Friday, April 24, 2015

Exploring Galicia, Spain: Betanzos

When we're in Spain, we like to explore small towns and villages in our home province of A Coruña, in Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain. One afternoon last summer, we set off to explore, and we discovered the hilly medieval town of Betanzos. 

Betanzos is easy to access, with exits off of two major roads (A6 and AP9). It was named "Brigantium" by the Romans as a hill fort and is one of the original seven capitals of the Old Kingdom of Galicia. 

The road into downtown and the Iglesia de Santo Domingo
seemingly deserted during a summer afternoon siesta stroll.

The town is marked by three Gothic churches, Santa Maria do Azogue, Santiago (of which, for some reason, we have no photos), and San Francisco, known for its sarcophagus with the remains of Fernán Pérez Andrade, a Galician knight. The tomb is decorated with hunting images.

Iglesia de San Francisco de Betanzos, erected in 1387 over another church from the 13th century.

Iglesia de Santa Maria do Azogue

and its main portal

While we were there, there was an public art display of flags hanging from many town buildings, making for a lovely, colorful landscape.

Looking for a new career? Betanzos has a course for your future as a baker or butcher... no candlestick makers though. Sorry, Mother Goose.

The town had no formal plan, so you never know what lurks around corners. 

Betanzos has many options for tasty treats and pretty views...perfect for an afternoon stroll. 

Do you prefer exploring small towns or big cities? What is one thing you like to do in each place you visit?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day: a history and 5 things you can do today

It was the apex of hippie culture. The United States was saturated with gas guzzling V8 engines. Jimi Hendrix passed away, and the Beatles had released their final album. There was a war raging in Vietnam and students were protesting, and Simon and Garfunkel were signing about a "Bridge over Troubled Water."

The year was 1970, and on April 22nd, Earth Day* was born.

In 1969, seven years after Rachel Carson sounded the alarm on the effects of pesticides on birds in Silent Spring, Santa Barbara saw a devastating oil spill, in which 80,000-100,000 barrels of crude contaminated the waters, six miles off its coast. The spill was the largest of its kind at the time, and was reported to have killed approximately 3,500 sea birds and other marine life, such as sea lions, dolphins, and elephant seals. 

The public was outraged, then U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin took note. 

Senator Nelson was equally outraged and wanted to capitalize on the anti-war movement and launched a "national teach-in on the environment," focusing on air and water pollution. He won bipartisan support and with his team, organized and promoted events across the country. And so began Earth Day. 

In 1970, over 20 million people, in groups throughout the Unites States, rallied in protests against environmental destruction. The movement crossed party and demographic lines, and in time, led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Clean Air, the Clean Water, and the Endangered Species Acts. 

By 1990, Earth Day had spread to 141 countries, leading to the first United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In 1995, then President Bill Clinton awarded Gaylord Nelson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest citizen honor. And in 2000, Earth Day went cyber, using the Internet to relay the conservation message. 

Today, there are over 5,000 earth conservation groups in 184 countries, but the conservation message has been diluted amid a powerful oil lobby, climate change deniers, and a seemingly disinterested public. We move forward in the name of progress, but at what cost? 

Still, the groups persist and continue to spread the word and educate others on ways we affect the environment through our own choices and lifestyle and ways that we can conserve in our every day lives. 

Want to know your own carbon footprint? Here's a calculator. 

Now that you know your own carbon footprint, if you're not sure where to start in reducing that footprint beyond recycling, here are five ways you can make a difference. 

1. In our efforts to recycle and re-purpose, we can use cloth napkins, replace plastic with glassware for food storage, and use reusable water bottles. 

2. Start a garden with flowers and plants that attract bees and other pollinators and seek out organic and natural ways to keep pests at bay. Learn how here and here

3. Support your local farms. Consider a share in community supported agriculture or frequent farmers' markets. Get to know the people growing your food. Ask questions. Become educated about the products they use. Check out Local Harvest for more information on farms and CSAs in your area. 

4. Eating fish? Use Seafood Watch to find out which species to avoid, due to contamination and overfishing and alternatives to some of your favorites. 

5. Vote with your dollars. Buy from brands that support your thinking. Be conscious of your choices and buy because of conviction, not convenience. And who knows? You may be surprised to find both. 


  • What is your home energy consumption? Conduct an energy audit. Find out how here
  • Is your home solar panel viable? Find out here
  • Reduce your meat consumption by eating one vegetarian meal per week. Check out Meatless Monday for recipes. 

Do you reduce, reuse, or recycle? What are your favorite conservation methods?

*Earth Day history, courtesy of

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday Thoughts: Make it Happen

Are you going for it, or are you sitting by, watching others achieve their goals and dreams? You can do it too. Channel your inner badass and make it happen. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

At the junction of penny candy and the Grateful Dead: The Fantastic Umbrella Factory

At the junction of penny candy and the Grateful Dead lies the the Fantastic Umbrella Factory in Charlestown, Rhode Island. It's not a factory and there aren't many umbrellas, but despite what may be lacking in its curious name, it is abundant in magic and bohemian whimsy. 

Robert Bankel started The Fantastic Umbrella Factory in 1968 on an old country farmstead with one building built in the 1800s, known as Temperance Hall. What started as an old fashioned gift shop and penny candy emporium has grown to a property for local artists, collectors, and anyone who wants to slow down for a bit, wander the gardens, and embrace their bohemian spirit. 

The one on the left is my new favorite mug. 

The tag attached to the handle of the mug. 

The business has since changed hands, now owned by David and Linda Turano, and has expanded to include six other businesses, greenhouses, and a seasonal cafe serving organic and vegetarian friendly local fare. 

Listen to the wind in the bamboo...

but don't take it. 

Explore the gardens and meet some of the locals. The Fantastic Umbrella Factory is home to emus, ducks, hens, and goats. 

Sit and think, or enjoy a conversation with friends. 

Or find the perfect tree for a photo op. 

Find peace and inspiration in the vibes of the property. 

And explore the ever changing treasures around each corner. 

The Fantastic Umbrella Factory is located at 4820 Old Post Road in Charlestown, Rhode Island, about a 90 minute drive from central Massachusetts. It is close to the beach town of Narragansett and a short drive from the iconic summer playground of Newport, Rhode Island. 

Have you ever been to The Fantastic Umbrella Factory? Do you have a similar place where you live?

Friday, April 17, 2015

How to Stay Healthy on the Road

The snow has melted, most of it anyway. 

The days are longer and spring is in the air. It's time for a road trip. 

No one wants to get sick while traveling or on the road. Our time is precious and it's worth taking a few precautions to protect our immune system. 

Here are five easy things you can do to stay healthy while you travel. 

1. Plan ahead. 
Pack healthy snacks and water. Fruit and nuts, travel well. Protein bars or crackers with avocados make easy meal replacements. Keep yourself hydrated and well fed and you can avoid fast food tummy and you have less of a chance of becoming hangry. If you take vitamins, make sure to throw those in too. 

2. Wash your hands. 
If you're a sanitizer user, keep a bottle with you. If not, soap and water works just fine. And try to keep your hands away from your face and mouth...less bacteria, less breakouts and chance for infection. Cleansing wipes are handy and easy to keep under the seat or in the glove compartment. 

3. Move your body. 
Stretch, move around, and consider activities to keep you moving while you're exploring. Think about a bike tour, a hike, or a walking tour. 

4. Sleep.
When you're tired, everything becomes exponentially worse. Try to maintain some sort of schedule and get those zzz's, otherwise you'll need a vacation from your vacation. 

5. Be flexible.
Go with the flow. Relax and try not to over plan. Keep your stress levels at a minimum and enjoy the journey. 

How do you stay healthy when traveling? 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

DIY Weekend Staycation

The weekends go by so quickly. With errands, housekeeping, and to-do lists, it seems like there is little time to get away just for our own pleasurable pursuits. 

Sometimes it is just not possible to get away, but that does not mean you can't have fun. Create a weekend with intent...create a staycation and fill it with your favorite things. 

Not sure where to start? Check this out. 

Friday night...
It's been a long week. Relax. This the night for pizza and wine. Feeling adventurous? Make your own. Or pick it up on the way home. Or call for takeout. Tonight is a night for cuddling, decompressing, pajamas, and good tv. 

Saturday morning...
How about a walk or the gym or an at home workout? The endorphins will power you through your day. How about a DIY pedi (or go get one)? Sandal season is upon us; pretty up those toes. 

Saturday afternoon...
Shop local. Visit your local library or check out a local museum. Play tourist in your own town. Perhaps there's a local festival you can visit and see the best that your area has to offer. 

Or check out an independent seller. Maybe you will find a great dessert from a cute bakery or a tool from a local hardware or home store that will make your life easier. Maybe you'll find a cute scarf or a candle that makes your home smell divine.  Or maybe there's a local consignment shop that has something you can repurpose and give new life. Shop local and support your neighbors. 

Saturday night...
Date night or girls' night out or in. 

Theme it out and enjoy Spanish wine or sangria and tapas. Or chianti and antipasto. Or French wine and a charcuterie. Or sushi and saki. Maybe you found dessert from your afternoon wandering, or maybe there's a local restaurant you have been wanting to try. Check out Groupon first and see if you can find a deal. 

Maybe there's a movie that fits the theme, or simply connect with conversation. 

Sunday morning...
Begin your day in a spirit of gratitude. All of us are blessed in our own way. Who or what brings a smile to your face? Spend a few minutes thinking about what's good in your life. 

Before you really get moving for the day, make a conscious effort to stretch your body. Maybe there's a yoga sequence you can do, or simply touch the sky and then your toes. It's a start. 

Is the weather nice? Enjoy your morning cup of goodness outside and take in the sun and sounds of the morning. 

Venture out to your local park or bookstore and let your mind wander. Maybe you can share a coffee date with someone you love. 

If you have access to a local farmers' market, what can you bring home that's fresh and local? Prep your meals for the week. Enjoy this Sunday ritual as a recharge of body, mind, and spirit. 

Staying home does not mean staying in pajamas 24/7, although it could. Doing what you like, whatever it is, to recharge and bring you back into a state of balance, is what's important. Take this time for you, or at least do one thing that's for you. You're worth it. 

What do your stay at home weekends look like? How do you integrate fun?