Week in review


I’m starting now because, as usual, I haven’t posted so there’s all this stuff hanging out there. The good news is that I didn’t post this week because I was so productively busy, I can barely believe it myself. As opposed to being home in Chicago, hunkered down under the comforter watching Judge Joe Brown after a day at the zoo. Or, in the case of non-zoo days, just hunkered down watching Judge Joe Brown. Me and cold winter gray: not pretty.

But here I am, enjoying the sunshine and warm weather in our little depression-era bungalow (that seems more and more fitting. I’ve done all the calculations and if the economy completely dries up and goes bust and there are food lines, I’ll be ready. We can live with no mortgage and eat off the land patio (see below) and the whole family can move from the north and sleep down here in sleeping bags on this expansive porch. It could work.

So, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I went to 2 hours of yoga each day. Truly. I worked hard to get back in the rhythm that I had established prior to the ahem, midlife female surgery, and then the baseball chunk of basal cell out of my upper back and then the oral surgery. The classes are wonderful, geared to all levels, challenging and helpful. I dragged Rich along twice and now he is hooked. It’s possible he’s hooked on what is referred to as “yoga butt” on the fairly elderly teacher; it is something to behold. With 40 years of yoga experience, she has a simply astonishing body. Jaw dropping when she demonstrates positions. Whatever, he agrees that it feels like a good thing for his go-go-go, high metabolism body.

We go to classes at the Sunken Gardens where we stretch and moan and contort and sigh and meditate against a backdrop of lush tropical growth, flamingoes, parrots and kookaburras. Sometimes, in shavasanah, when I’m supposed to have an empty mind, I wonder what they’re feeding those birds, since in nature they eat fair sized reptiles.


“You have some splaining to do, Lucy”

Speaking of critters. I also started back at Family Village on Monday. This is the YWCA family homeless shelter, a very fine program that allows homeless families to stay together in dorm-style accommodations while they get back on their feet. Mom (or Dad) commit to both work and education/vocational training in exchange for food, shelter and childcare. It means that they are busy every hour of the day and the children need additional programming that stretches beyond regular school hours. We try to make that extra programming meaningful, enriching and fun and lots of times, I can tell that we have created experiences that will stay with these kids for a very long time.

Monday, I read a very simple story: A House for Hermit Crab, by Eric Carle. With his usual lovely colorful collage art, he tells the story of Hermit Crab, who outgrows his home and has to move on. He is afraid away from his shell but soon finds a new one but it is more of a house than a home. He proceeds to decorate it with sea stars, coral, anemones and so forth until it is just right. And then, of course, he has to move on. So, with good luck a new smaller crab comes along and takes over the shell with promises to care for his friends who have made it feel like such a nice home and he goes on to a new shell. You can see how I worked this story into a sort of theme that would resonate with the children.

I also took in a couple of old turtle shells and some other shells so we could talk about live shells, dead shells, etc. We did a project of pet rock turtles from river rocks and cut out felt parts. And for a special treat, I borrowed some hermit crabs from Petco. What? You didn’t know you could borrow their animals? I worked hard, talking my way into that one. “I just need them for this project. I’ll take really good care of them. I don’t want them for more than 24 hours, I’ll bring them right back, happy as crabs at low tide.” I took out my zoo credentials and smiled a big semi-toothless grin and it worked. (Okay. Rich says this is my weirdness and that, no matter how wide I smile, it is absolutely impossible to notice the one missing tooth at the back waiting for an implant. I’m not convinced, since it feels like the Grand Canyon.) Anyway, the crabs were a huge hit and as their reward for being such good tools, I let them stay in a dishpan filled with sticks and shells and stones and an empty coconut husk until I took them back the next day. Plus I gave them some dry cat food which they enjoyed. Just before bed I looked in and saw this:


I thought, no, they wouldn’t be so stupid as to get themselves stuck in that shell. They can’t possibly be hopelessly wedged and locked into an immovable position there, can they? Ya. They were. All night there were feeble scraping sounds as they tried to disengage. In the morning I poked around quite a bit but realized that wrenching and prying them out of there could have fatal consequences so instead I very nonchalantly asked Rich if he would drop the crabs off at Petco. He looked at the shell cum crabs and asked, well aren’t you going to take them out of there? I tried to pass that off by saying, “Nah, they like it. Just take it back like that.” Rich wasn’t buying what I was selling and after carefully poking them himself for a bit, he said, “Well, Lucy, you have some splaining to do.” It took another 36 hours before one of them relented and let go his grasp on the ridge on the inside of the husk. I clapped my hands loudly and there was enough of a tuck-in for me to knock one loose and now they’re back at Petco. I’m telling you, some creatures are too stupid to appreciate a good thing when they find it. And some people…


Almost Food Friday

You remember my passion for growing tomatoes, right? Well, I’ve been getting a bit desperate to grow something edible these last 18 months. Chicago is not the venue. Not only is there no yard, there is also no sunlight. We are shaded by trees and other buildings most all of every summer day. Growing food in pots is tough, in any case, because the poor plants can only take so much of that wilt, water, wilt, water cycle before they just poop out. I’d been thinking that this winter I would try some short season veggies in the four months I have here but that’s pushing the limits of our schedule and the growing season. But I have these datil pepper seeds


Wednesday, I went down to the Earth Box Research Center and met with the man who invented this system, 90-some year old Blake Whisenant and his able assistant, Sergio. What a hoot.


(Blake and his “3 week Florida Sweet Onions)


(Six giant cabbages per box. Where’s the box?)

Now, 48 hours later, I’m posting Almost Food Friday. If this system works as magnificently as it appears to, from what I saw at the research center, I’m going to be in for some good eating here shortly.


(the box. Relatively small.)


(Soil, dolomite and fertilizer. The soil can be reused.)


(Fertilizer goes down the middle…)


(I use a small juice glass to cut holes in the cover for planting. The cover is reverible- black for cooler weather planting to absorb the heat, white for hot summer planting to reflect the heat. Isn’t that smart?)

I have sugar snap peas and cherry and grape tomatoes. I have arugula, mesclun, red leaf lettuce, basil and cilantro. I have sweet bell peppers, jalapeno and habenaro peppers, nasturtiums and, of course, datil peppers. I’ll post frequent photo updates. Wish me luck.


(Those datil pepper seeds are thinking about sprouting even as I type…)


Wish Dan luck. He opens tonight at the Chicago House of Blues. This is a very big gig. Last night, NOMO played at Schubas, another popular Chicago venue and they were spontaneously asked to play at HoB tonight. That’s big. He’s starting the tour season now, heading to Amherst and Bloomington and a bunch of other places. In March, the band goes out to Kalispell and teaches band camp for a week. He loves that one; Location, location, the pay is good and they get daily expenses and he really enjoys teaching high school kids. Enough to consider a career path change? I think not yet. This may be the year, as they release their fourth CD and ramp up for summer tours, that this life as a musician becomes a fully viable and attainable dream. I hope so.


(the one on the far left shares my DNA)


Looking ahead

Last night we had dinner with Abby and afterwards she talked to me about graduate school. This is the first time and it’s an issue I hadn’t raised, deciding to wait and see what she had in mind. Since she always marches to her own drummer, it doesn’t matter a whole lot what I think and I get more mileage out of waiting until she engages me in the conversation. She told me that a lot of her friends are taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate schools but then reminded us both that she had already taken her year off up front, when she stalled on her applications. She thinks she’ll probably go straight through and she talked about getting ready for both the GREs and the LSATs because she’s on the fence. Does she want a PhD in Environmental Science and Policy or does she want a law degree in Environmental Law? She talked about the different paths for each. What she really wants to do, ultimately, is have some impact on how environmental policies are made and implemented and she recognizes that this will take years of experience in addition to her graduate education. And then there’s Misha, the Russian. That’s serious, too.

Truly, it was only yesterday that this one was working at Steak ‘n Shake and painting houses after skipping her senior year of high school to bowl and play basketball…



The Hannibals are back!

Their nest tree branch came down in a storm and for a week there’s been a lot of circling. What to do? What to do? Stay tuned…



18 responses to “Week in review

  1. There is so much to comment on that I hardly know where to begin.

    “Yoga Butt” made me think of Bonnie. I miss her terribly. If she is lurking I hope that she will make her presence known.

    Your hermit crab project sounds fun and meaningful for little tykes in a temporary home. I love how you make yourself useful where ever you go.

    I wish great good luck to Dan.

    Abby makes me smile and sigh. I remember that picture of her!

    And last but not least, I rather adore you and I miss you when you don’t post but you come back like gangbusters, don’t you?

  2. I’m with Miz S — wow! There’s a lot to process there. Love the Hermit Crab story. Mainly because I love the idea of walking into PetCo and conning them out of some of their product for a little while. Hilarious! Best of luck to Dan — rock on! Good luck to Abby too — what great decisions to be facing. Fantastic!

    I’ve been missing you too! But, if I were in warm, sunny Florida, I’d probably have a hard time posting a lot too! 🙂

  3. I agree with Miz S, as usual. There is so much to say. Great job, Dan! I wish I were in Florida, doing yoga with you. Is yoga butt something I want or don’t want? I have a daughter at a crossroads like Abby–not sure whether she should go immediate to grad school, wants to travel, but has a serious boyfriend. (lots of decisions coming up and she’s not good at them!)

  4. Me three! So much info. It’s all lovely. Nice to see into your world… which looks remarkably sunny. 😀

  5. Blake Whisnant is a hoot, isn’t he. I keep meaning to get some of those boxes.

  6. I like how you spend your time. It is full of so many enriching things. I can’t wait to see how your garden grows. We are feeling a bit anxious about the future, house on the market and all of that. But we’re planning to head back up to Washington in about a month and start digging in that cold, cold ground. There is so much promise in a garden.

  7. You are not going to believe this, but Blake is my dad’s BEST friend. I wish I had known you were coming this way. We need to get together.

  8. Yoga love is in the air.
    Of course, I favor “derriere.”

    Alas, in weather hot or frigian,
    Rich’s tastes run callipygian.

    Vicki leads a charmed life, we know;
    Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

  9. I love that box idea and I’d like to know more. Do they have a web-site?

    It sounds as if you are getting ensconced in your Southern life easily. Two hours of yoga? I AM impressed!

  10. I think we will move from the garage to the dining room next. Perhaps I can get the pictures of Stephen’s Stickley before he gets here Feb. 1.

    Our 80th birthday party is the 9th… it has become a monster. Mom continued to send out invitations as I cautioned over and over that she had sent enough, and now…. I expect over 100 people to come… even if half of them don’t. She neglected to take the parking in a neighborhood into count. Oh, well!

    Nyssa has all her applications for grad school in…. Miami, Florida State, Oklahoma, Colorado State and MIT. I think Miami is her first choice but she wouldn’t turn down MIT if there was funding. Graduation is in three months. She had her six hour honors core exams but no results yet…(biting nails)

    Good luck to Dan…. Good luck to Abby… one thing I am thankful for at this point is… no serious boyfriend to have to take into consideration.

    Oh….. it is snowing… it is snowing!!!!! Waited for this all day!

  11. Vicki, you really know how to pack info into your posts! Wow!

    Judge Joe Brown under the comforter? Naaaaa. You need sun.

    All of this is wonderful reading, but I want to thank you for your “Lucy” and the hermit crab excerpt. I howled and when I needed a good howl tonight.

    You are a gem.

  12. Bonnie, Bonnie, Bo-Bonnie! Banana-Fana Fo-Fonnie!

  13. Yes, yes, Bonnie comes around to nip us in les fesses when we least expect it- thank Heaven!

  14. No! Not the Hannibals. It couldn’t happen to nicer guys.

    I guess. I haven’t met them.

    Very nice, newsy b**g, Vicki. You are the best.

  15. Kalispell, as in Kalispell, Montana? Oh my yes, what’s not to love?

  16. I envy your two hours of yoga a day so terribly that it has taken me a few days to comment here. The only prenatal available to me here is my DVD prenatal yoga, which is not the same. But I do try.

    Can I come sleep on your porch?

  17. Yoga butt?
    We may need a picture.
    My Dad’s datils are up, just babies, but up out of the compost in his seedstarting trays.
    That Earthbox is cool. It will be fun to see how it turns out.
    What great kids!

  18. Oh, forget all that trivial stuff and focus on what’s really important: Hasbro is slapping Scrabulous with a cease-and-desist order. Woe is me!

    If you ever want to take give up on this life of leisure and become a full-time cook and gardener, let me know. I’ll work a second job to hire you.

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