November, the grapes have been picked. The only thing remaining is the occasional cluster, shriveled, covered in frost in the morning. The vines though are the colors of fall. The mornings are cold, the days cool, the people in the wineries lovely and the wine interesting. Sometimes it's exquisite, other times it's merely good and not good enough to buy. Those wines at those wineries are just as much fun. Often we like them so much we wish their wines were better. Oh, that wishing made it so.

For two days we visited wineries, some incredible, others merely fine. We tasted, we talked. We laughed and learned about wine. We know quite a bit but we always discover something we were unaware of. That, the company and the beauty of the area, combined to make it a great trip, one we now do at least once a year. One we look forward to. We’ve already started talking about next year.

This morning, the alarm went off at 6. I had already been awake for 35 minutes or so. It was cold, 25º outside. We had a gas fireplace in our room that works on a remote. Kevin turned it on to take the chill off before we got up. It was time to pack and make the journey home; to hit the road.

Somehow Kevin made room in the car for our suitcases, nestling them in and amongst the several cases of wine we bought. We gulped down some coffee, hugged our good friends and bid a fond farewell to Paso Robles. We'll be back.

The road stretched ahead of us. It was a long way home but after a great weekend, it was but a small price to pay for the working vacation that awaits.

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live out loud

Rental cars and stuff

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 25, 2014 9:30 PM

On Thursday, Thanksgiving, we’re embarking on a road trip. About a 10 hour road trip.

Pause while Pam cleans up the coffee she just spit out of her mouth.

We’re driving to Paso Robles, on the central coat of California, to go wine tasting. It’s the first vacation we’ve had in a while, at least two years and perhaps more. We’ve been away but it was mostly to visit family. The last vacation we had may have been the long weekend we spent in Paso when I turned 50. That was nearly three years ago.

We rented a car today to make the trip. We did this for a number of reasons. First, it’s cheaper. Our Range Rover weighs nearly 6000 pounds and thus doesn’t get great gas mileage. It also takes only premium gas which is more expensive. A rental car takes cheaper gas, and because it’s a car, not an SUV and thus lighter, it gets better mileage. We rented a 2015 Nissan Altima. It gets 38 mph, about 600 miles per tank.

Second, it’s less wear and tear on our car. And since it’s cheaper why put the miles on our tires? Why put the miles on our oil? Why put our car out there in the elements when it can stay safely behind and we spend less money?

The car is, coincidentally, the same color as our Rover. A deep metallic red. The interior is black, also like the Rover’s, only this interior is cloth. It doesn’t have satellite, but we have cell phones we can hook up to the aux and listen to internet radio.

On Sunday, we downloaded the Tunein app so that we can tune into the Bears/Lions game on Thursday and the Packers/Patriots game on Sunday. We have all of our cords.  We have our USB cigarette-lighter, 12V plug. Everything works; we’re ready. Let the listening and road-tripping begin.

We’re doing laundry tonight. Tomorrow I’ll make the twice-baked potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. We have everything else we’re in charge of as well, including pears, cranberries and goat cheese. We have rolls. And packets of gravy in case we need it. We have snacks for the road. We don’t do fast food when we travel. We try to eat healthy. So I have ham and cheese to do rollups. I have raisins and grapes. We’ll take water.

Cooper will need to be packed, but he should be pleased to have the entire back seat to himself. We might take up some room on the floor, but he doesn’t use the floor anyway. He’ll be able to get in more easily because the car is very low to the ground, much lower than I would have thought. He should just be able to step in and up, settle himself down on the blankets we’ll put on the seat and watch the desert go by.

We have a rental car. Tomorrow it will be full of stuff. Thursday we’ll leave around 6 am. Can’t wait.

25 days

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 1, 2014 8:45 PM

Once upon a time, the countdown to how many shopping days until Christmas started around the first part of December and progressed at a frenetic level until it became like a countdown for a rocket launch: Uh oh, 5. No, 4. OMG, 3. You are so screwed 2. And fuggedaboutit 1. Now along comes Overstock, a website that I’ve been frequenting lately because I’ve been able to find some amazing things for the house at equally amazing prices. They have a Countdown to Black Friday 2014 clock. As of right now it says:

26 days : 14 hours : 33 minutes

I love this time of year and can I just pause right now to be among the first to wish you, dear readers, happy holidays. I’ve written before about my love of the season, how I adore the music (as long as it’s more along the jazzy side) and the movies. I love the weather; I even love shopping, something I don’t love at any other time during the year.

But a countdown clock to Black Friday? Come. On.

This is why many get disgusted. The commercialization of Christmas and the holidays in general gets more and more out of control every year. The build up becomes such that you almost can’t help but be let down when Christmas day rolls around and everything is over by 2 pm.

Years ago, my mother used to get very into Christmas. She would spend so much time preparing for the holidays. Shopping, baking cookies. She even used to do her own Christmas cards. She loved to decorate the house, and especially loved to decorate once we moved to New England where more traditional exterior lights are not just the norm, but dictated by town ordnance. In New England, and especially in Amherst where my mother lives, everyone puts white candle lights in their windows. Rarely do you see lights strung along the rafters, but if you do, it’s done in good taste. Those lights are often white as well. Wreaths made from the fallen bows of pines and wired with pine cones that have also fallen adorn the doors. It’s very Normal Rockwell. You half expect to see a horse drawn sleigh going through downtown.

What you actually see are Volvos and Range Rovers, with lots of horses under the hood.

By the time Christmas afternoon appeared, she would start to get down. By evening, she’d be depressed. The Christmas’ never quite lived up to Rockwell’s imagination. She finally came to the realization that no one lives like a Rockwell painting, and from then on, she’s been fine.

We have long set our own traditions. Living out west, we’re rarely with family so we’ve made our own west coast family and it’s populated with our closest friends. Justin has always been home, and we always have a lovely Christmas morning, and then usually go to Roy and Bobbi’s for dinner. The next day we go wine tasting. It’s a way to extend the holiday.

This year, Roy and Bobbi are coming to spend it with us. We’re so excited. It will be a new tradition; one we hope to continue.

And at Thanksgiving, all of us are going to Paso Robles to go wine tasting. This is a new adventure, too. For years, we always had Thanksgiving at our house, where all the “stray dogs” – people who didn’t have family, or who had family they didn’t care to be with – would come. This year, we leave on Thanksgiving morning to drive to the Central Coast of California. Have a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner, and start wine tasting on Friday and Saturday. It will be Kevin and I (and Cooper), Roy and Bobbi, and Diane and Gene. The perfect holiday.

So we won’t even be around for Black Friday. Overstock’s clock will continue to tick down (26 days: 14 hours : 16 minutes) and rather than frantically shopping, we’ll be enjoying good friends. In 25 days. And on Black Friday, we’ll make it Red Wine Day. That’s living it out loud in holiday style.

Having a wonderful. Wish you were.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 16, 2013 9:47 PM

I was born and raised in the Northeast. The furthest south I got was Maryland where we lived for my freshman year of high school. We spent almost a year there, but it wasn’t far enough south that we didn’t get snow. In fact, if memory serves, we got quite a bit of snow. One of my closest friends still lives there and she regales me with snowdrift tales on a regular basis.

Most of high school was spent in New Hampshire, and by the time I went to college, I was starting to get a bit tired of the brutal New England winters, which of course explains why I went to the University of New Hampshire. UNH is located in the small town of Durham, in the southeastern part of the state, nearly on the border of southern Maine. We spent many nights and weekends playing in the bars of Portsmouth, the gateway into Maine, and a lovely little town. It’s often called the San Francisco of the northeast. It’s right on the Atlantic, has hills that rise and fall – though none as steep as those in the City by the Bay – and has fabulous places to eat. Many days were spent on the rock-crusted, cold-even-in-summer beaches.

My winters at UNH were spent trying to keep my boots dry and my feet warm as I trudged through snow and slush to class, slipping on hidden ice and generally cursing whatever gods were responsible. I graduated on a Saturday in May of 1984, with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Creative Writing, and left exactly one week later to drive myself across the country.

All my life I knew I wanted to be out West, so I pointed my 1979 Toyota Celica hatchback in the direction of Southern California. It didn’t occur to me to go anywhere in between. While I wanted to get out of New England, I didn’t want to be too far from an ocean; I just preferred an ocean that lapped at a warmer coastline.

I have a soft spot for the last remnants of waves as they spill onto the sand after first crashing with authority onto the water just off shore. That part of the wave is angry, but all of its bluster is gone when it finally inches onto land where some of it sinks into already saturated sand and the rest is pulled back out to sea. It’s one of the most soothing sights and sounds on this earth.

Recently I was invited to post some of my past blog meanderings on the Dwellable travel site. It was there that I discovered their new app for iPhone and iPad, of which I have both. So I downloaded it for fun, not expecting much other than the usual type-in-what-you’re-looking-for-and-wait-for-the-site-to-find-it, if it exists. I touched the icon on my iPhone and immediately I was treated to lapping waves on the sand, spilling clear and beautiful, one after the other. I smiled. This app had me at hello.

I’m not much of an app fiend. I only download the ones that I think I really need, like a flashlight app and Houzz, though I can’t say I absolutely positively need Houzz. It’s more of a fun app. With Dwellable I also have a very cool app, one that travels the country much like I once did.

For years now, whenever we go anywhere, Kevin and I find a house or condo to stay in rather than a hotel, with few exceptions, Chicago being one. We always stay at The Fairmont. I have nothing against hotels; I just like having a kitchen. Also, I like the quiet of a house versus shared, noisy hallways at 2 am. When Justin was young and we traveled to Hawaii (twice) and Mexico (twice), we found condos to rent. Our reasoning was simple: it was easier and cheaper to get up in the morning and make breakfast “at home.” We could also easily pop back for lunch and snacks. When we went to Maine several summers ago with my sister’s family, we rented cabins. When Kevin and I have gone wine tasting, up to Napa Valley as well as to Paso Robles, we always rent a house because we taste wine all day, which is tiring. The last thing we want to do is go out for dinner, so we buy food at the local grocery and cook. It’s the perfect night to a perfect day.

Dwellable offers homes, condos and guesthouses for rent in cities and towns from Maine to San Diego, even Hawaii. Their new app allows for finding those dwellings even when you’re on the road. It couldn’t be easier.

Atop the lapping waves is a simple search box that asks “where are you going?” Type in a destination and see what they have available. I put in Napa Valley since I was in the mood for a little wine and a number of offerings instantly appeared, neatly organized, with a picture, a price and rental name. I clicked on one called Wine Taster’s Estate because I’m a snob and I got a new page with pictures, amenities, a phone number and a website to visit should I require more information. The app has a dateboard to show availability for where and when you want to stay, a photo link and a map feature that shows exactly where your rental choice is located within the city/area you’ve chosen.

Unfortunately, Dwellable doesn’t have maps for all locations. They also don’t have a dateboard for all locations, especially for those that are new. It would be nice to have that feature, but at least the app is contrite about it, saying “Sadly, we don’t know the exact map location for any of these rentals.” It is sad. But not a deal breaker.

It’s easy to navigate and very fast. I kept touching Home just so I could go back to the waves. My only wish was that there was sound. Oh, well. Maybe on the next version. Still, it made me want to go somewhere, anywhere, to get away. Maybe back to Maui, something on Wailea, where the turquoise blue water fades to clear as it kisses the white sand. I have a rum and pineapple in my hand, the sun is warm, the breeze tickles and the Pacific is endless.

Having a wonderful. Wish you were … 

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