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Pocket of Joy: Real Clean Scents

It's peak lilac season where I live, and on warm days, one of my all-time favorite scents wafts in from every window, along with the scents of apple blossoms, violets, and roses. My daughter enhanced the moment in her bedroom by cutting a bouquet from the back yard. We avoid artificial scent chemicals at our house, so when we want our spaces to smell better, we clean up anything that stinks and add real things that produce aroma, like fresh flowers from the gardens outside and fresh-baked pies and cookies. Real clean scents almost always smell better than fake ones, and they are usually less toxic to release into your precious indoor air . The only way to truly banish a stink from anything that is dirty, deteriorating, or moldy is to remove the stinky material from the premises. Bad smells are your clue that it's time to do some spring cleaning. This spring, my husband and I made a few changes that gave the smell of our walkout basement a total rejuvenation. We already take ca

Budget Bride Spring Wedding Roundup: How to Throw an Authentically Joyful Celebration and Launch a Happy Marriage

It's boom time for planning post-pandemic weddings! It looks like it will be possible to throw a biggish, in-person wedding celebration next year, when all people, including children of all ages, will be eligible for vaccination. Can you imagine? If you can't, let me help! Below are links to all ten posts in my Budget Bride series, a collection of throwback tips from my own wedding that took place in a simpler time, before Instagram filtered and squared off our dreams--before aesthetic perfectionism distracted us from the gorgeously multi-sensory experiences that can only be referenced in, not totally captured by, photographs--and way before Covid put our lives on hold. The Budget Bride series hints at how to recapture that all-consuming joy of the Before Times while avoiding many unnecessary wedding costs and logistical hassles. Even an aesthetically maximalist wedding can be done on a minimalist budget and with a minimum of negative drama. My wedding was a meaningful day to r

Pocket of Joy: Indian Food

I have adored Indian food since I first tasted it at a fine Indian restaurant as a young adult. And I loved it so much that I wasn't content only to keep coming back to that restaurant (though I certainly did that); I wanted to learn how to participate in the alchemical art of Indian cooking.  Indian food isn't just a full bouquet of sensory pleasures, it can also be exceptionally healthy . Like the Mediterranean diet, traditional Indian food packs in a variety of whole grains, fresh ingredients, vegetable proteins, and immune-boosting herbs and spices. It's also very labor-intensive and complex, requiring quite an arsenal of spices and herbs, some of which can be hard to find outside of specialty Asian markets--but, for me, the time and investment are so worth it! And shopping at Asian markets is a delight. Realistically, made-from-scratch Indian food is not something I can have every day. I can't afford Indian restaurant meals of the quality I prefer very often, and I

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