Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores

I was raised by some serious gardeners. I’m talking, the garden took up a large chunk of the front yard, we had chickens and ducks, there was a brief stint with a pig, and I know my way around hot water bath canning. I knew from a young age how to pull weeds, make cut worm collars for young tomato plants, how to identify a squash bug, and that zucchini and squash plants make me itch. I guess you could say my parents were slow food before most people knew slow food was a thing. I got to college, somehow, without ever having had a frozen vegetable, and called my mom soon after my arrival wanting to know why the green beans in the cafeteria tasted so…weird. “Oh honey, they’re probably frozen,” she said, laughing a little bit at both me and herself for raising me this way.

As I became an adult cooking for myself and then for a family, I strayed a little bit from those slow food values. Big bags of frozen chicken breasts were a major staple, and I mostly shopped at the nearest grocery store. Then we saw the movie Food Inc. and got serious about changing the way we were eating. We largely gave up factory farmed meat, electing to eat less of it and save our money for the “good stuff,” sustainably-raised, pastured, humanely-processed beef, chicken, and pork. We realized that not only was eating less meat and more vegetables, with as much of it raised locally as possible, was better for our bodies and for the planet, but also better for the farmers and workers who grew and made our food, too. We joined a CSA and I found myself with a weekly Iron Chef challenge to use up an enormous bounty of often unfamiliar produce each week. I learned to love greens and accepted that I may never like beets. This weird way of eating became our norm. We even got into urban gardening and ran a community garden for a time.

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

Then we became parents, and we knew we wanted our kids to be raised eating the same kinds of food I grew up on: local, sustainable, whole foods. We did baby led weaning with Etta (not so much with Claire because she had some serious feeding issues related to spina bifida and ate only purees for a long time, before she got some amazing help from a speech therapist who helped her learn to eat), and from the start, she ate like we did, albeit with her meals often made from deconstructed components of our food. We just kept eating family meals, kept giving our kids real food, and now we have three year olds who constantly impress me with their palates and their willingness to try new things, and also with their curiosity about where their food comes from.

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

This summer, my husband has taken our urban container garden to the next level with a fancy self-watering system he built. It’s only the beginning of June, and we’ve already been eating peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs from our garden. I believe there have been some strawberries, too, but the girls snatch those before I ever get a chance to have one. We have several baby cucumbers, eggplants, and peppers on the way, and our tomatoes are so covered with green tomatoes that their cages have been reinforced with rope to keep the plants from toppling over. Every day, the girls run outside to check the progress of our garden, point out new “babies” on the plants, and ask us a million questions about everything. As weird as I once thought my super-gardener parents were, my heart now bursts with pride to see my girls picking cherry tomatoes warm from the sun and popping them right in their mouths– and knowing they can, too, because our tomatoes have never been sprayed with pesticides.


Beyond the food we grow, the girls participate in procuring other local foods with us, too. Often we walk to our local Hillcrest Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, where we pick up our groceries for the week and enjoy breakfast from local food trucks. Increasingly, I’ve been using an online market, the Arkansas Local Food Network, to order our Arkansas Grown, Arkansas Made goodies in advance for pickup on Saturday. This allows me to make a meal plan for the week a little easier. We all take our bags to a church downtown and pick up our order on Saturday morning where everything is waiting for us, and then I can fill in with any components we might need from the grocery store.


Since local food is such a huge part of our life, I was super excited to go to the Farm2Home event at P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm last week. The event was sponsored by the Arkansas Agriculture Department and Farm Credit and existed to help raise awareness about the Arkansas Made and Arkansas Grown programs. The AAD knows most people would love to shop local, and would do more of it, if identifying locally grown, locally made products were easier to do. The Arkansas Made and Arkansas Grown logos can appear on products and in restaurants and businesses that sell products grown or made in the state, and they are also listed on the Arkansas Grown website to help people find local producers and growers near them. And this program will help reach people who might want to shop local but who aren’t scouting out new vendors at farmer’s markets on weekends– I’ve seen the Arkansas Grown signage at Walmart and other large retailers.

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home


I left Farm2Home excited and inspired– worn out by traffic on my way home, I almost pulled through a drive through, but I came home and made pasta with local kale instead. I’m even more committed to buying local and raising our girls to love local foods, and I’m excited about programs that will help more folks buy local. I’ll be sharing more of what I learned at Farm2Home in other posts, too, so check back for those soon!

*Note: I attended an event to learn about the Arkansas Grown program, but was not compensated for this post.

4 years with Tinycat, and glad he’s still with us

Four years ago today, we were working in our downtown garden when a homeless friend named Justin walked up holding an impossibly tiny, impossibly flea-covered kitten. “I just found him,” he said, “and I can’t take care of him and don’t want him to be a hobo cat. Can you take him?” I took one look at the tiny furball and knew I had to help him find a home.

I took him home, gave him a bath, picked hundreds of fleas off of him, and promptly fell in love.  I didn’t want to fall in love, though. We called him Tinycat because we weren’t giving him a name because we were. not. keeping. him. That resolve lasted until the night before he was supposed to go to a new home, and Jon and I both cried and realized we couldn’t bear to part with him.

By the end of that summer, I got pregnant and promptly began spending a lot of time in bed. Tinycat was always by my side. He was my buddy through a difficult pregnancy, and even after the girls were born, he has been amazing with them, always choosing to be near them, allowing them to love him, however rough, and gently training them in how to handle him.

Over the last few months, Tiny has been very sick. It started as a bladder infection, but then either nausea or just distaste for his prescription bladder food caused him to just stop eating. He had been fairly obese, but then he suddenly got scary-skinny, and super sick. He had starved himself into liver failure. Apparently fatty liver syndrome is common when fat cats lose a lot of weight suddenly. At one point, I was pretty sure he was going to die. For the last two months he’s been getting medications and syringe feedings, and it’s been rough on all of us. Now he’s finally starting to gain weight, eat a little food (but still refusing the prescription bladder food), and even act like his old playful, affectionate self again. It’s been like watching him rise from the dead. It finally feels like he’s actually decided he wants to live, and we are so happy.


Happy fourth anniversary, Tinycat. I’m glad you won over this family of “dog people.” Don’t tell Bessie and Olive, but you’re my favorite. Even when you’re being The Worst.

Toddler Island: all about our Dauphin Island beach vacation

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation

When I decided in the bleak midwinter that we needed a beach vacation, I had a clear idea of what I wanted: LAID BACK. Traveling with two three-year-olds, I knew what I did not want: high rise resorts, crowded beaches, or any tacky tourist stuff. I wanted a house on the beach for minimal schlepping. I wanted to do nothing more but play in the water, hang out on the sand, maybe take a few walks, enjoy drinks on a porch overlooking the water, and cook up a bunch of local seafood at home rather than going out to eat all the time. These criteria led me to choose to rent a house on Dauphin Island, Alabama, and I couldn’t be happier with our choice.

I had never been to Dauphin Island before, but it fit my criteria perfectly. There was one resort, and the rest of the island was dotted with houses on little streets that dead-end at the beach, essentially giving each grouping of 6 or so houses their own private beach, with no parking or public beach access near the houses. There is exactly one grocery store on the island (Ship & Shore), and it’s predictably pricey, but there’s a really good little grocery store (Greer’s) and farm stand a 15 minute drive inland. There are a few restaurants, but no chains. We had one excellent dinner out, slightly inland at Baudean’s– I had grouper topped with soft shell crab and a delicious butter pecan sauce. There is an excellent seafood market on the island, Skinners, where we picked up fresh shrimp and fish for dinner most nights. Bike and kayak rentals were readily available, including seats and trailers for kids, and the entire island was very bike-friendly.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

There is an excellent little aquarium called the Estuarium on the island where you can touch rays, crabs, and other sea life and get up close with all the things that usually freak me out when they bump up against my legs in the water. Our girls LOVED it. There is also an Audubon Bird Sanctuary and a historic fort, Fort Gaines, which is where the quote “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” was first said. We didn’t check out either of those because we spent as much time beach bumming as possible. I wasn’t kidding when I said my entire plans for the week were to sit on the beach and hang out at the house while drinking as many mojitos as possible.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

Fun at the Estuarium.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

There is a golf course on the island, and the boys in our group played 9 holes. They report that the course had been badly damaged by a recent hurricane, but is under new management and is being improved. They had a good time, and in return, the moms got some kid-free time at the beach.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

Speaking of the beach! I used VRBO.com to find a 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom house for us to share with two other families– a total of 6 adults and 4 toddlers. Ours was the fourth house down from the beach, and my husband said next time he’d prefer to be the house on the end, though the rest of our friends said they didn’t find the little walk to the water to be that bad at all. Honestly, it wasn’t any longer than you’d schlep to get from an upper story at a resort down to the water at most places, I think. The beach itself was sandy and quiet, and the water was perfect– a little windy and choppy on our first couple of days, and lake-smooth and calm on our latter few days. The ONLY drawback to this fabulous little island is you can see about 16 offshore oil rigs from the beach. I would kind of squint and pretend they were boats out on the horizon. I have a feeling the slightly-less-scenic view is what makes prices at Dauphin so much cheaper than places like Destin.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

One of the highlights of the week was the day we swam about 40 feet from a playful pod of dolphins. They were jumping and diving, and we could hear them calling to each other underwater. The definite low point was when Claire, Jon, and I all got stung by jellyfish on our last dip in the ocean at the end of the week. In between the high and the low, we watched the girls transition from clingy and anxious about the waves in the first days to floating free “by myself” in their puddle jumpers by the end of the trip. It definitely helps that the surf calmed down, but they also just grew to love the water.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

Here you can see both the offshore rigs, and, if you squint, a dolphin fin!

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

We had a blast sharing the house with some of our best friends, and I’m pretty sure going with other families is the only way to do the beach with young kids. It was no big deal if one of our girls wanted to stay on shore, because some of the others were bound to be there to hang with them. It was no big deal to take turns hanging out in the house with napping kids while some of the other grown ups grabbed some solo time reading next to the water, which isn’t something you can do while trying to make sure small people don’t drown. It also didn’t make us feel trapped by toddlers’ early bedtimes, because we could make pitchers of drinks and play games and hang out on the porch after we got all the kids down. One night we all drank pina coladas and watched the sun set from our house’s rooftop deck while our friend Ken played guitar.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

Overall, I’d highly recommend Dauphin Island if you’re looking for a quiet, chill beach vacation experience. We had a great time and I can absolutely see us going back as long as we live such a reasonable 7 hour drive away.

All about our Dauphin Island, Alabama beach vacation.

 

vacation, all i’ve ever wanted

I think it was back in February, when winter still seemed interminable, that the girls had a particularly terrible day and Jon and I looked at each other and decided we needed a vacation to look forward to. Within days I had booked a week at a beach house on the Gulf coast. We invited two other families and began excitedly looking forward to taking our kids to the beach for the first time. I got through many a hard day by reminding myself “in May, you get to go TO THE BEACH.” And now that week is upon us. This is how I feel:

This is 7 years, two babies, and several pounds ago, but you get the idea of how I feel about the beach.

This is 7 years, two babies, and several pounds ago, but you get the idea of how I feel about the beach.

I am looking forward to a very low-key time of hanging out, splashing around, and drinking icy beverages within sight of the ocean.

I’m also doing something crazy: attempting to take an actual vacation from the internet. Not like, ZERO internetting, because I know myself and yes, the house has wifi, but I’m going to like, temporarily delete Twitter from my phone and try not to be so internet addicted for a week. I’ll still be Instagramming, though, because it really is my favorite slice of the interwebz.

Got any last minute beach-trip-with-little-kids tips I should know about? Are you looking forward to any travels this summer?

how my mombod wound up on nightline

My most recent blog post, “mombod” started out as a rant to my husband. As I was venting to him about how ridiculous it was that people were writing lists about reasons “dadbods” are attractive when there’s a total double standard about moms’ bodies, I realized I was already halfway done writing a blog post with my words. I quickly fired off a post, and since I felt it was timely, I went ahead and submitted it to my editors at Huffington Post as well. They immediately picked it up. I got a lot of positive feedback from friends about the piece, and felt good about myself for holding it down for all the mombods out there.

The next day, the girls and I had a slow morning at home before meeting up with some friends for lunch. When I got home and got the girls down for a nap, I checked my email and saw a message from a producer at Nightline. She had read my mombod piece on HuffPost and wanted to know if I would be interested in speaking on camera about it. That night.

I could tell the producer was looking for sort of a “backlash to dadbod” angle, and made clear that I wasn’t *against* dadbod. I love dadbods! I’m married to a hottie with a bit of a dad-body. My entire message was that if we’re going to accept, love, and admit that we find imperfect male bodies attractive and desirable, we needed to do the same for women, whose general message from society is usually that if their bodies bear any evidence that they have borne children, it is a problem to be fixed, not a beautiful, acceptable new normal. The producer said she liked that idea, too, and within a few minutes, she had arranged for a local ABC camera crew to come to my house at 3:30 to film the interview and get some b-roll of me with my family.

That left me a couple of hours to a) freak out, b) get at least two spaces in my house cleaned up enough to appear on camera, and c) fret about what I was going to wear. I quickly eliminated option c) and decided to just leave on what I had been wearing for a normal day momming it up in my mombod. I thanked God I had showered and fixed my hair that morning. I warned my husband, who was getting off work right around the time of the interview that he would likely be arriving just in time for filming (which is why he appears in his work scrubs in the footage).

The camera crew showed up at 3:00 and did a LOT of setting up. Lighting something for film ain’t no joke. I sat in a chair for most of it and remembered the storyline about the lighting stand-ins from “Love Actually.” When they were finally ready, the producer called and asked me the interview questions via speaker phone while I looked at one of the camera guys to the side of the camera and pretended he was interviewing me. The nice part about being interviewed about something I’ve written is, I don’t really have to come up with points on the spot– I’ve already written and edited them and basically just have to restate them to answer the questions, so I didn’t feel super on the spot or like I had to fish for answers. The most difficult part was trying to remember to include the question in my responses, since the interviewer wouldn’t be heard on camera.

Then they wanted to get some footage of us as a family, so we did some playing in the den, “made a snack” in the kitchen (it wasn’t really snack time, so I had the girls help me pull some grapes off the stems and put them in a bowl to serve later with dinner), and took a walk in front of our house. While the camera guys had won me over by helping make sure my bra straps didn’t appear on film (sleeveless shirt hazard), they lost me a little bit when I saw the final interview and realized that although they swore my tripping did NOT appear in their footage, the one bit of walking they did show was in fact me tripping. I’m nothing but grace.

At that point, I didn’t know who else would be in the story, or really what they would be doing with my answers. When the interview aired after my bedtime that night (I stayed up to watch, though, because I was pumped), I saw it for the first time along with everyone else. I loved the dadbod blogger, because he was sweet and funny, and I immediately worried that he’d get negative comments for being slightly larger than the average dadbod, which really has been one of the most common comments people have made to me– “Isn’t that guy bigger than a dadbod?” To that I say: I don’t care, and it doesn’t really matter. In fact, again, my entire message on bodies is that whatever body you have, it is worthy of love and acceptance, and it can be seen as sexy.

Also, my husband immediately pointed out that I was billed as a “mommy blogger” but the other guy wasn’t billed as a “daddy blogger.” Many bloggers better than I have tackled the gag-worthiness of the phrase “mommy blogger,” but for the record, I was asked to state my name and occupation on camera, and I described myself as a “writer and mom.” I would pretty much never call myself a mommy blogger. I’ve been blogging longer than I’ve been a mom, and I’ve always blogged about many subjects that include but are not limited to parenting. Marginalizing women’s writing as something for “mommies” is offensive and sexist.

That said, I think my message came across, and I thought the piece was a good one. I’m annoyed that the headline is “Mommy Blogger Fires Back Against Dadbod Physique,” when I’m not against dadbods (or any bods) in the slightest. As I said originally, “Whatever body you have, mombod, dadbod, rippedbod, fatbod, YOU are what make your body sexy, not the other way around.”

mombod

The other day, I started noticing a phrase in people’s tweets. “Dadbod.” At first I just thought it was some sort of inside joke among some of the writers that I follow, like the physical embodiment of dad jeans, or something. But I soon realized that they must be getting this dadbod thing from somewhere. So I did what I usually do (read, used Twitter as my own personal Google) and tweeted something like, “I’m going to need a dadbod origin story. What the heck are you guys all talking about?” I mean, when childless hipster friends on Facebook have started to mention their “dadbods,” there’s some kind of Thing going on. Helpful folks on Twitter led me to this piece from The Cut, which was apparently riffing on something a student at Clemson named Mackenzie Pearson wrote. Basically, “dadbod” is what frat boys with beer guts are now calling their physique. Like, I’m not ripped because I’m too busy having fun, please enjoy my dadbod.

The gist I got from The Cut is that dadbod is something some folks are into. Like folks who really dig Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. I’ve been known to say a dude looks like “a cute dad,” and I happen to be married to a pretty hot dad, so I guess I might fall into the dadbod fandom. Dadbod is apparently just a funny hip coinage for an average, healthy male body that doesn’t spend a ton of time on like, Crossfit or something. If you were to call it what it really is though, you’d probably call it average.

At the end of the piece, though, one of The Cut’s editors says “I can’t stop thinking about how offended I would be if men were talking about the ‘Mombod.'” Except PLENTY of people have made it clear that “mombod” is an actual thing, yes, but also a thing to be avoided like the plague. No one writes appreciation pieces about the mombod and how “doughier tummy areas are good at sex — better, even — than, say, a ripped-abbed [person].” Because obviously, we doughy-tummied mommies are not sexual beings but rather sad sacks who need to GET THAT BODY BACK, RETURN TO OUR PRE BABY BODIES, GET A BEACH BODY, ROCK THAT BIKINI POST BABY, ETC.

mombods are sexy

with my mombod in my mom jeans with my offspring.

Dudes are allowed to have “dadbods” and be seen as cute for it precisely because their worth isn’t as intrinsically tied to their appearance the way women’s worth is.

Here’s the thing though: mombod is real. Some women get “back” to tight abs and perky boobs after they become moms, but I’d venture that most of us are changed in at least some way by the experience, and there isn’t really any going back. Even if you “lose that baby weight,” stuff just isn’t the same anymore. We can see our bodies as damaged goods, or we can embrace the transformation. Growing twins may have left my midsection softer and my belly button unrecognizable, but it also made me feel more deeply connected to my body. And you know what that is, really? A sensual experience. An empowering experience. And sensuality and power and even softness are sexy.

So. If “dadbod” gets to have a moment, if we get to admit that “imperfect” male bodies are desirable, let’s do the same for “mombod” too. Whatever body you have, mombod, dadbod, rippedbod, fatbod, YOU are what make your body sexy, not the other way around.

tacos de mayo

IMG_2483

When we visited Austin for the first time, I knew I had found my kind of town when I realized they like to eat tacos for breakfast. When I first met my husband, I would have said pasta was my favorite food, but his love of all things salsa, taco, and burrito have changed my ways. We eat tacos all the time, and mostly vegetarian ones. Since tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, I thought I would share some of our favorite taco recipes, and maybe a couple of drinks to go along with them. (Speaking of drinks, if you follow me on Instagram and have ever asked me for a drink recipe, you might check out the #buffloimbibes tag up top under the header.) (Another note: if you’re reading this via a reader like Feedly, you might need to click through to see the embedded recipes.)

Serve those tacos with salsa, guac, and this Mexican rice:

And to drink:

Let me know if you make any of these recipes for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations! As for us, we’ve got tickets to see one of my favorite bands, Hurray for the Riff Raff, so we won’t be partaking on the day of. I’ve got plans for tacos and margaritas at some point this week, though.

Side note: have you liked Ernie Bufflo on Facebook? Lately I’ve been sharing a lot of funny things the girls say, so don’t miss out if you’re a fan of the darnedest things kids say.

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