Archive for the 'Genie' Category

Going to BlogHer 2008?

Last summer, I lived a scant 4.5-hour drive from BlogHer 2007’s chosen location. I had all kinds of plans to be there for the conference, figuring that I could just steer my aging green Camry (and by green, I mean its color, not its environmental profile, at this point) toward Lakeshore Drive and have a blast with all kinds of fabulous women bloggers.

And then I realized what weekend it was. Thusly and therefore, I planned myself the most ridiculous travel weekend ever, which meant I got one solid day of BlogHering, followed by three hours of sleep, followed by continued crazy voyaging.

This year, when BlogHer announced it would return to the Bay Area for the third annual conference, I wrote it off. There was a point when I had an inkling I might move out here, but that was not a point at which I had any inkling I would be out here two months before the conference’s opening day.

Then I found myself a short BART ride away from the weekend’s activities. What’s a garden-oriented blogger to do but show up? This year, I’m in for all three days, including the Unconference on Sunday, July 20.

I'm attending the Home and Garden Meet-up. Are you?

I'm attending the Home and Garden Meet-up. Are you?

I float between life as a food blogger and life as a garden blogger, so I plan to be at the Food Bloggers’ Birds of a Feather meet-up on Friday, but will also attend Deb Roby’s Home and Garden BOF meet-up on Saturday. Deb’s going to interview bloggers at this event for a vodcast, so she’s looking for questions. Anything you’ve been dying to ask me but were afraid to comment about? Send it to Deb, and you never know what might end up on the Interwebs.

If you’re going to be at BlogHer 2008, please look for me. I love meeting other bloggers, and would love to get to know you better!

This summer, I will buy tomatoes

Tomatoes are OK with meAs one might expect by taking a look at this blog’s header graphic, I’ve been getting quite a bit of email about the tomato recall. I have been reading the stories, the analyses on various listserves and blogs, and the lists of precautionary measures.

I’m going to be honest with you. Banning spinach is one thing entirely. But tomatoes? Them’s fighting words.

The reality is this: the tomatoes that have been banned are the ones that, to be quite blunt about it, suck. Not that the ones on the “OK” list are all that great. I have bitten into more nasty-foul grape tomatoes from the grocery store than I care to count, and finally stopped buying them because I was so tired of the pop-bite-spit-into-trash-can routine I’d mastered in my office at lunchtime. There are amazing tomatoes and there are bad tomatoes, and life is too short for bad tomatoes.

But what I fear is the backlash against the good stuff. What’s going to happen this summer, when tomato season in the U.S. peaks, and people go to their local farmer’s markets and turn up their nose at the selection of Brandywines and Juliets? Because, to be honest, while I feel terrible for the 167 people (and probably more who have yet gone unrecognized) who have suffered from salmonella because they ate a bad tomato, I’d bet good money on the fact that they ate a bland, pale-red slice not worthy of the name TOMATO.

This is the worst unkindness of all, really. I’m a risky eater. I will eat street food in places that no one would recommend the eating of street food. I have most certainly eaten meat that was probably not in the pork-beef-chicken-lamb continuum, but it was highly spiced, so I couldn’t tell the difference anyway. I used to brush my teeth with the tap water in Nigeria (and yes, I realize I put myself at great health risk, but I was 11 and petulant and trust me, my father punished me well enough on the day he figured out I had been doing that, so there’s no need to yell at me now).

I have also suffered from food poisoning so bad I thought I would die. (It had nothing to do with Nigerian water. In fact, the only place I’ve gotten food poisoning? The U.S. of A.) Like I said before, I don’t wish that on anyone.

But it seems to me that by banning salsa at Baja Fresh, all anyone’s doing is raising the panic level. Instead, why don’t we take a look at the root causes of why salmonella, which used to be in the purview of chickens and eggs, has now crossed the road to crawl into the body of a tomato? Whether the problem is spinach, or tomatoes, or Jack in the Box burgers, maybe the problem here is not a particular ingredient or food item, but a sign of a larger, more fundamental weakness in our food system.

As for me, I’m going to continue eating tomatoes the way I have for at least the past few years: purchased from regional farmers (since I’m not currently harboring any plants of my own). Local, preferably heirloom, tomatoes. As far as I’m concerned, the pleasure of that first, ripe, summer tomato will far outweigh the miniscule risk that it might make me sick.

Go west, young gardener

It’s probably no surprise to any close reader of this blog that this past year has been, well, challenging. I’m a girl who keeps her chin up, who tries really hard to make things—even the unpleasant ones—work out for the best, and who is determined to seize every possible opportunity to celebrate. But this past year had its moments. There was loss, and that ever-lasting winter. I spent more hours than I care to count trudging back and forth through O’Hare.

Spring has arrived, though, and I am most definitely celebrating. First, I’m celebrating two years of blogging – Post #1 went up on the site on May 6, 2006. I have loved every minute of it. I’ve met amazing people, made wonderful friends, and been lifted up by a community of readers and fellow bloggers just when I needed it most.


I’m also celebrating a fairly momentous announcement: In just more than a week, I’m going to pack up my car and take the gardening show on the road. I’m heading West for a job (and, no doubt, a very expensive apartment) in Oakland, California.

I had the unique opportunity to choose where I would land next, with no strings tying me anywhere, and California’s been tugging at the hem of my jeans for a long, long time. I have never felt so certain about a decision in my entire life.

So what does this mean for my little toddler blog? Well, it’s not going anywhere. When I interviewed for my job, someone asked me why I wanted to move to the Bay Area, and I mentioned the blog, and my love for slow food and sustainable agriculture and how the first time I walked into the Berkeley Bowl, I wanted to pull up a cot and move in so I could have 24-7 access to the satsumas. I’m heading to Mecca for the way I love to eat, and I’m going to want to tell you about all my discoveries. The Inadvertent Gardener is rolling on, whether I land somewhere—at first—with a garden or not.

My posts might be a bit sporadic while I make the move, but I’ll be back to a more regular course of business just as soon as I’m on the ground out there. Stick with me, folks. Even though I’m about to drive out of here, I still have some Iowa writing to attend to. There are stories I have not yet told.

I’m writing this entry out on my little back porch while the sun sets, with a glass of wine by my side, listening to the sounds of the yard and looking over the garden I’ve come to love since living here. A cardinal’s up in the black walnut tree, fluffing his feathers. Every now and then, the dangling metal moons of my wind chime ping together as the breeze kicks up. I’m barefoot, and there’s chicken roasting inside, stuffed with thyme I harvested last year and froze for the winter. I’m going to miss this—and all the wonderful friends I’ve made during my time in Iowa—terribly.

But it’s time to move on. California, here I come. I hope you’re ready for a little inadvertent gardening, third-year-style.

Paparazzi in the kitchen

When I was in college, I had a lot of things at the top of my mind: what cheese-laden item would be most tasty at the dining hall at dinner, when I was going to leave campus to drive to visit my boyfriend (two hours away and he didn’t own a car—I definitely know how to pick ‘em), whether I was going to be able to get up in time for swim practice… Gardening? Not one of the things I spent a lot of time thinking about.

In fact, I didn’t even think that much about cooking. My college roommate can tell you a horrible story about my one experiment with Hamburger Helper, and I was often more interested in making a Waffle House run than actually cooking anything. I did whip up a mess of pancakes for a sudden and quite welcome influx of 9 midshipmen who drove down from the Naval Academy one weekend to visit me and my friends (I went to a women’s college, people. That weekend goes down in my mind as one of the miraculous ones that made college great…), but I think I used a big box of Bisquick to make that happen.

My own college experience meant I kind of chuckled when I got a call from The Daily Iowan, the independent newspaper at the University of Iowa, from Brian Stewart, a reporter interested in doing a story about me and the blog. College students? Interested in gardening? Alrighty, then.

The next step in the process was a photo shoot that, because of my schedule this week, had to take place Wednesday morning before I went to work. Ever-patient photographer Beth Skogen got out of bed at an ungodly hour to come to my house and shoot me (I’m sure, when her alarm went off, that took on a very different meaning…) making a frittata. Brittney Hibbs of DITV, the television arm of the news-gathering organization, decided to cover it, too, so there I was, in the kitchen, wielding a chopping knife under pressure of two cameras: one still, one motion.

That was worse than trying to pull off my first Thanksgiving, people. Much, much worse. Much more pressure.

Regardless, the story ran today, and it makes me sound fairly articulate, possibly because I sent a piece of frittata along with Beth to take back to Brian in the newsroom. (Note to the Journalism Ethics Police: I’m kidding about that last part. I’m sure Brian would have written a fabulous article with or without sustenance.) Anyway, if you’d like, check it out, although know that it might require (free) registration to read the article. If I get a link to the DITV story, I’ll post that, too.

(And hey…Alanna…that last quote in the article? I dedicate that one to you…)

UPDATE: If you go to the the box to the right of the story and click on “Play Today’s Newscast,” you can see the television version of the story. The segment’s right in the middle of the newscast, just after the weather and a story about some singers at West High in Iowa City. If you let the file load, you can navigate through the newscast with the slider bar. I’m not sure how long it will be available, so act now if you want to see me talking with my hands and wielding a big knife!

Introducing 100 Proof Stories

Not long ago, Kathy of Cold Climate Gardening started following my Twitter feed, which led her to another of my web ventures.

“I am charmed!” she wrote to me. “These are little jewels, prose poems…I want to collect them all! Did you ever write a post explaining what got you started writing these?”

I responded to her that I had not written such a post, but that I had been meaning to. In keeping with the thematic emphasis, I had been waiting for a garden-related story to blossom in my notebook, but one hasn’t arisen yet, so I might as well stop dragging my feet.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, let me formally introduce you to 100 Proof Stories.

That particular blog came out of a conversation Betsy and I had one day last September. We have occasional writing-lunch dates, where we escape from the office and head to a nearby Panera to eat soup and salad, chatter on for awhile, and then, usually, give ourselves a hearty 20 minutes in which to write before we have to return to work.

I told Betsy that I had been considering a fiction blog of some sort – something that would allow me to get work out there and circumvent the more traditional publication process. I have longer stories in circulation, and they trudge from lit mag slush pile to lit mag slush pile, plaintively looking for a home. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure each story has its own set of flaws, but fundamentally, they’re good work. They just haven’t found their place, and even when they do, I’ll probably get a couple of contributor’s copies for my time and trouble.

“But part of me doesn’t want to put work out there on a site myself,” I said. “It’s not as legitimate, somehow.”

Betsy scrunched up her face, because she did not agree with me.

It took me a couple of weeks, but I mulled over the concept. What if I thought of the blog less as publication and more as structure? By committing to post every other day, I’d drive myself to write more regularly, and to do so in a format that is ever-so-compatible with my crazy life. So one day, I wrote the first story and launched the blog.

I have cranked out numerous 100-word stories with my notebook resting on the tray table of one United Express plane or another. I have written them while sitting in restaurants, at bars late at night, in the morning before work and, indeed, at Panera with Betsy.

The stories fall into three categories: Kind of true, which is my version of creative non-fiction; Not so true, because all fiction, after all, comes from a seed of truth; and Overheard, because I love to listen to what’s going on around me.

As a result, I am once again writing almost every day. Because even when I can’t find time to write something longer, I can find time to string together 100 words into a small, intoxicating story.

Getting in touch

Need garden advice? Then you probably shouldn't send me an email.

Also, please note that this site has now relocated and will not be updated. You can find me at the new and improved location.

Take a look back…

All words and images (unless otherwise credited) on The Inadvertent Gardener are © 2006-2008 Eugenia E. Gratto. All rights reserved.

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