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Pocket of Joy: Heirloom Tomatoes

Among the joys of homegrown veggies and fruits, heirloom tomatoes rise the highest above their grocery store cousins. Nothing cultivated to survive mass production and shipping to supermarkets can compare to the flavor of a homegrown heirloom tomato. Heirlooms come in a startling variety of shapes, sizes, and colors with great variation in flavor and texture as well. The bright, shiny, red, smooth, uniform-looking tomatoes that show up in grocery stores have been hybridized to enhance production and durability at the expense of flavor. There isn't anything wrong with eating grocery store tomatoes in terms of health, but once you taste the sweet, brilliant complexity of an heirloom tomato, you understand right away how different and special they are. If you can't or don't wish to grow heirloom tomatoes yourself, and if you don't have green-thumbed and generous family or friends willing to invite you over for grilled bruschetta this summer (oh, the tragedy!), you can usua

No Cook Summer Snacks

We've been living without a kitchen for over a month now while we renovate, and while I miss baking and cooking, it's also a little bit nice to not have to cook. My family doesn't have a daily takeout budget (or else we'd be paying someone else to renovate our kitchen, obviously), so we've relied on my parents to share their kitchen and home-cooked meals with us in addition to setting up a makeshift pantry in our living room filled with foods that don't need to be cooked. During a hot summer, even when we have a fully functioning kitchen, it's nice to have some things on hand that don't need to be cooked with a stove or oven--or even a grill outside on scorching days. Whether or not you have a lovely kitchen that works, anyone can stay a little cooler and enjoy a little more time to relax this summer by stocking up on no-cook snacks such as... in-season fruits and veggies that can be enjoyed raw hummus, salsa, liquid nacho cheese (no judgment), or any ot

Pocket of Joy: Renovating to Love, Not to List

My mom and I have watched Love It or List It for years, and it's no surprise to us that most families choose to stay in their own, customized home rather than move into a new, blank box. The qualities that make a house a home are not the same qualities that make a marketable real estate property. Houses sell better when they are whitewashed into sterile, blank boxes where a new homeowner can come in and add their own personalized color and texture. If you're rich like the people on LIOLI , you can custom build a personalized home from scratch or personalize a market-fresh house in a short time, but even so, it's easier to stay in an already-customized house than to start over.  For regular people who aren't rich, turning a house into a home takes even more creativity, hard work, and time. But working class people certainly can create beloved homes. I've seen dream homes created from the tiniest of tiny houses in the humblest of neighborhoods, in trailer parks, in a

My Kitchen Is a Cleaner, Empty Box

This won't come as any surprise to anyone who's done it, but wow does everything about a home renovation take longer than expected! Over the past week, we figured some things out, added tasks to our must-do list, filled holes and gaps, did several rounds of mudding and sanding, shopped and scrounged for supplies many times, made quick substitutions when the things we wanted to buy were out of stock indefinitely, and washed the ceiling, walls, and floor several times.  This weekend, Michigan apparently entered its new climate-change-era monsoon season, jacking up the humidity to 85+ throughout the day and night along with swamp-butt hot temperatures--a set of conditions not amenable to painting or allowing paint to dry properly. My husband spent a large portion of yesterday constructing, from scratch, a wooden frame to hold one of our window air conditioners in a kitchen window, to cool and air condition the room maybe enough that we can start priming today. There will be no ven

Pocket of Joy: Old Books

Old books! You can judge them by their shabby chic covers, because they function as objets d'art and objects of desire on a shelf no matter what stories they tell inside. Books with leather bindings, books embossed and edged in gold, books with plates and illustrations and fancy lettering inside, books that give off the subtle scent of an aged library, books with fraying ribbon markers and tactile spines. Old books are charming, comforting, and, when they aren't first edition antiques, they are usually cheap. The stories told inside of old books can also be wonderful and so thick and rich that you can revisit them again and again, each time discovering something new or forgotten, as fans of Jane Austen and George Eliot know well. Those were stories built to last the ages. An old book can be a roundly multi-sensory experience. I once picked up an old maiden volume by Anthony Trollope that had never been read--and I know, because I had to rustle up an antique book knife to cut ap

My Kitchen Is a Dirty, Empty Box

My kitchen is demolished! Goodbye, soffits! Goodbye, can lights that never worked and dead outlets and bad fire-hazard electrical circuits! Goodbye, busted hinges and wonky drawers and peeling laminate cabinets! Goodbye, moldy plywood and crumbling tile countertops! Goodbye, load of rubble I drove to the dump in my rusty old pickup truck! Goodbye, goofy tile backsplash and chunks of various glues! This week, we'll say goodbye to corroded pipes and have some new plumbing stubbed in before we install new cabinetry. Soon, we'll get to start adding new stuff to this empty box! Tomorrow, I'll get a quick YouTube education in how to plaster a ceiling. I have never done a demolition or construction project before, so this is all stressful and scary, yet exciting. It's nicely metaphorical to gut and re-imagine a living space as the whole human world feels its way out of the worst (we hope) of a historic pandemic and thinks carefully about rebuilding differently than how things