Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Air Tahiti Nui's 10th Anniversary Contest

There's wintry mix in the forecast for tonight in Massachusetts. I'm thinking it's a good day to win a free trip to Tahiti. Thanks to Wendy Perrin for the 411 (via Twitter...like I've been saying: people, it's useful!).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Canyon Ranch Offers Spa Renewal Days to Berkshire Residents

Canyon Ranch in Lenox is generally guarded like Fort Knox, access limited to those who can afford to spend a couple grand per day to retreat and recharge. Rumor has it it's where Hilary Clinton went to regain her equilibrium after her defeat in the primary election. I don't know if that's true or not, but I can report firsthand, having spent a few days there on assignment earlier this year, that it is indeed a special place.

I've written a lot about spas, and my first impression of Canyon Ranch was that it was too sprawling and corporate. In the end, though, the staff won me over. A lot of smart, caring, talented people work there. And, unlike some other health spas, they're preaching good common sense. Their philosophy of health isn't whack-a-doodle extreme. For instance, they won't make you drink hempmilk (no offense to those who like the stuff). One leaves the ranch feeling invigorated and armed with tools for living a more joyfully engaged and healthy life. Other than the fact that the experience costs so much, what's not to like?

They usually don't sell day passes, but now through December 21, 2008 they're offering Berkshire residents a day rate of $225, including a gourmet lunch, unlimited use of the facilities, lectures, classes, and one service valued at $130 (which won't go far, but you could probably get a very nice pedicure).

If you do go, be sure to sit at the "Captain's Table" during lunch, which is open to anyone who wants to meet new people. I had wonderful, unexpected conversations there with a guy who described his job as "nation building in a box," a Harvard professor who was writing a book about dignity, and a young Brooklyn Hip Hop fashion designer.

Call 800-742-9000 for details and reservations.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Which Photo is Best?

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I've been switching out the profile photo a lot lately. I've been testing the recent Berkshire Museum photobooth shots to see how they might look on my revamp-in-progress website. My mother wrote this evening: "You seem to be specializing in Tilted Head and Recipes these days. Have you any straight-on vegetarian head shots? ...Nice shot of the truck." Annalena thinks my eyes look crazy in the gazing heavenward smiley photo. Obviously there are more important things to fret about, but I need to turn in one of these to accompany a magazine article this week. Which do the royal we think is best?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

We're Selling Grandpa Bob's Truck

Grandpa Bob's Truck

Midnight Blue 1997 Ford Ranger XLT
  • Only 25,000 miles (literally, he only drove it to the post office and to the dump)
  • Like new condition (Bob took care of his stuff)
  • 2-wheel drive, 5-speed
  • 4-cylinder engine
  • Good gas mileage
  • $3,500 firm
Call Dave: 413-281-9310

Friday, October 24, 2008

Favorite Brisket Recipes?

Beef poster by Steven Norman

I have a certain fear of cooking meat, but the Dutch oven gives me hope of not screwing it up. This morning at breakfast I announced my intention to try my hand at brisket. Dave said, "Isn't that the name of one of Sarah Palin's children?"

I'd be most grateful for any brisket tips.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Interview with Caren Cross

Writer, director, and producer Caren Cross is a first-time documentary filmmaker who became obsessed with wanting to figure out why she and others had abandoned their lives in the United States to live in a small town in the mountains of central Mexico.

Caren’s undergraduate degree is in painting. She was diverted from that passion after seeing Frederick Wiseman’s documentary,
Titicut Follies, an exposé of the abuses in a mental hospital. Graduate school came next and she subsequently worked for 27 years as a psychotherapist in private practice. Then a one-week vacation in Mexico changed the course of her life again.

After 30 years of pursuing the American dream, she felt compelled to leave it all behind and start a new life in Mexico. Thousands of Americans have inexplicably made the same choice to relocate to the town of San Miguel de Allende. Lost and Found in Mexico is their story. Why do they come? Why do they stay? Why do they find life in a third world country more satisfying than life in the United States? Combing the streets of San Miguel looking for answers, Caren gathers a compelling web of stories. The answers are inspirational, compelling, and incredibly honest.

For more information about the film and to watch a three-minute trailer, click here.


Gina: With the election coming up, I'm hearing a lot of people in the States say, "If Obama doesn't win, I'm fleeing the country." As one who has left your home country, do you feel that it's possible to actually escape?

Caren: I also keep hearing and reading those declarations! When I came to Mexico ten years ago, I came because something in Mexico appealed to me, not because I wanted to escape from something. After a few years it occurred to me that I had changed radically and that it was because I was no longer affected by American culture and I wasn't part of the Mexican culture. I was suddenly free.

This was surprisingly quite beneficial for me. I hadn't been aware of how anxious I was, how much I had been driven by a desire to achieve, to look good, to keep up with popular culture, etc. And the worries that I felt in the states were mostly gone. Now, however, the state of affairs in the states is affecting the entire world. The details of this presidential race are discussed constantly in the homes and streets here in San Miguel de Allende.

The outcome of the race is on all of our minds. Most of us care deeply and are helping out in some way and do not feel immune to the state of affairs up north. So, now I would say that one can't entirely escape by fleeing the country. But one can escape the fast-paced life that leaves little space for relationships and the constant barrage of consumerism and competition.

Gina: How long did it take you to create the film? What was most surprising to you about the process as a first-time filmmaker?

Caren: Well, first of all, I thought that making Lost and Found in Mexico would be easy. It certainly looked easy! What could be so hard? I figured it would take 3 months. It turns out that it took 3 1/2 years! The first thing that I did was to order 6 books from Amazon with titles like, How to Make a Documentary Film. What most surprised me was how many ways there are to construct a film. And getting clarity on what I wanted to portray was quite difficult. More difficult was cutting out witty, entertaining parts of the film that I loved but that really didn't "fit" under a topic. The editing process took 2 1/2 years.

Gina: What are your favorite and least-favorite things about living in San Miguel de Allende?

Caren: My list of favorite things is really long: the friendliness of both the Mexicans and Americans; the sense of community; the weather; the quality of the light; the ability to do all that you need to do on foot; and the high percentage of interesting foreigners who have come to live here. I guess the main thing is how I feel each day when I wake up. On the negative side, I really miss first-run movies and I miss having the Sunday paper in bed with a cup of coffee. Somehow reading the New York Times on the computer doesn't quite make it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pumpkins for Obama

For stencils to carve your own Barack O' Lantern, click here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Happy 14th Birthday, Annalena

My daughter turns 14 tomorrow. All clichés about time passing much too quickly apply. Here she is at age 8 during her Fruits phase in Oakland, California.

Catherine Niles's Fall Foliage Photographs

One of the voyeuristic thrills of Facebook is the window into your friends' friends' lives when one of your friends makes a comment on one of their friends' posted photos, which suddenly gives you access to a stranger's photos. These glorious fall foliage images by Catherine Niles of Salisbury, Connecticut showed up in my Facebook news feed when our mutual friend Nancy commented that they were breathtaking. I agree and am pleased to share them here with permission. Cathy doesn't have a website yet, but you can reach her at cenile [at] comcast.net.

Small Red, Big Yellow

Maple with Cotton Balls

Dueling Branches

Rudd Pond, Millerton, New York

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fall Bouquet

For Susan and Anne

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Even The Blueberry Leaves Are Turning

It's a thrill to walk down the driveway to fetch the morning paper this time of year. Each day new trees explode with color.

Fall foliage in the blueberry patch.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Mexico's not the only place with color. Here's what's going on now at our house in the Berkshires. Pretty swell, eh?

Snapshots of Casa Sierra Negra del Sur

These cell phone snaps don't do it justice, but here's a peek at the Hyams-Barrett family compound in San Miguel...Aaaaaaaaaah.

Steps to roof terrace.

Roof garden.

Hammock on roof terrace.

Sitting area in courtyard garden.

My mom's kitchen and studio table topped with paintbrushes.

Day bed in my mom's studio.

Blurry shot of our kitchen, but I love the tile.

Our living room. Note subtle product placement on coffee table.

Living room steps made with colored cement. Our house has blue, red, green, and yellow floors.

Our bathtub of stars. The wall tile pattern was inspired by a
Mondrian painting.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Snapshots of San Miguel Parade

I post these images of the recent Fiesta de San Miguel parade for those who dismiss San Miguel de Allende as being the Disneyland of Mexico, its authenticity ruined by margarita-swilling Texans. Scratch the surface and it's clear that life goes on there as it has for centuries.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Soap of Money

I paid a visit to the magic supplies stall at Mercado de San Juan de Dios in search of a few lucky talismans to bless my new website. For years I've written with a little bottle of Mexican Wite-Out filled with "extracto original gota de suerte" (drop of luck original extract) next to my computer. Today I found three special spell-casting soaps: one for "pronto dinero" (quick cash), one for "llama cliente" (call clients), and one for "abre camino" (clear path).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mexican Wrestler Postage Stamps

I'm in the midst of a website redesign and my designer, Heather Rose, wrote yesterday asking that I bring back a letter with my name on it and a San Miguel postmark. I don't know what she plans to do with it graphically, but trust her instincts, so made my way to the correo this morning.

I could not believe my good fortune when the only stamps in stock were these limited edition ones depicting El Santo. I'm grateful to the post office clerk who agreed to postmark the letter without actually mailing it (which could take weeks or never to reach Massachusetts) when I explained that it was for arte.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mexican Wrestlers Are My Weakness

Today's purchase: This note card by Gusano de Luz.

I swore to Dave that I wouldn't shop on this trip given the fact that we're heading into New England winter heating bills and my economic future is hazy...but of course I had to check in on my favorite spots today...the news: we are in the midst of an enthralling Mexican wrestler moment here in San Miguel. El Santo is turning up on almost as many items as the Virgin of Guadalupe and Frida Kahlo. I even saw a puta doll wearing a painted wrestler mask. I exhibited extraordinary restraint by keeping the damage to the above note card and to three wrestler-and-glitter-embellished boxes of matches (justified because of the cord of wood that's waiting at home to be burned this winter).

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fiesta of San Miguel

Photo by Deb Hall -- see below for links to more of her fiesta photos and to information about her great folk art shop.

After a breakfast of fresh jugo de guayaba (guava juice) and huevos mexicana at Casa Crayola's sweet new cafe, my mom and I headed up to the Jardín so that I could get some pesos from the ATM machine. On the way there, we stumbled upon part of the Fiesta de San Miguel, the annual celebration honoring the city's patron saint, Archangel Saint Michael, during which, among other things, dozens of traditional community dance groups from across Mexico convene to dance through the cobblestone streets in full masked splendor, festooned with peacock feathers, fake flowers, Christmas decorations, feather dusters, satin ribbons, antlers, embroidered gowns, sequin-encrusted cloaks, animal pelts, Mardi Gras beads, and gallons and gallons of glitter. It's an unbelievably good time.

I took a bunch of photos with my cell phone, but am having trouble sending them to my e-mail, so I urge you to check out Deb Hall's marvelous account of last year's festivities -- click here and here. Deb and her husband Rick own Zocalo, a seriously awesome folk art shop located both here in San Miguel and in Patzcuaro.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Vintage Poison Labels

Thanks to Karen Templer for this link (via Twitter...see: it's useful!) to these fabulous vintage poison labels. Perfect to print out and affix to cocktail glasses for your next Halloween party.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy Goose on Mid-Day Romp

He who is most happy about my new freelance writer lifestyle.

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said:
"Lord, help me be the person my dog thinks I am."

Babies for Barack Obama