how a garden grows: planting the plants

So last we left the garden, the beds were ready but empty.

Not anymore.

Last year we started from seed, and had a spectacular fail where we lost everything because we brought them outside too soon. So in 2014 we ended up buying seedlings through Penn’s Corner, which they get from several area farms and Grow Pittsburgh. They did so well that we decided to do the same this year, and not go right back to trying to start from seed. Perhaps in a year where spring doesn’t include influenza and job changes, we’ll give that a whirl again.

Anyhow, here’s the breakdown of the plants we planted.


Herbs (containers):

Rosemary – $3.82
Chives (zombie chives from last year) – $0
Thyme – $4.17
Oregano – $4.17
Spearmint – $3.82
Cilantro – $3.82
Rosemary – $3.82
Dill (from seeds we had) – $0

Total Herbs: $23.62

rhubarb plant

strawberry hanging basket

Miscellaneous Plants

Rhubarb* – $13.90
Strawberry (hanging basket) – $13.90

Total Miscellaneous Plants: $27.80
* The rhubarb won’t produce until next year, but we just love it so much we wanted to give it a shot. Need to do some more research on taking care of rhubarb, since this is a new thing for us.

peppers and basil


Peppers, Basil & Broccoli (raised beds)

Basil (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Broccoli* (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Hot banana peppers (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Jalapeno pepper (one 4-pack) – $3.47
King of the North sweet pepper – $3.82

Total Peppers, Basil & Broccoli: $17.70
*Trying broccoli again even though we haven’t had success in the past. Because we just love broccoli. Also, the cages are in the pepper and basil bed because we have been too lazy to remove them after the evening we had to cover all the plants because of the threat of frost. Thanks, southwest PA weather.

tomato patch

Tomatoes* (Mounds/Patch)

Earliana (2 @ $3.82) – $7.64
San Marzano (2 @ $3.82) – $7.64
Italian Sweet Beefsteak (2 @ $3.82) – $7.64
Roma (2 @ $3.82) – $7.64
Sun Gold Cherry – $3.82
White Cherry – $3.82
Cosmonaut Volkov – $3.82

Total tomatoes: $42.02

*All of the ridiculous logs in the main photo are there because they held down covers for the plants during the great frost threat. And again, too lazy to remove until we are definitely out of frost territory. I’ll choose to look at it as rustic instead of a hot mess. All of the plants are staked and caged.

Let’s just take a short time out for a little bit of a geek freak-out. Yeah, there’s a tomato in our patch this year called Cosmonaut Volkov. I can’t really explain the depth of my excitement about the name of this plant. Check him out. Grow little Cosmonaut, grow!


The final two beds are empty looking right now, so I didn’t include photos. But one has corn planted, and the other one will soon have green beans.

Corn and Green Beans

Corn – $0 (seeds we had at home)
Green Beans – Cost TBD (*haven’t purchased the seeds yet, will add the cost to a later post)

Total: $0*

flowers 2015


Pansy (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Antigua yellow marigolds (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Antigua orange marigolds (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Crackerjack marigold – $3.82
Dwarf sunflower – $3.82

Total flowers: $18.05

So that’s what the garden is shaping up to have this year. Everything looks to have survived the “frost,” with the exception of the pansies, though they might rebound.

Total cost of plants: $129.19

OK. So you are probably looking at that total and thinking, what the crap, Joanna. Lowe’s has plants for like 69 cents a piece. How can you have a small urban backyard that has a few raised beds and containers and spend $130 on plants?

A few reasons. We don’t just buy random plants at Lowe’s that will produce food for us to eat. Yes, plants at Lowe’s are better than no garden at all, but I like knowing that my plants are either organic or have been grown with natural methods, limiting the amount of pesticides that our plants have been exposed to. I don’t want vegetables that have been exposed to RoundUp or any number of other nasty sprays. We don’t use them in our gardens and we don’t want them in our plants.

Buying our seedlings locally gives us a higher measure of trust in the quality of the plant and where it’s coming from. It also means we’re supporting the same farms that grow food for us, our CSA organization and a local non-profit that gets more people gardening and gets more fresh food into the diets of Pittsburghers. And that’s something we get behind. Lowe’s doesn’t need our money.

Technically seeds are cheaper than seedlings, but we also spent money powering our grow lights last year and buying the starter soils and building the contraption that held them. So that differential seems like a wash. We also know that last year’s seedlings from these farms produced a redonk amount of vegetables, which is why I’m keeping track this year of expenses versus the value of the food we receive. I am confident we will get a return on our investment.

And in the meantime, I get to do what I’m doing right now – sitting on my back deck in front of my pots of herbs and flowers, relaxing in a funky green Adirondack chair, watching the sun set over Carnegie, watching the garden grow.

Total garden cost to date: $265.93

How a garden grows series
Raised bed and container prep


apis meadery

last week at next gen house

So yeah, I’m a little behind on the garden posts, but it’s there and it’s coming. Living that whole year of margin thing, right? Blog when I can?

Anyway. Here’s Stormy, helping me do laundry.

stormy in a basket

Last week in running

I should probably start calling this section “Last Week in Physical Activities” because I’m not exclusively running right now. But I did make a decision to join a gym by my building that allows me to to run outdoors before work a few days a week. So last year I ran three times – twice before work and once with my dad when I visited on Saturday. About 10 miles over those three workouts, which is more than I ran the week before. I’d ideally like to be around 15 miles per week, so I’m going to go for that this week. It’s nice to be out of a training cycle though, because it’s given me time for some other pursuits, such as getting back to krav maga more frequently and riding my bike. Really fun way to work out. I even rode my first half marathon on a bicycle this weekend, also at a faster speed than I’ve ever been able to maintain before plus a few hills. And it was on the section of the trail where I had a meltdown during my first 20-mile run last year, so this was a nice redemption for that stretch of trail.


Last week in eating

Any week that includes your mom’s strawberry pretzel salad is a banner food week (shout out, mom!).

But another cool thing we did this week was check out Apis Meadery, here in Carnegie. Why we waited so long to check this place out when it’s literally a few blocks away is beyond me, but that’s now been rectified. We did the samplers to try all the types available and while I had a few favorites, it was really hard to decide what was the best, and none that I wouldn’t try again. It’s BYOF (bring your own food) and they have a whole section of board games and books. While we were there, a big group was playing board games and I realized this could definitely be a good hangout spot. We will be back. Soon.

apis meadery

Last week in homesteading

Garden’s in, more info to come. Kombucha’s a brewing, double batch! And a friend is giving me her yogurt maker, which should be a fun experiment. Homesteading sometimes feels like what happens in the background in our house, which I guess is as good a definition as any.

Last week in reading

This week I finished two graphic novels: The Wrenchies and Rat Queens: Vol 2. I chose The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins as last week’s audiobook, and I thought it was fine, but was absolutely not the amazing novel everyone’s made it out to be. I guess I’m just not into thrillers, but I found this one to be really cliched. Definitely not my favorite book of the year. I’m about to start Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed on audio, which I am thrilled about. I might not even want to get off the bus. Also starting Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven, which was a “congrats” gift from a fellow book person at my last job. Lots on the list, but what else is new?

No really. What else is new?

how a garden grows: raised bed and container prep

We spent the better part of the day Saturday getting our raised beds and containers prepped for the growing season, which for us starts this week with the arrival of our seedlings.

So here’s what the gardens and yard looked like before we started. You can see we were cultivating quite the variety of weeds.

weed garden

And these containers? So sad that the watering can just gave up and dropped. The zombie chives were somehow undead, and flowered.

sad containers

So the first order of business was to weed the beds. Which took several hours. Because these weeds were fierce and big with strong roots. And you can’t just pull the tops off, you have to dig in deep and get the whole thing.

Which is probably why people do this a lot earlier in the season. Lesson learned. Remind me in 2016 that I need to get out and weed those beds early.

Side note – apocalypse films and novels never really do justice to just how much weeds will take over the planet when society collapses. I am now convinced.

After the beds were weeded and Mark had mowed the lawn, we were ready for the delivery of our soil and mulch. We’ve been going to Federouch Landscape Supply for the last few years and we have always been really happy with them. This year, our delivery guy was especially nice.


We get one cubic yard of black mulch and another cubic yard of a 50/50 mix of topsoil and mushroom compost. So here’s where we start to keep track of costs. And where you realize how much it costs to NOT have a truck.

2015 Garden Costs
1 cubic yard 50/50 mix: $34.34
1 cubic yard black mulch: $35.35
Delivery fee: $60

Soil and mulch total: $136.74

We could rent a truck from Home Depot or try to borrow a vehicle from someone, but with Federouch having the product we want (not a lot of places carry the compost we want), we just consider it part of the costs of the garden.

And then while I finished weeding, Mark hauled the loads of mulch and soil mix in our one wheelbarrow from our back alley where it was dumped (since we have no driveway) into the yard. We spread it in the beds – soil mix in the pots and raised beds and mulch in the flower beds lining the garage.

Once it was all spread, we put up the fencing around the raised beds to keep the chickens out. And we had this.

prepped beds 3


prepped beds 2

prepped beds 1

I also am happy to have the mulched areas cleaned up, notwithstanding the pollen that fell from the trees all over it to make it not look as perfectly black from the mulch.


Plus, I have learned not to worry about the edges of the mulching. As soon as I care about straight lines, the chickens go dust bathe in it and do this.

egg in mulch

We do have a lovely flowering bush behind the compost. No idea what this is. Can you tell what an expert green thumb I am?

pink flowering bush

We also have a wild strawberry plant behind the compost area, but the chickens get to any and all berries there are before we even know they grew. But it’s fun anyway.

wild straberries

And then there’s this gooseberry bush, which managed to hang on last year and is going like gangbusters. Gotta figure out if we need to stake this guy.

gooseberry bush

So that’s the backyard, prepped and ready for seedlings.


dirty fingers

last week at next gen house

Lots going on last week – the first full week in May, and in Pittsburgh, the first week of summer. It got hot and sticky this week, which really just made me really happy that it was only in the 70s for the Pittsburgh Half. We could have had 80 degrees at the start line and that would have been even more brutal.

Last week in running

I took a week off from running, in part to recover sore muscles from the Half but also to figure out what my exercise schedule is going to look like going forward for the summer. I walked 4 miles on the trail with a friend, spent a long day gardening and using every muscle in my body, and also rode almost 11.5 miles on the Panhandle Trail.

collage_20150510183418179_20150510183456658I am someone who won’t do any physical activity at all if I don’t have a plan, so I’m working on mapping out how much running I’m going to do in the summer, and incorporating strength training, krav maga, biking, and other outside activities. Considering using a gym by my building where I get an employee discount for its lockers and showers, so I can run outside in the mornings before it gets to be so hot. They also have super early morning classes, so that might work too. We’ll see.

Last week in eating

Most of the meals this week were routine, with possibly the exception of a great baked pasta with lemon, cream and artichokes and some carne asada tortas that Mark made, which were one of those sloppy sandwiches that make a huge mess but are delicious. I also decided to use the first bunch of ramps from our CSA in a new way – making this chimichurri ramp bread. I really screwed up the whole braiding part by not rolling the bread out thin enough and putting too much chimichurri in so that it scooged out everywhere. I’ve got a post coming up about it this week since the chimichurri was so good in and of itself, but I decided just to bake the loaves rolled up, without the twist, and it worked just fine.

chimichurri bread

Last week in homesteading

Finally, FINALLY, we have some movement here. My SCOBY got big enough to spawn off a baby, so now I have two jars going of homebrew kombucha. I have visions of having a cookout this summer where I have enough homebrew available to make it a potential party beverage, so I am going to keep up with the double batches for awhile. Might need more bottles!

It was Garden Weekend, so we spent a lot of time prepping beds and cleaning the yard and getting ready for the season. Lots more about that this week, but I am pretty sure I needed six showers after we were done and I still have dirt under my fingernails today.




dirty fingers


Last week in reading

I am almost done with Stone Mattress  by Margaret Atwood on audio, and though I’ve got a ton of books queued up in my Scribd library, I don’t know what’s next. I devoured Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which was a really quick read, but so fun. It takes place in a future America where almost all of the population participates in a virtual reality simulation called OASIS. The creator of the simulation leaves a complex quest as his will, where his fortune will be inherited by the person who wins the quest. The book is the story of his journey to solve the puzzle, and it’s chock full of great 80s pop culture references and video game geekery. I loved how easy it was to read and how it didn’t really have the pretense of being a deep, serious story.

Next up is The Wrenchies, a dystopian graphic novel that a friend gave me for my birthday. My next three books will be ones given to me as a gift in the last few months. Then I’ll switch back to the Kindle for awhile and tackle some books I’ve stacked up there.

The TBR struggle is real. But I hope that by next weekend, I’ll have my whole backyard oasis put together so I can start spending some time in an Adirondack chair with a sangria and a book.

It’s going to be a great summer.


Vader lap

last week at next gen house

While I’m still gathering my thoughts and feels about the Pittsburgh Half this weekend, here’s what happened last week at Next Gen House.

But first, here’s Vader giving me shade for sitting in his spot on the couch. Can’t go wrong starting posts with photos of cats.

Vader lap

Last Week in Running

I ran two training runs and two races last week, for a total of 23.1 miles. That brings me up to a 2015 total thus far of over 337 miles. Which is kind of unbelievable for me because I didn’t run anything close to that for last year’s Pittsburgh Half and I also have never logged so many miles in a training cycle before, not even I don’t think, during full marathon training last year.

Recap coming this week, but it’s taking me awhile to organize my thoughts, so it’s coming later this week. But check out the bling.

race bling

Last Week in Homesteading

Nothing big on this front, with it being race week and having my weekend taken up entirely by carbs, running and exhaustion. But we are doing some garden work this week in preparation for the season, and I’m really looking forward to that. Seedlings! Yes!

Last Week in Eating

Man, I ate so many carbs last week that for the very first time in my entire life, the Monday after race week, I couldn’t look a carb in the face. There was a birthday cake in the office that looked amazing, and I couldn’t even bring myself to take a bite. All my body wanted was water and vegetables and protein.

BUT, earlier last week, my coworker and I checked out the new Market Square Grocery which has a Gaby et Jules in it. Gaby et Jules is French for Ridiculously Expensive Cookies and Pastries with Unpronounceable Names. A complete luxury and probably the only time I will go in there, but really delicious to experience at least once!

gaby et jules


The night before the Pittsburgh Half, Mark and I went on a date to Serafino’s, a homestyle Italian place in Crafton. It’s BYOB and reasonably priced and not snooty. I loved the bruschetta in particular and will definitely be back to try some of their other dishes. We got to sit outside in beautiful weather and it was a nice, relaxing way to spend the night before the race.

Last Week in Reading

I finished Dead Wake by Erik Larson on audiobook this week. Definitely good, but I preferred the second half to the first, and I think I like his other works slightly better. Still a good non-fiction experience, though. Also finished Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed and started and finished a short e-book called We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which was an adaptation of her TEDTalk.

I also started and finished Toni Morrison’s new novel, God Help the Child. This was quite good. I’m not really a ToMo fan girl, but I do like her work that I’ve read and thought it would be a good addition to my attempts to read more diversely this year.

For audio, I’m listening to Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress, which is a book of short stories. She reads at least one of them, too. That’s part of my effort to read everything in Atwood’s canon because she’s probably my favorite author. Today I’ll start Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which I’ve heard is amazing from so many people and places.

So man, a good week in reading for sure.

A good week in general, all things considered! How about you?


last week at next gen house

It finally felt like real spring around here last week – and I’m starting to feel refreshed and renewed, settling into a new schedule and routine. Still not 100% settled, but I am now convinced that spring is here to stay. I mean, there’s three colors of flowers coming up in the front yard. Feeling very welcoming of literal and metaphorical spring right now.

Last Week in Running

Last long run of the training cycle was Saturday, and I did 8 miles. Originally wanted to do 10 or 12, but I had a lot going on Saturday and had errands to run and just decided to finish the 8 mile loop and be done with it. I came in at 20 miles for the week, which wasn’t my goal, but it was more than nothing. My matra for times where I can’t seem to get everything together is “something is better than nothing,” something I learned in a class when I was first starting to try to live a healthy lifestyle. 20 miles is better than no miles, and I’m already in the best shape I’m going to be for running the Pittsburgh Half. I’ve already met my two running goals this season – PRing in the half and liking running again. So I’m going to run a few times this week and run the Carnegie 5K next weekend. And I will enjoy myself and go for a 5K PR, if I’m feeling like it.

More importantly, I’m only $2 from my fundraising PR as well. Just TWO DOLLARS. Can you be the person that puts me up over the top? I’ll be talking about this more later, but I have a plan to be able to take all of my donors with me during the race. Will you be on the list?

Last Week in Eating

Made the zuppa toscana as promised in the CSA post for dinner last night and it was delish. Saturday afternoon I had a free hour, and decided to bake a couple of treats. I’ve been missing my grandma lately, as we approach the anniversary of her death, six years ago. Whenever I miss her, I pull out her recipes and make something. Instead of choosing the favorites this time, I chose to make two things I’ve never made before – New Orleans Pecan Bars and Scotchies. Both delicious, though the presentation left a lot to be desired since the Scotchies puffed up and then collapsed. Her instructions are different than other cookie bars as far as the process. But they still tasted rich and deadent, and we were happy to devour them. I used to bake all the time, but that just doesn’t happen much anymore, for time reasons as well as health ones. But every so often I like to bust out my skills and bake, making my kitchen smell like hers when a cookie bar was in the oven.

Last Week in Homesteading

Well, the buch got bottled.


It’s delicious and a success and it feels so good to be finally up and running again with this. Thanks to the donated SCOBY of one of my favorite people at my last job, it’s going again. I flavored these with mango, since that’s Mark’s favorite. But the next one might just be straight plain kombucha. I’m currently growing the SCOBY enough to split it and do a double batch. (!!)

Also falling into the homesteading category was real progress made on Mark’s t-shirt blanket. I have the entire front sewn together and am now in the processing of pinning the back. Which is a camo sheet, obviously. You can tell here it’s a mix of band shirts, cartoons, zombie jokes and the Punisher.




I am excited to be sewing again. One I finish the blanket, I’d like to make a couple of smaller projects before the gardening season gets into full swing and takes up more time.

Last Week in Reading

I finished Hausfrau on audiobook last week. It was well written, but I really loathed the main character and her behavior, so that colored my perspective of the book. Started listening to Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania on Scribd.  I love Erik Larson’s non-fiction, since it reads more like fiction. I’d read a book of his on the history of dirt, he’s that engaging. Looking forward to getting into this latest book. (And pst, Scribd has all of his books on audio!) I’m also still reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on my Kindle and hope to finish that this week. I hit 40 books so far in 2015, which puts me more than on track for my 100 books in 2015 goal, but we’ll talk about that later. Links in this section are to GoodReads since I don’t really care where you buy your books.

Have a great week! Here’s a gratuitous cat photo of Stormy trying to take my spot in bed.

stormy blanket


beverly cleary

last week at next gen house

As suspected, last week, starting a new job, was a whirlwind. I keep telling people that my brain feels like a fried egg, but I don’t even like eggs and have no real idea what a fried egg tastes like. I guess I just kept thinking of those “this is your brain on drugs, any questions?” commercials from the 80s? I don’t know. Either way, I’m finding my footing and hoping that in the next few weeks I’ll have more capacity for blogging, since I actually do have some ideas for posts and will soon have gardening plans to share. I’m getting there. Thanks for hanging in while I find my footing.

I did manage to get my Groot bobblehead from Mark up at my desk. That’s something, right?


So let’s talk about last week, shall we?

Last Week in Running

I was really hoping that last week would be a 100% nailed it situation, after having a really hard time the previous week and resetting. I had 34 on the schedule, but I only completed 26. Though with the disruptions to my routine and schedule, I am happy that I at least hit three shorter runs, including one speed intervals and one hills, plus a really solid 13 mile course preview long run on Saturday with Elite. Loved the break in the rain this weekend and it was easy to get myself out the door in capris and a long sleeve tech shirt instead of what was starting to feel like a parka.

I have 26 on the schedule for this week, and I’m going to hit what I can and just take it day by day. I wasn’t expecting to have a job change in the middle of training, right after I came off two weeks out for the flu. Yes, my training hasn’t been the same since I got sick. But I already PR’d in the distance this year and so I’m doing my best to just finish as strong as I can.


Speaking of finishing strong, if you haven’t donated to my fundraiser for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, would you consider making a donation? Even $5 matters. I am $117 away from my fundraising goal and I’d love to grab that fundraising PR as we enter the home stretch up to May 3. Use the box to the right or visit https://www.crowdrise.com/pittscommunityfoodbank2015/fundraiser/joannastone.

Last Week in Eating

Getting used to my schedule led to another week of our standard meals and nothing really new. But I did spend most of Sunday cooking, making some meals for friends who had their first baby a few weeks ago. I made doubles of everything so that we’d have some meals already prepared for this week – two batches of granola, two batches of Creamy Chicken and Dumplings and two pans of enchiladas.

sunday food collage

Last Week in Homesteading

Going to bottle the kombucha tonight, so that’s a great victory. Warm weather is making weeds spring up in the garden beds and some flowers are poking up here and there. Also, my chives have regenerated. What in the world? I can’t wait for May and to create my backyard oasis again.

Thinking of starting another freezer and pantry challenge with myself, because the more hectic our schedules get, the more our pantry fills up with good intentions. Going to start with another inventory.

Last Week in Reading

I finished Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking on audio and moved on to Hausfrau. It’s working okay to listen on the bus and walking out and about, so I’m getting used to a different format. I’ve got several nonfiction titles on my audio list next. Last week I also finished Heap House, which was similar to A Series of Unfortunate Events and sort of ended on a cliffhanger, but it didn’t blow my skirt up enough for me to want to put the second book on my TBR list. Not bad, just not worth my precious reading time (which right now is primarily lunch breaks and 10 minutes before bed). I also finished several trades of comics, including Dead Class and Alex + Ada and Lumberjanes. Now I’m on to reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on my Kindle, which I had started back in the winter on audio on a road trip and then couldn’t finish on audio because it was a library loan. So I’m going back to just read it on Kindle, which I prefer anyway since with fiction I like my own reading speed better than most audio narrators.

Looking forward to a new Toni Morrison this month, which I have preordered for Kindle. And my TBR pile grows every day, which isn’t a surprise to anyone. And I’m also behind on reading my feeds/blogs. Imagine that.

Also, shout out to Beverly Cleary, probably the most influential writer of my childhood, for turning 99 recently. Ramona Quimby was introduced to me by my mom, who gave me Ramona the Pest. And then I was insatiable with those books, and I even liked Dear Mr. Henshaw, and I’ve always wanted to meet other people who liked it to, since they didn’t exist in my circles at age 8. Books are formative and transformative and man, her books have such a special place in my heart. I’m considering a re-read, which is something I rarely do due to the size of my TBR pile. We’ll see. But in the meantime, thanks Beverly Cleary.

beverly cleary


darth vader comic

last week at next gen house

Ever have one of those off-weeks where you feel like you aren’t firing on all cylinders and nothing works the way it did just a few days before? That was last week at Next Gen House.

I was finishing up my last week at my old job, and while theoretically you would think that would make things calm down, it didn’t. Not in any way. My goal for this week – the first at my new job – is to just get through it intact and to do the best that I can to create a new normalcy. That being said, here’s how the week went.

Last Week in Running

Well. This week did not go remotely as planned. I started off strong, with a lovely, 7 mile outdoor run on Tuesday on the city trails. Work had a team building activity close to the trails and let out an hour early, allowing me to squeeze in 7 miles during daylight. Wednesday was another 5 on the Panhandle trail by our house, where Mark got to ride his bike and I ran. But by Thursday, my last day at the old job, the lack of sleep all week had caught up with me. I had to skip my Thursday workout because I got home too late and exhausted (physically and emotionally). All week I had tossed and turned every single night, being up for hour stretches all over the place. Not sure if that was my thyroid or just the stress of the job change. But needless to say, I figured that I was better off just sleeping because my body didn’t want me on that treadmill at 10 at night, no way, no how. Fridays are a rest for me, and I decided to keep it a rest even though I missed Thursday so that I would be okay to do 12-13 on Saturday with Elite.

Then I get up Saturday and it had rained the night before and it was cold. And the excuses start going in my brain, because I’m also exhausted again, with another night of restless sleep. And then a myriad other things start pounding my brain and I decided to skip the group run and try to go back to sleep. And this was probably my biggest mistake. I should have gone to the run and done at least what I could and then come home, but instead I laid back down. And there I didn’t sleep, but I mentally beat myself up and worried and stressed about all manner of things, logical and illogical, for another 45 minutes until I decided I’d have to at least run on the treadmill, so I ate a little something.

Once I got on the treadmill, I felt like it was the hardest thing I had ever done. I got through two torturous miles where every second felt like a year. Got off, went downstairs and told Mark I didn’t think I could do it and started crying. I am pretty sure all of the feelings I had about leaving a very difficult job finally came rearing in like a mac truck and the exhaustion caught up to me and between that and the immense guilt I had about skipping a long run, I just couldn’t hold it in. So I made peace with myself for a few minutes, got it out and then ran 2 more. So my 12-13 mile plan turned into 4 slow slog miles on a treadmill. We traveled for Easter, so I decided to skip Sunday’s as well and start with a clean slate today.

It was hard, coming off a great week with a PR to basically tank my training this week and run only 16 of the 34 miles I was supposed to run. But I didn’t have it in me and I should have faced the big changes happening in the rest of my life and realized how that would impact my training. I am a creature of habit and thrive on a routine. When that routine is disrupted, things go crazy. So I am going to relegate this past week of training to the past and just mentally wipe it clean and move forward. I’m where I need to be fitness-wise and I need to take pride in how far I’ve come and just move on. This week is a new week, and I hope to be as much on my game as possible, though I am going in to it knowing that more things are changing and I will have to take the runs one mile at a time.

Last Week in Eating

Well, it was Easter week, so we can definitely put my family Easter dinner on the high point. I always stuff myself to the gunnels and this year was really no exception, though I didn’t have to moan afterwards. (Though I did basically sleep the whole way home.) We also got to spend Saturday night with my family, which included celebratory cake and a make your own ice cream sundae bar, which was delish.

We also opened a bottle of champagne I got when I was in the Finger Lakes for the Wine Glass Half Marathon (which I had promised myself I wouldn’t open until I got a new job). And we drank some out of our Star Trek glasses, of course.

champagne and star trek

This week we’ll be making some standards that are easy to manage with a busy schedule. I am hoping this weekend to break out some new recipes I’ve been wanting to try but haven’t had the bandwith for.

Last Week in Homesteading

Guess who has two thumbs and a kombucha brew going strong? This girl right here. I’ll be tasting it this week to see if it’s ready to be bottled. That’s a really great sentence to type after a long, kombucha-less winter. Definitely dreaming of the garden too, pretty much every time I see our backyard, which is muddy, brown and gray. Though the chickens are pretty happy about the muck because they eat worms from it after it rains and then take a dust bath once it dries up!

Last Week in Reading

I finished the Star Trek audiobook that I started during the JASR half marathon last weekend, and started Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Doesn’t Stop Talking, which is completely fascinating. I often find myself nodding my head up and down and saying “yes, that’s me!” out loud in the car.

I also finished A Little Life, which was a huge tome that puts you through the emotional wringer. Probably didn’t help that I finished it, bawling my eyes out all over the library copy, the night before the long run that wasn’t this week. Amazing book, but not in any way light hearted. It requires lots of breaks and lots of fortitude. After that, I needed a light read, so I am blowing through Heap House, a children’s/young adult book that seems a lot like A Series of Unfortunate Events but takes place in 1870s England in a house that sits in the middle of garbage heaps, where the protagonist can hear objects tell him their names. It’s bizarre, but it’s a really fast read and is decidedly much more on the lighter side.

So that’s it for this week. I’ll leave you with a page from a Darth Vader comic I read recently. Going to help me move on from last week (and the last few years!).

darth vader comic


office kombucha

last week at next gen house

What a whirlwind of a week. The weather’s been all over the place and so have I, from wrapping up projects at work to meeting a brand new baby to running a half marathon to cheering the Pens on to a win at Consol Energy Center.

And one of these weekends I need to get around to taking some donations to Goodwill and getting some old books to Half Price. I’m hogging Vader’s sunny windowsills.

vader windowsill

So let’s get to it.

Last Week in Running

What an unexpected week. Last week I was celebrating getting in just four miles after being out for 10 days with the flu. And this week I’m celebrating a PR. I ran 30 miles this week, including the Just a Short Run half marathon on Saturday at North Park.

I began running hills in my own neighborhood, something I have always avoided because frankly, my house is at the bottom of one of those Pittsburgh neighborhoods that can be described as “slopes.” The kind of hills your car isn’t super excited about. But I got outside and ran several times and kicked my butt on those hills, which was an accomplishment in and of itself. Now if there was just somewhere flat to run without 400 stoplights! The Panhandle Trail is still a mud pit, since it’s not paved, so it’s not conducive to training at the moment. So this week’s 17 miles of training were a mix of inside and outside. I’ll take it.

just a short run 1 resized

But the big shocker of the week was running a PR at Saturday’s race. I took 5 minutes and 29 seconds off of my previous best, coming in at 2:22:49. I’m going to recap the race tomorrow because I have a lot of thoughts about it. But it was unexpected and such a great boost, both for my training and also for my general spirits. So it was a good week in running.

Last Week in Eating

Back to cooking this week, but still a lot of simple meals. Sunday, Mark worked on fixing our dining room light fixture while I prepped and cooked a pasta dish (sometimes with power, sometimes without!). It’s a penne with broccoli and sun dried tomatoes that was the meal I cooked for him the first time I told him I loved him, which we now call “I love you pasta” (yeah, gag from that mushiness). I don’t make I love you pasta very often because it’s one of those great recipes that’s really prep intense, but it was perfect for a sunny Sunday evening.

Last Week in Homesteading

The winter kombucha saga continues. My SCOBY starter with the Christmas lights? Never ended up going anywhere. Don’t really know what happened, since it didn’t mold, but the tea keeps evaporating out with no SCOBY forming on the top, just a tiny sliver of one.

Enter one of my favorite clients at work, who happens to also brew her own kombucha. I found this out when we were attending a meeting where she had a bottle of what looked like GT’s. I asked her if she drank kombucha a lot, because I brewed my own. It turns out it was her own brew, just in a recycled bottle! She graciously offered to give me one of her healthy SCOBY babies. So for a day, it got to gross people out at my desk.

office kombucha

It’s now brewing in a jar at home, so fingers crossed!

Every day that we have some warm weather, I’m dreaming of seedlings and the garden. I know it will be here before we know it.

Last Week in Reading

While I’m still in my free trial of Scribd, I listened to Aisha Tyler’s book Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation, which was humorous and an easy listen. I also started a short (less than 5 hours) audiobook during my half marathon on Saturday, which is William Shatner’s Star Trek Memories, about the production and behind the scenes people working on the original Star Trek series. Waiting on a few more audios from the library, so I’m not sure what will be next there.

I am still working my way through A Little Life, which is over 700 pages. So part of the reason it’s taking so long is that it’s just long page-wise, but the other is that the prose is really thick and deep. I find myself quickly immersed in it and it’s hard to pull my head out of it and re-enter the world. It’s a book of highly developed characters, which is something I’m drawn to anyway. I hope to finish it this week, but I will likely have to read something fluffy next, because this book packs an emotional wallop.

So that was last week at Next Gen House.

Don’t forget that I’m still raising money for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank by running the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on May 3. You can donate by using the module to the right on the blog, or visit https://www.crowdrise.com/pittscommunityfoodbank2015/fundraiser/joannastone.

sick cat cuddles

last two weeks at Next Gen House

Hi there. Long time no blog.

A little vagrant called Influenza B descended upon Next Gen House. Let’s say that it was a terrible house guest, taking down Mark first and then me, spanning the course of more than two weeks. If you have never had the actual flu before, consider yourself blessed. If you have, you get it when I say it feels like a train hits you and throws you over the side of a cliff. You’re down for the count and no amount of mental toughness will allow you to function. We were sick. Really sick. I think these guys even knew it, since they were supremely cuddly. That or they liked the electric blanket.

sick cat cuddles

So I missed some stuff. A CSA share (my first one to not be able to blog since I started this!) and 7 runs in my training cycle (including two longs) and 4 days of work, a birthday party, and some beautiful weather, just to name a bit.

I’m catching up, slowly but surely. Lots of things changing in the next few weeks, with one big one coming right after Easter.

I accepted a new job. Same type of work, different industry. I have a personal policy against talking about work online, since I prefer to keep that part of my life compartmentalized. But let’s say that my previous job situation was untenable. I was suffering some serious physical side effects from stress and that margin that I’m working hard for this year was elusive. The new job is a step up for me in virtually every way, and I’m proud of myself for going after something that will help to restore more balance in that whole work/life balance paradigm. I’m really excited to see what it brings.

Now then. Here’s what was going on at Next Gen House in the last two weeks.

Last (2) Weeks in Running

As I mentioned, I missed 7 training runs due to the flu. I wrote these in my training spreadsheet as “Flu. Plague. Death.” which is pretty close to how it felt. It was very hard to be off that long from running, but it took that long for the virus to get through with its sinister work and for my lungs to clear out enough to make running and an elevated heart rate something that wouldn’t choke me.

I’m  happy to say that yesterday, I was finally able to return with a run. I managed a 4 mile run with quarter mile walks on either side of that. Check out these beastly calves.


I am modifying my training schedule for the upcoming week in light of the fact that I had no miles for 10 days at all. But I have a half marathon on Saturday that I’m still planning on running, even if I can’t really race it. Going to see what this week brings and how the running feels and then adjust my goals for Just a Short Run accordingly. Thankfully there is still time to recover my fitness in this training cycle, before the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

Last (2) Weeks in Eating and Homesteading

Two weeks of illness have brought mostly simple meals to this house, since it’s not exciting to cook something when you have to take nausea pills just to swallow it and you can’t taste it anyway. Also, virtually no homesteading type activities whatsoever (which is why I lumped them together). But with the weather breaking, I am itching to get out in our muddy yard to clean it up and get ready for spring. It will be garden season before we know it!

Last (2) Weeks in Reading

Sadly, I was so sick that during most of my illness I wasn’t reading much. Feeling so sick that I can’t even hold a book and read a paragraph is rare for me, and a small form of torture. (Not reading or running? Crazy making.)

But I finished To Kill a Mockingbird and now understand what all the fuss was about. Wow.  Finished the audio version of What If? as well, which was a fantastic audio listen with Wil Wheaton as a narrator. Listened to the entirety of a book called Missing Microbes which I might review here on the blog, since it has a lot to do with antibiotic resistance.

I also read a fair amount of graphic novels and comic trades, five total, including Captain Marvel and Rat Queens (which is SO GREAT). You can see in the photo below those two, which are part of my library holds pickup the other day. I also started the other book in the photo, A Little Life, after reading about it virtually everywhere. And somehow, I was first in line for one of the hold copies when it was released! Yay me!

library holds

So how are you? Running some miles? Reading some books?