later, august…

…no one will miss you.

And I mean no one.

Yesterday was our first time visiting My Sister the College Student. It was an incredible time, and it was a happy farewell to a month that has been probably my worst on record. For example: A giant, dried-up piece of poison ivy skin fell off. Doesn’t sound like a good thing? It is. I’m like Neve Campbell in The Craft. My normal skin is back, people.

It’s Labor Day. Joe & I spent the entire day laboring to get our apartment in shape–assembling IKEA furniture (greatly increasing our allen wrench collection), doing laundry, hanging & fixing curtains, moving files & software to a new computer. It was an epic day, finished with beer & a burger. God bless American holiday meals.

We’re planning our garden, paying all of our bills on time, decorating our apartment & in general feeling super awesome. Am I already behind on my homework? Yes. But I also already turned in my first paper and read my first book of the semester. So, yeah. I’m gonna take today to get all those stupid, endless tasks crossed off of my life plan.

Because it’s September. And we have the Internet. And our landlord has fixed everything he said he would. And our life is settling into routine. And after a month of sickness, fleas, allergic reactions, moving, traveling, job mishaps & miscellaneous disaster that left me feeling like the seven plagues were upon me… it is September.

Now, I’m off to do dishes & plan my autumn garden with Joe. Normal blogging will resume this week. Whatever that means at this point.

Someone bring my a pumpkin pie.

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an update

The poison ivy saga continues, with a rash now covering the majority of my body. I’ll be honest: Today, I went to the doctor for the third time. He looked at me, said it was definitely contact dermatitis caused by actual contact with poison ivy–said that I’m continuing to touch it somehow. At this point, I burst into tears. My hands were so tight from the swelling and bumps that I’d taken off my engagement ring & left it home; the itch was driving me up a wall.

I have more cortisone-based cream than any one person should probably need. Tonight, I plan to slip into a cold (sad face) oatmeal bath with a bottle–I mean glass–of wine & sit there until I absolutely can’t take it anymore. 

Then, I’ll continue to look for fleas on Baby Bunny, because if you have poison ivy you might as well also find a flea on your husband & on your pet. Thanks, undergrad jerks who lived in the apartment for the summer…

And no, we don’t have the Internet yet. Just. I can’t.

If you need me, I’ll be laying on my mattress–which is still on the ground–in my swimsuit, letting the air conditioner blow over me until I pass out.

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grantwritingLately, this is how my writing has felt. A bit of a drag.

Next week, I start classes again. Hope all my fellow graduate students are getting the bad writing out of the way now & gearing up for another semester.

Now, excuse me while I continue not posting very regularly. We don’t get the Internet until Aug. 28. Don’t even get me started on a rant about how insane it is to receive wifi equipment more than two weeks after you move into a place when they tell you to expect it the day after you move into a place…

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kicking up the composting

new_apartment_21This new apartment…

It’s looking up. Even though it means a month of our mattress on the floor until we road trip to IKEA. Even though there are still spider webs everywhere. Even though I tore out so much poison ivy that one spot on my leg looks like the most disgusting staph infection you can imagine. Even though the medicine to help get rid of the poison ivy resulted in a horrible allergic reaction. Even though it will take a month for my leg to look normal again.

We’re loving it. My dad installed a bat house. We uninstalled a rat habitat–we hope. There’s still an ominous-looking hole in the back of one raised bed. We installed a large compost bin. We’re taking this compost thing very seriously.

And by that, I mean we’re trying to work as little as possible at having as much compost as possible. Like this, from Urban Farm Online:

Start with two enclosed compost bins, sturdy enough to deter urban wildlife, and line the bottoms with hardware cloth. Make sure the lid has openings to allow the rain in: Dry compost is inactive compost.

Sprinkle a little garden soil over the kitchen scraps. The garden soil “dressing” distributes composting bacteria throughout the pile. They will out-compete the rotting bacteria that cause kitchen scraps to stink. Keep a garbage can full of shredded leaves and a garden fork nearby. (Mine is broken, but re-purposed.) Toss a forkful of leaves over the kitchen scraps in the compost bin to keep down fungus gnats. At this point, the cook would mix the dinner salad ingredients, but there’s no need to mix the compost ingredients.

Start filling your first bin this spring, then start filling the second one in early or mid-summer, and leave the first one alone. By fall, your first bin will contain finished, or nearly finished, compost. Feed this soil salad to your garden, and then start filling that bin again. The second bin will be finished in time for spring planting — or should we say spring feeding?

Okay, so we forgot to put down hardware cloth. And we have a lot of gnats. And we’re using paper/cardboard in place of leaves (since our leaves are mostly poison ivy & thus not safe for composting–just in case). But it’s mid-summer. This means we should have healthy compost come spring planting time!

In our town, anything you can do to reduce waste is great–because recycling is made simple here, from plastics to electronics, and because you pay for trash while recycling is free. Brilliant. Composting means (1) our trash in the house & the outdoor bin doesn’t smell* & (2) you go through far fewer trash bags. $ $ $

For now, there’s no smell. There’s no urban critter habitat forming. There’s only a cloud of gnats attacking your face when you open it… Thoughts on how to overcome that problem are welcome.

The next phase of our mini-home renovations: Planning fall crops for all the glorious raised beds.

*This is largely helped by the fact that we don’t eat meat at home, really. No animal waste = no smelly trash. Remember: don’t compost animal products.

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the move


This new apartment. Let me tell you. Our mattress is still on the floor; we still don’t have Internet; we still have lots to fix, buy, adjust, move, dust, mop…

But man. We’ve rediscovered that time of day before 9 a.m. We’re getting lots of outdoor time. We invested in lots of small home improvement tools (including a machete for the garden #ImpulsePurchase #ThisJustGotSerious) for <$200. We have light flooding our apartment from early to late. It’s like the Awesome Karma of the Universe suddenly just turned its favor on us. Even my poison ivy hasn’t gotten that bad! And I’ve spent a lot of time in it lately, all tangled in the weeds of our patio & neither me nor Joe remembering what the damn thing looks like until it’s too late.

Oh, wait. Is that it? No. Wait. Yes. Yeah, that’s it.

One of the main things that really drew us to this new place was the ability to cultivate an outdoor space. Over the last few years, the tenants haven’t kept up the patio area. The landlord was happy to have someone enthusiastic about the space–even got us a hose set-up within our first three days of living there. We have big plans, & we couldn’t wait to get to work. Here’s what’s been done so far.

Pre-first, that photo up top. Any idea what that plant is? I couldn’t tell you, but it was growing in an ant-infested, huge planter with lots of other worthless looking stuff. I salvaged it & put it in this cute little pot. The guy seems to be doing alright, but I’d love to figure out what he is!

Now, first, the before.new_apartment_3That’s it. The backyard. Riddled with weeds, cigarette wrappers, trash can lids, baby trees & climbing plants of all varieties.new_apartment_23Joe got to work tearing out weeds from the patio. We’re filling it with sand (one of my favorite chores growing up, because I’m an odd, odd kid) to prevent future growth.new_apartment_6

While Joe pulled weeds (and assembled our new compost bin–thanks, Dad!), I took on this jungle. The overgrowth was hiding tons of pots that we’ll fill with soil & edible plants. This is a shot from before any work was started in the back.new_apartment_8I cleared out one quarter–a gravel patch great for succulents or housing all of the larger pots. From the start, the trash was stacking up–but this was a great place to store all of our containers. Phew. One quarter down…new_apartment_9…and this mosquito haven is what I tore out of it! Can you believe that?new_apartment_27Next up was the opposite side. Bindweed (1) is a total jerk and (2) was completely smothering this large pot of sedum + this clematis. My mom has an insanely large, gorgeous clematis, so finding this made me feel even more at home on our patio. As for that sedum–well, I’ve been obsessed with succulents for the past decade and just discovered sedums when we planted some dragon’s blood sedum (a good ground cover with shallow roots) at the Orchard. That random sign was one of the many things we uncovered in the garden. Instant decorations!new_apartment_18But this is important! What do you do after you tear out aggressive weeds like bindweed, honeysuckle, or invasives? Lay them out in a thin layer where they’ll get a lot of sun without being able to take root. Our bindweed had already gone to seed, so this was extra imparative to prevent it from spreading. We’ll let it all dry out–then probably still burn it to keep it from the compost pile.

Now, this last bit isn’t really something we accomplished–but it was another Wonderful New Apartment Magic Moment. While tearing out weeds on Friday, we were eaten alive by mosquitoes. I mean, we must have West Nile at this point. (I know I shouldn’t joke–but I’m not really. I started getting super paranoid.) We need a bat house, Joe said in passing.

Then…new_apartment_16…this guy turned up, tucked in & cozy under the mudroom’s overhang. Bats are having a hard time in Indiana–between highways built through their habitat & this God awful white nose syndrome attacking them. We were happy to have one safe–and happy that he’d go to work on our mosquito issue.

He was in the back on Saturday, then sleeping comfortably above the side door on Sunday. We haven’t seen him since, but we’re even more eager to put up bat houses now that we know they’re close by.

Between the bat, the butterflies in the sedum, the bees in the weeds, the plants we’re putting out (lavender, mums, strawberry, sage & rosemary so far) it’s a veritable wildlife sanctuary. Oh, and–shudder–the rat that flew from beneath Joe’s truck the other morning. I’m so glad we’re sprucing up & creating zero spaces for those nasty guys to hide.

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closing year 3

dating…and I will remember your small room / the feel of you / the light in the window / your records / your books / our morning coffee /our noons our nights / our bodies spilled together / sleeping / the tiny flowing currents / immediate and forever / your leg my leg / your arm my arm / your smile and the warmth / of you / who made me laugh / again.

From “Raw with Love” by Charles Bukowksi–Did I take it out of a larger, sadder context? Youbetchya. But man, it reminds me of so many things–tiny moments in tiny apartments. Countless instances of pleading to be put back together & promising that when this new crisis calms, I’ll be a different person. I cried a lot. I joked that you were stuck with me; you never thought it was funny.

When we met, I was a mess of a 19-year-old, getting piercings & tattoos & ideas & self-righteous; you were patient & overwhelmingly loyal. Then, you picked me up from work at 3 a.m. & drove me back to my dorm room–an act both humiliating & endearing. Now, you turn down the TV when I take out the trash at night & worry when I’m gone too long. Now, I pretend to rejoice in the few years younger I am–pointing out your first gray hairs & your inching toward 30.

Now, you have a full-time job & I have this thing I’m doing, and we have this new apartment–the idea of it already feeling like home. We have goals, a retirement fund, a five-year plan, a list of “home improvements” & a shower not blackened with mold. We joke that now, this year, at this exact moment, we are Real Persons. We are adults. We’ve made it.

Year Four is the Year We Maybe Start Thinking About Settling Down Sort Of. It is our seventh year of being together. It is the Year We Make Big Plans. It is incredibly exciting.

Please bring home a puppy.

I love you.

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a marriage of equals

patricks_weddingThis weekend, two wonderful friends got married. The dynamic trio from Joe’s program–he & two friends who were groomsmen in our own wedding–are all married, each standing as witness for the others. Since our wedding, I’ve noticed that I become hyperemotional watching wedding ceremonies.

This one, from the adorable location to the spot-on readings, was intimate, moving & filled with so much of the two getting married. The readings started with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, then nearly had my crying through T.S. Eliot’s A Dedication to my Wife. But then…

Before saying their traditional wedding vows, their third & final reading was a Celtic wedding vow by Morgan Llywelyn. I can’t even begin to tell you how perfect everything about this reading is for the couple, but it also resonated so deeply with me–with things I’ve been packing & unpacking like the boxes of our move this summer.

You cannot possess me for I belong to myself
But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give
You cannot command me, for I am a free person
But I shall serve you in those ways you require
and the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from my hand.

I pledge to you that yours will be the name I cry aloud in the night
and the eyes into which I smile in the morning
I pledge to you the first bite of my meat and the first drink from my cup
I pledge to you my living and my dying, each equally in your care
I shall be a shield for your back and you for mine
I shall not slander you, nor you me
I shall honor you above all others, and when we quarrel we shall do so in private
and tell no strangers our grievances.

This is my wedding vow to you.
This is the marriage of equals.

It was another wonderful wedding, another happy trip back to St. Louis, another reminder that I share my life with someone who can see more of me & still love me more than any other person in this world. This guy. Even after three years of marriage, we can’t coordinate a picture to save our lives.


I hope you take a few moments to enjoy these readings as much as I did.

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the something for everyone round-up

EGmacaron5We move in eight days. With a trip back in St. Louis this weekend, that means days are filled with frantic moving phone calls, working out to gain last-minute moving endurance, eating as many condiments & weird things in the cabinets as possible, & in general freaking out about life.

So, to distract myself, here are some fun things to read.

Workin’ it

A while ago, the New York times had this seven-minute scientific workout. It’s good times–or rather, it’s not. It’s a workout. But seven minutes later, you’re ready to eat a pint of ice cream & feel completely justified. This is how calories work, right?

You guessed it. I’m finally getting back to that summer goal of working out on a regular basis–something I am n o t o r i o u s l y bad at. The plan: kick the day off with a nice, set-the-tone, calming yoga session in <20 minutes, like this 15-minute morning yoga sequence, then do ab stuff at night. Then ice cream.

Macarons, Macaroons & History

Joe & I have started planning for our next trip to France–years from now, but you have to start saving. Because plane tickets are gross. France had been on my mind a lot when a friend sent this NY Times article about macarons my way. Heck yes, macarons are timeless. Like the little black dress of the pastry world, but even more exciting & versatile & wonderful & perfect in every way.

Clarification: Macarons are light “sandwich cookies” made with almond flour. Macaroons are those coconut ball things. Wikipedia says they’re basically the same thing. I disagree. Wikipedia says they were originally made in France or Italy. I disagree. Okay, maybe Italy did the coconut thing. Nancy, our home when we were living in France, is the home of the original macaron–before they were sandwiched with filling. The NY Times article above confirmed this, plus gave a recipe for the original cookie.

(If you want to make some, I have two posts: a tea & honey macaron recipe or this other post just gushing about how awesome they are that shares a recipe I’ve used.)

Food Blogs

I know I just thinned out my inbox, but when I saw this post about the best food blogs–covering loads of ways we can talk about food–I was pretty excited. I loosely follow Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Food Democracy Now! & Food Politics, if you’re looking for a starting place.

Frances Moore Lappé has been writing about our food system(s) for decades and is best known for Diet for a Small Planet. She & her daughter Anna wrote “Who’s hungry now? The answer might surprise you…” about the state of hunger in the world. Read that, too.

Who’s vegan? Apparently barely no one. I mean, according to “real” vegans, you’re probably wrong if you think you’re vegan. Now, I’ve largely turned away from defining my diet as anything, because rules encourage you to break them. So, take that vegans I do what I waaaaant. Willy Blackwell has a nice, quick post with really interesting links about the rules (and semantics) of veganism: “You are only a true vegan when you die.

And in other news

This just made me really happy: “The littlest parks could make the biggest civic changes.” Because loads of groups, people & governments are doing lots of work like this, improving local environments to increase feelings of community & empowerment. This is real change, & it’s how we’ll ultimately push for change on a larger scale. Woohoo!

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back to the lou (for a day)

stl_july2013_6This is a really clear summary of my life right now. So, when it was time to head to St. Louis for Joe’s Poetry at the Point reading I wanted to turn it into a vacation. The past few days had me particularly itchy in my own skin. The moment we started driving, I felt the Midwest calming me down. Wild flowers in half-prairies. Shade. Windows open with lots of cool wind. The smell of manure.

Okay, that actually really got to us after a few hours.stl_july2013_3 stl_july2013_1We got into St. Louis as the sun was setting. The view of the riverfront then the drive through our favorite neighborhoods and into Maplewood brought back our usual we-arrived-in-St-Louis conversation. We should look for jobs here. Kids would love it here. The homes in this neighborhood are a good size. I miss this city.

And what a welcome it gave us. We got to stay with a couple we first befriended in France. We love seeing them when we come back to St. Louis–a couple that understands so many of the tiny, obscure parts of our marriage that we feel most deeply. Now, they’re expecting a baby & turning a sweet, brick gingerbread house into a perfect home. They pulled out all the stops for our dinner. stl_july2013_10Yes, those are homemade potato chips. And cheese burgers from their CSA on toasted, buttery buns. With carrots from the garden & turnips from the CSA. And OMG beer. Schlafly is our favorite brewery, & our friends had an incredible new brew by them, the special release Golden Ale.

stl_july2013_11Sitting at our friend’s table, digging into memories & sharing new, playing with the most amazing puppy in the entire world, talking about Joe’s job interviews & my upcoming program, we felt so close to a more secure, peaceful life.

The next night, while having dinner at the Bottleworks, where Joe announced that he got a full-time job teaching English. We grabbed two six-packs of the glorious golden ale to bring home, in the spirit of celebrations. We’re trying to savor it… Okay, okay. It’s gone already. No judging.

Before Joe’s poetry reading on Tuesday evening, I mostly hid away with my dear friend Lauren, catching up on some much-needed gabbing. We toured her garden–an incredible reminder that succession planting & not being intimidated can lead to really high food production on a very small amount of land.

After a trip to the dog park with my friends’ pup, the most adorable & human-like dog in the entire world, we got to visit a woman in the neighborhood. She’d converted her whole back yard–a large lot for an urban area–into garden plots, one of which my friend had used for a corn crop. Walking through the garden, hearing about the 60 types of peppers, loads of tomato plants, eggplant starts waiting to be planted & countless other edible somethings planted about, I was reminded of a lesson the universe seems to be repeatedly throwing my way this past month: You can grow a lot of food. And it’s not that complicated. And plants are just excited to be doing what they do–grow.

Don’t think too much. Visit some gardens. Then plant things. That’s my lesson from the summer, & I thank the endless number of people reminding me of it.

Lesson #2: Around age 25, your body eats your brain & tells you it’s time to have kids. At this point, hanging around pregnant women making really wonderful, sustainable decisions about their children & pregnancy is super dangerous. And talking about kids scares your husband…

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the thinning-my-inbox round-up

I’ve always loved getting mail. Even when I moved to college and got no mail at home, I’d be the first to check my parents’ mailbox. I’d steal the chance to open their Christmas cards. It’s a thing I have. Often, when we get out of the truck, I stand in front of our mailbox & wait for Joe to open it like a puppy waiting for a Milk-Bone.

Needless to say, I get addicted to electronic mail as well. Well, until this summer. Until I started really sifting through some things in my life: Why am I so set on lists? Why do I continuously glorify being busy? Why do I, like this blog and the countless others I’ve started, allow things I enjoy to become tasks, to-do items, obligations?

I’m culling my inbox. I’m finally taking that big, adult step: calling people I won’t donate to & asking them not to send me free mailing labels & surveys anymore. I’m thinning things out & keeping those I actually read.

So what am I keeping? What do I read? Glad you asked. Okay, glad I’m pretending you asked.

My Inbox

Modern Farmer + Taproot: These two magazines are (1) new, (2) gorgeous & (3) filled with a fun, interesting, stimulating mix of content. So far, I’m only reading them online, but they’re the first I’ll subscribe to when I have discretionarily spending & splurging on Taproot when I find it at the co-op.

Urban Farm: A great print magazine (that actually had a feature on the Orchard in its May/June issue, be still my heart) that also has really great online content + a fun newsletter for your inbox. Their categories are perfect for getting right at what your interested in & finding both good resources & intriguing stories.

GOOD: This magazine/social network has a great daily newsletter & is just awesome. It tries to build community by pooling content, encouraging discussion & giving you tasks. (I know–you’re shocked I’m into this type of thing.) You can follow topics your passionate about & see what communities are doing to enact change.

My feedly

Civil Eats: This is the best place to learn what young professionals in the world of food policy & sustainable agriculture are up to. Learn more about the world of agriculture as a business, a social movement, a way of living & a job market.

The Salt: Policy + food trivia + science + this amazing feature called “Sandwich Monday” = one of the most accessible, genuinely entertaining blogs dealing with food, agriculture & policy. They almost trick you into learning things.

Austerity Kitchen: Sometimes poetry, sometimes history, sometimes bizarre stories. Always awesome reading, as is most of The New Inquiry.

Joy the Baker + Minimalist Baker + Happyolks + My New Roots: Get your bake on, folks. These are my go-to resources for fresh, healthy, joyous goodies to share with friends. The photography is inspiring; the recipes are largely simple; the ingredients are mostly accessible & highly adaptable.

Our mailbox

River Teeth, the New Yorker, Poetry, Game Informer. (Guess which one of these is mine? Okay, I love the New Yorker, & my goal for August is to start reading it again. But seriously. We’re closer to 30 than 20, & Game Informer comes to our mailbox. To be fair, he didn’t subscribe, per say; it came free with his video game-buying card thing.) This year, I’m insanely excited to announce that we’ll be adding our local paper to the list. And, if I start pooping money, we’ll get the New York Times… or at least the weekender version.

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