Fresh

Happy new year! Lilly pointed out this morning that we’re finally in “good” satsuma season. I agree regarding the taste; the color has been spectacular all winter.

Icicles! Apple trees! Neighbor’s backyard! Wan sunlight!

Winter. It finally arrived just before Christmas, drawing attention from its lateness by making a big deal out of bringing snow and ice and wind and, for most of that time, bitterly cold temps to the party. Change was gonna come – it always does – and it has: We got down to one solitary degree last night and it’s been getting warmer ever since. As I write, it’s 22° at nearly 10 AM, and it feels delicious outside. This thaw will also involve wind and some icy precipitation, but no one cares. Cabin fever is DEFINITELY a thing.

Relatively tame reads.

One of my beloved places is Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago. It opened in its original location on Damen Avenue in 1991, about 6 weeks after I arrived in Chicago from Minneapolis, and it was love at first sight (well, it was for me). Ownership and location changed over the course of the decade that followed, but the vibe remains the same: Cool, often transgressive books and magazines and zines and other stuff you won’t find anywhere else, alongside stuff you CAN find anywhere else (see my selections above). I was excited to get out of the city and into C-U back in 1996; losing access to Quimby’s was probably the bitterest pill I swallowed, and frankly I could have used a place like Quimby’s after I got here. [I still could use such a place.] Anyway. Whenever I get to Quimby’s, which is now maybe once a year because I don’t get to Chicago that often, I’m most often making a surgical strike. I do not browse. How come? Because I’m usually either a) with other people who do not totally share my enthusiasm for zines and comics and books about fighting fascism/the women of punk rock back in 1985/conspiracy theories and I try to be mindful of this, b) I’m on a schedule that does not allow for much in the way of browsing, or c) both. In spite of these constraints, whenever I walk into Quimby’s, I feel relieved. I feel empowered. It still exists! I can find out about anything! It is home, they are my people, and one day in 2018… I’m taking myself to Chicago for a day so I can spend several hours in Quimby’s by myself.

Oddly hefty little book, even without my new lists.

I’m glad the holidays are over. So glad. I love starting new calendars, clearing shelves, making lists, doing the things on the lists – especially when they do not involve a lot of shopping or unearthing holiday decorations from the garage. Knowing very well my affinity for interesting paper goods, Cody gave me these very cool Field Notes notebooks and one of them is dedicated solely to house projects. SOLELY. Why? 909 needs whole-notebook-dedicated-to-it work. It’s a small house – it comes in right around 1000SF,  was built in the early 1920s, and has some beautiful attributes, some questionable past decisions, and some aging appliances. I have the lists divided into two categories: Low-hanging fruit, which is basically getting rid of a bunch of stuff, cleaning, painting, and maybe some low-level DIY work; and boutique, way-up-there-fruit, which includes plaster work, new kitchen flooring, new appliances/windows/siding – work we really can’t do ourselves. There’s plenty in between that could go into either category depending on mood, motivation, and budget. It’s not all going to get done this year, that’s for sure, but major headway will be made and there is nothing I love more than major headway being made. Time is moving along dizzyingly fast and there’s so much to do. It took me 18+ months to adjust to having 909’s main residents be me, Jim, and the Lonesomes. Speaking of Lonesomes, Mattie says hi:

Anyway. I’m moving into the next phase of Being Here. On this lovely Sunday, Being Here means tackling some of that low-hanging fruit I was talking about above, putting together final seed orders from Baker Creek, Sow True, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and committing fully to an enormous, riotous flower and vegetable garden in 2018. And, yep, reading about psychedelics in the UK in the 60s.

How ’bout you?

Grateful for the illumination the light of January brings, y’all.

Change Catalysts Everywhere

This quote, paraphrased from a TED talk given by Halla Tomasdottir in 2010, captivates me still.

“We must fight the urge to rebuild the systems that have failed us.”

I puffy heart Halla Tomasdottir. She’s a mom. She has a solid career in business and is an entrepreneur, and ran for president of Iceland in 2016 (she came in 2nd).  We’re also just 4 days apart in age. LIBRA POWER.

Here’s the first of her TED talks. It’s pretty badass.

Here’s the second, where she talks about the need for more women to run for office.

So, the quote above – that’s been up on our fridge, scrawled on a piece of scratch paper in my handwriting, since the day I watched her first TED talk. I’ve seen that piece of paper every day, many times a day, for over seven years. I think about her words even when I’m not looking in the refrigerator – when I’m puzzling over something dumb-yet-totally-preventable happening out in the world, in my own personal day-to-day, at work, etc. And her words resonate especially deeply with me now, as we’re seeing the dismal, messy unwinding of so many systems – overwhelmingly male-created and dominated – that have failed us all, especially women. Media. Entertainment. Finance. Politics. Higher education. Technology. Food.

A few weeks ago, that piece of paper came out from under the magnet holding it to the fridge, and as I picked it up from the floor I thought it might be cool to get a photo, post it to Instagram, and tag Halla Tomasdottir while I was at it. So that’s exactly what I did.

Imagine my delight when I saw this response.
I’m Team Halla. What about taking her words as a directive?

CHANGE CATALYSTS EVERYWHERE. 

Here are a couple of places to start. Leave your ideas for changing catalysts everywhere in the comments!

She Should Run

She’s the Ticket

Elegiac

It was a tough week to lose Padme.

Padme Pattertis Paddingtail joined the B-Ks in September 2002. We were living at 1005 at the time and reckoned it was time for a kitten, plus it was Jim’s birthday. When we went to the kitten foster house and Jim noticed an energetic li’l badass trying to sneak out of the room, the woman in charge told Jim, No, you don’t want her – she’s the bad one. Jim responded by scooping the kitten up in all of her terrible and tawny badness, and thus began our lives together. She put up with a lot in her almost-15 years, including a Star Wars name, a move, the eventual addition of 3 other cats, undignified nicknames such as “Paddles” and “Squeaks on a Stick”, watching her favorite young humans grow up and eventually leave, and the vacuum cleaner. She hated that thing.

Things Padme enjoyed included shredding paper, hopelessly messing up balls of yarn, drinking/grooming loudly, eating plastic bags, chattering at birds out the window, her humans (in order: Jim, Cody, Lilly, me), belly rubs, and the sun. That cat enjoyed the SHIT out of the sun and the breeze on her face. In fact, a few days before she died – we had just discovered she was sick – Padme suddenly appeared in the kitchen and made for the back door. She had shown zero interest in going outside for weeks, given the weather and her heretofore-unknown-to-us illness, but that day was a bit warmer and I thought, OK, you can go out, and opened the door for her. She stepped out and sat on the back steps. A few minutes later, I looked out the window and she was still there, gazing over the driveway and into the neighbor’s yard with the breeze on her face and a look in her eyes that can only be described as “faraway”. I let her back inside when she was ready, she looked up at me as she passed through the kitchen, and she went and resettled herself on the couch. That was Friday, January 13; we said goodbye on Monday, January 16. This is how I imagine she’s spending her time:

She will live on in our garden, amongst the birds she loved/hated so much.

It’s kind of a crappy week when it’s bookended by the death of a friend and a Presidential inauguration that most definitely ushered in… something. However, Saturday was a new day, and a good start.

Protest is an excellent tool of rebellion and resistance, but what comes the next day? The day after that? The day after that? The weeks, months, years after that? Yesterday’s protests were global and sent a very powerful message, but the day-to-day work is in our heads, homes, neighborhoods, and communities. Here are 10 totally free activities we can consider integrating into our day-to-day, if we’re not doing some or all of them already. I know I’m not. They’re really small steps that will help us get ready for bigger steps, should we need to/want to take them.

talk to a neighbor about squirrels, the weather, whatever, and check if they need anything | go to the library, if you have access, and see what they have to offer, because it’s a lot, and get a card if you don’t have one | take five minutes to breathe deeply, because most of us are not breathing to full capacity | appreciate a work of art – music, writing, painting, etc – seriously, take it all in | read or listen to something that makes you uncomfortable (see: library) | find out more about where you live, even if you’ve always lived there or plan to leave ASAP | related: get a bead on your local elected officials and ask them why, when, and how | pet and say hello to a dog or cat or guinea pig or gerbil or bird or whatever and look them in the eye while doing so | while vigilance is ever-important, step away from the news once in awhile | take a page out of Padme’s playbook and enjoy the goddamn breeze on your face

Love, and luck, to all of us. Oh, and…

On This Last Day of January

On this last day in January:

The youngest’s college applications are finished.

The eldest is home for the weekend.

We went thrifting.

The week’s grocery shopping is now complete.

We’re in the middle of laundry.

I haven’t read enough.

I didn’t get back to the library for the Les Blank set my friend Ian told me about, and I feel like it’s important.

It was 61°. And so we began.

 

boots

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Restoring Order

We’re just dealing with old snow here.

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Dude. What a mess. The birds and other fauna like it, though.

 

So! I’m daydreaming about 2016’s garden and the seeds I want to order, like I do most Januarys.

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[Perennial food not noted above: Blackberries, asparagus, apples.]

I’m considering this list of food to plant in my yard and, in some cases, start in my basement (which I haven’t done for 5 years). I’m having two thoughts.

The first is: This list is rather pedestrian.

Beans. Tomatoes. Peppers. Carrots. Part of that could be because I didn’t include any fancy variety names on the list (“Romano” [pole beans], “Solar Yellow ” [carrot], etc, although it could be argued that “Romanesco” is a fancy variety name. I mean, it is, but when I buy it, I never refer to it as broccoli. Only Romanesco. Anyway.), but this list is actually pretty, uh, garden variety

…which brings me to my second, related thought: This is the same garden I’ve grown for the last 15 years.

It’s the garden I grew for my kids when they were much younger and I just haven’t deviated much; I’ve been coaxing the same stuff out of the ground, year after year, long after it was necessary to encourage lots of fresh vegetable & fruit consumption or for them to understand how food grows. They’re 17 and 23 now. I think they get it.

Sudden third thought: It’s entirely likely that Jim and I will be the only permanent residents of 909 by September. 2016 will probably be the last year I grow a garden of this size, with this food, unless something happens and we have to grow more of our own food as opposed to supporting the indie farming scene to balance our own production.

I want more flowers, see. Big, weird flowers. I’m seeing flowers everywhere, even in the dead kale.

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Note to self: Manufacturing epiphanies & forcing transformative experiences ≠ any real progress for you. The question is: Are you ready to receive such things when they visit?

 

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs, Saved Aggressively):

My Macbook charger is on its last legs, after almost 4 years

Aforementioned Macbook is also almost 4 years old. Years? Mileage?

Ira Glass wants more new voices in public radio

The Cactus Blossoms’ new record made me catch my breath

How the media blew Flint

Great piece about the business of Girl Scout cookies

Some of David Bowie’s favorite records

I’d love to do this, but the price tag is rather steep

Rogue

This year’s, um, “slow gardening” has revealed a bonus: finding young plants that germinated quite far from where their parent lived the year before. I usually let these rogues do their thing for the full season.

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Pictured: Sunflower with kale; breadseed poppy with golden beets; blackberry lily with … weeds. Not pictured: Dill with salad mix, tomatoes in the compost pile.

Months ago I posted a photo of a bunch of podcasting gear that I received for Christmas from Jim. I got everything out right away and RTFM’d and… that was it. I typically (and this is a terrible habit) generate scenarios that are way ahead of Step One: The Starting of the Thing. This scenario generation then has the unwanted (?) result of discouraging me from further action for a long time.

[In this case, a loooooong time. I admit it. I get flummoxed by the the potential for failure at things I desperately want to be good at and I have to ruminate and angst and hand-wring for awhile before I get off my ass and do something.]

Anyway, yesterday I was walking home from work when I realized I could have a lot of fun “failing” at creating a podcast. (Yes, LB-K, it’s OK to have fun.) I thought about the email my friend (and podcaster) Lindsey sent me earlier in the day with a link about podcasting (“You probably know all this stuff from your work at the station, but…” Uh, NO, I certainly do not, good god no, THANK YOU), and I also thought about the Pecha Kucha presentation I gave 4 years ago where I talked about how I started telling local food stories on the radio. I admitted to my ongoing adoration of and identification with Harriet the Spy, and I talked about my beloved tape recorder. I dragged that things around everywhere for a few years as a kid, interviewing everyone I could. I also occasionally recorded conversations where the participants were unaware. You know, like a spy.

There are things we discover we love doing later on, after we’ve done some living. Growing food and just appreciating food are two pastimes (it seems weird to call them that) I never gave much thought to until life events occurred that made me realize their importance in my personal narrative, and that others – many others – felt the same way (although usually for different reasons). I’ll always, ALWAYS, be interested in growing food and following food projects. And eating.

Then there are the things we’ve always loved, since we were kids, that sometimes lay dormant for years or surface in different ways. For me? Words. I’ve always been a talker. I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always loved people, even when paralyzed by shyness at being the new kid (again, and again, and again…). I’ve been talking with, listening to, and writing about people for other people since high school. I thought about being a journalist. My favorite and best teacher in 8th grade, Mr. Cramer (hi, Mr. Cramer) noticed my interest in people and news and encouraged it, telling me I could be a reporter on TV someday; I became a history major instead with a vague goal of becoming… something. Maybe a writer? Easier. Certainly vaguer.

I loved my work as a server in restaurants and bars during and after college because… talking. I’ve interviewed and corresponded with rock bands and culture critics. When I sold records for Cargo in the 90s, I relished the amount of time I spent on the phone talking about and selling the music I worshipped to people who shared my enthusiasm. A regular at the record store I used to work at in Chicago referred to me 20+ years ago as the wordy diva of the alt scene because I talked his ear off every time he came in. (Wordy Diva lives on, by the way.) My relationship to Harriet lived on in the notebooks I carried everywhere in my twenties. They were full of long letters written in bars, setting scenes, never sent. My relationship to my tape recorder (and its microphone) lived on in the radio shows I did at school and later on. It certainly lives on in the Backyard Industry audio and video.

Changing interests  + lifelong passion + nosiness + readily available equipment and outlet = what am I so scared of?

DOING WHATEVER I WANT?

GOING ROGUE?

Stay “tuned”. Tonight I plug everything in and… start talking.

 

Architecture

When they were much younger, my daughter and her older brother spent hundreds of hours with tens of thousands of Lego blocks, building all kinds of crazy stuff all over the house. This work was Very Important.

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They first built according to directions. Then they took whatever it was apart and built something else altogether that, to them, was infinitely cooler than the model, the first thing. They’d never get the model back, but that didn’t matter, because they’d made this NEW AWESOME THING. Which was then almost certainly replaced by THE NEXT NEW AWESOME THING, often immediately. And next to it would be THAT OTHER STRANGELY HUGE BUT STILL AWESOME THING. Etc.

So. Imagine you’re a Lego-friendly grown person who’s been turned loose into a room where someone has overturned two giant tubs of mismatched Lego – including people and wheels and trees and all the other cool stuff they include with Lego now – and you’ve been told, here you go. Make whatever you want. Nope! No blueprint, no directions, no rules! Just get in there and build. Construct to your heart’s content. It’s cool. These are your Lego. Have at it. Bye! Have fun!

What would you do? Would you sort? If you sorted, how would you sort? By color? By block type? By size? Or would you jump right in and just start constructing buildings and vehicles and spacecraft, revising as you went? Would you consult the Internet, looking for advice on how to deal with so many blocks, so much potential? Would you put the blocks back in the tubs, overwhelmed by all the possibilities, and wait for your handler to let you out?

Architecture implies planning and designing. The architect is only occasionally the builder of a building (Lego construction excepted). My style has always been to not so much plan as to just start and revise. Sometimes I force things along (I just had a conversation with a friend yesterday about how forcing what you think you want rarely gets the desired results). I’ve talked here about planning and goal-setting before, and now I’m “suddenly” (haha) finding myself at a critical point with personal/professional projects, our house, my own self, and especially our family. Lilly is graduating from high school in almost exactly one year and a lot – A LOT – is going to happen in those twelve months, never mind what happens after that. Basically, the bins have been dumped.

I can tell you exactly what I’m doing right now. I’m sitting in my huge pile of metaphorical Lego, hanging out amidst the chaos and abundance of color and shape and variety… but have you ever sat on Lego blocks? Dang, you guys. The sitting can’t last, so I’m looking forward to architecture – to planning, designing, and then building/rebuilding, working alone, with Jim, with Cody, and especially working with Lilly on crafting her own plans, too.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively)

At some point I’ll get to this article about Pound – new content sharing tracking tool

How food co-ops are bringing food access to lower-income communities

Create better copy by changing a word (this isn’t that great, but it’s in the tabs)

10 things designers apparently (freaking) hate

Trapped Creative

SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME WITH IFTTT. My brain, jeez.

40 free modern fonts

Indiegogo for Nance Klehm‘s new project, The Ground Rules

Pondering the capsule wardrobe concept with Unfancy

Breakdown Break Down at the 2 Degrees Festival in London

Obsessed with the Mixte, but just looking for now

 

 

Black Hole Sat

I’m not a planner by nature. How about you?

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Being prepared, planning, listing out steps, having an idea of what I want to do before I start doing something – it’s all very learned behavior for me, and I’m still not great at it. I was never taught, exactly, how to make plans, how to plan ahead, when I was a kid. I was told to do it by teachers and family, and I often experienced the fallout for not planning when I was a young student (I remember, very well, the day my mother told me what “procrastination” meant and I sat there thinking, there’s a word for this thing I do?), but there’s a big difference between knowing you’re supposed to be doing something and knowing how to do that thing. It smarts, especially when it seems to come so easily to everyone else, including your annoying little brother.

Things I’m somewhat hapless at planning in my personal life:

1. Anything with money (I’d just rather not spend it, or spend it on the same things)

2. The future (long-term)

3. What I’m going to wear (or even knowing what I have to wear) (related: #1)

4.What I’m going to blog about (I do have lists of topics now)

5. Leisure time (I just clean instead)

You can imagine how I’m feeling as Jim and I work with Lilly on Planning Her Future, which is a LOT of 1 & 2. None of us are really good at it and it’s terribly intimidating, but we’re trying to relish the challenge. Gulp.

There are certain types of planning I’m pretty good at. I know my way around conceiving, planning, and executing campaigns at my job. I LOVE the strategic planning process for organizations. I’m an excellent (though rather barky, if I’m not getting help) meal planner. And today I realized, after Jim and I did the grocery shopping and I was getting everything ready for the beef stew that’s on the stove right now, I really enjoy prep work in the kitchen. I like the peeling, the chopping, the dicing, the measuring, the mise en place. I enjoy cooking, but prep work makes me happy. When Jim cooks, I often help with the prepping of the vegetables. Our kitchen is small and we are not small people, but I enjoy being side-by-side, working together and bumping into each other.

*****

We’re getting a little more snow tonight. I was just outside to take out some recycling and it was so still and so quiet as the snow fell, the only sound my neighbor practicing his French horn. The stew is done. The biscuits are done (I highly recommend them). Before I go, here’s tonight’s LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

The Clash of Civilizations That Isn’t

Interview with Jeff Wise, who has an interesting MH370 theory

His theory

More spec from Jeff Wise

She Does podcast

The most amazing cattle you will ever see

Reddit AMA with animator Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues) – she lives in Urbana!

I hate the “picked for you” pins on Pinterest and use it less because of them

How to thicken stews

Ring It In

Jim and I welcomed 2015 yesterday with a walk at Meadowbrook and saw this bit of squirrel goofballery:

IMG_0488[Lone nut. Rather fitting.]

I’m usually the walker, especially on colder days, so it was nice to have Jim along… even if he was only in it for potential deer sightings. [We saw no deer.] Our forecast is calling for freezing participation off and on through tomorrow, followed by my favorite – sub-zero cold – for a few days, so it is doubtful I’ll be outside much in the near future… unless I’m forced.

OK. Enough about the weather. I’m pretty much done with winter in my mind. I dress in base layers and wear hats (even indoors) (ask my colleagues) and deal with it in my own ways, which include denial. It’s over for me, OK? Today is 43 seconds longer than yesterday, the vernal Equinox is in 77 days, and the Market opens in 120 days. THAT IS PRACTICALLY TOMORROW, YOU GUYS.

Also: The seed catalogs are rolling in. I gave in to temptation and drafted an order last night from the Baker Creek catalog – it is of epic proportions [sidebar: I’m so impressed with how the business has grown since I started following along in 1998] and I ended up with the most ridiculous pretend seed order ever.

IMG_0497See that at the bottom? “Molokai Purple“? I’M SO PUMPED. Thanks to last year’s garlic success, I’m throwing all caution to the wind and am trying sweet potatoes. Purple ones, you guys. I have no idea how to grow them, what they need, if I even have the space (as my friend/neighbor Jill says, “My eyes are bigger than my yard”), but I don’t care. Those are definitely staying on the list. I’ll figure it out. PURPLE SWEET POTATOES.

Here’s the thing – my fantasy order is from one catalog. I have at least 3 more favorites coming. I know there are a zillion catalogs out there that I’ve probably never heard of, so – if you buy seeds, from where do you procure them? I need you to help me feed my addiction. My enthusiasm for 2015’s garden/food was only fueled by a trip into the backyard yesterday and seeing how huge of a mess I’d left it this fall. I AM ALL ABOUT CLEANING THAT SHIT UP…

…especially when it’s too cold to do it today.

 

Right Now

It’s been embarrassingly forever, jeez. Weird how a couple of months can get away from a person. Mattie Lonesome (a cat) would like to tell you about it.

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So! Interesting times have descended here at BYIHQ.

Tim and I are in the process of finishing up the video/webseries (3 more episodes to be released, OMG), and the radio series, after 93 episodes and 4 1/2 years on the air, came to an end on December 18. Why? The biggest, most primary reasons are a) my daughter is entering a pretty intense time in terms of school, soccer, college considerations, etc and I’d like to be available for her; b) I want to be fully present for my paid work for the station (heading up its marketing ops), which was getting harder to keep separate; c) I want to explore other options for the future – longer form, more blogging and photography, boosting the social media presences, a possible writing project… all of which means BYI isn’t going anywhere but forward, y’all. Just with fewer deadlines.

I’m forever grateful to Illinois Public Media and especially to my producer, Dave Dickey, for talking me into writing for the radio almost 5 years ago. And I’m glad to report that IPM will continue hosting every last radio episode – they’re available for streaming or download at the BYI page on the Illinois Public Media website. I’m sure I’ll be linking back all the time.

I’m also very, very indebted to everyone who ever listened, gave encouragement, pitched me an idea, participated in an interview, etc. Please don’t go anywhere, because my  v v supportive and holiday spirit-inclined spouse gave me some equipment (see photo above for an example) to kick my ass toward actually creating my own broadcasts for distribution on the internet, i.e. podcasting. You know, like Serial. Ha. Anyway, since I can no longer just talk about it and must actually DO IT, it looks like he and I will be cobbling together, in the coming months, a little home vocal studio in what we fondly (?) refer to as “the cloffice”. I recorded BYI in there from 2010-2012, though it was never soundproofed and quite sounded like crap.

I have no doubt that I’ll suck at this at first. Proof of my lack of doubt:

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Challenge accepted. More soon!