Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Friend Terri's Comfortable Neptune Beach Ornamental and Food Garden

A couple of weeks back I attend a documentary/fund-raiser on the healing powers of plants with my co-workers at Shakti Life Kitchen. Terri lives in the area, so Jill (the teacher friend who gave photography grad student tips here) and I carpooled over to her house to get a look at her garden before borrowing a couple of her bikes to ride to the Neptune Beach farmers market like proper hippies.

I snapped a few photos with my smart phone before we took off. Her garden's just the inspiration I need to see right now. I have garden lust, bad. I'm dying to dig in the dirt and grow some herbs, veggies, succulents, cacti and ornamentals. The photo above is of two raised beds Terri has in the rear of her garden.

Her beautiful neptune beach abode (wish I'd snapped some shots of the inside, immaculate, light, and airy) had a spacious back yard full of flowers, fruit trees, herbs, veggies and some kitschy details...

Like this guy! Made some years back, the base was harvested from The Cummer Museum during his days working there, it was headed for the trash before they revived it. A tree in their front yard is hilariously adorned with sunglasses they find while walking on the nearby beach.

The siting area is cozy, tucked underneath the shade of a large tree dripping with spanish moss.

And I love the compost pile and fruiting tropicals. She has a banana tree (Terry's pointing to them above).

And she has a papaya tree loaded with fruit! They self-seeded in her compost pile. She gave me six, I have three in pots in front of my apartment to be transplanted and gave three to my mom. I hope we can eat their fruit next season after we baby them through North Florida's temperamental winter.

And I love her sweet garden-exploring kitty. She's dainty and elegant with huge, alert eyes. Pretty creature.

Got any garden plans? Fall is the time to get growing in the south, our summer heat can make greens and other plants go to seed prematurely. At the least, I'd love to grow all of my greens and herbs- that alone would save a bundle! I'm eager to help start more food parks in town, too, but I get to ambitious...
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Monday, September 29, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Your (Yes, "Your", I Read Your Mind) Future Dream Jobs

Do you scoff at instructions, digging into projects without restricting guidelines? Are you a goal-setting visionary? Do you see interesting start-ups or projects and think, "I can do that!"? If so, you're cursed with my busy entrepreneur brain. I'm always dreaming up beautiful businesses, whether I want to or not.

Every time I see a retail space for rent in downtown St. Augustine, my favorite place in the world, I vividly dream of buying it and opening a business. Damn you, entrepreneur brain. 

After years of coaching people, getting coached, and interviewing others I've come up with five indie business jobs creative entrepreneurs want to get start and today I'm sharing the pros and cons. I'd love it if anyone with experience in these fields with chime in with their experiences in the comments. Let's start with The Universal Pros and Cons of being a Small Business Owner:

Pros: you answer to no one/you're the boss and make the rules, freedom and independence, make your own schedule, pride/accomplishment of business ownership, often creatively fulfilling/rewarding

Cons: start-up costs, you work more hours, you work harder and longer, your pay isn't usually hourly and directly dependent on the work you put in vs. hourly wage work, you have to love it and be passionate to succeed even when it's hard, blurring your hobby and work can ruin the fun of your hobby, blurring your work and home space can ruin the "relaxation" of your home space

1. Cafe or Restaurant Owner 

Pros: working with food (if you're a food lover or love to cook), more recession-proof, rewarding
Cons: managing and finding a good staff is challenging, keeping up ever-changing with rules/laws/codes/inspections, higher start-up cost, finding a good location, time sucker, big time

Tip from Michelle, owner of a successful BBQ restaurant:

"Restaurants are a lot of work. Don't get into it unless you want to work hard. It took as lot of years to get a good crew that would allow me to finally be able to work 20 to 35 hours a week. Don't open a restaurant just because you 'like to cook'. You need to know how to manage a business, then you buy or open a restaurant. You have to really want it, this business is going to be your baby."

2.  Online Reseller (Vintage or otherwise) 

Pros: low item acquisition cost, low start-up cost, fairly location independent, can work from home, can resell a low cost item at a high profit, customer service isn't face-to-face, very flexible, constantly need to acquire new merch to survive- it's stressful
Cons: requires some knowledge and/or research, listings/photography/hunting/cleaning is time consuming, storage can be expensive or take up home square footage, with online rankings pleasing cantankerous customers is paramount

The gorgeous garden next to my "dream future business". It's romantically lit by lanterns at night.

3. Rental Property Manager/Owner 

Pros: passive income- do what you love most of the time and put that rent check right into your bank account, homes/apartments/retail space purchased excellent money investment/asset
Cons: high start-up cost, upkeep expenses, dealing with tenants: damages, evictions, etc., finding tenants

Tip from Grace, owner of 7 rental properties and co-worker with me at Shakti Life Kitchen:

"You can start for $10,000 if you buy a house in a bad area. [Renting properties] is one of the best ways to get ahead in life. I hire other people to do the hard stuff like evictions and harder repairs. I love it." 

4. Writer (traditional books, eBooks, blog, journalist) 

Pros: extremely location independent, creatively satisfying, rewarding, way to inspire others/fulfilling
Cons: writer's block, very hard to get paid well (or at all) in this field, considered a "dying" industry, saturated industry

5. Retail Shop Owner (art, indie stuff, books, vintage things, etc.) 

Pros: creatively fulfilling to have your own space to arrange, a way to really feel like a part of the community and influence it, face-to-face customer interaction can be fun/rewarding/good networking, stress of having to ALWAYS need new and ample merch to survive
Cons: rent expense is often very high, hard to find a good location, very hard to keep these open now-a-days (I see them close left and right), hard to compete with big business

Bonus: Pop-Up Shop/Portable Boutique or Food Truck Owner 

Pros: No rent, highly flexible, fun creative work, meet lots of interesting people face-to-face, often working outdoors in fun environments like markets and fairs
Cons: start-up cost to outfit your truck, could be difficult to find where to set-up shop, lots of behind-the-scenes work between set-ups, setting up in different places often time-consuming and energy-sucking

What are your dream jobs?  I occupy two of the niches above and have actively tried to get into each one of the ones above..

Do you have any of the jobs above? Any experience in those common fields? Do chime with pros/cons of your own.
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Hostel in the Forest: Sleepin' in a Treehouse. A Dream Artsy Hippie Woodland Commune


I'm freshly back from an amazing stay in The Hostel in the Forest and feeling inspired and renewed. The Hostel in the Forest is just what it says, a unique hostel in the woods of Brunswick, Georgia. The rooms are tree houses, the complimentary dinners are vegetarian, and the atmosphere is peaceful. Electronics aren't allowed outside of your room. You walk trails, canoe in the lake, swim in the pool, check out the garden, read, draw, and enjoy a peaceful time away from your typical hustle and bustle.

We stayed in the "bamboo" hut. A tree house with three big glass windows overlooking the "labyrinth", a maze for meditation.

We enjoyed looking just laying it bed and looking out the windows, feeling the cozy embrace of the surrounding trees. The wind moving through the branches sounded like the gentle drops of rain on your roof, a very relaxing nature-song.

Not far from out hut there was a gorgeous pool fed with water from a nearby lake. It's (finally) feeling more like fall here in North Florida/South Georgia. It's chillier in the forrest hidden beneath the tree canopy. There was no swimming for us this time and we didn't pack warm-enough clothes, but this is the perfect time to visit. We weren't devoured by mosquitos, bug bites were minimal.

The main area is has a library dome, a "main office" dome where you check in- it has a community kitchen in the back. There's a screened-in cafeteria where dinner is served, a laundry room, an incredible library and music room, a fire bit and a gorgeous outdoor kitchen.

The outdoor kitchen is the stuff of dreams. With a wood burning stove and found-glass artistic details.

Behold the side detail. It appeared to be out-of-use but damn, it was beautiful to behold.

And within, a beautiful hen roosts. That's one of the cutest things I've ever seen. I never saw her move an inch. Chickens and ducks roamed the land freely, feasting on little bugs and bits. They're eggs were collected and placed in a basket in the kitchen for the community to use.

Our favorite space was the library and music room, outstanding! Remove your shoes before you enter as the sign instructs, when you walk it it smells fresh and earthy like cedar and sawdust. I love that it inspired my mostly left-brained boyfriend. "Now this is what our future house has to look like!" he exclaimed, going on about how our version will have an often layout with several lofts and light-up bars for guests. Yep, sounds good to me. The wall-to wall labeled books and ample seating make it cozy. There's a skylight in the center of the space to let in natural light. Look close and you'll see the recessed light mood lighting!

Even the outhouses are beautiful! You cover your "deposits" with fresh sawdust. Believe it or not, there is almost no odor in these spaces, the fresh wood smell overpowers. This is where some draw the line but I seriously wouldn't mind having a compost toilet of my own to use. I love how environmentally friendly these are. Boyfriend did not approve. There were sinks and hand sanitizers inside, guest books to write funny things while you're sitting, and murals on the wall with information on compost toilets. Funny enough, these "primitive" toilets and better smelling were far cleaner than 98% of public restrooms I've encountered.

The gorgeous main building is not without its charms as well. The front porch with lively plants provides a relaxing place to sit and talk. Guests come from all walks of life, some are career travelers, there are eccentric entrepreneurs, fellow nerds and artists and earthy hippies. Sometimes there are people anxious to escape the crazy hippie-place a friend dragged them to.

Upon checking in the gong pictured in hit, you share a hug, and you're given a brief tour of the area.

The kitchen in the rear of the same building is incredible! I love the mix of rustic and modern and the productive triangle-shape for easy, organic food prep. It's incredible cozy.

Why yes I did smell every single herb and spice in the back of the kitchen and make a big pot of mint tea for AJ and I to enjoy.

Continuing the comfortable mix of outdoors and modern, there are three comfortable outdoor shower/bath houses. The hot water was very welcome on the "cold" (anything around 70 degrees is cold for us) day.

We took three showers to experience each space! The outdoor tub and "sexy shower" by the lake were unfortunately out of order.

The trail to the lake is marked by a gorgeous tiki-style painting. It was too chilly to swim, but we did enjoy a couple of canoe rides. I have a lot to learn about steering a boat, need more practice!

We road our boat out to the little island and laid around for a bit. Very relaxing.

Yep, took a little time to enjoy the swing beside the lake as well.

At the end of another trail is a beautiful garden filled with wild tomatillos, pomegranate, citrus and papaya trees and many of my favorite herbs. I took cuttings from a mammoth path of holy basil, sweet basil, and lemon balm and have them rooting on my window sill. I was encouraged to try the okra (flower above) and picked some peppers, eggplant, and okra that will be stir fried with cabbage and tempeh for lunch today.

Another path led to a gorgeous glass house with a view of a tiny creek. The floor featured paintings of gods and goddesses of various cultures. It's a room where yoga classes and held from time to time.

While exploring we stopped at different tree houses to peek inside. Each one has its own theme and name. This one is "Dragon's Lair."

The fun part about the hostel are the options. There are various trails to explore, rooms to stay in, and events to attend. We will definitely be back to try different rooms and experiences. The forest alone has a lot to love, I enjoyed photographing various colored mushrooms and examining plant and animal life.

The large window in front of our bed overlooked the labyrinth. This was the view this morning when we sadly had to say goodbye. Duty called, but I wasn't ready to leave. One day I may seriously look into volunteering and living here for a while, it calls out to my rustic hippie soul. I'll clean/update the rooms, garden, make merchandise, update/maintain the website/blog and cook. C'mon guys, let me in!

We will definitely be back for rest, relaxation and explorations soon, beautiful Hostel! I'll close here with some notes from AJ about the trip. He and I are an example of polar opposites attracting and he's not earthy and artsy like I am, so I'm glad he thoroughly enjoyed the trip:

"After stressing out between my two jobs, I was given the opportunity to have several days off. The last couple of days, I've been staying at an old hippy hostel commune....sleeping in a tree hut, showering outdoors, community meals and chores, exploring miles of woods and natural lakes, I can honestly say this is exactly what I needed. It's not for everyone, but for me, having a few days to experience what it's like to be a rustic man of nature has taught me a lot about the past and also a few tips on how to live outside of "society"."

Notes for Visitors: According to a big book on hostels, The Hostel in the Forest possesses the dubious honor of  "Most Inhospitable Entrance in the USA." The road to enter is unpaved, long, and riddled with gigantic potholes. Drive in carefully, drive a truck or jeep if possible. There was also no warning that the paths to the main areas and bathrooms are unlit at night, bring a flash light.

It can get chilly at night, pack comfortable, warm exploring clothes and scarves. The rooms get booked full fast on the weekends, and things are slow and quiet during the week. Sheets, towels, and pillows are provided but not pedantically sanitized, bring your own if you're a clean freak. This is a hand-holding (we hold hands and say grace before dinner) communal environment, people with social anxiety- beware! You are in the forest and there will be roaches. Bug phobia types- beware! The cost is a mere $25.00 per night per person and it includes a delicious, ample nightly dinner. You're responsible for the rest of your meals.

I highly recommend a stay at The Hostel in the Woods to any and everyone. Overcome any modern societal fears you may have and join the hippie side for a couple of days. Everyone needs a fresh change of perspective to live a full life! Check out their website here.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Grandparent's Colorful House and Gorgeous Tropical Garden in Puerto Rico

With my home tour series I love to share the real homes of makers/creatives/friends/interesting-people with aesthetics to admire. This time I'm sharing a home that's influenced my ethos and aesthetic itself; my grandparent's house in Ponce, Puerto Rico. My love of gardening, bright colors, Spanish-style homes, growing my own food, all of it stems from the very same house my dad, his four sisters and brother were raised on a tight budget.

The guest bedroom where we stay on visits. Bed outfitted with light sheets because none of our family members have air conditioning. The heat! Oppressive.

The area's rough, my family worries when I meander around to take photos of the colorful houses with paint chipping off the cement facades. "They're going to think you're a cop scoping the place out, be careful!" my dad chides when I escape the "safety" of my grandparent's courtyard. During one visit a drug dealer's errand bullet killed a neighborhood kid, on another we witnessed a drug war scene like one from an action flick with helicopters and spotlights while we were coming down from a hill top. (Where we ironically, took photos of a giant cross.) During this last visit things were quiet, it looks like the area is gentrifying. I was told the land was part of a low-income housing project back in the 60s when my grandparents obtained it. 

The furnishings are simple, traditional and homey. During the first visit I can remember when I was 7 I recall things being much more minimal, it looks like a little more is added every time I visit. Funny, after staying with family members for a week my minimalist apartment felt barren and empty. The home was a humble 2 bedroom then, later my grandparents won a bit of lottery money (not millionaire status in the least) and extended the house a bit into the backyard. It's still a humble, cozy abode. My grandfather still paints and maintains his home entirely by himself well into his eighties.

The courtyard, front and back yard are full of ornamental and edible tropicals. Papaya and coffee plants are in the front. Mighty avocado, breadfruit, and starfruit trees are in the back. Combined with bananas from neighbors I cut up the bounty into morning fruit feasts for the family.

I love this retro chalkware piece of a traditional Puerto Rican home with an outhouse, rain barrel, and the national tree in the background. I wonder who produced these very specific pieces?

The backyard is small and narrow but filled with plants and even a cage with birds.

The giant breadfruit tree. Breadfruit is an amazingly delicious starchy food, it's helped islanders survive tough times for generations throughout the Caribbean.

Walking around my grandparent's tiny yard and their neighborhood (future post) set me to dreaming of having my own Puerto Rican abode where I'd grow a killer garden of tropicals in their natural habitat and curate and lovely home.

Above, the day's starfruit harvest before they were chopped in oatmeal. How fun would it be to run a bed and breakfast or hostel in this tropical paradise?

Directly across the street is a colorful playground that brings back memories. I have never seen the neighborhood's kids use it. (Perhaps to hot to play when I visit in the summer?) When I was 7 my mom told me it's full of drugs and used for drug deals and to stay away. I recall seeing cops throw around a couple of guy's bikes before arresting them and didn't understand what that was about at the time. Still don't, actually. Destroying their rides before taking them in?

I love the old doors, thriving tropicals, the colors and collections, all of my family have such beautiful homes.

With any luck we'll be back again, I wish I could share this Eden with everyone. Every time I visit it's tempting to never fly back to Florida.

My brother jumping in my shot. As siblings do.

This is the house where a family of eight was raised and fed on humble means and that innate thriftiness has trickled down to me. We were never rich, but I'm grateful for the lessons the simple life has taught me.

'Til next time, Puerto Rico. Next time we have to explore that bioluminecent bay!

/Comments Off : I'm staying at "The Hostel in the Forest" in Brunswick Georgia today! So excited to sleep in a tree house, walk tails, swim in a suits-optional lake, and enjoy complimentary vegan dinners. I'll be back Friday :D
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