Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Four Meals and a Beer

One of those weeks where I feel very lucky to live where I do….

On Saturday, Patrick was looking very dapper. and I had a new haircut, and I like to go out and celebrate haircuts. So with some last-minute babysitting help from our friend Sherry, we headed out to dinner at Public, where we had only been previously for drinks. And drinks we had again, lovely, flavorful cocktails. We split a salad, a side, some had-cut lobster tagiatelle, and a lovely little chocolate dessert. We people-watched, and talked about grown-up things. We had some of the best service I have had in a long time. And as we looked out at the beauty of Mears Park, I was thrilled that this place existed in Saint Paul (and even mores, not in Minneapolis, or we would never be able to get a reservation!)

I tried that "sampler menu" theory two other nights this week, with my two BFFs (I don't even remember that last time the three of us had dinner together two nights in a row!). Elaine was in town for wedding dress fittings, so in between Joy Noelle and Fluevog and lots of other errands, we needed some nourishment!

Monday night we hit Blackbird, where we hot upon the sampler menu idea. An order of mussels, of "fish on fire," cauliflower steak, and shaved brussel sprouts later, we know that was the right move. Plus, lots of girl talk!

The next night, on Joy's advice and to my secret delight, we went to Grand Cafe. Again, we chose to sample — a winter salad (on the advice of our amazing server), amazingly tender octopus, ravioli that were perfect little pillows, an incredible almond carrot cake and pudding-like chocolate amazement — all of it a complex mix of flavors and senses (plus a lovely rioja!). As we gushed about the food, our server invited us back to meet the chef, Andrew Craft, who is fairly new to the place and could not have been nicer (I'm afraid I was a little starstruck. Celebrity chefs, eat your hearts out, you don't hold a candle to this man!). It was another perfect night, made even better by the warm and cozy, candlelit spot. I want, so badly, to have a Grand Cafe just down the street from me…

Sunday brunch, in contrast, was all about the glam. We met our friends Rebecca and Jason (and their daughter) at Betty Danger's Country Club, which was all about pink and green, and margaritas the size of birdbaths, and dun food, and irreverence. It was not the culinary genius of the other places, but it was an amazing Sunday brunch of delicious food, of girls goofing around on the animals in the mini-golf course, and of great friends. Highly recommended.

Ended the food overload with beers today at Bent Brewstillery, thanks to a Christmas Groupon. We split a flight, got a growler, and generally enjoyed an hour of hanging out together on a taproom. Plus, our awesome new car repair place (Foreign Service) is right next door, so I know where to go to drown my sorrows the next time the Audi needs a repair.

We are SO lucky to live here…

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Keeping Warm

I referred to a "case of the Februaries" the other day, and my companion knew exactly what I meant. By this point of the winter, we're all just DONE. Next year, I swear to god, I'm getting away for a weekend.

This weekend, though, I did two things to keep me warm:

A trip to the Conservatory with Beatrix on (yet another) day off from school. It was warm, and floral, and filled with birds. (it don't work, though, she came down with strep).


Then today, I visited a pop-up sauna outside Ikea (funded as a public art project). It was SO warm and comfortable. I settled in for half an hour with a book and breathed warm air and it was heaven. It's free, and still open tomorrow!


Friday, February 27, 2015

More Medical Rantings

Don't get me wrong. I'm a firm supporter of health care reform and the ACA. But some of this just boggles the mind.

(And I am not, in this post, even commenting on the special circle of hell we are undergoing to get coverage for our daughter. That's a whole other, as yet underdetermined, issue).

No, this is about the birth control pill (so dad, if it's too much information, you might want to stop reading now).

I've been on Sprintec for 7 years. My doctor first prescribed it because it was on the $4 formulary at Target. I think I wrote a post about it a few years back when Target stopped carrying it and I had to look all over for it, finally finding a CVS that carried it. But that was a whole other rant.

Under Medica, I used to get 3 months at a time, for $0 co-pay. Then, under Preferred One last year, I could only get 1 month at a time (presumably because people were stocking up or something? I don't know). Then I switched to Blue Cross Blue Shield this year, and picked up my first prescription last night.

First of all, it took over half an hour to get the insurance info changed (really?). Then, to my surprise, there was a $10 co-pay per month. BCBS provides 2 months, but I had to re-cut the prescription (which takes an amazingly long time) so I could only pay for one month while I worked it out.

20 minutes on hold to BCBS today revealed the issue. Yes, the cover birth control at 100%. But only SOME birth controls, on a special secret list that they only reveal to providers. No, of course Sprintec is not on that list. I have to contact my doctor and get a new pill prescribed, or have a "formulary exception" put through.

Never mind I've been on it for 7 years, or that it was initially prescribed because it was the cheapest (presumably for providers as well). Never mind that insurance only pays for one visit a year, so it would have been prescribed then (when it WAS covered) and it's hard to get a new prescription without another visit. Never mind I don't have access to that list, so now my doctor has to review my case and pick a new prescription and call it in, taking time from her other duties. Never mind that between the CVS, the phone call to BCBS, and the call to the doctor's office today I lost over an hour of time getting something I am entitled to and that we pay almost $1000/month for coverage for.

There simply has to be a better way.

ETA:  Called my doctor. They don't have a list or access to that. I have to get that from BCBS. Currently on the phone with BCBS. They can't give me the list because it's medical information that consumers don't understand. Apparently I am supposed to just go to the pharmacy with a stack or prescriptions for various pills, then run each one through until we find one that has no copay. No joke.

Confidential to BCBS: It costs a lot more money for me to have a child than to take birth control….

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In Place of Tattoos

I'm a pain wuss, and so I'm just never likely to get a tattoo. Beside, Patrick has enough for both of us.

However, I am supremely tempted by a couple of things in place of one…

This state necklace, because Minnesota really does have my heart:



And these awesome book temporary tattoos, wonder how long they last?


Friday, February 13, 2015

She is Too Fond of Books, and it Has Turned Her Brain

(attributed to Louisa May Alcott)

I can't remember a time I could not read. Literally can't remember not being able to pick up a book and get lost in the story; I started reading at 2. I made a specialty of rushing through my schoolwork so I could have free-reading time. I knew every book on the shelves of the Lower School library. When I was young I would finish a book, and then immediately flip it back around and read it again. Books were always scarce — not because my mother would not buy them for me, but because it was hard to keep up with my book-a-day habit.

Wherever I lived, my library card was one of the first things I obtained. When I travelled the world, my backpack was always heavy because it was half-full of books, and I eagerly exchanged the ones I had just read with other travelers. The cafes where people left free books — nirvana. And I remember standing in the Hampstead Waterstone's, looking at all the tables of books and feeling an endless sense of possibility.

It's different now, somewhat, and I give both the blame and credit to my kindle.

I got my first kindle in the hazy first years of Beatrix's life, where I spent a lot of time pumping. It was one of the only ways I could make it through and keep my sanity. One of the first things I loved was that, at that time, I could buy pretty much any book for $9.99. You have to understand; I had almost never (as in I could count on two hands and maybe have fingers left over) purchased a new-release hardcover book before then. When you read a lot, paying close to $30 for something that will only last a couple of hours is simply not sustainable. Having a kindle brought me into a new world of reading all the hot new titles.

Since then, although prices have jumped, I have become extremely savvy with Amazon price-watching and with navigating my library hold list, to the point where, of the 60-70 books I read a year, almost all of them are relatively new releases.

I like the thrill of the new, don't get me wrong. But I am not sure that this is actually a good thing.

When I look over my Goodreads list, and awful lot of them have only 2-3 stars. There are probably only about a dozen truly exceptional books I read in any given year. There are a lot of mediocre ones.

What's the reason for this? Have I simply already read most of the amazing books, the truly life-changing ones? Are newer titles just inherently weaker than the classics? Does the electronic format, while giving me more access, make me less discerning? Or would this have happened anyway, as larger stores like B&N become the norm (I'm guessing not, since the print copies I buy still usually come from indie stores.) Am I just paying more attention to it?

Is more less?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sundin Samba!

For the past couple of years, I have been working with a world music series co-produced by Minnesota Global Arts and Hamline University. It has been a fascinating look into world music and traditions, with everything from gamelan to klezmer. Music is by far the art form I am weakest in; I can't play an instrument, and don't have much musical background. But I have especially enjoyed this series (and loved taking Beatrix to it!) because of the way it has tied together music and folk dance.

This year's series is South of the Border: Traditions, focusing on Latin America. As usual, there are  a lot of related events: a concert, a family-friendly dance party, school presentations, workshops, etc. I have been especially excited about the Carnival celebration on February 22, because I thought Beatrix would especially love the masks and face painting and samba.

This afternoon, I stopped by the campus to take some pictures of the concert artists as they held a workshop with the Hamline band members — and that got me SUPER excited for the concert. They got the kids up on stage and drumming and really picking up the beat, right away. I can hardly see what they do with choro music!

What I especially liked about today is seeing the reach of these events. They are very multi-faceted, reaching all kinds of people that might not ordinarily experience world music, fem the kids at Hamline school to these university students, who started out really nervous and then really got into it as they picked up the samba beat. Definitely unexpected!

So, highly recommended to put some warmth into your cold February. Tickets at the door, or online in advance through Brown Paper Tickets (if you order online, you can go ahead and order with the ACTC discount as your "in" for knowing me, so only $5! from the regular price of $12).


Monday, February 2, 2015

Coya Come Home!

As many (ok, well, all) of you know, we have been desperately looking for a new keeshond;  Geronimo's passing left  a big hole in our life. In doing so, we started with the usual methods — searching Petfinder and the Animal Humane Society. WE then asked friends to keep an eye out. We *almost* got 2 keeshonds from Midwest Animal Rescue, but both feel through at the last minute. We registered with every place we could find. We found some breeders in the area, and even attended the Land O'Lakes dog show, which is an interesting world all in itself. Recently, I have become active in a few Facebook keeshond rescue communities, especially one very active with 101 Keeshonden Rescue: Free the Kees, working to shut down an infamous puppy mill in upstate New York.

The site has become active with other keeshond rescue as well, and on MLK Day two Minnesota members drove to Wisconsin to rescue a keeshond there. Lacoya had been owned by a backyard breeder, who apparently decided to get rid of her because she was not making enough money on the keeshond puppies. From the sounds of it, Wendy (and Bill, with Sapphire - a 101 Kees) got there just in time.

They brought her back, and Wendy was incredible at giving this shy girl a new take on life. In just a few days, this poor dog, who had never really known love or concern, started to bloom. But her landlord was not big on a dog, and so Lacoya needed a new home, which is where we came in.

I had first reached out to Wendy when she rescued Lacoya, to thank her for her work and dedication. She knew we were looking for a new kees, and so asked if we wanted to foster, or foster-to-adopt her. We immediately said yes, and Wendy brought her over this weekend.

Lacoya (or "Coya" as we know call her, after Minnesota's first elected Congresswoman and the "Coya Come Home" scandal of 1958 — we would not elect a second Congresswoman until Betty McCollum in 2000!) has settled right in. She is still incredibly shy, and can't always get used to being loved and snuggled and cared for. She's an amazingly good and sweet dog, just one who seems to think that she can't believe her good luck and it will all come crashing down soon. Our main goal right now is to teach her that she deserves to be loved and will always be a cherished part of our family.

She has "papers" of a sort, and we learned from the breeding world that all purebred kees are actually showable. However, show dogs cannot be spayed, and since Coya was a breeding dog, we have agreed to take care of that right away. Agility dogs can be spayed, so maybe we will look at that as she gains confidence.

We went into this looking only for another dog, and soon realized how much more fulfilling it would be to be part of a keeshond community. From there, we further decided we wanted to be part of a community that made a difference in the world. The people in the 101 Kees group are true heroes, and I am in awe of the work they do. I only hope that we can be worthy of them, and give Coya the wonderful life she deserves. I had known the value of rescue groups before, but had not understood their impact.

Coya, we are so glad you are home!