Turbulence.

I was mid-way through a flight to Chicago when, without warning, we hit some bad turbulence.

Airplane flights, to my mind, shouldn’t feel so akin to boat rides, undulating violently up and down as if riding on unrelenting waves.

I gripped the sides of my seat with wet palms, murmuring the Lord’s Prayer under my breath, as I’ve become accustomed to doing, at the rate of a hyper rosary. I watched the flight attendants (always my litmus test of whether I should panic) walk anxiously up and down the aisle and run to their strap ins. I compared the trip to flights I’ve taken in China and Russia (another one of my turbulence habits)—during which we’d barrel straight up and down on take offs and landings, using the tarmac as seeming bouncy castles. This was, I decided, definitely worse.

The cabin freaked. The woman next to me started laughing feverishly, clutching her silent boyfriend’s hand. A baby cried with colic conviction. A lady screamed. The man sitting two rows behind me, an apparent engineer, continued his highly technical conversation about circuits and factories and currents, using an exaggerated, loud voice in a German accent. “AND THEN YOU ATTACH THE CIRCUITS TO THE TURBINES, SENDING THE CURRENT IN SUCH AND SUCH A WAY AND IT’S REALLY QUITE EFFECTIVE.”

In a little bit, the pilot came on, chuckling.

“This is the Captain speaking. Well, folks, as you can see, we’ve hit some turbulence. Air traffic control had warned that there would be a bit of turbulence and well, [laughs], as you can see, this is more than a little bit. Just hang on, I know it’s bumpy, but we’ll be fine.”

Sometimes it’s those voices that keep you sane. It's the one that says, “Oh, hi. This is terrible, a lot worse than we expected. This is awful and bumpy and hold on—because it’s going to be just fine.”

#thankfulinthestorm

My Favorite Things: Pixie Nespresso Machine + Pumpkin Latte

Every year I wait for it to come on the menu: Pumpkin spiced lattes.

It’s not like I even drink that many of them. But I think it’s a gentle reminder that the holidays are here and it’s time to get into the spirit.
 
But last year when the time rolled around, I realized I wanted to do it myself. What could be more relaxing than making it in my own home?
 
So I decided to buy a few bottles of Amoretti flavored syrup off of Amazon and make it myself, using one of my most favorite kitchen appliances, my Pixie Nepresso machine.
 
(I actually recently returned from a trip to the South of France, and these espresso machines were everywhere! It was nice to see that I was not biased into liking the coffee because it’s just so easy to make, and that the French actually love the machine and beans as well!)
 
The above video was the delicious result! I made it over a year ago now. In true holiday fashion, the video is in the style of Charlie Brown. Enjoy. :-) 

Exploring Zins, Family Wineries, and Wine Dogs in California's Dry Creek Valley



They call them microclimates around here, which is exactly like it sounds. Go a few miles to the north or south in the Bay Area and it’s the difference between a foggy film noir and A Roman Holiday. It’s especially muted right now for those of us in San Francisco. During these summer months, the fog rolls in like cat fur. While everyone else is out having BBQs, we’re pulling on light sweaters and boiling tea.

But there’s an easy remedy for that. Josh and I have taken to driving north to wine country on those dreary summer days to catch some of the sunlight and warm breeze. The famed Napa has been an easy favorite. But a little while ago, we tried a new getaway: Dry Creek Valley.

Sure, Napa Valley is a landmark destination with famous, brand name wineries and tours. That will always be there. But at Dry Creek Valley, a 9000-acre stretch of wine country, we found a cluster of smaller batch, family-run winemakers, which created a very different experience.

(You can watch our short video tour of the valley above!)

Dry Creek Valley is actually one of the oldest wine regions in California, dating back to the days following the Gold Rush of 1849. Those who had taken part in the frenzy found themselves settling in the fertile valley near the Russian River and planting vineyards of Zinfandel, now the region’s most famous wine. During Prohibition, most wine production stopped. But the region made a comeback in the 1970s. Today, Dry Creek Valley is home to over 70 wineries, most of which are still family owned and operated.

The Winegrowers of DCV invited us to visit the region along with a handful of other writers, and we all climbed into a little bus that took us through the city, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and into glorious, glorious wine country! The thing that I love about wine is that wine grapes are like sponges. A little southwestern breeze of vanilla will alter the flavor, as will a winter that’s too harsh or a summer that’s too scorching. Because of that, wine country—Dry Creek Valley included—is always perfectly pleasant. The air smells sweet and the weather is always temperate.

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We first went to Fritz Winery, where they led us through an aromatics seminar. A little sniff of strawberries, chocolate, anise, and blueberries to see how it matched up with the wine (a refreshing mix of Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon).

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Fritz Winery Aromatics Seminar

The wine caves of Fritz.

Fritz Winery

After Fritz, we climbed back into the bus and headed to Mauritson Winery, where we were to participate in soil tasting. As it turns out, for all of the comfortable weather, the grapes don’t necessarily have it easy. For grapes to produce good wine, they must undergo some hardship. They must be pruned to produce good branches and good fruit. And they must live in rocky soil. The rocky soil stresses the plant and causes it to produce chemicals that thicken the skin. For some varieties, skin like that produces better tasting wine. Such rocky soil is one of the pluses of Dry Creek Valley.

Luckily, there was no actually eating dirt in this seminar! It was all about how the quality of soil—rocky or moist or peaty—affects the product.

Mauritson Winery Soil Seminar

Then we went to Quivira, which was an organic vineyard. "Organic" is actually a pretty difficult certification to to receive and requires unconventional methods to make the wine. Our guide slung some cold wines into a cute little sack (see below) and took us through the vineyards, walking through the grass and among the branches. Funnily, the destination was the compost pile, which turns out to be a very innovative aspect of organic grape growing.

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So, the whole media trip, the organizers joked about some kind of wine blending "smackdown." I thought they were kidding. As someone with test anxiety, how could I ever come to drink wine under such pressure? Well, to my horror, it turned out to be very true.

We headed over to Dutcher Crossing where we were sat down at white-clothed tables and given glasses, vials, pipettes, and single-grape wines. I looked around. Everyone else was confidently mixing. Josh was talking smack to the other mostly meek-looking writers, making fun of everyone for having it in the bag. The others looked smug. Naturally, I panicked. Taste, panic, mix, panic. Taste, panic, mix, panic. I was the very last person to finish, to the point that the organizers needed to usher me out because I was holding everyone up.

I was sure that I lost. I was so embarrassed to even have anyone taste it.

But in the end, I placed third! Josh didn't even place (that's what ya get for smack talking!).

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The finale was a stunning dinner at the personal home of Debra Mathy, the proprietor of Dutcher Crossing. It was May, and we were entering the crest of summer. The evening was bright and warm, and the air smelled sweet from the nearby grapes. We enjoyed plates of cold beets, grilled chicken, and rare slices of beef along with a beautiful array of Viognier, petite verdot, cabernet sauvignon, zinfindel, and sauvignon blanc from Thumbprint, Collier Falls, Amphora, and Dutcher Crossing.

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Lastly, we got to meet a bit of a celebrity! Last January, I bought a Wine Dogs calendar for $5 from Silver Oak. I love that thing. And lo and behold, I got to meet one of my favorite dogs from the calendar! Dutchess! She is every bit as beautiful and sweet as she looked in the calendar and more. What an adorable yellow lab. If you go to Dutcher Crossing, you might get to meet her, too.

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Fritz Underground Winery
24691 Dutcher Creek Rd Cloverdale, CA 95425
http://www.fritzwinery.com

Mauritson Winery
2859 Dry Creek Rd Healdsburg, CA 95448
http://www.mauritsonwines.com

Quivira Vineyards & Winery
4900 W Dry Creek Rd Healdsburg, CA 95448
http://www.quivirawine.com

Dutcher Crossing
8533 Dry Creek Rd Geyserville, CA 95448
http://www.dutchercrossingwinery.com/

Cross-posted at The Joy of Drinking.

Food for Thought: True Productivity

...The less energy people expend on performance, the more they expend on appearances to compensate. More often than not, the energy they expend on seeming impressive makes their actual performance worse...

The effort that goes into looking productive is not merely wasted, but actually makes organizations less productive. Suits, for example, do not help people to think better. I bet most executives at big companies do their best thinking when they wake up on Sunday morning and go downstairs in their bathrobe to make a cup of coffee. That's when you have ideas. Just imagine what a company would be like if people could think that well at work.

- Paul Graham in Founders at Work

How to be more prolific on social media

Given that the last topic I blogged about was the summer solstice and it is now autumn in most places around the country (except for San Francisco, which is in its annual bout of Indian Summer), you can tell it’s been a while since I last blogged. 

Which is not good for a blogger, right? That’s like the number one rule of blogging, you say: Update and update regularly. Who is going to read anything you write if you actually don’t write anything? 

Gah, OK, OK, I hear you. So now I have some thoughts about being prolific on personal social media.

For many of us, the struggle with updating our digital presences—i.e. Feeding The Monster—is practical: We are just busy. Away from our screens and keyboards, we have active lives full of work and people and houses to clean and pets to feed and if we have a spare hour outside of work, we would much rather be seeing the friend we haven’t seen in umpteen months or laying down. 

Recently I’ve realized that one of the keys to making sure we have time to update has to do with our lifestyles. I have a couple of ideas about what we can do in our lives to improve our prolificacy. 

It actually has to do with commute. Commutes, in general, are terrible for our happiness. Researchers found that people consistently cite it as the worst part of their lives. So, if commute majorly affects our lives in general, imagine how it impacts our productivity. 

So, for optimal social media, there are two good scenarios:

1. Find a job that’s close to work or where we can work from home. I used to have a job where I would have to drive 1.5 hours everyday to get to work—and then another 1.5 hours back. That was three hours a day. And aside from the fact of having no time for blogging or doing anything else—I was miserable from the commute. These days, I used to live a five-minute walk away from my work, but recently the office moved more than an hour’s drive away. Now I lose two to three hours every day—that’s fifteen hours a week or more than two full days of work (assuming an average of eight hours of work a day). Which basically means that if I weren’t commuting, I could essentially be blogging as a part-time job for two days a week. 

I contrast this to when I used to work from home—in particular, when I was running social media for a startup in DC. It meant I started really early because they were five hours ahead of where I was living. But it also meant that I put in way more hours because I didn’t have a commute. And I also had time to integrate updating my social media into my life. 

2. The even better way to make time for Feeding The Monster is to plan a commute during which you can work. After roughing such long driving commutes for some time, I told myself I would live by public transportation and company shuttle stops or bust. And you know what? It was awesome. I’d walk 20 minutes to the train and get my exercise for the day and then take a 40-minute train ride down to my job. It was the similar time spent as my more awful commutes. The difference was that I could work on the way down. On my way back up, I would take the company shuttle and do the same. 

I considered my day started when I sat down in my train seat, not when I got to my desk—which meant that my day started much earlier and I had the time and mental space to work on creative problems and also to blog, tweet, and find things that inspired me to post to my social channels. 

The third way, which I do not advocate, is to find a job that you hate because then you will find yourself forced to find inspiration and creativity in your outside life, which for some people means social media. Of course, then you have a much bigger problem on your hands. ;-)

What do you guys think? How do you guys make sure you post often?

- Noelle

Happy Summer Solstice, everyone! Enjoy the sunshine!

San Francisco, 5:46 pm

“Do you ever wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it!" -The Great Gatsby

I think of that Great Gatsby quote every summer, as I await the Summer Solstice's arrival. There is something about savoring the sunniest day of the year, making sure that I am appreciating every moment of it before we slip into fall and then winter. In life, we don't always get to know when things are at their best or at their worst until the moment is past. In the Summer Soltice, we get that rare chance to know in the moment that this day is as long as it gets for the year. It's a gift.

Unusually, summer is here in San Francisco. I say unusually because these June and July months are typically filled with frigid fog. While the rest of the Bay Area is laying out in tank tops and slippers, San Francisco folks know it's time for jackets and socks. Someone once again attempts to quote Mark Twain ("The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" - not Mark Twain), and we wait it out until our warm days come in August, September, and October—Indian Summer, as they call it. 

But today we received a warm blessing on the Summer Soltice—a high of 74 degrees and broad, generous sunshine, hot enough for a tank top, skirt, and slippers. 

It is a day not to miss. :-)

22 Rules for Storytelling from Pixar

From corporations to advertising firms to digital shops to startups, many marketers are realizing that changing hearts, minds, and actions is not merely about pushing people, shouting, or scaring folks to move. Great marketing is about good storytelling, an immersive experience that compels us in our fundamental humanity.

But what does it look like when you take some tips from working at one of the best contemporary storytellers, world class animation studio Pixar?

Earlier this month, Emma Coats, a storyboard artist at Pixar, generously tweeted out 22 great tips on "story basics." Now someone out there on the Internets has put them into a really cool graphic (Pro tip: Everything is more sharable as a jpg!). Unfortunately, the citation on the graphic is illegible, so I’m not sure who made it. (Pro tip 2: Always cite yourself as the source in the graphic!)

If you think these are just tips for creating great movies and books, I encourage you to widen your view. These are awesome insights to integrate into the discovery process for any campaign creation, content strategy, or digital planning.

Enjoy!

The Future of Long Distance Relationships and the New YC App Pair

Today I read about a new app showcased at YCombinator's Demo Day called Pair—the beginning of a tool designed for those in long-distance relationships. 

To be totally upfront, I haven't tried this app at all. I am not in a long distance relationship. But as someone who has been in long distance relationships over what amounts to years, I am really surprised that a similar app has not been developed yet. 

After all, when you and your loved one are apart, money feels like no obstacle. In your most lonely moments, you would pay a lot of money to be closer. And often times, you'll factor into your cost of living expensive plane tickets so that you can see one another. I know I'm not the only one. I can recall countless conversations in which people have come to me or my friends asking for advice and for tools on maintaining a healthy relationship from afar.

I say this because there's money in it for the person who uses app technologies to bring us all closer together. People would pay for apps or services and spend a lot of time on these tools. I am very eager to see Pair—and whoever else jumps into that space—perfect that tool. Pair has already had 50,000 downloads in the last four days, according to All Things D. And I would really not be surprised if this is just the beginning. 

This should be a space to watch.