Good Earth

Last month, we planted a few things in some good earth. In some good, free earth, I should say. The owners of a cafe and a strawbale house let us plant some veggies in two rows of their garden. And we've been looking in on them, but today we went and actually picked some things! We had enormous lettuce, a full-grown cucumber, and a ton of fresh basil ready to be cooked with some pasta!

Our two little rows: tomatoes, chili peppers, red lettuce, cucumbers, basil

Just picked basil! Yummy! It smells so good.

The great thing about this lettuce is that you just continue to pick the outside leaves and it continues to grow! We trimmed them down today and have an entire box of beautiful, tasty lettuce- way more than we can handle. So we got to share with the Mart Man. While we were in the Mart, a woman there was impressed with the size of our lettuce and the color, too. She said that we should buy some land and farm like this. We were both really surprised, because we didn't work at all for this stuff. We just put it in the ground, and it grew! But I love giving it away and seeing how much a small bit of gardening can provide.

We also picked one of our cucumbers. It was so crispy and delicious. I am still reading essays in Wendell Berry's book, The Gift of Good Land, and I am able to understand much more now that I've experienced the joys of producing some of my own food. (Even if it is on such a small scale.) I don't know. Maybe I'm getting all sentimental and idealistic with the essays on traditional agriculture and the giddiness of seeing our veggies grow. But I really think there's something enriching about producing rather than consuming. I feel good. And I'm thankful for this small bit of earth we've been given. It's giving back to us already.



Let's review, shall we? Let's take a moment to remember the beauty of my big furry kitters.

These pictures were taken last Wednesday before I took them for their appointment to be groomed at the vet. And now, for the big reveal! Miso and Bo are sleek and slimmed down. They aren't suffering in the heat of summer, and we aren't eating as much fur with our meals. Just remember the positives, okay? And keep the negative comments to yourself, because the kitters read the blog.

It took me a few days to get used to their new look, and it took them a few hours to get used to each other again! They just walked around and sniffed and sniffed each other. It was pretty funny. Because they both looked so different and they smelled wonderful! But this time there was no hissing on either end, just curiosity and they slept together that first night in our bed. Which they have continued to do every night since. I love that they're more cuddly now! But I still miss my furry, fat Miso sometimes. But they seem happy and much more comfortable. And most importantly, we're not eating as much fur with every meal. Speaking of meals, I better go get one ready!


Getting Crafty

So this is what I've been working on in the evenings. I've made my own cards before, but never thought about making them for other people to send. So, now, I am! It's so much fun and it gives me something to look forward to while I'm trudging through my work days.

 Oh yeah, I hate my job now. Not necessarily this job in particular. It pays well, the schedule is good, the people are nice. But I am not cut out for ESL teaching. It's just not me. I'm probably hanging out until February and then the future is wide open!

I'm going to continue to make little sets of handmade cards to get me through. Let me know if you like them!!


Feline Dignity

Aren't they gorgeous? Look at their lovely, long, soft, fur. OR NOT. Because that lovely, long soft fur turns into large, unwieldy tumbleweeds that crawl across the floor in every room, congregate in every corner, and attempt to get into all the food. I don't know how much cat hair I eat in a week, but I'm pretty sure it's substantial.

It's summer here. It's hot. And we don't have air conditioning. Yep, I said it. We don't have air conditioning. Korea in the summer is kind of like the South in the summer. Imagine living in Tennessee or Georgia without an air conditioner in your house. Now, we don't live in a house. We live in an apartment and we live on the 7th floor in a 12 story building. Which is good, because it keeps us cool. But we also live facing a gorgeous garden with an entire wall of windows on the veranda. We do have fans in every room, and although it's stuffy when we come home at night, it's not really that hot. But the kitters hang out here everyday and their fur has decided to mutiny. We brush them, we vacuum, we pick hair out of our mouths and noses.

Remember when we shaved Bo in the winter? Well, Kenny is convinced it's the only answer to the fur tumbleweeds taking over the apartment. And if I wasn't so damn tired of trying to cough up tiny hair stuck in my throat, and the cats hadn't begun having frequent hairballs (however, they are incredibly smart cats and only puke up their hairballs on the floor instead of the carpet! Thank you, darlings!), I would refuse. Because they're going to be so ugly. Just so ugly. And Bo's fur isn't even back to normal yet. And Miso is so soft and gorgeous and I love it that she's so furry. The other thing is that to shave them, they have to knock them out, and Miso gets so very sick afterwards. It's pitiful to watch. I almost can't bear the thought of it. Doesn't this photo just scream dignity?

But the HubbO has drawn the line. And honestly, it is hard to keep the house clean. So, I think we're shaving the cats tomorrow. And it's going to be a really sad day. I might cry a little bit. Let's take a moment of silence and remember how beautiful and lovely they are with all their fur....

Oh Kitters! I'm so sorry. I love you and I'm doing this for you. So that you don't have to puke hairballs anymore, so you don't have to chase fur tumbleweeds and eat them anymore, so the HubbO will get off my back about cleaning hair and eating hair and sleeping with hair and wearing hair. There's no turning  back, my lovelies.


Week 2

Well, Week 2 wasn't a total loss, but I'd count it as an almost-failure. Especially coupled with this weekend. I guess I kind of lost a bit of my momentum, really. Fixing lunch and dinners everyday before  1 pm makes me busy. And at first, I was really glad to be busy about making my life better, improving my eating habits, yada yada. But Week 2, I missed sleeping in; I stayed up too late at night; I allowed too many things to get me down. I ran out of time one day and we were forced to eat out. And it's not like we ate somewhere healthy. Then, Friday, I had one of those depressing days where I hated my body, my face, my hair, just a general day of self-loathing. And I knew I would mess up. I went on down to the Dunkin' Donuts, had a coffee, one donut, and a sandwich with two kinds of cheese! It was glorious. For about 10 minutes. Then, I just felt guilty. Also, I didn't run. Not once!

I'm really disappointed in some of the choices I've been making, but I want to get back on track this week. And because last week was a bit of a throwaway, I think I might push my No Ma'am Month on into July.
I am blogging before 8 am today, so I count that as a win. I have all my fruits and veggies ready for today's dinner, and even though I'm not making it out to the track this morning because I have to go to a kindergarten and teach (I do this once a week for an hour on Mondays), I still feel good about being up and getting things done.

So, hopefully this week I will be able to make better decisions and be proud of myself at the end of it. I'm not going to buy coffee, I'm not going to watch ANY TV at all, and I'm going to try to use my time wisely, and also do the things I want to do, instead of just sitting around wishing I was doing the things I want to do!

Mary Oliver writes, "Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?" in her poem Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches. And yes, Mary! I've been calling it a life. But from now on, I'd like to take deep, centering breaths and live my life.


Week 1

So, week 1 of my Month of No Ma'am was pretty great. I was expecting to feel exceptionally deprived, but instead, I felt almost indulgent in taking care of myself!

No Spending: I did well with this. It was so much easier to pass up little shopping trips and snacks since I told myself no about anything that wasn't groceries. I did spend quite a bit of money at the little mart next to our house, but mostly because we've started eating real food everyday, and buying fresh fruits and veggies will always be more expensive than stocking up on instant noodles. Also, I realized I don't begrudge myself the spending when it comes to eating more delicious and more healthy foods.

No TV: I also didn't have any problem with not watching TV. However, I have decided that no TV is a weekday thing. Rather than abstaining from so many things all the time for an entire month, I've decided that moderation is a better choice in this area. On the weekends, Kenny enjoys watching TV and I'm not going to tell him he can't. I also started crafting again, and I enjoy doing so in front of the TV. I decided to put No TV in June because it was sucking up the time I could use to do something else. But because I am actually doing something else, I find it's much easier to turn off and stop watching when I'm finished with whatever project I'm working on. So, success in this area, with a little compromise where needed.

No Eating Out: I made lunch everyday for us and even prepared us both dinner boxes to take to school. There are three little boxes that fit in our carrier cases. So every day, I stuffed one of them full of fruits and veggies. I'm really a fan of carrots, watermelon,  and grapes right now! This week, I've branched out to include apples and kiwi. The other had a half a sandwich and a banana or some cheese and crackers or something like that. And the final box was stir-fried tofu, or pasta with veggies, or some rice dish I'd thrown together.I was really so proud of myself for cooking everyday. It's something I'm getting more comfortable with and I'm learning how to throw things together quickly with what I have in the fridge. I'm also learning how to keep the fridge stocked with the things we need on a regular basis. However, we also decided that No Eating Out could be modified to be weekday only. On the weekend, we did cook our own meals, but ate out on Saturday for lunch. Again, this is mostly because this month is about making better choices for ME, not forcing Kenny to go along with me in everything. It's called No Ma'am, not No Sir for a reason.

No Excuses: Actually, I made a few excuses. I had a coffee on Friday, I ate out on Saturday, and I also watched TV while I worked on some handmade cards. But I'm okay with those. Mostly, I'm really glad that I'm learning to compromise and to keep on working to achieve my goals. Before, I would have decided the minute I drank that extra coffee on Friday that my entire Month of No Ma'am had failed, which would have promptly been followed by a shopping spree and a mindless TV marathon of giving up. But compromising is OKAY! I'm not perfect. I'm never going to do anything perfectly. But I'm realizing that it shouldn't stop me from trying really hard. I'm not going to get discouraged that I missed one run. I'm going to be encouraged because I ran twice when I planned to, despite the heat and not really having much extra time in the morning.

This week is going well, too. I'm getting more creative with lunches and dinner boxes, really loving the numbers in my bank account, and just feeling so much better about the way I'm spending my free time. So many times, I feel this nagging sense of guilt pulling on my ankle, whispering in my ear that I'm letting myself down, I'm being too lazy, I'm not accomplishing anything. But I'm learning to tell that guilt to SHUT IT. Because I've made a few boundaries and limits for myself, and they're working really well! I might decide to make No Eating Out except on weekends an entire summer thing. Or heck, an entire life thing. I'd like to be just that comfortable in the kitchen. And the running thing? Definitely something I'm hoping to stretch beyond the measley month of June. I'd also like to ultimately tell myself no about most things I want to buy. Before this month, I bought any little thing that caught my fancy because I could. And I looked and saw that my spending was just making me unhappy later. I've never been one for delayed gratification. But I think it's time.

I just feel good. What about you?


June is Here

June is a very special month, my lovelies. Why? Because I am setting some limits and reaching some goals.

Welcome to June. This month I am telling myself, "No Ma'am!" in my most Southernest of accents. I was reading an essay last week that bowled me over. Wendell Berry writes, in his masterpiece Faustian Economics, "...our human and earthly limits, properly understood, are not confinements but rather inducements to formal elaboration and elegance, to fullness of relationship and meaning."

And I've been telling myself, "Why not?" for so long. I'm tired of that mentality because it's getting me nowhere. I'm fat, unhappy, and lazy. So, welcome to June! In this month, which is a completely reasonable amount of time, I will tell myself no. I'm doing this for a few reasons. One, I'm bored with being lazy. I'm bored with indulgence. I'm bored with "Why not?" Two, I'm ready to see what I can do. I'm ready to start functioning within limits I set and seeing what I can achieve.

So, onto the NO MA'AM list for this month-long project:
No Spending
No spending means, well, no spending. We are buying groceries and gas, along with cat and gardening supplies. And that's it! No daily coffee purchases, no little pens and pencils at the stationary shop, no impulsive online shopping. We accidentally saved a lot of money last month. And I thought, hey, what if we tried to save a lot of money on purpose? What could we achieve. I've been reading Ashley's A Story of Debt. I've really been inspired by her focus and intentional living. Although I don't have credit card debt, I do have a blessedly-interest-free family debt to my Papaw who loaned me a hefty sum for my Master's year in England. Turns out it's the best money I've ever owed anyone, but that's no reason to stretch this out longer than it has to. I want to really focus on making large payments more often and also, of building up an emergency fund. So, I figure if every few months we do a 'no spending' month, it might become our habit to save rather than spend.

I'm not a big television addict as it is, and that's mostly why I'm cutting it out altogether. Kenny and I usually watch TV when we eat lunch together. But I find myself completely vegging out in front of the tube on the weekends. And sure, it's a lovely time to rest and zone out for a while, but it's like a time-suck I can't escape. Once I watch one hour, the next four are sure to follow. And the weekends are precious time where I can order my days any way I like! Why would I waste them on stupid TV shows I've already seen and don't really enjoy? I will continue to watch 44 minutes of commercial free Glee once a week on my computer. I mean, Glee is quite addictive, but now that I'm all caught up, there's only one episode to watch at a time anyway. (I watched episode 21 right before writing this post! Love it.)

No Eating Out
Obviously this is a sub-heading of No Spending, but it deserves a little paragraph all its own. Because this is only June 2nd and I have quite a few more days to go through, I'm still ecstatic about this one. I've been getting up and fixing our lunch and then figuring out what to cook and pack for our dinners. Kenny and I both work through dinner because we go into work after lunchtime. We have cute little lunch boxes that I took like, twice before. But now, it's so much fun to figure out what I can use to fill up the three containers for dinner. Today I cooked a macaroni pasta for lunch with fresh onion, garlic, peppers, and a sprinkle of cheese. Then, I cooked rice and made Korean rice balls (ju mok bap) with dried seaweed (kim). I also fixed green salads with an olive oil and balsamic homemade dressing. The third container was filled with carrots, cucumbers, a banana, and fresh watermelon slices! I love dragging out dinner over my entire 2 hour break at school. I always see if I can make it all last until 5. I don't eat after 5pm anymore because it makes me so incredibly fat. Anyway, I'm trying out new recipes, shopping with more focus, and making my husband about as happy as it gets. He's always been in charge of meal times and now that he doesn't have to worry about it, he's a free man! Anyway, I'm having so much fun fixing our little dinners. We wasted so much money on eating out. It's actually incredibly cheap to eat out in Korea, but I wasn't eating healthy. And this way, I can be in charge of what goes into my body.

No Excuses
Tomorrow will be my second day of the Couch to 5K program. I started on Tuesday. I can't wait to get out there tomorrow morning. I've been complaining for a few months about my ballooning Belly and back fat, but I haven't done anything about it. I've made all sorts of excuses about how my work schedule had me eating dinner after 10 p.m., how the gym was too expensive and far from our house, how my clothes were stupid and nothing fit. But I decided that I was tired of making excuses for myself. I don't want to allow myself to be like this, especially after just last summer I was the thinnest I'd been in a long time and wearing stuff I wore in college. In 6 months, I've gained so much weight, it's stupid. Yeah, I'll always be a ChubbO Chubbington on the inside. My passion for food is insatiable. But with this No Eating Out, I'm hoping to take my passion in a different direction and train my body to want what's good for it. And running again is making me feel more confident and optimistic about my body. I'm tired of hating myself. So, I'm doing something about it.

If anyone wants to join me, just let me know! And I'll leave you with this poem from Mary Oliver, that says everything else I want to say. Summer's here, y'all!

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
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