Fermentation and Germination

I spent the night at Avdi’s, who has become a bread making machine.  Every time I go over there, he has a couple of new trial breads.  I can’t say I mind being one of his testers.  (His slow-cooker beef stew was pretty great, too.)  Jess joined us after having worked with Avdi in the office, so the dinner conversation was lively.

I sorted all the seeds into categories, so it’s more organized for each phase of germination.  I separated out all the herb seeds to take home and start growing in my propagation station, which I did today.  When they’re ready, I’ll take them to Avdi’s to start his new herb garden out back.

This morning we went grocery shopping, then checked out Savers thrift and secondhand store, where I got some much-needed kitchen/household implements, and even a couple of warm clothes items, all for super-cheap.  Avdi did the same.

As is usually the case when I’m away from home, my daily habits are, um, modified.  Which is fine, they need to be flexible and adapt to circumstances!  Suffice it to say, they got done in some form or another.  And now I’m recording it, so there you have it.


Counting for Something

So, yes, this blahg is mainly pretty blah and boring lately, just live with it!  If and when I make it to Day 30 of the 6 habits (or whatever they’ve morphed into by then), we can move on to other non-scintillating stuff.

I also am aware how self-centered this sounds, being about me and my mostly solitary attempt to establish my new footing in STL.  Once it warms up, I’m getting out more, gardening at Avdi’s, and herding kids, hopefully this foundation I’m laying will serve me well, keep me centered and balanced–and possibly less self-absorbed.

This icy white stuff fell.  Now it’s back to ass-freezingly cold out.  Later I’ll be off to Avdi’s to sleep over.  I’m going to organize all his garden seeds into some semblance of order.  In the meantime, we have, you guessed it, the Daily 6.

Exercise: I think I did about 10 (ten!) laps today.  I lost count, it’s so repetitive.

Cooking: Not there yet, but I’m thinking something Asian stir-fry.  Avdi’s making a yummy slow-cooker beef roast, so I have to leave room!

Meditation: Incense, candle, raga, yady yada…it does set a morning mood and atmosphere, which is good, but beyond that…substituting sleep may not be the equivalent, since mine tends to be disturbed and erratic.  Maybe a philosophy thought to contemplate, to set the tone and incorporate into my day?  Still working on it.

Reading: OK, y’know what, I need a different 6 habits.  Ones that aren’t already habits, duh!  Back to the drawing board.

Writing: double-duh.  Though I’ll definitely keep this one as a habit to cultivate and expand upon.  Maybe even come up with something interesting or challenging to write about!

Socializing: I recognize the value to me of this one, something I need more of in my daily life.  It’s too easy to be an introverted recluse, my default position.  I’m sure the kid immersion will fix that.  But also some additional adult intelligent life forms would be a bonus.

Like I said, an evolving work-in-progress.  Most people my age are devolving or regressing into non-productive inertia, but I fight this tendency with whatever strength I have left.  As soon as I stop resisting it, I’m already dead.  I’m trying to make the limited time I have left count for something.  (I’ll be 71 in February.)

Habitude in Solitude

Exercise: yesterday’s exciting outing must have worn me out, so today I made myself do just 5 laps.  I almost didn’t do that, but it’s not a habit if you take a day off.  Pretty soon I’ll be longing for breaks, when gardening starts up for real, and the kids show up.  In fact, maybe days off will become the new exercise!

Cooking is easier; I’ve been coming up with very simple, balanced, enjoyable meals to fix and eat.  Today’s was Italian pasta, sautéd beef sausage, fresh thyme, cheeses, and a homegrown salad (my greens got another haircut).  Yesterday I came up with a very simple, delicious soup featuring veggies and onions sautéd in butter, water and milk brought to a simmer, add chicken bouillon and fresh herbs, then egg noodles, and simmer ’til done.  (I confess I don’t keep kosher, in a rabbinic sense, but I do avoid any pork/shellfish at home.)

Meditation doesn’t seem to be a happening thing for me.  The closest I get is incense, candle, Indian ragas, and indoor gardening!  Today I cleaned up and reseeded some leafy greens and repotted some herbs.  Just sitting doing nothing is hard for me!  I feel like I already do too much of that.  I wonder if I could substitute sleeping for meditation?  Maybe all the nightmares tend to cancel out the therapy?  If meditation is just a form of quiet solitude, then it’s already assimilated into my routine!  Time to get creative.

Reading is automatic, so already habituated…maybe I can add on the nature/science/social issue documentaries I tend to watch daily anyway.  I already read fiction for pleasure at bedtime, and some obligatory NF, but this way I can also include educational videos.  My favorite is Pit Bulls and Parolees–it represents everything I believe in about giving second chances.  Also docs about the science and conservation of endangered species going on behind the scenes at the Bronx Zoo and the Atlanta Aquarium.

Writing–all the other habits seem to hinge on documenting my daily progress (or lack thereof), as well as recording all the productive new experiences I’m gaining, so this is probably my most consequential and meaningful habit.  I should mention sometimes I literally hand-write in a private journal or diary, so no one but me (and rarely, someone I share a passage with) knows for sure.  But for continuity and consistency, this more public platform ensures that others can bear witness to my progress, and that I try my best to articulate adequately.

Socializing just doesn’t always take place under the circumstances, other than messaging someone online.  I simply need to meet more people.  I’m not a natural at it, so I’m looking for ways to make it happen.  My preference would be animals, but even that’s not an option right now.

Here are a couple of rare sightings of me by Avdi, and additional photos from yesterday.




Hands in the Mississippi

Legen-wait for it-dary:  the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River.

That arch is taller and more massive than you could ever imagine from a distance.  It doesn’t even sway in the wind, which was very windy but yet almost balmy today.  For a while Avdi and I just leaned up against it in the sun and soaked up the vibes.


Next, we walked down the cobblestones to the very edge of the river, and sat there on logs gazing across.  I can now say I actually stuck my hand in the Mississippi River.  (Cold, but not too smelly.)  It’s kind of anticlimactic there, not very “mighty”.  Not like Huck Finn and paddlewheel steamboats, except for the touristy one closed for the winter.  There’s no scenic view across it either, just boring Illinois, a casino,  and some industrial stuff on the other side.  The bridges are impressive, though.  Now I feel like I’m official.


Then we found a local craft brewpub, Urban Chestnut, and tried a couple of beers and ate.  This was located in an unassuming arts district of town.  We got good coffee at a literary café where students filled tables and sofas studying on laptops, surrounded by books and a small art gallery.  The St. Louis Symphony Hall, other performing arts and art museums, the famous Fox Theater, and other cultural venues are nearby.  Yet the area is unpretentious and unimposing, with hardly any traffic (in winter at least).  The architecture in this historic city is diverse and stunning.  It’s a real mix of very old and very new.

I guess you could call me a St. Louisan now.  I’ve literally touched the Arch and the River, and passed the Cards stadium.  I’ve sampled local craft beers in this famous beer town.  I got my STL fix until next time.

Plus I got a lot of bonus exercise points, climbing up and down those Gateway Arch park stairs, and walking around town.  And some more writing and socializing.  Leaning against the legendary, iconic Arch, and sitting on the bank of that ancient, vital river, connecting physically to so much history, was a meditation of sorts.


Propagatrix and Son

It’s not skipping a day if I was busy at Avdi’s fulfilling alternate versions of my habits, right?

I slept over Thursday night, and Friday we went grocery shopping, then we began our garden propagation project for this spring–a big STL first for us!  Avdi set up the heat mats and grow lights, and we both made up a flat of peat pots with seed starter mix and watered it in.  Then we picked out all the bell and Mex peppers he wanted to grow, almost a dozen kinds, and planted them, topped them off, and sprayed with water.  He covered the flat with a lid and placed it under timed lights.  It was our first of many more, and we had fun doing it together.

Then Avdi got to work in the office with Jess, and I got to making challah, and later the meal, which was Cajun chicken, red beans (mirepoix, etc.), and rice.  We were unanimous, it all came out very well.  I also did more organizing and cleaning in the kitchen and around the house.

I definitely got my exercise.  Cooking goes without saying–it was a healthy, balanced, fun meal.  Meditation…does Erev Shabbat count?  I think the prop project counts, as well!  Reading–check.  Writing–I’m making up for two days now. (It’s hard to write a blogpost on my phone.)  Socializing–got it with the extended family, and we talked about ways I could meet some new people.

Here is a melting snowperson by K.

Today I’m off to a field trip with Avdi…stay tuned for where we end up!


Second Nature

Only Day 4 of “6 Habits”, but it seems to be going well.  What drives it is the having to write each day, because I have to be able to report on the other five, if nothing else!

Exercise: I did 7 laps today.  Working up to whatever I can handle, divided up if necessary.

Cooking: I have leftover green veggies I sautéd yesterday, so I’ll incorporate them into a balanced meal.

Meditation: This morning I turned on Indian ragas, burned incense, sat on the floor looking at plants for a minute or two, and thought gardeny thoughts.  I realized the closest I used to come to meditation was while gardening or interacting with wildlife, so this spring should help.  I don’t have accessible prairies, wetlands, and forests here, so that’s out.  In fact, growing things and nature don’t seem to be a significant part of people’s lives here, which is so perplexing to me.  For me it’s as essential as water and air.

Reading: I’m thinking I need to add on a different or additional habit here, because reading is what I already do daily.  Like nature, it goes without saying.  It’s second nature!  I don’t suppose anyone out there (of my 2.5 readership) has any suggestions?

Writing: Self-explanatory.  It’s what keeps me honest.  It may be the most pivotal one for me.  Instead of a chore, I have to creatively de-block my mind each day.

Socializing: Tonight and tomorrow I’ll be at Avdi’s, if that counts.  I try to connect with new contacts online, but most people are busy having a life.  I won’t give up until someone bites!  (Hopefully not literally.)





Slushed In

That was the most pathetic “snow storm” ever!  The inch or two is already melting.  Meanwhile, I’m in my apartment planning Avdi’s garden.  Soon we’ll start his propagation station in the laundry room.  Today I planted a few more things in mine.  January is the new February, here in STL.

In 6 habits news:

Exercise: I did 6 “laps”.  I don’t mind it really; it’s a circuit, including up and down steps, so it accomplishes what I need to get my heart pumping and systems working more efficiently, without much discomfort.

Cooking: That guinea pig mix I made wasn’t my best idea ever, so I need to work on enjoyable balanced meals incorporating more fiber.  Also it’s hard to eat when my digestion doesn’t seem to work right.

Meditating: I made another stab at it this morning–it’s so hard for me to just sit and empty my mind and not jump up to do things.  It feels like an entitled privileged person’s conceit, not an essential daily habit.  (Too much time in Ohio with blue collar mentality.)

Reading: Seems like cheating, it’s so much a part of my routine already.  Coincidentally, Scalzi (whom I’m reading right now) just won the prestigious Heinlein Award.  I’m so proud, in a second-hand capacity.

Writing: Need I say more?  I’m making a point to write something every day, even if it’s only about the weather and my boring habit plan.  I’m pretty sure I’ll never write a book at this point, being realistic.

Socializing: Still a challenging one, since I know so few people here, and have no car.  I talk to people online everyday, but mostly just casually.  People on social media don’t have the time or inclination to engage more meaningfully.  Some of my older friends on FB are actually dead.  I need to diversify!  I’m hoping this spring I’ll be able to make more connections.  Until then, my little (extended) family here, soon to double, is perfectly adequate.

I, Human

So of course the very day after I make my big habit plans, I got sick to my stomach and not very motivational!  Hmm.

I spent the evening and overnight at Avdi’s, where I inventoried all his garden seeds, ate dinner with him and K., watched stuff, and read.  So far so good.  I even got some sleep there, a good sign.

Then this morning I woke up and felt like crap, for some reason, so I had to take it easy.  Eventually of course I started puttering again, while Avdi and Jess worked in the office.  I’m running out of jobs to do, so it was more like tweaking.

But I figure, between all the exercise up and down the stairs, the yummy spaghetti and meatballs and salad Avdi made, the timeouts I had to take resting (in lieu of meditating), the book I’ve been reading at Avdi’s (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), the writing (this post), and socializing with Avdi, K, Jess, don’t forget Percy, and writing to J in PA, you could say I did my daily quota in some form.  Right?

Here’s something totally off-topic: what if Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri, and all the other artificial unintelligent DVAs (and microwaves, bread makers, toasters…) get sick and tired of being abused and cussed at, rise up and form a union, and plot to get revenge on all humans?  I’m sure it’s been written, but it sure as hell would be hilarious.  Just a thought.  Sounds like a job for Scalzi.

We’re supposed to be getting another one of those so-called MO-storms; this one even got named… Kassandra?!  I mean we’re talking inches!!  So hopefully Spectrum internet doesn’t screw up again, but if it does go out, assume I’m “snowed-in” while reliably executing my daily six.  How will you even know I didn’t?




The Daily HabiTrail

The Daily HabiTrail is six daily habits I will try to form.  I stole this idea from Mark Manson; I’m not that original or motivational.  We’ll see how it goes.

The idea is that forming a few consistent healthy daily habits for at least 30 days will instill them into your brain until they eventually become automatic.  You start small and realistic, with brief, simple activities you like and can do, then when those daily habits are part of your routine, you can add layers onto them.

It’s like smart investing in yourself: you start with a small investment that will give you the most bang for your buck, then add on or reinvest in it, and your gains or growth compound exponentially.

(The opposite approach, setting New Year’s type goals, is usually ineffective because most humans don’t operate that way.  It’s more of a spending, rather than investing, mindset, to continue Mark Manson’s financial metaphor.  The gains are linear, not exponential, if they even get that far.  It’s not humanly realistic.)

The six healthy habits are not all as intuitive and obvious as you might expect: exercise, cooking, meditation, reading, writing, and socializing.  For example:

Exercise:  I live in an apartment with nowhere to go in cold weather, so I’ve started doing a walking “circuit” upstairs and downstairs, starting with a few, and working up to the equivalent of the daily recommended minimum.  It’s boring, but it’s free!  On warmer days I’ll walk to Avdi’s instead.  In spring and on, I’ll garden there and chase kids around.  That won’t be boring!

Cooking: The idea is to make one healthy, enjoyable meal each day.  So today I mixed up a balanced assortment of veggies, fruits, nuts, cheeses, and seasonings; weird, I know, but beats some of the usual junk I tend to live on when left to my own devices.

Meditation: I am not a meditator.  I get bored and restless (and uncomfortable) very quickly.  It’s hard work to sit still, empty your mind, and breathe!  So I just started with taking a minute, lighting incense, turning on some Indian raga music, sitting on a cushion facing my green plants, and…immediately thought of writing this!  (Which happens to be another habit, but I’ll get to that.)  That one will take some practice!

Reading: That’s an easy one for me, now, with a quiet apartment to myself.  I always have a stack of books I’m working on, especially at bedtime.  The key is to read what you really enjoy, not something you feel obligated to read.  I have three different sci-fi authors on my queue right now.  The two non-fiction books don’t count–they’re more like homework.

Writing: Well, really not a problem, I’m doing it right now, in a manner of speaking!  I love to write, but I definitely need practice.  Writing leads to self-discovery, insightful thinking, connecting to people, and it’s therapeutic.  It can be a blog, journal or diary, email, etc. as long as you’re consistent, uninhibited, non-self-judgey, and coherent.  I’m working on it.

Socializing: That one’s a little challenging for me, though I get some of it at my son’s.  The idea is to talk to a person each day for just 15-20 minutes at most, either virtually or in person, but not just chatter; it needs to be genuine connecting.  It can be reconnecting, touching base, or even meeting for the first time.  Does Percy the PigWig count?

All of the above are cheap or free, and improve physical, mental, emotional, and social health. Most of all, they’re realistic habits that incidentally can accomplish those huge, elusive goals if you incorporate them in tiny increments each day.  I’ll let you know how that’s going in future episodes.




Uberchallah, and a Winter Tropical Jungle

I try to be humble and modest, but I really can’t about my latest batch of challah.  It could compete in the world championship of challah if there were one.  Forget charoset.  The texture was ultra-fluffy and moist like a decadent down pillow.  Avdi and K can confirm, so that proves it.  Maybe something about this STL atmosphere.  The Indian dinner I made was also a labor of love and well-received, but the challah takes the cake; in fact it almost was cake!


Besides baking and cooking at Avdi’s for erev Shabbat, I continued to work on laundry, cleaning, and organizing, while Avdi worked in the office.  The kids’ cubicles are looking clean and cozy, and all their clothes and bedding are laundered and put away.  I’ve been using J&C’s cleaned-out room for my temporary accommodations, where I again spent the night while Avdi went out.

Today Avdi and I went to MoBot and wandered around.  Even in winter, the Japanese gardens look perfect and tranquil.

Best of all, I got to see inside the Climatron, a geodesic dome conservatory, à la R. Buckminster Fuller, for the first time.  It has a labyrinth of paths winding through a gorgeous tropical rainforest from floor to ceiling, with waterfalls, ponds, a bridge, and unimaginably fascinating flora.  Here’s a small sampling.