Your new neighbors are excited to be neighborly
Gemma and Diane Anderson left the city behind for small-town life
Your new neighbors feel like they are finally home after a hot, humid hiatus in Florida.
We sat down for a conversation about good food and small town life with Diane Anderson and her wife, Gemma, on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
What are your names?
“Gemma and Diane Anderson,” Diane confirms.
Will you share your ages?
“Do we have to?” laughs Gemma.
“There’s a little bit of an age gap, obviously,” Diane concedes.
She explains she and Gemma, who have a 24 year age difference between them, ought to have met when she was 24 years younger.
Where are you from?
“I’m originally from England, and I spent a couple years living in Holland,” Gemma shares. “The time that I’ve lived here has all been in Florida.”
“The town she is from is called Marsk by the Sea,” Diane adds. “I can’t wait to see it. I’ve been wanting to go for two years.”
Diane, meanwhile, has more local origins.
“I’m originally from Blue Earth,” she shares. “I’ve spent the last 23 years in Florida, though.”
Given the wide distance between their places of birth, the couple, of course, did not meet until their paths crossed in Florida.
“I lived in Saint Augustine,” Diane clarifies. “I lived there for almost 20 years. When we started getting serious, I moved to Jacksonville.”
Jacksonville was Gemma’s long-time place of residence in Florida.
The couple spent a very short while in Palm Beach before vacating the state.
“We lived in Palm Beach for five weeks, then COVID hit,” Gemma explains.
The couple already had plans to visit Diane’s family in Blue Earth at the start of the pandemic. Therefore, Gemma says, “We both picked up our computers when they sent us home from work because of COVID, and said, ‘I guess we live in Blue Earth now.'”
How would you describe that place in three words?
“I would describe Florida as hot, hotter, and hottest,” Diane begins. She then changes her answer to, “Hot, crowded, and anonymous.”
“People don’t know their neighbor,” she clarifies.
Gemma adds, “We tried to do Christmas cookies in Florida, and no one would answer their door.”
Gemma, meanwhile, has more than three words to describe Jacksonville. “Jacksonville is still trying to decide what it wants to be when it grows up,” she decides.
Why did you leave?
Though Gemma and Diane both had their misgivings about Florida to begin with, it was ultimately Diane’s mother’s failing health which led them to Blue Earth.
“We came back to help my mom when she got sick,” Diane explains. “We decided to stay with my dad afterward.”
Diane, the daughter of Renny and Donna Anderson, has many family connections in Blue Earth.
“This house was owned by my cousin for 34-plus years,” Diane says.
Gemma’s family, who live in England, are also curious about the small town.
“Her parents can’t wait to see Blue Earth,” Diane says. “We’ve taken them on a virtual tour of the town.”
Though the couple is also interested in exploring life together in England, they are happy with their decision to relocate to Blue Earth for the meantime.
“For now, we’re happy where we are,” Gemma concludes. “We’re just taking it one day at a time.”
How did you find Blue Earth?
Really, this wasn’t a necessary question to ask the couple.
“This is where she’s from,” Gemma responds.
“This is my home,” Diane adds. “It feels really surreal to me to be living here again.”
Who did you bring with you?
“That would be me,” Gemma says, grinning.
Diane amends, “I didn’t bring you, you didn’t bring me. We brought each other.”
“We are thinking about getting a cat,” she concedes.
How would you describe Blue Earth in three words?
“Small, friendly,” Gemma starts. Turning to Diane, she says, “You pick the last one.”
“Safe,” Diane decides. “It’s very safe. A lot of people leave their doors unlocked.”
What do you like to do in Blue Earth?
Gemma and Diane enjoy many outdoor activities such as biking and camping. However, their latest passion keeps them busy in the kitchen.
“We really love cooking,” Diane says.
She adds, “I’ve got to put a plug in for the food co-op. I wanted to make bran muffins like my mom did, and I went to get the ingredients there. They turned out great.”
What do you like to do no matter where you are?
“The same things,” Gemma says. “We did all the same things in Florida.”
In fact, the couple shares their interest in cooking was spawned by COVID, even before their move to Blue Earth.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that we can cook anything better than we would find in a restaurant,” Diane says.
What’s cooking in your kitchen?
“Diane cooks the best steak of anyone in the world,” Gemma says immediately.
“Your mushroom stroganoff,” Diane returns.
“I try to cook more vegetarian stuff. Diane is the meat cook,” Gemma concludes.
She adds, “We’ll throw stuff in a crock pot sometimes.”
“We call them our science experiments,” Diane laughs.
What projects have you worked on outside of your kitchen?
“We’ve really enjoyed fixing up the house,” Diane says. “The gutters were in bad shape. We also had the house painted, and realized it clashed with the brick, so we had to have that painted too.”
“We’re saving the inside of the house until winter,” Gemma explains.
What is your favorite thing about small-town living?
“Knowing your neighbor,” Diane answers. “I feel like you could ask for help, and it will be there.”
“It’s nice to be able to walk down the street, and say ‘Hi’ to someone you know,” Gemma agrees.
What is something about you that would surprise people?
“I guess it’s not really a secret, but I like the whole ‘live simple’ thing,” Gemma shares.
“Gemma would be very happy to do van life,” Diane clarifies, referencing all the freedom and lack of amenities associated with that particular lifestyle.
As for herself, Diane says, “Probably that I don’t miss Florida. I lived there for so long, but frankly, I don’t know that I’d live there again.”
How do you hope to surprise yourself in the future?
“I would love to have a little breakfast café,” Diane says. “Just open on Saturdays and Sundays.”
“I would go with that, too,” Gemma agrees. “I think that’s a great surprise for us.”
Do you see a future for yourself in Blue Earth?
Diane answers, “I think we do, but I would like to have a little cottage somewhere warm during the winter.”
“We don’t have any plans to leave, but we don’t know how long we’ll stay,” Gemma adds.
Diane concludes, “We’ll see what the universe has in store for us.”
Are you a Jolly Green Giant or a Sprout?
“Probably a Sprout,” Gemma starts.
“You’re not a Sprout!” Diane disagrees.
“We’re both Leos,” Diane continues. “We’re both very strong-willed, and very independent. I would definitely describe you as a giant. You’re a leader.”
“A giant’s not going to live in a van,” Gemma counters. “What would you see yourself as?”
“A giant,” Diane answers. “I see you as one as well.”
What is your favorite green vegetable?
“Peas,” says Diane.
“Broccoli,” Gemma answers.
What is your favorite thing to eat that is not a vegetable?
“Pasta,” Gemma answers immediately.”
Diane, meanwhile, goes with steak.
What is your beverage of choice?
The couple recommends a unique concoction they like to drink in the evenings.
“It’s seltzer water, cranberry-mango juice, and a squeeze of lime,” Diane explains.
“Gemma’s a big tea drinker too. She orders it off Amazon,” Diane adds.
Though we didn’t drink any during the interview, it was hardly necessary in the airy living room of Gemma and Diane’s new home in Blue Earth.