The Great Butter Tasting of 2015!

The five purchase butters.

The five purchase butters.

We’ve been threatening to do this since we returned from Wisconsin in October, and so, on January 1st, fresh into 2015, we decided to make good on our promise and make a butter tasting a reality.

We definitely took it to levels untold: we purchase five different butters to taste, we made our own butter from Organic Valley heavy cream, we decided to make it a BLIND taste test–which we managed even though we were the only two testers–and we recorded audio of the tasting and edited it podcast style.  So, that should be fun to listen to, surely more fun than a typed transcript, but if you don’t have time to listen, we’ll touch on the highlights below.

Please enjoy the recording here:

First, what butters were we tasting? Well, while we were in Wisconsin in October, we picked up two local-looking butters.  They were both butters that we do not encounter in the Chicagoland area, so we thought we ought to try them.  The first is Freis Von Kiel Butter, which doesn’t seem to have a website, but is the featured butter on M Magazine’s (Milwaukee’s Lifestyle Magazine) Locavore page. The other Wisconsin butter is an alleged Amish Country Roll Butter. It was mysteriously packaged and we tried to find some information on it because it looked legit, but it also wasn’t labeled with any particular Amish association or community. As far as I know, there are not generic Amish individuals just sitting around making butter for the rest of us. So, with a little google work we uncovered this blog post, and we think we were fed a similar bill of butter goods. Dang.

The next purchased butter was Kerrygold, which is a favorite for many of our readers, I’m sure, and I’m also sure you are interested to see how it holds up to other high quality butters. We also bought Organic Valley Cultured Butter and Kalona SuperNatural Unsalted. We love both of these butters already and use them all them time. I don’t know if other people have three favorite butters, but Sustainably Queer does!

And then we made butter...

And then we made butter…

And then we made butter. Kristl has made butter before, and she is also the boss of the KitchenAid mixer, so I let her take charge of this process.  We used the instructions from Joy the Baker’s blog, which you can find here. We will include some photos below, but we will not reinvent the wheel, Joy does a great job. Mostly, you agitate the cream’s fat molecules until they let go of the milk and stick together. Then you squeeze the result and rinse it. Add salt if you want, but that’s about it. Butter, done.

Butter, done. Salted and unsalted.

Butter, done. Salted and unsalted.

So, we made our own butter in preparation and we let all the butters come to room temperature before we spread them. We served each butter spread on two small slices of sourdough bread on each plate. We did our best to make the slices look identical so that once the butter was on the bread we wouldn’t know which was which. The plates were correctly labeled on the bottom, and Kristl put the correct butter on the correct plate when she applied the butter.

This is how we made it blind... we're smart.

This is how we made it blind… we’re smart.

Once we had everything on the correct plates, we put the plates on the tables and swapped them all around. Then we numbered the plates so we would have a reference for our blind taste test. We set up the recorder and we dug in.

For those of you unable to listen here are some highlights: Rachel is not awesome at describing the actual flavor of the butter, but will definitely tell you whether or not it was from Wisconsin, and if it contains salt. Kristl is good at describing the color and texture of the butter, especially in terms of paint glosses (e.g. one butter was very glossy and yellow, others were more eggshell and pale). We’ll provide our initial reactions here and then reveal the butter key at the very bottom, so you can play along.

Our seven butters in the blind taste test

Our seven butters in the blind taste test

Butter #1 was pretty good, but rather non-descript.  It was the first butter we tasted, and we also hadn’t tasted sourdough bread in a while, so it brought more attention to the bread than the butter. Rachel was convinced that it was a Wisconsin butter. Kristl was convinced we shouldn’t have used sourdough because it was too distracting.

Butter #2 was very pale in color and immediately upon tasting it, Kristl felt like it had an off flavor (she said “rancid” on the recording). Rachel felt the butter was a little off too, but didn’t have a huge mouth feel, and was pretty mild over all.  This was not a butter you would go out of your way to get.

Butter #3 was not salted, but had a very deep and luxurious creaminess to it. Rachel felt immediately that it might be Kalona, because she will sometimes eat a little bit of Kalona first thing in the morning. Kristl agreed that it was was smooth and creamy, and could possibly be Kalona, but definitely had to be one of the salt-free butters.

Butter #4 was also not salted. It was also extremely creamy, for being butter. We talked a little bit about the odds of the two unsalted butters being directly next to each other. Rachel said something silly about it having a Wisconsin vibe, even though both the Wisconsin butters included salt. Kristl stated that this was probably Kalona (which is made in Iowa).

Butter #5 immediately caused us both to sit up a little bit because it had a lot more salt than the other salted butters.  We could tell that it had been hand-salted with sea salt recently. Some of the salt was still crunchy in the butter.  This definitely improved the flavor for a butter tasting on bread. This butter was very lively and showed its cards pretty easily with that crunchy salt.

Butter #6 was also pretty easy to guess, because it had the slight tang of yogurt that comes  with the territory of cultured butter. Cultured butter was a nice variation after all the plain butters that we had tasted, and it definitely would have stood out more if we had tasted it on a bread other than sourdough.

Butter #7 was the glossy, yellow butter.  Looking at the butter, knowing the butter, and having former experiences with this butter, we actually thought we would like this butter the best, because it’s so fatty and soft. It is very good butter, there are no questions about it, but to be honest it lost out to the homemade stuff.

Well those were our blind taste test reactions in a nut shell, listen to the recording for a full spectrum.  Here are the actual answers:

Butter #1: Freis Von Keil

Butter #2: Amish Country Roll Butter (probably not actually Amish)

Butter #3: Homemade Unsalted

Butter #4: Kalona SuperNatural Unsalted

Butter #5: Homemade Salted

Butter #6: Organic Valley Cultured

Butter #7: Kerrygold

Our goal in this experiment was not to rank the butters or to pit them against each other, necessarily. We mostly wanted to see, given an ingredient that is pretty simple and easily produced, how different separate butters could taste. That being said, we really enjoyed our homemade butter the best. It was clearly the freshest, and when the tasting was complete, we combined the salted and unsalted and finished it within the week.

So, that’s The Great Butter Tasting of 2015! There will be more tastings in 2015, don’t worry. If there is a food you would like us to taste and post about, please let us know in the comments below. We’re happy to take on any whole food challenges!

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Five Food and Homesteading Goals for 2015

Happy New Year from Sustainably Queer!

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Before we take on the ARDUOUS task of tasting a whole slate of butters on tangy sourdough bread, we thought we’d write a quick post a post to inform you of our food and homesteading goals for 2015.

1. Eat no processed sugar – This includes white sugar, brown sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, other corn syrups, other processed sweeteners that are called by other names, etc. We will eat products that include honey, maple syrup, and molasses (we understand it’s byproduct of sugar refining, but it has a much higher nutritional value than sugar because of this), but not in large quantities. We will make exceptions to this goal for very special occasions, but in general, we will try to avoid sugar in general, because of the effect that it has on the brain and the gut flora.

2. Cook at home at least five days a week – We recently did a 21-day purification program (let us know if you want more info – we actually really enjoyed it!) that forced us to cook at home every day for at least two of those three weeks. This took a little bit of getting used to, but once we got into the swing of it, we realized we were saving a lot of money, and eating really well (The program started with 10 days of just vegetables, fruits, seeds, and fats, with protein shakes, then you could add back in lean meats on day 11.) We learned a lot of recipes that are easy and delicious (veggie garam masala, baked salmon, mashed cauliflower with mushrooms, roasted lemon broccoli, broccoli cauliflower soup, etc). We love to cook and we’re glad to be back in the kitchen in 2015.

3. Season our cast iron and actually start using it – We have three beautiful cast iron pans that are sitting in the trunk of our car, two old, unseasoned pans that were given to us, and one that we took camping and totally covered in soot. They have been in the trunk of our car for eighteen months. Literally. We have Teflon pans that are slowly killing us and cast iron that is waiting to set us free. Look forward to a post chronicling our experience.

4. Buy even more of our food from local sources – As you can tell from many of our previous posts, we are all about supporting the local economy and small businesses.  We want to know about small, local businesses who are committed to sustainability and are using quality ingredients and  products to make their goods. We have a goal to increase our knowledge of these businesses and our patronage of them. The stronger the web of the local economy, the easier it will be for these businesses to survive, and that creates jobs and a myriad of other good things.

5. Make more of our own products at home – As you can imagine, not every item we want to buy can be sourced locally (yet), so we have to buy some things from places like Target (though we do try to patronize small businesses over corporations whenever we can). There’s no shame in going to Target now and then, but we are going to do our best to be more intentional about what we buy there. Is this something I can make at home? Then I should make it at home, instead of buying a processed, packaged version. Our final goal is to make what we can at home, be it deodorant, dish soap, laundry detergent, pickled carrots, belts, or just dinner at home.

Ok, those are our simple food and homesteading goals for 2015!  Feel free to play along and share some of your goals with us! And once again Happy New Year!

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(And we’ll get back to the conclusion of our Ninety-Nine Favorite Things list shortly!)

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Ninety-Nine Things We Like – Part Three – Local Foods Edition

We love local food. We love the artistry and intention that goes into making products that you cannot find anywhere else in the country. You simply cannot go to the Pacific Northwest or the Piedmont of the South and find products like these. You can find other beautiful, delicious things, but we can claim something special about our region and we should celebrate it. Yeah!

Kristl picks out local produce with appendages in Italy.

Kristl picks out local produce with appendages in Italy.

Now from the list below, not all of the items are 100% Chicago-sourced (we don’t grow chocolate in the Midwest, sadly), but they were put together here in the city, the state, or, at the very least, the region (the furthest away is Ann Arbor, MI). There are a couple reasons why this is important to us here at Sustainably Queer. First, when products are coming from nearby, fewer resources are used to deliver to us. That means there’s a lower carbon footprint for those products, and there is a pretty good chance that the products will be more fresh when we receive them especially since, depending on the item, we could go directly to the source. Also, we have the opportunity to get to know the producer. Quite a few of the folks listed below have booths or attend the Good Food Festival in March (at UIC), and we met a number of them this past year. We tasted their products; we shook their hands; we got hooked. When there is good food involved, we are all over it.

Alright, so here are a few of our favorite local products, remember the numbering continues from our previous post about our favorite local sustainable restaurants:

38. Co-Op Hot Sauces – We have been enjoying Co-Op Hot Sauces since Kristl ordered Rachel a four-pack via Groupon Grassroots in 2012. The company was established in 2003 and they use all local peppers to make their sauces. They are part of the team that makes up the cafe Sauce and Bread Kitchen on Ashland Avenue. They make their own sriracha (Chi-racha) which is really delightful.

39. North Shore Distillery – We decided to only officially include this distillery, because this is the only one that we have personally purchased from, but Rachel has enjoyed spirits from Few and Koval as well. Pre-epilepsy diagnosis, Rachel’s drink of choice was a gin and tonic, and she very much enjoyed North Shore’s Gin No. 6, but you really cannot go wrong with any of these companies if you want to enjoy well crafted spirits from a local distillery.

Kristl poses with Arize Kombucha at The Plant during Open House Chicago

Kristl poses with Arize Kombucha at The Plant during Open House Chicago

40. Arize Kombucha – We bought three cases of Arize Kombucha for our recent wedding celebration, because Nathan from Arize brings the same artistry and small batch mindset to kombucha brewing that many craft brewers bring to beer. People who had never before tried kombucha were really impressed with its subtle flavors and the fizzy, sour punch it holds. Arize is available from small, local grocers, (even on-tap at True Nature!) listed below.

41. The Brinery – The Brinery is one of those gems we unearthed at the Good Food Festival and have never reburied. They are located just outside Ann Arbor, Michigan and have the best sauerkraut ever. They also make exceptional kimchi. They make all the lacto-fermented foods that we would love to make on our own time (and eventually, hopefully, we will), but for now we are thrilled to have a source that will make legit fermented foods without additives. If you live closer to Ann Arbor, you can get fancier things from The Brinery or you can pay a lot of money to have them shipped, like their obscenely popular fermented sriracha that sells out very quickly: it MUST be worth it. We buy their products from Urban Orchard in Andersonville.

42. Kalona SuperNatural (Whole Fat Products) – If you are going to spend the money to buy high quality products like Kalona and then get the reduced fat version of them, we need to have a talk. Low fat products almost always have added sugar and other stabilizers. Whole fat products are only 4% fat, so it’s really not that big of a difference, considering the processing the product goes through to remove 2% fat. Anyways, Iowa is right around the corner and Kalona’s butter, cottage cheese, milk, etc, is pretty much always our first choice for dairy.

43. Bee-Bop Honey – We chose to have Bee-Bop supply the favors for our wedding celebration, and we have definitely gotten rave reviews. We did not go into this blind though. Kelly has a couple of hives on the south side of Chicago (which we have visited!) and her bees collect honey from wild flowers and gardens all over her neighborhood. We found Bee-Bop honey at Virtu, a boutique in Wicker Park, just sitting on a shelf, and we loved it. We decided we needed more and went straight to the source through Kelly’s Etsy page.

44. Bike-a-Bee – As a disclaimer, we haven’t bought this honey, but we have tasted it. It was available for tasting and purchasing at farmers markets last summer, but we were overwhelmed with wedding honey. We did want to include Bike-a-Bee, however, because the concept is so gosh darn clever.  One woman, with some helpers, has fifteen different beehives in different sites that she manages by bike. Brilliant. It’s low impact and it’s simple.  Let’s think of more start-ups like this.

45. Vosges Chocolate – Now we enter the phase of this post where we talk about sweets for a while. Don’t be mad. Vosges is a Chicago company, and the creator, Katrina Markoff, has a very ambitious commitment to sustainability. Their website indicates that all of their packaging is 100% post-consumer recycled material, that they have recently started growing their own chocolate in Belize, in order to control the supply chain from start to finish, while upholding fair labor laws. Also, it’s delicious chocolate. We highly recommend the blush caramels with Hawaiian red sea salt and li hing powder, but you cannot go wrong, whatever you choose.

46. Katherine Anne Confections – Katherine Anne is an establishment at farmers markets and craft fairs around Chicago, year round. She sells show-stopping caramels, marshmallows, fudge, and other treats. She doesn’t use artificial ingredients or anything you wouldn’t be able to find on a farm, like the dairy farm she grew up on (with the exception of chocolate, which as we mentioned at the outset, is not local to the Midwest). Her offerings change seasonally, as they should, and they are always a delight.

47. GrownUp KidStuff – These folks are not shy about getting people to taste their menagerie of chocolate sauces, so if you’ve been to a craft fair, or visited the Galleria in Andersonville on the weekend, it is possible your taste buds are already familiar with their product line. That being said, GrownUp KidStuff is a very simple company selling a very simple product that is very simply delicious. We have only purchased the spicy chocolate hot sauce, which is funny because Kristl doesn’t like spicy things, but it was palatable for her, and the person having us taste things suggested that we make a balsamic vinegar reduction with the spicy chocolate sauce and put it over vegetables. That got us to buy it. We only did it once, and we’ve eaten it over ice cream every other time. Weird, I know.

48. Butter Bella Shortbread Cookies – Ok, so the website for Butter Bella does not give a lot of specific information about the quality of their ingredients, but they do indicate that their cookies are made with “pure” ingredients in small batches for high quality. Now, if my palate can be trusted, these claims can be completely substantiated, because these are the best shortbread cookies I have ever encountered. We love all of the flavors, but the lemon and the mocha are particularly nice. Whole Foods carries them at most locations in the “International Cookies” bins, and they have plastic cartons of larger cookies as well. (This is one of the rare cookies that Kristl has been completely unable to recreate in the kitchen. When we want shortbread cookies, we buy Butter Bella. Done.)

49. C&D Farms – A couple of our friends got together and gifted us very generously with a meat share from C&D Farms for our wedding celebration earlier this year.  C&D Farms specifically raises happy hogs on their own land and then they have very close relationships with other small, intentional livestock producers in the area to bring a truck full of animal products to the city several times a week. Thanks, Jess and Sarah!

50. Mint Creek Farm – Mint Creek is really the Cadillac of local sustainable meat, and while they raise a variety of animals, they are known for their lamb. The farm is known for being biodynamic, which means, they not only use the land, but they intelligently give back to it to improve the soil and water quality around them. Mint Creek Meat is available at most large farmers markets in Chicago and they have CSAs available. We buy from them for special occasions, like last Thanksgiving, we were able to get a fresh, never-frozen turkey from them and it was the best thing on earth. Or at least the best turkey I’ve consumed. We actually visited the farm during our mini-moon after our legal wedding last year and the animals really seemed happy. They were all on pasture and well cared for.

51. Rishi Tea – Rishi Tea has really become the gold standard of loose leaf tea, at least in this region. If you are going to an independent coffee house in Chicago, and you choose tea, 4 out of 5 times, you are going to be choosing from a selection of Rishi Teas. Rishi’s headquarters is in Milwaukee, but they source their teas from organic, fair trade locations in asia or locally, depending on the type of tea. The tea is fantastic and there aren’t weird flavors or additives to make it taste fake.

52. Cafe Chicago – Now I know that people have very strong opinions about their coffee, but this group is worth buying a bag just to try. We are not coffee drinkers, but we heard the founder’s story at, where else, the Good Food Festival last year and we are determined share the brilliance of the Chicago Coffee Co-op with our readers semi-annually. Café Chicago is a worker-made, worker-run cooperative that roasts, packages, and distributes great tasting, fair trade, organic coffee in the Chicago area. I know True Nature sells their coffee, at least, give it a whirl.

53. Tomato Mountain – We love Tomato Mountain for a couple reasons.  First, they are a beautiful organic farm, they follow sustainable practices, they are a great source of sustainable produce, and they come to markets in Chicago all the time, even the winter.  They are good people and good farmers.  We also like them because they not only grow wonderful fresh produce, but they convert it into delicious cottage goods, like salsas and tomato jams for the winter. (Although, when we buy their tomato jam it rarely makes it through the weekend.) People from many different states have been gifted their Sungold tomato jam courtesy of us truly. They are worth checking out for tomato goods or a CSA from WI. (They deliver their CSA to your door!)

Radical Root Green House

Radical Root Green House

54. Radical Root Organic Farm – I think we have a soft spot for Radical Root in our SQ heart of hearts because we’ve kind of watched them grow from their farm incubator space, donated to their greenhouse construction, participated in their egg share, and Rachel even spent a day working on their farm. If there’s a para-urban farm that we know best, it’s Radical Root, and they’re just really nice and knowledgeable. If you are looking for farmers in IL, with a CSA including eggs, who also comes to farmer’s markets in the city, these are your farmers. If you want a more in-depth write up on Radical Root, check out the Farm Focus we did on them back in May.

55. Peck & Bushel Fruit Company – There’s a weird thing about apples. They are absolutely the number one most pesticide ridden fruit out there, but we totally want to go scamper among the trees, biting into apples willy nilly, bringing our children and casting caution to the wind. Well, if you can get your caution back from the wind, there are two orchards within a reasonable driving distance of Chicago that do offer You Pick weekends for organic apples. Peck & Bushel is outside Milwaukee and they have a lot of interesting apple varieties. (Always be sure to call before you go, because sometimes the You Pick days and times do shift, as it is a small operation.) The other organic You Pick is Earth’s First Farms in Berrien Center, MI. Their products are more widely available in Chicago at Farmer’s Markets and small groceries. The varieties they have for You Pick are a little more traditional, so if that’s your bag, you might want to try them instead.

56. Joe’s Blueberries – We have been to Joe’s Blueberries twice to pick blueberries, and both times we came home with over ten pounds of amazing berries to freeze for the winter. Joe’s grows blueberries with no pesticides or chemicals, and the berries are plump, sweet, and abundant. Unfortunately, we’ve already used up all our blueberries from this past summer, BUT the website has informed us that there are a couple stores in Chicago where they keep frozen blueberries in stock all year ’round. Thank goodness! (They also have gift cards!)

57. Rushing Waters Trout – This is a company that took advantage of the beautiful “rushing waters” in Palmyra, WI to create a semi-natural trout farm. They raise the fish using chemical-free aquaculture practices and then catch, process, smoke, and sell it on site and also, conveniently for us, in Chicago at a number of different locations. The fish is delicious and they also have dips. Yum!

58. Farmed Here – Rachel was lucky enough to visit Farmed Here as part of her Urban Agriculture class, and it is a very interesting company. They started out using the concept of aquaponics to grow primarily basil for markets such as Whole Foods, and now they have expanded to sell microgreens and lettuce mixes. Their business model is solid and their products are beautiful, plus they are one of the players in the game providing undeniably local produce to the Chicago market twelve months a year with no chance of environmental factors to interrupt that.

59. Phoenix Bean – Our last offering on this list that is a food product and not a grocer is Phoenix Bean.  They are a staple at Chicago area farmer’s markets and they are not shy about providing samples. There are two very compelling reasons to buy from Phoenix bean over other tofu producers: 1. They are local, their plant is located in Edgewater, and 2. They do not use GMO soy beans to make their products. So, for those of us in Chicago, if we want tofu (and it is really good tofu) or other tofu products, like salads and marinaded tofu, this is your go to place. (Also, we should note that you can buy a limited selection of their products directly from the factory for a lower cost, especially if you only want regular tofu, it’s a good deal. Otherwise, farmer’s markets are the best place to get the full range of products.)

INTERMISSION: We thought we would be remiss if we did not include in this post a short list of places where we purchase these products. There is no way we can guarantee that they will all be available at every location obviously, but all of these markets are very much connected to the local food scene.

60. Dill Pickle Co-Op – Dill Pickle is, as far as we know (and believe me, we would like to be proven wrong) the only currently open brick and mortar co-op in existence in Chicago. Co-ops are awesome because they are non-profits, run by democratic process, and exist to connect communities to their food and to each other. Dill Pickle was created by Logan Square residents for Logan Square residents, but we have visited a few times, and picked up our fresh, never-frozen Mint Creek turkey there, because they are also a hub for Urban Agriculture businesses to sell their wares in a consistent way.  If you live in or near Logan Square, we highly recommend checking out Dill Pickle.

61. New Leaf Natural Grocery – New Leaf is a tiny baby grocery store (like it’s one loop around that’s it), but they have a little of everything and it’s competitively priced. So, as soon as you know they exist, they are totally there for you in a pinch. Their location is a short walk from our house, so if we realize we have run out of a vital ingredient, one of us can sprint to New Leaf and pick it up. They also offer weekly grocery boxes and home delivery of said boxes, which is probably very convenient for some people. (I, Rachel, like to personally select (pick up and scrutinize) all of my fruits and vegetables, as you might imagine. Kristl, on the other hand, wants to try the weekly grocery box because she’s sick of buying groceries 2-3 times a week.)

62. Urban Orchard – Urban Orchard has done some reorganizing since they first opened to really become a very functional and accessible grocery in the heart of Andersonville. They are one of the few stores we’ve found in the city that sells products from The Brinery and they have gone out of their way to source local, sustainably produced products. They also have a full coffee bar, if that’s what you’re into.

63. True Nature – This place is our number one source for eggs, meat, and kombucha. More than any other place currently in Edgewater, True Nature strives to provide the products and processes that make it easier to live a sustainable lifestyle in our neighborhood. They were able to stay in business across the street from Dominick’s and now they are coming up with ways to stay in business with the challenge of an incoming Whole Foods in Summer 2015. And unless Whole Foods starts sourcing hyper local cheese, meat, honey, eggs, etc, we think True Nature will still survive. (AND they have a green waste composting program, rad!) We buy most of our meat here, as they have an affordable meat co-op with a lot of variety available. As a side note, True Nature is the biggest supplier of Arize Kombucha on the northside. They have a tap, growlers you can fill, and an a assortment of 16 oz bottles available almost all the time. If you want to try Arize one cup at a time, this is the place to give it a whirl.

64. Southport Grocery – Southport Grocery easily could have slid onto our sustainable restaurants list, but they call themselves a grocery first, so here they are on the grocery docket. But hey, if you are looking for a brunch place on Southport, this is really your best option. In terms of grocery items, Southport Grocery really hits it out of the park with beautiful locally sourced cottage goods. I don’t know if you would absolutely go here if you were not already planning on eating here or were walking down Southport for something else, but it’s good to know it exists, and certainly, if you live in the area and you need some Co-Op Sauce or GrownUp KidStuff for a gift, this grocery is your best friend.

Chicago Market's photo tweet of the day we joined.

Chicago Market’s photo tweet of the day we joined.

65. Chicago Market – We think we’ve saved the best for last, but part of that is because it doesn’t exist yet, at least not as a store where you can buy things. Chicago lacks a large scale co-op where smaller cities in the region, like Champaign-Urbana, Madison, and Milwaukee have large thriving co-ops or even co-ops that have multiple locations (See Outpost in Milwaukee). A community co-op like Dill Pickle is awesome and important, but it doesn’t have the member numbers and bargaining power to promote change in the market the way that a larger co-op will. Chicago Market’s timeline is to open in fall of 2015, this thing is really happening! We are members, many of our friends are members, and it’s something that we hope our readers would consider as well. They also have memberships available for gifts, if you need an awesome gift for a local, foodie friend of yours.

All the small businesses above and many others need places to sell their goods. It’s very hard to get started in that, especially if your strength is in growing vegetables, for example, and not business. A market that guarantees a fair price for producers and a good product for consumers is a win-win all around. Rachel spent last summer working at a farmer’s market; getting up early, doing lots of heavy lifting, and spending all day selling vegetables for $400-500 profit is a lot of hard work for not much pay-off, and that was in a wealthy suburb. Most urban farms are on the south side of Chicago where vegetables aren’t “worth” as much.

It’s unlikely that the emergence of Chicago Market will push Whole Foods out of Chicago or that the other small stores we mentioned will be threatened by it.  A co-op holds a different place in ethos of the city’s grocery budget, and it’s something Chicago has been desperately lacking.  If you have any interest in joining the Chicago Market, you can get more information here, or feel free to ask us questions. The initial investment is high, but they do have a payment plan which makes it really easy. (Ten payments of $25 is really inexpensive way to help an awesome source of local, sustainable food succeed!)

This concludes our post on local goods, please click here for part one of our list on our favorite local charities, here for part two on our favorite sustainable restaurants, and keep an eye here for part four on other local businesses and artists we love that you might want to check out. Huzzah!

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Ninety-Nine Things We Like – Part Two – Restaurant Edition

It’s time for us to continue our list of favorite things and this is a chunk of our very favorite restaurants in Chicago, which are very near and dear to our hearts.  We love food more than pretty much anything else and it’s very important to us that our food choices do not have a a negative impact on the world around us.

We chose these specific restaurants because they go out of their way to do one or more of the following things:

  • Source local produce, meat, eggs, dairy etc in season
  • Grow their own produce locally or onsite
  • Choose to serve meat that was raised sustainably or at least without added antibiotics/hormones
  • Change their menu to reflect the season and do not exhaust resources to serve dishes out of season
  • Do significant prep work, brewing, or baking on site, little of their food is pre-made or processed
  • Go back to original recipes or sources to provide the most interesting/nourishing meals possible

That being said, here is a short list of our favorite restaurants in Chicago, feast away Chicago friends (Note – the numbering is contiguous from the previous post so that we get to ninety-nine one day!):

Brunch at Gather - these might be Kristl's favorite potatoes

Brunch at Gather – these might be Kristl’s favorite potatoes ever

17. Gather – Our favorite restaurant in the city right now. We usually get two appetizers and then share a main. We particularly love their hamburger, arctic char, and crispy breakfast potatoes (only available at brunch on Sundays). Woah. They have precise seasonal menus, source a portion of their food, and the portions are large and affordable.  Lovely atmosphere, but be sure to make a reservation on the weekend! Oh and most days the owner is the host and does the seating, because he cares. (If you see brussels sprouts on the menu, you simply must order them.)

18. Edzo’s – This is an old school burger joint with your choice of sustainably sourced meats to choose from. There are also a dozen different types of fries and daily specials to keep you on your toes. The Lincoln Park location just closed, but the Evanston spot is going strong.

19. Hopleaf – They source some of their produce from urban farms on the south side and change their menu to match the season. They do the same with the beers on tap, if that’s what you’re in to. The food is delicious and they have a lot of room for gatherings, as long as you check their calendar first, because when it’s busy, it’s packed.

20. Frontera Fresco – The smallest and least renowned of Rick Bayless’s offerings have brought us the most joy. We go to Frontera Fresco in the mall at Old Orchard and get tacos almost every time we are there. It’s nice to know that there is some mall food coming from local farms and the meat is relatively well sourced too.

Dukbokki with Bulgogi at Dak

Dukbokki with Bulgogi at Dak

21. Dak – The most meager in terms of sustainability (though they do use antibiotic- and hormone-free meat),  but they have made up for in some sense by being really convenient and delicious for us.  We just wish they would stop using styrofoam for carryout. Sigh. (When we remember, we bring our own containers for leftovers when we eat in.)

22. Nightwood – We heard about Nightwood for their brunches, specifically the donuts, but we’ve only been there for dinner and drinks.  They made Kristl a truly excellent non-alcoholic cocktail, which is hard to find, though we found that the appetizers far outshone the entrees. Maybe someday we shall return for brunch.

23. Sola – We go to Sola anytime we need a fix of upscale food with Hawaii in mind.  It’s not Hawaiian per say, but Chef Carol Wallack’s love of Hawaii definitely shines through.  Menus are seasonal, which we love, and often feature a seasonal ingredient. They try to source locally and sustainably as much as possible, and if you are salivating over something on the brunch menu, go early because they will run out (sadly, we speak from personal experience)!

We had to taste a bunch of pies to narrow it down to only two for our wedding reception

We had to taste a bunch of pies to narrow it down to only two for our wedding reception

24. Hoosier Mama – What is there to say except that these pies will ruin you? We’ve probably tried twenty flavors and I haven’t been upset about any of them. And no, we aren’t going bankrupt eating pie, they have a pie flight after 6pm everyday where you can choose 3 pies and get smaller slices of all three to try. Seriously though, they use great ingredients and old recipes. They also sell sandwiches and salads and have a full coffee bar at their Evanston location. (We had two Hoosier Mama pies in the dessert buffet at our wedding!)

25. Bang Bang – Nestled down in Logan Square is another great place to get pie, but to be honest the last time I was there I didn’t even think about pie. No. I did, however, have biscuits three different ways. Oh, yes.  Just go there with like three other people, and order all the biscuits, and eat biscuits until you can’t move. Don’t worry, they only use seasonal fruit and the leaf lard that goes into their baking is rendered specifically for them by one farm. Magic.

26. Honey Butter Fried Chicken – We were recently talking with a fried who had just eaten at HBFC for the first time and we were gushing about how DE-licious it is and he was like yeah, but it’s not cheap. It’s true, it’s not cheap, but that’s because Honey Butter is not your corner shop that tastes good only because it’s fried and is gonna violate health codes every 6 months or so. This place is legitimately tasty and legitimately sustainable. See their philosophy here. All that being said, I highly recommend “Da Club” sandwich, and the regular old fried chicken with honey butter. Yes.

27. Leghorn Fried Chicken – Not as high-brow as Honey Butter, but these are Amish chickens as well and the other classy thing about Leghorn is that when they sell out, they close up. Boom, done. Check out the menu before you go, because you have to be ready to choose which type of brine you want, which type of meat, any sides, sauces, or toppings.  It can be stressful, but it’s so worth it. We’re partial to the pickle-brined thigh on a biscuit, Rachel gets it hot, Kristl doesn’t, but we’re sure you’ll love whatever you get!

28. Big Jones – If you want real Southern cooking and not some mockery of it, then you really must go to Big Jones. Big Jones uses heirloom recipes from the deep South to inform all that they do in the kitchen and also how they source their ingredients, all they way down to the grains that they use to make their griddlecakes. One surprising result of this is that their brunch is now gluten free. Naturally, not intentionally, because all the heirloom flours used in southern cooking didn’t include gluten to begin with. For dinner, we tend to fill up on starters and share a main, but you do you.

29. Brown Trout – I guess you could just go ahead and say that we are fried chicken fanatics, because fried chicken brought us to Brown Trout too.  We have had other lovely dinners at this in-your-face sustainable restaurant, but the best use of your time and money, in our opinion, is Sunday night fried chicken and blue grass. They cook the chicken sous vide first and then batter and fry it to perfection. So juicy and wonderful. Dark meat highly recommended.

30. Revolution Brewing – Whether or not you enjoy their beer, the pub is worth a visit. They have small rooftop for growing vegetables in the summer and they butcher a pig or two a week from a local farm. The food is really well thought through and very good. And let’s be real, who is mad about sustainable pub food? Not us.

31. Sauce and Bread – This small cafe is the child of two companies – Crumb bakery and Co-Op hot sauce – and it is a beautiful baby. Both businesses continue to exist in their own right, but Sauce and Bread is the location where their magic meets.  They have limited hours, but it’s wonderful for a low key brunch or an afternoon snack – we actually had our post-wedding brunch there and they were incredibly nice and accommodating.  They also host a supper club that we have every intention of weaseling our way into sometime.

32. Au Cheval – It’s the upscale diner of your dreams. There are burgers everywhere. It’s impossibly delicious. A single is a double. A double is a triple. They make their own baloney. If you go at a busy time there is often a 2-hour wait, so we suggest going at an off-time. And let’s be real, now is a good time. You have no excuses. We dragged ourselves there during one of the many frigid polar vortex days last winter because we figured (correctly) that we wouldn’t have to wait.

Pea soup with roasted lemon puree and breaded goat cheese at Kendall this past spring

Pea soup with roasted lemon puree and breaded goat cheese at Kendall this past spring

33. Dining Room at Kendall College – Kendall College is known for culinary arts and hospitality in Chicago and you can take part in this tradition by making a reservation at their dining room and seeing what the students can do.  We recommend going with a partner or a friend for lunch, because we’ve found that the lunch menus are more interesting and two-top tables tend to get extras. One time we got several extra appetizers thrown our way and we weren’t mad about it. Kendall has a commitment to sustainable, locally sourced ingredients, and the price is right too.

34. Cafe Spiaggia (for Restaurant Week) – Restaurant Week is a potentially good thing that can turn out to not be that great of a deal depending on where you go, but we think we’ve really found a spot that delivers a deal and really excellent food. Go to Cafe Spiaggia. The food is as good as actual Italian food from Italy (which we can say having recently been to Italy), and the Restaurant Week deal is actually a deal. It’s classy, it’s wonderful, and it’s delicious.

35. Pleasant House Bakery – Finally, Pleasant House Bakery is a great place to get British style savory pies. They grow a lot of their own vegetables during the growing season. They make their own sodas, and they have specials on different days of the week. We highly recommend their Tuesday Burger. Yum. They are also selling the pies they make in house under the name Royal Pies around Chicago at local groceries.

Jeni's!

Jeni’s!

36. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream – This is the only chain on this list, but it’s a midwest chain (based in Columbus, OH) that uses local, seasonal, sustainable ingredients whenever possible. Jeni’s is amazing. Some of our favorites are the Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, Sweet Corn with Black Raspberries, and The Buckeye State. The ice cream sandwiches (many of which are gluten-free) are mind-blowing. We rarely eat ice cream these days, but when we do, it’s Jeni’s.

37. Ras Dashen – We went to Ras Dashen last night and were delighted to see a notice that they are now using local, antibiotic-, steroid-, and hormone-free chicken from Gunthorp Farms. We love Ethiopian food and we are often hard pressed to choose a favorite.  In general, the cuisine is pretty friendly for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free folks, and the crepe-like injera bread is fermented before it is cooked making it easier to digest and better for your gut flora. Our runner up Ethiopian recommendation would definitely be Lalibela on Ashland, which always has gluten-free injera on tap and is a little cheaper.

So, those are our recommendations at this time, we hope that you give a few of them a try. We hope that you love them as much as we do. We also hope that if you are going to try one out and have a bad experience, that you let us know, because we will probably leave this page up and wouldn’t want people to  go on having bad food experiences in Chicago forever. This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are many delicious restaurants in Chicago and a number of them have sustainable practices. Our goal for 2015 is to hit up all the ones we’ve missed so far!

Please click HERE to explore part one of the Ninety-Nine things we like, and here is the link to part three: local goods we like and where to find them!

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Ninety-Nine Things We Like – Part One – Giving Tuesday Edition

Here is the first part of our list of ninety-nine things (places, groups, people, etc) that we like.  Our theme for today is Non-Profits and Charities, primarily because we want to make sure these folks get their names out there, but also because it is #GivingTuesday and apparently that means people are looking for worthy organizations to shower with cash today specifically.

Well look no further, below is a well-cultivated list of organizations doing good work in Chicago to make things better for us all.  We kept annotation to a minimum, but you are welcome and encouraged to click through to their websites and learn more about them.  Most of them fall into one of two categories: 1) “hey, we help queer people/youth live healthier and happier lives”, 2)”hey, we help people gain access to food in the city, either growing it or just in general, yay.”  Other than that, there are a couple wildcards.

1. Windy City Performing Arts – the organization in which Kristl and Rachel met, there is an SSAA chorus (Windy City Treble Quire) and a TTBB chorus (Windy City Gay Chorus) and the groups are having their combined concert this Saturday at 5pm and 8pm.

2. Felines and Canines -Edgewater-based no-kill shelter housing ~80 cats and ~20 dogs, they have a safe, beautiful space for animals, and a very high adoption rate.

3. Chicago House – Chicago House and Social Service Agency serves individuals and families who are disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ marginalization, poverty, homelessness, and/or gender nonconformity by providing housing, employment services, medical linkage and retention services, HIV prevention services, legal services, and other supportive programs.

4. Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois – TJLP is a group of radical activists, social workers, and organizers who provide support, advocacy, and free, holistic advocacy and criminal legal services to poor and street-based transgender people in Illinois.

5. El Rescate – is a project of the Puerto Rican cultural center that provides identity-affirming housing to homeless LGBTQ youth, some being HIV positive, and support services to assist with their transition to independence.

6. ONE Northside - is a community action organization composed of community members (like churches and credit unions) as well as concerned individuals that work with lawmakers to make social change.

7. Project Fierce – Project Fierce Chicago is a grassroots collective of radical social workers, housing advocates, and young people who are working together to establish identity-affirming transitional housing in ChicagoProject Fierce’s mission is to reduce LGBTQ youth homelessness in Chicago by providing transitional housing and support services to homeless LGBTQ young adults.

8. The Night Ministry – The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based organization that works to provide housing, health care and human connection to members of our community struggling with poverty or homelessness. Through the Night Ministry’s Health Outreach Bus, Youth Outreach Van, and Youth Shelter Network, they work on the ground in Chicago neighborhoods to reach adults, teens, pregnant and new moms who have nowhere else to go.

9. Howard Brown – Howard Brown Health Center exists to eliminate the disparities in health care experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through research, education and the provision of services that promote health and wellness.

10. Chicago Women’s Health Center – Chicago Women’s Health Center facilitates the empowerment of women and trans* people by providing access to health care and health education in a respectful environment where people pay what they can afford.

11. Greater Chicago Food Depository – The Food Depository, founded in 1979, makes a daily impact across Cook County with a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile programs, children’s programs, older adult programs and innovative responses that address the root causes of hunger. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 67 million pounds of shelf-stable food, fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 154,000 meals every day.

12. Care for Real – They help those in the Edgewater community by providing food, clothing and counseling services to those in need. They have on-site food distribution, deliveries to the homebound, a free clothes closet and a case-management program to help clients connect with other services they may need.

13. Greenheart Transforms – Greenheart is a nonprofit committed to connecting people and planet to create a more peaceful and sustainable global community.

14. NeighborSpace – NeighborSpace is the only nonprofit urban land trust in Chicago that preserves and sustains gardens on behalf of dedicated community groups. We shoulder the responsibilities of property ownership so that community groups can focus on gardening. NeighborSpace-protected gardens give young and old alike an opportunity to get their hands in the earth and enjoy nature, right in their own neighborhoods.

15. Peterson Garden Project – hosts community gardens all over the northside of Chicago, recently opened a community kitchen in Edgewater.

16. Advocates for Urban Agriculture – Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA) is a coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses working to support and expand sustainable agriculture in the Chicago area, from home- and community-based growing to market gardens and small farms.

So, that’s our curated list.  Did we miss any of your favorite organizations?  Are there sustainable or queer organizations that you feel absolutely should be on this list? Please leave a comment or let us know on Facebook or Twitter.  We are always excited to learn about more enlivened non-profits doing good work in Chicago.  Or maybe Chicago isn’t your home city, but you want to let us know what is going on in Portland or New York.  Start the conversation.  We’re listening!

Curious about part two of this series? Go ahead and click here to see it!

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A New Direction for Sustainably Queer

Hello Dedicated SQ Readers!

Thank you for your patience in the past months as Rachel has been joyfully toiling through her program in Urban Agriculture and Kristl has been setting up her own fabulous acupuncture storefront in Edgewater. Due to this “construction” period, the writing here on SQ has been a little light. You have learned a lot about us, for sure, but there has not been a lot of meat to our posts.

Kristl and Rachel in Florance

Kristl and Rachel in Florence

Hopefully, as we are swinging into the holiday season and beyond we will be able to change that up for you a little bit. We are looking into a much needed facelift for the blog (because to be honest, we haven’t really spent any time on this at all), as well as a few focus topics that are near and dear to our hearts. We will be giving you more cooking posts (because who doesn’t love a good cooking post!?) and more posts about green living opportunities and events happening around the city of Chicago. We hope to also have interviews with movers and shakers in the queer, sustainable, and sustainably queer community that you should know (oooooh interviews!). It’s going to be cool and hopefully it will be something you will want to share with your friends.

We will however be saying adios to our popular feature Nine on the Ninth, love it though you may (sad sounds here). We have done ten of those features, and we don’t really want to have too much of a good thing. However, as a means of saying goodbye, we will be putting out an homage to Nine on the Ninth (and Oprah) and deliver to you with plenty of time for the holidays a list of Ninety-Nine Things We Like, which are sustainable or queer or, hey, sustainably queer which may also help fill out your shopping list a little bit, or just make your life a little bit easier. So, keep an eye out for that soon. It’ll be in digestible chunks, don’t worry!

Other than that, Rachel will be writing (unrelated but also awesome) some posts for the Advocates for Urban Agriculture‘s blog.  AUA is the main organization that works for the rights of farmers, growers, and locally sourced products in Chicago.  It’s exciting for her to start to work with these fine folks and do the hard work of making sure that the public at large will make sure they are heard.  We will probably link to Rachel’s AUA posts on our Facebook page, for your perusal.  (You may not think that you care about Chicago’s weeding ordinance, but if you have a single family home, you very well may, or if you care about the welfare of small farms in the city, their ability to keep up with simple perimeter weeding may impact their ability to stay open or avoid heavy fines.)

Lastly, we want to be more popular. I mean, who doesn’t? Well, Kristl doesn’t particularly like attention from lots of people, but SQ wants more attention. We want more conversation and we want more people to read along in general. So, we’re going try a couple things. First off, along with our Ninety-Nine Things We Like, we’re going to have a few giveaways! (Our first giveaways, how exciting!) So, keep an eye out for those and information on how to enter. It’s the ultimate win-win situation, you get to enter to win awesome prizes and we get more popular. Done.

In the mean time, if you want to invite your friends to like us on Facebook, that would be cool, too. We have a goal of reaching 300 likes by the end of the year. We’re also on Twitter and Instagram. Follow us in all the places!

That about does it for the planned changes around here. If there’s anything specific you’d like us to write about, please let us know. We’re definitely open to suggestions!

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Nine on the 9th: Hidden Talents

Welcome back to Nine on the 9th (err…16th)! We actually had the text of this done by the 10th, but Kristl took her sweet time finding pictures to add in. Whoops! Sorry we missed September, but we were a little busy. Life is (hopefully) about to calm down for us a bit, as Rachel is graduating from her urban agriculture program on Thursday. We’ve got a few blog posts planned – let’s all cross our fingers that we actually write them! For now, enjoy this list of some of our hidden talents. If we tell you all our favorite hidden talents, then they won’t be hidden anymore. So, just be warned, we aren’t giving up all the goods.

1. Bacon and eggs: Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So it’s good to know who should be in charge of what part of breakfast. Rachel is incredibly good at making bacon. We like to buy thick cut, humanely-raised, locally-sourced bacon. The result is crispy bacon, with a pleasant chew.  Kristl is a genius at making fried eggs.  She knows how to get the edges crispy, and keep the yolks runny.   If she’s adding eggs to something, she has a knack for getting the whites steamed without hardening the yolks.  It’s a dream.  It’s important to know that Rachel is awesome at bacon and Kristl is a genius at eggs because Rachel ruins eggs and Kristl burns bacon, pretty much without fail.
It was hard to find pics to go along with these facts, so here's a random selfie!

It was hard to find pics to go along with these facts, so here’s a random selfie!

2. Weird voices: About two years into their relationship, Rachel completely confounded Kristl by speaking to her in an alien Kermit the Frog type voice.  Kristl asked, “Where the heck did that come from?!” Rachel responded, “Well, it’s just my weird voice for special occasions.”  As an only child, Rachel did have to come up with ways to amuse herself, one of which was manipulating her voice.  It doesn’t come in particularly handy, but it’s weird.

3. Monkey feet: Kristl is really good at picking things up with her toes. Like, creepy good.  She’s always been good at this.  Turns out this comes in handy (ha ha) when she’s wearing a skirt, or a low cut dress, and doesn’t want to flash everyone if she has to bend over. Plus, she’s pretty much always wearing sandals, so it’s convenient. Woo!

4. Google Fu: Kristl can find almost anything on the internet. Anything. If it is on the internet, it is meant to be be found by one Kristl Kwai Fah Yuen. She’s magic. Rachel will complain about not being able to find such-and-such online and then, a few minutes later, Kristl will send her a barrage of links. Rachel is often outwardly annoyed by this, but secretly loves it.
Rachel all decked out in her farming gear!

Rachel all decked out in the farming gear Kristl found for pretty cheap!

5. Finding deals/discounts: This is somewhat related to the previous one, but if you are ever about to buy something, Kristl can probably find you a deal on it. When Rachel was outfitting herself for all-season farmwork, she expected to have to spend hundreds of dollars. After using eBates and shopping around for the best coupon codes and sales, Kristl was able to find all of the gear (work boots, rain pants, Goretex jacket, heavy fleece jacket, light hooded fleece vest, steel toe rainboots, and long silk underwear) for about $250. The Goretex alone retailed for almost $200. This skill definitely came in handy during our leaner months earlier this year!

6. Whistling and humming at the same time: Rachel can whistle and hum at the same time. Like an old timey radio is being tuned or a space ship is landing, or, on a good day, in harmony  Every time she does so, Delilah rushes over to make sure everything is okay.
We played NERTS with friends and, as usual, Kristl won.

We played NERTS with friends and, as usual, Kristl won.

7. Card games: Kristl is unbelievably good at games, card games especially. She often doesn’t even know how she does it. Most recently, we were camping with friends and decided to play Go Fish. Kristl was the second person to go and she somehow managed to get through two full rotations of the group before asking someone for a card they didn’t have. She, of course, won by a landslide.

8. Accents: We occasionally like to speak in exaggerated, nonspecific Minnesota/Northern Wisconsin or Russian accents. We developed our love of Minnesota/Northern Wisconsin accents independently of each other (Kristl in high school, Rachel in college), but the Russian accent acquisition was a concerted effort. Once, Kristl was in the kitchen and she heard Rachel talking in the living room. She assumed Rachel was on the phone with someone, but when she walked over, she realized Rachel was practicing her Russian accent with a YouTube video.

9. Wiggling ears: Rachel can wiggle her ears. Kristl cannot. This makes Kristl jealous on a daily basis. Not really, but Rachel wishes it did. When Kristl tries to wiggle her ears, her eyebrows move. (Rachel is jealous her secret talents are not more useful in real life, although upon further reflection back upon this list, she has some pretty strong tools for entertaining children.)
8-year-old Kristl proudly posing after a baton performance.

8-year-old Kristl proudly posing after a baton performance.

Since we are so late posting this, here are some bonus talents: Rachel tends to meow along to songs since she never remembers the lyrics, Kristl is a decent baton twirler, Rachel is great at spotting cats in windows when we’re out walking, and Kristl can do some pretty rad makeup.

So there you go, hidden talents, and now they are not so hidden anymore. We can make you breakfast, entertain your children, and find you really good deals.  Then Kristl will take you all down in Go Fish.
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Nine on the 9th: How We Are Different

This is a list of nine glorious ways that Kristl and Rachel embody the phrase “opposites attract” and how that works and doesn’t work for them on a daily basis.

1. Math/No Math: Kristl loved math all through school.  She loved math so hard that she decided to major in math in college.  She only stopped loving math when it stopped being math and became theoretical (i.e. not really “math”). That’s when she left college to go be an acupuncturist.  Kristl is really good at computation, mental math, being a calculator, figuring out how many of that will fit into that, etc. On one of their first dates, Kristl challenged Rachel to make her do large number multiplication in her head. It was amusing, but Rachel never knew if she was right or not. Rachel, on the other hand, is Team No Math. She will do her best to avoid mental math if she can eyeball or intuit how much she will need of something. She was a straight A student all through grade school with the exception of 4th grade math, in which she received C’s because she could not slam multiplication tables into her brain fast enough. She managed to adapt to higher level math (algebra, calculus, etc), because it WAS more theoretical, but the calculations were almost always the reason she lost points on quizzes and tests. Thankfully, Rachel passed her AP Calculus exam with a 3 and did not have to take ANY MORE MATH EVER in college. The only bad thing (so far) about being a farmer, is all the math Rachel has to do to figure out how many plants will fit in a plot. Agony.

Studying

Check out that perm! Diligently working on my homework (probably math).

2. Sports: Rachel was never really good at sports, but she really loved playing them growing up, especially basketball. (Having been raised a conservative Christian, she had a shirt that said “Christ is Life, Everything else is Basketball.” Don’t judge.) In high school, she played basketball, and ran cross-country and track. She was pretty buff. Kristl, on the other hand, did not play sports. At all. She was very involved in choir, drama, and student government, but didn’t play a single sport in high school. The funny thing is, Kristl’s not actually bad at sports, she just never had the desire to play on a team. When Rachel tries to apply sports team analogies to real life situations, Kristl frequently can’t relate. Neither of us really enjoys watching sports that much, unless it’s our friends playing in a league or it’s an Olympic year.

3. Looks: We look completely different. Completely. We were thinking about the old adage that partnered couples start to look alike as they get older and we tried to figure out where we were similar – where someone would be like, “Oh, it’s your ears, definitely. Your ears are the same.” Yeah, no.  Kristl is short, she’s got big boobs, she’s half-Chinese, she has short legs, brown eyes, dark brown hair. Rachel is half a foot taller, has basically no boobs, she’s got some hips, long legs, blue-green eyes, light brown hair, she’s mostly German-American with some Anglo-Saxon muttness thrown in. Our faces have different shapes; our ears don’t even connect to our heads the same way. We do both have size 8.5 feet, but our feet are shaped very differently. We’ve concluded that as we age, we will only look the same in spirit.  If you start to think we do look alike, it’s merely an illusion.

See? We don't look at all alike!

See? We don’t look at all alike!

4. Introvert and Extrovert: This one is sort of a cop out, but it frequently plays a big role in our lives. Kristl is definitely more introverted, so she needs a lot of alone time to get her energy back when she’s had to be around people. Rachel is more extroverted, so she is able to get energy by being around people. Sometimes this comes in handy when Kristl has to go to a party for something semi-professional, but she doesn’t really want to talk to people. She can bring Rachel, and Rachel can talk to people and enjoy herself while Kristl can still make an appearance for the sake of her business.

5. Cats and Dogs: Rachel grew up super afraid of dogs, because she was attacked by one when she was three, and Kristl grew up super allergic to cats (thankfully, she’s adjusted to Delilah). Rachel grew up with at least one pet cat in the house at all times, and Kristl has always loved dogs, but her mother refused to let them have labor-intensive pets growing up, so they had things like fish and a Japanese quail. Kristl wanted to get a dog as soon as she had her own place that allowed them (which she did). So, obviously, the fact that Kristl and Rachel now have a cat and a dog together is a pretty big accomplishment. Bradley and Delilah have been very patient through the whole process. Little known fact: Rachel told Bradley that she loved him the first time she met him, on her first date with Kristl. It took her almost four months from that day to say the same thing to Kristl.

Rachel loves Bradley.

Rachel loves Bradley.

6. DANCING: Kristl loves dancing. She loves swing, lindy hop, and tap, and tends to thrive in dance styles that allow freedom within structure. She’s planning on taking up tap again, just because she loves it so much. Rachel is quite a different matter and loves to dance in as free a style possible. She loves to just groove to the music and isn’t good at super structured moves because she doesn’t exactly see the point of it. If you can impress people without structured moves, then just move your body. Part of this difference of opinion about dancing style and structure is why Kristl and Rachel haven’t tried any partner dance classes yet. They have their eye on the queer tango class, but they have yet to commit.

7. Sleeping style: This is a little bit difficult to describe, but Kristl and Rachel have very different approaches to blanket usage while they are sleeping. This bothers Kristl a great deal and bothers Rachel very little, until she completely loses a blanket or a pillow and finds herself super cold and sad in the middle of the night. They don’t even share blankets for the most part because each person in the bed is the master of her own blanket destiny. Kristl usually makes it through the whole night with her blankets in place, while Rachel is lucky to make it to midnight without dropping a pillow or curling into the fetal position because she’s cold and she’s lost her blanket. Kristl frequently will ask Rachel if she wants her pillow or blanket because she looks uncomfortable, but Rachel doesn’t answer these interrogatives…because she is sleeping. (Kristl usually gives Rachel the pillow or blanket back anyway and then Rachel smiles and it’s super adorable.) The best is when Rachel loses her own blanket and then tries to steal Kristl’s. Kristl loves that.

8. Cooking style: Rachel makes big messes when she cooks and it stresses Kristl out to be in the kitchen with her working on the same project. They can peacefully coexist in the kitchen, IF Kristl doesn’t pay too close attention to what Rachel is doing. Rachel does always clean up after her giant messes, and then cleans up after the tiny messes that Kristl leaves when she gets too stressed out by cooking in the same kitchen as Rachel and has to leave. We both try to clean as we go, but it doesn’t always work out as planned.

Canning tomatoes is definitely one of our messier kitchen endeavors. Last year there may have been a lot of Kristl yelling at Rachel for being messy. Hopefully things will be different this year.

Canning tomatoes is definitely one of our messier kitchen endeavors. Last year there may have been a lot of Kristl yelling at Rachel for being messy. Hopefully things will be different this year.

9. Good morning/good night world:  Rachel falls asleep pretty easily, especially since having to wake up at 4:45 for farm work, but it takes her a good hour to be a fully-functioning human in the morning. Kristl takes a while to power down in the evening, but she wakes up almost immediately in the morning, or pretty much whenever she’s woken up. Sometimes, especially in the spring, Kristl will wake up all on her own around 6:00 am for weeks at a time, just like the sun. This bothers Rachel to no end, as Kristl will wake up and start chatting immediately. For the first year of their relationship Kristl had to learn not to talk to “Morning Rachie” until she was given the okay.

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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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