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?


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


In a what feels like Herculean effort to finish out this iteration of the Backyard Industry Video Project, I’ve been reviewing a lot of footage.

Phil Orr

For awhile it was chicken coops and the people who build them, like Phil (that’s him above). That video is allllllmost finished, though, so lately I’ve been looking at Shana and Mac from The Great Pumpkin Patch, transcribing their interviews by hand because I know of no other way.

Shana Condill of TGPP

Mac Condill

One thing I’ve discovered about this particular creative situation: I wish it was all I did. I really do love coming up with a story to tell, planning shoots, going on shoots, doing interviews, gathering B-roll, looking at it later and transcribing it, and going through the first part of the process of getting that story told. I love it to the point of feeling guilty and like I don’t deserve to be taking the time to do it. Often I’ll walk away from it for awhile, too overwhelmed by the fact that I’m doing something fun instead of cleaning or something else I “should” be doing. True story!

FullSizeRender (12)

The second part of getting that story told is stitching those Post-Its together into a video in editing – re-creating the show open, smoothing transitions between “chapters”, adding graphics, adding music, making cuts, finding that exactly-right bit of footage to cover someone’s voice, etc. While I know this part happens, and it’s definitely fun… I rarely participate – at least, not in person. A lot of it happens over email.

With our current setup, Tim and I have pretty much been siloed in our work – we work together on the BYI project, but separately, mostly, on the creative side. We also end up doing things backwards or sideways sometimes because of a) my ignorance, b) time issues, and c) “real job” constraints/ups and downs/curveballs. In a perfect world, our partnership would be more like a Venn diagram than two separate circles, but it’s what we’ve got for now. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done and are doing, but I’m always like, this could have been so much better. I wish we had asked/gotten _____ or _____. It kind of goes back to my recent entry about planning, though I would also add process. I can plan all I want, but if I don’t have a process, I’m hosed – “hosed” meaning, in this case, submitting (and settling for) work that could have been SO MUCH BETTER.

Words like planning and process still give me hives, you guys. I’ve somehow always had the subconscious notion that you’re not truly creative if you rely on structure to create a finished product. Like, since I was a kid, I’ve had this idea. Where did this come from? Watching other people make it look easy or something? Like they didn’t have a process or a plan? NEVER have I found out the opposite to be more true than working in audio/video production. I know both Tim and I have learned plenty from this experience, not just about process and planning, but also about partnership and trust.

I know that most of the other stuff I want to work on (including one official work project) will benefit from these things I’ve learned re: planning and process:

The BYI podcast, which I swear to god is coming by June at the latest
The writing Troy asked me to do for Innocent Words (I’ll link when the first one is ready)
The project I still want to work on with Alisa from Prairie Fruits Farm

RELATED: I was thinking about Cody and his work (as I often do) and have marveled at the way he seems to be harnessing together, at age 22, all the things thatI believe must go into transforming ideas into something tangible:

A network

Lilly, for her part, is masterful at time management and is truly gifted in many ways, including seeing things – literal and figurative angles and connections – that others cannot see. The more they grow up, the more I learn from them, that’s for damn sure.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

I was sad reading about the Target layoffs

I loved this video of an elephant joining an elephant sanctuary

I tried a YouTube yoga class

On Being A Badass

What does Indiana men’s basketball coach Tom Crean look like?

Mixtape of Arabic songs from the 60s/70s

Really long long read about David Foster Wallace that I ended up not finishing (haha)

10 Women Paving the Way in Digital Journalism and Tech


This week I started my part of finishing the Backyard Industry video series.

The biggest/hardest parts of this process, for me, are the writing of the episode and the logging of the footage. We shot a bunch of footage of people’s chicken coops last summer – here’s my friend/neighbor/now-mother-of-Cliff, Colleen, talking about their setup:


I think Tim and I would agree that the way we’ve ended up working together on these things has been less than optimum for a lot of reasons; the overall lack of time sucks, but also the way we’ve divided up the workload (based mainly on skillsets, but also priorities/time) means that we each have our specific, siloed area of work. We rarely work together outside of the shoot itself. If we had it to do all over again, I think both of us would prefer to work more collaboratively from start to finish, but it’s also been a good experience with so many lessons learned. SO MANY LESSONS, Y’ALL. Anyway, we’re looking forward to finishing the series and moving into spring at about the same time. I’m pretty excited about spring, although… I still haven’t ordered my seeds. Am I OK?


My brain is wired in such a way that I have to write stuff down or I’ll forget it.


Occasionally I look at my notes and am perplexed. What the hell does that even mean? Was I asleep when I wrote this or what? I’m always writing little blurbs to myself about possible topics to cover here and eventually on the podcast, which I’m still planning to get to when the weather turns. Here are some of them:

The demise/”resurrection” of Modern Farmer magazine

At some point I’ll write a long piece about farmers markets and why I think they’re so important and it’s not just about food for me

The difference between being enveloped in a culture like a blanket and being part of the actual fabric of the culture itself – being the blanket, I guess – in the contexts of isolation and inclusiveness

How neighborhoods, and conversations among neighbors and small business owners are rarely part of the “brand” of most places that we see. Individuals, households, towns/areas are more connected with other individuals, households, and towns/areas than ever before, but getting out and conversing IRL is crucial; otherwise the “brands” dominate the conversation and places/people are not being represented truthfully. This happens all the time and everywhere and I’m not thinking up some new thought or anything, but I was struck by a conversation I had with two friends the other night, quite by chance, where this was apparent – the difference between what the 3 of us know to be true, what we see happening, vs various “talking points” we all hear – was amazing. The dominant narrative is so rarely what’s actually happening, and people do know this, and it erodes trust. Get out there and talk about it!

UGH, I’m all over the place. I should finish that shopping list and procure supplies before our (seriously downgraded) “weather event” makes its way here. But first… a little bit of LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

I found myself checking out the Lexington Market in Baltimore

I like analytics

And digital marketing stats, I like those too

Something great Jeff Johnson wrote at Medium about Marshawn Lynch

How the BBC is thinking about its future

Bunch of Hooey


Just like that, summer has gone.

This photo takes me back, though, to April. Tim and I ventured over on a nice day to the home of Jill Miller, batik artist extraordinaire and owner of Hooey Batiks, to shoot part of what would eventually become Backyard Industry video #3, “Bunch of Hooey”.

Jill’s work has been a source of local amazement for a long time. Sometime back in the late 1990s, I was driving along Race Street in Urbana, and almost got into an accident because the sight of what seemed to be a zillion jewel-toned garments being hung on a double clothesline by an all-business lady was so incredibly distracting. She lived on the corner of Race and California back then; what better advertising than a living billboard featuring incredible work? I didn’t know her then.

Now she lives a street over from me, in a neighborhood we sometimes refer to as the Lynn-Wabash Nexus or the Pre-Historic East Urbana Neighborhood (PHEUN). We’ve become friends. We’ve made sausage together, we’ve talked about chickens ad nauseam, we’ve cooked for each other here and there (more her for me, sadly). We have a lot in common. Seeds, gardens, food, chickens, cookbooks, dessert. But she’s been making her art all this time, too, and in the last five years (more?), many of her batiked designs have shown off food, animals, plants, and neighborhood activities. Bluebells and morels. Pears. Cherries. Chickens and chicks. Pigs. Weber grills. Corndog fairies. Cornhole boards. When I look at her food-related work, I see conviviality and community and our neighborhood, and I love it.

Here’s why we decided to feature her work in a BYI video: We’re all used to seeing food as art everywhere through all kinds of media. Food has been painted and drawn and sculpted for millennia. Food has been photographed for publication (often regrettably) and now food is Instagrammed. We’re surrounded by images of the food we eat (or that others eat), but often it’s without a discernible personal touch. Jill’s batiked shirts and skirts and table runners and scarves and dresses lend a window into her world that also looks like our world. It’s not aspirational; it’s what’s there, unadorned and unassuming and very important. She does all the work out of her house – the designing, the batiking, the dyeing, the washing, and the hanging out on the line. It’s all personal. Not only has she touched everything she makes – she’s thought about it. The same goes for her corndogs, which are legendary. Here. I’ll show you.

[Did you watch all the way to the end? Bloop bloop.]

One last thing: BYIV3 is dedicated to Violet the Cat, who just wanted a little cheese and maybe some charcuterie from Smoking Goose, that’s all. It’s also dedicated to Fausto the Dog, who was there that day (though is not in the video) and just wanted to sniff everyone’s drink. RIP, friends.

Wool Gathering

It’s finally here – the latest BYI video! My deepest thanks go to Cathe Capel, Harold Davis, Roxanne Sawhill and all the others for their time, Jack Brighton and Tim Meyers for their work on this video, Automatic Empire for the music, and our friends at Illinois Public MediaPBS, PBS Digital Studios, and PBS Food for their support. Now go watch it! I’d love to know what you think.

Not only that, there’s new audio available that happens to be completely unrelated to “Wool Gathering”. It’s an ode to urban wildlife that’s very influenced by Lyanda Lynn Haupt‘s Urban Bestiary and a field trip I took with Environmental Almanac‘s Rob Kanter. In a perfect world, they wouldn’t have been released at exactly the same time, but hey. Feast or famine. When it rains, it pours. That.

More soon.



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.


We went on vacation, too.


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.


“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…

We Interrupt This Program…

.. to let you know that our first video, “Ramen Shaman” is live and ready for your viewing pleasure.

It was shared on the PBS main Facebook page today, which was very exciting. Some commenter somewhere was like, “ILLINOIS?” That is EXACTLY the response I was hoping for, so we can say, yes, yes. Illinois. Not just Illinois – DOWNSTATE Illinois. Things are happening here.

Please share, like, subscribe, tweet, follow, whatever, if you’re so inclined – we had a great time making this and want everyone to know how fun ramen is. BYIV2 coming soon.

Back to yr regularly-scheduled sheep in a day or two.


Every Little Thing We Do

Confession: For an embarrassing number of years, I had it in my head – I have no idea why, I totally should have known better – that all bands recorded their music live to tape in the studio. In my brain, there were no overdubs. Vocalists tracked right alongside the band. No one played a solo over and over (and over and over). It was all fun! And games! And… fun! Like a live show right there in the recording studio! Like this video:

I wound up spending some time in recording situations and studios and immediately realized I was in serious error. Recording, duh Lisa, is the middle process (idea generation & writing & arranging come first and mixing/mastering come later); raw material is getting committed to whatever format (I was going to say “tape”) and it’s coming in pieces and a lot of it ends up not getting used and sometimes there are meltdowns, since not everyone involved has the same creative vision, and it can get really boring. Like anything can, you know?

Post_interview_1252104Me “taking direction” from Tim Meyers, our DP. Photo by Jack Brighton

When I started writing little bits for radio, I learned very quickly how the best pieces are a compelling balance between natural sound, sound bites, and narrative – and how 5 minutes can get eaten up in a hurry. They also took much longer to put together than I had envisioned, and I was working without much of a plan. As a result, I kind of sucked at putting the damn things together back in 2010. They sounded OK, but I had no idea what I was doing. I’m better at it now, but part of the reason I started this blog was so I could write thousands of words if I damn well pleased. I will say I now have a much better understanding now of how the process works, and how templating and having a general idea of what you’re doing is not creatively stifling, but just the opposite. Without going into a lot of detail, it’s never been easy for me to be visionary with my own work, to fight for what I want, and to not get discouraged. I’m FINALLY learning how to be critiqued without feeling afraid or attacked – an absolute necessity – while also standing up for things that I think are essential to a piece.

My latest challenge is twofold: Working with more partners and working in video. Tim Meyers (above) and I work together every day for our regular jobs, and collaborated on Course Work: Dinner Season at Prairie Fruits Farm last year. We also made a video short last summer that served as the proof-of-concept for the stuff we’re doing now with BYI. Here it is. Hope you’re thirsty:

Tim and I are working together on the BYI videos – the photo above is from a shoot we did yesterday afternoon at the Ramen Shaman’s house – along with a project manager (Jack Brighton) and, occasionally, a still photographer (Travis Stansel). They’re all awesome guys who are pumped to be working on a project like this. It was our first time working as a group, and on location to boot. I had prepped for much of the morning and talked to Tim a couple of hours before we got started, but we still made adjustments once we got to the location. It helped SO MUCH to have a plan. I thought the interview went well, everyone did their thing, there were beautiful snacks (thanks, Mark), we were done by 5. However, we shot an hour + of video, and way (way!) more will be shot on Tuesday… and all of it will need to be edited down to something awesome for PBS Digital Studios that is absolutely no more than 10 minutes long and preferably under 8 minutes. Getting to the finished product of any kind – an elaborate dish, a short story or novel, a song, an album, a 5-minute radio piece or an 8-minute video short or whatever – is always CRAZYPANTS. Why I’m continually surprised by the time and effort it all requires baffles me… but is not a deterrent. On the contrary.


In other news, we found out yesterday that Child the Elder got a promotion at his job, which is awesome. Also: it’s going to be negative 12 degrees here tonight (it’s currently 36 degrees and the temperature is rising); like everyone else around here, I have Serious Winter Fatigue and will never take 40 degrees two days in a row for granted ever again. Finally: I’m making Red Stew from one of the Canal House cookbooks for dinner. I think it’s me shaking a fist at January. You can throw whatever you want at us this week, January 2014, but we’re having Red Stew. So there.

Not Ketchup, Catch Up


It’s a long weekend, more cold weather is coming, and I feel like making things, so I planned meals for the upcoming week today (you may be surprised to know it’s something I’ve been out of the habit of doing for YEARS), went shopping for the food for those meals, roasted some grape tomatoes in the vein of Nom Nom Paleo and Smitten Kitchen (same basic  principle, slightly different methods), and now I’m patiently (?) waiting for Jim to come home from refereeing soccer matches so he can get started on his chorizo chili so I can just sit here and inhale while he cooks. The chorizo is from Triple S Farms in Stewardson, and – god. Our family has a RELATIONSHIP with this chorizo, an affair. It’s great in fajitas or as nachos, but chili is what is needed tonight. Acceptance-yet-defiance of winter in a bowl, that’s what this chili is.

Post-holidays (is it just me, or do the holidays seem like they happened MONTHS AGO?), I think it’s good to get creative with your comfort food. We’re past everything-pumpkin, we’re past the family traditions that dictate the holidays – now, January/February, before fresh food is truly available here in the midwest, that’s when we get down to the business of really figuring out what we want to eat. For, you know, strength when spring comes. My favorite winter foods come in bowls. How about you?


I am utterly, woefully behind in my reading. I found myself at the bookstore this afternoon (very much a “How did I get here?” moment), looking for more magazines, another cookbook. Never mind that I have the above to read, plus two more cookbooks arriving Tuesday. And I still have two cookbooks I received for Christmas from one of my dear sisters-in-law that I can’t wait to read. It’s a sickness. I LOVE ALL OF THEM and occasionally fantasize about literally building a fort out of all these books and magazines, the better to surround myself with culinary and food (and life) wisdom. I haven’t done it. Yet.

I did, however, finish Provence, 1970 this afternoon. I adored the first 2/3 of the book, and was really excited to find out what happened, but after that first 2/3, I thought it just sort of ground to a halt just when I thought something explosive, some a-ha & super-influential moment that I’d never heard of before, would happen, which it… didn’t. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love it. I did. I cannot get enough of good, evocative writing about the food and farming and conviviality surrounding food in France, especially from that time period. Author Luke Barr had access to all kinds of correspondence between the principals (MFK Fisher [his great-aunt], Julia Child, James Beard, Richard Olney) as well as Fisher’s notebook from her time in France at that particular juncture. Anyway, if you have a thing for France and French food and The Days of Yore, I do recommend it.

I’m thinking ahead to next weekend, when we begin shooting “Ramen Shaman”. We’ll be interviewing the Shaman himself at his place, surrounded by his cookbooks and tchotchkes (the guy has a hundred times the cookbooks/food books I do… he could build a palace), and then filming the preparation for his next ramen event, and then filming the event. I’m a little nervous; I made a drastic change to my appearance ahead of all this filming, because I was feeling very what-the-hell about it, but now I’m more like, what the hell? Oops.

Anyway. The ramen is the story, but Mark is the story, too. I can’t wait to hear it, to help tell it. Right now, though, I’m all about swooning over this chili; Jim’s home.