Tracking fitness

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 6, 2016 10:19 PM

Justin is a gadget guy. He has an iPhone 6S 128 GB, an iPad Air 128 GB, an Android tablet, an Amazon Prime tablet and a laptop computer. He has all kinds of charging stations and cords; he has these nifty bags that fit within his travel bags that compress his clothes. He has cool things for shaving or, when he’s not working, trimming his beard. He has tools that transform into 18 tools in one. He has water bottles that are magical. His watch tells time in different time zones. His fitness tracker tracks his every movement, both on his wrist and via Bluetooth and the app he has on his iPad and iPhone. He has gadgets. 

I’ve always liked bells and whistles. It’s one of the reasons I remain so enamored with my Range Rover. Lots of buttons and computer read-outs on my dashboard. It tells me when the bonnet is open, when the tires are low, when the lights are out, when the lights are on, when the windshield wiper fluid is low, what’s playing on the satellite radio and who’s singing it. When we moved into the house, we had to choose all new appliances (of course), which because they’re all new, they’re gadget heavy. The washer and dryer is particularly heavy on bells. You can dial in any number of settings depending on what’s being washed and then dried. Tap water to hot on the washer, fluff dry to high dry on the dryer, cotton, sheets and towels, mixed loads, bulky items. 

For Christmas this past year, Justin decided he was going to get Kevin and I some gadgets, namely in the form of fitness trackers. Kevin has long had a pedometer but we don’t use it anymore. I don’t know why. I think the battery died and we never got around to replacing it. 

We walk. We ellipticize. Kevin works in the yard; I work in the house. We try to keep ourselves active and healthy. But we no longer have a way of tracking our steps every day. We don’t know what our pulse rate is at any given time, except when we’re on the elliptical. 

There is a website called Lumoid where you can choose five different types of fitness trackers and try them out for two weeks. Justin and I went on the site the other day and I chose five, no easy task when there are seemingly dozens from which to choose. I didn’t particularly know what I was doing; I just knew what I thought I wanted and what I didn’t necessarily care about. Like a sleep tracker. I already know I don’t sleep well; I don’t need something on my wrist to tell me that. Plus, I don’t wear any jewelry at night so it would do me even less good that no good. 

My five came on Friday. Today, I picked out one, with a fairly big face because I thought that’s what I’d like because I can’t see without my glasses so I figured I could track my fitness more easily. It took me an hour to figure out how it worked and to get it set. By the time I strapped it to my wrist, I was a little irritated. It shouldn’t be this hard. I wore it all day. It tracked my steps and my heart rate. I didn’t like it, though. I didn’t like the face. It was too big and yet the info on the screen was too small. I have another one that is even bigger and I’ve decided I probably don’t want it either. It’s clunky and chunky. And I don’t like the look of it. 

When Justin first got into these things, he was using a Jawbone. But he didn’t like it. He switched to a Fitbit and is now on his second or third one. It’s always on his right wrist while his watch is on his left. He loves it. 

Tomorrow I’ll choose another and try it, see if its bells and whistles are any easier to hear and see. And the next day, I’ll try another, and another after that, and another after that. At the end of the week, I’m supposed to make a decision as to what I like and what I don’t. If I don’t, I think we can order more from Lumoid but I don’t really want to do that either. Choosing from five is plenty. Besides it will be Kevin’s turn. He can choose five and have them shipped and then we have all of his new ones to try. 

In the end, we get to have some sort of fitness tracking device, one that fits our lifestyle. I would also like it to be one that looks good as well as tracks good. I want to keep track of my pulse rate, of my footsteps, of my calories burned.

Bells and whistles, and now gadgets. I’m tracking it all out loud.

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live out loud

Mansionification that makes sense

by Lorin Michel Friday, November 20, 2015 6:34 PM

Our friends Diane and Gene lived in an area of the San Fernando Valley that had lovely older homes, Spanish haciendas and bungalows that had been built in the 1920s when the Valley was still mostly Orange Groves and Los Angeles’ population was less than 600,000. Several times a year, we would all congregate at their house, for birthday parties or just to sit on the back porch, listening to the gurgle of the pool and the tweet of the birds. Diane is an animal rescue activist and in addition to their now three dogs and two cats, there were always rescues. The last few years they tended to be mothers and puppies pulled from shelters before euthanasia.

For years, they had Christmas parties, an open house affair that was always on a Sunday afternoon. We’d go in the later part of the day, fighting our way across the Valley on the 101, exiting on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, just before the Hollywood split, and heading north. We’d travel past all of the strip malls, apartment houses, side by side with dozens of cars. We’d turn on Califa and about half a mile in or so, on the left, there was the house, always with a wreath, minimal decorations outside. Inside, though, there was a lovely tree in the Spanish-tiled entrance way. Two steps up and we were in the main part of the house where music would be playing, dogs would be mingling and people would be laughing and talking. In the kitchen, along with a table filled with delightful finger foods, Diane had a crock pot of mulled wine. I don’t like mulled wine and yet I couldn’t get enough of it at Christmas. The parties were almost always within about a week of the 25th. We remember those parties fondly. I’m sure Diane and Gene do as well. 

Several years ago, their lovely older neighborhood started to experience a disease that has plagued many parts of the Valley. People would come in and buy these lovely older homes, homes with character, red tile and a Spanish heritage. Within weeks, they would have the building completely razed and in its place would rise a big, horribly out of place box of a house. A house that was always too big for the tiny lots California is known for. A house that wanted to be a mansion. It is known as mansionification and it’s a terrible thing to witness.

In October, Diane and Gene, having sold their lovely Spanish home, moved. They hoped the new owner wouldn’t succumb to the malady of new rather than old, big just to be big. So far he hasn’t. The new owner is a musician like Gene. In fact, one of the things he liked best about the house was the separate music studio. When it was Gene’s it was filled with guitars and pianos and recording equipment. 

I speak with Diane regularly. They’re now living, temporarily, in the mountains and will eventually move to Oregon. She is as happy and content as I’ve ever heard her. She doesn’t miss the cacophony that is LA, or the mansionification of their neighborhood. They’re happy to leave it behind.

I bring all of this up because I came across something today that I think actually validates the idea of mansionification: luxury dog houses. Lavish houses built in the style of the Bauhaus, though known for dogs as the Bowhaus because of course it is. Manufactured in the Bauhaus approach to design, it identifies the dog’s needs, usually simple, and then creates a dwelling to accommodate them. There’s a Victorian dog house for three complete with hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings and a white picket fence. 

There’s a farmhouse and a log cabin, complete with a dog-sized hot tub, a ranch house and a Frank Lloyd Bite house that was actually designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956 as Wright was designing the famed Guggenheim in New York.

My personal favorite is the mobile Air Stream, no doubt because of my ongoing fascination with Air Stream. There’s also a Spanish style hacienda, though it’s known as a Haciendawg complete with terra cotta flooring, a red-tiled roof and a $30,000 price tag.

It’s all part of a new movement called Barkitecture. It’s sweeping the nation, forever making us forget about the dog houses of old. Those are so passé. These new doggie mansions are what today’s pampered, spoiled, gentrified dog really needs. I suspect, though, that like people before them, they will tire of the big to be big idea and begin to long for a simpler life. One where they can simply curl up in their bed, in front of the fire or in the bedroom of their puppy parents, and wile away the day. Snoring it out loud.

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live out loud

oh the carnage

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 12, 2015 7:44 PM

We have had three dogs. Regular readers know all of them fairly well. Dogs make for easy blog posts because they are such characters. Each has an individual personality. Like people, no two are exactly alike. They all like to eat different things, they’re all afraid of different things. There are some similarities. They all like to go for walks, or at least all of ours have liked that. They like going in the car to varying degrees. They like toys. More to the point, they like to destroy toys.

When Maguire was a puppy, before we knew better, we often bought him rubber-plastic toys. He loved them. Within 30 minutes, he had loved them so much they were in little rubber-plastic pieces on the floor next to him, the squeaker carefully deposited on top of the pile. Then he’d sit there and smile at us, so proud of the carnage he’d inflicted. It was as if he was saying: “look what I did, mom. Isn’t it great? Thanks so much for that guy. Please, can I have another?”

Paging Oliver Twist.

As he got older, we gave him plush toys. These didn’t fare much better. He would grasp these guys between his two massive paws and pick at them with his teeth, trying to dislodge a thread. As soon as he had a thread he would pull on it and pull on it until it unraveled a seam. Stuffing! He would systematically pull the stuffing out one mouthful at a time, depositing it in piles on either side of him. The once plush toy was reduced to a mere shell of its former self. We used to re-stuff the toys and put them in the hospital. The hospital was the top of the refrigerator where re-stuffed toys waited to be sewn up. After two or three trips to the hospital, the toy would be properly buried in the trash can. 

Cooper did much the same, though since he was older when we got him he had a bit more self-control. He would still work his guys, chewing on them, pulling to find that elusive thread. And once found, the same process would begin. A hole would open, and stuffing would be pulled out and deposited. It often looked as if a small snowstorm had happened just around him. By then, we’d closed the hospital. If he destroyed a toy, it got thrown out. Sooner or later a new toy appeared. He had several toys at any given time, so he was never without and he rarely went from destroying one to immediately destroying another. 

Enter Riley Michel. 

Oh, the carnage. Like those who came before, he loves his guys. Like those who came before, he will work a guy until he finds that one loose and offending thread and then he will pull until it opens and he can systematically dig out the stuffing. If he finds a squeaker or a rattle along the way, all the better. It’s like bonus carnage. 

What carnage?

Lately he’s been on a true tear. Just this week we have had to “bury” – and by bury I mean toss in the trash – Joe, a camouflage dinosaur that my mother brought him; Beav, a very dapper beaver that Roy and Bobbi brought him; Bear, a supposedly tougher toy that I bought him from Ace Hardware; and Cow, several tennis balls with a thick rope going through and a stuffed head and tail.

We have tried to explain to him that if he destroys all of his guys in one week, he’s going to be a very lonely boy. And that if he thinks I’m going to go out and buy more toys, well … he’s absolutely right but probably not until this weekend. 

As I write this, there is another guy in the foyer. Santa Bone. Santa Bone was Cooper’s and we just recently discovered him in a box. Riley took to Santa right away, and vice versa. But the attraction has turned violent. There is carnage. Everywhere. Again. 

This is the legacy my boys share. Their love and the eventual destruction of their guys. But as Kevin pointed out with Riley, they’re his guys. I worry though that he may be pathological. He may be a serial guy destroyer. I wonder if there’s a program he can join. What’s a puppy mom to do? Except buy more toys and expect more carnage. Like Cooper and Maguire before him, it’s Riley’s way of living it out loud. 

The simple joy of a conversation with my husband over a glass of wine

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 10, 2015 10:00 PM

Last night, Kevin and I went to the movies. We caught a late afternoon/early evening showing of The Martian and thoroughly enjoyed it. We’re very particular about the films we choose to see in the theater. Most of those released don’t interest us enough to take the time or spend the money to see and so we wait for Netflix. It’s a system that works well for us. But we spent both the time and the money yesterday and it was well worth it. The film was great. 

As we often do after seeing a movie we enjoy, we talk about it. I suppose it’s something most people do, but I never did that with my first husband. He and I didn’t talk about much of anything so I guess that’s not so hard to believe. Kevin and I talk about everything. We enjoy talking. We enjoy hearing each other’s point of view. We enjoy going deep into a conversation. 

Often when we leave a film, we’re quiet. When that happens, we know we both enjoyed it. We’re thinking. We’re replaying certain scenes in our minds. As we walk to the car, fingers intertwined, one of us will say “so, what did you think?” and the other will start to nod and grin and counter with “I thought it was great. You?” It doesn’t matter who starts or who responds. It’s almost interchangeable. We already know. But we need to start talking about it because we each liked it and there’s so much we want to discuss; to find out what the other thought of that scene, or “What do you think that meant?’

I’m sure most people do the same. But it’s in our nature to dissect. We become hyper-focused. We think almost too much. We reach into the far corners to see what we can come up with.

We did it when we saw Cast Away. We were both very moved by that film, especially by its both blatant and subtle symbolism. I’ve written about that before, here

The Martian, in some ways, was Cast Away in space. Except it wasn’t. There wasn’t really any symbolism. There were just obstacles, and the sheer will to figure out how to survive. In that way, Cast Away may have been the stronger of the films. But The Martian was sheer, experiential fun. It was a ride. We loved it from the beginning. The unsentimentality of it. The old-fashioned story telling aspect of it. It didn’t rely on special effects. Even though it was set in space, it was remarkably grounded in good old-fashioned science. Mars just happened to be the backdrop. And what a spectacular backdrop it was. Jordan’s Wadi Rum provided the location. It was exquisite and completely believable as the surface of Mars.

Last night, we sat at the table having a light dinner, a nice salad. And a bottle of wine that had just arrived from the California Wine Club, a blend called Sunset Red from a winery called Burnside Road. We talked more about the film, about the actors, about the landscape; about the fun and intelligence of the story. We laughed as we recounted some of the lines, like “They’re launching me into space in a convertible.”

As I listened to Kevin laugh, I thought how wonderful that after all these years we still do this, that we will enjoy each other, that we’d rather be with just us than just about anyone else. It’s rare; it’s delightful. It’s one of the great joys of my life, to sit and talk with my husband while we sip wine and watch the twinkle of the city lights. It’s the very definition of living it out loud.

Little things like strawberry buttermilk pancakes

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 4, 2015 8:38 PM

I am not a pancake person. I always think they’re heavy, that they just sit in your stomach forever and make you feel fat. But every once in awhile they seem to be just what’s needed. Such was the case this morning. We woke up early, as is the norm these days as we don’t yet have window coverings and are seriously considering never having them. We had a bit of coffee, then went for a walk. It’s the first Saturday we’ve had in over a year and a half when we didn’t have anything we absolutely had to get accomplished. We have unpacking to do, sure; and I had to go to the grocery store since we’re getting low on just about everything. But nothing was urgent. It was about stuff we wanted to do.

After our walk, we trudged up our very steep drive – we’re going to be in great shape in a month or so – and decided we were hungry. I always make a big breakfast on Sundays. It’s become a bit of a tradition, with some sort of egg dish, turkey bacon or chicken sausage, fruit, coffee. Kevin sometimes makes Bloody Marys. But as it was Saturday, and I still wanted to do eggs tomorrow, we decided to make pancakes.

Two years ago for Christmas my mom sent a care package. It was filled with a number of goodies from New Hampshire, including the best caramel corn we’ve ever had (we’ve reordered it several times) and a buttermilk pancake mix. As I said, I’ve never been big on pancakes. That was a Kevin and Justin thing. Many times when Justin was growing up and had a buddy or two sleep over, Kevin would man the kitchen the morning after to whip up some of Dad’s World Famous Pancakes. I would sit quietly in the other room with coffee and the newspaper. Let the boys have their time and gluttony together.

Perhaps my aversion to pancakes stems for the Infamous Parker’s Pancake Incident that my mother often recounts but that I have chosen not to recall. Evidently when I was a senior in high school and my Aunt Barbara was visiting, we all decided to go to a pancake place in New Hampshire called Parker’s Maple Barn. I don’t really remember Parker’s but I have heard over the years that they are located in Mason, some half hour or so from where we lived in Amherst, and that they make a mean breakfast, and specifically pancakes.

Being a teenager I was surly to begin with. I hated going anywhere with my family, especially early on a Sunday morning (which was probably closer to 11) and evidently I was missing my boyfriend. I hadn’t heard from him, and I was being taken away from the phone and so I behaved badly. To the point where everyone piled back into the car, took me home and then all returned – sans the offensive one – to have pancakes.

There’s a reason I’ve chosen not to remember the Infamous Parker’s Pancake Incident. If I did, I would be mortified. As it is, I’m horribly embarrassed.

So pancakes and I have history and it’s not pretty. Nevertheless, this buttermilk pancake mix that my mother sent and has re-sent several times, is killer. Light, fluffy, lovely. While Kevin was working in his office, I started breakfast. I mixed up the batter which only needs water but if you want them extra fluffy, calls for one egg as well. We had some strawberries so I sliced some up and mixed them in. Melted some butter on the griddle, got some syrup warming, some sausages sizzling, and proceeded to make pancakes. They weren’t Mom’s World Famous, and definitely a far cry from Dad’s but they weren’t bad.

Parker’s might even let me back into the building should I ever choose to show my face there again. Because after all this time I've realized, it's the little things in life that are sometimes worth celebrating the most. 

Working without a net

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 5, 2015 9:28 PM

As so often happens, I was having a conversation with Bobbi today. As rarely happens, it was actually a voice conversation. Usually we only speak through our fingers, on iChat. We can talk almost as quickly when we type our thoughts as when we converse them, and based on a little detour our talk took today, maybe better.

I’m working on a book project with Bobbi and several other therapists. It’s still in the starting phase, meaning we only have a strong outline, the dedication and the introduction. It’s about a topic that I am not educated on, and so I require information gathering meetings. I have been studying power point presentations and reading what has been sent my way. Today, I had questions and Bobbi had some time at 1:15 so we got on the phone to chat a bit.

I was asking, she was answering. We were tossing ideas back and forth, a game of word tennis, a great volley. And then, suddenly, Bobbi stopped. What’s wrong? I asked.

“I was going to say something,” she said. “Something really profound, relevant. A great idea.”

…OK? I asked.

“And it’s gone. Flew right out of my head. There should be a box or something to catch it.”

I laughed and then proceeded to tell her that the admission made feel strangely more together. Because that happens to me constantly. I’m in the middle of a sentence and I lose the thread. I’m talking about something to someone and suddenly, what I was about to say, that profound bit of wisdom, the incredibly creative idea, is inexplicably gone. Disappeared. Like in the cartoons when someone is vanquished and they go up in a pffft of nothingness. One minute they’re there, the next second they’re not. It’s like they’ve never existed and in fact, they didn’t really exist. Words come out of your mouth but they can’t be seen. Words typed on a word document can be, but words yet to be typed have never been there so there’s no way to prove that they were even once in my head.

I said that I preferred a net to try to catch my errant thoughts. The problem, of course, is that I rarely have a net. So my ideas, my thoughts, my wildly inventive possibilities disappear into the ether.

The first few times I noticed it happening I was sure I was losing my mind, sure I was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. I’ve since decided I just have too much going on, too much in my brain, too many things that I have to think about it. That I am often working without a net. Strangely, I’m just fine with that. And today, knowing that my bestest buddy suffers from the same malady, I’m also celebrating it. When you work without a net anything can happen. It could be exciting because when the thoughts and ideas reappear, as they inevitably do, it’s like experiencing something new all over again. That’s just one of the definitions of living it out loud.

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live out loud

I don’t know how to feel

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, January 21, 2015 9:28 PM

Friends and family know what I big football fan I am, in general and of the Patriots in particular. There are other teams I like, of course. I like the Bears because of marriage. I never thought one way or another about them other than when I disliked them intensely in 1985. That was the year they demolished my Patriots in the Super Bowl. It was embarrassing.

I like the Green Bay Packers, the New Orleans Saints. I don’t usually mind the Seahawks. I used to love the 49ers but I haven’t for a long time. Most teams I don’t care particularly one way or the other about. I like to see good plays and to watch good games. There are teams I dislike intensely, but I have friends who like them so I usually refrain from dissing. I don’t find it necessary, and I think it would border on mean. People are entitled to who they like without others continually telling them how horrible that like is. That’s my philosophy, in sports and politics.

I realize there are many out there who would and do say bad things about the Pats. They’re arrogant; they’re thugs. Whatever, and I get tired of it. It’s football. It’s a turf war in every sense of the word. We take sides, just like in politics. We like and we dislike based on preference and history and geography.

So I don’t know how to feel today, finding out about the 2 pound deflation of the footballs used in the AFC championship game against the Colts on Sunday. Everyone, including the Colts, say that the underinflated footballs had nothing to do with the blowout win. The Colts simply didn’t play well. That’s not the point. The point is that rules were broken and as Viper so stoically informed Maverick and Goose in Top Gun “(Top Gun) rules exist for a reason. They are not flexible; nor am I.”

When I first read this, my first thought was give me a break. It didn’t make any sense at all. It seemed like haters just finding another way to hate. Yes, I know there’s history of the Pats cheating – I remember the spying scandal – but I’m not naïve enough, and I doubt most people are, to believe that other professional sports teams don’t stretch the boundaries. It’s sports. It’s about money. It’s about winning. Hopefully it’s done legally; if we push a bit, and don’t get caught, so be it.

But I don’t really believe that. I tend to be more on the side of Viper.

Part of me is still wondering what the big deal is. A slightly underinflated football is simply easier to grip. It doesn’t necessarily make it more on target to the receivers, or ensure that the receivers will catch the ball. It certainly doesn’t have any bearing on running the ball.

I saw an interview with Mark Brunell this morning who said that he, too, liked a slightly less inflated ball. Others have said the same. Brad Johnson used underinflated footballs when he and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl 37. Matt Leinart tweeted this morning that every team tampers with the footballs and that this is ridiculous!! (His exclamations, not mine) Aaron Rodgers has said that he likes his footballs over-inflated and that the refs have often let air out in order to be compliant. It’s not just the Patriots, in other words.

But that doesn’t matter, and it’s not my point. The old saying “if everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you?” comes to mind. There was a rule, for a reason, and the rule was broken.

I think it’s kind of a ridiculous rule. It really doesn’t have an outcome on the final points, or if it does, I haven’t seen how. There isn’t a single football expert disputing the fact that the Patriots won. The only ones disputing it are the haters. And boy, do they hate. It always amazes me, the vitriol people are capable of.

But the Pats broke the rules, and I don’t know how to feel. I’m disappointed and sad. I’m disgusted because I don’t know what the point was. I’m irritated because they’ve ruined the elation I felt at them making it to the Super Bowl. This whole situation has left me unable to cheer wildly. But they’re still my team. I have to want them to win, and I do.

If they win, people will say it’s because they cheated. If they don’t win, people will says it because they couldn’t cheat. It’s no win either way.

I don’t understand the need to cheat. They’re a great team, filled with amazing talent on both sides of the ball. They’re coached by good coaches. Why?

So I don’t know how to feel. I suppose it’s a good thing that I can’t be so blinded by team loyalty, that I can recognize that this isn’t a good thing. It’s not a huge thing, but it is a thing. But I’m sad when I should be cheering it out loud.

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Friday, December 26, 2014 10:04 PM

There is a town in Cochise County that was originally called Maley. It was founded in 1880 as a whistlestop on the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1889, it was renamed Willcox after Orlando Bolivar Willcox who served as a general in the Union Army in the Civil War. He was on the first train that came through the tiny town. Today it is home to 10 Southern Arizona wineries and about 3700 people. Day-after-Christmas wine tasting is a tradition, and this year Willcox was where we journeyed.

This tiny, nearly forgotten western town is just over an hour from Tucson. At an altitude of nearly 4200 feet it’s also cooler. In fact, it was only in the low 40s under a cloudless sky, and it was windy. We went to the older part of town first. Driving through, we were immediately struck by the fact that it’s very run down, kind of a hole as I dubbed it. Once upon a time it was probably wonderful and bustling. There are motels after motels, nearly all abandoned, with broken windows and signs that are falling from the building, hanging by old wires. It looks like you’re driving through an old town from the 1950s, a black and white movie like The Last Picture Show.

We turned right on Maley and then left onto Main, at the corner of The Rabbit Hole and The Dining Car Big Tex Barbecue. Flying Leap was on the same corner. There was an empty saloon for sale by Steve, and another small barbecue that looked like the place Frank Underwood frequents in the House of Cards on Netflix. The owner was sitting outside. He smiled and said Merry Christmas as we walked by. The old-fashioned movie house was advertising Hobbit 3 on the marquee. The road had angled parking places on either side of the street. Keeling Schaefer was there, too, across from the bronze sculpture of General Willcox.  We walked in and began our day of tasting.

Keeling Schaefer is in an old bank building from 1917. There is a ladder up to a lookout where the guard would sit with his rifle. Such was security in the old west. We tasted wine, we bought wine; we watched the trains roll by. We walked over to Big Tex, had some pulled pork for lunch, piled into the car and went in search of other wineries.

We found Bodega Pierce after turning on a dirt road. It was like being in a covered wagon, jostling along, kicking up dust. I was glad we hadn’t washed our already filthy car. From Bodega Pierce we went to Pillsbury and then to Zarpara. All of these tasting rooms are in people’s homes. They pour from what would be an eat-at bar in their kitchen.

We met a woman named Barbara at Bodega. She’s the owner of the winery. We met Bonnie at Pillsbury. She’s originally from Ohio but has been in Southern Arizona for 20 some years. She’s 65, a writer and came to Willcox about a year and a half ago to live on the vineyard property. She had her woodstove blazing. At Zarpara we were greeted by their dog Tilly, and the winery owners Rona and Mark were pouring wine from their kitchen. All of these winery owners had left corporate jobs; had decided there had to be something more to life. They found it in the rolling planes of this wonderful and wonderfully odd, time-forgotten little town.

We found it today, too, as we journeyed to a different time and place, where the grapes grow in volcanic soils and the winemakers walk the vineyards themselves, testing, observing, living a new life. In vino vertitas is what the Italians say. In wine, truth. And life. Today in Willcox, in wine there was living it out loud.

The clouds look like it’s gonna snow

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 16, 2014 7:01 PM

It was 41º here this morning. Cold and cloudy. The sky was filled with thick clouds that were white on top, heavy on the bottom. They wouldn’t do anything other than keep the temperature down. It’s not ready to rain and it’s definitely not going to snow. This last didn’t stop my husband from proclaiming just that as we left the house to walk the dog.

And he was right. In other parts of the country, this kind of cloud formation often leads to snow. He’s from Chicago where 41º at this time of year can be downright balmy. When the clouds form and the temperature drops, the air cuts through you like a knife, slicing into your bones. I’ve been to Chicago in the winter, been to Soldier Field for a football game in white out blizzard conditions where the kick-off temp was minus 21º and the field was covered in snow. True football weather. Bear weather as the fans call it. Not that it often matters as the Bears, unfortunately, often lose regardless of the weather conditions. The myth of cold, snowy, truly horrific conditions benefiting their play is just that.

I’m reminded of the Christmas song that begins “Oh, the weather outside is frightful.” For Christmas song aficionados out there, you’ll recognize that as the opening riff for Let it snow.

Snow behind the house, in the foothills, last winter

It is snowing in Chicago today and the Bears are losing as I write this. The Patriots are in Indianapolis tonight, and it is supposed to snow there, too. Let it snow. Oak Park is blustery but still on its way to 70º. In the Old Pueblo, where it has been known to snow, it is on its way to maybe 63º.

The air is flowing through the open window. The sun is beating back the clouds but it’s still cool. Most of the clouds have settled over the foothills where they’re casting ominous shadows, flattening the rocks. I’m always fascinated by the way light plays with a landscape. I supposed it’s also what fascinated landscape painters. The way the light changes depth and perception. The way sunlight can be both warm and cold. The way clouds can both dampen and enhance a scene. The way the eyes adjust. The way the sky can recede and come forward at the same time.

It’s not going to snow here today. Occasionally a cloud will break away from the hills and blot out the sun. The temperature will seem to drop but it won’t really. Not until the gray of the late afternoon comes back, not until night falls.

“The clouds look like it’s gonna snow.” That’s what Kevin said to me this morning as he came in with a cup of coffee, as the dog snored in his bed, as the cool air flooded the bedroom

“I don’t think so,” I said, accepting my coffee with a thank you.

But we can always dream. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

A busy busy day

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 15, 2014 7:47 PM

I was gone last weekend so that means the amount of stuff I have to do today has compounded exponentially. I don’t know if that’s the right word but it sounds good and intelligent so I’m going with it.

Last week at this time, I was writing my blog from the backseat of my sister’s Jeep Grand Cherokee as we sped along toward Maine. Down Maine as the locals say. On our way to see Gregg’s new house in South Berwick, just over the border of New Hampshire. It was cold. You could feel winter in the air. It was just over the horizon, waiting for the opportune time to make an appearance. Today, it’s cool here, too, but nowhere near what it was seven days ago on the other coast. It will probably get to 70º today before it gives up. Last week, back east, the high was about 48º.

Last night I started on my growing To-Do-This-Weekend list by going to the grocery store. Because I was gone last weekend, we had almost nothing in the house. The cupboards, as the saying goes, were bare. I have gotten in the habit of going to the grocery store just once a week and doing a big order. The weekend before I went to Nump’sha, I had bought stuff for Kevin and I and then also stuff for Kevin to eat while I was gone. I cook every night; I knew he wouldn’t cook for himself. He ate it all. This past week, I employed some supreme creativity. Finding things in the freezer I could use along with other things in the pantry and in the vegetable drawer to make meals.

Today I am busy busy, which is exponentially busier than simply busy. Two busys are not necessarily better than one but there you go.

I’m going to the tile store to check on a slab of granite that was supposed to come in as well as to see about them ordering a particular type of tile they told us they could get forever ago but that we thought we might be able to find somewhere else cheaper. We can’t. I’m hoping they can still get it. Otherwise we’re back to square foot one for what we want to put on our vanity counters.

I need to go to another tile store that has black honed granite which we want to use for the back splash in the kitchen. Honed is non-shiny. I share that because it was news to me. This particular tile store also has the tile we want for our showers. I may order them both while I’m there.

The sun sets on a busy busy day in the OP

I have to go to Floor and Décor, the new flooring superstore, to buy two stone sinks. They have the best price, and believe me, we’ve looked. We need one for the guest room, another for the ¾ bath.

I need to go to Home Goods. I’m still in search of mirrors for the vanities in the master bath. I haven’t yet been successful but last week when I was in Home Goods with my mother in New Hampshire, I saw some that were actually pretty cool. With any luck the one I’m going to here will have something similar if not identical. If they do, I’m buying two.

I have to go to Dunn-Edwards to look at and hopefully buy paint samples for the interior of the house. We’re looking at a light desert sand; no white. But finding the right shade is important. Can’t be too yellow or too orange or too brown or too white.

I’m starting everything off by washing my two rovers. The Range Rover is already in the driveway, waiting. It’s filthy and I don’t like my car filthy. I’ll wash it, then move it to the street so it can sit in the sun a bit and have the water evaporate. No matter how much I dry that car, water still manages to ooze out. I have long said that it holds water like a woman. I can say that with some understanding, as I am a woman.

The other rover, Master Cooper, will be next. He needs a bath and a trim, especially since we’re going out of town in a few weeks. He needs to be handsome, and he needs to be clean. He’s good when he gets a bath. I’ll suds him up, rinse him and towel him off. He’ll race around the back yard celebrating himself and all will be right with the world.

It’s a busy busy day here in the Old Pueblo and I’m living it out loud.

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