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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

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

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

Every Millennial Is Now an Adult Without -Ing

Millennials are no longer the new kids on the block! (Not to be confused with the boy band NKOTB, who are members of Gen X.) Millennials are all adults now, adults as a noun, no matter what we are doing or how well we have mastered life skills. As a matter of fact, we are roughly 25 - 40 years old, not girls and boys, not yet old olds. After years of riding the "adulting" struggle bus, we have arrived! We are the newest adults in the room, and we are winging it just like every other adult before us. We may whine more. We may cling to our childish fandoms longer. Nevertheless, the time for using "adult" as a verb has ended. We are adults, for better or worse. So has the time also come for us to let go of the laugh-cry emoji, side parts, skinny jeans, and the color millennial pink? Short answer: No! We're the grownups and we do what we want. It's a tough spot because from now on, the harder we try to appear young, the older we look. But it's also a swee

Budget Bride IX: Dance Floor Management

Budget brides , if you don't have a DJ in your family willing to work the dance party for free, you can automate the flow by carefully setting up the two dimensions of dance floor management: physical space and musical time. For ideas on how to set up a space with optimal traffic flow, see these four tips by Rescue Flats . For tips on timing the beats, read on! Dance Floor Management Automate your dancing-and-shenanigans playlist if you find yourself without professional DJ services. We used my laptop computer, hooked up to a cheap rented set of gigantic speakers and a funky light show. Our playlist began with sentimental first dances and then moved through progressive stages that we set up in advance--but were still able to modify on the spot as needed. Our silly garter toss happened in the middle, after most of the older folks and all the little kids had gone home, and it marked a transition to the louder, drunker phase of the night. We found that it's good to put some o

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

Budget Bride VIII: Let the Good Times All Roll Out

My favorite kind of wedding is a joyful wedding. Who cares how pretty the pictures are if the day wasn't any fun? Perfectionism is a big old party pooper. Don't invite it. Instead, minimize fuss and maximize fun. Design your day so that the tasks requiring order and focus (such as formal portraits) come first and aren't too complicated, and build lots of flex time into the schedule so that the unexpected can be handled gracefully and everyone has time to actually enjoy being there, in each other's company. Put some laughs and silly surprises into the reception to signal to your guests when it's time to loosen belts and ties, kick off high heels, and hike up those bustles. You want to create a mood transition between the reverent ceremony and the raging celebration. My wedding day began with elegant, well-rehearsed precision accompanied by live cello and ended with unexpected combinations of people making out in an elevator to gay dance music. That's #goals! If y