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Friday, July 25, 2014

I'm Michiganese!

LOL that's one of the lesser known of the many demonyms people who live in Michigan use to distinguish themselves. Most people call themselves Michiganders or Michiganites. . . But being of Japanese ancestry Michiganese feels like a better fit for me. To be more precise I'm a Michiganese Troll because that's what they call people who live below the Upper Peninsula :P

I have to say a huge THANK YOU to my friends in nine states (and several countries) and many in CA who, when they heard I was interested in relocating, offered me their guest rooms, driveways, backyards, and acreages to come stay as long as I needed to to decide if where they live is somewhere I'd like to live.

One of the first to offer was my friend Fred, aka Fred the trailer builder, who I met in person last June when I went to pick up The Glampette.

800+ spring cranes in progress

A lot of people have asked me "Why Michigan?" Well, I loved it from my first visit and found more to enjoy on each subsequent visit. Being invited to compete in ArtPrize sealed the deal. Instead of making my entry from afar then figure out how to transport it safely to Grand Rapids, it made more sense to simply do the production of my piece just a half hour away to lessen the likelihood it would be damaged or lost in transport.

Even though I did the drive to MI twice last year I have to say I was feeling so burned out and exhausted this year that I wasn't looking forward to making any more long drives on my own, anywhere.

So, after some negotiating (like how were we both going to fit in The Glampette since it's only 4'x6') and before leaving Washington, I picked Fred up at the airport. We took a slight (14 hour) detour south back to CA to attend the IRG (International Redwoods Gathering tiny trailer rally) in Carlotta just south of Eureka so we could meet a lot of our tiny trailer forum friends and see 99 other teardrop and tiny travel trailers up close and personal. I'll be doing a blog post all about the IRG in the near future. Honestly, the funniest part of the rally (to me) was that I gave Fred my "guest" bed, the 31" wide, 3" thick latex foam mattress (but he had to sleep diagonally to fit). And I slept up on my 17" wide counter, bunk bed style, on a 20" wide self-inflating camping mattress. It worked! I swear, I didn't even almost fall off. . . Not even once! I'll have a picture to show how it worked in a future post but Fred probably won't be in the shot. He's camera shy that way.

After the rally we headed east to Michigan.

And this is me in Michigan. I feel happier and healthier than I have in ages. I'm sleeping 8+ hours a night (unheard of for me), have lost about 10 pounds since my arrival, and am always full of vegetables.

Part of the reason I'm full of veggies is because a lot of my new neighbors have gardens that are currently overflowing with squash, cucumber, beans, and even some beautiful shelled garden peas. Since arriving it's been like I'm a member of a free CSA that never ends! I've been cooking up a storm and use as many veggies in each meal as possible. I also keep one or two tupperware containers full of fresh sliced and some boiled veggies (like beans and asparagus) in the fridge at all times. I pull them out with each meal and we nosh on them consuming an incredible amount of produce in just a day or two.

And this, this is my garden! Squeeeeeeeee! Once I decided I'd move to MI Fred (the builder) offered to make me a deer/rabbit/mole/vole proof garden to plant my seeds in. He'd read my blog post about The Seed Bank in Petaluma and knew that I needed a home for my seeds too, not just myself. I sent them ahead and he planted them before he left for WA so when I got here it was like *Poof* I have a garden!

In the mornings I wake up, make a cup of hot tea then wander out to weed, dig, or do whatever needs to be done that day. The plants are thriving to the point of too many seeds came up so I have to either thin and cull or thin and transplant the overflow. So far I've been transplanting because I don't want to waste a single plant.

I have to say there is no better therapy for a nature lover like me than to garden. I love getting my hands in the dirt and knowing I can cook and eat what I'm growing makes me happy beyond measure.

One of my favorite things about the garden is that it's full of tiny baby toads. They're sooooooo cute! They're itty bitty right now, some are smaller than a 25¢ piece and the rest are just a little bit bigger. The top picture gives you a sense of scale that the fly is about 1/3 the size of the little toad on the rock. I love them even more than I loved the garden snails in California :D

And though beautiful, this Japanese Beetle that came to greet me one day is bad news for any garden. I photographed him then reached out to pick him up and move him away but he started waving his hind legs at me to warn me off. I guess I was harassing him just enough. He finally flew away on his own. Good thing.

Even worse than the Japanese Beetle? Deer flies! Look at its mouth in the upper picture. Its chompers consists of two knife like apparatuses called mandibles and maxillae that cut into your skin so the females can drink your blood. I hadn't seen any and hadn't ever been bitten by one, until I was.

Not the best picture quality but here was my left shoulder and back after being bitten twice by deer flies. The first picture was taken in the bathroom before I was about to take a shower so that's why the lighting is so yellow. I wanted to be able to document how solid red the one spot was when I first noticed them that night.

The odd thing is that despite reading the bites are known to be excruciatingly painful I didn't feel them when they happened. By the next morning the red had begun to dissipate leaving a central red area ringed in pink. Lucky me that for days they remained flat, weren't sore, and didn't itch. Eventually they did begin to itch mildly. Compared to mosquito bites they weren't bad at all.

Fortunately there are lots of dragonflies around the yard since Fred's property has a marsh behind it. They're gorgeous and quite photogenic coming in or sitting pretty in the backyard for close ups. One even landed on my toe one day! I wish I'd had a camera with me to take a picture but I didn't.

One of the first mosquito bites I received minutes after arriving at Fred's house.

Speaking of mosquitos. They love to eat me too. Apparently I am very tasty. To combat them I've been using my DIY citronella/lemongrass essential oil repellant I made a few months ago, got a citronella candle, and two live citronella plants that I keep me beside me on the back deck. The spray works really well as long as I remember to use it and spray every last inch of me down with it. Miss a spot and I end up with bites on my face, sides of my hands, or wherever I missed.

But I refuse to let the bugs get me down. It's summertime and gorgeous here. The backyard is full of wildflowers, the temperatures are usually in the 70's to 80's and it rains a lot. There are night time thunder and lightening storms and short showers during the day every few days. Everywhere I look I see green. It's an emerald state. I think Michigan is like Oz but with mosquitos instead of flying monkeys. LOL

The other night we went to dinner at the Turk Lake Restaurant & Bar. It's located on Turk Lake where my friend Judy is going to have to come and go ice fishing this winter because she's always wanted to ice fish in MI in the winter :)

We went because it was Taco Tuesday! Tacos for $1 each? Sounded like a good deal. I have to say the tacos exceeded my expectation. They weren't chintzy little tacos made with cheap ingredients. They were big, tasty, full of fresh ingredients, and for 50¢ extra came with a nice container of salsa full of veggie chunks and some well chilled sour cream.

Turk Lake's sunfish are colorful, beautiful, and friendly

An added bonus was walking out back on the patio after dinner. The lake is full of fish, particularly Pumpkin Seed Sunfish that swarm around the dock. I was amazed. There were dozens of them! Later I learned it's because kids take the popcorn and bread ends from inside the restaurant and feed the fish. LOL. I'll definitely be returning to try more dishes. I read in an online review they make excellent onion rings.

The trip itself out to MI was, thankfully, uneventful. No large hailstorms like last June. It was lots of stops at gas stations and meals mostly at sandwich and coffee shops.

I still get a kick out of seeing different parts of the country. Some are so unique like the salt lakes and flats just outside of Salt Lake City, UT. Since Fred was with me I was able to take pictures from the passenger seat while he drove.

The best food I had this time out? Was definitely the fresh salad at Whole Foods in Park City, UT. The worst (delicious but least healthy) for me had to be the garlic toast covered with mashed potatoes, slathered in gravy, and topped with fried chicken at the Iron Skillet in Laramie, WY. But it tasted so good!

I also got suckered into stopping for a soft serve ice cream cone at a Little America travel center. They post billboards along the interstate to let you know how many miles away you are from enjoying a cool, refreshing ice cream cone. I had to stop. It was worth it. It was the best, or it just seemed like the best after days on the road, but it was an excellent soft serve cone. I wish I had another one right now!

I also found a bull somewhere in Nebraska. He was lying in a parking lot so I adopted him and may use him as a mascot in future travels.

The least expensive gas was also somewhere in Nebraska. . . Or maybe it was Iowa? I honestly can't remember anymore. The corn fields. . . They just blend together. I do know the most expensive gas I paid for on the whole trip was in Eureka, CA at $4.27 a gallon, and that was cheap! Well, cheaper. The first place I stopped at was charging $4.29.

But for now the travel is behind me as I fold cranes and learn how to be a farmer. My radishes are almost ready to harvest! I'll be doing a full post all about how my garden grows and start sharing some fun new recipes I've been cooking up.

And in case you were wondering. . . Wine O'clock was in the garden one evening.

For now I feel like I found the place where my I can be happy, healthy, and creative.

And how can I not be content watching fireflies light up the meadow each evening?

Future posts will detail the IRG, my new garden, and living full time from The Glampette for over six months until I was able to leave CA. I am so grateful for all of my friends and family who have been supportive beyond imagination since learning of my change of circumstance. But a special thank you to friends Carl and Kim Mindling for allowing me to park on their property since January while at the same time welcoming me to use their home as needed while I moved out of my former residence, watched Kitai decline and pass away, and for helping me find my way out of my despair enough to enter ArtPrize. If it weren't for Kim's nurturing kindness and friendship and Carl's dedicated friendship and amazing culinary skills I honestly don't know how I would have made it through those dark days and months. But that's for another day and another post with a very happy ending :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

snazzy/sexy/cozy. . . No, not me. . .

LOL. That's how The Glampette's interior is described in a Yahoo Travel article by travel writer Lena Katz titled: "Let's Go Camping — in a Teeny-Weeny Trailer"

Along with my tiny trailer 11 others are featured and described as well as the tiny trailer "lifestyle," the history of teardrop trailers, links to current manufacturers, DIY enthusiasts, rentals, and more.

As for The Glampette's description. . . It's definitely cozy. There's a funny story I'll be sharing soon about how I recently converted the trailer's interior into a sleeper for two with me on the top bunk (using the 17" wide counter top with a 20" wide self-inflating camping mattress) and my guest using the lower 3" thick latex foam mattress for two nights. LOL. Seriously!

Click on the image to read the article.

Thank you so much Lena Katz for the inclusion. I'm always thrilled to help inspire more people to embrace traveling even if it is in a small scale, slightly unconventional mode. To those who say they don't want to camp I can only say consider glamping like me :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Relocating: Officially on the road

Months ago I mentioned I'd be leaving California and relocating to a new city and state. Well, the move has begun.

Relocation leg #1 completed: 1,099 mi, 17 hours 16 mins

Last Tuesday morning I officially left CA. Technically I'm still a Californian but for the next few weeks I'l be traveling on my way to my new home. Though what is home? For me it's been redefined after living full time from The Glampette since the first week of January this year. I'll write all about what it's been like in a future post.

So, last week I quietly left California thinking I'd blog about being on the road eventually but something happened that was so funny I wanted to share it with you now.

The day I arrived in Washington state I looked at my Facebook page late that evening. This is what I saw. . .

So much for my stealth relocation attempt! Debbie's post made me laugh out loud! That she recognized The Glampette coming towards her on the highway made my day. It also made me realize I can't get away with anything anymore :P

Debbie knew The Glampette from the Teardrops & Tiny Travel Trailer (tnttt.com) forum where I met my builder (and friend) Fred and from my blog. I didn't even realize I'd talked to Debbie before but it turns out I had and had even welcomed her to the tnttt forum in a meet and greet thread a few months ago as she and her husband were building their woody teardrop.

I wish we'd seen each other at a rest stop or gas station so we could have met in person and chatted. I'd have loved to have gotten a peek inside their home built teardrop trailer.

First break: Santa Cruz to Donner Pass

But back to leaving CA. . . It was another of those bittersweet moments. With so many sad things happening in my life the past six months  I honestly couldn't wait to leave. Just the distance would help put closure on several painful chapters by not being constantly reminded of places where I'd experienced both sad times and happy times that now make me feel sad.

At the same time I regretted having to leave my friends. Several in particular dug deep and rallied for me the past six months helping me in ways above and beyond what I would have thought friends would offer to do for me through one of the most challenging periods of my life. How do I just walk, or move, away from them? I did because I know I will see them again. I know I'll be back for visits and am already looking forward to my first one either later this year or next spring.

A quick photo op at Donner Lake on Interstate 80

I crossed the Nevada state line at exactly 11:41 AM

Once you come through the Sierra Nevadas most of the drive looks the same. Dirt and sage brush. It was a mostly cloudy day with sprinklings of rain. I thought to myself it would have been a perfect travel day for Kitai. He wouldn't have gotten too hot from the sun coming through the window and shining down on him. Driving without my fuzzy co-pilot was definitely not how I'd envisioned this drive when I first decided to move away from CA during the winter. Even though he wasn't a person there was something very comforting knowing I wouldn't be all alone out on the road. I still miss him so much.

The latter part of the drive was harder than the first part. It got windy, like really windy, which requires both more downshifting and more gas. My goal was to make it to Idaho to visit my friend Rebecca Ferrell who just happened to be in the Boise Area at her friends' house with her RV "The Dreamer." The plan was to make it by 8:00 PM in time for a late (gourmet) dinner. I arrived sometime between 8:00 and 8:15.

Needless to say I felt like I was in a palace while joining Rebecca for dinner! The Dreamer is significantly larger than The Glampette. Rebecca even loaned me a roll out matt to put at my doorstep. We laughed because it's square footage was significantly larger than The Glampette itself. The next morning when it began raining I was very grateful for it since I didn't have to get my shoes muddy to walk back over to The Dreamer for breakfast. It was so nice to have good company and real food, not restaurant or fast food, after over 13 hours on the road the day before.

A huge thank you to Rebecca's friends Brent and Sandy for allowing me to stay in their driveway that evening. Their hospitality was very much appreciated.

The next morning I drove beneath more grey skies and rain for several hours as I traversed the highways from Idaho to Oregon and finally to Washington. I'll be staying here for a few weeks visiting my folks before heading out once again.

Despite missing my friends I can already tell the change is doing me good. I've been sleeping 8 hours a night, unheard of when I was in California, so the distance is already helping me to feel better.

To friends I didn't have time to see before I left I apologize. I was just so tired and still kind of overwhelmed. Trying to make the time to see everyone who matters to me would have taken weeks. But, I will let you know when I return for a visit and if our schedules can mesh I'd love to meet up then.

Stay tuned to find out where I'll go next :)

ETA: LOL This just in from Facebook:

Grand Rapids and ArtPrize here I come!

Friday, June 13, 2014

International Glamping Weekend was June 7th & 8th

Did you miss it? I found the perfect place to celebrate my first official International Glamping Weekend. My tiny travel trailer (aka The Glampette) and I headed out to one of my most favorite places I've ever visited: Healdsburg in Sonoma Wine Country just an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge down HWY 101.

The Glampette was ready for a road trip. Though I've been living from her, we hadn't traveled together since January. For over a year I'd envisioned bringing her to Healdsburg. I'm so glad I had the chance to make that dream a reality before moving away.

Of course I visited my most favorite place in Sonoma County. Located in the Russian River Valley on Westside Road you'll find Thomas George Estates winery.

Favorite images from past trips to Thomas George Estates and Baker Ridge

Baker Ridge, one of their estate vineyards, is a place that captured my heart. In the past few years I've spent one sunrise and a handful of sunsets enjoying the views atop this gorgeous ridge. From the moment of my first visit I felt a special connection to Baker Ridge.

It was a very hot day. I think it got up to 99º (F). The heat was high but dry which made it a much more enjoyable day than one with a lot of humidity. I visited both the tasting room in the wine caves as well as the vineyards.

As I left I felt sad but happy to have taken my little abode on wheels to a place that inspired me to want to have a teardrop or tiny travel trailer in the first place so that I could explore places like Sonoma more often.

For lunch one day I stopped at another favorite: Jimtown, a small general store, cafe, and antique shop. Nostalgia hangs heavy in the air with all of the charm you'd expect from a small country mercantile located down a two lane highway amidst rows awash in green, leaf and grape laden vines.

After perusing the menu I opted for an ice cold Lemonade and a baby spinach and artichoke dip Grilled Cheese Sandwich. The pictures tell the story. . . It was fantastic! I ate every bite.

Who did I visit while I was there? Well that would be my friend (and fav wine country concierge) Tracy Logan (and Mr Hobbs pictured on the right) and our friend (and my fav B&B owner) Keren Colsten, now known as K.C. so she could have a name that rhymed with Tracy and Stacie. Keren is the co-owner of the Haydon Street Inn, the only Bed & Breakfast I ever stayed at in Sonoma County. After my first visit there I loved it so much I never even tried another one.

Though she didn't go with me Keren recommended I go to the Healdsburg SHED and try a "shrub." What is a shrub? It's an acidulated beverage. Acidulated. There's a new word for you! At least it was for me.

It's an old drink that's new again. Containing fruit, sugar, and vinegar the shrubs I tried were light, sweet, and tart all at the same time.

Like soda, only better tasting and better for you!

I sampled three different flavors containing strawberry, kumquat, and blood orange paired with vinegars that ranged from chardonnay to red wine. Mix in a little soda water and you'll have a refreshing and refined carbonated soda. I'm officially hooked and will be inventing flavor combos of my own this summer.

Along with shurbs you'll also find wine, beer, and hard ciders, and kombuchas at SHED's fermentation bar.

K.C., Tracy, and I had lunch at Ravenous. It was our lucky day. Tucked into a small space on North Street, I was told it's rare to have the opportunity to walk in and grab an empty table, they're usually quite busy.

While I can't rave about the service (our server seemed a bit disinterested in actually serving us while oddly a guy at a nearby table kept jumping into our conversation LOL) the food was outstanding.

Ravenous is known for both their Crab Cakes and Ravenous Burgers. I can say this about the burgers: They're delicious. Really, very tasty but also messy so not something you'd want to order on a first date.

The fries were extra special. To start with they're crinkle cut. Picture steak-fry styled potato wedges (and by wedges I mean you get an entire potato's worth of wedges, maybe even a little more), fried to a perfect golden brown, and seasoned with just the right amount of savory to not need any additional salt.

After lunch we meandered around downtown Healdsburg for a bit and visited The Mercantile Shop for Wolf coffee, sold in the back corner of the store. They'll even grind it for you while you wait.

If you've never been to Healdsburg I'd recommend a visit. It's quaint, charming, and a wonderful place to spend a long weekend.

This is one of my favorite photos I ever took on Baker Ridge. It seems fitting to share it again now as I close the chapter, a final sunset of sorts, on my last trip to Healdsburg for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Six year old Baylor Fredrickson needs a marrow match. Could it be you?

If you're on Facebook you've most likely seen this picture and post about six year old Baylor Fredrickson as it's been shared 426,789 times as of this morning. Author Michael Lewis knows Baylor personally and made the request for help that is now virally traveling across the internet.

This is a plea I've made on this blog many times before:
  1. If you haven't registered to become a bone marrow/stem cell donor please consider doing so.
  2. If you want to help but are unable to register please encourage others to join in your place. 
Both endeavors are equally valuable.

Like my cousin Tami did, Baylor currently needs a bone marrow transplant to save his life. He's fighting cancer and every day he has to wait for a match gives the cancer another advantage, wears him down, make his recovery post transplant (even if a match is found in time) that much harder to recover from. Cancer is bad, everyone knows that. But the very procedure that can save a patient's life when they receive a marrow/stem cell transplant has an arduous recovery period filled with complications like infections and graft vs. host disease. At that point a patient needs to be healthy enough to undergo and survive the transplant itself.

So Baylor doesn't just need to receive a transplant, he and all patients need to receive one as quickly as possible. It's their best chance.

Please don't make them wait any longer than they have to. Donating is not the painful ordeal many believe it to be. That donating marrow is like a spinal tap is a myth. The majority of donations are now made through a method called Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) collection, which is similar to how plasma is harvested. Your blood goes out through one arm, runs through a machine that collects the stem cells, then the rest of your blood is returned into your other arm. Most people don't even need a prescription strength pain killer following their donation. Over the counter remedies are usually enough.

Donations harvested from the pelvic bones (not the spine) are done under anesthesia so the donor isn't even awake to be aware of any discomfort or pain.

I've always felt what's a little discomfort to save a life? If I am ever a match I'd be thrilled to be able to help someone in need. I've been in the registry since 1995 and have yet to be contacted but I'm holding out hope that someday I will be.

And though Baylor is half Asian half German I'm imploring everyone who reads this post to register. Though his match will most likely be found in someone of similar ancestry, there is a slim, rare, chance that it could be with someone from a different ethnic group altogether. (Marrow matches are made through chromosomes, not blood types, so this is why ethnicity is a factor.)

In the United States you'll need to be between the ages of 18-60 years old to register. The easiest way to register is through "Be The Match, aka The National Marrow Donor Program. If you are between the ages of 45-60 you would need to register online only by ordering a test kit from this link:

Order a test kit online:

Locate a live drive where you live:

Your stem cells can even be flown to Baylor if you live outside the U.S. in a country that is part of the International Cooperative Registry:

If you live outside of the Unite States and your country isn't part of the International Cooperative Registry you can still help other patients where you live through the following programs: http://marrowdrives.org/bone_marrow_donor_programs.html

Please join. Join to help Baylor and the thousands of other patients waiting and hoping to find their life-saving matches in time.

ETA: Author Michael Lewis just published a video with Baylor. Please watch it and read more about the drive to help Baylor:

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