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Showing posts with the label livingwell

Beauty Sleep and Butterfly Slime

It's as gorgeously gruesome as a Grimm's fairy tale: In order to transform from a chubby grub to a thing of winged glory, a butterfly must seal itself off from the world, dissolve in its own hungry juices, and let "sleeping cells" take over the slow process of building a butterfly out of a soup of primordial slime. The caterpillar must come undone for the butterfly to grow in its place. I sure feel like I've turned into a slug of slime over the past year--but I trust that this response to a global pandemic is somehow natural and temporary and adaptive in the long run. I hope it's not just preserving me but changing me for the better. And I hope the same is true for our world as a whole. At the beginning of the crisis, I felt almost thrilled. Suddenly all my anxiety issues and low-key prepping tendencies became useful and rational. I had this sense of everything in my life leading to this one moment, when I abruptly felt like the sanest, most well-adjusted pers

Pocket of Joy: Cooking with Love

Aren't home-cooked dinners the best? They have been one of our trustiest simple pleasures through the pandemic, and now that vaccines are rolling out, we can roll out our quiche crusts with new cooking partners! I love cooking and baking with my husband and my daughter, and I look forward to having my parents and a few of my dearest friends in my new kitchen this summer too. For people who can't cook and eat together, gifts of homemade frozen meals, baked goods, or foods preserved in cans or jars can be a great personal comfort. They're thoughtful, pleasurable, and healthier than sending a box of manufactured candy or a basket of factory-cured meats and overly salty spreads.  If I'm going to overindulge in rich foods, I want company in my gastrointestinal distress! That makes it a party instead of a mistake. Dear heartburn Jesus, I want my chest to hurt for happier reasons this year. I have to say that after a year without seeing the inside of a restaurant, I still

Vaccination Celebrations

I... have... IMMUNITEH? Last week, I received my first Pfizer shot! The development of my freedom powers has begun. I feel like a butterfly getting ready to bust out and unfold its wrinkled, soggy wings! Today is my parents' Peak Immunity Day, two weeks after their final shot. That means that now my household gets to "bubble" with theirs. We have been waiting patiently and taking care all year because my husband works two high-risk essential jobs out in public, and my mother is one of the main caregivers for my elderly grandmother. But now, today, my daughter is finally free to spend as much time as she likes inside of her grandparents' house, without masks and with hugs! We can have combined family dinners! And ping-pong tournaments in the basement! In one week, my husband reaches his own Peak Immunity, which will be a big relief. I'll have mine by the middle of May, and although our daughter won't have access to vaccines until maybe next year, there is hope

Pocket of Joy: A F* Sh* Stack of Cookies

Life's simple joys include a casserole dish filled with cookie-topped cookie bars. When you or someone you love needs to be celebrated or comforted, consider rising to the occasion with a f*** sh** stack of gooey, home-baked cookies. Here is the basic recipe in the form of spoken word art and interpretive dance: https://vimeo.com/13897452 . They aren’t fancy. They aren’t too pretty to eat. They’re just a thicc luxury, like a pile of heavy blankets with a layer of toasted, shredded coconut in the middle. I made this “cookie casserole” with a recipe from an old, worn book that my late grandmother gave me as a child, perhaps because she recognized that we both shared the love language of butter. I remember her describing decadent desserts as “gorgeous” with a beatific glow. Sadly, my grandmother struggled with various addictions, including her sweet tooth, and her life was cut short by diabetes complications. So when I carry on the tradition of making a gorgeous f*** sh** stack of sug

Breaking the Lawn! Breaking the Lawn!

This year, I'm back to work on healing the land, one square foot at a time. After I bought my house over a decade ago, and before I had a child, I created and maintained an ambitious food garden in my back yard. That practice was satisfying, productive, and educational. It fulfilled my desires to grow organic food, carry on beloved family traditions, and reduce the size of my suburban turf lawn. I'm one of those people who feel that domestic lawns (unless you are actually using them for activities like touch football or something) are obsolete relics of a time when most people weren't aware or didn't care about their impacts on the natural world, including whether they were poisoning their own air, water, and soil .  I have enthusiastically joined the movement toward replacing lawns with more beautiful, functional, and healthy landscaping that supports and enhances all of life (human health, floral abundance, native pollinators, birds, butterflies, etc.) without requir

Pocket of Joy: Heavy Metal Belly Dance

The ability to dance to the beat of your own bum is one of the best perks of being a human person. Sexy or sensual dancing to whatever makes your muscles want to stretch and flow and make space in your spine and hip joints, no matter how weird or dorky or trashy, is a great way to stay strong, healthy, and happy in your own skin during a time of continued social isolation. There are people who make good money posting video tutorials or performances of sensual dance, but it's also freeing and empowering to dance when, truly, no one is watching. You can dance with or for a sexy partner, or you can dance for yourself alone. Doing the tango or learning to salsa dance with your lover can be a great way to spice things up, but your most important and intimate dancing partner is always yourself. When you know that nobody can see you, it can help you loosen up and discover the movements that feel good from the inside, no matter how they look on the outside. One of my favorite ways to work

A Good, Clean Spring Break

Happy Easter Monday! Today, vaccine eligibility in Michigan extends to all adults!! Those vaccines cannot be rolled out quickly enough here in Michigan, currently the #1 state to catch coronavirus. Michigan's infections have blown up over the past month, reaching the height of last fall's surge with no sign of turning a corner yet. Many people are so mentally done with the pandemic that they are living in complete denial by now, traveling for fun and getting faced in restaurants and bars and socializing sloppily with pretty much anyone, while our state and local governments live in fear of violent uprisings against any new public health measures, so vaccines are our only hope. My parents and my husband will soon receive their second shots, and I hope to get an appointment for my first shot soon. However, our preteen daughter won't have a vaccine available to her age group (which is leading this current surge) until next year. So while we are celebrating, we're being goo

When Life Gives You Key Limes: Pandemic Key Lime Pie Recipe

Unlock a priceless skilled trade! Honestly, I did not mean to learn a new skill in 2020, but fortunately, my new skill is unmarketable. The last thing I wanted to do is learn a new grind. Fortunately, the new trick I learned has proven a great way to unwind : making the perfect Midwestern pandemic-style Key lime pie! I already love to bake, and my favorite baked goods are those you could never buy in a store because nobody would pay for the time and fine ingredients they require. Like my husband's loaf of all-day, no-knead bread with $8 worth of cheese inside. Maybe that would fly in Italy, but not here. Americans are like, "OoH tHat'S sO expEnsIvE!" and then they go and spend $8 on one mixed drink that tastes like mouthwash and melted popsicles. Now, I know that there are some fancy Florida crackers who would mock my family’s poor taste because we make our pies the old-timey way, with canned milk instead of fresh cream. But I think our recipe is the perfect balance o

Second Spring Breakdown

It's the second spring of the pandemic, and it's... not all better. Time to break down how bad it is and how good it can be if we can get through this year’s spring fever. Case rates of Covid-19 are far higher this March than they were last March when the big lockdowns happened, and the infection rate is roaring upward because people are losing their minds faster than they are getting vaccinated. Italy is going into its second Easter lockdown, and the United States has made a clear collective decision that the mindless consumption of novelty products and services matters more than human life. As a nation, despite the refreshing progress and signs of hope coming from the new White House, we're done pretending to care about each other. We still haven't agreed that childcare and elementary schools are more important than bars or that real children's childhoods are more important than adults' rights to party like Florida Man. Our culture of overwork and gross consum

Pocket of Joy: Last Snow

Every kid-at-heart celebrates the first snow of the season, but what about the last snow? My newish boss, who immigrated from Canada, recently expressed disappointment that the winter snows here in Michigan had already ended by March. The seasoned Michiganders on staff assured him that our last snow almost never happens in early March, even if we get a false springtime that brings flowers into bloom. Usually there's at least one more blizzard that bestows enough snow and ice that we can play in it one more time. We never know exactly when to expect that random last chance, after it looked like winter was over, to use the new skating rink downtown or slide across a frozen puddle one more time. Its fleeting joys can only be captured by those who stay ready. It's easy to get excited about a fresh blanket of snow when it means Christmas is coming. But honestly, here in Michigan, a hearty blizzard might also crash Easter Sunday. (Above, my daughter is threatening the weather w

Pockets of Joy

As we enter the second year of the pandemic, we should all agree on two things (besides the science of hygiene and vaccination, obviously): that this situation is truly awful, and that it has never been more important to cultivate little pockets of joy in our lives anywhere we can. The light at the end of the tunnel is dim and seems to keep moving, sometimes closer, sometimes farther away. Even the rollout of vaccines is being undermined by new virus variants that are riding the waves of spring fever to whip Michigan up into the country's hottest of hot spots for rising infections. Herd immunity feels like a pipe dream around here, especially because almost half the population still says they will refuse to get a vaccine. And children won't have a vaccine this year at all, so families with children won't be able to socialize safely with other families (without masks and social distancing) before the end of this year at least. My daughter already knows that she'll probab

Budget Bride X: The Honeymoon

Ah, travel! I am starting to feel like it will truly become safe and enjoyable again soon. Not yet, though—even though some borders are reopening to tourists, many of those places are immediately regretting it. A lot of Americans who are already jetting around the world have promptly ruined things for everyone with vile, reckless, aggressive, and disrespectful behavior that not only raises disease risk but creates a hostile and possibly even unsafe environment for other American tourists who follow. Trust me, I’ve been to places where Americans were despised by the locals, and it is scary to the point of becoming traumatic. So before you embark upon an journey to someone else’s homeland, be sure to check your attitude and do your research to find a quiet, unspoiled location or one that is definitely accepting of the kind of partying you expect to do. Go in peace! Go in love! One of the pandemic's gifts has been making people aware of all the overlooked and hidden "getaways&quo

Good Lighting Is Happiness

If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely. – Roald Dahl In the photo above, Gretchen MurderMittens also demonstrates that if you have murderous thoughts, they will slice out of your face like claws, and you will always look fierce, even while loafing in the soft glow of fairy lights within a pastel child's bedroom. Mood affects our perception of light--we appear to glow from within when we are happy, and the world looks brighter to us when we are energized--and mood and physical lighting both affect beauty, and beauty and lighting affect our moods . All these factors swirl together synergistically. We feel better when we are surrounded by beauty and when we feel beautiful ourselves, and we and our surroundings look more beautiful in good lighting. I kept all of this in mind when I helped my preteen daughter choose a new paint color for her bedroom last year: Oleander by Sherwin-Williams with a matte finish. It's