Friday, November 26, 2010


Doug and I had Thanksgiving with his family this year out in the country. It was super low key and I got to try a few new recipes, which is always exciting. I was able to find fresh, locally grown green beans, sweet potatoes, and pecans. Yum! For the green beans, I just sauteed them with butter and garlic, and added some chopped pecans and a touch of Worcestershire sauce about halfway through. The sweet potatoes turned out to be the best sweet potato dish EVER. I used a recipe from Food Network's Guy Fieri that included Agave Syrup (found at our friendly neighborhood Publix), whiskey (we used Bulleit bourbon), pecans, nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, butter, and apples. Incredibly delicious. Next time I think I will add more apples.

Our local health food store had free range turkeys for sale and I really, REALLY wanted to get one, but they were $50-$60. Not outrageous, in my opinion, but still more than we could pay. Maybe one day we'll either be rich or have more access to local food and can buy a smaller free range turkey. Or maybe both of those things will happen.

Hope everybody enjoyed their time off from work and time spent with family and friends. And I hope everyone will participate in the required kick-off-the-christmas-season tradition of watching Home Alone. It's not a real holiday season without some John Hughes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What is with Damien Hirst?

Damien Hirst is one of the most famous (if not the most famous) contemporary artists in the world. His art is highly controversial, and lots of people think it's total bullshit (myself included). Hirst's most well-known pieces are the giant formaldehyde-filled tanks with dead animals inside. He won the fancy-pants Turner Prize for new contemporary art for the piece below, entitled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Ha.

This piece was done way back in 1992 and people still talk about it. Here's another animal-in-a-tank piece, called Mother and Child Divided. It's lovely.

Yes, the cow and calf are divided, as in cut in half and placed in separate tanks. What is this? What does he want us to take from this? No wonder average joe doesn't want to go to the art museum. Who can be impressed by this other than people just like Damien Hirst, artists who talk about themselves and make art to shine light on their own divinely bestowed intellect, rather than to say something about the world.

So, I think this type of contemporary "art" is total hogwash, nonsense, bullshit. I'm not alone in that. But art and literature, films, etc. are what we use to learn about a particular culture in a particular time. So was does the presence of this type of artwork in our most prestigious museums say about our culture? What does it mean that there is a huge disconnect between the world of "important" artists and the world of everybody else, that art has become so lopsided on the side of intellect and concept that no one can really take anything from it without reading about the artist's intentions, and are then still left feeling confused and inferior? And who are we that we can't seem to articulate why we don't like this artwork or why most of us don't really consider it art at all? Does it mean something that while we can't seem to sufficiently describe what makes art good or bad, many of us can't decide what truth is, or explain why we disagree with war or why we hold the religious or moral beliefs that we do? Hell, many of us can't even tell each other why we like the music and movies that we do. And of course it means something.

More for your reading pleasure: Trash, Violence, and Versace: But Is It Art? by Theodore Dalrymple
Group of artists with a strong distaste for art like Damien Hirst's: Try to disregard the hideous website design (or lack thereof). The content is interesting, I promise.

And, on a happy note, one painting I do love. It's called Chop Suey and was painted by Edward Hopper in 1929.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Making Connections

I've been reading about education a lot lately. This week I read an article my sister sent me about a married couple of academic types who decided to homeschool their three children. This is happening more and more. Homeschooling used to be reserved for country bumpkins, religious fanatics, and all-around strange folk. Not any more. Academics and intellectuals are now pulling their children out of formal schooling and are educating them at home. They take their children to museums and parks, travel to new places, and only spent a minimal amount of time doing formal study. These new homeschooling families emphasize that learning takes place constantly, learning units of measure while cooking, learning about biodiversity at the farmers' market, learning Dewey Decimal inside the actual library, and learning color theory at the art museum. It's a wonderful new movement, I think, as more people realize that our formal education system crushes creativity and discourages real thinking. The most significant difference in this type of learning (learning by doing in everyday life) is that it is almost always relevant to daily life. Their learning take place within context, not within a classroom. Because they might actually be in the forest while learning about leaves and bugs, there is automatically an opportunity for them to discover something new on their own. "What kind of bug is that, mommy?" they might ask. And the parent may reply, "I'm not sure. Let's look it up." And then, through the entire process of figuring out what kind of bug it is, they may also have hidden "lessons" on how to take a photo of the bug, how to look things up, and how to determine what information about the bug is most important. And not only does homeschooling allow for more relevant and in-depth learning, it also creates incredibly strong and meaningful relationships within families. Older siblings teach younger siblings, parents and children really get to know each other, and the family becomes the foundation by which they all understand how to build outside relationships and community. Many educational reformists are convinced that this same kind of learning, experiential learning they call it, can take place in a school with teachers and classrooms. I agree with them, though I know it will be no easy task to try and make such sweeping changes in the way we all think about and do school. We do not currently teach our children how to think and connect ideas and how to learn new things on their own. We teach them how to do school, to stay in the lines, sit quietly, and do what they're told. We are teaching compliance. We are raising a generation of people who are not prepared to think for themselves, form opinions, create new systems. We are raising a new work force of people who know how to stay in the lines, sit quietly, and do what they're told. Don't ask questions, don't wonder why, don't make suggestions for a different way of doing things. This is very dangerous for us. Without thinkers, people who push the boundaries and search for new ideas, we'll have no new discoveries and we'll be unable to create new systems when our traditional systems fail us. So, no worksheets and no homework, I say.....and that's just a meager start. We need to totally overhaul the way we've always thought about education. And I understand that not everyone can or should homeschool. But everyone can get involved in educational reform. We have to.

As a sidenote, I think it's very interesting that at the same time that you have the local food movement with people growing their own stuff, composting and recycling, and people moving back to downtown and trying to rebuild communities, you also have the new homeschool movement. None of these "movements" is very new, actually, but all have newly found attention and interest. Are people really moving toward a slower-paced, relationship-emphasizing, home based life? Will people really stick to trying to make everyday life more meaningful rather than trying to achieve, succeed, and attain? I hope so. Time will tell, I suppose.

This is my three year old niece cutting up vegetables with a knife and cutting board, with supervision from my mother. She uses a small knife, of course, and needs to be supervised, but she can learn to do pretty much anything she wants. Children are so much more capable than we give them credit for, and it really upsets me. Part of the problem with our education may be that adults have so little faith in children. They can do it! Look at her go!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bobby Kennedy

I started reading a new book called The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America. You might wonder what in the world would lead me to pick up such a book, so I'll tell you. A couple of years ago, I read an excerpt from this book in an issue of Vanity Fair, the very first issue I had ever picked up. It was so powerfully written that I kept that issue of the magazine with Bobby Kennedy's photo on the cover, made a mental note to some day read the whole book, and began grabbing a copy of the most current Vanity Fair whenever I got the chance. After reading two books lately that were both about young thirty-somethings who needed to "find themselves" as their marriages were falling apart (no more memoirs for me for a while, thanks), I wanted to read something with some real substance. Then I remembered the book about Bobby Kennedy. I'm only about sixty pages in, but I there's a passage from one of his speeches that I just really wanted to share. For those of you who don't know anything about JFK's younger brother Bobby (I didn't either before reading this book), he decided to run for president in 1968 because he felt morally obligated to do whatever he could to oppose Lyndon B. Johnson and his involvement in Vietnam. JFK had been assassinated in 1963 and when Bobby decided to run, people (especially young people) loved him. But many of his colleagues and family members worried greatly that someone was going to shoot him. They were right. 82 days into his campaign, Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also assassinated that year. And a lot of people still believe that had Bobby become president that year, America (and particularly it's political climate) would be very different today. So, here's a piece of Bobby's speech from the early days of the campaign: '"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things," he said. "Our gross national product, now, is over eight hundred billion dollars a year, but the GNP - if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead...and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."' Bobby Kennedy, 1968.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Thing About AutoTune

Lately I've had several conversations with friends that go like this:
Me: "Man, I wish they weren't using so much autotune."
Friend: "What's autotune?"

Autotuning is what make T-Pain sounds like T-Pain. If you don't know who T-Pain is, wake up to some pop culture and look him up. But T-Pain intentionally overuses autotuning to create a particular style/effect. Everyone knows he doesn't really sound like that. But what's happening lately is that music industry people are using it left and right to make their singers sound perfectly in tune. Key word here is "perfectly." What we're left with is music that sounds digital and overproduced. The music is sterile. I've attached an example for all you learn-by-hearing people. The first video is of Barbara Streisand singing "Don't Rain on my Parade" in the 1968 film, Funny Girl. The second video is of Lea Michele from the cast of Glee singing the same song. Listen.

Do you hear it? The Glee version sounds computer-y, doesn't it? If you don't hear it, do some more listening of other music and keep your ears tuned. You could listen to Michael Buble's first album...and then listen to his most recent album. Major autotuning happening on the newer one. The thing that really gets me is that people like the Glee cast members and Michael Buble don't need to be autotuned. They're good singers already, so the autotuning makes them sound even more perfect, which makes them sound even more computer-y.

So, the thing about autotuning is that it's a good example of what's happening in the world of the arts in general today. Because of our access to incredible digital technologies, there has become a demand for perfection in everything from show tunes to graphic design. People want flawless music, flawless photographs, movies, design, and on and on. Luckily, though, there's a culture of artists who recognize what's happening and are creating a pretty strong backlash. Designers are hand-drawing their stuff, musicians are recording analog and releasing their albums on vinyl, photographers are shooting film (and no, I can't photoshop your eyes open). And, it seems like all this is part of a bigger cultural people are longing for more authenticity in every aspect of their lives. We need that rawness in art...that's what helps us distinguish the good art from the bad. And it's what makes that emotional connection to the music or art or whatever. I mean, imagine a voice like Louis Armstrong's on autotune. No, thanks. Keep your ears peeled, people. Autotuning is gross and we need to say so.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Number Two

Another peek...

The inspiration for this one (from the June issue of Vanity Fair):

Okay, no more until I get the film back. Although I took a few digital shots, I mostly used professional black and white 400 Tri-X 120 film for these and shot them on my Mamiya 645. Let's hope they turn out.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Project Sneak Peek

I've been inspired lately by two things: Vanity Fair and Lady Gaga. Lou's been helping me achieve my weird vision by modeling interesting "hats" and helping me create them. Here's a sneak peek. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Painting

I actually did a new painting the other day! This is the first painting I've done since college (almost four years ago) that I've actually been please with. Hooray! We hung it in the kitchen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More Pictures

Hot Pink?

My highlighter pink cast finally comes off on Tuesday. Here's one last look at it.

Also, I gave the blog yet another makeover (obviously) and posted this new picture of
Doug to celebrate.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Josh's Turn

We set up our white backdrop and studio light for some more photos. This time, I had a much clearer vision of what I wanted and I made sure the light was just right before we started. And... we did it all inside because it's three thousand degrees out. The photos of Josh turned out great and I'm getting excited about doing this more often when I have normal use of my feet again.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garden Update

Our vegetable garden, I'm very sorry to say, is not doing particularly well. Everything has come up out of the ground and looks green, but it's stopped growing. It took me a while to realize it wasn't growing as well as it should because we were dealing with my foot situation for a hundred years (I finally get my walking boot a week from Tuesday). We've had a really rainy season so far, and other people with gardens in the area have said their gardens aren't doing as well as they'd hoped either. Plants can get too much water....especially when they're young. Anyway, I'm trying to be proactive and figure out ways to help the garden. Today, I finally made it out to the garden and thinned the sprouts, choosing only to leave the strongest little plants. Here's one of the weaker carrot sprouts I pulled. It looks like a carrot! That's a little encouraging. And there is new growth on the cucumber and green bean plants....also a little encouraging. The next step now is to add organic fertilizer. I ordered some Liquid Fish and Liquid Seaweed that are supposed to really help the little guys take off. We just have to wait for all this rain to let up before we can feed it to them. Wish us luck.

So much rain. You can't really see the sprouts in the picture...I apologize.

Yum. I'm not looking forward to the smell of this stuff.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Buying Things

I've been stuck at home for a month and a half now. I only leave the house when necessary for food or sanity. And because I don't go anywhere, I don't buy anything but groceries. I'm hoping this will carry on even after I don't have to use crutches anymore. It also helps that Josh and Lou are here, so I have friends and food and house projects to keep me perfectly entertained at home. I don't see anything that I want to buy because I stay home most of the time...and we don't watch TV, so I don't see ads for things that I might want to buy. It's like I'm able to forget that there are things out there that I want, because we've made it so that everything we need is right here. It's nice. And...I find myself having to create ways to stimulate my brain cells and entertain myself at home, so I've been working on projects and singing to myself. Doug helped me fix this recording of me singing Julie London's Cry Me a River. We were going to add guitar, but turns out it's quite a difficult song to learn for just a funzies afternoon tune. So, it's just me. Oh well.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Out Driving

Today I went for a much needed outing all by my lonesome. Because of my injury, there are only a few things I can do without help. Driving to Nowhere is one of them. I've been feeling really down from not being able to do anything on my own, so today (while on the verge of a breakdown) I went for a drive to Nowhere. I drove out to the super rural parts of this area and kept driving for almost an hour. I felt soooo much better when I got home. Doing things for myself and having alone time are so important to me. Anyway, while I was driving I got to thinking about what it means to live in the present, and whether or not that's really possible. And I was thinking about our cravings for something better, something more, can keep us from living in the present.
When I was in college, I wanted nothing more than to be somewhere else. I just knew that somewhere there existed a place full of intellectuals reading and learning and growing together in a beautiful world of culture and thought. I was determined to find it, and I was determined to be miserable until I did. Well, I certainly succeeded at the second part. And I'm pretty sure I succeeded at making other people feel like they weren't worthy of my presence unless they too were miserable. I felt irritated most of the time and I looked down my nose at people who did not think like me. I knew that all my misery would cease if I could just find that place full of smart people. But I was stuck in Auburn, and good thing, because I'd still be looking for that non-existent world otherwise. I had to learn to make my own happiness, make my own world of beauty and intellect, and make my own world of peace. I had to let go of being so hard on other people by letting go of being so hard on myself....not an easy thing to do. I stayed so angry at myself for having clutched to the Christian belief system so tightly, and I wanted so badly to find the new set of "answers." And because I was angry at myself, I was angry at everyone else. It was a long time before I realized there aren't any answers....and an even longer time before I realized that's a good thing.
Anyway, back to this idea of living in the present. I remember what it was like to dream of this far off "better" place, and what it felt like to really believe that I would find it. When I was in London, I rode the train a lot. I loved riding it alone, and I have a very specific memory of standing on the train listening to Amelie, and thinking to myself, "This is it. I'm here. I'm right here in this very moment." It obviously was some kind of important moment for me, because I still remember it and it was such a fleeting, ordinary thing. But today I started wondering....was I really in the present right then? Or did I just feel like I was because I was reflecting on the fact that I had finally come to do something that I had always dreamed of doing? Or can you really only experience the present in can only think you were living in the present? That, of course would suggest that no, you cannot live in the present. So what of our cravings for something more? Surely most of us have longed for a life more meaningful, more important, more exciting than the one we lead. What is that craving for? Why do we have it? Are we supposed to listen to it? Will it ever go away? Suppose I had chased like crazy that idea that somewhere everything was just as I had imagined it should be. Would I have found it? Even if I had never found it, could I have found any happiness or rest along the way? I don't know. But I know that I'm glad I found a way to let go of it...and I'm also glad that I didn't let go of completely. I think it's important that I still believe that things (in the big picture sense) should and can be different....that people can do more. Monotony was once my greatest fear. But, I had to learn that monotony doesn't jump out and get allow it to take you. It was kind of a hard lesson to learn, because once you know that you're in control, it means that if you want things to be better or different you have to get up off your ass and make it different for yourself. You can't sit around waiting for things to change, thinking everything will be better for you someday when something-or-other is different. You have to make it better. It's easy to complain. It's easy to put on your smart hat and talk about how the world's shitty and nobody thinks for himself but you. But what good is your smart hat if it doesn't teach you to live in such a way that you grow and change and learn from the people around you? Right? Right. I'm out of coffee.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Fun Day of Shooting

Lou and I played dress up and took pictures in the garage with special assistance from Doug. My favorites of the day:

Getting Inspired

I got my real cast yesterday (it's hot pink), and I've been trying to get inspired to work on some fun portraits so that my brain doesn't turn to mush while I'm stuck at home. I've wanted to try using costumes and props in my portraits for a while now, and we just got our first studio light, so I really need to jump in. And, it's something I can do in the house, without having to crutch myself around outside somewhere. My beautiful friend Lou is living here, so I'm going to try and convince her to be my model. Here's my inspiration for my portraits of her....

Friday, May 14, 2010


So, I hurt my foot really badly after a fight with a shopping cart and ended up needing surgery. I've been on crutches for a month now, and I still have a month to go. The surgery was two weeks ago, and since then I've been in a clunky and very heavy cast. It's so heavy I usually need someone to carry my leg while I crutch around to the bathroom or wherever. Mostly, I've been on the couch for the whole two weeks, though yesterday we ventured out for fancy coffee drinks and a short trip to the bookstore. Were Josh and Lou not here to keep me in good spirits, Doug and I would both be in a total depression from lack of moving about. Anywho.....I've been thinking a lot about what I'll be most excited to do when I can walk normally again. I want to ride my bike and stand in the shower and cook and tend to my garden. But I also want to go places. New Orleans is first on the list because Josh and Lou have never been and it's only 2 hrs. away.

I want to travel more. I wish it weren't so damn expensive. Travel is so healthy. I've been thinking about how I glad I am that I went to London all by my lonesome when I was in college. It was so good for me....traveling alone gives you such a sense of freedom. Actually, doing other things alone can give you a similar feeling: hiking alone, sitting in the park alone, driving long distances alone. It's just good to be alone from time to time, really. But maybe it only works if you're alone on purpose. Hmm. Anywho, I'm rambling and my lunch is ready. Doug has to carry it to me. I'm still on the couch.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Married and Living Together

I decided I need to do a happy post after that last "I hate the world" post. Next week, Josh and Lou are moving in with us. They'll be inhabiting our guest bedroom, sharing with house duties, etc. And, yes they'll pay rent like real roommates. They're married...we're married. And soon, it'll be like we're all four married. Soooo many people think it's freaky weird that two married couples have decided to share living space. They ask, "Well...I long will they be there? What will y'all do about groceries? Where will they put their car? Are you sure that's a good idea?" Well, first of all....NUNYA. And secondly, yes, I'm sure it's a brilliant idea. What could be more fun than doing something everything thinks is weird with another married couple who shares your same values and outlook on life? We'll cook and eat together, play music together, budget our limited monies together, build a new deck and play in the yard. And all the while, we'll be giving them a cheap place to live that doesn't tie them down, and they'll be giving us a little safety net while we try to jumpstart our home business. Sounds pretty great to me. But some people are naysayers. Oh well. Poo on them. The video below pretty much sums up how I think our life with Josh and Lou will look like: sheer delight over splitting one $5 sandwich four ways. Yesss!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why the English are Happier, Despite the Dreary Weather

This post is long overdue, but better late than never, I suppose. Doug and I traveled to Europe in February, thanks mostly to our dear friends Josh & Lou who graciously let us crash at their place in Italy for ten days. We stayed with them in Florence and then traveled on to London for a few days and spent a full day in Oxford, England (my favorite part of the trip, aside from frolicking around with Josh and Lou). In order to get from Florence to London, we had to take a two hour train ride from the heart of Florence to the airport in Pisa. We sat on the train in front of a young British couple and across the aisle from an elderly British couple (the two couples were not traveling together). We all started chatting because we felt relieved to know we were not the only people around who spoke zero Italian. And so my story begins...
The young guy behind us started telling us about his travels around the world and was excited to learn that we were from the United States because he and his girlfriend had never been. He asked all sorts of questions about life in the American South: "Is it really a hickville like in the movies?" And, as the conversation progressed, we began talking about how much time we Americans spend at work, what our healthcare debate is all about, why the rest of the world was glad we elected Obama, and so on. Big issues for a couple of 25-yr-olds on vacation. I tried to be honest without sounding like Debbie Downer....though he did ask me at one point, "how can you live there?" Anywho, I don't want this to be a three hundred year long post, so I'm going to try and sum up the conversation. Here's what he told me:1. He is a nurse in a psychiatric dept. in an English hospital. He gets 8 weeks vacation every year. This is normal for nurses, though most other working people only get 4-5 weeks. Only.
2. It is illegal to advertise for prescription drugs in England.
3. Last year, he took a 6 month sabbatical to travel the world...he did not get paid, of course, but walked right back into his job as if not a day had passed.
4. Working women who become mothers receive 6 months paid time off, and after that can take up to a year at 50% pay.
5. Taxes are high.6. Laws are not as tough on crime as they should be (though you could argue ours are too tough).7. Only psychiatric doctors are legally allowed to prescribe drugs for mental illness...including anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds.

Here's what I told him:
1. If you are unemployed, you are likely to have terrible, if any, health coverage.
2. We (Doug & me) pay $200/month for insurance, but because our policy requires you to pay the premium for a full 365 days before they'll cover anything pregnancy related, if we got pregnant now, we'd owe thousands of dollars. (Everyone's baby-having is already paid for in England)
3. Working women who become pregnant are considered lucky to get 6-8 weeks paid time off.
4. People our age are lucky to get 1-2 weeks vacation time. No one gets 8 weeks...and if they did, people would certainly raise eyebrows and wonder if he/she ever worked.
5. Every other advertisement we see is for prescription drugs, and any doctor can prescribe mental illness meds.6. Americans rarely take vacation, are terribly stressed, overweight, and unhappy, and think that we are the greatest country on earth.
So. Having had a long an in-depth conversation with this young couple (the elderly couple chimed in occasionally: "Seems like Americans are really manipulated by their news networks"), and having had similar conversations during my time in Norway, I have to wonder. What is our problem? We know we're not happy. We know we work too much. But we do nothing about it. My final two cents in my conversation with Darin from England was this: "We Americans just cannot figure out what the hell our values are." And I absolutely believe that. The only thing we can agree on is that money is king in this here nation, and plenty of individuals and corporations have sold us to the devil to make a dollar. Yet we have hardly lifted our heads. Is it because we don't know what we really want besides fancy houses and cars? Is it because our country is so young that we can't get our values in a row? Is it because so many news shows broadcast fear tactics 24/7? Why can't we get it together?

Barbara Kingsolver notes that we live "in a society whose holy trinity is efficiency, productivity, and material acquisition." And we'll go after those things, no matter the cost. We've lost ourselves, our values, our culture. We are but a sad shadow of the people who founded this nation, wrapped in a fancy plastic package and unsure of how to get out.

So much for not sounding like a Debbie Downer. Oh well.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pretty Food

I gave the blog a face lift, so I wanted to post a nice pretty photo to celebrate. This is a photo of some delicious dried fruit at a market in Florence, Italy. It tastes as yummy as it looks. I think I'll get a food dehydrator and try to make my own. Mmm.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sowing Seeds

Today I planted my seeds! The weather here is still pretty cool, so I only planted a few things today: tomatoes (supice and brandywine), broccoli, cilantro (slow bolt variety), carrots, onions, and Kentucky Wonder green beans. I'm super excited. In another month or so, when it's significantly warmer out, I'll plant my peppers, squash, eggplant, basil, and cucumber. And then when fall starts, I'll have all new things to plant, like pumpkins and garlic. Mmm. So, my first veggie seeds have been sown and watered. Yay! Now, we wait.

I have a weird feeling that this may be one of the most important projects I ever do...important for me personally. I can't think of any other project that I've dedicated so much time to or researched for so long. And I'm actually going through with it, which means it must really be important to me. Someone once told me that unless something is actually a part of your life, you don't really believe in it. Like, if you talk about how recycling is important but don't actually recycle, you clearly don't value it as much as you say. That piece of wisdom has always stuck with me. And we do recycle, thank you very much. Anywho, I've been on my high horse about food for so long, and now I can realize for myself that it is actually important to me. It's so important to me that I've started a garden of food, even though I've never had much success growing anything because I get lazy and forget to water the plants. But that won't happen this time, I now know....too much is at stake for me. I've worked too hard too long to let this thing slip out from under me. There was something about sticking those tiny seeds into the ground and covering them with the soil I had mixed myself. They're little lives that will give me life, in more ways than just food nutrients. Those plants and I are part of a cycle with each other and the earth. That means something. And I think their growth will give me new confidence to try other new things and perhaps cure me just a little of my fear of failure. I'm not gonna let those little guys down.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Healthcare or whatever...

I don't care to get too deep into the conversation about the healthcare bill, mostly because conversations about the bill are scarcely actually about healthcare. But I would like to say this: we need change.

And, health insurance should not be linked to employment. Period. Employers shouldn't have to help pay premiums. Self-employed and unemployed people shouldn't have to wonder how they'll get good coverage.

And how about this? What if we didn't need so much healthcare all the time?

1. Eat fresh veggies and move around for at least 30 minutes each day.
2. Don't eat processed food.
3. Drink plenty of water and don't have too much soda or juice.
4. Don't eat so much sugar and sodium.
5. Increase your chances of not needing the doctor so much.

Americans spend too much on healthcare and too little on food. We eat cheap calories and pay for it by having all sorts of diet-related health issues. So...while Congress spends a bajillion years trying to figure out a way to make changes in the way we do healthcare, let's all eat and live better, for our health.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Starting the Spring Garden

So I've been researching and talking about starting my own vegetable garden for around 8 months, and now the time has finally come for me to actually do it. This is really exciting and a big deal for me, because I have this crippling fear of failure that sometimes keeps me from trying something totally new. It's not very often that I jump into a project that I know nothing about...especially if it's a big project. I mean, trying a new recipe or going to a party with strangers is no big deal....but for me, deciding to grow my own food is. I went through kind an emotional rollercoaster as it got closer to time for me to build the garden because I was afraid I was going to chicken out and not do it...for fear of it not going well. But, of course that's stupid and I know this, so I buckled down and started it anyway. And, here I am doing it and it feels so good! Yesterday, Doug helped me build the frame for our raised bed veggie garden, and today we added the soil mixture. Here's what we've had to buy so far:

3 cedar planks: $45
landscaping fabric: $10
galvanized nails: $3
soil mixture stuff: $45

So...right around $100 for the materials to build a raised bed. Cedar is naturally rot resistant, so we used it instead of any kind of treated wood, because chemicals from treated wood can seep into your soil. Yuck. Most gardening people in my research suggested using 1/3 existing soil (we have red clay, so we bought topsoil), 1/3 compost and 1/3 peat moss for the perfect mixture. Compost can take weeks or even months to decompose enough to be usable, so we bought some. But, we'll start a pile in the yard to use for next season's garden. Build your frame to whatever size you like (mine's 4 ft. x 8 ft.), place it over some landscaping fabric, and mix your soil in. You're ready to plant! Yay! On to seed ordering.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Where ya from, darlin'?

I've been thinking a lot lately about home and what it's like to really be from a place. Our photography clients ask Doug and me all the time where we're from and I always tell them I was born and raised right here on Mobile Bay. And I've come to realize just how uncommon that is...that a person like me comes back home to put her own roots down in the same place where her parents and grandparents put their roots. It's something I never thought I would do, but knowing a place and feeling connected to a place means more than we know. Anytime I go out to the grocery store or take a walk through our neighborhood (the same neighborhood I lived in for 15 years as a child) I'm surrounded by my own personal history and the history of the people closest to me. It means something to drive by a place and tell a friend, "That's where I used to ride my bike with my friend Anna," or, "That's the treehouse my dad built for me," or "Down there is the railroad my grandfather worked on during the Great Depression." It means something to us...deep down in our soul call a place home. Not just a house and the company of those we love, but an actual place. The bay, the beaches, the oak trees....they're the same natural surroundings that inspired by grandparents to paint and encouraged my parents to raise us here. My own children will be the 4th generation of kids to grow up learning to ride a bike along a coastline, swim in the ocean, and throw an anchor from the bow of a boat. We'll get up early and go fishing as a family, like I did with my parents, and we'll be fishing in the same waters, by the same trees. I remember what my town looked like 20 years ago, and my parents tell me how it looked 40 years before that. My dad takes me to the railroad tracks that he walked along to get to school, and he'll be able to show his grandchildren those same tracks. My parents' back-in-my-day stories will have so much more interest and relevance to my children because it all took place right here. I mean, that's pretty amazing, I think. And I think that kind of thing should be more common....people should be more connected to each other, of course (we're desparate for that), but also to the places in which they live. I think it's more important than we realize.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Grass Fed Burgers

So, we had burgers tonight from some local grass fed beef. It tasted very different from regular supermarket beef....I actually didn't like it very much. But, we're going to try some different cuts of beef and maybe try some from a different farm and see what we think. It's very lean, like deer meat, and even when well-done looks more whitish than we're used to. A very interesting experiment, indeed.

Bathroom Makeover

Doug and I redid our bathroom this weekend. It started out as a small project in which we were only going to put in a bath vent/fan thingy. And then....we scraped the peeling paint off the ceiling and repainted it. And then....we decided to go ahead and repaint the walls. And then we replaced the vanity because it looked terrible with all the new changes. It was all crooked and had been installed incorrectly and sank down into the tile about 2 inches, so it was short for us tall folks. And somebody along the way had cleaned the countertop with Comet or something terrible, so it had lost its shine and looked really grungy. So, bathroom makeover. But, the thing is, we didn't really plan on all this happening, so we don't have any before photos. You just have to take our word for it that it looks ten thousand times better now. We added a fan, painted, replaced the vanity and countertop, and purchased a fancy new shower curtain all for under $700. Not too bad. Also, we built up the floor under the new vanity, so it's 2 inches (at least) taller than it was. And here's how it turned out!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekend Doings

Went to Lowe's today and looked at paint swatches for the kitchen. I'm thinking this icey aqua blue color with the green glass tile backsplash. If not green, then plain white subway tiles.
Also, I read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food this week. It only took me two days! It's a good read and actually had a lot of new information for me. He takes a pretty hard look at how we've somehow in our eating come to focus on nutrients, rather than on foods: "Eat more fiber." Not, "Eat more broccoli." Anywho, I highly recommend it. An excellent and easy read.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Oh, and I've decided I want to start a raised bed organic vegetable garden. Any suggestions?

I should use the library more often, for starters.

Handmade Nation

So, a few days ago I watched a great documentary that Mallory let me borrow. It's called Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design. Basically it's about people making a living by selling items that they've made themselves, and about the increasing demand for such items. But there's more to it than that. You have these artists (mostly women, but we'll get to that) who are abandoning the fancy-pants art world to create things like clothes, jewelry, bags, paper goods, etc. And not only are they making a living doing it, they're finding themselves much happier and more fulfilled. This was the part that most interested me.

When I was about halfway through the art program at Auburn, I came to the conclusion that it was all hogwash, hocus pocus...bullshit. I wanted out asap and decided to finish early with a BA instead of a BFA. About a year later, Doug and I were talking marriage. So a friend from art school told me I was making a big mistake by not getting a BFA, that I wasn't living up to my potential as an artist (gag me) and that I was destined to "lose myself" by getting married at such a young age. Then, my sister in her infinite oldest sibling wisdom sent me a copy of What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman. It talks about how the feminist movement of the 1960s has affected women today and notes that we've trapped ourselves into choosing either family or career. And, whichever we choose, we are constantly wondering whether we chose correctly and are looked down upon by those woman who chose the other way. Women who have big time careers and send their children to daycare at 4 weeks are scorned by stay-at-home moms and vice versa. It's like we've realized that we do actually long for that family life, motherhood, whatever, just as much as we long to find our own personal fulfillment apart from such things. And we've been conditioned to think that we must choose between the two....which is like asking a parent to choose between their two children. It's impossible and ridiculous. Anywho, many women of my sister's and my generation seem to have finally found a balance. They're sewing, cooking, and gardening, working from home. And they've discovered that unmistakable feeling of accomplishment that comes from making something with your own hands that is not only beautiful, but functional. And, the best part is, people are seeking out their stuff. People want to know that someone just like them crafted their item by hand....someone they could call up on the phone and talk to if they wanted. And skills that may have been lost otherwise can now be passed on to the next generation. We learning to grow and cook our own food, make our own bowls and furniture, sew our own clothes. Could it be that we're on our way to self-sufficiency once again? Could it be that there are enough of us out there to create a beautiful revolution that could tear down the corporate monster that's eating our culture? Perhaps.

By the way...even though I did get sidetracked from the grocery project, you will be pleased to know that Doug and I ate off that $35 grocery trip for a full week. And you may also be excited to know that we discovered a local farm (more than one, actually) that raises grass-fed beef and free-range (actual free-range) chickens. We'll be investigating that more soon. Find one in your town here.