This morning I’m loving the current header on The Diane Rehm Show’s website:

And also the rotating headers on the WAMU website, each of which is more clever and smile-inducing than the last:

We used to be sustaining members of WAMU, but switched our donations over to Michigan Radio when we moved to Ann Arbor. The amount of information and enjoyment I get from Diane Rehm’s podcasts coupled with the smiles from these headers have convinced me to donate to WAMU this morning. Pledge drive organizers take note!

Everything’s Gone Green (well, almost)

Spring is almost here – can you believe it? The high was in the mid-50s yesterday, and will be in the mid-60s today. We’ve renewed our Project Grow plot, and I started seeds under the grow light last weekend: Brussels sprouts and broccoli, cucumbers, and a few kinds of tomatoes. We’re planning for truckloads of compost, and I’m looking forward to many afternoons blissing out in the sunshine and dirt.

For now, though, I’ll just enjoy seeing our photos featured on the site for our community garden – and dreaming of the long spring and summer to come.

Sunflowers!

A Very Purim Bakefest

As I understand it, the holiday of Purim celebrates the Jews’ narrow avoidance of extermination at the hands of an evil man named Hamen. How the holiday came to involve also eating Hamen’s hat, I’m not sure, but it’s delicious and I’ll take it. I’ll also take any excuse to bake delicious pastries:

A Very Purim Bakefest

After a brunch of savory spinach kugel, fresh grapefruit juice, and a salad, we got to work. Olivia rolled out the dough for the rugelach, a flaky rolled pastry filled with dried fruit, nuts, jam, or other sweets.

Rolling

Susie spread the apricot jam (or apple butter when we ran out) and sprinkled on the raisins, chopped walnuts, and cinnamon sugar. Shannon rolled up the rugelach, tucking in the ends of keep the sweets from escaping:

Rolling

I took up the rolling pin for the hamentaschen, so there are only photos of the final product – so you’ll have to imagine me rolling out the deliciously lemon-scented dough and cutting it into small rounds. Susie painted an X of butter on each, then Shannon added a dollop of prune or apple butter. Olivia pinched up the corners of Hamen’s hats, and into the oven they went:

Hamentaschen

We each went home with a box full of treats and a vague understanding of the story of Purim, based entirely on what we remembered from the Book of Esther and what I could parse together from Wikipedia. Purim starts on the 19th, so we have some time to read up – and to enjoy deliciously buttery, flaky, rich and flavorful treats.

Recipes:
Rugelach from Gourmet
The Perfect Hamentaschen from the New York Times

Being a “Grown Up”

When we were home for the holidays, I had a conversation with my mom about jobs, kids, and home buying – you know, the “adult” stuff you’re supposed to have and do in your 30s. She made a comment that has been nagging at me, especially lately, and I want to try to unpack that while also talking about things we’ve been discussing lately.

Mom and I were talking about our plans for having kids, and I was explaining to her that one of the things I’m constantly turning over in my head is what we’ll give up if we make that decision. Mom said something along the lines of that we’d had time to pursue our interests or our hobbies, but that maybe now it was time to set aside some of the fun things and be grown ups. This wasn’t her exact wording, and it makes her response sound much more judgmental than it was. Regardless, it brings me to what I want to talk about: being grown ups.

We’ve decided to wait another year before buying a house. There are a variety of reasons for this: we’d like to have more money in the bank so that we can put down a substantial down payment and avoid PMI. While I like my new job a lot, we’re still not sold on being in Ann Arbor for the long term, especially not after this interminable winter. Home values aren’t appreciating, which makes buying a house seem like a less than ideal investment. And besides, while we complain about our rental, we’re not on the hook when the water heater breaks or the roof leaks or the driveway needs to be redone.

Similarly, we’re not rushing into having kids. Despite my lifelong ambition to be a mom, the reality is very different than the fantasy. There are certainly many rewards to having children, but right now we’re considering the things we can measure. My career is very important to me, and Shane is really busy with work, mopeds, beer, and whatever hobby will come up next. As a result, our days are very full – and that’s before adding in running, gardening, cooking, travel, or friends – and we appreciate a good night’s sleep. Having a baby would dramatically change all of that. Kids are tremendously expensive in both the short and long term, and that’s if everyone is healthy. Ultimately, the decision to have kids is a huge, lifelong one – there’s no foreclosure proceedings or bankruptcy in this area of your life.

So what’s been bugging me about my mom’s comment is that while I can see that we have selfish reasons for not buying or birthing right now – they are also good reasons. We are making the choice to not have a baby right now – or perhaps ever – because we’ve thought about it and talked about it and come to the conclusion that this is not something we want right now. We aren’t buying a house – even though it’s a buyer’s market – because it is the right decision based on a variety of personal and financial factors. I would argue that making these decisions makes us, in fact, MORE grown up than if we haphazardly embraced her view that these things are what you do when you are married and in your 30s. Which is absolutely not to say that making different decisions than we have is wrong – just that these are our choices based on who and where we are in our lives.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

12 Books #5: Reflections on a Marine Venus

As always, Lawrence Durrell is transfixing.  I actually parts of Reflection on a Marine Venus out loud to myself because it intensified my enjoyment of the prose.  I could tell you what I’ve learned about Rhodes from Durrell’s account – part memoir, part fiction in the sense that all memoir is part fiction – of his time there as a press officer after World War II, but I came away with more impressions of ancient sea battles and wine-drenched afternoons than hard facts.  As such, I’ll let the prose stand for itself:

“You arrive in the centre of the ancient town almost before you know it; it is as sudden as a descent from a balloon.  The whole thing assembles itself before your eyes like a picture thrown upon a cinema-screen.  It lies there in the honey-gold afternoon light listening to the melodious ringing of water in its own cisterns, and the faint whipping of wind in the noble pins which crown the amphitheatre.  The light here has a peculiar density as if the blue of the sea had stained it with some of its own troubled dyes.  The long sloping main-street is littered with chipped inscriptions.  One can make out the names of city fathers long since dead, of priests and suppliants; they rise in a long progress up the chalky pathways of the town to the red earth beyond which the archaeologist has not trespassed, to the rather over-poetic votive column which, one can guess without being told, is pat of the most recent Italian restoration work.  Nevertheless Camerius is beautiful in a way that persuades mere ugliness to conform to its grace of air and situation; even the curator’s Nissen hut, now crammed with verminous filth, smashed bottles, shed equipment, and bandages – even this cannot intrude upon the singing beauty of this ancient town uncovered by the spade of the archaeologist.”

Lent

I’m not Catholic, but I really like the idea of Lent. This is closely related to why the Camino resonates so intensely with me – the idea of sacrifice as meditative practice, a way of becoming more focused on a specific thing, whether it is your faith or your awareness of the world around you. In previous years, I’ve given up shopping for craft supplies, plastic bags, beer, and chocolate. This year, I’ve decided to give up ice cream, something I enjoy immensely and crave basically all the time. On Tuesday, even though it was cold, I grabbed a “plain sundae” on my way home from running errands.

Last Ice Cream for 40 Days

While it certainly was no Jeni’s, it was a delicious treat, and the days will be many and long until I can enjoy it again.

In lieu of giving something up, one year I decided to spend the 40 days of Lent taking better care of myself. I don’t recall that it actually had much measurable effect; however, I’ve decided that I’m going to try to do the same during Lent this year. There are a variety of personal care things that I’ve just, well, never been very good at remembering to do. These include, but are not limited to, washing my face and flossing. I tend to remember to take care of myself only when something goes wrong – I break out, I remember to wash my face for a week, my skin clears up, and I forget about it. In the next few weeks, I’m going to try to do better – in hopes of establishing healthy habits.

When did I get so high maintenance?

It’s been two days, and so far I have flossed every night, washed my face every morning (and after work outs!), used moisturizer, and drank more water than usual. Off to a good start.