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TBT: Absurdist Theme Parties

2020 has been a disruptive year that has forced us to think of new and creative ways to have fun and celebrate holidays and milestones with others. I am stoked about the distribution of coronavirus vaccines that will, I hope, set us free to mingle in real shared spaces again, but I've also enjoyed witnessing the shakeup of assumptions about how we have to share traditions and joys and sorrows with our friends and loved ones. I hope we don't ever forget how we were able to adapt to adversity and even turn our "prisons" into "playgrounds." During the last national crisis, the Great Recession, my friends and I came up with lots of creative and whimsical ways to recreate simply because we couldn't afford private jets and bottle service. Or even going out to eat every weekend. One way we had big fun on a smol budget was to throw absurdist theme parties. You don't have to be fancy if you can be funny. The aughts contained a lot of silly variations on 1980

NaNoWriMo: How It Started vs. How It's Going (Not Today, Santa!)

Happy Thanksgiving 2020! Scroll down to the bottom for a turkey bone broth recipe, or keep reading for a dramatic story of despair and redemption. Choose your own adventure! Allora. Those of us with survival instincts are locked down in our own homes this holiday season with no guests, and some intrepid aspiring novelists have taken advantage of this fall's pandemic isolation to try for a NaNoWriMo win. To all you crazy kids who have already certified your 50,000 words so that you can relax on this day of joyful gluttony, congratulations, winners! I am not one of you. Not this year, anyway. When I wrote the blog post below (originally entitled "Final NaNoWriMo Weekend Squeeze,") life was extremely different. I was a wildly busy, messily eager, child-free young adult who didn't let a little thing like a holiday slow me down in my race to become a WINNER WINNER TURKEY DINNER.  So what did I win, exactly? To put it simply, I received a near-delusional shot of confidence

TBT: Backyard Goats

Ah, youth, when all the world is a buffet of dreams and you can just as vividly imagine yourself running your own organic farm as inhabiting a high-rise apartment in a glittering city with rent as high as your Manolos. Last night, from the snug warmth of my fluffy bed nested inside my humble but cozy house within a spectacularly October-festooned Michigan woodsy suburb, I dreamed of stepping onto a plane to Australia, about the longest trip I could possibly take on a flight. I remember the thrill of flying itself and the excitement of visiting a place I have never seen, smelled, or tasted. Then I woke up and remembered that we're in a pandemic and Australia is now pretty much constantly on fire like California, and I am very, very lucky to have a healthy little family in a humble little house in this sleepy Great Lakes suburb during what feels like an apocalyptic time to raise a child. I also have a more realistic understanding of what it takes to raise livestock responsibly. Backy

TBT: Tandoori-Style Cooking With or Without Electricity

Rolling blackouts! Mass unemployment and utility shutoffs! Shuttered restaurants and cafes! Social panic! This is not the 2020 I wanted, but I guess it's the apocalyptic time my husband and I have been preparing for since our mid-20s. I don't mean that we adopted "prepping" culture as seen on TV; rather, we studied climate change and sociology and did our best to brace ourselves for when we couldn't rely upon the comforts and conveniences of a reliable electrical grid. We shared a few experiences in countries where you can't take electricity for granted, and we practiced confronting power outages in the United States as adventures rather than catastrophes. It was all fun and games back in our child-free "extended adolescence." Then we became parents and survived an epic two-week power outage during a cold-record-breaking ice storm that spanned Christmas and the New Year, while caring for a three-year-old. It was tough, but we managed to keep our wood

TBT: Pumpkin Underpants and the Free Range Vegetables

Long ago, back when the trees were smaller and I didn't have a child, I started a rather ambitious vegetable garden without knowing what I was getting into, and it was great fun. I turned out to be a pretty deadbeat gardener because I kept on starting other ambitious projects at the same time, like epic novels and labor-intensive dinners, but I did learn some things--like how much fun it is to ride my bike to the farm market and buy a pumpkin someone else grew when I feel like making Moroccan-spice pumpkin soup, and also that I can get away with being an even lazier gardener by throwing away a decorative gooseneck gourd in my compost pile and looking out the window the next fall to discover that a huge vine full of its descendants has propagated itself all over my apple wood stick stack.   Below is a post I wrote during the Great Recession, when I was exploring the idea of growing as much food as possible on my own suburban homestead. I learned that I don't get enough sun anywh

TBT: Men Belong in the Kitchen

Before my daughter came along, my husband and I had a variety of roommates, including a cook who taught my husband the seductive culinary arts! I wrote the post below in the 2000s, when I was gardening, working two jobs, and participating in National Novel Writing Month.  Today, my family still benefits from my husband's crash course in kitchen witchery. On his last day off, he made pizza dough and pie crust dough from scratch while our daughter remote-schooled and I remote-worked. When we ladies of the house finished our work, we joined him in the kitchen and put together some delicious calzones for dinner and an apple pie for dessert. It makes me feel so warm and content to cook with my loves, and to be honest, it makes me feel more attracted to my husband too! It's only human nature. If I may boast a little more, my husband also does almost all of the grocery shopping since the start of the pandemic. And he's great at it. Not every wife can feel such affection toward her

TBT: Sweet Corn and Fire (Campfire Corn Recipe)

Thanks and blessings upon the original inhabitants of this hemisphere we call America, who developed sweet corn and the delicious practice of roasting it on hot coals. Sweet corn isn't ripe in Michigan yet, but the time is coming soon! This is one of my family's favorite summer dinners. Below is a picture of campfire corn from last year, when we were entertaining guests. This year, we'll have to eat it all ourselves! Below that is a vintage memory of fire-roasted sweet corn, from back when we had a cellar dweller roommate instead of a child. Sweet Corn and Fire Sweet corn season has begun! Last night, we feasted on simple, delicious grilled corn. The ears in my garden aren't ready yet, but I found some gorgeous, fresh, juicy ears of corn at my local grocery store for 25 cents an ear. Can't beat that price! New roommate Mr. C and I rode our bikes to the supermarket to pick them up. Mr. C towed the baby trailer that Mr. G bought for us to haul groceries

TBT: Full House

Remember when co-housing, roommates, and multi-generational family homes were good ideas? Those living arrangements still have their advantages, but during a pandemic, it is much safer for individuals, romantic partners, and caregiver/dependent units to have their own spaces, amenities, and entrances. I miss the days when that wasn't so. I hope that one day soon, this pandemic will end, and the Great Recession-era post below will once again be relevant... at least for some people, at some times in their lives. I'm sure it is still relevant on well-governed, geographically isolated island nations such as New Zealand and Iceland. Oh, to be in one of those nations at this time! I sure do miss hanging out with my friends and having overnight guests, but in this very particular moment, I am grateful to live in a single-family home with only my husband and daughter and to enjoy the ability to stay put in it most of the time. I sure did not see an out-of-control pandemic coming

TBT: Milk it! Is Dairy Good or Bad?

Since I wrote the post below in the 2000s, the conversation has shifted more toward whether we should be drinking dairy at all, and if not, which vegan alternative is best. More scientific data about the nutritional values and risks of dairy has come out since the 2000s. We know now that pasteurization doesn't have a huge effect on nutritional value (despite what the foil-helmeted raw milk militia may have told you!) and that skim milk is actually an inferior nutritional choice for most people, especially for kids, that in creases the risk of obesity. So is dairy good or bad for you? That depends on you. Humans digest and respond to dairy in a variety of ways based on genetics and other factors. It's great that we have choices at the grocery store, because there is no best kind of milk for everyone. If your health involves complicated problems, it may be worth consulting a nutritionist. But for most of us, all we need to do is pick out the milk we like the best, which doesn&

TBT: Elitist Salad (Be a Carer, Not a Karen)

The politics of home gardens change as abruptly as the weather in a Michigan spring, don't they? I wrote the "Elitist Salad" post below during the reign of Michelle Obama, when opponents of Democratic women went ballistic over Mrs. Obama tryin'a tell people to eat der vegibles. Remember the screaming? The First Lady was compared to Marie Antoinette, and Hitler, and Satan, and the childhood trauma of your mom making you eat broccoli. Salad greens were labeled "elitist." Setting aside the obvious fact that Michelle Obama forced no one to eat a single vegetable, I found the outrage over elitism hilarious, as the granddaughter and great-granddaughter and probably thousandth-great-granddaughter of subsistence farmers, who... let's just say, were not elites. Now that we are in America's next recession, the outrage against a Democratic woman who is trying to keep people healthy is coming from... Karens? Karens who cannot bear to live without access to gol

TBT: Dandelions for Wine, Salads, Bees, and Beauty

Spring is coming! Soon the snow will melt for good, buds will emerge, birds will nest, and dandelions will decorate green lawns with bright yellow polka dots. Long ago, when I wrote the post below, I branded myself the "Recessionista Genie" and lauded the joys and benefits of an organic dandelion crop. Since then, the trend (at least in my kind of suburbia) has continued away from Hank Hill lawns and toward colorful, maximalist, slightly wild urban landscapes that support pollinators and healthier ecosystems. We are still all about the dandelion life. Dandelions for Wine, Salads, Bees, and Beauty I don't mean to brag or anything... but I have had a bumper crop of dandelions already this year. As all children under the age of five know, dandelions are pretty flowers. They are sunshiny yellow and signal the beginning of warm weather. Since the 1950s, the era of the suburban "postage stamp" Astro-turfy lawn, we have been taught to see dandelions and ot

TBT: Grow Your Household... Laterally!

As a "poor and fabulous" 25-year-old who branded myself the "Recessionista Genie," I bought a beautiful and spacious house in a desirable suburb with my husband at the very moment when the housing bubble burst, when we were making under $40K a year total and drowning in student loan debts. Home prices hadn't quite plummeted to exciting lows yet, but the door also hadn't slammed shut on the ridiculous lending practices of the bubble times. We were approved for an unimaginable six-figure home loan with no money down (we didn't even pay closing costs), and we took it. We were tired of living in a moldy, drug-soaked apartment building in a high-crime downtown neighborhood, and we were willing to do just about anything to escape living in a cesspool of filth and sickness. Our secret to success? Filling the house with roommates to help pay the bills and share meals. We lived with at least one roommate at a time for about four years, until we had an exception

$Monday: You can't afford a poor diet.

Nobody can. You've heard that "it's expensive to be poor." This is the gut-wrenching truth about eating poorly: real food costs a lot less than health care for preventable disease. So if you think you can't afford to eat well, it really means you can't afford to live. And that ain't right! While economic stress has a lot to do with access to healthy food, finding a way to eat well is the only way to avoid more poverty and a (probably shortened) life of suffering. The good news is that eating well is easier than our consumer culture--which feeds like a parasite off of the sick, poor, and tired--has led us to believe. When I was in college, I had a classmate who nearly died (thereby wasting his college tuition!) when he attempted to save money by eating nothing but instant ramen. It's sort of a cliche or a joke in our culture to do that, because food is one of those expenses we obviously all have, and the grocery store is a place where we seem to ha

TBT: Eat organic, local, vegan, raw, fresh superfood.

Happy Throwback Thursday! From now until I get tired of it, I am going to resurrect an old blog post from the 2000s and see how it holds up today. This one is about my journey as a young adult from sickness to health as I figured out how to feed myself properly. I wrote it in a silly, humorous way, but I think we all know by now that eating well is a matter of life or death. Certainly it determines one's quality of life, and there isn't any way around it. There's no substitute for eating a well-balanced and varied diet in healthy amounts. There's no secret to it that any stupid fad diet will address. Paleo is passe, and keto is krap. Restrictive diets for weight loss should always be temporary and monitored by a healthcare professional. There are no shortcuts or workarounds. There aren't any vitamins or magic supplements that can make up for junk nutrition; in fact, most supplements are just more trash that further degrade health. There are so many scams out there