Dancing With Myself

Dancing with Myself, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent Self-Care issue, January 7, 2021.

Dancing with Myself, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent Self-Care issue, January 7, 2021.

A combination of yoga, martial arts, and dance, Nia was introduced to me by my friend Meg Miller, who’s been an instructor at the Montecito YMCA for more than a decade. When the pandemic torpedoed indoor classes,
Miller started an online “Nia Together-Apart” group, sending videos for people to dance from home “with her” every Saturday at 11:15 a.m., her normal class time.

As Queen of the Procrastinators, I left the link in my inbox, red flagged and scolding me for a week before I finally decided to try Nia. I intended to do it at 11:15 a.m., but it was more like 5:15 p.m., when rolled-back clocks made it too dark for my regular walk.

“In Nia everything is based on 52 moves,” explained Miller. “In addition to what is generally known — that moving to music is
good for us — Nia uses findings from neuroscience to create a holistic experience
through dance. I know this sounds a little woo-woo, but plenty of people do Nia purely as a physical fitness experience.”

I cranked up the video in the privacy of my bedroom, figuring I’d come for the cardio and slip in some metaphysics if the spirit moved
me. The last time I danced was in the early COVID days: a TikTok challenge from my son and his girlfriend. After a bit, I started to let loose. Rather than following the leader,
the idea is to listen to your body and enjoy every movement. So I freestyled instead of doing the floor-play, which looked too much
like pushups for my taste.

Although Nia is meant to be danced communally, my freestyle was definitely more “free” in my bedroom than it would have been at the YMCA. Even Miller, who loves the community aspect of Nia, said, “I’ve found a lot more freedom and self-expression doing it without
an audience of any kind.”

My heart rate was definitely elevated, and my spirit did get a little lift. I’ll try Nia again, maybe even next Saturday at 11:15 a.m.

For more information, visit nianow.com.
Santa Barbara Independent Cover, Self-Care, January 7, 2021.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on January 7, 2021. To see this story as it appeared in print, please click here.

The Books of 2020

Writers & Lovers by Lily King, was one of my favorite books I read in 2020.

So many books, so little time—part 14.

My son started keeping a reading list in third grade, so I did too. This is the 14th year we’ve done this.

2020 was such a weird year for everything, including reading. I’m usually a very avid reader, but once the pandemic hit and everything shut down I really couldn’t concentrate on books for the first few months. I felt like I was reading the same line over and over again. It made me so sad that on top of everything else, losing one of my favorite leisure activities  was heartbreaking—especially when it was one of the few things we were still able to do.  I’m not really sure when I started being able to read again, but when it kicked back in I had more time to read than probably ever before. Thank goodness. Traveling with my favorite authors was the only way I could escape this year.

My favorite books of 2020 were Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, Writers & Lovers by Lily King, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, All Adults Here by Emma Straub, Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout, and The Guest List by Lucy Foley. I’d love to hear what else people loved.

Here’s the 2020 list.

The Female Persuasion Meg Wolitzer
Country Danielle Steel
Trust Exercise Susan Choi
The Liar Nora Roberts
Every Day David Levithan
Beyond Ever After Catherine A. Weissenberg & Jocelyn Montanaro
Ask Again, Yes Mary Beth Keane
Manhattan Beach Jennifer Egan
My Reading Life Pat Conroy
The Whisper Network Chandler Baker
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be
Your Own Person
Shonda Rimes
Saint Anything Sarah Dessen
My Ex-Life Stephen McCauley
Skeletons at the Feast Chris Bohjalian
Such a Fun Age Kiley Reid
The Proposal Jasmine Guillory
Delicate Edible Birds Lauren Groff
First Star I See Tonight Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Homegoing Yaa Gyasi
Food Whore: A Novel of Dining and Deceit Jessica Tom
Come Sundown Nora Roberts
Lost and Wanted Nell Freudenberger
Home Front Kristin Hannah
Where the Crawdads Sing Delia Owens
How Hard Can it Be Alison Pearson
Sophia of Silcon Valley Anna Yen
Three Women Lisa Taddeo
The Broom of the System David Foster Wallace
The Last Black Unicorn Tiffany Haddish
The Dinner List Rebecca Searle
The Perfectionists Sara Shepherd
Stranger in Paradise Eileen Goudge
Writers & Lovers Lily King
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel
Up and In Deborah Disney
Yes, And (The One) Kristi Coulter
Second Glance Jodi Picoult
All Adults Here Emma Straub
Secrets of Eden Chris Bojhalian
Sisters First Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush
Olive, Again Elizabeth Strout
Small Great Things Jodi Picoult
The Guest List Lucy Foley
Oona Out of Order Margarita Montimore
Under Currents Nora Roberts
The Bride Test Helen Hoang
Big Summer Jennifer Weiner
Celestial Bodies Jokha Alharthi
Stars of Fortune Nora Roberts
The Assistants Camille Perri
Bay of Sighs Nora Roberts
Island of Glass Nora Roberts
Good & Mad Rebecca Traister
Saving Grace Jane Green
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and our Lives Revealed Lori Gottlieb
This is Happiness Niall Williams
House Rules Jodi Picoult
Fame Adjacent Sarah Skilton
The Book With No Pictures BJ Novak
Wildflower Drew Barrymore
Vinegar Girl Anne Tyler
The Floating Feldmans Elyssa Friedland
Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing Allison Winn Scotch
I Almost Forgot About You Terry McMillan
Modern Romance Aziz Ansari
If You Were Here Jen Lancaster
Followers Megan Angelo
The Vanishing Half Britt Bennett
Nothing Like I Imagined Mindy Kaling
The Plus One Sarah Archer
The Complete Persepolis Marjane Satrapi
The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett Annie Lyons
The Girl He Used to Know Tracey Garvis Graves
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill Abbi Waxman
An Anonymous Girl Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
The Identicals Elin Hilderbrand
American Dirt Jeanine Cummins
How to Walk Away Katherine Center
The Undoing Project Michael Lewis
The Honey Don’t List Christina Lauren
Island Visions Pedal Born Pictures
The Wedding Party Jasmine Guillory
The Editor Steven Rowley
Bridal Boot Camp Meg Cabot
Half-Truths and Semi-Miracles Anne Tyler

Fresh Flowers Meet Fresh Thinking

Fresh Flowers Meet Fresh Thinking, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Fresh Flowers Meet Fresh Thinking, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

A beautiful floral arrangement is always a welcome gift, but learning to make one can be a treasured experience. That’s the idea behind The Floral Pantry (thefloralpantry.com), a new CIY (create it yourself ) floristry-kit delivery service.

Founder and creative director Kim Wiseley worked with internationally renowned floral designers for years before landing on a way to share their expertise and creative inspiration with home floral enthusiasts, she says. The result of collaborations with renowned professionals, such as English floral designer Willow Crossley and Belgium-based farmer florist Emily Avenson of Fleuropean floral designs, the kits feature seasonal, fresh flowers, a handmade vessel, design tools, and a video design tutorial, all handpacked by Wiseley and her team in a Santa Barbara floral warehouse.

“Nature’s wonder is at the heart of everything we do,” Wiseley says.

Cover of 805 Living December 2020 Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Climb on a Clydesdale

Climb on a Clydesdale, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Climb on a Clydesdale, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

If you’ve ever dreamed of riding one of the majestic and mighty horses made famous in the Budweiser commercials, now’s your chance. Tour the family-owned Covell Ranch
(covellsclydesdaleranch.com) in the charming coastal community of Cambria on the back
of one of the gentle Scottish draught horses known as Clydesdales.

“We’ve been breeding Clydesdales for over 40 years,” says Tara Covell. Her father, horse
breeder Ralph Covell, owns the 2,000 acre ranch and offers tours and trail rides through
the property, where stands of Monterey Pines grow along rolling hills with ocean views.

Cover of 805 Living December 2020 Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Swedish-Style Sweets

December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Swedish Style Sweets, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

For a fresh twist on Christmas candy this year, try authentic handmade polkagris, a traditional treat in Sweden that’s available at Solvang’s Swedish Candy Factory (swedishcandyfactory.com), which claims to be the only bakery in the U.S. making the confection.

“Polkagris is the main Swedish candy that we make,” says Rob Taylor, owner of the family business. “Our family is all part Swedish, so it’s kind of a neat thing to do.”

“Peppermint Polkagris is probably the number one seller for the holiday season,” says Taylor’s sister Amy Freedman, who works at the Solvang store. In addition to that red and white–striped traditional flavor, the company’s polkagris sticks come in an array of colors
and cinnamon, licorice, piña colada, and several sour fruit flavors.

Chocolate is also in plentiful supply at the candy factory, with special holiday flavors and wrappings for December, says Taylor, who heads up the family’s Staffords Chocolates Company. The family’s other 805-area stores include Stafford’s Chocolates (opening soon in San Luis Obispo) and Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates in San Luis Obispo.

Cover of 805 Living December 2020 Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Dreamy Bedding

Dreamy Bedding, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Dreamy Bedding, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Sleep is such an important component of our overall health and happiness, so why not gift your loved ones (or yourself ) with eco-conscious luxury bedding this holiday season?

Westlake Home (westlakehome.com) is a dream come true for brothers Charles-Etienne and Julien Roy, founders of the Westlake Village–based business, who spent more than two years traveling the world doing research to create luxurious bedding made from chemical-free, environmentally friendly products.

“Our dedication to creating heirloom pieces demands nothing can be overlooked,” says Julien. Not even the package. “The goal of our packaging is to convey reusability and reduce our trash impact,” he says.

Sheets, duvet covers, pillowcases, and bundled sets are all available online, and every purchase comes with two gifts—a 100 percent organic mulberry silk eye mask and a
striking agate coaster from Brazil.

Cover of 805 Living December 2020 Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Flavor of the Month: Gingerbread

Flavor of the Month: Gingerbread, ed in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Flavor of the Month: Gingerbread, ed in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

“A delicious gingerbread man with a cold glass of milk is a holiday staple for me,” says Kyle Kent, bar supervisor at The Lark, who created his Gingerbread Clarified Milk Punch
Cocktail for this holiday season. The aromatics of gingerbread—molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and clove—evoke the holiday spirit, so it’s no wonder local chefs, bakers,
and mixologists have been inspired to concoct new riffs on the classic treat.

What: Clarified Milk Punch Cocktail, a mix of gingerbread spices and rich, creamy milk in a cold, dessert-style cocktail
Where: The Lark, Santa Barbara (thelarksb.com)

What: Gingerbread Gelato, traditional holiday spices warm up an authentic Italian frozen dessert
Where: Solvang Flavors, Solvang (solvangflavors.com)

What: The Gingerbread-Latte Macaron, the classic French-style sandwich cookie meets all-American gingerbread flavors in a confection from pastry chef Ron Viloria
Where: Goat Tree café at Hotel Californian, Santa Barbara (hotelcalifornian. com/santa_barbara_restaurants/goat_tree)

What: The Gingerbread Latte, delicately sweet gingery heat mingles with espresso and steamed milk in a seasonal cuppa
Where: Libbey’s Market at the Ojai Valley Inn, Ojai (ojaivalleyinn.com/dining)

What: Gingerbread-spiced Morning Buns, classic buns get a gingerbread flavored twist in this holiday special from executive chef Jason Paluska
Where: Helena Avenue Bakery, Santa Barbara (helenaavenuebakery.com)

What: The Get Rich or Die Chai-ing Cocktail, a gingerbread-reminiscent mix of chai, blended scotch, orgeat, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Fernet-Branca, lemon juice, and herbal liqueur by mixologist-co-owner Brandon Ristaino
Where: The Good Lion, Santa Barbara (goodlioncocktails.com)

Cover of 805 Living December 2020 Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Take Part in Art

Take Part in Art, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Take Part in Art, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

At a time when people are thirsting for new activities they can do safely, the new Museum of Sensory & Movement Experiences (MSME, pronounced miss me; seehearmove.com) in Santa Barbara is a welcome addition to the cultural scene.

The exhibits are all interactive and primarily hands-free, “as a way for people to still feel connected even during this time of social distancing,” explains executive director Marco Pinter.

Pinter hopes in particular to attract visually savvy teens and young adults with extended evening hours, which he suggests are “great for date nights,” and interactive experiences that are sure to be great fodder for Instagram. Each visitor is an energy source that fuels
the results, so as they engage with the artworks, what they see responds in new and unexpected ways.

Pinter is himself an established media artist as well as a prolific inventor with more than 70 patents in the categories of live video technology, robotics, interactivity, and telepresence. Six of his installations are on view at MSME. Among other artists featured are Ethan Turpin, Alan Macy, Elisa Ortega Montilla, and Douglas Lochner.

Cover of 805 Living December 2020 Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Holiday Gift Guide 2020

Where and What to Buy During This Holiday Season in the Time of COVID

If there were ever a year we could use some holiday cheer, it’s definitely this one. Our holiday gift guide for 2020 spotlights some of our favorite stores and shopping hubs, as well as some other ideas to help you get into the spirit of the giving season. You might even find a little something for yourself.

As Oprah Winfrey, one of our favorite Montecito residents, says, “Every gift I’ve ever given has brought as much happiness to me as it has to the person I’ve given it to.” In a year where supporting locally owned businesses is more important to our community than ever, here are some ideas to help get your generosity flowing.

Click here to see the gift guide as it originally appeared in print in the Santa Barbara Independent on December 3, 2020.

S.B. Middle School Pedals Through the Pandemic

S.B. Middle School Pedals Through the Pandemic, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

S.B. Middle School Pedals Through the Pandemic, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Riviera Campus Finds Creative Challenges to Keep Kids Active

Getting teens and tweens outside and active is particularly challenging during the days of COVID, so Santa Barbara Middle School (SBMS) — well known for embarking on pedal-powered learning adventures — challenged students to ride at least 26 miles during the month of September, while they were still learning from home. (They returned to in-person
classes in October.)

The 26-mile marker is approximately the same distance students normally ride for their two-day orientation bike ride, explained Communications Manager Merritt Bauer. Since the pandemic restrictions shut down that activity, they decided to use the Strava app to
challenge students and families to ride at least 26 miles.

“Families were very into it,” said Bauer. Providing even further incentive, they had the kids vote on what the prize would be if they hit their total goal of 5,000 miles of activity within the month. “Prizes were everything from a dunk tank to having our headmaster dress up in a pink gorilla suit for a week, which is exactly what ended up being the winning choice,” she laughed.

The challenge — which allowed other physical activities such as surfing, hiking, walking,
and even golf to be logged — ended up exceeding their goal by almost 800 miles. “We had all of our families participate in over 800 individual activities, which I think is pretty incredible,” said Bauer.

As a celebration when the Strava challenge was complete, and with strict and complicated
health and safety mandates firmly in place, staff and students were able to do some bike rides in small groups. “We actually ended up driving through Goleta on our bikes and seeing a lot of SBMS alums and families who know our school and were screaming as we biked past, ‘We’re so happy to see you guys back on the road,’ ” said Bauer. “It was definitely positive feedback all around just seeing people in the community and our families who had just been dying to get our kids back together.”

When they ended their rides at Goleta Beach, as promised, Head of School Brian McWilliams was there to greet them in a pink gorilla suit, jumping hairy feet first into the
ocean with the kids on the final day.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.