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

IMG_3872

Restoring Order

We’re just dealing with old snow here.

IMG_3805

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.

seed_list

[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.

IMG_3802

 

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.

IMG_1788

IMG_1789

IMG_1790

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.

117722954_a2cf035c85_o

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?

FullSizeRender (8)

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.

IMG_0458

 

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:

FullSizeRender

Challenge accepted. More soon!

My Whey or the Highway

There’s something in the air. Friday I went to lunch at Sitara with my future writing partner, the awesome Chef Alisa DeMarco, where we commiserated about not having time to really get down all day in the kitchen (in her case, her home kitchen) to make something DEEP; Saveur mag came out (that day, maybe even?) with online content talking about “project recipes“; I’m bored, I think that’s what it is. I think we all are. This winter is endless. Endless! I just wanted to go outside, or do something inside, or WHATEVER. I DIDN’T KNOW. Gah.

So I made yogurt. In a machine. A machine that has been sitting, brand new and untouched, in the cupboard above the oven for 5 years, when I bought it in a fit of pique right around my 40th birthday. [It should be noted that my mother also had a yogurt maker that she used a few times before relegating it to the back of a cupboard, so I come by this hereditarily.]

photo 1 (2)

 

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned my oven woes/whoas. Making yogurt is probably something I would have tried to do in the oven, but the ol’ Visualite is nearing 70 years old, and has decided that her only temperatures are Pretty Damn Hot and Really Fuh-reaking Hot. This will have to be addressed at some point, but that point is not now. It’s been this way for about 8 years, so I’m kind of used to it, but anything requiring precision or overnight heating is unwise. So I got out the yogurt maker and went for it.

What’s cool about making yogurt? It requires only a couple of ingredients, it doesn’t require a lot of babysitting, and it saves the recycling bin from a glut of containers. It feels awesome and thrifty and downright powerful to make a staple food from leftover staple food – chicken stock from a chicken, sourdough bread from starter, more yogurt from starter yogurt. It also tastes pretty damn good. I’m glad I did it. It was incredibly easy. I’m a dork for letting the maker sit in the cupboard for so long. So, thanks, yogurt maker: Until the oven gets fixed, you will not be condemned to the same fate as the panini press, the Foreman grill, the juicer, the food dehydrator…

Two Days Are Not Enough

I believe a 4-day work/school week would work to our advantage; two days is never enough time for this household to get its act together.

Feet

I want to be where these gull prints are. The photo was taken last March in Florida, and while we had winter here last winter, it was nothing like this winter has been. Ergo, we’re planning another trip. I’m already making shopping lists in my head and thinking about the fruit stands I’m going to visit and wondering if there are any new restaurants. We have been going to the same place since 2002 and have only missed one year, 2005, since then. We bought our house at the same time the trip was supposed to happen that year. It was worth it. 909 has been, and continues to be, good to us.

I was thinking that today might be the day I inventory my seed-starting stuff – the lights, the trays, etc. It’s been too cold in the basement to start seeds, though. I wish I was kidding. We’ve had so many days/nights in the single digits here that the basement is just cold all the time. Forget starting seeds – I barely want to go down there to switch the laundry. I haven’t ordered any seeds yet, partially because it’s so freaking cold down there and also because our food co-op does such a great job of bringing seeds in early, thus enabling my laziness and lack of adventure. But it also really saves time and it’s nice to support continued good behavior on the part of one of my favorite local businesses. Thanks, CGFC! I’m sure I’ll be in soon… and then ordering seeds for stuff I plant later in the season.

Oh! The first radio BYI of the year aired locally late last week and is now available on the internet right here. “Ramen Shaman” should be ready by the end of the month, and then we head right into shooting the next one, plus continued radio pieces… it’s a busy time, yet it still feels so hibernatey. There’s a warming trend in the forecast for early next week… I hope it thaws some creativity and motivation around here in addition to the snow mountains.