Archive for the ‘Jim’ Category

The past holiday weekend was a bit of a mini-vacation for me. I worked the Market on Saturday, which meant today was Day 3 of my three-day weekend. The weather was hot, but DANG, has it been glorious to be away from the office. I’m not exactly looking forward to heading in tomorrow…but I’m not dreading it, either. That’s something.

Some photos from today, just a few minutes ago:

This is Mongo, a little black bunny who lives in the neighborhood.

Mongo is not fond of the paparazzi. At all.

Seriously, you guys.

That’s cool. I’ll take photos of the neighbors’ chickens instead.

What do we want? COMPOST! When do we want it? NOW!

NOT a rooster, OK?

Altogether, it’s been a satisfying last few days, and I’m squeezing the last bit out this evening while Jim does some heavy lifting for the grad students moving into our now-in-CHGO  friends’ house behind us.

Speaking of backyard living, you can access my most recent IMBY segment, “Crooked and Uneven: The New Black” for listening any old time you like. It’s about gardening with found and/or very cheap objects and how not having the stuff to create a million-dollar garden means total jack these days and should never be an excuse, which I was trying to make it into. I like to use this Nikki McClure image for inspiration:

Photo by Flickr user Meeldientje

Seriously. This is my current mantra as I wonder what’s next, as I try not to be lazy because, well, the million-dollar garden isn’t happening: Use what you’ve already got to make something awesome.

And with that, dinner.


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One would think I’d be able to cobble together a blog entry more than once a month. Not, like, every day or anything. Maybe twice a month, like the IMBY series I do for the radio, is a more realistic goal.

Well, anyway. We went on vacation and just came back.

Wooden ship.

It was also almost a vacation didn’t happen. As it turns out, it’s kind of hard to rent a suitable (and remotely affordable) place on Anna Maria Island at the last minute for dates in March. Jim performed a miracle and found one. A great one.

We read, ate, had coffee, dried things, and generally lounged here.

The weather was phenomenal – into the 80s and sunny every day. The water temperature was almost 80 degrees, practically unheard of for this time of year. That’s the Gulf of Mexico there on the horizon.

Siblings at sunset.

Our kids got to hang out together, something that very rarely happens anymore. They conversed, just the two of them, down by the water. It’s something they’ve done since they were quite small.

Through the mangroves at Robinson Preserve.

My love for the water sports was completely reaffirmed on this trip. While kayaking alone in the Gulf, I saw a manatee about 30 feet away – this was something I put on my pre-trip wish list, and lo – one just sort of appeared before me, snout popping out of the water almost in greeting. I freaked out, a little, because those things aren’t small creatures. Anyway, I wanted to paddleboard, but it was too windy on the day I planned to go. We kayaked as a group and we swam and swam. I think my mid-life crisis might look like a Sea-Doo.

An amazing place.

After Anna Maria, we headed to central FL to see my dad and then to the east coast to visit one of my favorite beaches in the entire world – the Canaveral National Seashore. We flew some kites. We got tossed around by the surf. Eventually we had to leave.

Until next year.

My personal journal entries from the days leading up to our departure reveal an extremely stressed-out and slightly crazy lady; it’s evident that getting away was crucial. I certainly could have used more “away”, but it was also hilarious to come home and discover that spring had completely, unreservedly sprung in our absence. In eight days the trees had flowered and/or leafed out, the tulips came up, the greens I planted were growing strong, the asparagus was 5 feet high, and the garden was past unruly and into ridiculous territory. I spent a few hours back there yesterday dealing with the asparagus patch and weeding the greens and cutting dead growth. It was no trip to the beach, but it felt fabulous.

IMBY segments coming up – this week you should be hearing/seeing a piece about sheep-shearing. It was researched that last quite chilly weekend we had early this month – I thought maybe the sheep would be too cold. Next week (or maybe the next), a piece about the Slow Money concept and an interview I did in February with its founder, Woody Tasch, will air on the radio and online.

For now, I’m enjoying my last day off before heading back to work tomorrow. There’s a farmers market that needs putting together, but I don’t want to think about it until I need to. Over and out.

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God, I was doing so well with the photo challenge and the blogging, but then it all came to a crashing halt, I guess. I’ve enjoyed the hiatus. HI.

Photos continued, even though they weren’t being posted. This is a photo from February, not January, and is not part of a challenge. It’s just a photo of some books I thrifted last weekend, after years of not thrifting books. If only I could thrift a nice fondue set from the 1970s.


So, work happened (and continues to happen), and then there was this frenzy of somewhat upset (on my part) activity around trying to figure out if we were going to be able to go on vacation this winter. It’s a long and very boring story, but the upshot is we’ll be on Anna Maria Island for 5 days followed by two days on the Canaveral National Seashore sometime in March. We don’t go on many vacations, and this will be the first time ever, in the 10 years we’ve been going, that we’ll be in FL on our own, without staying with Jim’s mom & dad, who hang down there in January and February. We’re all quite sad about it. Truly.

I love the beach so much.

Taken by Cody on AMI, 2009

Oh, hey – there’s some new excitement around In My Backyard (IMBY for short)!

1. My January hiatus is over, so segments are airing again. You can listen to “Ahead of the 2012 Growing Curve”, which WILL – AM just aired this afternoon on the old-timey radio device, by clicking here on your newfangled electronic device.

2. I was just informed today that my tightened-up writing will pay off in the form of  IMBY segments possibly maybe airing locally during Morning Edition some weeks. Wider audience!

3. I ALSO just found out today that the IMBY segments are now available to public radio stations statewide – these stations can pick up one or all of the segments and air them, if they’re so inclined. If you’re in Chicago, Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, Carbondale, Rock Island, Peoria, St. Louis, Macomb, or DeKalb, your Illinois Public Radio/National Public Radio station should have access to it. THIS IS TOTALLY AWESOME.

4. The next segment covers food swaps and will air February 23. I can’t wait to write that one – I have way more audio that I know what to do with, and homemade mustard was the swapped food. Um, hello, ten different kinds of mustard. I love you.

Spicy Stout Mustard, made for swapping

That’s about it from U-town on this chilly February evening. Illinois is losing to Indiana. Lilly’s reading in bed. Jim and Ed are planning to make beer this weekend. And it’s time for a cup of tea.

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I hate it when things don’t work out they way I’ve planned them… because it takes a lot for me to actively plan something.

Plans are nothing without the planning, I get that. And this time I planned, but not enough.

I’m a reluctant planner, pressed into service thanks to motherhood. My planning ways are not native to me; I started hating surprises in earnest when the kids were small, so I started trying to direct things a little better. That isn’t to say that I/we are particularly good at it, a decade later. I still sometimes favor the bad choice because the alternative – planning – is boring. I’m REALLY bad at the long-term stuff, but that’s another story.

In any event, Plan B is in development. Sorry to be vague. It’s totally nothing big in life’s grand scheme.

OK. I need to get caught up on some photos here.

Photo a day #18: Something I Bought

[It was my supervisor’s birthday.]

Photo a day #19: Something Sweet

[This sits in a drawer at work and was a birthday gift from the aforementioned supervisor. One good turn deserves another.]

Photo a day #20: Someone I Love

[Jim picking up the check at Black Dog.]

Photo a day #21: Reflection

[Taken in the ladies’ room at the Extension office in Bloomington, IL before giving a presentation.]

Photo a day #22: Shoes

[Frye boots have been the best pal of my feet for the last 5 years.]

My friend Amy said today, on Facebook (and I’m OK reporting this type of interaction because we actually had lunch together today, face-to-face, and talked about so so many things), that even the cats are depressed by the weather. I laughed because it’s true. It was warm, then it was really cold, then we had some sleet, then a little snow, and it was still cold, and now it’s quite a bit warmer but we had this weird fog today and I just heard that we might get a thunderstorm and that there are tornado watches to the south of us. We all keep talking about the weather, and how this isn’t really winter, and isn’t it weird, so weird… but honestly? This is the new new normal, which is to say that the meteorologists have no idea.

Maybe this really is the worst winter ever … because one can’t plan around it.

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After almost a two-week run of posting every day – something I’m not even sure I did ten years ago when I was first blogging –  I had to take a time out. I was at a conference in Springfield, the weather was bad, I drove (you know all of this already), but I was also just wiped out for some reason. But here I am again, blogging at what is perhaps the least popular time possible. Sunday night. Dinner time. Football game. Golden Globes. Sorry. I’m crawling through this open window.

Tomorrow I’m heading out to Blue Moon Farm to talk to owner/farmer guy Jon Cherniss about seeds. Then, a couple hours later? Talking to Zack Grant, manager of the Sustainable Student Farm about the same stuff. City Hall is closed tomorrow for MLK, so I’m making radio hay while the sun shines, so to speak. Like Pa Ingalls, kinda.

I am having some envy with regards to this television show. I would love to be able to do something like this someday, either as the person onscreen or (much more preferably) as a writer or showrunner. I’ve informally pitched a similar-but-different idea to a couple of people, but no one has any money or time or the inclination just yet. Patience.


Photo a day #13: Stuff in my teensy bag

I was at a local shoe store recently and was eyeing a pair of boots on sale when I discovered that the store also carried my favorite tiny bag. I had pretty much destroyed my brown one, so this time I chose black. The photo above shows what was stuffed into it a couple of days ago. (I didn’t get the boots).


Photo a day #14: Something I'm reading

I love to read actual books, but this book is what I call a Bed Book. It’s hundreds of pages and densely-written and the kind of book I like settling into bed with. Unfortunately, a Bed Book can take months to read, as I now have a tendency to fall asleep almost as soon as I crack open any reading material. I’ve turned into my mother.

Anyway, this book belongs to the library, so I only have a couple of weeks with it, AND the photos are mixed in with the text, so I kind of have to read it if I want to see photos. Also, it’s Spence. I figure I can do my best for him, right? This photo, on the cover? Makes me feel feelings. This one does nothing for me, but was taken within seconds of the one on the cover.


Today I experienced complete happiness. Not the fleeting winning-the-lottery kind or the getting-my-way kind, but the super-simple kind, the lasting kind that you only get when your partner and both of your children are in the car with you and are spending the day with you and this is not a usual thing, at all, because the older child has moved away. It was blissful. I’ll always remember it because it was so simple and uncomplicated and it’s just the kind of thing I like to have in my back pocket in case of a shitty day, which, well, we’re heading into the season of such.

I know. If you have more than one kid and they are both in the backseat of your car and there’s food everywhere and they’re bickering and no one is happy and the younger one has figured out how to escape from the prison that is her car seat and the older one has to go to the bathroom even though he said nothing when you asked five minutes ago if anyone needed a rest stop, it can seem sort of unbelievable that at some point, a family trip to IKEA will seem like some sort of heaven on Earth.

Photo a day #15: Happiness = Lilly, me, Cody

But give it a decade. It just might be.

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Today I got up quite early for a winter Saturday, put on some clothes, gathered my things, and drove about 200 miles south of here to deliver Farmers Market 101. I put together a presentation for fledgling farmers about best practices that can help ensure success at farmers markets… from the market manager’s point of view. My big talky theme right now is about creating a culture of commitment within the local food system, and especially within the framework of preserving markets as public spaces and community resources, so I test-talked about this concept as well as giving quite a bit of nutsy-boltsy advice to these farmers (Nutsy-Boltsy Piece of Advice #1: Be cool to the market’s manager. Seriously. Even if that wasn’t my job it would be my #1 piece of advice.). It was a little weird and definitely awesome to see people writing things down as I spoke. I wanted to look at people’s notes – are you actually getting something out of all this babbling? I wanted to ask. Rather than give handouts with bullet points when I do presentations, I give them copies of my slides with room for notes because I want listeners to write down what they’re taking away, what’s important to them, rather than me tell them what’s important. It’s going to be different for everyone.  I gauged people’s reactions as I spoke, and will be tweaking the presentation for delivery to a similar group later this month. I am so not proficient at this, so the practice is good. But talking about farmers markets is one of my favorite things to do.

Over lunch, I talked with a woman who used the term “smart farm” regarding her operation and I’ve been turning the words over in my head since we chatted. The context was diversification within the operation – stop growing what doesn’t sell, start listening to what customers want, embrace technology, try new ways of reaching customers, be flexible. She totally rocked. I hope to run into her again.

I don’t love getting up in front of people and presenting, so when I have to do it, I tend to wear clothes I love and feel the most myself in.

My new favorite sweater by Sherpa, plus brown Levi's cords

Jim & Lilly found this lovely brown Sherpa sweater for me and surprised me with it for Xmess this year. I am not exaggerating when I say I wear it all the time and would wear it every day if I could; I’m currently trying to lay my hands on at least one more in another color so I can mix it up. It’s lightweight but warm, flattering, and generally very cool. I wore the sweater and my best-fitting brown corduroys today and felt pretty together.

Then I drove, and drove, and drove. Central and southern Illinois are not that much fun to drive through in the winter, even when it’s sunny and 50 degrees. When I returned, Jim texted and asked if I wanted to go to Black Dog for a beer, and I said YES. It’s one of my favorite places, period, in C-U.

Just another Saturday at Black Dog

So we went, and ordered some wings to go, and while we waited, had a pint of Shark Attack and talked with the owner, Mike. His baby daughter is almost 5 months old, and he offered me some baby-holding time.

I’m going to take him up on it.

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That’s the prompt for today’s Photo A Day challenge. And, so, here is today’s photo.

The photo on the left is of Jim, Cody, and I on an improbably flower-strewn path on an equally improbably cloudless day in Ardmore, Ireland in 1997; the note on the right from Jim features his signature beating heart, which gives even this mundane note about where the car is parked something extra that makes it worth pinning to the board in my office.

Yep, big on Jim over here.

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