back from nyc

photo from here, thanks Aubrey.

We lounged, chatted, laughed, and walked all over. We caught some park art & music, took a train to the beach, and caught up on some long-overdue girl time. I had such a lovely time with my old college friends in the city – and I wanted to share one gem of a place that we went to: Il Bambino.

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We had white wine, one of their cheese platters with the perfect fig spread, and these four crostini:

mozzarella, basil pesto, and chili oil

goat cheese, honey, and rosemary oil

goat cheese, chorizo, and avocado oil

prosciutto, basil pesto and parmesan

It was incredible and I would venture to guess that everything offered at this place tastes phenomenal. Now I’m going to attempt to recreate the crostini in my kitchen…

SE Asia: abridged version

For everyone’s sake I will not post the thousands of photographs we snapped or the hundreds of short stories and musings I scribbled down in my ratty notebook during our four-month stint in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Too much. Way too much.

Here are a few highlights instead:

hkAbove is the scene as we departed Thailand and crossed over into Laos. Border crossings proved to be the most stressful events of the entire trip.

(Think long lines, police corruption, and foreign currency)

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These were taken by the riverside in Luang Prabang, Laos. A striking town of European-influenced architecture, food, and craft. The hazy sky is the result of slash & burn farming. (cough cough, literally)

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We walked and we biked. We sat and we pondered. We spoke broken Laotian and befriended strangers. We spent a good amount of time in this little village. The side streets were filled with irresistible domestic scenes – laundry hung out to dry, culinary endeavors set out to cool, small shrines of candles and birdhouse sized temples, animals foraging for food – these things that I find so beautiful.

We couldn’t take a boat to our next destination. The river just wasn’t having it.

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Hop into a tuk-tuk for a short ride from town and you will find yourself here:

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Night markets are glorious places to be – most are tailored to suit tourists’ tastes, take that as you will. Fresh (sometimes unidentifiable) food, handicrafts, and local music. One of my favorite night markets was in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand where we celebrated my 25th birthday with Pad Thai, Archa beer, and watched a father/son guitar performance. This was followed up by a woman lip-synching to various American show tunes. Turned out to be a very beautiful man in a stunning pink number. I read a quote about the ladyboy phenomenon (theorizing that the visibly high incidence of cross-dressing is simply the ‘land of smiles’ allowing more flowers to blossom) in a book called Very Thai. If you’re curious about Thai pop culture, this is a must-read.

Staring at stone carvings and drifting through ancient spaces, we punctuated the days spent at Angkor Wat with street vendor food and quests to find our ride amid the sea of tuk-tuk drivers at each stop. We experienced oppressive heat in this wondrous (though, surprisingly, I believe it’s not officially a “wonder of the world” for those of us keeping track) place with a heavy past.

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I think this is what all of us tourists looked like too.

There was an absolutely astonishing amount of stone strewn about the various Wats – waiting to be organized, fit back together, and re-stacked. The construction crews ran around the place just as frantically as all of the camera-toting tourists.

If I turn my back, I inevitably find Graham making friends. This is one of my favorite things about him – he gets along with just about everyone and has an uncanny ability to make you feel comfortable. This time he attracted a small crowd as he accepted the tic-tac-toe challenge from a young girl selling postcards.

The homes and ‘backyard gardens’ in this floating village on the way to Battambang, Cambodia were like nothing else.

The local convenience store and it’s active caretakers.

Buildings along the river ranged from well-maintained structures like this…

… to basic shelters assembled along garbage-strewn riverbanks.

The Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok on our way south for some beach time.

After a week or so on Ko Kood we ambled down the well-worn path to the island darlings Ko Tao and Ko Pha-Ngan. (Skipping Ko Samui) We were rewarded with clear water to float the afternoon heat away in, peaceful bungalows to escape the party crowd, and my first SCUBA diving experience.

This is where we pulled up to find our bungalow on the southernmost tip of Ko Tao – it was virtually abandoned save a friendly German family and the Thai folk who live there and run the place.

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One of many reptilian beings to surprise me throughout our travels.

Swimming and reading. Snorkeling and swinging. Eating and drinking. Writing and hiking. And then we found a hill-top bar with a pool table (watched over by a pleasant-natured lab and his often-absent owner) and our daily ritual was complete. It was impossibly quiet here.

Less than ten dollars a night. No lie. And on Ko Pha-Ngan no less. A few days after the Full Moon Party (which is great for some but makes me shudder) all of the crazies had abandoned ship, leaving a peaceful place for us to find.

While waiting the proper half hour after meals before soaking in the ocean again.

The boat-less fishermen, knee-deep that far out when we strolled down the wooden boardwalk that clung to the rocks on our way off the island.

The sandy remnants of crabs’ efforts on the beaches bordering Ko Lanta. We put in our final beach time after enjoying Krabi and Trang and before making the trek back up to Bangkok for our departure.

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And this was the scene in Bangkok as we said farewell to the so-called Land of Smiles – you can read about it here, among many other places, if you wish. I’m still digesting all that we saw and experienced in these places and I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to do so – both to have gone in the first place and to be back home safe & sound.

we’re back

Graham and I had a relaxing serendipitous weekend in Portland Maine – exploring beaches and state parks, getting drenched by much-needed rain storms and taking shelter in art museums. We munched some fresh seafood and sampled a little home-made ice cream by Willard Beach. And oh my goodness the flat bread pizza. We took all of our photos on Graham’s camera so I’ll have to wait to post those.

Design*Sponge loves Portland, too.

So there’s definitely a plan in motion right now and it involves a move to Maine in September. Eeeeeep!

Pun Pun: how it felt

Pun Pun is an organic educational farm, seed-saving center, and communal home for some incredible people. I will not attempt to interpret their intentions, but allow them to speak for themselves here.

As for me…


The days at Pun Pun developed a natural blissful rhythm- rising with the sun for yoga, watering plants and ambling along the dirt paths to breakfast, tea & reading in the sunshine… sharing stories, laughing, listening, and always always always getting muddy. There was so much to be learned from everyone present at the farm, it was exhilarating, overwhelming, inspiring, and thought-provoking, to say the least. And yes, it was difficult.


This was not a place that harped on the necessity of green living, sustainable communities and earthen building. It was a place that simply was, that led by example, that never preached but said, “This is what works for me, maybe it will work for you, maybe it won’t. Maybe some of it will help you in some way.” I felt free to experience what was offered and take from it what I would.

It was empowering- experiencing that I can provide for myself. That everything I need is right here within me. It’s one thing to think you can provide for yourself, and to say, “yeah, I know I can,” and its quite another thing to live it.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Pun Pun: getting muddy

The walls went up fast- most of the bricks were laid in two or three days. The foundation also took about two days- to string up a guide and mix and pour the concrete. We poured the foundation as opposed to laying the bricks directly on the ground, again, because of the termites. Even with concrete those little buggers can still get to your house if there’s the tiniest of cracks in your foundation. Yikes.

While we were building we were also learning about water systems, sanitation, and theories and applications of different community models. Above is Peggy’s brother Nate and Josh Kearns, the previous intern I mentioned earlier, lecturing about the water system they designed for Pun Pun.

This is Justin and Su’s house after we installed electricity! Something I never thought I’d be a part of. It’s nice to surprise yourself- I discovered I like splicing:)

Also taking place while we were building the kitchen: roofs for the makeshift kitchen and new bathrooms.

Krit, Jessica, and I think that’s Nat on the soon-to-be-roof.

Plastering, painting, and finishing were so much fun. Finger painting and mud flinging? Yes, please. The artists among us took to the final touches and the kitchen looked stunning toward the end of our stay. The roof was still under construction, Pun Pun hired village professionals to do the work since it was so large and couldn’t be made out of bamboo again. (Termites) It was actually pretty perfect to have the building incomplete when we said our goodbyes, knowing that the process, the building, and the farm would keep growing and changing as Pun Pun continues to thrive.

Pun Pun: In the kitchen

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The first time I had papaya salad I thought it was noodles… a shocking taste when you’re not expecting it! So good. A surprising food discovery – I never got sick of rice. Love rice.

A fellow intern, Jake, took this photo and I love it. It’s of Wok and Sung bringing harvested Roselle to the kitchen to make into incredible jam.

Lesson: Tamarind and Roselle Jam

Coconut Milk & Dried Tamarind on Heat

When it bubbles, add brown sugar and a little palm sugar

Add a big pinch of salt

A little water and sugar and roselle (Natural Pectin)

Tix and Jia-Ling stirring the jam.

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Making shampoo on the left and soy milk and tofu on the right.

Lesson: Soy Milk and Tofu

Can use blender or mill

1 part soy beans 2 parts water

soak beans overnight, keep rinsing and draining beans till water runs clear

blend or mill, catching contents in cheese cloth

squeeze out milk then boil (add vanilla, honey, etc- adding vanilla can take bean taste away if boiling doesn’t)

Use extra material to make snacks, tofu burgers, compost…

For tofu:

Bring pot to boil, turn off heat, stir in vinegar until it curdles

Put back in cheesecloth, tie up

Place in pot or mold with weight on top for at least 1/2 an hour

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Justin demonstrating his bread kneading techniques on the left and our use of the lessons on the right: pizza nights! We made pizza dough and tomato sauce and harvested basil, eggplant, and other fun veggies for toppings. We also ordered milk from the local dairy and made ricotta cheese. Later we learned how to make a mud brick oven like the one we were using:


Pun Pun: In the garden

Lesson: Effective Micro-Organisms (EM)

EM can be used in place of harsh chemicals to aid garden growth and deter pests. Josh Kearns, a previous intern, wrote about it here. His site is also just fun to check out in general.

Want to make EM for your garden?

Ratio 1 : 3 : 10

1 kilo sugar 3 kilos organic material 10 kilos water (fermented shellfish works best)

Ferment at least 15 days in cool shaded area, large buckets ferment 1 month

Dilute solution 1 : 50 to spray on plants

(Most weeds have dry seeds and will rot in fermentation leaving only productive materials)

This is Pop wandering through the just-tilled intern’s garden beds. I wish we had taken a “before” picture because clearing these fields was impressive work. It helps to have 20 people on-hand. We then planted kale, brussel sprouts, basil, beans, tomatoes, corn, parsley, bok choy, and other seeds from packets donated to the farm.

My battle wounds from working in the garden that day, I was so proud. They healed quickly and toughened me up for work to come.

This is Graham “pausing to smell the flowers,” or discovering that absolutely everything grown at Pun Pun has a use, if not an edible one, then a medicinal one, or both.

Pi Jo’s lessons in the garden felt like “Zen and the Art of Living Meditation.” His discussions on plant life and seed-saving inevitably turned into philosophical musings on life, minfulness, and learning through doing. We were always encouraged to get our hands dirty, literally and figuratively. One of the first things Pi Jo said to us as a group was something to the effect of, “There is no such thing as a mistake, we play here.”

Gathering greens for lunch

Mmmmmm organic. There were gardens for harvesting, kitchen gardens, personal gardens, and gardens for seed-saving which meant that the plants were maintained past their harvesting time and matured to the point of “going to seed.” There are some interesting and scary things happening in the world of seed saving…

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Wok, Pop, Bi, Tix, and Sung led us through cooking lunch one day. We set off into the gardens, harvested what we needed, and dove into the kitchen. Normally Pi Dang and Pi Mao headed the kitchen efforts and provided the community with some seriously delicious meals.

The garden when we said goodbye in March.

Welcome to Pun Pun

We arrived at the Pun Pun Restaurant near Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai to meet our fellow interns and journey up to the farm. Lunch was fiddlehead fern, mushroom, and tofu sir fry with brown rice. Ah-mazing.

Krit and Justin (then strangers, who we later came to know & love) appeared, herded us all into sungtaos, (pick-up trucks with rows of seats in back) and an hour later we had bumped and jostled our way up the dusty dirt road to the farm and the sight of the kitchen, which we would soon be rebuilding, due to termite damage, as our main project. And so it began.

Walking through another farm to Pun Pun – you can see a couple of the rooftops peaking through.

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The path through the “downstairs” part of the farm was covered in passion fruit vines – a delicious walkway. We arrived at the end of their season, but if you were lucky, you could still find a yellow or purple fruit hanging down from the branches.

The village of Mae Tang – it was important for the founders of Pun Pun to be part of a greater community. Villagers affectionately referred to Pun Pun as “Baan Farang,” or “Foreigner Village.”

Justin and Su’s home, where we eventually helped install electricity and build a floor… and where little Iyara was welcomed into the world!

Home for two months: The Owl House on the Hill. This little adobe home graciously housed Graham, myself, spiders, lizards, mice, and a very active bat community. It was a busy happy household.

The bathroom, in case you were curious, had a western-style toilet on one side, a squat-style toilet on the other. All toilets were composting. The shower was cold, but there were solar-heated showers down the hill, not that I ever needed a hot shower after the heat of the day.

Oh You Sabai. This was an old adobe and bamboo building, originally made as a coffee shop and kitchen, where we spent many nights listening to and making music, enjoying the view and each other’s company.

The extremely friendly chickens who provided the farm with about 30 eggs a day and would gladly take care of any food scraps from the kitchen.

Once we demolished the old kitchen we ate here – in the community building. Pi Jo, a founder of Pun Pun, is pictured here as he was most often found – in the middle of doing something.

A glimpse into Peggy, Pi Jo, and their son Tahn’s home.

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That’s Peggy, a Pun Pun founder and Pi Jo’s wife, there in the center of the interns. These open doors will lead from their lofted bedroom to a soon-to-be-built deck for their round adobe home. This tour really moved me, it took place during one of the first days we were there and introduced me to the profound generosity and joy radiating from the community on the farm. Being welcomed into Peggy, Jo, and Tahn’s home and being encouraged to poke around the life they’ve literally built for themselves was heart-warming. I felt embraced by Pun Pun from the very start.

Notes from Thailand

Dodgy internet service and florescent-lit farang cafes didn’t lend well to my blogging in Thailand- so now that I’m back in the States, I will post!

We arrived in Bangkok after about 36 hours of flights, waiting for flights, airplane food, and restless sleep. Graham and I enjoyed a delicious street-side meal at 3am once we dropped our packs off at our hotel, and spent the next few days adjusting to the new time zone and wandering about by foot and by tuk-tuk.

In the mornings we set out to the markets in search of breakfast and found the streets crowded with jam-packed sidewalks, busting at the seems with clothing stalls, street vendors, Thai shoppers, Thai merchants, tourists, and lots of stray cats. We were rewarded with fresh smoothies and people-watching.

We avoided the afternoon heat by sitting in the cool breeze at a wat or temple, which proved to not only be a good escape from the sun, but an opportunity to talk with people as the hectic buzz of the city dulled a bit.

We then hopped on a 12-hour train to Chiang Mai where we had two days to explore before our first day at the Pun Pun Farm.

Road Trip

We packed our apartment into the VW Jetta and left San Francisco on the first of October to spend the month as curious vagabonds – wandering through California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York – and now I find myself here, typing in my childhood home in Connecticut. California to Connecticut.

We started in Point Reyes at Wildcat Camp:

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Point Reyes National Seashore is a special place, one that I was introduced to by my Waldorf mentor, Lucas, with the second grade that I was blessed to work with all year. Spending the first few days of our trip hiking these trails was refreshing – a relief from the city and an exciting taste of what’s to come – lots more time outside. We said farewell to the Pacific with a freezing swim and jumped around on the huge dunes lining the empty beach.

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Yosemite National Park: After picking up our wilderness permit and bear bin, we hiked up from where we took the top picture and scrambled to our campsite for the first two nights in Yosemite. The second picture was taken where we spent our last two nights, Cathedral Lakes, a pleasant hike up from Tuolomne Meadows. The trail was pretty chewed up due to the long line of pack donkeys that had escorted a trail maintenance crew while they cleared fallen trees from a storm the night before. Cool fresh air was startling to my nose and my fingers didn’t want to listen to me in the cold of the mornings. We were greeted by a lone white wolf on our way back down the trail before we set off across Tioga Pass.

100_3979Our next camping stops were in Eldorado National Forest, Lassen, and Mt. Shasta. On almost every hike we went on we were greeted by couples three times our age briskly descending the trails with words of advice – how windy it was at the top, how cold they think it was last night, what brand of shoes they bought last summer that made all the difference. I hope that I’m still huffing and puffing up dirt trails in my 70s.

We drove by huge fields with happy grazing cows, scattered horses, dilapidated barns, and train tracks clinging to the sides of mountains on highways maintained by “Butterflies and Rainbows” and “Hardcore Hikers,” passing roads like “Rock Bottom Lane” right next to “Wise Man Road.” When we reached the Redwoods there was a 120-acre forest fire raging through part of the park, which changed our camping plans a bit. We ended up further north and ran into a swarm of firefighters leaving for dinner at the end of their day. One of them mentioned that 120 acres isn’t that big compared to what they’re used to dealing with- but it didn’t look all that small driving through.

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Graham ended up driving the entire rest of the way across the country.

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Redwood National Forest:

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After spending time with the redwoods, we ended up staying in a redwood. Exhausted and very much in need of a shower, we headed out of the forest and found a motel that was made out of a single curly redwood. This type of redwood grows in a spiral (or curl) so the age of the tree can’t be determined.

Well-rested and finally clean, we hopped back into the jam-packed Jetta (Literally- it was stuffed to the roof except for a 12” window so we could see with the rear-view mirror) and drove through Oregon.

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We rode these wonderful beater bikes all around Portland – crunching through leaves, passing houses lined with carved pumpkins, and getting gloriously lost on the way back to our friend Sam’s house. Sam loaned us these sweet bikes and was our very first couchsurfing host! I could write a book about how incredible couchsurfing is, so instead I will just post the link here and highly recommend you check it out. Another recommendation is to get lost in Powell’s Books if you ever find your self in Portland. A bookstore that spans an entire city block, I knew it was going to be sweet, but Powell’s was better than I imagined- the books seemed to be organized more by stream of consciousness than anything else.

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This was one of many ferocious and tourist-trained begging raccoons who greeted us at Point Defiance in Tacoma. We drove from Portland up to stay with my dear friend Jackie  who I met in India and now lives in Tacoma. After a few relaxing days in the city, Graham, Jackie, her friend Kate, and I all packed up and took the ferry over to Vancouver Island in search of salmon.

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The license plates across the ferry read “Beautiful British Columbia.” They’re not kidding.

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100_4091The salmon were definitely in the water- jumping up with loud splashes every now and again- just to taunt us, show off their huge glistening bodies, and make it clear that they were by no means interested in our lures. We probably could have caught a fish that meandered near shore, but he was missing a large chunk of his back, which was most likely in the belly of the black bear swimming down the river having much better luck than we did.

Not catching anything made for a great excuse to head to the local pub filled with plaid-wearing locals, good beer, and cheap burgers.

The ferry ride from the island over to the city of Vancouver was chilly, foggy, and breathtaking. I can only imagine the ferry ride that weaves in and out of these islands and up to Alaska.

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While in Vancouver, we spent a lot of our time on the campus of the University of British Columbia. The Museum of Anthropology had a great collection of First Nations art, and the surrounding gardens and buildings were all interesting and pleasant to walk by in the slightly drizzly and cozy weather.

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After Vancouver we spent a very cloudy two days hiking around Whistler (Which, sadly, didn’t open until mid-November) before driving to Seattle to stay with two amazing couchsurfing hosts: Tristan and Johnny.

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Seattle was a blur of conversations by the wood stove, exploring the city- falling in love with pioneer square, farmers markets, and cooking in a beautiful little kitchen.

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Graham drove us from Seattle to Montana while I played DJ or read a book aloud. We arrived after dark at our couchsurfing hosts’ house and found a nice fire going in the wood stove and a cozy bed. A flat tire cut our Glacier National Park exploring short, but we ended up at our hosts’ band rehearsal- the Tropical Montana Marimba Ensemble. An absolute blast, complete with hula hoops in an old mercantile building.

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From Montana we drove down to Yellowstone, negotiating our route around the snow-covered closed roads. We froze through the night and explored the odd dream-like landscape during the day.

After hearing enough people say they’d packed up their camping gear months ago, we finally caved and decided Yellowstone was our last camping spot. So we drove down to see the mighty Tetons.

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We were in Jackson Hole for a few days since I-80 was closed due to a storm.

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Then we took absolutely no photos while walking, hiking, and biking around Boulder – oops. But we did stay with my sweet sweet friend from college- Beth! So good.

100_4334In Omaha we stayed with a very nice couchsurfing couple and then decided the car needed a wash before Chicago.

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100_4396In Chicago we stayed with yet another incredible couchsurfing host, Stephen. After giving Millenium Park a good stroll, we spent  a few hours in the Art Institute Museum, circled about on the loop, and ended our day eating deep-dish pizza before dragging our tired bodies back to Stephen’s.

It was a long drive from Chicago to New York with lots of caffeine, but we’re here. I hopped over to Connecticut and that is where we are in this little adventure.