Autumnal bliss.

A poetry morning
neighbor’s golden tree raining sunlight
liquid lemon, luscious leaves
azure sky exquisite backdrop.
Cat watches in window too;
autumn’s ancestral song
is strong in all beings.




The Magic of Volunteers

I had the privilege to spend this past Saturday both coordinating volunteers and being a volunteer myself.  The latter was for Rauchfest, a fantastic festival from the marvelous Harriet Brewing, while the former was the annual Neighborhood Cleanup, an excellent opportunity for the residents of northwest St. Paul to get rid of any number of things and meet their neighbors.  Neither event could have happened without volunteers, and it was especially invigorating to be on both sides of the table.

Here’s the trick though: it’s surprisingly easy to get people to show up for a one time event that involves doing good and free food/drink.  It’s umpteen times more difficult to find people to do the repetitive in-office kind of work that is so essential to the functioning of a non-profit.  Stuffing envelopes and flyering for variances is decidedly un-sexy and doesn’t have many of the immediate community-building, fun-having perks that flesh out a volunteer based event.

There are a plethora of places to find volunteering opportunities.  As you are accosted by ways to get involved and do positive things in your community, what makes a particular volunteer possibility compelling for you?  How can the envelope stuffing and flyering needs of organizations be met in a fun, functional way?  What keeps you returning to work with a particular organization/event?

I’ll be helping at Powderhorn Empty Bowls next (the weekends of October have been swallowed by weddings and parental visits), a lovely mashup of art, food and community.  Join me if you’re in the Cities!

Right Now I’m Reading: The Likeness

While the arrival of autumn announces the dwindling of local produce and extensive outdoor adventures, it also brings the advent of many things I love and can’t quite find time for in the summer: lazy days with tea, crafting and quilting, and READING.  I’m already in the book devouring stage, and The Likeness by Tana French is one of the first casualties.

I added French’s second novel to my library queue after reading a most excellent blog entry/book review/generally awesome contemplation of the universe by The Rejectionist on books that are like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.  If you haven’t read TSH, stop reading my ridiculous blog entry right now and go find a copy at your local used bookstore.  It’s downright addictive and dare I say perfect for the sort of weather we’re having in the Twin Cities these days.

The Likeness is almost as delectable as TSH, a murder-mystery-college-type morsel that has led to reading at a coffeeshop an hour longer than I planned and being twenty minutes late to work because I so desperately wanted to finish a chapter.  The characters aren’t quite the caliber of those in TSH, but I’m only about halfway through so I should probably reserve judgement until resolution.

Whether you are in school or the work world, The Likeness is a delightful break from reality.  Plus the author kind of looks like a fierce elf.

Next on the docket? Sheepish by Catherine Friend.  (Hit By a Farm was possibly my favorite read during the 2009 summer I spent working on sustainable farms in Western MN)  Recently finished?  Bossypants by Tina Fey.  Hi-freaking-larious.

Places I Love: Parkway Pizza

At long last I write an ode to Parkway Pizza, the fabulous pizza joint mere feet from my doorstep.  Host to my wedding ‘rehearsal dinner’, Parkway just might be everything I could want in a pizza place.

The foundation of my adoration is of course in the pizza ingredients themselves.  Parkway has pledged to use as many local ingredients as possible, and has a sign indicating that Wisconsin is the origin of their cheese.  Gluten-free crust is available for the celiacs and gluten-intolerant among us, and they do a fabulous olive oil garlic bread for my dairy-free friend Lee.  They also just added mock duck as a new pizza topping, which substitutes fabulously for any meat on any pizza, equally and sometimes surpassing (in the case of the chicken alfredo pizza) the previous carnivore-induced deliciousness.

Beer is another obvious highlight- all beers that Parkway carries are local, and they recently began serving a handful of locals on tap in addition to bottles.  I’m more than ready for a fall/winter seasonal to return to the tap list, but in the meantime the IPA will more than suffice.

Free pool and foosball tables, rotating local art, friendly staff, and frequent donations to local schools round out the list of what makes Parkway so fantastic.  Almost.  The icing on the cake is their all the time special deal: $20 for a jumbo one topping pizza and a pitcher of Grain Belt.  Including tax.  Where else can you get something so tasty so cheaply?  Ben and I used to take advantage of this special nearly every time we visited Parkway, but the new Sunday evenings bicyclists and friends gatherings have switched things up a bit, for the better I think.  Regular friend and food events make my heart happy.

Next time you’re in the Longfellow/Hiawatha neighborhood, visiting Minnehaha Falls or the like, be sure to partake of the delights of Parkway Pizza.

Priorities (hint: money isn’t one of them).

As a lover of lists, I have done much brainstorming and categorizing of my priorities at various points in time.  Though the specific order has changed a bit in time, near the top of any list of priorities I have ever made is free time.  Relationships.  Nature.  Creating.  Never under any circumstances has money been anywhere on any priority list, let alone near the top.

It wasn’t until the last few months, however, that I clarified what that meant for me in no uncertain terms, and it’s as simple as this: money is never ever worth more than my time and energy.  This came to a head a couple of months ago in a silly misunderstanding with my taxes that involved an incorrectly filled out form (my fault), almost an hour on hold on the phone, and enough mailings back and forth between the IRS and myself that I started wondering if they messed things up on purpose once in a while just to give someone a job.  In the end I very clearly realized that I would rather pay the extra money the government insisted I owed even though I knew they were wrong than spend even another minute thinking or worrying about the sheer ridiculousness of the situation.  Because my mental energy is more valuable than money.

This shouldn’t be a groundbreaking idea, and for many groups of people throughout time it wouldn’t be.  However, in our present world that is thwarted by the financial crisis yet can’t seem to see that a rethinking of systems and a re-valuing of people and culture rather than GDP would make great strides toward building a happy, healthy, sustainable future, the idea that time and energy are more valuable than money is preposterous.  The monetary unit is everything and nothing at once, a measurement of worth that has almost no real connection to the contentment and viability of our lives.

I know I am enormously privileged to be able to feel this way; I am not in debt, am relatively healthy, and am educated enough to find a job and be reasonably respected in society.  But does that mean that the worth of those in debt (not by choice), those that are sick, and those that are uneducated must be measured by a financial stick?  That to me is what is preposterous.

I’ve shared one of my favorite organizations that is redefining worth and priorities and viability in a new, non-monetary way in previous posts, and will here again; the Center for the New American Dream.  While my personal reprioritization is important, we must collectively redefine the priorities of our society in order to affect real change, and the New American Dream is doing just that.

(Full disclosure: in the situation with the IRS they ended up not only paying back the money I sent them, but sending another check for the money I thought they owed me once I reconfigured my taxes.  Sometimes the universe does reward those who know what’s important to them!)

Community Echinacea Tincture

My latest project endeavors to combine several joys of mine: growing things, herbalism, and community.  I’ve made ten of the little cards you can see at left to give to people in the neighborhood that have echinacea plants in their yard in hopes that they will be willing to donate a plant in exchange for a small bottle of finished tincture.  With the impending fall and winter cold season, I think an immunity boosting tincture would be just the thing to share.  And hopefully I’ll make some new friends in the process 🙂

I’ll have my contact information and a blurb explaining what a tincture is on the back (hence the star), which I hope isn’t condescending, but I don’t want to assume everyone knows what a tincture is already.

I’ve also changed my weekly bread baking routine a bit; rather than doubling the Holden Village bread recipe to bake a large loaf for Ben and me for the week, I’ve been tripling it and baking an extra small loaf or two to give away to a friend.  If you live in the Twin Cities and would like to be on the recipient list for said extra bread, leave me a comment here.  Who doesn’t love freshly baked bread?

Live Blogging at the Clean Water Summit- Cool Resources

A number of great organizations and projects have been shared during my time at the Summit today.  Here are a few:

*i-Tree, tools from the Forest Service for assessing and managing community forests

*Minnesota Weather Almanac, a quirky, local, weather-specific cousin of Farmers Almanac

*Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and Capitol Region Watershed District, two great organizations that I work with on water and environmental issues

*Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, a place you should absolutely visit if you haven’t already

*Minnesota Shade Tree Advisory Committee, particularly their Guide to Creating an Effective Tree Preservation Ordinance

Now go hug a tree!