Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

“The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose.” 
- Arnold Bennett

photo by Kenzi Tainow Photography

Friday, December 28, 2012

Before and Afters 2006

I was looking for "before" pictures of our deck and I found photos of the house when we first bought it in 2006. One of the first things we did was paint the exterior.

September 2006
 October 2006
Before paint
2012 Bye Bye, Deck!
Hello soon-to-be addition!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The adventure begins

Today the dumpster, the port-a-pot, and the sign arrived.
Hello Struby Construction!
Bye, bye old deck.
 Day 1 - deck demolition
Next up - the laundry room and kitchen!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I love our little house, but I'm not crazy about only having one bathroom. The original owners who built our bungalow in 1922 had five children. That's seven people sharing one bathroom. They eventually installed a half bath in the attic, climbing a ladder to get there. They owned this house for 47 years and I hope to be here just as long, but not with one bathroom.

Mr. Dukes, the original owner's son, was born in Lilly and Jonathan's bedroom in 1923. We recently gave him a tour of the house and he confirmed that not much has changed. Our water heater is located where the kitchen pantry used to be and a small back porch has been closed in to house the washer and dryer. When we moved in 6 years ago, we bought new windows and had the exterior painted. Besides painting the bedrooms and kitchen cabinets, we haven't done much else but dream about what we'll someday do.

Our house turns 90 years old this year. To celebrate, we're going to give the old girl a facelift. People in our neighborhood tend to go up, adding an entire second story to their homes, but we're doing a much more subtle addition. We love the character of our house and want to preserve all of its charming elements. For example, one of our bedrooms, which we currently use as a den, has 7 beautiful windows, and I'm not about to lose 3 of them just to have a bigger house. Case in point:

I wrote my bungalow a love letter, pointing out all of its attributes. Then I focused on what wasn't working:

the tiny, dark, dated kitchen (9' 4" X 9' 8"),

the uninsulated porch turned laundry room (p.s. that wall is coming down!),

the pantry turned water heater closet (I can't believe I'm posting this mess),

and the makeshift closets in our bedroom (this is Alan's closet, my closet isn't even IN our room).

Our son and daughter have to share a room, which worked well for the first 4 years of his life, not so well now that she's 8. While we're expanding the kitchen and adding a bathroom, we decided to add a bright, airy den off the kitchen. I hired a fabulous architect, Michelle Krahe, who helped create a plan that will enhance the charm of our house and serve our family for decades to come. She came up with the brilliant idea to move our front door, making our long, narrow living room a much more usable space.

We're only adding 285 square feet, so in the end our house will be 1575 square feet - perfect for our family of 4. I believe 400 square feet per person is about right for us. It's not a tiny house, for sure, but it's not a monstrosity either. We're also going to get a new roof, gutters, air conditioner, furnace, and re-insulate the attic and floors. There will be a root cellar under the new addition, which will house our water heater, bikes, and maybe an additional chest freezer. We hope to get started by the first of October. I promise to post lots of pictures!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Have you kissed a pomegranate today?
Check out all of the pomegranate possibilities on
How about THIS for a Christmas beverage?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Winter's best in show

“Ripe fruit is nature’s candy.” My friend, Caroline VanZandt, used to say that with such enthusiasm, like she really believed it. Now I believe it too. She would also eat just one hershey’s kiss when she wanted something sweet. One! This is the same girl who would take a 3-hour spin class before working an eight-hour shift at CNN. Today, she’s a fitness coach with Team Beach Body.
Somehow, I’m not one bit surprised .
Here’s to winter’s candy:

Satsuma Mandarins – sweet, free of seeds, and easy for kids to peel. My family goes through 3 pound bags of these gems SO quickly.

Pears, glorious pears. Here we have our favorite, the Comice Pears. They get their name from the French term Doyenne du Comice, meaning, “top of the show.” Fitting, right? They’re so juicy, so sweet, and winter is their peak season, so stock up now. Wait until they’re a little bit soft and eat them alone or put them on a salad.

Add pomegranate arils, toasted pecans, goat cheese, lemon vinaigrette,
and you’ve got one tasty winter salad.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Everything tastes better with Kim Chi

Alright, I suppose it wouldn’t pair well with ice cream, though I DID just discover a recipe for sweet potato and kimchi pancakes, so it’s not completely out of the question. If you don’t know what Kimchi is, you’re in for a real treat! Kimchi is a Korean dish made of vegetables, typically cabbage and radishes, which are salted, seasoned, and stored in sealed containers to undergo lactic acid fermentation. You can purchase Kimchi mild or spicy, or you can make it from scratch if you’re adventurous like that. Think sauerkraut, only much, much yummier.

Don’t let the word ‘fermentation’ scare you. Humans have been fermenting food for thousands of years and you’ve probably been enjoying fermented beverages since you were a teenager turned 21 years old. Beer, wine, yogurt, chocolate, vanilla, kombucha, kefir, tabasco, miso, creme fraiche, and vinegar are all fermented products. To read more about the health benefits of fermented foods, read Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. An excerpt from the book can be read here. Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions also has a chapter on fermentation.

You can eat Kimchi as-is, use it to make a stewKimchi quesadillas, or fried rice (as pictured below). My very favorite recipe of all is Cynthia Lair's version of Bebimbap breakfast. Everything Cynthia touches turns to gold. Try it! You won’t regret it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Reporter on the scene

Not that I don’t trust the man in the orange shirt with the interesting mustache or the Courier Journal reporter, but I’m pleased to bring you a second-hand review of the Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger from a trusted source. While I seriously question Christian’s choice of lettuce and tomato as toppings, I can personally vouch for his good taste, particularly in tv shows and women (hi Liz!).

Not quite live from the Kentucky State Fair. Sir, how was your Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger?

Do you care to elaborate?
“I thought a combination that bizarre would be incredibly good or incredibly gross. It was neither. It was just okay.”

You heard it here first, folks.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Festival Food

Festival food conjures up images of fried candy bars, funnel cakes and meat on a stick. This year at the Kentucky State Fair there’s a new festival food on the scene and apparently it’s all the rage. Behold the Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger. If you have a very strong stomach, you should watch this video of Courier Journal reporter, Chris Quay, trying one for the very first time. I love how in his article he refers to the combination of grease from the burger and glaze from the donut as “glease.” Webster’s Dictionary, take note. I’m not going to lie, the gentleman with the orange shirt and the interesting mustache makes me a little bit homesick.

Our neighborhood holds its annual Decatur BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass Festival every August. Fortunately, the festival food at Decatur events is marvelously different than that of the Kentucky State Fair. Good music, good food, good people, and all within walking distance of our house. Our friend’s band, Roxie Watson, took to the stage at 5pm and rocked the house, as usual.

While I like barbecue as much as the next person, it just doesn’t appeal to me when it’s so blazing hot outside. August in Georgia sort of feels like you’re in one of those barbecue smokers and I start feeling empathy for the little pigs. Give me a Chicago winter over this heat any day, but I digress. Thankfully, Badda Bing! didn’t forget about the vegetarians, or in my case, the flexitarians. Owner and Chef Michael Condon offered up one of the tastiest, lightest, fluffiest veggie burgers I’ve ever had.

It was like a gift all wrapped up in silver paper especially for me. Look closely between the burger and the spinach and you’ll find a fried green tomato surprise! Now I’m a whole grain kind of a girl, but sometimes white bread is so good it’s worth every gram of carbs. It gets even better, my friends. Badda Bing was also selling FRUIT SOUP!! I’ve always said somebody needs to open up a smoothie stand at festivals, but this was even better.

It was SO refreshing on a hot, summer day. No one fruit dominated another, so I couldn’t even pinpoint what was in it. Cantaloupe, maybe peaches, oranges, lime, and basil. That’s my guess. I tried making a fruit soup once, but it didn’t go over very well. It too had cantaloupe as its base, but then I ruined it with too much carrot juice and ginger. Lilly didn’t approve. I don’t hold a grudge, but I didn’t share this soup with her either.

She didn’t notice because she was already fixated on getting one of these:

A chocolate sea salt popsicle, handcrafted by the King of Pops.
and a Watermelon Mojito popsicle for the boy. 

They didn’t even check his I.D.


I first read about Congee in an incredibly informative cookbook by Chef John Ash entitled Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food From a Master Teacher. Congee, or jook, is a rice porridge commonly served for breakfast in many Asian countries. It’s known to have a restorative quality and is believed by many to be a great remedy for a hangover. While the only late nights I’ve had in the past eight years involved nursing babies and sleep training toddlers, I have found that congee has a theraputic quality and is easy on the stomach.

To make congee, simmer 3/4 cup of long grain white rice with 9 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt. Simmer over medium low heat with the lid partially on for 1-1.5 hours. Stir often, breaking down the grains until they have a smooth consistency.

While we Americans like our breakfast sweet, congee is usually served with savory toppings. Some eat it with pork or fish, but I enjoy a vegetarian version topped with Kim Chi, seaweed, peanuts, grated carrots, fried shallots, garlic and soy sauce. While eating white rice morning, noon, and night wouldn’t be the best thing for your blood sugar, this dish is very economical and could be eaten for days on a shoestring budget.


That’s how little I paid for these fresh fruits and veggies at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market. The organic golden beet was the priciest item at $2.60, so if you’re not passionate about biennial Eurasian plants, the rest of the items pictured would only cost you $5.74. Please don’t check my math, but do consider how much a cappuccino costs, or worse, a sad little Happy Meal. For about the same price I purchased an organic Fuji apple, a Minneolos orange (which is a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit), an artichoke, a turnip, 1 organic zucchini, 5 radishes, a bunch of arugula, a golden beet, and a lemon. Even if you haven’t a clue what to do with these items, don’t they make a beautiful centerpiece? It makes a lot more sense to buy fruits and veggies than a vase full of cut flowers that are only going to last 3 days. They’d make a much better gift too, especially for a food nerd like me.

I bought these goodies as a prop for Oakhurst Cooperative Preschool’s Art Auction Jubilee, to which I donated a week of free food coaching. I literally chased the poor winner down, blocking her exit, to ensure she didn’t leave the bounty behind. I really wanted to introduce her to my good friend, the golden beet.

If you’re still wondering what on earth you would do with the above mentioned treasures, here are some tips. Arugula makes a fabulous, peppery-tasting salad and I’d peel and section that orange and put it right on top. A little lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, pepper would make a yummy dressing and goat cheese would be a lovely addition. If you’re not in the mood for a salad or your arugula is wilted and doesn’t come back to life after washing it, just saute it with a little garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Peel and chop both the golden beet and the turnip, remove the outer layer of the fennel bulb, chop it into similar sized chunks, and roast them in a pan with olive oil, garlic, herbs and/or vinegar at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Eat the roasted veggies plain or use them in a salad, on a pizza, or in a sandwich. Don’t be afraid of the artichoke – it won’t hurt you. Steam it, roast it, boil it, you can even microwave it. Ocean Mist Farms has a good video on preparing the artichoke. Radishes can be used in your salad, of course, but I prefer them sliced thinly and served with a little bit of butter on whole grain toast. The zucchini could be sauted, but tastes even better grilled, just try not to overcook it or you’ll make my friend, Manashi, gag. I also like raw zucchini and raw shredded beets in my salads. That leaves the Fuji apple, and I’m not going to insult your intelligence and tell you how to eat an apple (with peanut butter).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A finger, two dots then me.

While this month has not been kind to my friends or my family, this lifted me up.

Produced by Duality Filmworks and Write Bloody Publishing

Written and performed by Derrick Brown
Shot, cut and directed by David and Daniel Holechek

Friday, November 16, 2012

It's almost Thanksgiving

but I'm drooling over our summer photos.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I feared some days would never end,
but then school started and I missed the noise and the chaos.
It was sweet and exhausting.
Lots and lots and lots of togetherness.
We blew bubbles
 and made our own lava lamps with oil, alka seltzer, and food coloring
 picked blackberries
and strawberries 
 and spent a lot of time on Lake Chatuge.

 It's the most beautiful lake this side of the Mississippi,
AND there are no mosquitos.
Don't tell anyone.

We don't need the big city riff raff from Atlanta mucking up the place like they do at Lake Lanier.
Yes, we're Atlantans (Decaturites, really), but we're RELATED to the local mountain folk,
so they let us in.
 After 15 years of seeing signs for Rock City,
I finally SAW ROCK CITY!
Summer is not my favorite season,
I always dread it
and then I miss it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Thursday night around 9pm I started to feel a little nauseated. I tried chanting the mantra, "I'm not getting sick. I'm not getting sick." It didn't work. I threw up all night long, so many times that I lost count. By 6am, it was obvious that there was no way I was going to be able to stand up, much less get the kids to school, so Alan called work and told them he'd be a few hours late. He got the kids fed, dressed, and drove them to school. I was still so sick by the time he got home, he called work and told them he was taking the day off. He cleaned the house while I slept and picked the kids up after school. Next, he took Lil to her 4:30 doctor's appointment, and got their flu vaccines while they were there. Then he came home and cooked dinner. He was a rock star.

I slept all day and all night, but feel much better today. Being sick is the WORST. I can't help but think of all the people who are sick or in pain the majority of the time. All of the mothers enduring chemotherapy, who still have to suck it up and make breakfast for their kids. Folks suffering from depression, arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, who may not feel 100% better in 24 hours, or even in a week. It's so clear after being sick that good health is the most important thing. We have to take care of ourselves, wipe down grocery cart handles, and stop sharing food with germy kids.

Onto better news, we sold our 1999 Buick Park Avenue on Wednesday! Selling a car is quite a job, but it was worth the effort. Alan put 2 newish tires on it, had it detailed, posted it on craigslist, fielded a few e-mails, met with 2 people, and sold it within a week.

Between bikes, Marta and Flex Car, we should have plenty of options for transportation. We're saving the money, as well as the $150/month we'll be saving on gas and insurance. The only morning I'll be without a car is on Thursdays when my husband works at 4am, which is before the trains run. The kids' schools are both within walking/biking distance of our house. Plus, we live in Atlanta, so I'm pretty sure we won't freeze to death.

We haven't started our house plans yet. We have permits, the plans are completed, the contractor is ready to start, but we are waiting on the bank. Apparently everyone wants to refinance at 3.5%. Go figure. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

to be childlike

Mud Party!

This week, I was helping my four-year-old son into his pajamas, when he said, "Look mom, an owl!"
Sitting on a branch just outside our window was a big, beautiful Barred Owl. We called Lilly and Alan into the room and watched with wonder for a minute or two. We even called the neighbors so their toddler could see. At one point, the owl turned its head 90 degrees and looked right at us. It was magical. Jonny was so proud that he was the one who spotted the owl and he told everyone about it. I talked to him about all the things we miss because we don't pay attention and how it felt like God had sent that owl JUST for us :-) He said, "Pwobly God willy DID send that owl to our house. He pwobly wote, 'To Jonathan's house,' on its wing!"

Today in Sunday School we talked about what it means to be childlike. A friend told a story about a recent trip to the grocery store with her three-year-old. On their way back to the car, her daughter noticed a homeless man, disheveled and shoeless, standing in front of the store. She pointed and yelled, "Mommy, that man is Poooooooooor!" Her mom tried to divert her attention and asked her to lower her voice. Instead, she cried out, "But Mommy, he's REALLY Pooooor!! He's not wearing any SHOOOOOOES!" At this point, the man and my friend made eye contact and he asked if she had any food she would share with him. She asked if he liked yogurt and her daughter carefully picked out her favorite yogurt tube flavors to share with the hungry man. He was grateful, but expressed concern that he was taking food from the sweet girl. 

I have so much more to say, but the weather is incredible here today and my kids and I are headed to the park. Here's to being more childlike.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Last week was fall break and we went camping in Cherokee, North Carolina.
We went to the Cherokee Village where they demonstrated how native americans made tools, baskets, pottery, etc.  We even danced with the Cherokee (that's Lil behind the leader).

We saw Mingo Falls.

We weren't exactly roughing it. The KOA where we stayed had an indoor and an outdoor pool, hot tubs, stocked trout ponds, a bouncy house, playground, food stand, and a store. Alan perfected the art of balancing on a fence :-)

It was pretty great until Friday night when hundreds of families arrived. People are annoying. Annoying and stinky. Suddenly the bathrooms, which had been relatively clean all week, were filthy and smelled like cigarette smoke. There were millions and billions and trillions of kids. We hightailed it out of there Saturday morning.

Peace out!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stuff and things

Today I volunteered in my son's pre-K class and it was such a huge relief to see him having fun and interacting with his classmates. For the first couple of weeks, I had NO idea what he was doing all day and the boy tells me nothing. His sister has been exploding with details since she learned how to speak. Every day she tells me what her teacher said, who played with whom at recess, which shirt her friend wore, and whose mom packs the best lunches. It's like she got all of the detail genes and left her poor brother speechless. Every now and then, he'll repeat something he heard at school in his best teacher voice, "You write letters TOP to Bottom." This week he came home saying, "barf." He didn't even know what it meant, but he liked the sound of it. I thought school would wear him out, but he's napping every single day. It's so odd having him in school all day. The end of an era. 

I'm so completely grateful to have a few months off to process these changes before applying for jobs. After 8 1/2 years of being with my kids nearly every single day, I deserve a break. That is all. If motherhood were a regular job, I would have had 442 weekends in those 8.5 years, plus at least 16 weeks of vacation. Not to mention, I would have gotten paid. So in 2 years and 6 months, if I still don't have a job, you're allowed to ask me what I do all day. 

In other news, I recently read The Glass Castle and loved every dysfunctional word of it.

Also, my brother's band, Dr Vitamin, released their latest album. It's REALLY good. I'm not biased or anything. Check it out:

photo by Kenzi Tainow Photography

Friday, August 3, 2012


My eight year old has been suffering from terrible anxiety all summer. Snakes are about the only thing she's NOT afraid of. It started in May during the last week of school. The change was so dramatic, you'd think something terrible must have happened, but it was just a series of small events that seemed to trigger it. She had a big dance recital, her friend moved away, she got strep throat, had a run-in with a tree root (I'll let you use your imagination on that one), and was really sad for 2nd grade to end. She's never been big on change and has always been slow to warm up to new experiences, but suddenly her fears began interfering with our daily lives.

This summer has been rough. She hasn't wanted to leave the house, and she's had separation anxiety worse than she ever had as a toddler. While she has always refused sleepovers, now she won't even go on a play date. Her stomach has been hurting since May 20th. 11 very long weeks. We've been to 4 doctors, had a stomach x-ray, and a blood test to check her blood count and to rule out Celiac and Chron's Disease. Physically, she's fine. Now she's seeing a therapist.

I wonder if my parenting is to blame, if I warn her about dangers too often. I'm sure my helicopter parenting is not only a partial cause, but also a reaction to her anxiety. We feed off of each other. When she was younger, I always had to be prepared with a change of shoes, band aids, water, food, and a contingency plan. Her little brother is a more happy-go-lucky, adventurous kid and he doesn't listen to me when I warn him about dangers anyway. He could be bleeding from the knees and not even notice. My goal has always been just to keep him alive. He doesn't require extra shoes.

Then there's heredity, which is definitely not going to do her any favors. Our family tree is riddled with alcoholism and bi-polar disorders with a sprinkle of OCD on top. While my husband and I are both prone to anxiety, we've learned to manage it. I mostly avoid the things that make me nervous, which doesn't exactly make me the most fun person on the universe and isn't probably the healthiest coping technique. It's really sad to see your child avoiding things like amusement parks and Braves games.  Besides, you can't avoid elementary school just because it gives you stomach aches. I had school anxiety in the first grade and according to my mom I cried every day for over a month. Of course, we had just moved for the umpteenth time and my teacher, Mrs. Looney, paddled kids who didn't do their homework.

I now realize that my daughter was wired differently from the start. Oh, I'd heard stories about babies who slept through the night at 5 weeks, but I convinced myself they were just urban legends. When she was a month old, her Dad sneezed and it startled her so badly that she cried for 20 minutes. From then on, he ran out of the room if he had to sneeze, cough, or breathe loudly. When she was little, if a truck hit a pothole in front of our house or the phone rang while she was sleeping, it would startle her awake. The child never napped for more than 20 minutes. She hated riding in cars. She didn't sleep through the night until she was 7 years old. She's terrified of loud toilets, and FORGET IT if they flush on their own.

But she's funny, spunky, graceful, intelligent, talented, and extremely empathetic. School started this week and she was nervous about it for weeks. She cried the night before, but marched right in there like a soldier going to war. She spent the day befriending the new girl in class. Being sensitive is a mixed bag. Parenthood is too.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

School days

It's the first day of school. After 8 1/2 years of nearly always having at least one kid by my side, they are both in school until 2:30pm 5 days a week. I'm stunned by the silence. The fridge is so loud. There are so many things I want to do, but don't know where to start. All those years of wishing I could just have 2 or 3 hours to myself. Still, I'm going to wonder what Jonny is doing in pre-K every second of the day. He looked so proud wearing his new orange backpack, and not one of those tiny preschool deals either. Lilly is in 3rd grade. THIRD! Her last year at her K-3 school. I remember driving by the school when she was in preschool and pointing out where she would SOMEDAY go to Kindergarten. Man, I sound so old.