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Climb on!

 

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This is one of the bouldering walls at BKB, where I took an awesome climbing class yesterday- this is right before closing, otherwise there were climbers all over this wall!  Learned how to tie-in to a harness and operate a grigri to belay a partner, and then got to practice on first the training wall, and then the 25′ walls in the south gym.  And… I nailed a 5.9 route! Twice! That felt… really, really good.  Looking forward to going back for a practice session and then getting belay certified.  Wish I hadn’t sold my shoes… but that’s what ebay is for I suppose.  Easy come, easy go, easy come back again.  Need to practice knots so that they’re automatic… but rope was already on my next Home Despot list, along with a sandbag to add to the basement gym.  Speaking of gyms, felt so good after the class that I stopped at WAC on the way home, knocked off half an hour on the treadmill, a dumbbell workout, crunches, and a whole lot of stretching.  Didn’t have my gym bag, so the hot tub was out, but the sauna was very welcome after all that.

Then another grocery run on the bike ride home and made veggie pastitsio with the leftover mostaccioli that the fella made the other day (which was a total surprise… he picked me up as usual after a day of working on the house, and I opened the door to find dinner on the stove, two bowls of salad on the counter, cloth napkins out, and two glasses of red wine already poured.  And a french silk pie in the fridge… from the store, of course, because lets not get TOO crazy, but damn.  Who is this man, and what did you do with the guy who didn’t own a spatula or a pot big enough to cook anything other than a can of soup?  Well, I did provide the pan, but otherwise… Never mind.  I don’t want to know. Let’s eat!).  Into the leftover pasta went onion, celery, carrot, green pepper, zucchini, and eggplant sauteed with the end of that last bottle of wine (yes, I know they’re out of season… but a girl can eat only so much winter squash at a time), and vegan sausage with sundried tomato.  Made a bechamel, tempered in four eggs (one with a double yolk!) and some grated cheese.  Chopped and sauteed too many vegetables, so ended up with two pans of pastitsio, but that’s a good problem to have.  Started with the pasta and sauteed veggies and “sausage”, then a layer of baby kale, chard, and spinach and chopped parsley, then the eggy cheese sauce, then more cheese and parsley.  Half hour in the oven later, dinner.  Delicious.  So much for all those calories I burned… oh well.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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TBT

It’s Throwback Thursday… or Truth Be Told? Either way, it’s a beautiful day. Crisp, but the sky is a clear and cheerful robin’s egg instead of the bottom of a bucket of grey mopwater that we’ve been staring up into for days.  The birds are out, and I’ve been up since 7:30.  But not this far up!  This is me, on Fine Nine, a 5.9 route in Southern Indiana.

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These are from a trip I took years ago with some friends I used to climb with.  When they moved away, I lost my ride to the rock gym, and my climbing buddies.  I have been thinking about getting back on the wall for awhile. Traditional gyms aren’t so much my thing… Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to yoga class tonight ( especially after two days on my knees gluing paper to my bedroom floor… kneepads once again paid for themselves, but my back, not so happy with me) and the treadmill and pool will be welcome friends this winter, but otherwise I prefer to combine workouts with play, and to flex my brain while flexing my muscles! My legs are strong (thanks, bike) but building my upper body and core are my winter project (OK, one of many projects…). So, time to stop dreaming and start doing, or doing more than just planks and pushups. I just signed up for a two hour class at BKB Chicago (a new Brooklyn Boulders gym) that’s opening in the west loop… And if it kicks my ass, my gym is on the way home… Heloooo, hot tub!  It’s been long enough since I’ve been on a rope that the two hour intro/refresher course will be just the thing, this Sunday at noon if any of y’all want to join me! It’s only $50 if you sign up by the end of today: www.bkbchicago.com

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Went on a great ride last weekend organized by Slow Roll Chicago in partnership with CAPS and the 11th district CPD. Slow Roll started in Detroit, as a rolling peace march for safer streets, an end to violence in our communities, and as an effort to inspire more diversity in the cycling culture. And a diverse ride it was! Young, old, black, white, urban and suburban bikers, and even a dog! We rode from the Harrison police station to the lake and Northerly Island, winding our way through neighborhood streets, eight miles there and six back.  I skipped the pizza party after (have been eating so much pizza lately, it could be a food group) and made a long-overdue trip to Pete’s and bought ALL THE VEGETABLES.  And coffee.

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Massing up at the Harrison Station… ready to roll!

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At the lake, Adler Planetarium to the north.image

 

Our sag wagon/escort/photographer, taking a group shot.

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In other news, noms!

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Made up a bunch of veggie spring rolls for healthy quick snacks.  Cucumber, cilantro, red jalapeno slivers, bean sprouts, rice noodles, spinach, and homemade gingery spicy peanut sauce… yes please!  Can’t outrun (or ride, or climb…) your fork! If the healthy choice is easy, it’s easier to make when you’ve been working on a house all day and you’re HANGRY.

And that house is shaping up:

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Walls are clean and bright… I’m standing where the bed will go, with a giant closet to the left, and room by the window for my desk and a comfy chair, with a rug in the center of the room to stretch out on.  image

The floor is as clean as it’s going to get, and the bigger gaps are patched with water putty…

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Now the fun part begins… paper mache! I’m using the paper bag floor technique to cover the splintery, gluey, uneven mess that is the original softwood floor with irregularly torn piece of builder’s paper. After it’s stained and covered in a couple coats of poly, it should be clean, durable and look something like leather. And won’t give me splinters or the creeps to walk on in stocking feet. Finally, a clean space, with room for sun salutations, and plenty of south-facing sun to salute! The end of this particular project is in sight, which will really be just another step towards new beginnings and a new home.  After spending the past 5-6 years in various cluttered dark caves, this room is a dream, and I hope to keep it somewhat spare.  That stained glass sends dancing patterns across the wall as the day goes by… rainbows from the beveled diamonds, and splotches of red and orange.

It will look something like this, perhaps (and a more thorough explanation of the process).  Mine won’t be this smooth, as they’re going over uneven plank flooring, not a concrete or plywood subfloor, but it will be a million times better than what I’ve got, and for the price of some poly, a couple rolls of paper, stain, and a gallon of wood glue (you can use regular Elmer’s, which is cheaper, but they don’t sell that at the Home Despot).  I’ve got to sand a couple rough patches, then get gluing, so it will hopefully be dry enough to stain this weekend when it’s going to be warmer and I can open the windows to air it out a bit!  Stain stinks.  But the results will be worth it!

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Drop it like it’s…

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A ceiling? After debating whether and how to soffit this weird drop ceiling that was left exposed when I took down the wall and other even lower drop ceiling at the back of the master bedroom, we decided it should go. The plaster underneath needs some patching but is perfectly salvageable. Buh bye!

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Going..

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Going…

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Gone!

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I was able to get most of the drywall down in big sheets to reuse elsewhere, and take the framing apart in sections by myself so I could reuse the lumber and not break a window or me getting it down. These are now the rafters for the new chicken coop roof, and the framing to close up those door openings on the other end of the room.

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So. Much. Frosting. I mean spackle. Two and a half buckets, almost all in this room. But it’s going to look gooood. Comparatively, at least, and after a little trim work- need baseboards for this half of the room and some crown molding for the other side to mask the line of the old ceiling height where the drywall stops.

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After a half-coat of primer, it’s actually starting to look like something.

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All work and no play makes for dull folks. So, Slowdive:

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And David J (former Bauhaus)…

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And Bowie! At the MCA:

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And paintball, wherein I shoot at 40-something and 14 year old boys, and run in the final flag after the 10 year old kid I’m covering gets dropped 6 feet from the other team’s pole. I grew up running around in similar woods playing “Army” with boys, so switching paintball guns for the rocks my brothers and I used to throw at each other’s forts wasn’t much of a stretch. I’m good at this game.

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But not invincible:

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And afterwards, to the BratStop! Because Wisconsin.

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Curds! More curds! Fry all the things! And another pitcher please. Stocked up on some New Glarus and the fella’s Alaskan Amber, plus some cold curds for later, then home again.
Which I made pretty before the annual Open House Chicago art walk weekend.

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This one’s going to be a Chicago flag, but in brown and gold, with police checks and in lieu of stars, kitchen accoutrements. So it will get finished someday maybe. At this point, probably after I glass-block this missing transom and take down this board up to finish it inside.  Winter is coming! Then the sign goes back up, but on the porch above.

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In other news, there’s now a stove in the kitchen. So once I frame out a wall, hook up the stove, tear out the shoddy linoleum and paint and seal the floor, and maybe swap the tiny kitchen sink for the jumbo restaurant sink waiting in the basement, and finish my bedroom so the rest of my stuff can go upstairs, we’ll be ready for supper club again! It’s a long tunnel, but the light is getting closer!  See you on the other side, folks.

Mason-Jar Mornings

Fall is here… Time for hot cereal! I love oatmeal but don’t love anything which requires monitoring or measuring before I’ve had my coffee… And until yesterday I didn’t have a stove at my new house, just an electric kettle, toaster oven, and microwave, plus my trusty, tiny, Trangia. I also have a goodly portion of a 50# bag of oats in the pantry and more mason jars than I knew what to do with… Until now.  I made up a bunch of these, assembly-line style.

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Bingo! Just add water and wait. So simple, even the fella can do it (to be fair, he does toast a mean bagel, which is part of why I’ve been getting fat…mmm, cream cheese sandwich, you are my delicious downfall). So now, when “the robot” (what I call his Keurig) finishes making our drinks, it can make breakfast too!

For each pint jar:
1 c. instant or quick oats
1 T. powdered milk
1-2 T. brown sugar, maple sugar, or sucanat
Plus any mix-ins in the variations below:
1-2 T. nuts (I used walnut pieces)
1/4-1/2 t. spices (these are pumpkin spice blend, to stay with the fall theme: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and clove)
1-2 T. dried fruit would be nice- apple bits, cranberries, raisins, or currants

Chocolate chips! Unsweetened coconut! Cocoa powder! Pecans! (German chocolate cake for breakfast, anyone?)

Add in 8-10 oz of boiling water and let stand covered for several minutes. If you used quick oats you may need to microwave for a minute or so unless you like your oats chewy… Which I do! 

Coop dreams

My most serious foray into carpentry yet… I made it up as I went but turned out better than I expected! And it’s survived the gale today… so far. Fingers crossed!

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Some before shots of what I started with:

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And just in time… Winter is Coming! Should help keep the ladies nice and cozy this winter and out of the snow.

Rehab isn’t for quitters.

imageBut sometimes you have to take a break! Moving house, plus the critters, into yet another work-in-progress has been pretty overwhelming.  Thank god this one’s closer to done in many ways than the past two projects… But here we are! And with a smattering of snapshots from the summer months…

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Lemons! Finally! On my Meyer tree I’ve been moving around for the past seven years or so.

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Gotta remember to refuel… With backyard egg tacos and homegrown heirlooms…

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And with bonfires, brews, good friends and good dogs…

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Of course, I’m biased about the best dog…

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Gah! Goofball. Love. Him.

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With birthdays and freshly bottled homemade maple sap beer (an amber and a stout, brewed at the end of the sap run this spring)… Can’t wait to try it… Another week perhaps?

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Sportsball! My first game at Soldier Field. Football, of course… but thankfully, the one with more attractive players and fewer domestic abuse scandals. The good guys won, and the fella got another scarf for his collection, which I teased him about at around 2 pm. This being late July. In Chicago.  I took it back at dinner, when the temperature plummeted about twenty degrees while we were all sitting at an outdoor table at the Thai place, when said suddenly sensible scarf kept the Brazilian girl in a tank top from freezing to death.  Touche.

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Drinks with the guys at soon-to-be shuttered Club Foot… and a very furrowed brow (which of these Star Wars figurines should I try to get him for Christmas?).  God, I hope my face doesn’t stick that way. At least not for another thirty three years.

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And at Punch House before Green Porno, the Isabella Rossalini lecture on animal sexuality, which was almost as racy as the roasted olives that we had with these cocktails. Rahrrr.

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And Magritte at the Art Institute! Or just these statues downstairs from the show. That one in the middle is particularly handsome. And so life-like!  Wait… that’s just PT.  Har. Har. Har.

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Ok, that was fun. Now mask up and get back to work, stormtrooper.  Time for rehab… don’t say no, no, no…

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Layers of history… And a lot of filth.  These are scraps of floor and papers found under other layers of floor in the big bedroom.  Might use these color combos in this room- I have pillows in both colors- though it’s hard to do red and green without it looking like Christmas.

But the filth part gets better every day. The east half of the kitchen is defunkified, primed, and now painted… the linoleum is in rough shape, and I’m debating ripping it up and rolling out some floor paint until a better option can happen, or just scrubbing it (again) and rolling with what’s there.  Either way, it’s better than the kitchen floor at the cabin was.  So… progress.  The gross greasy cabinets are gone, as is the depressing black (!) ceiling.

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And the window is patched up with plexi instead of DRYWALL and plastic wrap. Seriously, that’s how it was. Wish I had a before shot. Trust me, it’s better.  This sink and counter are getting replaced with a commercial stainless one… it’s a supper club must.

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Hallway after taking down the paneling and acoustical tile drop ceiling…

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It’s primed, and partially painted white, which is progress.  The top layer of vinyl flooring is gone, along with most of the filth.  And under that linoleum is oak, but the lino can stay until this paint job is done… no need to tear up a built in dropcloth, and it’s way less ugly than what was on top.

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And dining/living room… Nowhere near done, but still a warm and friendly work in progress.

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Meanwhile, upstairs, I’m pretending the back two rooms don’t exist while I make slow and steady master bedroom progress… Till this is done I’m camping out in the middle bedroom (which is worse, in some ways- another window in need of replacing, or rather, half-missing, and some residual ratty ghetto-funk smell wafting from the back two rooms, but not currently under construction. It’s next. But it’s primed, the closet is painted, there’s plastic over the window, and there’s an area rug down, so it works for now). I’ve also been gratefully spending a lot of time at the fella’s place, who is spoiling me rotten with cable and laundry service, bagel breakfasts, and hot showers (yes, the house has hot water, but the tub has issues. To-do list… Soo long…).  And yes, I realize I have a different definition of “spoiled” than most folks. As far as I’m concerned, someone encouraging me to sleep in, then having coffee, juice, and a tomato and cream cheese sandwich ready for me might as well be a day at King Spa.  Life is simply good.  Even if we fight about doing the dishes. The problem?  He won’t let me do them.  No, you can’t have his number.  And yes, I do them anyway, whenever he’s not looking.

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I’m not usually a big fan of most wall texture treatments, but in this case, it’s the only option other than drywalling over the whole thing… and a lot more fun than carrying drywall up stairs.  Also, buckets of mud are much easier to transport by bike than sheets of drywall.

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The walls under the paneling in what was a windowless child’s bedroom painted bright blue and red (it was dreadful) are in rough shape.  I knocked down the wall (well, some friends helped) that was added probably in the last fifty years to carve this space into two smaller rooms and took down the drop ceiling in the back half.  Need to frame over this now unnecessary second door, and am applying a thick coat of buttercream to the walls to even everything out and blend over the imperfections.  Or actually, lightweight drywall compound, but it feels like icing a cake.  A really ugly cake, that had roaches (both kinds) and rats and empty drug baggies everywhere when we started, and a million other filthy things… but will be clean and cozy and the good kind of funky when it’s all done.  Magic! Oh, and a whole lot of work. Whee!

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And this beauty showed up yesterday…

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To replace this…

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Whoa! I have the best landlords/friends/neighbors a girl could ask for. Thanks, it’s going to be gorgeous!

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Meanwhile, downstairs is downright… inhabitable. At least Zeus thinks so (he’s under the blanket in the giant chair here.  Chair and rug will be heading upstairs to my bedroom most likely, but for now it’s nice to have one spot to snuggle into and pretend it’s all done).  Not supper-club ready yet, but getting closer. I can’t wait to cook for you all again, and have a full-on housewarming. The lukewarming/post-birthday whiskey-coffee-waffle brunch was a good start.  Once the stove is in though, we’ll fully break in the Alewyfe Inn. I’ll keep you posted. Alright, back to work!

zeus is five. garden’s alive.

Happy birthday, big guy. You’re getting a pork chop for dinner, then another play date with your buddy, Jet. And pupcakes for everyone!

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It’s getting to be quite a jungle out there. The natives are getting established in the hugelkulture mounds, and the amaranth, lambsquarters, and self-sown tomatoes in the backyard raised bed are head-high. I’ve built up some good soil here over the past three years. I still can’t believe I have to walk away from it all in just a few short weeks. I’m eager to make a fresh start in a new place, without all the memories and dreams I had for this one. I’ve been pretty hands-off with the garden here this year- because it and I don’t share a future, it’s hard. And it hurts. But it’s still beautiful, if a little wild… which frankly, is how I prefer it… like me, independently abundant, pretty, sure, but tough and a little rough around the edges, more fierce than fancy.

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But it still grew these. And feeds these:

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Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day… well,  it will if I don’t hack down this burdock before those seedheads harden… but it’s pretty in bloom, if thorny. But so are roses. The bees need them both.

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Wild garlic and squash in containers.

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And the first tomato!

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So I’m putting as much as I can this year in pots and taking my oasis with me. I’m not going far- it’s a two minute walk. Next door I’ll have goats and pigs and a pergola and a waterfall, and I can bring my chickens along and the dog, of course, and, and, and… so many good things,  and I’m so grateful this spot came my way.  It will be a lot of work, but I’m looking forward to working on the future rather than being surrounded by the past. I’ll be closer to the community garden I’ve been helping to build, and still in the community that I’ve grown to love so much in spite of its flaws. It’s rough around the edges too, but there’s a lot more here than most people would see. I get frustrated with it, and mad as hornets at it sometimes, but it’s home. I can’t think of anywhere else in the city I’d want to be, but here, on this street.

Fresh lessons

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Lunch? Or a lesson plan? Why not
both? Parts of a plant, deliciously demonstrated…

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Roots- rainbow carrots, carrot-shaped radishes, and garlic. Stems- celery and broccoli stalks. Leaves-romaine lettuce and radish tops. Fruits- lemon, bell pepper, cucumber, avocado, tomato, snap peas… and olive oil!  And seeds? Chickpeas and tahini (sesame butter). I wish science were always so simple.

Busy busy around here… I’m teaching again this summer with the Greencorps youth program. I get to work with two groups of fifteen teenagers every day, and over the next six weeks we’ll be putting together bikes, learning to ride safely in traffic, about horticulture and urban ag and forestry, and also nutrition and sustainability. Whew!

Needless to say, I’ll be busy! Supper club is on hold for June… hopefully I’ll be able to fit one in around the end of July. I’ve got lots of menu ideas working … can’t wait to cook for my folks again soon.  We’re going to South America, Mexico, and then working our way up the Gulf Coast… hang in there y’all!