Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Womanly Arts

I don't know how I have become so interested in the "womanly arts" in the past few years, but it seems to be something that has affected a number of women I know.

Our service berry (Saskatoon berry) tree at Summit is in full berry mode right now, and I wanted to get as many of them picked as possible (especially since we have to cut off one branch soon).

After that, I baked a cake with them and it turned out wonderfully. Score one for baking prowess!

Then, the other night, I hosted a group of women at Summit, while my friend Anna taught us how to cross stitch! She set us each up with starter kit with a profane word or saying:

I went relatively innocuously, as opposed to "Fuck You Very Much," though that might be what I am thinking lately. It was a great night, with a dozen ladies gathering together to stick and enjoy each others company. I'm hoping for a similar event soon!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Our Online Personas

I'm not exactly an early adopter, but internet groups have been an important part of my life. In the days before Facebook and Twitter (remember those), I belonged to some online womens boards who were very important to me, and have led me to some of my closest friendships. Other friends came from the early days of Twitter, when it was a lot more about genuine conversation than a plethora of retweets.

As Facebook ascended, it became a vehicle I used more, and I've been part of some groups there that have been very important to me as well. Two of the most crucial ones to me have suffered some huge blows over the last month, blows that have really cut them off at the knees, and both have responded in very different ways.

In one case, the group literally lost all records of membership and is slowly rebuilding from the ground up. There's a lot of trauma in that, and in learning to share again. The mods are doing an incredible amount of heavy lifting in the rebuild. I have hope that it will have rewards, and an IRL gathering of those folks yesterday was a step in that.

In the other case, there was a controversial decision about the kinds of things that could be posted; without going into too much detail, it's an ongoing discussion about what is personal (allowed) vs. what is political (not allowed). This led to a mass exodus form that board, and an influx to another similar board. Though there were a lot of emotions flying, there was good that came out of it as well, and a lot of new energy in both cases.

The online personas that we manage are incredibly complex extensions of ourselves that we carefully create, personalities that in some ways exist outside of our own reality. In our personal profiles, we are prone to putting our best selves forward — our successes and triumphs, without necessarily sharing our failures and challenges. In online interactions, I think we  (myself included) have a tendency to hide behind our screens, to say things that we would never say to someone face to face — and then often to place blame as "Its hard to read tone in something written on the internet."

All of this is too new to make a lot of proclamations about. Who knows how long  a shelf life Facebook will have, or what the next things will be. But these recent implosions have reminded me that the most important things I can remember to say are "I'm sorry" and "I'm listening," both in real life and on the internets.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

(Eating) on the Road Again

To be fair, I owned a version of Road Food by Jane and Michael SternI think the first or second edition, many years ago. It's one of the things I lost in my divorce (along with my copy of the Handmaid's Tale, my Wellstone t-shirt, and the Dancing Rabbit Blow Horn Christmas ornament) that I have missed every time we go on a road trip. And we go on a lot of road trips.

So I was really excited to pick up the 10th edition of the book and to realize that, like the Sterns and maybe even myself, it's only gotten better over the years. It's organized by region and state, with nice maps at the beginning of each sections. Now that I no longer have AAA Trip-Tiks to read as we drive along, instead I can plan our lunch stop and avoid the plethora of truly bad roadside options available. This book means you will never have to stop at a Cracker Barrel for lunch again in your life, and for that alone it's worth the price.

I like the Stern's practicality. I've been to many of the restaurants they pick, and they are good, solid choices. Not super trendy "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" material, but good food, served well, and with character. The descriptions in the book give a nice micro-summary, so you know what you are in for before you get there.

Even our room-mate, who disdains foodie-ism, thinks this is one food book he could really get into and use.

Highly recommended.

Confidential to Elaine and Jennifer — I now have a Clam Shack craving something bad!

(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Summit Spaces

One of my favorite parts of the Summit house is that there are lot of outdoor places to hang out in (and a lot of people hang out in them!). Last weekend, we started to give these spaces a facelift, but I was determined to do it on the cheap.

I started with the back deck, which was looking pretty worn:

I washed it down with some deck wash I had picked up free at HHW, which took some jimmying because our sprayer was broken. I then stained it with some stain I had also gotten free at HHW (and the other gallon I got there went to someone who needed some to stain her Little Free Library.)

The teak table and chairs were pretty gray, so I stripped and refinished those with a 3-step teak refinisher (that I had gotten free off the BST board):

I thought the deck needed some color, so I picked up a cheap outdoor rug on clearance at Amazon. And Patrick washed the gazebo roof and we moved it back onto the deck to provide sun coverage and rain protection.

Doesn't it look great? Now I just need to find a spitting gargoyle fountain or something for the water feature.


As usual, I did not remember to take a before picture of the front porch, but I got that cleaned up as well. I did not spend a lot of time with that, since we still need to rebuild the porch this summer:

What I really want to do all summer is just sit around and read (ok, maybe with cocktails). All this project work is taking up valuable reading time, but does give me some good places to curl up with a  book!

Friday, June 2, 2017

How Music Works

It's taken me FOREVER to get through this book, and I keep wanting more!

As you might expect, it's every bit as complicated as Davis Byrne. It's a meandering, fascinating set of essays, where you start in one place, and suddenly find yourself in another, and yet another before you dive beneath the wake in a new chapter. he says you can read it in random order, but do yourself a favor and read it in sequence; there's reasoning behind it and the flow is absolutely amazing.

So many nights of my teenage years were spent sitting in my friend Phillip's house listening to the Talking Heads (and avoiding Cheese-Its). I'm so happy to use this book to bring me back to that part of my life, even while exploring it more as an adult.

Amazing. 5 stars.

(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Picture This

Of all the great classes we've done at the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota lately, I think we are most hooked on the Photo Tours. Honestly, we've kind of become Eric and Kristen groupies!

It all started last year, when we took a tour in the A-Mill and Main Street area in Minneapolis with them last year. We took another one in Lowertown this spring, and then today was on home turf in Ramsey Hill. Even better, we got to bring Beatrix with us with an old digital camera!

The classes have 2 main sections. Eric starts the class with a brief intro to mobile photography (think packing into 20 minutes what he usually teaches in 20 hours at IFP Minnesota). He covers composition, editing, and tips and techniques. Eric makes it all look so easy — hah!

Then, Kristen takes us walking and gives great, engaging, and personal information about the history of the area. Truth be told, there's some half-listening going on while we all jockey for top shots, but most of it sinks in. We leave the tour with some exercise, some fun shots, and a great deal more knowledge.

I need to buffer these up with some photo walks of my own and a lot more experimentation. None of the picture I have taken so far are especially brilliant. But I have learned a lot, and had a lot of fun, and they are great date nights. Maybe all of this creativity will rub off on me, sometime!

Sunday, May 28, 2017


Yesterday was a day of a lot of thought and discussion, with a lot of people I know and care about. There was anger and confusion and sorrow and frustration in the wake of the Walker's Open Letter about "Scaffold" (released, I'll note, at 4:30 on the Friday of a holiday weekend). It was a day of hard truths.

It was also opening night for 365 Days/265 Plays - a 2017 Remix at Full Circle Theater Company (I posted about the open rehearsal process for this show last week). I'm not directly involved with the production, but I have been working with the company, and I think very highly of them.

By the time 7:30 rolled around last night, once we picked up the babysitter and calmed the dog and had grabbed something to eat and gotten over to the theater, I was exhausted from the day, and honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was to see a show.

Which only proves to me how badly I needed it.

For the next two hours, I was surrounded by a lot of stories. Stories Suzan-Lori Parks wrote every day for a year, whether she wanted to or not (and it's clear that some days were better than others). Stories told by a fantastic, varied cast who all had their own stories to layer on top of her stories. It is a cast (and a group of directors) who are truly and authentically diverse, not because it's a buzzword, but because it really adds something to the theater process and the work they do.

It's also quirky, and fast-moving, and often very funny. And sometimes shocking.

Was the show the best show I've ever seen? No — it's not going to wrest Hamilton or Liviu Ciulei's Midsummer Night's Dream or a CTC workshop of Bent or any of my favorite Jeune Lune shows from their positions in my top list. But it's a damn good show. It's a show that — in a time where race and politics and our own feelings of helplessness are evermore dividing us — truly brings us together.

Trust me. If you're like me, you need this show right now. There are a plethora of discounts available — check out their ticketing site, or talk to me if you can't swing that, and I'll find a way to get you in. But go see it, you'll be glad you did and we can have a drink on Selby afterwards and talk about it. Because what I have REALLY learned in the last week is that I need to be talking about art with people (and I want to talk about it with you.)