Feeling the Tern

As is often the case in late March, we B-Ks are just back from spring break in Florida.

So. Feel the terns, won’t you?

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O, Florida! No state mixes my feelings as thoroughly as you do.

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Photo of the B-Ks at Bean Point on Anna Maria Island by Connie Ger.

 

We did need a break, one involving sun and sand and surf and overly-friendly manatees. As things start to come together for this next phase of B-K life, the future becomes even less clear in every way, except for the assurance that it’ll be different than what we have now. This time as a family was crucial. We had a lovely time, even as Cody and I re-discovered that we do not paddle well together in a kayak.

But we do both like getting up early to walk and snapping photos of ibis in the bay when we do.

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It gets harder every year to say goodbye to Florida after this family vacation. During those days, I spend next to no time checking email or on social media. I’m outside, I’m with family and friends, I am relaxing into myself, and I’m just thawed out when it’s time to gather the towels and head north.

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We’re home now. The cold rain feels like punishment, but I’m just being dramatic. It was actually 67° with some sun today, and Jim and I uncovered his least favorite vegetable while weeding. Look at it. Such perfection.

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Then I went to the garage to unearth the garden’s good luck charm for display after the rain ends. Thanks, Chank.

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April is incoming. I’m looking forward to lots of time outside and in the garden, a college decision, several soccer games, and maybe a little regional travel. How about you?

Pursuit

I want to give a shoutout to a few random things that happened during those final three moons of 2015.

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The beautiful people at Blue Moon Farm sold me a buttload of tomatoes so we could taste summer once in awhile.

 

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That’s me on the left, talking with badass Jessica Hopper during a panel we were both on at the Pygmalion Tech Festival (you can watch the entire discussion here). I can’t properly convey how hilarious and awesome this photo is to me on several levels…

…nope, I can’t. (photo by Mike Thomas)

 

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Some friends of mine who shall remain nameless gussied up this statue (“Marker”, by Peter Fagan) at Meadowbrook Park – it gets cold out there. I like random acts of yarnbombing.

 

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Lily and I roadtripped to Minneapolis-St. Paul again in October for more college visiting. We did the Airbnb thing (that’s my room in the photo), and I read most of Patti Smith’s latest memoir. I was inspired by her Polaroids from the book; actually, all of her work has taken on heightened meaning for me as my kids grow up and I move through middle age and am always asking myself THE most important question: WTF? Aside: I wrote this little piece about her influence on me for her birthday, which was a few days ago.

 

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It’s not often we get the band back together, and the dynamic will change again when Lilly makes her move this fall. I’m not ready for that just yet, so I’m going to enjoy this photo from Xmess Eve 2015 while easing my way into 2016.

Happy New Year, friends. You’ve got 2016 in the palm of your hand.

Entries Within Entry

Much has happened, like it does.

The rain has been epic. There are so many weeds. Our house is wearing a tutu made of flags. I went to Chicago and hung out. We went to Madison and hung out. Summer has arrived.

Rain.

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Oh my God, the rain. It has rained what seems to be incessantly, though it is not incessant in, say, the Pacific Northwest way. When it rains, it pours, the saying goes, and when it decides to rain in these parts, it does not mess around. Basements flood. Streets flood. If you leave your car window open an inch by accident, the entire interior of your car will flood (well, your neighbor’s car). Following these torrential downpours, the sun emerges and the temperature rises to about 85° and it “feels like” a swamp. Which brings me to…

Weeds.

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Jim and I have been surprisingly diligent about working in the garden when lack of rain and down time coincide. I still have a big round of beans to plant, and I’m disappointed in some seed germination rates (as in, zero germination for sunflowers. WTF?), but the food garden is mostly in maintenance mode now, which means the Big Bed (mostly flowers and herbs) needs weeding along with maintenance weeding in the food garden, and with the rain… it’s a ridiculous task. I loathe weeding, and some places have been neglected this summer, which means the crabgrass and mint and creeping charlie and bindweed are stubbornly squatting in those places. They are winning, for now, because the rain is on their side.

Flag tutu.

flags_juneIt’s World Cup season again, people. It’s the women’s turn this year and we loved last year’s flag décor so much, we decided to add more. They wrap, quite literally, halfway around our (small) house, making it, Cody remarked, “that” house. Which it kind of always has been.

Chicago.

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I decided the first weekend in June to drive up to CHGO to see Cody and to hit Reckless Records to hear writer/guitarist Jon Fine read from his new book, Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear). CHGO is only 2 hours north of here, a fairly straight shot up Highway 57, but it is a drive we rarely make these days, and it is even more rare that I make the drive alone. I’m a city driving lightweight; I haven’t made the trip more often because I’m intimidated. NO MORE. This time? I was like whatever and hopped into the car at 11:30 AM that Saturday morning and was parked in front of Cody’s dad’s place in Ukrainian Village by 2 PM after getting coffee and making a pit stop and dealing with road construction. [The most alarming thing about my drive up: The sheer number of deer carcasses, some in weird places. Like… what was a deer doing at the top of a bridge that close to the city? Anyway.] Cody got off work early, I met him in Wicker Park, we ate some food, got some coffee, went to Quimby’s, “ran into” Cody’s dad who just happened to be working in the area, marveled at all the Blackhawks jerseys (they were playing in Tampa that night), went to Reckless, listened to/watched Jon be interviewed by Rose Marshack, and then hung out in the park until just before 7 PM. It was critical that I get on the road by 7 PM because… deer carcasses, you know? I was home by 9. It felt so awesome to spend the better part of a day in one of the best cities in the world, a place I once lived and loved very much, even though the most difficult years of my life happened there. I did love coming home to a place where the stars are visible at night and one can hang 18 flags on one’s house without worrying about them – Urbana, where I’ve lived for 19 years and also love very much. But I’m glad CHGO isn’t that far away.

Madison.

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The B-Ks have reached the point where the youngest member of the household is old enough to be visiting colleges. While we live in a town that is home to a giant Big Ten university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is about 4 hours from here and offers some stuff Lilly is interested in (many foreign languages, some topography, bodies of water, etc), so off we went, with plans to crash with Jim’s sister and her family. We crammed a lot in – a session on the honors program, beer and food at Union South while watching the USA vs Sweden, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Geology Museum, a trip to the Dane County Farmers Market (OMG), some shopping, a full campus tour, more beer and food at Memorial Union on the lake, etc. I spent some time in Madison in the summer of 1990 (there was a boy involved). It was nothing like I remember. I think Lilly liked it. One school down, several more to go this summer and fall. Note to self: Do not drone on about the way it used to be when we visit Macalester.

Summer.

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I was thinking the other day about how I really OBSERVED the progress of the seasons when the kids were younger. I not only watched, I marked. The summer solstice is both a high point for me and a low one (as Cody liked to cheerfully remind us, it’s all downhill from here), and back in the day we’d have parties and… observe. Since my return to full-time work 9 years ago (NINE?!), that’s gotten much harder for me to do. The solstice is Sunday, which is also Father’s Day, and I think we’ll observe with tacos on the grill and maybe having a few people over.

If it doesn’t rain.

Same Difference

This is a photo of a photo that was taken by Cody’s father, Dan, in summer of 1991.

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That young woman in that photo – that’s me. I was probably weeks away from moving to Chicago from Minneapolis. It was probably hot. I was probably tired from being out too late the night before, or maybe I’d just gotten in from a night out. I had probably been mad at Dan for hurting my feelings, and I had probably forgiven him. It was a cycle that was to play out many times over the next 18 months in two cities.

Cody – not yet a twinkle in anyone’s eye at that point – would be born just over a year later. [As it happens, Cody’s the one who found this at his Dan’s the other day and sent it along – he’d never seen it before.]

What strikes me most about this photo, besides seeing my a bit of my daughter in my sleepface and the Star Wars pillowcase, is the dress. I remember the dress very well. I’m not sure what happened to it, but I currently own another dress quite like it and wore it just the other day; despite the passage of 24 years, my clothing preferences really haven’t changed. Why is that? Is there something about some of the music and clothes and habits and other personal touchstones from one’s early 20s that stay lodged pretty firmly in a person’s consciousness? Hmmm. I don’t think it’s just nostalgia.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

These scientists died studying thin ice

Very nice music mixes by my friend du Nord

17 year-olds can vote in primaries and caucuses in half of the US!

IFTT recipes

These biscuits are the business

I might try this pancit recipe

Carrot Quinn is hiking the Continental Divide Trail

Mediashift splits from PBS

Sometimes it works to ignore your advisors

Spring’s Broken

I love the smell of motorboats in canals and of chlorine pools. I love the feel of hot pavement and longleaf pine needles under my feet. I was a little kid in Florida, and it is the place every cell in my body remembers most.

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Yep, that’s me on the right, with my little brother. 1976. Orlando, FL.

I told my friend Kaya the Cake Guru that, in the 70s and early 80s, Florida was the place where my only business was that of being a kid, of learning how to be alive outside and in the world. Botany, zoology, neighborhood cartography, physical fitness (swimming, biking, tree-climbing), neighborliness, resilience, problem-solving, etiquette, curiosity, independence, troublemaking, and consequences were all taken care of by my Florida neighborhoods – the kids I played with there, plus their parents and their cigarette-smoking memaws and the old military guys with tattoos under their hairy forearms whom you always called “sir”, no matter what.

By the time we moved to the midwest, when I was almost 13, it was obvious some things were changing. It was clear that the culture was going to demand, if it hadn’t already begun demanding, different things of its young men and women than the trees we were climbing together or the forts we were building out of magnolia branches and palmetto leaves and Spanish moss in vacant lots. I know the rip tide that was Southern culture at that time was at least part of the reason my mother insisted we leave it. And she wasn’t wrong to want to leave – difficult questions and experiences regarding race, sex, religion, and class started tripping up us junior high schoolers more and more. Corporal punishment (“paddling”) was a much-discussed thing at our school. I was keen to be a cheerleader (the height of cool and acceptable/desirable female athletic accomplishment), but also wanting to play baseball like Zanboomer (still rather unacceptable for a young Southern lady in 1981). There were… interesting interactions with neighbors. Eventually, we left for Minnesota. No one got paddled at school and the coolest girls all played basketball and soccer, but my Southern accent and other quirks in 8th grade were liabilities. I lived in Minnesota for 10 years, and I loved my time there, but I’ve been moving progressively more to the south since 1991.

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We were on the road the day spring 2015 arrived in the northern hemisphere. We started off as soon we could after waking up and getting coffee in foggy & cool Tennessee, and continued south. We ended up in muggy & hot central Florida twelve hours later for a visit with my dad, who lives in a place where the orange groves of my childhood have given way to RV campgrounds and strip malls.  The next day, we were on the road again, cutting directly through west central Florida to Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast, where it feels like it is, or at least could be, summer forever. Those three traveling days felt like a week – in the best way – and then we had six days of staying put before having to return north.

People comment on the fact that we’ve returned each year – since 2004 – to the same coastal place in Florida each late winter. Why not try someplace new? Go with what you know is always my answer. Anna Maria Island isn’t where I was a kid – that was central FL and NW Florida – but it is a place where young me would have happily spent most days. Current me can literally unclench my stiff, tight body there because I don’t have to do anything except exist. We don’t plan much beyond eating food, drinking beer, and spending time outside. It’s pretty delicious, if you’re into that kind of thing. No one in my little family grew up there, but they’ve grown accustomed – to a week and change in March, anyway.

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I’m not sure how they’d feel about July. And Southern culture, especially politics, remain a serious conundrum.

We’re back now. We came home yesterday to a busted furnace, cat barf on the bed, and cold windy rain (or windy cold rain, or rainy cold wind – whatever, it sucked). Please send sunny days and 75° (more degrees welcome). Thanks.

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Words floating through my consciousness this last week: Pace, perspective, peace.

Busy, brb.

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Osprey (on the left) checks out the waxing crescent moon.

 

If You’re Irish

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I’m the least Irish person I know, but I married into a family of serious Irish extraction – serious enough to have resulted in not one, but two family trips there, the first in 1997 and the second just these last 10 days. The first time, as we flew into the Dublin airport, I forced myself to look out the window (I dislike air travel) and was stunned to see that, yes, it was DAMNED green, as green as the songs said. We were meeting my in-laws in Shannon, so we flew back west in a mostly-empty plane at a relatively low altitude and I continued to stare, agog, out the window. The plane landed on a runway in the middle of a field of grazing sheep. The air was damp and smelled of ocean and moss and there were palm trees. PALM TREES. (Palm trees?)

This last time, we flew (eleven of us, ranging in age from 8 to 71) into Dublin and disembarked there at 5 AM. It didn’t smell as strongly of ocean and moss; Dublin is on the Irish Sea, but it’s a city. We were whisked out of town and went straight to Newgrange, a place we’d visited on the first trip. After running into the president of Mozambique (true story), we finally got to the monument. The B-Ks were at full derp due to lack of sleep and general excitement:

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It was an amazing trip. I’ll have more observations about farms (plentiful), food (especially the dairy products), and gardens (fewer than I thought there’d be) soon. For now, have a foxglove, which grows wild along the roads up in the hills.

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Remiss

I love blogging so much – it is, for me, my original social media, really, after the various message boards from the days of yore – but it’s been really difficult to find time to get in here and write. I hate excuses, so I’ll just leave it at that. I’m here. I’m back. Hi.

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We went on vacation, too.

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I’m always looking for interesting food when we visit our beloved little FL island hangout. Poppo’s Tacos was thriving; Anna Maria Donuts (see above) was always busy; we discovered (well, we didn’t really discover it as much as we finally went in after years of going past it) a cafe/high-end 2nd hand store located in an old IGA grocery store called Ginny’s and Jane E’s that made the best americanos, had killer biscuit sandwiches and waffles, and offered cinnamon rolls the size of your head (seriously). The Grouper Reuben at the Rod and Reel was spectacular, as it usually is, and the mullet and the grits at the Starfish blew my mind. We found some Jamaican food at Jamaican Breeze, which was good, but my dish was way too salty for my taste. And we pretty much bought all the Jai Alai IPA (made by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa) on AMI to bring home.

I know. I make it sound like paradise. And when you’re basically on a beach and eating out a lot and you know where the good stuff is, it’s pretty paradise-y. But a few things are missing (or aren’t easy to find). There’s a farmers market, but it’s small and we’re never there when it’s open. It’s impossible to find interesting/unusual citrus fruit, something I thought would be everywhere. No visible food co-ops, and if there’s a lot of support for local food/local endeavors, it’s pretty under the radar. I think things are changing, though. I’d love to have more time down there to actually talk to some of the people running the new businesses, in particular Poppo’s Tacos. They seem to be very tapped in to whatever’s going on food-wise there. Next year.

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“Ramen Shaman” was released while I was away, which we knew would probably happen. None of us were sure what to expect in terms of a response. We sent it to our pals at PBS Digital Services, did some promotion on our end, and waited. I’m happy to say the video was very well-received, picking up social media promotion from PBS and PBS Food (!) in addition to the folks at PBSDS. We’re closing in on 2000 views and could not be more stoked about the response. If you’ve watched it, thank you! I hope it was edifying and entertaining and got you thinking about finding some upgraded ramen somewhere… or making your own.

What’s next: “Shorn Off, Pt. 2”, how 100# of worms doesn’t really look like much when you actually get them together, How My Garlic Survived the Winter (I’m actually not really sure), etc…