Taking Stock: December 2017

I am doing a series of extended list posts à la Pip and Maggie Mason.

CookingPeach and Bourbon Handpies from Smitten Kitchen.  That is a lie.  I WANT to make the Peach and Bourbon Handpies, but it’s winter and ripe peaches in winter isn’t a thing.  We’re going to a New Year’s party and I would like to take something new.  But…  I envision a struggle getting my ass to the grocery tomorrow.  Plus, it’s single digit temps right now, which makes me feel like I want to swan dive into a lake of Warm Beef Stew or New England Clam Chowder, but the party is an appetizer party.  So, you see my dilemma, right?

Drinking: Deep Eddy’s Ruby Red Vodka.  It is a grapefruit flavored vodka.  And it’s not bad, not bad at all. In fact, I used the occasion to kick off my first of 100 Cocktails: Grapefruit Vodka and Soda (Item #37).


Reading: Right now, I am trying to finish several books: A Brief History of Seven Killings, the 2017 O. Henry Prize Collection of Short Stories, and Hamilton.  I recently finished the Life of Pi (which is part of Item #28 the Booker Man Prize Challenge).  Weeks later and it continues to blow my mind.

Playing: My sister got Dave an Amazon Echo Dot.  We are having a lot of fun playing with it.  I didn’t know this, but Alexa can rap.

Loving: Not working right now.  Of course, it is nice for an introvert such as myself, to have an excuse to go to an office and close the door and avoid human contact.  That’s great, don’t get me wrong.  But right now, my soul has the ethereal lightness which only comes when the day to day responsibilities of work life are not there.

Pondering: a yoga class app.  There was a stretch of my life in Tallahassee, where I did Yin Yoga fairly often.  In Yin Yoga, there is a lot of focus on the lower body- hip openers and such.  It is done in a cool room and each pose is held for several minutes, which is how yoga should be, in my opinion.  Like, don’t ask me to do hot yoga or anything where I am going to have to do Warrior pose or Sun Salutations.  NO.  Give me sleeping pigeon and happy baby and I am quite happy.   I found a class on Yoga Studio (an iOS app) that looks pretty much perfect.  And only 22 minutes: SCOREBOARD. Also thinking about getting a membership to 24 hour gym.  I would *really* like to be able to workout early in the morning, make it back to the house to take Nico to school and head to work, so that I can leave at a reasonable hour.  The problem with my gym set up (at work) is that I feel like if I go for a 2 hour workout, I can’t justify leaving at 4 pm- which is what I prefer to do when I am taking public transit, because being on an overcrowded, warm train makes me want to VOMIT (because motion sick).   I know, it IS complicated.

Considering: So, I think that 2018 might be the year for me to do a Craft Bazaar (item #25).  I thought I had stumbled upon a fantastic venue for it, and thus spent 6 hours last night trawling Pinterest for ideas.  The downside to the venue is that it would require a great deal of organizational work and talking with people.  But, it could be really sweet.  But on the other hand: Organizing people.  More on this later.

Buying: All the succulents!!  My aunt gifted me a great distressed organizer from a cool boutique in Rockwall, Texas (Website: Mint Julep Rockwall Instagram: mintjuleprockwall).  I think I would like to make it a combination desk organizer and succulent planter.

Marvelling: My mom made a whole passel of these cute little zipper pouches for stocking stuffers for Christmas.  I think she may have meant for each of us to have two or three.  Good thing I do what I want.


Isn’t that a really great design?  Each is lined with a matching fabric and she also moved the tabs around too, to color coordinate.

Smelling: Dave got me a big bottle of Bath and Body Works’ Cotton Blossom as a stocking stuffer.  To this day, even though its been YEARS since I did college preseason, I can’t smell this scent without thinking about three-a-days.  It was tough at the time, but I would give just about anything to go back to then and have one more season, knowing what I know now.  I wish I had more appreciation for life as a college soccer player.

Wearing: I got a bunch of good, thick socks for Christmas.  They are perfect. Reason #45 I love winter: thick socks.

Admiring: My sister.  She has four kids, I am not sure how she does it- they all play sports and get good grades and her house is cute.  She has her shit together on a level that I aspire to.  I have one kid, a small house apartment and it’s a disaster.

Disliking: Several of the books I am currently reading are just annoying me.  Like, I get annoyed with one and I put it down, but then I pick up another book that just annoys me.  Next thing you know, I have ten books I am currently “reading” on GoodReads- but I am so annoyed at all of them, I am just procrastinating with dealing with them.

Snacking: I discovered Takis, y’all.  Only like 10 years after they became a thing, I actually tried them.  My tastebuds aren’t legit enough for the whole shebang (the hot ones), but they dealt with these guys just fine.  Delicious with Shiner Bock.

Happy New Year!!


A Jacket as Ultimate Travel Clothing and Other Revelations

I have had a very strange concurrence of events that have lead to the most jam-packed fall schedule I have ever had.  Friends getting married, work trips, fun trips, brain trips, basically have resulted in me traveling a lot from September -November.  I am also a terrible combination of super nerdy about stuff and processes and also hella smug.  So, the result is that I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about my stuff during travel.

And I will now share these thoughts with you in the form of a list of 10 things that I consider necessary when traveling with only a personal item.

All this travel has been made possible by the fact that I live in a big city (serviced by two international airports and a well-developed mass transit system).  My last two air travel trips were shortish flights (to Tallahassee and to New York City), for short trips (2-4 days).  My normal MO would be to bring a roller bag and pack probably too much stuff or check a bag.  Both of these are bad, because I cannot even with checking in at airports anymore.  But also, I hate roller bags in airports.  Seriously, if I were running shit, the first thing I would do is ban roller bags in airports.  Really, most people are terrible about being aware of themselves in space and time, we’re not even considering what they are like dragging a roller bag behind them.  Oh,  you’re just going to stop in the damn middle of Concourse B in Atlanta, Carol?  You and your husband are going to argue about where the gate is, right here, outside this Starbucks?  Fantastic, allow me to hurdle over your stupid bag so I can make it to my plane.

Since my flights have been leaving super early (because cheap) and I refuse to give an extra dollar to the major discount airlines (because reasons), I have been experimenting with packing into a “personal item”.  This is based on one of my major anxieties coming to life last year at Thanksgiving, where it took us so long to check in at the counter with a bag that we almost missed our flight.  So, I don’t do that anymore, if I can avoid it.  If you want to avoid standing in that line, and that extra $$ for the carry on bag fee, you’re pretty much left with carrying ONLY a personal item.  Tangentially, this shift for me has been HUGE.  It’s quite a feeling to whisk from your front door through security in an hour, by passing checking in at the counter and dropping your bag.  It’s fantastic.

Some things I would recommend that have changed my travel life:

Light athletic jacket with zippered pockets.

Seriously- the athletic jacket with the zippered pockets is my go-to travel apparel for several reasons.  You can throw your small stuff (wallet, keys, phone, earbuds, chapstick, etc.) into the pockets and zip them up.  When you go through security, you don’t have to worry about your shit spilling out all over the belt or anything.  Plus, sometimes pockets are good for holding bigger items like Kindles or bottled drinks or snacks.  Being able to have all of this stuff ON YOU means you can have more clothes in your personal item.  Even awesomer  is that by having pockets that zip, you lower your profile as an easy target for pickpockets.

My favorite is a black Adidas jacket that zips all the way up, so it is great for when that plane fan is blowing on you- and works as another layer when you get to your destination!! Here I am wearing my jacket while fishing!!


Headphones and Cord Management

I know we are throwing it back these days and a lot of people are going back to the over the ear wireless headphones, because we are living in the damn future. However, for me, the over the ear head phones aren’t always worth it (granted, I don’t have the super swanky Beats headphones).  Having them on your head and trying to rest your head against the bulkhead to sleep is not great. Having them down around your neck like a professional athlete looks cool, until you realize that they’re all up on your face.  They are big and annoying and don’t fit nicely into a pocket (even if they are foldable). Plus, depending on what your travel situation is, maybe you run the battery down in your headphones, and now you’re dealing with a dead piece of tech, hanging around your neck. ANNOYING.

My system? I go with in-ear buds bluetooth headphones, so I can still rest my cabeza against the bulkhead.  If necessary, those bad boys can go in my pocket.  In fact, this is my cord set up.  I have four cords/wires (in addition to my computer charger):

-micro USB (charges headphones, external battery, kindle)

-IPhone charger

-wireless headphones

-backup set of earbuds

-double charging block

-backup external battery

Twisted together in a little nest of cords, it doesn’t take up much space.  I like to stash them into a soft/flexible little case.  It can go into my jacket pocket (if necessary) and also squishes down well to fit where it needs to fit.File Dec 07, 7 59 08 PM

Water bottle

I am trying not to buy garbage anymore.

As a hippie liberal socialist pinko (my parents’ words- not mine), you know I gotta be all about reusable water bottles, because environment.  Also, I live with people who seem not to concern themselves with where bottles and caps are in relation to each other.  This usually results in constantly having to search for a water bottle when I need it.  I also *really* like nice travel mugs,  but realize that I don’t bother with travel mugs for drinks I don’t really like (tea and coffee).  If we’re talking about hot chocolate, I am all about THAT life, but let’s be honest, I can’t be trusted to only drink one (1) hot chocolate in a given day, so its better if I just abstain.  But I appreciate a hot drink when I am watching my son play sport on cold days.  It just feels ridiculous to have a travel mug dedicated to one activity during one circumstance (watching my son do sport on a cold day outside).

So, when I saw this Swell bottle at the New York Public Library, I bought it, thinking it would be perfect for my life.  It actually is turning out to be perfect for my life.  It holds water most days.  And on days when I am watching sport outside in the cold, hot cider goes into it perfectly.  I like taking it when I travel because I can take it empty through security and fill it with water at a water fountain. thus saving myself from $2.99 a bottle water purchases.

Pocket (app)

I am not going to lie- I am afraid to think about and analyze whether or not I am actually addicted to my phone (mostly because I think we know the answer: YES).  The thing is, its not just social media.  Don’t get me wrong, I like my likes and mentions like the next girl.  But I LOVE LOVE LOVE all the reading a person can do (not books).  Pocket is an app that allows you to collect links.  What I love about it is that I have the browser extension, so when I am slacking working really hard at work, when I can save links so that they all go in one place.  Even better is that the links download and save on their own when the app is open.  In Chrome, when you open a new page, the top trending stores are there, along with the Save to Pocket button.

Screenshot 2017-12-02 15.43.38

My last computer session before getting on a plane, I pop on and use the “explore’ option to find the latest articles on something I have been thinking about; hiking, writing, time management, productivity, etc.  Then, I can scroll through the page adding things to my pocket.  If it is the night before, when I go to bed, I open the app and make sure the stories are downloading.  If it is the day off, I open on the way to the airport or at the gate.  Easy- and I don’t run out of things to read on the airplane.

Texture (app)

I subscribe to my share of garbage things that waste my time and money every month.  But, the $14.95 I spend each month on Texture is ABSOLUTELY worth it.  Texture  is a magazine app that works best on something like a Surface Pro or an iPad.  I say that because I have used it on a Kindle Fire and I don’t like it as much (it requires a LOT of pinching and zooming).  On the Surface Pro, Texture is about the size of a magazine page.  It has a fantastic selection of magazines (Outside, New Yorker, Money, ESPN, Bon Apetit, etc.)  Before a flight, I will download several of the latest issues and have them on the ready for being on a plane.  Even better is that I can get access to most of the magazines that I read without necessitating a stop at a magazine stand or a subscription and without accumulating a stack of magazines that makes your heart hurt for the environmental damage that you can see sitting in your foyer.  Seriously, I once traded “about to expire” airline miles for magazines and it was a disaster.  At one point, I had a stack of magazines over 12 inches tall.  That is too many.  Too many magazines.

Springsteen on Broadway

I think that the music of your childhood stays with you.  My mom was a big Springsteen fan and that left a mark on her kids.

The liner notes from Tunnel of Love are the first thing I remember being able to read on my own.  In the days of VCRs, we later had the Video Anthology 1978-1988 on VHS- it was a collection of Springsteen songs, like an album, but with the music videos.  I thought the music video to Tunnel of Love was weird and I didn’t understand it.

The soundtrack of my life includes many Springsteen songs.

I can’t listen to “Lonesome Day” without thinking about my first real boyfriend and the long slow goodbye that our long distance relationship became when I graduated from college and moved away.  I can’t hear “Mary Queen of Arkansas” without thinking about the contemplative drives I took after we broke up.  The line, “How can you hold me so damn tight, but love me so damn loose?” brought everything about that relationship into focus and gave me the closure I was ready for and needed.

I associate long trips in the car with Born to Run.  If I am in a car for longer than about 2 hours, Born to Run is happening.

When I hear Glory Days, I think about being an athlete- and convincing myself that the best way to ward off feeling like my best days were behind me was to not stop playing:

Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
And I’m going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
But I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing mister but
Boring stories of glory days

When Springsteen announced that he was going to be doing a show on Broadway, my sister and I both entered into the lottery to get tickets.  She ended up getting two tickets in the lottery and so the game was afoot, because, as you can see, there are three Bishop girls.

I rolled the dice- flights to NYC are dirt cheap from Chicago.  So, I figured, worst case scenario, if I couldn’t secure a ticket, NBD- I could still see my mom and sis and have a good time in the Big Apple.  Plus, I might get a chance at crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot, which would help me check an item off my list.

Long story short- I didn’t get a ticket to Springsteen- because I aren’t always lucky and because I am not insane (read: willing to spend more than $200 on a concert ticket.  Its about priorities).  Which is okay.  My sister and I had the genius plan to split the show in half and- no.  That didn’t work either.  It’s frowned upon to do that.  Plus it would have been really disruptive for the show.  So, my mom and sister went, which was cool.

I got to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot.  Not going to lie, this is one of those things that you do in spite of tourists.  I recognize the irony of my saying that, given that I was a tourist at this point in time.  But I try *really* hard not to act like a tourist, so I feel like that gives me all the reason I need to be hella smug.

We did get to check out the New York Public Library, which has been an illusive goal for the last 15 years of my life, every time I have been to NYC.  By now, you should know how I feel about libraries (LOVE THEM) – so it was super fun.  Probably also a lot better without tourists there.  I can’t imagine being a normal person trying to go about my day getting shit done and having to contend with all these tourists.

My mom was on the hunt for bougie wool and leather, for various crafting projects.  My sister, who is the smartest of us Bishop kids, got us a hotel room in the garment district.  Guess what was *literally* two blocks from our hotel?  Mood Fabrics.  We went in and my mom bought a shit ton of wool and we actually talked to Mood’s wool guy.  Who is actually in the book about Mood.  No Tim Gunn sightings, but we did see swatch, which is cool.

In all, it was a super chill time.  We had a pretty good experience in NYC.  My mom got to see the Boss 40 years after seeing him on tour in Michigan.  My sister got to see Springsteen for the first time.  So that was nice.

The Judo Update

I have competed in my first judo tournament.  Actually, I have competed in two.


To recap- I started doing judo back in February.  If you remember, it is one of my life list/bucket list/ apocalypse list items, to do judo for a year (by husband and son both do the judo).

It’s really fun.  And it’s a ridiculous workout.  Seriously, sometimes, sweat is just dripping off of me.  But, I also like it because a lot of it just makes sense.  And there are a ton of good analogies for thinking about life.  Explaining these would require their own blog post, which will happen at some point, just not today.  Because today, we are going to talk about competitions.

Before we talk about competitions, it first merits discussing weight.  First, in judo, we talk about weight in terms of kilograms and weight classes.  The two heaviest weights for women are under 78kg and 78kg+ (spoiler: 78 kgs is 171.6 lbs).  The way I see it, I have to “realistic” options, given my height and proclivity for not being weak AF: stay in the 78kg+ weight class or attempt to get into the under 78kg weight class.  There are pros and cons to either of these.  But the long story short version is: the 78kg+ weight class is open ended, so it is possible for a person who is 172lbs to fight someone who is 250lbs or 260.  Or 300lbs.  But, also, there aren’t many women to fight in this weight class (not that many women+judoka+that weight class).  Some might read this as like, “scoreboard! less competition!”  Which is true.  But it also means less competition- because generally, people like to try to compete against players that are the same size.

In judo, they try to keep more advanced players going against more advanced players, and novices going against novices.  But in the 78kg+ weight class, there aren’t enough judoka, so you might, as a precious baby white belt, end up fighting against a black belt (more on that later).  Even in the under 78kg weightclass doesn’t necessarily mean there a lot of judoka to compete against, but there tends to be more.

It is no secret- but I am in the 78kg+ weightclass.  I think about what it would be like to be in the under 78 kg weight class.  Like, obviously, I would have to drop a lot of fat for that to happen.  But what about my ass?  Also, what about my muscles?  Would I have to get rid of those?

So, being in this weight class meant that when we went to Cleveland for the Rock and Roll tournament, there wasn’t anyone for me to fight.  No big surprise there (it was quite a small tournament).  In the Cohen tournament a couple of weeks ago, there were ladies for me to fight (a green belt from texas.  And a black belt former World Youth Champion.  NBD.)

Now here is where it gets real: When I showed up for the Cohen tournament, I hadn’t ever practice fought with anyone (we call it “rondori”).  There are a lot of reasons for this, but they are all kinda boring.  But that did not stop me.  Keep in mind that I am not expecting that I am going to make an Olympic team in my first match.  I was just looking forward to working with other ladies my size(ish).

Nico was also competing in the Cohen tournament and the whole morning was just a practice in hurry up and wait.  And also, make sure you’re paying attention so you know when you’re up.  Finally they call my division and I get suited up.  They call us onto the mat.  And my opponent (the former world youth champion doesn’t show up).  WHAT?

I am dying.  I win by disqualification- but am highly annoyed.  Turns out, my opponent was five mats away (she didn’t speak English and didn’t realize it was party time). I mean, its cool that I get points for that “win”, but I really just want my first match.  My next match up, I am fighting the green belt from Texas.

She throws me in about 30 seconds- after I pick up a penalty for being too defensive (spoiler alert, I wasn’t being defensive, I was just watching our feet, since watching my feet is pretty much how I walk everywhere).  It was incredibly frustrating.

So, after a short break, I step up and get ready to fight the former world champion, who is from Cuba.  For those of you who don’t know, Cuban judo is legit.

Now, here is where I should explain what happens when you have to fight in the elite division when you are a novice.  Basically, the elite divisions has some extra requirements.  Like, you have to wear a plain white shirt under your gi.  And you have to have a blue gi and a white gi.  Well, why in the hell would I know any of that?  I am just a little baby white belt novice.  So, I get on the mat to  fight the former world champion and she has to deal with her gi and shit and we’re ready to go when the referee says, “You need a blue gi.”  And I say, “Yeah, I know.  This one is reversible.  I just dont have my blue pants with me.  I’ll get it under control for next time.”  To which he replies, “No, you need a blue gi now.”


So, long story short, Dave grabs the texas girl, who strips down and lets me borrow her pants, because she is a goddamn angel, while I turn my gi around (remember, its reversible).  All of this is happening while there are about 100 people in the vicinity, watching what is going on.  Here is the thing…. in a gymnasium full of movement and action and activity, with five mats going on, no one would have noticed if we were fighting.  But since we weren’t I just felt like all the attention was on us.  And if you know me at all, you know how good I am with undue attention on me (spoiler: I am not).  In all, it seemed like it took 49579 minutes to get into a blue gi- so much anxiety.  Which was great, when the match started and former world champ threw me and pinned me in 40 seconds.  Like, if I had another 10 seconds I *might* have busted out of the pin.  But probably not- because she wasn’t even trying hard to keep me there.


So, when I come off the mat, I am fairly annoyed (read: upset- like trying to keep it together, but not understanding why I am so upset trying to do a sport for what is damn near the first time and not being good at it- but if you know me, I don’t like it when I practice and try to do things and that doesn’t work out for me).  Also, in total at this point, I have had less than two minutes of competition judo.  Which, to me, is really annoying to pay as much $$ and spend as much time doing the tournament, to have such a short amount of time (maybe next time, don’t get thrown so quickly?  Just a suggestion).  But, apparently, that is how judo is.

22538574_10110706373822883_1047917198943403094_o.jpgUltimately, I took 3rd out of 3 people.  The former world champ beat the Texas girl, so at least I was in good company.  The tournament director got me an exhibition match against another girl (KW), who is lighter than me, just so we could get some matches in.

With my knickers  sufficiently twisted, I stepped on the mat against this KW girl, outweighing her by a solid 40-50 lbs, but totally outclassed belt wise (she is a green belt).  So, the match starts and I am trying to not look at my feet, not get thrown, and not  violate any of the other rules I don’t really know.  She gets in close and is on the verge of throwing me.  Like, I feel like I am about to be thrown onto my face and I start to panic a little.

Here is the problem for me: all the things that I know intellectually how to do work very differently in practice.  Like, I have been working on a couple of throws, that should work, if I could just think through it (read: they require require that your brain is not in panic mode).

Narrator:  JBR’s brain was in panic mode.

Now, there is a move in judo called an ura nage.  It is a pick up, where you just wrap your arms around the person and pick them off the mat, and throw them over your shoulder.  For those of you familiar with wrestling, it is very similar to a souffle.  It’s a strong man’s move- because it doesn’t really require timing or skill, just being strong AF.

So, my brain, which is in panic mode, just thought, “Just pick her up and throw her over your shoulder and maybe that will be a thing.”

Yeah, I literally thought, “maybe that will be a thing,”.

Narrator: It was a thing.  In her third match ever, JBR thrown ura nage for ippon.

Ippon is “match ending point”.  It’s when a throw is so good that there is no need for the match to continue.  This can also be achieved by pinning opponent for 20 seconds or forcing their submission through a choke or an armbar.

There are a lot of times in a judo match when the referee will restart the match- like if someone is breaking some of the rules or there is a failure to progress in grappling on the mat.  So, when the referee stood us up in our starting spaces, I thought we were going to keep going- I didn’t realize that I had won.  Which was cool.

The lesson: there is almost always a way, as long as you’re in the fight.  So the trick is to be in the fight.

I was really glad to get the exhibition.

Ultimately, KW  talked me into fighting in the Halloween tournament in Minooka last week, where she beat me twice.  One of these was me not understanding how physics works.  22688074_147304212679471_1514927869203751786_n.jpg

But, I played better judo (apparently).  We’re going up to Wisconsin in December and I hope to get some more matches in.


Where do I even Start?

The last 10 weeks have been unreal.


Starting with the trip to Montreal for the American Sociological Association meeting in Mid-August, I have been traveling a lot.   For work, for fun, for everything in between.  After Montreal was a judo tournament in Cleveland, then a wedding in St. Louis, and an alumni thing in Tallahassee.  When I got back from that, I headed out to Ann Arbor for a work thing.  Next week I am going to see Springsteen on Broadway (squee).  Then we’re going to South Florida for Thanksgiving and up  to Wisconsin for a tournament in December and then to Dallas for Christmas.

It’s great.  But it’s also tiring.  Added on top of that, I am teaching two classes this quarter, a hybrid class that was supposed to be face to face and an online class.  So, it has just felt like I shouldn’t be working on this blog.  It felt wrong.

This is dumb.  Because in this time, I have watched all of the first season of Mindhunter and the last two seasons of Justified.  And all of Parks and Rec (to be fair, I’d started  that little task back in the spring).  I have also read some books.  *no explanation*.

I did recently pass a milestone though- last month WordPress was all over my ass about re-upping my blog hosting.  Having to decide whether or not to do that got me thinking about where this blog is versus where I want it to be and whether this is a project that I can sustain.  The conclusion I came to is that I still have some stuff to say.  It feels premature to shut it down, even if I don’t post nearly as often as I would like.

But we’re at that point of the quarter when I am starting to feel myself.  Kinda like the second trimester of being pregnant.  When your energy levels are back to being normal (somewhat) and you start taking on all kinds of new challenges and such.  That is where we are today.  But, the good news is that by mid-November, I start the long gentle slide to the end of the year… I am not teaching as much.  More time off- so that is good, even if I am traveling a lot.

Here’s to finding the rhythms that suit us.

Labor Day Hike Fail

Over Labor Day weekend, we decided to checkout the Skokie Lagoons in Skokie for some fishing and some hiking.  According to my “60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Chicago” book, this place had some decent hiking and lagoons.  If you knew me in real life, you might know that when I was a kid I could fish.  Not like it was my job.  But like, a country girl who knew shit but wasn’t interested in doing more of it.  Every field trip to Pine Island to go fishing (it was the 1980s)? Caught fish.  Fishing in our swimming pond (before we realized it was home to gators)? Caught fish.  

Since moving to Chicago, I have been trying to make being outdoors doing stuff a thing.  It is one of the things I missed about living in the south.  When we coached at Wakulla (to the south of Tallahassee), almost every single one of our soccer girls could have taken us fishing, scalloping, etc.  We  lived across from a wooded greenspace, where a Turkey lived.  When Dave and I started living together, we lived a quarter of a mile from a lake.  How many times did we go kayaking?  Twice, and both times it was a beat down.  The last house we lived in in Tallahassee sat on 1.25 acres of land.  I had a shitty garden that I half-hearted attempted to grow stuff in.  Spoiler alert: I was “too-busy”.  I wanna say to my younger, Tallahassee living self, “Like, bitch, you don’t have to do shit to grow tomatoes.  Just put those bastards in the ground.  They’ll grown year round (practically).”

In any case, I am nervous Nico is going to grow up being one of those kids that’s like, “Hey guys!  Let’s skip going camping this weekend and go see the three Star-Wars movies being re-released in 6D.”  And then, I would have to die of embarrassment.  

So, I have been trying to make fishing a thing.  I don’t know if it’s the bait I am using or the weather or what, but I have been striking out and this Labor Day was no exception.  And the hiking was suspect.  I only got onto a little footpath that went nearish the lagoon we were fishing at.  To be fair, the day was kinda over at that point, and my boys were ready to go.

But the good news is that we made it a little bit of a picnic and I had pecan and peach pie, which, if we are completely honest, ain’t too bad.

The One Where I Learn How to Brew Beer

I brewed my own beer this summer.

It wasn’t great.

When we lived in Tallahassee, we were good friends with Leslie and Keith.  Keith is an experienced homebrewer, with quite a lot of expertise.  So much so that he even brewed a beer for us to celebrate our wedding.  I was pregnant at the time, but I think Dave was fairly certain that I would cut him if he drank all of the homebrew before I could have any.  When it was time, it was delicious.  Just a really great beer.

When we were in Tallahassee, we tried to get into home brewing, but it was hard.  I was in grad school and Nico was young, and we were coaching.  So, it didn’t really happen.  Eventually, I got rid of all the home brew stuff.

But since I am trying to knock out the things I can off my list, I figured it was a good time to try again.  So, I bought a new kit.  And the stuff.  And the materials.  And gave it a go.

Truth be told, it wasn’t great.

The thing is, that I like crisp, light beers.  My favorites include Old Style.  Technically, I like pilseners, which are kind of a special class of lager (I think).  This beer I made was, while light, kinda of tangy, which is a weird taste for a beer.  I want beer that I can slug after mowing the lawn or playing soccer.  This wasn’t refreshing like that.  It is drinkable.  But I’m not sure I would share it with  a lot of people.

But it was a good learning process.  I learned how to use a hydrometer, which is a tool for measuring the gravity of liquids.


I actually walked through all the steps of making the beer, and did it completely by myself, which was pretty cool.  It was a bit of a shit show:

  1.  I scalded the wort.  I didn’t realize it was possible to do this.  Essentially, I was using malted extract and poured the big can of syrupy thick stuff in the water and didn’t realize that it was so thick it would settle and scald.  I ended up having to strain black burned bits out of the beer.
  2. Sanitizing and cleaning bottles is a beat down.  I bought some bottles from the brew store, but also recycled a bunch, which involved soaking and peeling the labels off.  Something I didn’t realize, is that among the pry-lid bottles, they are not the same size.
  3. I broke several bottles.  I thought  I wasn’t using the bottle capper right, but it turns out that there were several different sized bottles.  So, I was putting the muscle on this bottles and they were just shredding in my hands.  It was kind of annoying.
  4. Brewing beer is a messy endeavor.  It really should be done outside- most kitchens are not well set up for it.
  5. Our place isn’t big enough.

The unfortunate thing about home brewing,  is that I feel like you do a lot of work and can’t even be guaranteed a good beer. Which is annoying.  So, when I plan to be out by the brew place, I plan to take a bottle of my beer and ask them why it tasted the way it did.

If it is a matter of the type of extract I used, that is an easy fix.  I think I might try actually brewing with the hops next time.  Take my game to the next level.


Summer Stretching Out to the Horizon

Summer is here.

For me, summer arrives when Nico gets out of school. There is something about the imposed structure of his school year that just keeps my feet on the ground.  Knowing every day he has to be up at 615 am just puts a dent in our plans.

Plus, the winter and spring just sucked the life out of me. Teaching 2 classes in winter plus a new prep in spring kept me and my plans grounded.

But now? Summer is here.

Remember the sequel to Anne of Green Gables, when Anne befriends Catherine Brooke, the headmaster of the school she teaches at when she leaves Avonlea?  Towards the end, they are in the Cuthbert orchard picking fruit…

BROOKE: Oh, Anne. Summer has flown by so quickly. A school teacher really is a slave of time. I don’t know how I’m ever going to go back.

ANNE: Don’t be silly. There’s always another bend in the road.

BROOKE: Bend in the road. There’s no bend in my road; I can see it stretching straight out in front of me to the skyline.

Anne is all about bends in the road, but me?  I like a long road stretching to the horizon.  Curves and bends require attention and effort and action, straight roads stretching to the horizon are nice.  🙂

I’m working on putting the class I taught face to face this past spring online for the summer. You have no idea what a relief it is to be teaching online again. Seriously. I feel like Sean Spicer doing sociology lectures- like it’s just a matter of time before the whole thing has gone off a cliff. And I have said something terrible, inappropriate, or flat out wrong.  Or better yet, like Tommy Boy trying to make his first sale.


Yeah.  It’s that bad.

It’s not that I don’t know what I am talking about- its just that I don’t interact well with an audience.

I have a new research project I’m trying to get off the ground. It’s interesting- a throw back to one of my first graduate courses, using formal demographic techniques. Also, I have a couple of manuscripts in preparation. I’d really like this summer to be productive on the research front.

I’m hoping to get a little travel in, too. I’m set to present at a conference in Montreal in August. I think we’re going to be able to make it into a short family vacation. I am planning to tack on a few days at the end for a section hike of the Long Trail in Vermont. Essentially, I’m using it as a scouting trip- to determine what my thru hike in 2019 will be like. I’m hoping to get Nico out on some trails this season. His sports seasons are winding down- he has a handful of baseball games left, which is a relief. It’s the stress of watching your kid play sport, but it’s also the stress of managing the schedule, constantly wondering if you’re missing a practice or a game or what?

Also, my 20th senior class reunion is next year.  NEXT YEAR.  What is even happening?  How can that be 20 years ago?  I can’t even.  Back in the winter, we did a reunion soccer game (which hadn’t been done in a minute).  In order to keep it going, we have one scheduled for November.  The main guy who is organizing it has decided to make a 19.5 year reunion event weekend.  There will be our soccer game, plus a softball game.  One of the things I need to put some time into is helping with the organization for that.  It’s weird, but I spend a lot of time organizing shit, for someone who definitely did not major in it or have any time of early inclination for it as a child.

What about you?  What kind of big summer plans are on your horizon?


Make 100 Lovelies: #1 Chunky Cowl

My mom can make anything.

In part, I think her willingness to try to make stuff came from the fact that raising kids is expensive and she had three kids.

Growing up, she learned how to sew from the lady across the street. When my mom had kids, she didn’t shy from teaching herself quilting, knitting, dressmaking, cross-stitch, embroidery. Her attitude has always been that she could make something that was twice the quality for half the price.

Her approach has always been, “You don’t know how? Well, boo hoo for you! Can you read?” Literally. In third grade, When I was nervous about cooking for the first time, she said, “You can read, can’t you?”

That attitude- that if I was willing to learn, I could do just about anything I wanted to has permeated my life. Of course things are different now than when I was a kid. Now, Google and YouTube can teach anyone how to poach eggs, knit, or juggle.

So, at Christmas, I bought some chunky yarn to make a new cowl. With chunky yarn, it knitted up pretty fast. The pic below is my mom’s hands working to finish it. 

It really is something- to think about those hands and what they’ve done. I remember the feel of those hands, twisting my hair into a high and tight French braid for the first day of third grade. Those hands working the delicate orange-gold satin of my senior prom dress. Those hands working quickly and deftly at pressing homemade pizza crust into a round pan.

A lot of parents pass on terrible things to their  children; mental illness, physical disease, poor habits.  I am really glad that my mom passed her willingness and ability to learn how to do stuff, but more I am happy that I got her fearlessness about it.  Like, what is the worst that can happen if a project fails?  You’ve wasted time and maybe materials.  Big deal.

What did your mom pass onto you?

Taking Stock Volume 2

Pip and Maggie started me on the idea of taking stock.  Periodically, when I get a minute, its nice to think about the things that are happening.

Taking Stock Volume 2

Making : Nico’s baby book.  That is not true- I started the thing like 5 years ago.  Almost seven years after the fact, it’s still not done.  I know.  I am a bad mom.

Drinking : an Old Style.  I have convinced myself that my beer tastes are too fancy for Natty Light or Budweiser.  But my undying love for Old Style suggests otherwise.

Reading : I just finished The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, which I absolutely love.  It’s brilliant and beautiful and essential reading for anyone who has an itch to start a farm.  The thing that I was most suprised about it is that I am still the same as a 37 year old mom as I was a 12 year old girl in that horses dying had me ugly cry  blubbering.  I also started reading the English Patient (as part of my Booker Man reading challenge).  I am also listening to White Trash by Nancy Eisenberg.Something that I didn’t know, mostly because I didn’t know much about him, but Andrew Jackson was kind of a son of a bitch.  Think Trump before Trump.

Wanting : I wish there was a book or a blog devoted entirely to city gardening.  It would explore the different ways people grow stuff in their homes in big cities, in garden plots, on balconies, on decks and rooftops.  Seriously.  If you guys don’t watch yourselves, I am going write one.

Looking : At farm Instagrams (would that be Farmstagrams?)  This is always a bad idea and makes me question most of my life choices.  Some of my favorites: Modern Farmer, Dishing Up Dirt, and Kreeky Tree Farm.  I am trying to remember that I have made some choices in order to maximize occupational stability and that at the end of the day, farming is probably not as stable as I think it is (based on my cursory reads of a few farm blogs and instagram).  It doesn’t stop me from wanting 20 acres in the upper midwest.

Waiting : I ordered a camp stove.  A CAMP STOVE.  I have been wanting one for a while, and had convinced myself that I needed a JetBoil, because I am fancy AF.  But I realized that the huge sell for a JetBoil is if you are into coffee, which I am not.  So, if you wanted to have hot food and having coffee isn’t a requirement, than you don’t necessarily have to have a JetBoil.

Wondering : So, one of the reasons why I want land for a farm is that I want rows on rows on rows of produce *I* want: strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, kale, zuchinni, potatoes.  I want to walk outside and pull strawberries off a plant and be able to taste the sunshine on them.  In any case, I remember thinking last year that I ought to just get some strawberry plants and shut up about it and if I did that, I would have strawberry plants before I knew it.  Well I didn’t. So here we are, a year later, no legitimate strawberry plants.  This year, I went ahead and bought some strawberry root plants.  It took me a couple of weeks to get them into the ground- and when I did, they were very dry.  I am not sure they are going to root- but thought I would give it a try.  I salvaged a large tupper ware container from the recycle bin and put some of the baby mostly dead rootballs in there.  I also put some greens seeds in too- thinking that by the time the strawberry plants needed the space, the salad greens would be done.  I am also planning to put the rest of the strawberries in the garden plot I have.  The only problem with that, is that you’re not supposed to grow strawberries in places where tomatoes have been grown a lot (due to a the risk of fungal infections in the soil that kill strawberry plants).  But I do what I want, so they are going in the ground.  Still, I am wondering how this strawberry experiment will work.

Listening : Springsteen’s Live from Dublin album.  When it first came out, I wasn’t really a fan- mostly because I have a taste in music that ranges from poor to plebian (much like my taste in beer- I acknowledge).  In any case, I stumbled on “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which is so lovely and mellow:

Buying : I gave up my garden plot in our old neighborhood.  It was just too hard to get over there after we moved to Rogers Park last year.  In the year we’ve been here, I had gotten a little discouraged because it didn’t look like I would get to the one closest to our place.  The other close place (walkable from our place) had a fee that was very high.  I was so discouraged, I tossed $60+ in leftover seeds from last year’s Territorial order into the garbage.  So, in a one off shot in the dark, I sent a note to the organizer for the closer garden to see if there was any movement on the waitlist.  BAZINGA!!  When she told me I was in, I put my foot on the pedal.  The plot is small (4′ by 8′)- but I am so stoked about it.  I placed a Territorial order and got supplied for up for gardening.  The news has also encouraged me to redouble my efforts at deck container gardening, which have been dismal in the past.


Questioning : my love of the West Wing.  I am on my third watch.  I like it because it isn’t violent (for the most part) and the language isn’t bad, so I can have it on on the background when I am grading or cleaning or whatever, and I don’t have to worry about what Nico might see or hear.  Also, I am a liberal- and West Wing makes us liberals feel a certain kind of way.  Before it was a thing to pile onto Aaron Sorkin for being somewhat obtuse, I sorta had a problem with the way his women characters are written. As others have said, they are so one-dimensional.  I think that thing that bothers me most about them, is that when they make mistakes, the mistakes are the result of poor judgement or being emotional (anything CJ or the First Lady does), but when men (read: Sam, Charlie, or Josh) make mistakes they are the result of miscalculation or over confidence.  So I have been rewatching the West Wing and thinking about what would the same kind of show look like that did a decent job of character development of women?  What would that show look like if it wasn’t centered around a group of white, heteronormative dudes working out their father issues against the backdrop of national policy and legislative stuff?  In fact- wouldn’t it be great to have a show that was about the presidency of 45 where the staff are all women and POC?  You have a couple of token white guys, but the rest are LGBT loving women and POC, who have to deal with a complete imbecile as their boss?  It would be sorta like a mash up of West Wing, Scandal, Veep, and the Office, minus the endearing aspects of Michael Scott boss.

Wearing : a three-quarter sleeve ringer softball-style shirt with Cubbies on the chest.  Its really comfortable.  Somehow the sleeves are the perfect length.  I don’t understand why work clothes can’t be this comfortable.

Noticing : that  I seem to have positional vertigo.  A new occurrence, it is mostly just when I go to lay down (on a bed to sleep or on a bench to bench).  I went to the doctor and she didn’t seem too concerned.  She did refer me to a “neuro-oto” specialist, which I expected her to do.  But then she threw in, “We can also get a brain MRI, just to be safe.” A brain MRI.  A brain MRI.  Simultaneously intrigued and horrified.

Admiring : A couple of new additions to my gallery wall.  It is remarkable how much better hanging stuff on walls is with Command strips.  In the good old days, it always seemed like I lost interest and patience before getting picture frames “secured” to walls with nails in something resembling a gallery wall.

Feeling : Good about this quarter.  I am teaching one class (an Intro class).  This is a new experience for me, since I have never taught it.  I am stretching my legs and putting my back into this class, because it is SO FUN.  Seriously, if you can’t find something to like in Introduction to Sociology, we should talk about why your life is so sad.  Also, I am just really excited about being able to do lots of different kinds of activities.  In my stats classes, we mostly just do lecture, exercises, and big course projects.  But Intro?  Videos!!  Response papers!! Discussions!!  Games!!  According to a post at IHE, the quality of Intro professor is incredibly important for undergraduates deciding to major.  Challenge accepted.

Helping : Ahead of my in-laws visiting this week, Dave and I have been in uber power cleaning mode.  I had some teeth pulled on Tuesday and had *geniusly* requested the following couple of days off (assuming tooth extraction was going to be a total shitshow).  I lost track of what week it was, so I ended up being home recovering from the oral surgery and cleaning the house.  Luckily, Nico has started stepping up his helping game.  It’s not bad.  Not bad at all.

Starting : I have started in on item #36: Training as a judoka for one year.  Nico is pretty excited about it.  I think he really likes being in a position to explain things and be a leader/coach.  My father-in-law (also a judoka) has informed me that he will show me a power taotoshi that will crush any opponent’s will to live.


So far, its really fun.  I hadn’t appreciated how hard of a workout it can be.  I mean, I have done some pretty tough Starting Strength volume workouts that made me hate my life.  But judo is pretty sneaky.

Embracing : Running. Meh.  The idea was to transition my training into something that would support quickness and cardio needs a little better than weightlifting. So I thought, “Oh, I should start running again.”  I am working through a C25K cycle (can you call them cycles?).  It’s not awful.  I did 1.5 weeks before the teeth debacle, so I will be back on it this week. I like the format of C25K largely because it is similar to judo, where you have balls out activity for 4 minutes, and then recover for a bit, and then back on it.  So we will see.