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Getting Back To Getting Back

20 Jun

Man, time sure flies when you’re a first-year teacher.

miss you

I didn’t mean to leave this blog on such a dour note. Nine months later and I’m living proof that when I’m not immersed in something I tend to let it go. Quit the knit shop job and I stop knitting. Stop spending my days in front of a computer screen and I stop writing. Which many would argue means I’m not a real writer. In my mind it just means I’ve been exhausted.

Many people have asked me how I plan to spend my first summer of freedom since I graduated high school. It’s simple really. I want to get back to doing the things that I love: spending time with family and friends. Nurturing relationships. Playing with my dogs. Reading. Writing. Doing all the things I’ve had little time for since I started teaching in August. Crossing things off my 30 Before 30 list. (Spoiler alert: there’s not many left! I’ve been crossing off quite a few since August!) Living. Experiencing. Loving. Living. It’s gonna be a great summer.

One year of teaching under my belt. It’s been nine months of Big Giant Learning Curve. There’s been many successes. There’s been many things I’ve done that I want to do better. There’s been many nights celebrating triumphs and crying over fears. There has been oh so much more wine drunk. Many things I’ve learned that made me grow. Many moments that confirmed, for me, that I am I teacher; I need to be teaching, I love working with kids and helping them grow, and I’ve found a way to be in teen ministry and get paid to do it. All in all, I’d call this past school year a crashing success. As many things as I know I want to do better in the future, there’s been so many moments that have been awesomely amazing, that have convinced me that – as many personal ghosts as I’ve had to face – I am right where I need to be. Now, it’s all about figuring out the next step.

It’s awkward figuring out what to write after such a long hiatus. Do I try and do a wrap up? Apologize to my non-existent audience for being gone so long? Say sorry to my blogging friends that I haven’t kept up with their writing either? (Hi Cara, Katie, Adelle! Long time no read!) I’ve thought about doing all of that, and ended up thinking I should just do what I do: write what I’m thinking about, how I’m feeling, and not worry about the stream-of-consciousness of it all. Because I’m back to my roots: writing for me. Because I want to, not because I feel like I have to or like I have to produce content. I’ve produced plenty of content since August, just none of it has made it to this page.

So to reintroduce myself after such a long pause, A and I are good. We’re well. Thriving, even. He’s taking vacation next week to spend time with me on my summer break and I couldn’t be happier. I’m crossing stuff off my 30 Before 30 list, and have lots to catch up on, at least online. The dogs are happy dogs, I have more direction than I did a year ago, and I’m continuing to live an out-loud life with as much openness and authenticity as possible. Because, as busy as I’ve been, I still stand by life being too short to live it halfway.

Cheers, friends. See you soon.

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Intentionally May

4 Jun

Happy June everyone! May was a pretty good month for A and I; I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of the spirit of my one little word for 2012: intentional, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

If you want to see how 2012 is going so far, January’s wrap-up is hereFebruary, March, and April.

Pursuing the Lord’s heart like I did when I first loved Him.

I think I’m happiest with my progress on this one this month. The more work on my relationship with God, the more I realize hom unquantifiable this goal is. With other intentional goals I san say, “Yes, I had three friends over for dinner, two friends without food dates, four…” You can’t really do that with something as intangible as growing close to the Lord. All I know is that I feel closer to Him, I’m more actively aware of His presence in my life, and I’m feeling the quiet security that comes from being in the word more often. Thank God that He is always there when we decide we want to come back to Him.

Moving into a season of greater spiritual and emotional intimacy with my husband.

We’ve done a devotional almost every night for the last month and a half. This obviously helps our spiritual intimacy, but it’s also slowly but surely building our emotional intimacy. We’ve been using Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott’s Just the Two of Us, a small book that my mom bought us for an engagement present (I think). It’s sweet. A little cheesy at times, which is par for the corse for the Parrotts, but great stories that make us think and are eminently applicable for our marriage.

We also celebrated our six-year anniversary on the 28th. Yay, us!

Making the most of the relationships I have, and taking time to nurture them.

I’ve had some great girlfriend time this month. Lunch dates with my bff, champagne evenings with a purpose, lunch dates with former high school students, grabbing Jamba Juice after a Saturday morning workout with the girls. It’s been a great month for relationships.

Tackling some of the harder things on The List, especially the ones that scare me.

I don’t know about scaring me, but accomplishing #16, planting my container garden, has definitely been a process. Now that they’re in the ground I’m scared…scared that all my plants are going to die without producing. Especially since some of my tomatoes are getting white spots on their leaves. 😦 A tomato-savvy friend told me yesterday to let my tomatoes dry out a bit and not over-water, and it’s raining today! What are the odds? Rain in June in northern California. Arrrrgggghhhh!

Having more people over for dinner, and not letting time/stress/money get in the way of my love of being a hostess.

My buddy Kedrick finally made it back over for dinner, and we had a couple over that we’ve grown to know and love as individuals and have decided we need to hang out more as couples. Considering that this month has been crazy for me, I think two hostess days is pretty good.

Buying locally as much as possible.

So much good produce out right now! It’s super easy to eat locally at this time of year in California. Done and done.

Reading challenging, empowering, quality books instead of solely feeding my brain a mental fast food diet of chick-lit.

I’ve read so many gardening books this month it’s not even funny. All of them are from You Grow Girl, and are wonderful.

Putting my health first and making the time to exercise

No problem. Even being crazy busy I made time for exercise. The only weeks I had trouble was when I was having another terrible bout of insomnia, and I had zero energy for two weeks. I still worked out, but not as much, and definitely not at my full potential.

After several months of trying I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like step class. I’ve given it the old college try, and the only thing I really like about it is doing it with my girlfriends. All in all I’ve decided that I’d really rather spend the hour running. Speaking of which, this month I’m going to be trying to get back into running. I’ve worked on strength training for months, and have been LOVING it, but I miss running. And my stamina isn’t there anymore for running, so I’d like to see that come back up.

If you had a resolution or a word for 2012, how’s it going? I’d love to hear! Leave a comment or link to a blog post you’ve written on this below.

#16 Done – I Grow, Girl!

30 May

Told you I had some things crossed off The List to share! I’ve been working on #16 since last Sunday, when I got my first little tomato seedlings into their pots, and yesterday I got the last of my purchased transplants settled into their new soiled homes, so I can finally call #16 – planting a container garden – done, done, done! Well, as done as it can be. If I’ve learned anything about gardening it’s that even small-scale planting can be extremely addictive, so I went as far as my modest budget would allow, and already have big dreams for next year. Summer Winds gift cards are my new best friends. It’s a good thing though, really, having to keep things simple. Not only am I having to get creative about finding/upcycling budget-friendly supplies (always fun), but friends have been so generous, sharing cuttings and excess plants, it’s been amazing. Plus, I’m not known for my ability to keep green things alive, so I’m looking at this year as a bit of an experiment; I live in one of the best areas in the world for growing my own food, but I don’t yet know what will work in my space. It’s a small space – our HOA calls it an atrium – and only half of it gets full sun, the other half partial shade. So I’m trying things out and (grudgingly) keeping it simple, so that I’m not sinking a boat-load of skrilla into something that I may end up killing. But so far they’re all growing! Thriving, even! I can’t wait to show you what I’ve got growing – me, Black Thumb McGee – so let’s have some pictures, shall we?

the plants that started it all

I’ve actually got two of these tubs going. One has (I think) two Roma tomato plants, and this one has three of some other kind of tomato. I forget the type. My friend Ken, father to my good buddy Kedrick, gave me five plants, and started me off on my container adventure. I put the tubs on those cool little stands with wheels so I can easily move them about to follow the sun. Since I read in all three You Grow Girl Books (my new bibles) that tomatoes make great companion plants, so I planted little basils I got from Whole Foods on top. This planter has two purple basil plants and two Thai basil plants. The other has four sweet basils. I’m a little worried that I crowded the container, even though they are the size of medium trash cans, but the tomato plants seem to be doing well so far. They’ve grown at least an inch and a half since I pinched off a third of their growth, and have nine buds between them. That’s a good sign, yes? Anyone who knows more about tomatoes than I do (not hard) feel free to chime in!

This is my small planter. I got all my plant furniture and a ton of pots from my dear friend Jan three years ago when we moved into our house, and I’m so glad I finally get to make good use of them! Clockwise from top left: purple sage (which I hear gets huge!) Sonnet snapdragons that are coming up a fiery orange and fuchsia, Italian oregano, and creeping rosemary (no towering bushes for my little space, thanks!). I just read that steeping rosemary in hot water helps headaches. Which I get. A lot. And I hate taking medicine. So that’s a win!


This is the top of my tall planter. When I have more resources I want to make the most of their deep baskets and line the tiers with landscaping cloth and put hanging plants like cherry tomatoes and strawberries in them. But for now, it’s doing a good job of holding up my containers. Snapdragons on top and mesclun lettuce in the wooden planter.

They just started popping up! I know it’s a little late in the season for lettuce, but I’m planning on plucking these when they’re small and tender for a baby lettuce salad. As I said, it’s an experiment.

Bottom tier of the same tall planter. This is my herbal tea level. Clockwise from bottom left: lemon balm, stevia, mint, and lemon verbena. Did you know lemon balm helps upset stomachs when steeped? I didn’t! I’m definitely planning on making some tea blends to warm me through the winter, but I also see some more granitas in my future. I hear lemon verbena is a winning flavor in more than tea!

Did you notice all those spots of orange among all the normal pots? Those would be my second favorite thing in my garden! I never realized how expensive pots and garden accessories are, never having had much use for them before. So two days ago I went to my local Goodwill to see if there was anything I could upcycle into pots. I found this mint condition nesting set of vintage Tupperware, registered trademark. I drilled some holes in the bottom, and bam! Kitchey-cool containers! If they were a different color I’d totally have them on my kitchen counter, but they’re a not-kidding-around shade of orange. Which is perfect against my drab grey walls (HOA chosen) with bright green trailing out of them. I am in love with the iconic swirl design. They all had their lids, too, (classic Tupperware sunburst-style, straight from my childhood) and I haven’t decided yet if I want to use them as stepping-stones when I plant in the ground or make a found object wind chime. And did I mention they’re in perfect condition? Well, before I poked holes in them, that is. The best part? The set of four was only $7.00. I went to another Goodwill today looking for things to make a bird bath and found one single large matching container. It was totally beat up, no lid, and labeled $6.99. Um, I don’t think so! I already scored a great deal, thanks! So. In. Love.

This is the small stand planter, on the wall between our living room window and our bedroom’s sliding glass doors. I totally underestimated how many snapdragons I could fit in my Tupperware (registered trademark!) and had no where to put three of them, but luckily I had this gorgeous glazed drum pot from Jan. I’d intended to use it for something else in the future, but I really like the snapdragons in it, so I’ll keep them there for now.

It looks like a lot of dirt, but I see sprouts! Clockwise from top: little gem lettuce starting to poke it’s heads through the soil (hey, I know it’s Summer. I said I’m experimenting.), lemon thyme, chives that I seeded three days ago so still has a ways to grow, and regular thyme I got from my dear friend Danielle. Yes, my garden is a product of the work of many hands. Every time I look at all the things given by people I love, I feel very happy.

What’s that you ask? What was that thing behind the chicken wire to the right of the planter? So glad you asked, because it’s my first favorite thing in my garden:

A baby globe artichoke plant! Ahhhhhhhh!

I love artichokes. I mean, I LOVE artichokes. And there’s no better place to grow them in the States than the California Bay Area. When this baby gets big I should be able to harvest around 30 artichokes a year. Because they’re a year-round grower in my area. Yeah, baby! So the chicken wire…yeah, artichokes need a lot of water and fertilizer. I’m working on an organic garden, so my fertilizer of choice is a fish and sea kelp emulsion. Which made my dogs go crazy. As in, they tore the first artichoke I planted apart within five minutes while I was in the shower. You’ve never seen such muddy prissy city dogs. They both got baths of shame and a thorough scolding from A. Even though I was at my garden budget with the first artichoke, A told me I could get a second one. So I wasn’t taking any chances. A erected a fence for me as an anniversary present. Hey, everyone has their own idea of romance. Mine is the promise of future artichokes. It’s the prettiest little ugly plant ever.

Last but not least, these little greens are on my kitchen windowsill above the tomatoes. I’ve bought microgreens for years at the store, so you could imagine my surprise when I discovered I could buy enough seeds to plant ten pots worth of microgreens for less than the cost of one container of sprouts from the store. I figure that if all else fails, these will not. They’re pretty idiot-proof, since you cut them down before they actually grow into anything. These are broccoli sprouts, soon to be joined by clover and radish sprouts. These are just now ready for harvesting; I thought that I could try planting other varieties two weeks apart, and A and I could have home-grown microgreens for the whole Summer.

So that’s my container garden! I have lots I want to do, but I’m very happy for now. And there will be more than a few How Tuesdays coming up featuring the bounty of my little containers. In a few months I’ll be ready to split my artichoke (it’s best done young) and I am still enthralled with adding pieces of friend’s gardens through cuttings or splits of interesting plants and flowers. So if you’re in the area and want to share plants, let me know!

What’s growing in your slice of the world?

M.I.A.

21 May

Hello lovelies! I’ve missed you all so much!

Things have been crazy around here at casa de BiRL, so this is going to be a drive-by posting. It’s my first year being in charge of a lot of stuff, and I’ve had rehearsals, dress rehearsals, and then performances coming out of my ears for that last two months. One more week to go (at 12 hours a day) and I’m done! Whew! Little did we know we’d more from A’s accountant busy season to my end of the school year busy season. Well, we know for next year!

So what’s new….let’s see….

As of last night my baby sister is engaged to be married. Yay!

I’m exploring exercising at odd times due to a crazy work schedule. Yay!

I’ve had one heck of a time replacing my old workout shoes and the sports bra that broke on me last week, and they STILL haven’t some in. Boo.

My dogs won’t stop digging in the garden I’m trying to build. On the plus side, it helps with the weeding. Yay! On the downside they track mud into the house. Boo.

I have two updates for the 30 Before 30 List that I’m almost done with, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Yay!

One week from today A and I will have been married for six whole years. YAY!!!

That’s all for now! Sorry for the brief post, but I’ll be able to write more as soon as my brain comes down from four hours’ sleep per night.

Done With #1 – Do You Feel the Allure?

30 Apr

I’m wearing sunscreen. Took me long enough.

Well, to be fair, I’m not putting it on every day as I should. But when I don’t I think about it – I remember –  which makes me comfortable crossing this one off The List.

I know this one isn’t the most earth-shattering to read about, so I’ll be brief. But it is a big deal for me. Being able to continue my sun-worshipping ways without looking like I have a crocodile bag for a face in twenty years is a win. And here’s the product I bought into that made it all happen:

aveeno radiant moisturizer with spf 30

And for the record, I only just found out this has been an Allure Best of Beauty pick for four years when I went searching for an image. Iso care about Allure, so I’m even more sold on the awesomeness of this product. *detect sarcasm alert*

Lightweight, silky, way cheaper than Benefit, and it doesn’t make my face taste bad. What it does is leave me with softly glowing skin without a lot of gross chemicals. I give it full credit for the surprising number of compliments I’ve gotten in the last months on how I look healthier and have a glow. (Or it could be that I’ve been working out 3-4 times a week, whateves. Not a big deal. 🙂 ) Not pregnant-lady glow, thankfully, but a just-walked-in-from-the-sun-and-I’m-full-of-life kind of glow. I’m in love. Big thanks to Sunrise, whose suggestion made me finally take home the pretty bottle I’ve looked at on the Target shelf for a year.

I said I’d be brief, so I’ll stop waxing poetic about lotion. I’ll just leave you with this last little nugget, one of my favorite ironic songs from high school.

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