Nine on the 9th: Things We HATE! (Rawr!)

It’s the 9th! So soon! Listen, neither of us tolerate change well. Change makes us crabby. And what’s been going on for us this year? Basically nothing but change. Going back to school, new office space, new internship, new apartment, so on and so forth. Change change change change change. Crabby crabby crabby crabby crabby. (We are aware that we asked for and enacted almost all of this change, but it still makes us crabby to be in flux.) So, we figured we should probably write about the things we hate for Nine on the 9th this month. Enjoy!

1. Rachel hates grass/sod. HATES it. One day we took a walk and Rachel just started yelling about all the grass in the neighborhood. She’s already a grumpy old grandpa. She is of the opinion that grass is a complete waste of space and resources and there are much better ground cover options out there. (Go ahead.  Ask her how she feels and see what happens.)

2. As we mentioned in our belated Facts on a Date post, Kristl hates being tickled. She has been known to turn into an aggressive ninja when tickled. Rachel hasn’t quite learned this (or thinks it’s amusing), and has therefore sustained many an injury from trying to tickle Kristl. In fact, Kristl hates being tickled so much, that when she was in school she often requested to be in a group of three for point location class so that she wouldn’t have to be touched (also, it sucked to have her as a point location model, as she squirmed and screamed and flailed so much it was nearly impossible to find the points accurately).

You can see just how much we love humidity here

You can see just how much we love humidity here

3. We both hate humidity and would much rather be cold than hot and sweaty. This year’s Dyke March happened to fall on a very hot and humid day, and as soon as we arrived we turned to each other and lamented about how we missed the polar vortex. Thankfully this summer has been really mild thus far!

4. Rachel hates clammy hands. Kristl’s hands are perpetually clammy. For the first few months of dating Rachel stalwartly held Kristl’s hand without any indication that it made her feel gross. She finally mentioned it and now Kristl will make a point of holding Rachel’s hand if she’s having an exceptionally clammy day. Perhaps it’s to get back at Rachel for all the damn tickling.

One of the only cakes Kristl has made that she actually enjoyed eating - triple layer banana cake with caramel frosting and a salted caramel drizzle.

One of the only cakes Kristl has made that she actually enjoyed eating – triple layer banana cake with caramel frosting and a salted caramel drizzle. It was basically super ultra mega fancy banana bread and therefore deemed edible by Kristl.

5. Kristl hates cake (most of the time). This is especially odd because she loves baking and bakes a damn good cake, she just won’t eat it. She doesn’t particularly like the texture, the frosting/cake ratio is usually off, and it’s usually too sweet. She’d much rather have something fruity and baked (pie, cobbler, buckles). Or ice cream. Or brownies. Or cookies. Basically any sweet treat other than cake. BOO CAKE.

6. We both hate shoes, though Kristl hates them more than Rachel (probably because she grew up in Hawai’i and wore rubber slippers for most of her formative years). We both have rather problematic feet and shoes tend to aggravate those problems more than sandals do. Kristl will wear sandals well into winter, even if there’s snow on the ground. At this point, we should probably buy stock in Birkenstock as we usually have about 8-9 pairs hanging around our house at any given time.

You'd never guess that she was in extreme pain and couldn't hear out of that ear!

You’d never guess that Rachel was in extreme pain and couldn’t hear out of that ear!

7. Rachel hates not being able to hear. When we got married, poor Rachel had a double ear infection and a sinus infection. After a day of being unable to hear, she started to feel like she was going crazy and was willing to do almost anything to make it better.  She was in pain and couldn’t hear completely out of her right ear for a month after. Her new life goal is to avoid ever losing her hearing again.  

8. Kristl hates most floral smells, especially roses and lavender. The other day she saw some beautiful roses, unconsciously leaned in to smell them, and immediately gagged. Rachel just looked at her like, “Why did you smell it, you dumbass?” Kristl especially hates floral flavors in food – it all tastes soapy to her, even if you think there’s “just a little” in there.

9. Adding on to that last one, we both hate artificial fragrances and the smell of chemical cleaners, even things like Febreze, that are supposed to “remove” odors. This may actually be less of a “hate” situation and more of an allergy one. There have been times we’ve actually had to leave places with strong smells because one or both of us was coughing, sneezing, and unable to breathe.

Well, that’s that. There are more things that we hate (Kristl more so than Rachel, if we’re being honest), but we’re going to stop at nine. Also, we’re actually trying to use the word “hate” less and focus on more positive things in our lives. So if you catch us bitching about things from here on out, you have permission to call us out on it.

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Windy City Times’ 30 Under 30

As those of you who ‘like’ us on Facebook might know, Rachel was honored as one of Windy City Times’ 15th Annual 30 Under 30 “best in LGBTQIA activism, business, culture, non-profit work and more.” About a month ago we received an email via our blog address saying that we’d been nominated for the 30 Under 30. When I told them I was 32, they said something along the lines of, “Oh, okay, just Rachel then.” Wah wah. (It’s actually okay, as I’m not the biggest fan of attention, so having to sit on stage during the two-hour ceremony and give a speech was much more up Rachel’s alley than mine.)

Obligatory selfie on the way to the ceremony

Obligatory selfie on the way to the ceremony

The event was co-sponsored by the Center on Halsted, Chicago House, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. It was held at the Center on Thursday evening. Our friends Hannah and Anna Rose Ii-Epstein of Nothing Without a Company were also nominated and a couple of our friends joined us, so we had a good little group of people there. We got there a little after 5:00pm for a meet-and-greet and hors d’oeuvres catered by Polo Cafe before the ceremony started at 5:30pm. All of the honorees sat onstage for the ceremony, which was hosted by Kirk Williamson (Art Director for Windy City Media Group) and Scott Duff (host of Chigaygo) in the Hoover-Leppen Theatre.

Kirk and Scott

Scott and Kirk

Kirk and Scott wasted no time getting started. They took turns announcing each honoree and reading their bio. After their bio was read, the honoree came up to give a speech, accept the award, and take a photograph with the presenter. With almost 30 people being awarded (a few were unable to make it), the ceremony took almost two hours, but it was totally worth it. It was precious, inspiring, funny, sweet, and empowering. The honorees represented so many areas of LGBTQIA life that I couldn’t even begin to mention them all. Some of them were teenagers and hearing about what they’ve accomplished at such young ages was amazing and filled me with hope. For a full list of honorees and their bios, click here or you can download the Windy City Times here.

Badly lit picture of the honorees (you should probably check out the professional photos linked at the end of the post)

Badly lit picture of the honorees (you should probably check out the professional photos linked at the end of the post)

Rachel was toward the end of the honorees, so she had a long time to come up with her speech. Earlier in the day, I gently suggested that she stay away from any plant metaphors, as her inspirational speech about determinate vs. indeterminate tomatoes is not quite fully formed yet. (When it’s ready, though, y’all will most definitely get to hear it.) Now, I know she’s my wife, but I think she did a great job!

I’ve queued it up to Rachel’s part, but it’s a video of the entire ceremony.

After the honorees were finished being announced, Tracy Baim (Publisher & Executive Editor of Windy City Media Group), came up and said a few words. Then we went out to the lounge, had some more food, and chatted up the attendees. All in all, it was a wonderful event. Nominations for the 30 Under 30 are taken in the spring, so start thinking about awesome queers you know who are under 30!

Rachel tied that bow tie herself. Also, notice the cookie in her hand.

Rachel tied that bow tie herself. Also, notice the cookie in her hand.

For the professional photos of the event, click here.

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Facts on a Date! – INJURIES!

Tuesday, June 10, I woke up and the first thing I thought was, “Oh no! We missed Nine on the 9th!” (I’m not even kidding. It was literally the first thing I thought when I opened my eyes.) As always, we’ve got a boatload of things going on – Rachel started her internship at the Chicago Botanic Garden‘s Fruit and Vegetable Garden (meaning she has to get up at 4:45am, so that’s been quite the adjustment!), I finally was able to start seeing patients in my new practice space, we decided to move a few blocks north of our current apartment because we got an out-of-the-blue offer to rent a friend’s condo for the next 2-5 years, AND we set a date for our wedding reception. All of that happened in a span of a week or so, hence the complete lack of a Nine on the 9th post. To make it up for you, we’re going to do a random number of facts on whatever date we end up finishing this post! Aren’t you the luckiest?!

1. When Kristl was around 3 or 4, she sprained her arm diving across the room to grab a toy bus. This is the first “real” injury she remembers.

Kristl couldn't find a pic of her sprained arm, so she thought this adorable ruffled-bikini-bandaid-on-each-knee pic would be a good alternative.

Kristl couldn’t find a pic of her sprained arm, so she thought this adorable ruffled-bikini-bandaid-on-each-knee pic would be a good alternative.

2. About six weeks before graduating from high school, Rachel was participating in the dress rehearsal of her high school musical review and was rushing to get to the dressing room and tripped over own (damn) feet.  She went sprawling, and broke her elbow (also sprained her ankle, gave herself a mild concussion, and shattered the bracelet she was wearing at the time).  When the dust settled, she wasn’t quite sure exactly what had happened, and for better or worse, no one had seen her fall, so there she was, curled up in a fetal position for no apparent reason. She did sing in most of the musical review that weekend with her arm in a sling and with her mind on Vicodin.

The show must go on, even with a broken elbow, sprained ankle, and concussion.

The show must go on, even with a broken elbow, sprained ankle, and concussion.

3. As a junior in high school, Kristl fell down walking so many times, that she had to have knee surgery. Seriously. The first incident happened on the first day of band camp – they were practicing marching formations and her knee gave way when she popped her heel up. She had to sit out for the entirety of camp (it was on the Big Island, so she couldn’t easily go home). The final time, she was supposed to participate in a panel discussion at school. She was walking across the courtyard and her knee gave out again. She blacked out from the pain and the next thing she knew she was lying on a bench. She ended up having surgery on her meniscus. One of her greatest regrets is getting general anesthesia instead of local – she really wanted to watch the surgery!

4. In summer 2012, in the way of most lesbians in love, Kristl and Rachel decided to finally shack up.  This involved moving some of Rachel’s stuff temporarily into a storage space.  Rachel cleverly decided wear open-toed sandals for the big move and managed to rip off her left big toenail while moving a piece of her sectional.  Blood squirted everywhere for a little while, which was awesome, and it took almost an entire year for the toenail to grow back completely. For some reason, we affectionately named the affected toe “Toebert.”

5. As a senior in high school, Kristl managed to chip her knee cap without coming into contact with anything. She was standing up, turned to do something, and felt such excruciating pain in her knee that she fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes. She reached out to break her fall and almost tore a cabinet door off its hinges. She ended up in a full leg brace, which is really awesome when you’re sixteen.

Leg brace + DIY too short bangs = best senior year ever

Leg brace + DIY too short bangs = best senior year

6. When Rachel was training to be an Resident Assistant at Calvin College, they went on a three day biking/camping trip as part of the training.  On the last day of the bike trip, Rachel was getting off of her bike, but the clips holding her feet in got stuck.  Her legs were still stuck to the bike, but her body was not, so she dislocated her right kneecap.  It was the most painful thing. By far. Ever.  The knee cap migrated back to it’s usual place once her teammates helped her off the bike, but she definitely didn’t do anymore biking or walking on that trip or for a while.

Rachel (possibly) writing angsty poetry about her dislocated knee cap.

Rachel (possibly) writing angsty poetry about her dislocated knee cap.

7. Shortly before Kristl visited Chicago for the first time, she sprained her knee doing a dip while swing dancing. She had to navigate Chicago on crutches, which may be why so many people asked her for directions. She fell in love with the city and moved here for good two months later.

8. As an eight year-old, one day in the early spring, Rachel had a day off from school and was just helping her dad do errands around town while wearing her snow boots.  Somehow this made her sprain her Achilles tendon. Mysteries abound. (I believe it’s because the snow boots were a bit over-sized and stressed out her poor tendons trying to keep the boots and her feet all in the same place.)

9. During a slow afternoon at esthetician school, Kristl made a coffee run for her classmates, even though she has never been a coffee drinker. On her way back, she stepped  off a curb wrong, sprained both her ankles, and fell face first in the street. She managed not to spill a drop of the 79 cent coffees in her hands, so there’s that. She tore up both knees, which is even more of a sight when you’re required to wear all white, as she was for school. She also had to wear an aircast on each ankle for weeks after. She still has those aircasts and, unfortunately, still uses them on occasion.

10. Rachel and her dad used to go scuba diving in old rock quarries around the Chicagoland area.  (This is not as weird as it sounds, but it is kinda weird.  People make money by filling in old rock quarries with water and fish, sinking small boats, helicopters, planes, etc in the quarries and then charging scuba divers to dive in them during the warm months.  Usually, people learn how to dive here, so they can be ready when they go somewhere where it’s actually pleasant to scuba dive like, I don’t know, the Bahamas.  But some interesting people, like the Schipulls, will go for fun.)  Rachel had finished her dive and was bobbing around the surface taking pictures of the fish with her underwater camera.  Suddenly, a bluegill jumped out of the water and bit Rachel in the eye. This caused quite the commotion as you could imagine, but luckily Rachel was wearing soft contacts at the time and the bluegill got a mouth full of corrective lens and Rachel went home with a sore eye and one less contact.

11. About six weeks after they started dating, Kristl sprained her ankle dancing at a friend’s wedding. Rachel had been liberally partaking of the open bar and was in no shape to drive them home, so they had to wait for her to sober up. Kristl is staunchly independent and was beyond mortified to need Rachel’s help that night. She actually tried to crawl to her condo from the parking lot because she didn’t want Rachel to help her walk. Rachel, however, was insistent and Kristl finally gave in.

Dishonorable mentions:

12. Rachel has some fire ant scars on her right wrist from growing up in Florida where you have to check the color of the ants you are working with.  Black ants are relatively benign, red ants will mess you up.

13. Kristl hates being tickled; Rachel sometimes tickles Kristl anyways.  Sad things happen.

Kristl *really* doesn't like being tickled

Rachel suffers from a post-tickle injury. Kristl *really* hates being tickled.

14. Despite her numerous injuries, Kristl has never actually broken a bone. The closest she’s gotten is that chipped knee cap. *knock on wood*

15. When you are having a grand mal seizure, the common medical advice is for your friends and family member to arrange you on your side so that you do not choke or lose the ability to breathe (job #1).  When you are convulsing, your joints are kinda at the mercy of physics and gravity and whatever else might be lying around. Rachel tends to get seizures while she’s asleep, so she was already on her side the last time she had a grand mal. Because she was on her side while seizing, her poor shoulder took the brunt of it and ended up dislocating. Dumb epilepsy. (We are still taking donations to pay for Rachel’s medical bills, if you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, please feel free do so here.)

Well, there you have it!  A random number of facts on a random day!  Although, here is a random fact that is not related to injuries: Rachel and Kristl just passed their three year anniversary! (AWWWWW.) They will try to be careful and not have any more ridiculous injuries as they go forward with all their big changes this summer. Happy last week of June everyone!

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Farm Focus: Radical Root Organic Farm

Tomatoes in the Hoophouse

Some folks find it straight up unbelievable that I plan to live in the third largest city in the United States of America and be a farmer at the same time. Unbelievable. Everyday, however, it becomes more reasonable to think about farming as a career choice in big cities and small cities alike. City governments are becoming more friendly towards the interests and needs of urban farmers and urban farmers are gaining an economic foothold in the markets where city people buy their all-important fresh vegetables. It’s a win-win situation.

However, no matter how fabulous and rich urban farming becomes there is always going to be a niche for what we (in the business) call para-urban farming.  This is roughly suburban farming.  These farms are far enough away from a major city to have large tracks of land available (in some way) for primarily farm work, but close enough to the city to get the business from those consumers who are not willing or able to grow their own food. Where urban farms may be small enough to only use hand tools, para-urban farms may warrants a tractor or a backhoe, if they’re into large scale machinery.

Just a good ole farm scene

In our study of urban farming this spring, we took a very exciting and very muddy field trip to visit a para-urban farm, Radical Root Organic Farm in Libertyville, Illinois. Radical Root is lucky because they are living and growing on land that is owned by a conservation organization.  It is bordered by parkland on one side and land owned by another municipality on the other side.  Alex, the farmer and our guide, noted that there was no way he and his family could have afforded to buy the land they live on and they were also lucky that alfalfa had been growing organically on the land for some time, so gaining “organic” status was not as tedious a process for them.  They had started their farm at another location known as a farm “incubator”, which not only helps farmers improve their skills at farming but also at the business of farming.  They have a lease on the land for ten years, and the Civil War era barn on the property was retrofitted for a weekend market and post harvest handling, mostly to their specifications.  Basically, it’s a pretty sweet deal.

The day we visited Radical Root was very muddy.  We were split up throughout the day, I spent the morning in the hoop-house (a semi-permanent plastic greenhouse) “bumping up” tomatoes to bigger seedling pots.  The cold spring we’ve had has made it difficult to get hot weather crops (like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc) in the ground early, so Alex was giving his tomatoes more room indoors so the plants would be bigger when he could finally move them outdoors.  In the afternoon, we planted all manner of things outside in the mud, including cabbage, fennel, and lettuce.  I have heavy-duty, water geologist-approved muck boots, but I was still up to my ankles in mud and slipping all over the places.  It was a day of hard work at the farm, but it was fun to see how things get done at a farm with a little more space and less infrastructure to deal with.

My mud covered boots

Rachel’s muddy boots

Alex already has 300 chickens who Kristl and I got an egg share from last summer and they are planning on moving up to 600 chickens, but this year, they are only including egg shares on their vegetable CSAs.  If you interested in a CSA and you have not committed to one yet, I can highly recommend these farmers and their products.  They definitely know what they are doing and they will make sure you a delicious box crammed with fresh organic veggies every week all summer.  They drop off at the Uncommon Ground in Edgewater, Green City Market by the Lincoln Park Zoo, or the Logan Square Market, so there’s options for everyone.  If you aren’t into commitment, they sell veggies at Green City and Logan Square Markets a la carte as well.

Check out their website here for more information: http://www.radicalrootfarm.com/

Our Friends the Chickens

Our friends the chickens

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Epilepsy Complicates Things

Hey everyone, Kristl here. I realized last night that we haven’t really talked about Rachel’s epilepsy diagnosis, save for a brief mention in our sustainable living update. It’s a big focus of our lives right now, so I think it’s time to share more about it. She had her first seizure in 2006, but was misdiagnosed with panic attacks. Her seizures tend to present with a blank stare, a feeling of panic, stomach churning, and occasional smells/sounds. She continued having these episodes off and on for the next 7 years, with nothing seeming to help. Doctors sent her to psychiatrists, who put her on anti-anxiety meds, which sometimes worsened the seizures.

When we started dating in 2011, she told me about the panic attacks and I thought it was an odd presentation, but didn’t really question the diagnosis. A year and a half later, after witnessing many of these so-called “panic attacks,” I realized that I they might be seizures. I did a lot of research before mentioning my hunch to Rachel, as I didn’t want her to freak out. When I was pretty sure I was right, we took our concerns to our primary care physician. Unfortunately, she told Rachel that if there wasn’t a motor component, it was unlikely she was having seizures (wrong). Rachel asked for a CT scan and the doctor hemmed and hawed, saying that she could write the script, but would then have to explain it to the insurance company. Rachel pressed on and got her to begrudgingly write the script, but then we couldn’t afford the scan, since it wasn’t “medically necessary.”

Fast forward to October, 2013. We were doing a strict eating plan, gearing up for our wedding, and she was working out the details of applying to school and possibly quitting her job. On the morning of Thursday, October 24, 2013, I was lying in bed awake when Rachel started smacking her lips. This was frequently a precursor to her episodes, so I did what I normally do, which is hold her hand until the seizure passes. This time, however, after smacking her lips, she let out an animalistic wail and then her entire body started seizing. The seizing stopped relatively quickly (though it felt like ages), and she lay there, unresponsive, foaming at the mouth, making a guttural sound when she breathed. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

All hooked up after being all shook up

All hooked up after being all shook up

I called 9-1-1, and the paramedics took her to the ER. I followed shortly, bringing a bag with socks, a book, her phone, and a charger, but forgetting her glasses and wallet – way to go, me! She underwent blood tests and a CT scan in the ER before they decided to admit her. While she was in the hospital, she got an EEG, which showed significant seizure activity, and an MRI, which showed a congenital sclerosis on her right temporal lobe. She was diagnosed with epilepsy and put on medication.

Unfortunately, the medication hasn’t been working that well. She’s had clusters of seizures in the months since her grand mal, and each time her neurologist has upped her dose. She’d feel better for a bit, but then experience seizures again. We were really hoping it would work, since it’s the one that has the least amount of side effects.

This past Monday night (May 19, 2014), she had another grand mal seizure. Thankfully, my sister was visiting, so I didn’t have to take care of everything myself. She was an enormous help. This time around, she was only in the ER for a few hours before being discharged. She’s recovering more quickly than she did in October, but she did have two more small seizures last night. This is typical, as seizures usually cluster, but it’s pretty stressful. We’re meeting with the neurologist tomorrow to discuss changing her medication.

As we’ve mentioned previously, I’m in the process of moving my acupuncture practice to a new office. This is a huge, exciting, very expensive endeavor. As can be expected (even though I was hoping it wouldn’t be true for me), there have been numerous delays with the construction and I’ve been without a regular practice space for the month of May. This has left us with very little in the way of income for this month and unexpected medical bills are not a pleasant surprise.

We’ve set up a YouCaring fundraiser page to help raise money to pay for Rachel’s medical expenses and help us pay for some household bills for the month. We’re very close to being funded, so if you can share it or have a bit of money to spare, we would greatly appreciate it. If you have any questions, have gone through a similar struggle with a misdiagnosed/difficult-to-control seizure disorder, or have advice for Kristl on how to deal with the fear and stress (mild PTSD?) that goes along with this situation, let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

Here’s the link to the fundraising page again: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/shaking-the-money-tree-to-fund-fewer-seizures/181030!

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Nine on the 9th – Birthday Edition

Tomorrow, May 10, is Kristl’s birthday, so we figured we should do a Nine on the 9th with birthday facts!

1. Kristl was born at 3:17 pm on Monday, May 10, 1982, in Honolulu, HI. It was the day after Mother’s Day. She’s about to turn 32.

2. Rachel was born at 12:09am on Wednesday, September 26, 1984, in Panama City, FL. She’ll be 30 this year.

3. Kristl isn’t a huge fan of birthdays. She won’t be mad if you say “Happy Birthday!” and give her a hug, but she would usually rather not celebrate hers and doesn’t agree with the idea of obligatory gift giving. (Her philosophy on gift giving is that if you see something that someone you know would like or that reminds you of someone, you should get it for that person, whether or not you have a reason to. Of course, this is only if you are comfortable buying said item. She once saw a $400 cross stitch of rainbow penguins that reminded her of a friend, but she didn’t buy it for him because four hundred dollars for a cross stitch.) She also WAY prefers have experiences/time with people rather than more stuff, so if you absolutely have to do something for her birthday, offer to take her out for a nice meal. Done.

On the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier on Rachel's 28th birthday.

On the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier on Rachel’s 28th birthday.

4. Rachel loves birthdays. L-O-V-E-S them.  In high school, she would keep a countdown on the dry-erase board in her locker starting AT LEAST 30 days out from her birthday.  And she would drop hints, trick people into talking about it, force other people to plan their social events around her birthday celebration, etc… if Facebook had existed then, she would have been fully insufferable.

Kristl was thrilled to be having a birthday party

Kristl was thrilled to be having a birthday party

5.  For Kristl’s 30th, Rachel convinced her to have a party. They kept it low-key and planned a potluck at a beach park. Because of scheduling issues (i.e. a 10-day road trip to Florida during Kristl’s actual birthday), the party didn’t happen until June. They got to the beach park a couple hours early to set up and claim the spot. Shortly there after, Kristl started to break down. She cried, said she didn’t want to have a party because she didn’t want people paying attention to her, and decided to leave. Rachel had to talk her down and tell her that her friends would probably be disappointed arrive at her birthday party to find that she’d gone home. Kristl ended up staying and having a good time, but it will forever be the benchmark of how NOT to throw a party for her birthday.

6. Rachel vividly remembers her fourth birthday party only because everyone bought her Barbie dolls and she was wildly disappointed.  She wanted nothing to do with Barbies because they were boring.  All she wanted was dinosaurs, dinosaurs, dinosaurs… with some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles thrown in for good measure. Future birthdays made up for this by including games where participants had to act like dinosaurs and Rachel getting to wear a shirt with a dinosaur on it.  Thank goodness.

Check out the cool "What-ever!" hat and the Walkman Kristl got for her 14th birthday. Also, her boyfriend at the time was sitting next to her, but she cut him out of the photo in a fit of teen angst.

Check out the cool “What-ever!” hat and the Walkman Kristl got for her 14th birthday. Also, her “boyfriend” at the time was sitting next to her, but she later cut him out of the photo in a fit of teen angst.

7. When she was 15, Kristl had a big party. The plan was to hang out at the beach for a few hours, then go back to her house to watch movies and eat pizza. This time Kristl had such a good time at the beach that she forgot (or neglected? she was 15, who knows) to put on sunscreen. She got such a bad sunburn that when they got back to her house she essentially passed out in her mom’s air conditioned bedroom. Her friends gathered in the living room and watched movies and ate pizza without her. It’s still one of the more memorable birthdays she’s had.

8. Rachel’s family had a tradition of taking her to Red Lobster for her birthday, which she was really into because shrimp are delicious.  Every year, she would enthusiastically order a virgin strawberry daiquiri to start, whatever entree would allow her to eat the most shrimp prepared in the most different ways (with cheddar biscuits, of course) and whatever dessert had the most chocolate, so the restaurant staff would be forced to light a candle on it and sing happy birthday to her while she had a foam lobster on her head. Ah… traditions.

Cocktail party thumbs up!

Cocktail party thumbs up!

9. In 2011, still near the beginning of our relationship, Rachel decided to host a fancy cocktail birthday party at her apartment at the time (which was really an excellent location for a large party!) We applied new and exciting stresses to our relationship, by visiting locations such as Men’s Warehouse (looking for an appropriate suit), hiring a photographer, and inviting in guests from out of town.  Those of you who were there know it was a wild party.  That’s because birthdays are so fun!! (Including outfits, food, the photographer, and other sundries, we together spent about $800 on this party, ridiculous. We spent only slightly more on our wedding.)

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How We Do Sustainable Living – Year Two

Hello friends and readers! We have just entered the second year of this blog and another year of concentrated sustainable queerness!

Celebrating spring and our one-year anniversary with Bradley!

Celebrating spring and our one-year anniversary with Bradley!

Last year, shortly after starting our blog, we provided you with an introductory post about why and how we live sustainably and call ourselves Sustainably Queer.  We decided that as a means of looking back and celebrating our one year anniversary, it would be fun to revisit that post.  Please find a revised and annotated version of “How We Do” below! Spoiler alert: there have been some pretty big changes!

Note: This may go without saying, but new actions/changes are listed in bold, things we are no longer doing are crossed out, and notes are in green. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions.

Projects related to housekeeping:

  • Making orange infused vinegar for cleaning   – We decided that we don’t mind the smell of vinegar enough to go through this process regularly, plus the one batch I made last year lasted almost an entire year. We may do this again, but it’s not high on the list.
  • Woodworking with reclaimed wood We took one class from the Rebuilding Exchange, but we haven’t continued woodworking. We still have three unfinished table tops chilling in the basement, so hopefully eventually they will become tables, but who knows when.
  • Using rags instead of paper towels - We do this as much as possible, though we still haven’t found a good substitute for paper towels for draining bacon (we’re going to try some of these options soon).
  • Buying post-consumer recycled paper products and aluminum foil
  • Giving away two items for every one item we bring into the house This is still the rule, but we’ve been scaling way back on our buying, so sometimes we give away things even without buying something new. A larger purge is planned for early summer, so we can put stuff away without feeling cluttered about it.
  • Trying to buy things with as little packaging as possible
  • Switched to wind powered electricity (it’s cheaper too!) - Still going strong!
  • Using homemade washable swiffer pads - Love these still!
  • Recycling basically everything we can - We are planning a “How to Effectively Recycle in Chicago” post at some point, there are tricks to it.
  • Leather-working with Chicago School of Shoemaking - You can check out our blog about the experience here. We’re currently saving up to take Leatherwork 201, with the end goal being saving up enough to take the Beginning Shoemaking class because, really, what’s more awesome and sustainable than being to make your own shoes?!
  • Large-scale refrigerator/freezer organization - Things got real about a week ago when we bought some Fridge Binz. Yes, we try to avoid bringing more plastic into our home, but we also try to avoid wasting food. We weighed the pros and cons and decided to go with the plastic bins for now, with the idea of switching to bamboo or metal sometime in the future, if we find something that fits our needs. 

Projects related to self care:

  • Using baking soda as shampoo – It took her years, but Kristl finally figured out a way to make this work for her hair. She’s planning a post on it soon.
  • Making homemade deodorant - Rachel uses this exclusively, Kristl’s pits are more delicate, so she’s still searching for a recipe that her skin can handle.
  • Making homemade lotion/balm
  • Making homemade facial oil blend
  • Using Chinese medicine/natural healing home remedies instead of Western medicine cures - With the addition of epilepsy to her life, Rachel is now obligated to take a Western medication to control it, but otherwise, we are mostly reliant on acupuncture, chiropractic, and herbal medicine to keep us healthy.
  • Using OraWellness tooth oil instead of toothpaste (aff link)
  • Receiving acupuncture/chiropractic/massage regularly for health and balance
  • Meditation practice – We both really could stand to meditate more often and for longer, but it’s still helpful even in small doses!
  • Using eco-friendly, reusable menstrual products - We’re planning a post about menstrual cups and cloth pads/liners in the next few months. 

Projects related to food:

  • Making stock with veggie scraps and chicken bones
  • Saving bacon fat and using it to cook other things (like sweet potatoes, yum!) - This isn’t actually a new thing, we just forgot to include it on our initial list.
  • Making staples for the week (baked-boiled eggs, congee, etc) – We still do this, though the staples themselves have changed.  Recently, we’ve been making a lot of breakfast bars, and soups/stews that are good for eating over 3-4 days. 
  • Making bigger batches of the meals we create so we can freeze portions for when we aren’t able to cook - This has saved us on many occasions! We can pull a container out of the freezer and have it for lunch or dinner instead of going out to eat or getting takeout. 
  • Making homemade drink syrups (to flavor carbonated water)
  • Infusing liquors (vanilla vodka and ginger vodka so far) - Rachel has infused vodka with all manner of things, including pineapple, blueberries and a specific spice blend to make it taste like gin.
  • Drinking vinegars, a.k.a. shrubs  We love a good shrub, but we make so much kombucha now, making drinking vinegar also would be too much
  • Making our own kombucha - So much cheaper than buying it!  
  • Making ricotta, yogurt, mustard, cheez-its, etc from scratch - Again, the actual things we’re making from scratch has changed, but we are still committed to buying as few packaged/processed foods as possible.
  • Canning, fermenting, and dehydrating food for long term preservation
  • We bought an upright freezer - We can keep more meat and veggies in the house and put up fruit and veggies from the summer without messing with as much canning. We now have more versatility in how we “preserve” produce.
  • Bringing lunch to work/school
  • Trying to eat locally sourced, humane and organic food as much as possible
  • Signing up for CSA and egg share  – We’ve changed our approach on this since Rachel is in farm school this year.  We will probably have some access to vegetables that we didn’t have before and hopefully we will be able to grow more than we did last year.  The egg share we had last season has been restructured to only be offered to CSA members, so we are no longer getting a carton of eggs a week.  This is kind of a relief, as at one point last summer we had 4 dozen eggs in our fridge.
  • Joined a meat and egg co-op - True Nature Foods has a relationship with a local, pastured farm where the consumer pays $60 a year for membership and is then able to order/purchase a wide variety of meat products and eggs for a reduced price.  This makes eggs cheaper than our egg share and we only have to buy them when we need them. We are doing our best to only eat meat from local, pastured, humane farms.
  • Using all of an item if we buy it, e.g. whole chicken, eating beet greens and broccoli stems
  • Choosing to eat at restaurants that serve sustainably sourced food - This is a huge consideration especially where meat is concerned.  Every choice you make about where to spend your food dollars impacts how safely and sustainably food is produced, in general. Cheaper food is almost always cheap due to government subsidies or externalities (pollution, run-off, inhumane practices, lack of oversight, diminished workers’ rights, etc), higher quality food is often more expensive because care was put into it’s production and little harm was done to third parties (consumers, workers, animals). Not only do you vote with your money, you also farm with your money, by proxy.
  • Participating in community food events, like the Chicago Food Swap, Soup & Bread, Good Food Festival

Miscellaneous Projects:

  • Not buying cable
  • Homemade gifts - We didn’t buy any Christmas presents in 2013.  We either created or re-gifted everything we gave out or we didn’t give gifts at all.  It worked out perfectly.
  • Feeding our cat and dog grain free/raw pet food
  • Using community garden plot and backyard to grow food - We just got clearance from our landlord to use some of our backyard space to grow more things.  This is a very exciting development and we are still deciding how to make it functional and beautiful.
  • Reusing jars and bottles for all forms of storage
  • Worm composting - Worms and composting took a little bit of a hiatus over the winter.  They hung out in our basement because the “earthy” smell was a bit much for us in the apartment.  The basement was cold, given our wily winter, but I have seen signs of life, so hopefully worm composting will be back in order soon. 
  • Bugeting via You Need A Budget (YNAB) - With Rachel quitting her full-time job and Kristl going through an office relocation, we knew 2014 was going to be a different picture financially.  We took the pro-active approach and started zero-sum budgeting in December with a program called You Need A Budget.  Things have been going very well so far.  We have been able to save in advance for big bills (like car insurance) and put money away for upcoming big expenses (new car?).  It’s pretty awesome. They offer a free trial, so you have no reason to try it out for a bit. Full disclosure, if you sign up using the link above you get 10% off and we get $6. Win win. Also, they are now offering their system to college students for free, so if that’s you, check it out!
  • Tithing/giving to projects and people who are trying to make the world a better place in a sustainable way
  • Kristl is moving her practice to a location with-in walking distance of our house This exciting for all kinds of reasons, but primarily because she will not need to use the car!

Well, that’s about everything, it is a bit overwhelming, but we’re managing ok on a day-to-day basis.  As always, feel free to check out anything we link to and ask us more questions about the products/processes.  We are always willing to write posts based on reader interest, so if there are specific topics you want to hear more about, please let us know in the comments below!

Thank you for all your support! Here’s to the success of year one, and plenty of sustainable queerness to fill year two and beyond.

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Soup and Bread: Delicious Community

Our process of choosing which posts to write and when sometimes makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t.  Writing a post about the Good Food Festival within a week or two of going to the Good Food Festival makes sense, but writing a post about a weekly “winter” event as spring is (finally) dawning does not make a whole heap of sense.  However, Kristl and I were finally able to make it to Soup & Bread last night and were inspired to share it with you ASAP, even though there’s only one week left for you to try it out this year.

Tofu Matzo Ball Soup

Tofu Matzo Ball Soup

Rather than recreate the wheel, I’ll let Soup & Bread’s website explain what they are and how it got started:

Soup & Bread is a free weekly community meal based at the Hideout, a bar and music venue in Chicago.

Each week we round up a handful of chefs, caterers, musicians, writers, artists, and home cooks of every persuasion to donate pots of soup. We serve them up to all comers — along with fresh bread donated by Publican Quality Meats — until the pots run dry or the late-night jazz guys kick us out. It was designed to be an easy, low-key way to get folks out of the house and socializing in the dead of a dark Chicago winter — not to mention, when we started this up in 2009 our friends were losing their jobs left and right. At times these past few years it’s seemed the entire city could use a nice hot bowl of soup.

Toward that end, while the meal is free, we solicit pay-what-you-can donations each week that are donated in turn to a wide range of neighborhood food pantries and hunger relief agencies. Over the last five years, through events at the Hideout and out of town in Madison, New York City, Seattle, and beyond, we have raised more than $40,000 for Chicago-area food pantries as well as the Greater Chicago Food Depository (the central food bank serving the Chicago region), the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, and Western Washington’s Food Lifeline.

So, basically, you show up between 5:30 and 8pm on a Wednesday in the winter, grab a bowl, give a cash donation if you’re able, and get in line. There are usually 4-6 different soup offerings loosely grouped under a theme.  The cooks are stationed behind their soups and serve you, plus they are usually excited to talk about their soup and offer additions.  There are tables and chairs set up throughout the bar and the tables have giant baskets filled with hunks of crusty, donated sourdough bread.  People are encouraged to try multiple soups and mingle with the other folks in the room.  There are a few buckets sitting around for donations, and usually the charity or non-profit benefiting from the event will have their literature out to peruse or take home.

Vegan Thom Kha Soup

Vegan Thom Kha Soup

I think we’ve been 3-4 times total, and the soup has been consistently delicious.  There is always a good variety, and I think the organizers try to have a solid mix of professional chefs and home chefs, and meat, veggie, and vegan options. This week was a good example of that.  The theme was “Tastes Like Chicken” and there was a vegetarian tofu matzo ball, vegan tom khai, rabbit and pork pozole, spicy sicilian chicken, vegan cream of chicken, and ramen with hard-boiled eggs and pork belly.  Lots of different flavors, but I think our favorite of the evening was the pozole, with the ramen as the close second.  The cooks had clearly put a lot of care into their creations and the atmosphere was jovial. Drinks were available at the bar and we even saw people we know! What’s not to love?

Pozole (L) and Ramen (R)

Pozole (L) and Ramen (R)

All this is to say that you have ONE MORE WEEK to try it out for this season. The theme is “The Fields”, and there will be pie… Check out Soup & Bread on April 16, and you might just see us there.

Here are some basic tips we’ve come up with if you’re planning on going to Soup & Bread:

  • Bring your own bowl and spoon. This way you’re helping the environment AND making the stash of disposable bowls and spoons go a little further.
  • This is probably obvious, but bring cash. There are a few donation jars throughout the space and you can put in as much or as little as you like.
  • You can go up to the soup bar multiple times – we tend to go about three times per person, to try different soups and get a good meal in.
  • Talk to the people at your table. This event is about community, so at the very least, smile and say hi to those with whom you’re sitting.
  • This may be our own rule, but we don’t go back for seconds of a soup we liked. The quantities are limited and we want them to last so that as many people as possible can enjoy them.
  • We also tend to steer away from the soups that cater to dietary restrictions because we do eat meat, gluten, and dairy, so we want people who don’t eat those things to be able to enjoy their experience at Soup & Bread and have as many options as possible.
  • Get there early! They’ve run out of at least some soup every time we’ve gone, so if you want to have the most variety, get there early.
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Nine on the 9th – Pet Edition

All right, y’all, here we go again. First off, earlier this year we mentioned we had some big changes happening around here. One of those changes was Rachel quitting her job and going back to school, which we’ve already talked about. The other is that Kristl is moving into her own practice space. We’re very excited, but it’s definitely a time consuming process, so we’ll probably be light on the posts for the next 4-6 weeks.

Bradley, doped up on meds after his first surgery

Bradley, doped up on meds after his first surgery

1. Kristl adopted Bradley in September of 2006. He was 4-6 years old at the time. He then had to have four surgeries (two on each hind leg) in the first year and a half that Kristl had him.

Delilah likes the fancy things in life

Delilah likes the fancy things in life

2. Rachel adopted Delilah in 2007 after returning another cat that was so annoying she couldn’t get any sleep. She looked at Delilah and thought, “She seems less annoying.” and the rest is history.

Bradley resting

Bradley resting

3. Kristl has “diagnosed” Bradley with canine sleep aggression. If you bother him while he is resting or sleeping, he will growl, bark, and bite. Back when Bradley used to sleep in her bed (before Rachel came along), Kristl managed to train herself to give him verbal warnings in her sleep if she was going to move or turn over.

Down coats are her favorite

Down coats are her favorite

4. Delilah doesn’t like boxes, but she does like being under things like tables and chairs. She also likes being in drawers and on top of crinkly things. She absolutely LOVES lying on winter coats.

Drawer cat

Drawer cat

5. Bradley does not like it if you talk on the phone. He will cry and whimper unless you pet him while talking on the phone. It makes it difficult to make any sort of professional or important calls from home.

6. Delilah has a white spot in the middle of her back and a tiny white spot on the tip of her left ear. She has a little brown spot on the side of her nose that Rachel thinks makes her look dirty. Her left hind leg looks like it has a bandage on it.

Swimming like a champ

Swimming like a champ

7. Bradley occasionally stopped using his left hind leg at the end of 2012. By the spring of 2013 he’d stopped using it completely. In the fall of 2013, we started him in water therapy. He was supposed to walk on an under-water treadmill, but he was so agitated he kept trying to bite (seriously, every single entry in his chart says “WILL BITE”). One of the awesome vet techs figured out that Bradley would swim without getting nearly as agitated, so we switched to that. At the end, though, the weekly trips were too stressful and we decided to stop for the time being. He is showing some improvement in his leg usage, so it was worth it!

8. If you’re crying, Delilah will immediately check on you to see if you’re okay. She’ll then cuddle up to you and won’t leave until you stop crying.

It looks like they might actually like each other!

It looks like they might actually like each other!

9. It took Bradley and Delilah some time to get used to each other. Delilah would often swat and hiss at Bradley when he walked by, or Bradley would growl when Delilah walked near him on the couch. Gradually, their aggressions became more and more half-hearted. Now they tolerate each other and mainly look surprised when they realize the other one exists.

P.S. The hardest part of writing this post was deciding which ADORABLE pictures to post with it.  You’re welcome.

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Good Food Festival – Chicago: Our Overview

Selfie at the Exhibition Hall

Selfie at the Exhibition Hall

Recently, on March 14, Rachel and I went to the Food Policy Conference at the Good Food Festival, because we’re giant nerds. (Seriously, we were talking about it and decided to go for it since neither of us could remember the last time we’d done anything “fun” other than going out to eat – yes, we decided going to a Food Policy Conference would be a good use of our fun money.) We opted to skip the morning symposium and arrived just after 10am to explore the exhibition floor before the first talk.

The first talk we attended was called “Urban Agriculture and Local Food Enterprises” and the panel included a couple speakers presenting on community-focused food and agricultural developments in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.  There was also a representative from the City of Chicago’s Planning and Development department.  The panel finished up with a speaker from Cleveland’s Green City Growers, one of the Evergreen Cooperative‘s community-owned, job-creating companies that focuses on farming in their city.  The panel was illuminating and a good introduction to our day. We hope to give you a more detailed post of some of these organizations in later posts.

After this panel, we got a whole hour for lunch and some time to browse around the exhibition floor. We got a kale burger from Green Spirit, a pulled pork sandwich from Gunthorp Farms, and mac and cheese with bacon sausage from Big Fork.  We usually take the opportunity to eat meat when we can be sure of the production practices behind it, so we chose the pork and sausage because they were locally sourced from farms we trust.  The kale burger was from a small vegan restaurant in Rogers Park, and the best thing about it was the beet ketchup. Go figure. After eating, we nabbed some Butter Bella cookies for later and talked to the folks from Seeds of Change.  Seeds of Change was giving away cool bags and free grocery items, like jars of tikka masala sauce. We never say no to free food.

Seeds of Change had a #PledgeToPlant photo booth

Seeds of Change had a #PledgeToPlant photo booth

After lunch, we went to our next panel session on “Creating Justice and Food-Secure Communities with Sustainable Methods,” which featured more speakers from the south side of Chicago, working on various projects related to alleviating food deserts and giving people more agency when they are making choices about what they eat.  Most striking from this bunch was Naomi Davis from Blacks in Green, who not only gave us a full picture of their vision for a fully walk-able economy in West Woodlawn, but was also inspiring in a general sense.  Here is a quote from Blacks in Green’s website:

“We serve as bridge and catalyst among communities and their stakeholders in the design and development of “walk-to-work, walk-to-shop, walk-to-learn, walk-to-play villages” within black neighborhoods…our walkable villages are designed to increase household income, by increasing the rate at which neighbor-owned businesses are created and sustained, thus keeping resident money active locally, supporting community self interests, and preserving the heritage of a place. Thus, we address the terrible triplets of pollution, poverty, and plutocracy.”

Pretty inspiring, right?  I know, here in Edgewater, we have some semblance of this, especially when the majority of our work, food, and play takes place within walking distance. It’s not meant to say we never want to leave the neighborhood, merely that the ideal sphere for human interaction and community building is within a 1/4-1/2 mile radius of your home.  Click through to Blacksingreen.org to learn more about their Eight Principles of Green Village Building.  Clearly, this is fodder for a whole post separate post, as well.

Fair Trade banana from Dill Pickle Co-op

Fair Trade banana from Dill Pickle Co-op

Finally, we thought Rachel would find the “Good Food U – How can Chicago-area higher education support healthy local food?” session a very interesting melding of her professional interests, but about 10 minutes in, we decided to try a different session (mostly because they wanted a group discussion and we wanted to listen and learn).  We hopped over to the session on “Fair Food for Global Sustainability” just as Sharon Hoyer from the Dill Pickle Co-op in Logan Square was finishing up her presentation about Fair Trade Bananas.  We, unfortunately, missed the opening remarks from Nancy Jones of Chicago Fair Trade, but the information about bananas was fascinating (we hope to do a post about Fair Trade in the near future, but for now, check out this video about the bananas!).  Then our favorite speaker of the day, Eric Rodriguez from Café Chicago, started telling us about the issues with undocumented day workers in the Midwest and his group’s initiatives to give them more agency and power to control the type of work they do.  Café Chicago is a coffee roasting cooperative based on these concepts and we are 100% hoping to sit down with Eric at some point and possibly visit their location for more information, but their website gives a succinct run-down of what they do:

Cafe Chicago Coffee“Café Chicago is a worker-made, worker-run cooperative that roasts, packages, and distributes great tasting, fair trade, organic coffee in the Chicago area. With a new model of job creation, job training, and social action that create living wage jobs and provide training in coffee roasting and cooperative management, the for-profit Café Chicago also funds the social justice organizing of Latino Union at a time of dwindling non-profit funding. “

 

 

We left that presentation feeling inspired to buy Fair Trade across the board, and if we ever need coffee, a bag of Café Chicago coffee will be the first place we turn. About four days later, we were at True Nature Foods and right there on the shelf was freshly roasted coffee from Café Chicago.  It’s very exciting that organizations like this exist and that their products are readily available all over the city!

We then headed back to the exhibition hall for some serious snacking and chatting with reps from all the delightful, local food organizations and companies.  I’m not going wear out our welcome and list everyone we talked to but some highlights were The Brinery (delicious fermented veggies from Ann Arbor looking to get more into the Chicago market), Mo Rub (meat/dip/veggie seasoning from Iowa now available at some Chicago-area Whole Foods), the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (advocacy group supporting our local food system), and the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship (national group of lawyers, based at U of C in Chicago, who focus on providing pro bono legal advice and support for new business owners in the city, specifically local food businesses).

It was a very full day and we learned a lot, but the Friday version of the Good Food Festival is not for everyone.  Last year we went on Saturday, and that was more our speed at the time.  There are more booths in the exhibition hall, and the presentations are focused on topics like “Brew Your Own Beer” or “Home Butchery and Curing” or “Food Co-ops 101″, that kind of thing.  It’s more focused on things you can do at home and less so on things that are happening in the community and the world of urban agriculture. We’re hoping to make it to both Friday and Saturday next year, if we have the energy! (Also, we didn’t even mention the Localicious Party! We didn’t make it this year, but hope to budget for it next year. It’s a party celebrating “the farmers who grow our food and the chefs who transform it.”) The moral of the story is that if you like food, the Good Food Festival has something of interest for you, so you should check it out next year!

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