Saturday, October 8, 2011

So Hilary, what have you and Mike been up to lately?

What a great question. Thank you so much for asking.

Mike has started full+ time at UTSA. Go Roadrunners!

I deferred enrollment at UNT School of Information and Library Science and spent the last month working on a manuscript to submit to a creative writing MFA program. I hesitate to even divulge this, in case it doesn't work out (read: they reject me), but we shall see.

Mike's job is to get good grades. He's solid.

I'm working on some freelance assignments. It is so hard to be my own boss. I should make myself clock in and out. I try setting deadlines. Mixed results. A huge shout-out to the Leon Valley Public Library and the Great Northwest branch of the San Antonio Public Library for providing such wonderful lighting, wi-fi, and air conditioning for my work purposes. Thanks also to the Starbucks baristas in this area who have turned a blind eye when I slip in and stay for hours without buying anything.

I've had fun/driven Mike nuts decorating our little place. It's been fun because I like finding new ideas, but it's been a little maddening because I'm chronically incapable of finishing 50% of the projects I start. My mother-in-law and I have a bunch of projects to finish this week, so I might write a supah craft post soon.

When Mom left for her mission in June, Mike and I inherited some seeds she had been holding on to: cilantro, basil, lettuce, dill, chamomile, broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard (a personal favorite), sunflowers, pansies, beets, zucchini, summer squash, and on and on. And, lucky for us, we live in a part of the country where we can garden year round, so I've (obsessively) planned our fall garden.

Mike and I had a mini-garden experience this summer, but we worked with established starts. Starting from seed intimidates me. However, I successfully started two broccoli plants (out of twelve seeds planted in an egg carton... yes, we're poor/thrifty/totally rad) which are now thriving in modified Diet Coke bottles. When they look sturdier, they'll go into our plot at the Leon Valley community garden, where we have a 10'x20' plot. I've got dill and cilantro in more bottle planters, some basil that we moved from Utah (Mike's Budget van buddy), and another batch of basil in a plastic planter my neighbor gave me. The mint I tried to start from a branch of a friend's plant in Utah died, sadly. Our neighbor also gave me some long planters for spinach and lettuce here at the house. The lettuce is starting to sprout! Less than one week! We put some in at the garden too. We also put in a row of broccoli and two rows of Swiss chard at the garden. I'm not sure if anything will grow. A garden buddy gave us some little onions to grow in our plot, so we've got a square of those too.

We also started a composting box (we used one of those big plastic storage bins; Mike drilled holes in it with the tools our neighbor lent us) just outside our patio. We save kitchen scraps and shred junk mail (and old bills, woohoo!) and throw them into the box at the end of the day. Hose it down occasionally, and let the San Antonio sun do the rest.

Gardening is good for us. It makes us get out of bed at normal, grown-up hours (i.e. before 8 am). It's good exercise. We socialize with neighbors. We often take advantage of the garden's location at Rimkus Park and go running on the paved path, hike on the trails, or take Le Pug for a walk. And, for Mike especially, gardening is a very emotional and spiritual experience. I like being one tip-toe closer to self-sustainability.

We love to cook and eat. Mike worked several years in a restaurant kitchen, and I read cookbooks like novels. When our powers combine, we eat like royalty, even on our student loan/self-employed budget. Mike and I have made some conscious changes in the way we eat. We're trying to make much more of our own food from scratch. I use the famous bread machine and my Kitchenaid wheat grinder attachment to make our own wheat bread. We're getting most of our produce and seafood from our local farmer's market, which meets every Wednesday across from Rimkus. How convenient, you say. Yes, yes it is. Plus, we like investing in community and local growers. Plus, the produce is divine. We still do Bountiful Baskets, although they only come every other week in our area. It's a nice way to save money and supplement the more expensive food market finds.

When I shop at the grocery store, I try to find simple foods: things with few ingredients, that I can actually pronounce. Meat, poultry, and dairy that's been produced humanely (for the animals) and fairly (for the humans). It's more expensive to live this way. However, I feel much more respect for the culinary process when I take more time and yes, more money, to prepare a meal for us. Mike and I have noticed that we eat less. We enjoy the way our food tastes. We savor and appreciate our food more. We get more creative. I still look for coupons on foods we feel good about and try to find ways to save money. I learned how to make my own yogurt (so inexpensive, and saves packaging), which I can use for baking or turn into a cream cheese-like spread or sour cream. Every other week, I slow cook a whole chicken, which lasts us for at least two meals, and use the carcass to make broth.

Can you tell I'm loving this? Yes.

Life is good. We are happy and hopeful and feel so fortunate that we get to spend most of our days together.