2020 Travel: Tahoe

A week ago I began a blog and Instagram series on 2020 Armchair Traveling: My Life in Coffee Mugs. I wrote about New York City, Norway, and the San Francisco Bay Area and on IG posted about each of these destinations as well as San Diego. This is the final post in this series…for now.

Irony: planning and posting a series about Armchair Travel in the same week that generous church folks gifted us a few days’ stay in their Lake Tahoe vacation home. Of course we went.

Before we moved from SoCal to NorCal, someone who had moved the opposite direction mentioned that soon enough we’d be vacationing in Tahoe. He might as well have said we’d be hitting up Ibiza on the regular, it sounded so unlikely. He wasn’t wrong.

I’m not a snow sports person and I mostly like to experience snow through a picture window. But I do love to hike, and camp, and we’ve done a lot of both in Tahoe. And we have several generous friends who have handed us the keys to their vacation homes for an off-season weekend away.

My favorite picture from my first Tahoe birthday in 2007

Typically my birthday, which in early November means “mud season” and low crowds – tucked in between the crowded months of summer sun seekers floating on the Truckee River and boating on the lake and winter snow seekers.

Time stretches differently on vacation. Even though we had remote work/school on Thursday and Friday, we also had time for long hikes and soaking in the hot tub. We talked more and about different topics. We created new memories.

The sounds of the trip: the “slush” of lake-front sand or sloshy snow and the “crunch” of gravel or icy snow under our feet; the occasional “wa-wa-wa-whoops!” as we slipped on ice and flailed our arms seeking upright-balance like birds flapping hard against uneven wind currents; and the haunting-hollow clarinet howl-squeak of the wind during the day it stormed.

And laughter. Lots of conversation punctuated by joyous peals of laughter.

2020 Armchair Traveling: San Francisco

This week I’m armchair traveling on my blog and Instagram to share My Life in Coffee Mugs.

I grew up in San Diego. I went away to college and eventually returned. And then we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where we’ve lived for almost 15 years.

The Bay Area is where our kids grew up. They were 7 and 2 years old when we landed, so this is their home like San Diego will always be mine.

My husband used to comment that SoCal didn’t have trees, and I didn’t understand—could he not see the palm trees and eucalyptus trees, the citrus and avocado trees? Now I get it, though, since we have giant redwood trees in our own backyard. We drive three minutes to a redwood forest.

I love the natural open spaces, walking from home to scenic hiking trails. I love our walkable neighborhood and the hours I spend each week pounding the pavement with my pups.

I love the weather, that we have distinct yet not severe seasons; you can take the girl out of SoCal but she will still prefer mild year-round weather. I love real rain storms and bundling up and lighting a fire on chilly days—we can get to snow when we want to but we don’t have to shovel driveways—and I’m grateful to wear sandals most of the year.

I love our small town, and that we can be in San Francisco in short order (traffic depending), to visit the beach (Crissy Field is our favorite), Pier 39, the Ferry Building, particularly on Saturday mornings for the Farmers’ Market, Union Square during the holidays or Ghirardelli Square for, what else?, chocolate. Or we can be wine tasting in Napa in 45 minutes, or at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in less than two hours. This is the farthest I’ve lived from the beach and yet we get to the beach regularly.

Because this is where our family grew up, no matter where life may take us, the Bay Area will always also be Home.

2020 Armchair Traveling: Norway

This week I am sharing on my blog and on Instagram about My Life in Coffee Mugs. On Monday, I wrote on the blog about New York City. On Tuesday on Instagram I posted about my hometown of San Diego. Today I am blogging about Norway…

We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with two weeks in Norway. We spent a week on the Hurtigruten, a mail delivery/cruise boat (though not the kind of cruise you typically think of), sailing along the coastline and through the fjords from Bergen to Kirkenes. The following week we flew to Oslo, took the train to Kristiansand, and then rode the train back to Bergen—arguably the most beautiful train ride in all of Europe (I can’t compare, but it was truly spectacular).

Along the way we visited my Norwegian family: my second cousins and my mom’s cousins, and we had the enormous privilege of holding a gathering in honor of my recently departed grandmother in her hometown of Lista with nine of her cousins, happy to tell stories and leaf through pictures in yellowing photo albums.

Lista Fyr, the lighthouse my grandmother considered “hers,” since this is the view from her childhood home

This wasn’t my first trip to Norway, but it was revelatory to see with adult eyes the country that grew my grandmother and my mother. Watching the cold and rugged coast drift by the Hurtigruten windows, houses improbably stuck to cliffsides, with narrow one lane roads–or no visible roads at all—I was newly impressed with the hardiness of my people.

I do not feel so hardy, rather cushy-spoiled by my SoCal upbringing, but I have renewed respect for my mom and grandma, for the stock boiled into and diluted in my blood. I differently understand their desire to be outside in all weather, their need for nature, growing things, water, green and blue–in potted plants and paintings and photographs, if that’s how they can get it.

To have a pot of coffee roasting hot from early-dark to late-night. To have tins stocked with fresh-baked cookies, and oven-fresh pastries, ready to serve to guests. To savor the aroma and relish the taste of fresh caught and cooked fish. Or to over-boil the fish and the potatoes, as well as the peas and green beans until they’re slightly gray, because high culinary status hadn’t hit Norway before they departed for the U.S.

I wouldn’t be me without my Norwegian heritage. I wonder if my siblings feel the same, or if my name, Siv, tightens my family ties. Every single time I meet someone, I have to explain my Norwegian name: “like Steve without the T,” Siv—wife of thunder god Thor—goddess of the harvest whose blonde hair waved in the wheat like the wind.

Simple and complicated. Like me.

P.S. My Norwegian cousins confirmed that, although coffee is a big deal in Norway, Starbucks is not. We bought this mug in the airport at the only Starbucks we saw.

2020 Armchair Traveling: My Life in Coffee Mugs

Along with so much else in 2020, travel has been cancelled. Good thing my coffee mugs remind me where I’ve been–exactly what Starbucks intended, right? This week, I’ll let my warm cuppa whisk me away to share a few highlights from my life.

Today is my birthday.

It’s also an ordinary Monday in an exceptionally strange year.

A year ago my family celebrated my milestone birthday in NYC. I’m not big on Big Cities, but NYC was where I wanted to wake up 50. No big party, rather a long weekend creating new memories with my loves. (Irony: we booked an AirBnB in New Jersey so I did not, in fact, wake up in NYC).

Setting aside the expected-and-unusual bumps that typically arise during travel, my last birthday was a nearly perfect day in an as-close-as-they-come perfect weekend.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kicking up crunchy fall leaves as we strolled through Central Park. The Guggenheim. A fabulous sit-down dinner (at an all-veg restaurant, so the teens would describe it differently). The Empire State Building. Gourmet ice cream to end the day.

the view from Belvedere Castle in Central Park

During our stay, we hit many of the big touristy sites–the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Stock Exchange and Federal Hall (and by happy accident, Hamilton’s grave), the American Museum of Natural History, Rockefeller Center, Broadway, Times Square, even Carlo’s Bakery–since we had never explored NYC as a family.

The Met was our unanimously favorite spot

But one of the highlights for me was tripping across memories of my family ties to this place:

The Fashion Institute of Technology, where my mom studied children’s clothing design at the same time Calvin Klein studied fashion.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, starting on the Brooklyn side where my grandma lived with my young mom and aunt during the years she worked as a cook at the General Motors Building across from Central Park. My parents met at a mutual friend’s apartment, I can’t be sure now but maybe in Brooklyn?

My grandma lived in Queens when I was very young, when my parents and I lived on Long Island. My dad flew out of LaGuardia as a pilot for Pan American Airlines; before they married, he got my mom a job as a stewardess, a job she loved–”when airlines still offered hospitality that meant something”–until she got pregnant with me.

When I chose NYC as my birthday weekend destination, I chose it to visit fun and culturally significant places as a family. I didn’t realize that it would also connect me to family members no longer able to share their own memories.

One of the many benefits of travel.

Follow me on Instagram for more coffee mug highlights!

Meatless Monday – Wellness Teas

superbowl-foodAnyone overdo it this weekend? Anyone? C’mon, yesterday was Superbowl Sunday, after all. Even if you ate (mostly) healthy perhaps, like me, you still managed to eat a few too many bites of, for example, nachos or Girl Scout cookies?

About a year ago I read a cookbook that advocated starting each day with a cup of hot water infused with juice of half a lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper. When I had lemons on hand and took the extra few seconds to juice it into a mug, I definitely felt a different perk in my stride. I didn’t give up coffee, mind you, but my “spicy lemonade” came first and helped me feel better.

Except I always prep the coffee before bed and Guy pushes the button when he gets up, so most days it’s easier to stick to my cuppa joe.

detox teaA few months ago I came across a similar recipe for a Detox Tea. Easy enough and perfect for my Work-at-Home Mondays, especially in the cold winter months when I really do not need yet one more cup of coffee.

Detox Tea
Juice of half a lemon + lemon rind (washed)
5 (or so) shaves of fresh ginger root
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
32 oz boiling water

I combine the whole lot in a Nalgene bottle and let sit for 10 minutes. Then I pop in one of my favorite metal straws and sip-and-work the day away. As it cools, usually around the time I have finished half the bottle, I add more hot water. Warm, healthy, hydrating – win, win, win.

And, no kidding, I have noticed week by week that I feel healthier on Mondays. Sure, the relaxed pace of working from home, the productivity boost I enjoy in my distraction-free zone + the benefit of popping in a load of laundry and/or dinner in a crock pot during a break still shorter than an in-office conversation, yah, all that helps. But the tea…!

The love keeps coming! I found another tea recipe, this one with ground ginger and turmeric, which made me So Happy as my orthopedist had suggested that I regularly ingest both as an anti-inflammatory for my bum knee. Bonus: it tastes like a riff on chai.

Anti-Inflammatory Tea
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 c boiling water
a dash of your favorite non-dairy milk
a splash of sweetener of choice

Again, I use a Nalgene bottle to steep ginger and turmeric in water. After 10 minutes, you could strain the concoction into another mug if you’re texture-sensitive; I don’t mind a little fine-ground spice grit in my drink, so I grab the almond or coconut milk and maple syrup in my fridge, pop in my straw, and enjoy.

spicesA few weeks ago Teen came home on a Friday night feeling “off.” About 2am, he scared the bejeebers out of me when he poked (and poked and poked) me in the arm to tell me “something is really wrong!” He had a fever, aches, chills, congestion… the flu. Sometime the next day I made him a bottle of Anti-Inflammatory Tea and way sooner than expected he was back to himself. Seriously, I thought he’d be down for a solid 4-7 days, but he went back to school Monday morning. Coincidence? Even if it is, I’d try the tea again.

Just for kicks, I looked up some of the health benefits of lemons, apple cider vinegar, ginger, and turmeric…

Lemon juice: Aids digestion; soothes a sore throat; prevents kidney stones; contains anti-cancer properties; reduces pain and inflammation; brings down a fever

Apple cider vinegar (unfiltered = best): Regulates blood sugar; contains probiotics; alleviates sore throats; breaks up mucous and congestion; combats constipation; whitens teeth

Ginger: Soothes digestion; reduces motion sickness and/or nausea; reduces exercise-induced muscle aches; reduces inflammation and soothes inflammatory conditions

Turmeric: Prevents cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and liver disease; relieves arthritis; moderates blood sugar; reduces cholesterol; boosts immunity; improves digestion

So now if you’ll excuse me? I think it’s high time I make myself some tea!