The Barbary Coast

I’d love to tell you today’s post is about a lovely travel destination. I really would. Oh, I travelled all right, but it’s nothing you’ll find a book on in the travel section of B&N.

This morning I got up early and went for a run.

That’s code for: the bird outside my window would not shut up at 6am and I was so mad I couldn’t fall back asleep and, yes, I had planned on a work-out but I am SO not motivated and I can think of a dozen really well thought out reasons why I should just skip straight to the shower instead but darn it…there’s no time to drive to the gym or even put on my yoga DVD because I just laid here thinking them all up so now I’m out of options and out of time and I just won’t respect myself tomorrow morning if I don’t GET UP RIGHT THIS MINUTE and put on shoes and RUN OUT THE DOOR and whatever you do DON’T LOOK BACK.

Running is barbaric. Don’t ever let someone tell you otherwise. I run as a last resort, when I need a super-sweat really fast. I feel a little like I cheated on my time but made up for it in pain.

I have a girlfriend who ran the Boston marathon to celebrate her 40th birthday. And then she never ran again. I have a girlfriend who rides centuries on her bike. She started running to see if she feels like doing a Triathlon. Can you guess which activity she prefers? She may not ever make it to the swim part of her experiment.

Hubby does his early morning run three times a week because he ran in high school. Yeah. All I hear about is the latest body part about to fall off from his last “run”. He won’t stop running though…because his head tells him he’s still 18. His knees, not so much.

My long legged sons run like the wind. They fly effortlessly around the track or past Hubby or to the dinner table. They are fairly certain if a cheetah chased them, they’d win. In their opinion, the sweat, the heaving lungs, the shaky legs, and the nausea are all part of the fun. If they run with me, they run backwards, cheering me on. Top marks for sportsmanship.

When I run, I can’t wear ear buds because they sweat right out of my ears. So I hum the soundtrack to “Chariots of Fire” and take off. In 30 seconds I am breathing like a bellows, so I mentally chant, “In with the good air! Out with the bad!” In five minutes the sweat begins to permeate my sun visor and I’m thankful it’s not streaming into my eyes. I look directly at the space in front of me. If I look up and see how far there is yet to go, my pace falters and I might start thinking again.

So I trot stubbornly on.

I have one pace and one pace only, and I finally decided to name it the ‘Barbary Coast’. I will never be a hare. I am obviously a tortoise.  This means if pirates are chasing me, I’m a goner.

It takes almost the whole run to warm up and then I’m in a zone where I will just keep trotting into forever unless the path runs me into a wall. I tell my body to just keep moving and then my brain and I go to Morocco.

I am imagining riding a camel along the beaches of Casablanca when…

What in the name of sweet mercy is THAT?! I completely forgot about trash day. I just ran past someone’s wretchedly ripe cans. Oh man, my mouth was wide open and I was breathing in so deep, I reckon there’s a few fruit flies at the bottom of my lungs now.

*ack ack gasp*

This is the part where I spit like a girl.

Don’t watch.

When I finally staggered home I had the rush that comes from accomplishment and endorphins.

But the word “rush” was out of the question for the rest of the day.

Tummy Troubles

Very rarely does my family get ill. It could be because we eat well, sleep deep and play hard. It could be from the fact that we don’t sit still long enough for the germs to catch us.

But most likely it stems from the wee years of preschool and kindergarten where all the kidlets are Petri dishes of experimental bodily fluids.

There are a strict number of times when you must accept the germs passed to you there, and you are honor bound to bring them home and share with your loved ones.

Preferably by projectile vomiting at their feet.

After enough years go by, your immunity is like body armor. The germs can only reach you through your armpits and that’s where most of them die.

Children can go to sleep with their little halos in place and then sit up at 2am, looking puzzled, and launch missiles across the bedroom, sometimes taking in an amazing amount of collateral damage.

If one kid was sick, everyone else’s bedrooms went into lockdown for a week, with air defense shields firmly in place.

You only want to clean that mess once. Maybe never. Maybe you just wrap everything up in the bed sheets and place it, dripping, into the nearest neighborhood dumpster.

(Sorry homeless dude.)

I became extremely good at noticing signs of imminent launching from my children.

I mean, I was pro.

Not because it was another “fun mommy challenge” but because before taking this seriously, I had a child fill a tent (not a sleeping bag; a tent) with semi-digested fishy crackers in the middle of the night in the middle of a camping trip in the middle of the woods.

Sometimes you just have to walk away from your mistakes.

We gently zipped the tent door shut to keep fumes from destroying surrounding wildlife, and slept in the car.

Fast forward to the time we were camping at the beach in our tent trailer. It was late at night, everyone dreaming to the peaceful sounds of the ocean. The Red Alert System went off in my head and I woke up, immediately sending out sonar pings, seeking the danger.

One small child sighed gently in his sleep.

Without skipping a beat and still in my jammies, I scooped up the suspect and swiftly carried him outside.

Face out. The shrubbery was glad to get the fertilizer.

The time we were all eating in the cafeteria and I saw a faintly furrowed brow on my little princess? One minute Hubby was talking to me, and the very next I had snatched her up (face OUT people) and dashed her outside to the nearest trashcan.

It’s very convenient when those don’t have lids. Just sayin.

It’s easier when you’re home of course.

I have to share an idea from Flylady.net that came along much too late for me, but could be helpful for you.

She suggests packing a new beach bucket with: a plastic beach shovel, a small inflatable air mattress (like for the pool), two beach towels, small colorful cups and straws, dry crackers, anti-nausea medication, and doctor/pharmacy info.

Set up the air mattress with towels as sheets. Use the bucket to catch the mess as an alternative to touching a toilet. Use the shovel to scoop up misses. Use the fun cups as incentives to stay hydrated until the bug passes. These items can be rinsed and tossed into a dishwasher or laundry. Or are so cheap, you should have no qualms about tossing them into that dumpster we discussed earlier.

Once the child is settled you can focus on cleaning up the mess…because you never ever want to leave this till daylight. Am I right?

I’m so sorry for your interrupted sleep. I know you’ll have black circles and bags under your eyes tomorrow.

But look at your child.

I don’t know about yours, but mine felt so much better after they were sick that they enjoyed all the fuss and watching me clean up behind them.

They wondered aloud who was going to barf next and placed bets on when.

One even looked sweetly into my sleep-deprived face and asked what was for breakfast.

That one was my Hubby.

Stop, Drop…And Roll ‘Em

I may have mentioned the fact that I am a weather wimp. I live in the only place I would ever live by choice. We don’t have blizzards, hail the size of tennis balls, lightning storms that knock out the electricity, tsunamis, flooding rivers, raging tornados, or black holes.

But we live within driving distance, in case we ever want to be entertained by these ‘natural disasters’.

What we do here in So Cal is wildfires and the occasional earthquake. Let me show you the difference and why this is so much more manageable. You can build your home earthquake resistant. You cannot build it tornado resistant. You can put a fire break around your property. You cannot put a flood break around it. You can put out a wildfire. You cannot put out a blizzard. An earthquake lasts a minute or so; step outside and wait. The earth will roll and then stop; the tsunami, not so much.

We tend to feel jilted if it stays overcast all day. Watch the weather report when we get a light rain. Suddenly the world stops turning because the roads are wet and we have no idea what to do about it. So we keep driving 80mph and spin out on the shoulder and make the 6 o’clock news.

We’re that boring.

And I love it.

Nevertheless, I still hold conversations with otherwise perfectly intelligent people from across America who refuse to come out for a visit.  They harbor a vision in their heads of California having “the BIG ONE” and then falling off in one long slab into the Pacific Ocean.

Perhaps they have never heard of plate tectonics, or maybe they’ve seen too many movies, but I for one find the idea intriguing.

I don’t see any reason why cracking off from the mainland means we will necessarily be underwater.

I’m seeing us as an island. We already have the palm trees. The tourist industry will skyrocket.

Everyone should snap up some inland real estate, preferably hilltop, and wait for it to become our new beaches. It’s already barren and sandy from previous wildfires, right? Just add ocean and your seedy little investment mobile home on two acres of scrub oak will be worth countless millions.

Unfortunately, according to Hollywood experts, if the BIG ONE also triggers a volcano or tsunami or possibly Godzilla emerging from the ocean depths, safe to say they will commandeer your new little tropical paradise to set up their cameras.

They need to get this in the 6 o’clock news.

It All Comes Out in the Wash

Today I want to play in the laundry room. It’s actually a laundry “closet” but beggars can’t be choosers.

In our other home, I had a full size laundry room with tabletop space, drying racks, hangers, hampers, and bins for each family members’ clean clothing. Now we own a tiny walkway between the garage and the house that two people literally can’t pass through at the same time. If I open the dryer to remove clothes, I have to lock the incoming doors so no one will inadvertently destroy the place.

It’s dark, claustrophobic, and not even spiders will live there.

Naturally I take this as a challenge.

Dirty laundry goes into the large sink next to the washer, and clean clothes sit in the tiny shelf in the corner. This means I do a load every day to prevent the tottering mountain of smelly wardrobe bits from landing on the floor and being trampled through.

It’s hard having a freeway run through this dicey corner of town, and worse when you have to pass by the fumes rising from the dump there. You can just hold your breath as you dash through. But your eyes may water a little.

My only real concern is trying to pull the machines out from the wall to get the lint and sock balls collecting behind them. There’s nowhere to pull them out to.

I really want to clean out the lint from my dryer; not necessarily because house fires occur when you don’t keep those vents cleared, but because I’m afraid there’ll be a drive-by shooting during the 45 minute cycle.

Let me explain.

The last time I cleaned out the dryer I used the vacuum attachment in every orifice I could reach. I still felt there was something else in there though, and eventually removed the entire back panels and really rooted around with my hands.  (Please don’t forget to unplug the dryer first. Mine was gas, so I also turned the connecting gas valve to “off”. Safety first!)

I scooped out an entire Lego set, 83 cents in change, bits of a ball point pen, and a bullet.

Not a shell. A bullet.

This matters because we have never had a gun and live in the subs where hunting is not a normal afternoon activity.

Are you telling me a bullet won’t go off if it’s pinging around in a hot metal machine? My Texan girlfriends should have an answer for this, as well as whether hunting knives, camouflage vests and feed store hats should be washed in warm or cold water.

How the laundry is handed to me is how the laundry is washed. The socks are already tucked into cute little balls. Not my fault if they are still damp in the middle. I think they were damp in the middle when you handed them to me, actually.

Eewww.

Judge me if you must. But would you rather stick your hands into the family’s dirty laundry, turning pockets and socks out…or be super excited that you’ve thoroughly cleaned three rocks, a cherry Chapstick, and a rubber lizard? Um…and a bullet?

I cannot begin to tell you how tempted I am to simply hang all the wet laundry over the staircase baluster. I’m much too lazy to hang a laundry line outside, even if the silly HOA rules allowed it.

Which they don’t.

I’m content just knowing I bravely tread where spiders dare not live, a foot bracing the door, one hand tossing dirty underwear into the machine, one hand searching for the bleach, wearing a Kevlar vest and a clothespin clipped on my nose.

Tastes Like Chicken

We found a gopher floating in the Jacuzzi this morning. This is what happens when you think you can hop a fence in the dead of night and take someone’s spa for a joy ride. Oh, it’s fun at first, but if you nod off at all, you get found the day after, floating face down without your trousers on.

My hubby did what every red-blooded man in America would do in this situation.

“Huh,” he says, peering out at the fat and furry bobbing rodent, “what’s that?”

My sons sprang into action immediately. We’ve found scorpions, spiders and Jerusalem crickets in the pool so far, and a king snake that was swimming around getting his exercise, but this was a first.

Once they fished out the gopher with the long pool net, they were also true to boyhood form and launched the thing over the fence into the wilds of the backyard. It just plopped there without ceremony, squeaky clean.

We were all leaving soon thereafter, so the gopher was forgotten five minutes later in the rush. I stood at the kitchen sink, my usual place of command central, drinking the last of my tea and staring out the window.  I noticed a crow fly by and land in the yard.

I peered out for a better view.

The crow was standing next to the gopher and cocking his head sideways, deep in thought. Obviously trying to decide what it was he was looking at.

Another crow landed beside him. They looked at each other, they looked at the gopher.

And another crow joined them. Then another.

Soon there were maybe eight crows standing in a circle, all around the fat and decidedly not moving gopher.

I could almost hear them say, “Well boys, someone has to figure this out. I’m certainly feeling snack-ish. And this bugger seems rather plump and juicy. But what is that unusual smell?”

The crow that drew the short straw hopped up and took a peck.

“Dunno,” he said, “Must be food. It’s a bit wet though. Tastes like bleach.”

The other crows took a step closer.

Nice bleach, of course,” he said, taking another peck at it. “If there’s one thing I appreciate, is when the food is already dead, cleaned, cooked and plated for me. What a treat.”

At this point, all I saw were crows, feathers flying, and when I could bear to look out again five minutes later there was no trace of crows or gopher anywhere at all.

The Circle of Life turns all day long and if you blink, you’ll miss it in action.

But it’s safe to say that if you’d rather not participate in it for now, don’t spend the night in our spa.

 

A Rose by Any Other Name

I remember growing up jealous of people who went by nicknames. It seemed like it was a way you could still keep your parents happy (they got to name you after all) and yet carve out a little personal identity for yourself. My girlfriend was named Melissa but you called her Missy; Pamela was Pam, Katherine was Kathy, and the boy next door named Juan Ismael Rolando was called Pepino. Go figure.

My sisters and I had short names that did not lend to shortening further with a nickname. Although we fantasized about having other names altogether. We practiced with our Barbie dolls. Mine was always named Joanna. Sometimes when mom got really mad we were called by our first, middle and last names at once; that’s when you knew you were in for it. Occasionally I’d experiment with calling myself by my middle name and see if it would catch on. No dice.

I envied the guys with names so long, they had serious options. Leonardo. Leonard. Leo. Lenny. Len. What about all of my Hispanic friends? They had so many names to choose from! Sometimes even Maria Yolanda Leticia Mendez Rodriguez couldn’t tell me which ones were middles and which ones were last names.

My girlfriends came to the rescue. I made the mistake of whining out loud about it once and was instantly granted two nicknames for whenever I was feeling un-special.

Jolie Frijole. And also, Jolie Guacamole. Oh yeah. That’s special, all right.

Fast forward to naming my own children and I realize I deliberately chose names that would not be nicknamed! I distinctly recall feeling horrified that if I named my son James, he would instantly be called Jim by the world and there was no way to stop them. I love the name James. I can’t stand the name Jim. No offense to all you Jims out there, but if I name a kid James, then James it has to be. The one son I went out on a limb with lets himself be called by both his birth name and a nickname interchangeably and doesn’t seem to have a preference.

Deciding on which name to use on forms is always a question. Too many name options can get confusing fast and the last thing you want to do to your teacher, the IRS or immigration (but perhaps not the police?) is confuse them. Is your nickname an alias? Maybe a nom de plume? Do you have different groups of friends that call you different names, depending on who you’re with?

This was a fun idea as a kid. Sounds exhausting from an adult point of view.

I was Jolie before Angelina Jolie was. I have to give credit where credit is due. Once she became a household name, the barista at Starbucks began spelling my name correctly. Even more times than she could spell Joanna.

Why not just tell them your name is Nachooooooooooo…. and be done with it?

James Bond Does A Graduation

The June sun presided over an outdoor commencement. Perspiration crept along hairlines.

The college president was Kenyan, the keynote speaker was from Iran, the flowers were Hawaiian.

Among the grad-crazed families sat a single Russian spy. His beloved princess was graduating magna cum laude today with a degree in Political Science and another in Chemistry. He set aside his routine of espionage to sit in the anonymous audience of hundreds. He never perspired; not even when carrying bits of high-tech radically engineered weapons information for the Kremlin. Today he was travelling light.

Just passing through.

The devilishly alluring man in the impeccable Brioni suit and dark glasses moved casually to a seat nearby as the ceremony began.

Queue the James Bond theme song.

In the long line of flowing black robes, Natasha is announced. She walks across the stage to receive her diploma. Women shriek, balloons escape skyward.

Only when the crowds clear the field, hours later, does anyone notice the body slumped in the chair.

Covered by an air horn blast and surrounded by parents straining into the sunlight to see a glimpse of their own prodigies, the elimination went undetected.

James Bond fades into the background.

Mischief managed.

******************************************************************

I can’t stand the boredom of ceremonies. I just can’t. Society dictates that a person has not graduated, married, given birth, or died, unless a party has been properly thrown over it, money spent on it, and particular traditions carried out in his honor. It must involve vast quantities of food.

But first and foremost, you must stand witness to the event.

Even if you’re a Russian spy.

If I had spare time I would spend it reading a good book, sleeping, or daydreaming about 007.

During my daughter’s graduation, I did all three.

I’m fairly certain no one noticed.

There are approximately 300 graduates to run the gauntlet. The first string comes through and random clusters of family members clap and cheer politely. Until the second row, fifth grad in, when his family decides to jump up, blasting air horns, and shriek at the top of their lungs.

We levitated for a moment over our seats.

We will never know who the sixth grad was.

Once my hearing returned, it was much too late to send them harsh looks of admonishment because, by George, every other family decided they would not be upstaged or (heaven forbid) their own child feel less loved due their lack of vocal enthusiasm.

Nothing is more irritating than having your nap interrupted by women clearly having liposuction without anesthesia. There were shrieks of agony from all corners of the audience and I looked everywhere for the mass murderer.

Sometimes the men would attempt the same decibels in a lower octave and it only managed to sound like they were about to take the warpath. Or they’d had a kneecap busted. Or maybe they’d just seen the VISA bill for the after-party.

After a while I was feeling sorry for the grads with polite parents, but I would find myself looking up from Pride & Prejudice wishing the sudden silence would last longer than three names.

I heard a whistle once, but instead of the police coming to arrest obnoxious guests, it was a mom who wasn’t about to sacrifice her tonsils to the cause but needed to make sure her presence was acknowledged.

At the end of the ceremony, we were all told very specifically how to exit the field and where to meet our grads. I held onto my chair and braced. The very moment tassels turned, the audience surged like a tsunami and met the incoming wave of grads, crashing together in a mindless smash-up of humanity.

Our family had the back of the stadium to ourselves as we hugged and smiled and snapped a couple of photos.

We casually strolled to the cars, drove home without a trace of traffic, and yes, had a wonderful after-party full of family, friends and fun.

Far be it from me to defy the tradition of ages.

If I noticed the solitary man in the tailored suit and dark glasses, a wry half-smile on his face, I certainly didn’t make eye contact.

When the Cat’s Away…

Once a year I hop in the car and drive away for a weekend with my girlfriends in Palm Springs. It’s becoming a tradition that I could really get behind. It satisfies those pesky feelings that come around once in a while that whisper, “RUN. Run now. They won’t catch you. Someone else can do the dishes.”

It’s nice to turn to them and answer, “Yes, of course. It’s just that I’m so busy right now. I’ll tell you what…next May we’ll run away to a place where we will never do dishes, clean, cook, or run laundry. Ever. OK?” And then I get on with my day.

I get mixed reactions to my weekend away from the family. Hubby supports it, inasmuch as he is thinking to himself, “Self,” he thinks, “this is the weekend where I won’t do dishes, clean, cook, or run laundry! Awesome.”

The daughters are thinking, “Mom is so lucky! Why can’t I go too? I’m a girl! Please, please, please don’t leave us with three males of the species!”

The sons are thinking, “Dad’s gonna be in charge. That means hotdogs and pizza for dinner and random adventures that we will always be running late for. Awesome!”

All I am thinking on the day before I leave is, “The laundry is completely caught up, the kitchen is clean and a pre-made dinner is in the freezer. I’ve signed all the school papers and left reminders on the calendar for the weekend for everybody. I’m packed, there’s gas in the car, directions on the GPS, and every cell phone here has my number in it.”

Not that they need it. Mine is the only one that all of them have memorized.

Never would I have attempted this in the younger years. You don’t leave diapers to chance. The kids are all old enough to forage for food in the kitchen if abandoned to their fate. No one will accidentally leave a stove burner on. At least not for long. The strange smell in the house should alert people.

Right?

This is the part where I force myself to take a mental detour into a happy place and sit there on time out for a reality check: the house will not burn down, a child will not lose a body part, no one is getting sick; everyone will be safe, fed, and happy until Mom comes home.

It’s only two days.

Palm Springs is lovely in May. Warm poolside weather, funny movies on the telly, books and magazines, maid service and restaurant meals. Sleeping in as long as you want is a treat so rare, only a mom could fully appreciate it. It’s what we do after a night of sitting in the spa, drinking margaritas, star gazing and talking the night away.

A decadent game we play once in a while is “doing nothing”: you settle down in a comfy chair with a wonderful view, and…do absolutely nothing. Except smile.

It makes us uneasy after five minutes or so, but it’s fun practice.

On the drive home, we decide to ease our way back into the flow of things with side trips to massive shopping malls. Hunting down a good bargain gets our head back in the game, so to speak.

And a good thing too, because as soon as I pulled up to my house, my instincts kicked in to full alert.

The garage door was open but no one was around. Hm. I walked into the house, rolling my red carry-on behind me. I came full stop in the middle of what used to be my living room.

Couches and tables were pushed along the walls, cushions piled up in drifts. Heaps of clothing here and there suggested closets had been sick at some point. There were Legos in the potted plants. Empty cups, half empty soda bottles, plates of crumbs and a trail of skittles led to a kitchen of greasy countertops and a truly exciting refrigerator full of leftovers. Empty pizza boxes stacked in a corner. Candy spilled out of opened bags like little lava flows.

The bodies of my family were draped over furniture, trapped in suspended animation. Only their eyes moved as they followed my speechless tour around the house.

I stopped in front of the Hubby. He smiled faintly.

“Why hello!” he said, clearing his throat, “I didn’t know you were coming home so early.”

My daughter called out softly from her place on the floor, “We had so many people over here!”

“We went swimming and shopping and watched movies all night!” bragged a son from behind a couch.

“Um,” was what I managed to say.

“We’ve already been cleaning for a couple of hours,” said Hubby, sensing the direction of my thoughts, “it looks pretty good now.”

After unpacking, I rolled up my sleeves and stepped back into the fast moving rhythm of making a house a home. I knew the steps by heart.

It was good to be back.

Sunflower Psych

Picture 800 giant Mammoth Sunflowers planted in row upon row in a corner of the elementary school lot. Each towered a good six or seven feet tall, each leaf the size of a dinner plate. It made a veritable jungle and was surreal to walk through.

This was one of my quirky ideas back when I was a volunteer (motto: you can get away with the wildest schemes, and they can’t fire you) and of course, whoever comes up with an idea “gets” to be responsible for pulling it off.

Lucky me.

I come from a gardening family and raised my own kids around dirt and plants and tools of the trade.  This was yet another version of my idea of fun.

While the sunflower project was actually tied to an art lesson, the agricultural aspect of it turned out to be a real eye-opener for me. Maybe kids say the darndest things, but they don’t lie.

Each class was led out to the garden area where I explained that we were going to plant sunflowers and spend the next weeks monitoring the plants until they bloomed.  Each student had a Popsicle stick with their name on it, which would help them find their own special flower during the wait.

I carefully handed each student a sunflower seed. They looked at me blankly.

“What do I do with it?” one asked.

“You walk over to the row and plant it,” I patiently explained.

One little boy stared at his seed very hard. “Do I eat it?” he asked.

“Well, you put it in the ground and bury it,” I said, “Then you stick your name beside it.”

They stood there staring at me as though I had suggested one of the stupidest things they had ever heard. It was obvious they had never planted a seed before. They could not fathom how putting something that had edible value here and now would be improved on by sticking it in the dirt and walking away.

This…from a grown-up! Incredulous looks turned into something like pity for me as they went through the motions and slowly filed back to the classroom.

I can’t decide which of us felt more crushed.

You can only imagine the next week or two while I watered and waited in more than a little angst until the first shoots came up. Over the course of the eight week experiment, students came out and toured the expanding garden, searching out their own plants, measuring them, petting them, and encouraging them to Jack-and-the-beanstalk heights.

They brought parents through after school.

Eventually, at the end of the school year, it was apparent that their one humble seed had become more seeds than they could count. I hope they were encouraged to garden at home. I hope they understood on some level that food does not come from a grocery store or out of a package.

I know the garden connected earth and art. I know it spoke to their minds more eloquently than a grown-up could. I know we made great memories.

And I hope they will always look at a sunflower seed and see possibilities.

Sprouting Off

I wrote this one up when I was going to plant my garden and realized all I have are a few pots to play in. So naturally, micro-gardening came up. People have been growing their own sprouts forever. If I were going to play with it, I would be hard pressed deciding whether to use a mason jar or a chia pet. I would choose my seeds based on how pretty they would look on display.

You can have your own personal organic locally grown sprouts in a jiffy.

You can buy the plastic mesh lids or circular metal mesh inserts either in stores or online, or substitute needlepoint canvas or any meshy nylon fabric like cheesecloth or pantyhose for over the jars.

Find the seed of your choice in health stores. Ask an employee to verify that the seed is suitable for sprouting. There are risks with sprouts that are considerably smaller when growing them yourself, involving bacterial contamination of the seed itself. When you buy it, ask about the source and/or treatment of the seed and make your decisions accordingly. Thoroughly cooking your sprouts (ie stir fry) should destroy any microbes you may still be worrying about.

Never use seed intended for planting, they may be treated with chemicals. My folks used to grow alfalfa and mung bean sprouts, but sunflower, wheat grass, beans, broccoli, chia and any little micro-greens would work.

After thoroughly cleaning your quart jar and lid, place 1-3 Tbsp of seed in the jar and cover with room temp water by over a couple inches to soak them.  Put the lid on. Set the jar in a dark cool place overnight. The seeds will expand.

In the morning, drain the jar, then re-fill with fresh cold water, swirl to rinse the seeds, and drain again. Do all of this through the mesh lid. The lid stays on until the process is complete.

Set the jar upside down in a dish rack or tipped in a bowl. See if you can get seeds to gently stick to the sides of your jar and spread out. The idea is to keep it drained but exposing the lid to allow fresh air to circulate in the jar. This helps prevent mold. If you think mold is growing, toss the seed and start over.

Set your jar somewhere in the kitchen where it will be exposed to daylight but not directly in the sun. This helps the sprouts “green up” by developing chlorophyll. Don’t let the jar get hot.

Rinse your jar out twice a day, maybe three if you feel the need. If you’re sprouting large seed like sunflowers, you want to remove the hulls on day two or three. If the mesh is large enough, your rinsing will automatically bring the hulls out through the lid. If you’re using mesh cloth, you can remove the lid and rinse the baby sprouts in a colander to swish them out. Be gentle. Broken sprouts die and will spoil.

Between two days and a week, your sprouts should be ready to eat. Taste test them if you’re not sure. They should not taste bitter. Remove the sprouts after a last rinse and let them air dry. Cut off what you want to eat, and store the rest in an airtight bag or container for up to a week in the fridge.

Sterilize your equipment and try a new seed variety next time!