Big 10.

Somehow, October kicks off next Monday, by which time I’ll have already drunk my weight in pumpkin beer — for purely scholarly reasons, of course. Studies so far have determined the O’Fallon vintage superior to Schlafly. Further testing required to make a final determination.

More fall goals:

  • Hiking. I invested in some shoes with treads (daily uniform of nude flats and cozy moccasins weren’t going to cut it), and have a mid-October destination in sight: Effigy Mounds, with gorgeous bluff-top views of the Mississippi and sugared gingerbread man trail snacks from Pedretti’s. Bundled in with this: Outdoor picnics. Because I’ve got a quilt and a state-full of open prairie.
  • Eating all the pumpkin you have. Pumpkin beer, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie and apple cider (close enough). Also squashes. Especially this saffron butternut squash risotto, please. And lattes and brownies, oh my.
  • Snuggling with my radiators and doing right, decoratively speaking, by this killer fireplace.
  • Staying ahead at work. Maybe. Hopefully. Only if I can stomach starting the cattle de-worming story a couple weeks early.
  • Biking to work. This is a leftover summer goal, and I did it! All of two times. I could make excuses about scheduling out-of-office interviews, the sheen of sweat that refuses to go away all day and crazy CR drivers, but really there’s no good reason I didn’t bike more. Laziness mixed with lack of preparation the night before mixed with I sweat a lot, guys. The new apartment is closer to the office, the weather less perspiration-inducing, and I heard there are baby otters in the lake on the way — maybe October is the month for the Schwinn and I.
  • One more serious goal: Know more about the world. Conflicts and capitals and trade and tyrants. Hopefully I can attack this one with a combination news/ podcast/nature documentary/dancing to Cuban music approach. It’s going to take a lifetime, not just a Fall 2012 Global Ignorance Banishment quick study. Reading Half the Sky, Out of Mao’s Shadow and Palestine Inside Out have been the first giant leaps in revealing my ignorance about the world. Next up, ancient Icelandic sagas, the modern Icelandic economy and trip planning.


I’ve been listening to a lot of new stuff from old favorites, like to-die-for Grizzly Bear, groovy new Cat Power and St. Vincent with David Byrne and horns. But, in need of something different, I turned to an unfamiliar First Listen last week to try to break out of the aural rut.

And this is the result: Melody’s Echo Chamber. Which led to Broadcast. And Efterklang. And Bibio dance parties. And then when I grabbed a purple pen and my “Music You Should Listen To” list to add these newbies, I noticed there’s a lot of other awesome stuff on there that’s been waiting on the shelf for a second hearing. Very effective medicine for curing musical paralysis.

As always, suggestions appreciated.

Beautiful things.

Happy fall! This weekend I got to celebrate with chunky sweaters and a wind-chapped nose, Mongolian throat singers, pumpkin beer and hot apple cider plus some late-night DIY salsa dancing — not just for steamy summer anymore, folks.

More things:

  • Also check out Rana Santacruz, from the Cedar Rapids Landfall world music festival. I spent about 7 hours and 14 minutes volunteering in a downtown park passing popcorn and donation buckets to blanket-encased Iowans, but six of those hours were more dancing than volunteering.
  • Baba ganoush! Eggplant’s gift to mankind. Used the Food Network recipe, but I’d like to try this chunkier version next.
  • I’ve been having a moment with whimsical florals and geometric patterns lately/for the last two years. Learning about Josef Frank and Carolina Chaves Urruzmendi this week fanned the flame, and I treated myself to wallpaper samples from longtime lust Grow House Grow. A framed swatch of sweetpea “Cottontail” is going up in the new apartment bathroom.
  • And finally, the word “marshmallow” in Icelandic: læknastokkrós.

What they don’t tell you about book club.

I’m packing up books again, exactly a year after the last time, and I know they all fit in one box last September. Not so anymore. I went a little crazy with spring purchases, then had to support the new independent bookstore (HAD to, morally obligated to), then C and I engaged in a very lucrative book exchange and the yield from that is creeping higher on my bedside table.

But I honestly thought one, extremely heavy XXL rubber box would be enough. Nope. I tried transferring the bounty into one, extremely heavy XXL duffel bag — something I could swing over my shoulder like a trusty Grand Canyon pack mule and deposit at the new place to fill the built-in bookshelves as soon as possible. (Total honesty, they’re the real reason I’m moving.) Once full, though, it wouldn’t budge and I had visions of Albert, the helplessly bad-backed dachshund I baby-sat in high school. You do not want to end up like Albert.

I even got rid of a few tomes, mostly the chick-lit (One Day, Eat, Pray, Love) that’s made its way around my circle of friends. Once it got back to my shelf, the romance was stale.

I kept the Spanish translation of A Room of One’s Own and the Nicaraguan revolutionary poetry in hopes I’ll one day be able to read them again. And I kept the few I have yet to read. I kept the damn Russians because damnit I will read Anna Karenina one day and I will like it. Crime and Punishment has been dog-eared at the start of chapter two for about four years now. Raskolnikov gave me the creeps.

He’d be the tipping point, of course, the quarter-pound book to set my tweaky back over the edge on the way to disabled dachshund life.

But the to-read list doesn’t stop there. I’m looking at the short stories of Raymond Carver next, David Byrne’s hopefully weird and wonderful Bicycle Diaries, a sad look at David Foster Wallace, the jerk/genius, in Every Love Story is a Ghost Story (for that title alone!), Hope: A Tragedy (after hearing author Shalom Auslander on The Moth), interactive-lit (a genre I might have just invented) called How to Be an Explorer of the World, then maybe some Junot Diaz and more more more.

There are boxes and built-ins to fill and backs to break.

Change of address.

I love moving. The purging and the packing and floorplan daydreams and even, just a little, the heavy lifting and the next-day sore biceps.

The first 11 years of my life set a precedent for relocation. We moved every two to three years, hopping from the South to the Midwest, with one great leap to the East Coast then back again across the Mississippi. The last five years have followed the same pattern, and between multiple dorm rooms, University apartments and Ottumwa attics, I’ve gotten really good at fitting my life in a sedan — and really bad at committing to anything.

This nomadic lifestyle isn’t unique. Twenty-something employees aren’t staying put anymore. We’re extending college limbo in grad programs, changing jobs as the market allows. Bouncing through careers and apartments and hobbies, guided by boredom or money or dreams of square footage.

I’m not endorsing this two-year life. It’s painful and lonely (there’s lots of leaving involved, which makes it less hurtful not to make friends or fall for anyone) and — less poetic — logistically frustrating. Wireless internet never works just by plugging in the little blue box and waiting 60 seconds as the fold-out instructions indicate. Hallway corners and long couches do not play nice.

But, friends, I swear, the redecorating options almost make up for it. So, I’m moving.

I’ve found comfort in my apartment here during the last year (obviously, this blog has mostly been a place to love on my bedroom windows and neighborhood and favorite coffeeshop), but I was paying a price for it. In an effort to save money for that elusive Iceland/Mongolia/Vancouver 2013 trip, I’m relocating in a couple weeks across town to a cheaper, smaller, but absolutely delightful place in a renovated Victorian house (fireplace! radiators! creepy basement!).

And this time there’s almost no pain; nobody’s moving away and I’ll still go in to work at the same time every day and greet the same coworker as he walks in with his thermos full of two-percent milk. C and I could even still bike to that coffeeshop for cinnamon rolls on a Saturday morning this fall.

The only downside is leaving this:

But, to make up for that loss, I purchased a print for the new apartment I’ve had my eye on for about a year:

More gushing about interior design, warm apple cider on the new front porch and the nearby Irish bars to come!


I’m way behind on work and ironing and visiting my family in St. Louis because I’ve been excited and outdoors and maybe making some big changes here in Cedar Rapids. To my deadlines and wrinkled button-downs and empty-nest parents, my apologies. I’m also way behind on blog posts of any significance, and this paragraph is a sorry excuse for amends. But, surprise, I made some design changes. Because it had been at least a year with the old format, and I had a major crush on this new font.

Here are some pictures to fill space. I actually chased this butterfly all over a patch of wildflowers/weeds next to my car at work, which really delighted the secretary passing by: