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Showing posts from 2010

Kindle-d

They must have noticed I was eyeing a Nook.

I was a Kindle early adopter; I got the K1 soon after Beatrix was born and it's the device that saved me during 9 months of almost exclusive pumping. It has also caused me to be less cranky about people being late (if I don't have the device on me, I can even read on my phone!), and made travel much easier.

But lately, I've been Not So Enamored. E-book prices, which used to never be over $9.99, have gone up, and I've been putting most things on hold at the library (I am currently #46 of 77 holds for one book, thank you for asking, but many are faster). The battery on my Kindle is really starting to go, as in it only lasts a few hours. And I've been having some recent download issues that have taken some long customer service calls to solve. And, unlike other e-readers, you can't "borrow" e-books form the library.

Today, Amazon announced Kindle lending. I'll be the first to say, it's still not per…

Year End Giving

It's the end of the calendar year, that time when we recover from Christmas, mourn the fact that our New Year's Eve plans are not more exciting, return gifts, make resolutions, eat Christmas cookies for breakfast every day, fall into a morass at work if we go in at all (or are completely overwhelmed by things), try to see the Oscar-bait movies released, spend down our flex plan dollars and insurance deductibles (thus my foot surgery today), and make end of the year charitable donations.

If you're doing the latter, may I make some suggestions? Make it easy on yourself, just head over to GiveMN with your credit card and knock off a few donations, maybe with your spouse and a glass of wine tonight. I really can't recommend the following places highly enough — they are all great organizations that will do wonders with even the smallest amount of money:

- Skewed Visions: I sit on the board of this site-specific company, and their work will change your life. Currently we&…

Crafty Christmas

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This is probably the point where I should admit my utter addiction to craft blogs. I LOVE looking through them and fantasizing about all the lovely things I could make it I just had the time...Plus, the blogs themselves are amazing — tons of entries, great pictures, all kinds of creative ideas. My idea of a perfect afternoon would be a gift card to a craft store and several hours to wander around, even if I got little done afterwards. There's a lot to be learned from craft blogs.

I especially value homemade holiday gifts, and I wanted to pass on that value to Beatrix. So this year, we made candles for her teachers and for some of the people I work with. They were dead easy — just design the monograms, cut out, and Modge Podge onto candles. But I think they look nice, Beatrix enjoyed helping me, and we even bough the materials at local independent stores. I can post a picture now, since I have given them all to their intended recipients:



Tonight I also made batches of caramel …

Seasonal Affective Disorder

My family has always been all about Christmas. Over the top decorations, Christmas Eve with Santa, my grandmother getting my grandfather to make reindeer prints on the porch roof, fresh cut Christmas trees filled with ornaments, dozens of kinds of Christmas cookies, lefse, Christmas Eve and Christmas brunch, Dayton's 8th floor, holiday shows, caroling, Christmas lights limo tours, presents both handmade and just what you wanted from your list, Toys for Tots, family from all over the world, Christmas cards, luminaria, parties — you get the picture. I'm hard-wired genetically to love the season.

Until four years ago, when my mom went into the hospital on December 12 and died on Christmas Day.

The next Christmas seemed strange, and then crashed again when my aunt ended up in the emergency room with a lung issue that, for quite some time, seemed like cancer and cost her part of a lung.

We've been building up since then, trying to regain family traditions, a strange mix of love …

Snow-Verwhelmed

We got back to some limited functionality today. The streets were more-or-less plowed, the man who plows the alley removed the 6' snow berm that was just past our garage, we got mail delivery. Oh, and Patrick's car died in front of the house as I was loading Beatrix in to take her to daycare, and less than half an hour before the city town trucks started making their rounds. Luckily, he talked me into being calm and we made it through all of that (plus got lunch at Punch!), but we need a new battery and those aren't cheap (and are hard to wrap and put under the tree).

But honestly, I don't know what we, as a city/community/metro region are going to do. After two snow emergencies, the streets are still only barely passable. Traffic, even on major streets, is moving at a crawl since two cars can barely pass abreast. Under the snow, the streets are icy, and getting more so as cars spin out. Trips that usually take 15 minutes are taking upwards of an hour. Many of t…

A Tale of Two Saint Paul Bars

Ok, at some point I'll stop it with the heavy-handed bar philosophizing, but tonight it seemed right.

We, like everyone else in the Twin Cities, are snowed in. Maybe even more so, since Patrick is specifically prohibited from shoveling, brushing off cars, even driving because of his neck surgery. I am not looking forward to starting the dig out tonight.

But in any case, we did make it through the drifts to the neighbors' Christmas party, and were talking to another neighbor. She was saying that, in the storm last week, she was stuck and had some kind of mechanical car issue, all late at night (she has 2 jobs, so is constantly at work). Stuck in the street, she went over to Sweeney's to ask for help. They flat out told her it was "impossible" for anyone to help her (and none of the patrons offered, either).

Desperate, she went down the street to the Muddy Pig. They not only sent their burliest staff member down to get her out (with plenty of patrons also offeri…

A Tale of Two Uptown Bars

So we had a little bit of a "date afternoon" today, in an attempt to get some quality time together during this crazy holiday/recovery time.

First, we saw Black Swan at the Uptown. We see so few movies, but this was wonderful. Several fantastic performances (hello, Oscars!) and led us to a spirited discussion about art, dying art, living art, and more. Also, I sincerely hope that my daughter's love of all things ballet does not lead to a career as a dance — I can't picture a harder life.

Afterwards, we went, or started to go, to Bar Abilene for happy hour. Now, we have not been to Bar Abilene since Beatrix was born — it's not exactly child-friendly. The last several experiences we had there before then were terrible — a waiter haranguing me for not understanding that a sandwich described as "the mushroom burger" and listing only mushrooms, onions, and pico de gallo as ingredients was actually beef, another issue with food, and then the "margarit…

Non-Holiday Theatre

Looking for a theatre event that's festive, different, and non-holiday related?

Nimbus Theatre is holding a sneak preview of their brand new Northeast Minneapolis space tomorrow afternoon. Come and give your opinion as to what it should include, scope out the space for your shows and events, and generally celebrate a new Twin Cities theatre space!

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Nimbus Open House
1517 Central Ave NE
Wednesday, December 8 • 4:30 - 6:30pm

Snowman

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Pick one ornament to write about? Really? As if there were not an entire treeful of hanging ornaments, and a houseful of decorations pulled out annually, each one with its own involved story? As if there were not boxes of Christmas decorations carefully catalogued and waiting for at my mother's old house, each with their own stories? As if I did not still miss ornaments I no longer have, such as the much-mourned "Dancing Rabbit Blow Horn?"

The truth is that I had one ornament in particular I was thinking of, a baby snuggled in a nutshell cradle, that was mine when I was a child and has hung on the tree since. But my 2.75 year old daughter has fallen in love with the "baby ornament" and takes it with her wherever she goes. It's now clutched in her hand as she sleeps downstairs, with the stand-up Santa my father gave me and the angel that is supposed to go on top of the tree arranged at the foot of her crib. My daughter, who replicates me in so many way…

Holiday Shows

Ok, perhaps it's because I am in theatre, but I love holiday shows. I work with and know so many wonderful, talented people, and when they give the gift of doing what they do best, there's just nothing like it to make me feel humbled and happy and filled with holiday spirit. So here, in no particular order, is what I am thinking of this year:

The Holiday Pageant at Open Eye Figure Theatre. I've loved this show through many incarnations, in large house and small venues, with multiple casts of the finest performers in the Twin Cities. Based on the medieval Mystery Plays (see, you had me there) it's a mix of the sublime and the hilarious. If you're reading this before 4pm on Sunday, we're sponsoring a show in honor of my mother today, so come on down! But of there is one show you should not miss this year (and it's perfect for families, too), it's this one.

A Life of Serious Nonsense is a Theatre of Fools quirky take on holiday spirit. Running Decembe…

Town Talk Diner

As my friend Kate put it, one of the biggest falls from grace in the Twin Cities restaurant scene.

We just drove through the snow on a rare date night (and because we had an expiring DealStork). Let's just say that as we left we were tempted to tell the couple coming in that they might want to hit Denny's across the street instead.

We went because we last summer we went to a Clockwork party that hired out TT bartenders, and at which Patrick had one of the best old-fashioneds of his life. Those bartenders must have been part of the staff walk-out or something. His old-fashioned tonight was watery, flavorless, and to add insult to injury was served in a wineglass (thus only about half the pour after the ice was added).

They were out of many of the items on the menu, which I never take as a good sign. My grilled cheese, a simple enough dish to prepare, was seriously akin to the Denny's. Patrick's meat pie, talked up as as one of the stellar items that the new chef was …

The Rest of Day 1 - NAMPC

Day One continued apace. I went to a break-out on corporate fundraising and had a bit of session envy when I saw the tweets from the audience engagement session. I suppose I picked up a few tips, but the session was more like a commercial for how great the two companies presenting were than general truths about corporate fundraising. Good to be reminded, though, that only 4% of giving, on average, comes from corporations, and that it is the personal connection that really causes them to give.

One person, though, said "Remember, everyone in your audience works for someone," but I no longer think that's true. Probably 25% of the audience for my clients are students, retirees, or otherwise don't work. Another high percentage, maybe 25%, are self-employed (and we seem to have a lot of self-employed board members). So that leaves 50% working for corporations, and I have to think about how to best tap that.

The general consensus, in talking to people, is that the break…

Day .5 at the National Arts Marketing Conference

#NAMPC10. The hashtags are flowing heavy. But are we perhaps to involved in our own tweeting cleverness to pay attention?

I am. I got distracted during the "Future Arts Managers" break-out session by the cold room and the blister on my feet, so ducked out and went on a short walk in the San Jose sunshine for some band-aids. I'm in a warm room, reflecting, and feel much better, thank you.

I have to say it is an ENORMOUS treat to be surrounded by smart people, thinking about the work I do. But this conference, so far, is raising a lot more questions than answers, and I suppose that's ok.

The keynote this morning was incredible. Chip Heath (author of SWITCH and MAKE IT STICK) is my new personal hero. He was bright, he was personable, he presented some really interesting ideas and "a-ha" moments in ways that made you actually think you could go home and do something with them. My favorite points were the ideas of the "curiosity gap" — where you i…

Can You Hear Me Now?

On Friday, I went to a forum by the Arts Learning Xchange and I've been thinking about it all weekend.

The basic premise was "How to Stand Out In a Crowded Consumer Climate." General Mills' Vice President of Marketing Mark Addicks discussed their brand-building and promotion, and Fred Haberman, CEO of his own marketing firm, discussed cause-related promotion; this was followed by a brief Q&A and an interactive exercise.

As unprofessional as it is, I have to admit to ignoring the final interactive exercise and discussing with some colleagues how the topics discussed applied to their organization instead. And, though I am certainly thinking a lot more about CSR marketing, that presentation was a little more diffuse, though I do think the trends Mr. Haberman discussed (ranging from "I'm overwhelmed!" to "I'm in control!") bear further reflection, and the firm seems to be tops at what they do. (Also, a tip for Mr. Haberman — it took me 3…

Flip this House!

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Many of you may not know that I did not just inherit one house — I inherited two.

My father built me a dollhouse for my 4th (?) birthday. It was incredibly deluxe, solid wood in a white colonial style with green trim, decorated in the hippest of early 1970s wallpaper and carpet. There were built-in bookcases, windowboxes, even my initials on the shutters. I was in heaven, and played with it, in many incarnations, for over ten years.

Recently, Beatrix has been especially interested in dollhouses. Every time we go to a toy store she wants to play with them. In particular, we have spent hours in Creative Kidstuff playing with the Calico Critters animal families and their homes.

But have you priced out dollhouses lately? They are ridiculous, either incredible expensive ($100 to $200 and up) for wooden ones (and I don't like any of the designs much anyway), or tacky plastic, or both. So we decided to renovate my old dollhouse and "flip" it for a picky new owner...

Here it …

Happy Halloween!

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Though Beatrix even went trick-or-treating as a baby (she was a banana, it was adorable), this is the first year that she has really gotten into it. And there was certainly a lot to get in to:

- 2 parties with her daycare
- the annual pumpkin carving at Roering Auto Body — at her request, I carved a cat
- Boo Bash on Grand Avenue with Harry and Kelsey last weekend
- Trick-or-Treating at Kowalski's on Tuesday — it was great, they gave you a bag as you walked in, and then there were different stations et up throughout the store with chips, apples, candy, etc.
- music class in costume at MacPhail
- Trick-or-Treating in Highland yesterday; I have to say this was better than Boo Bash, with a lot more places participating and a variety of things, from candy to wooden train cars to stickers

After all that I thought that tonight's REAL Trick-or-Treating might be anticlimactic, but she had a blast going around our block and getting candy. I love our neighborhood, and she was thrilled…

Give to the Max Day

I'm volunteering with the group that is planning this and it should be a great event! Here's a request for volunteers from their volunteer coordinator:

Are you interested in maximizing your time and volunteer effort for hundreds of great causes all at once? Then get involved with GiveMN's "Give to the Max Day 2010" on Tuesday, November 16th from 8 a.m. to midnight! http://givemn.razoo.com/p/gtmd

Last year, more than 38,000 donors raised $14 million for 3,434 nonprofit organizations throughout Minnesota in just one day! These organizations provide critical services for our state, including feeding our hungry, sheltering our homeless, assisting our elderly, nurturing our youth, improving our welfare, maintaining our heritage, and protecting our environment.

This year GiveMN has teamed up with The UpTake http://theuptake.org/ to promote nonprofit and individual giving LIVE online! Representatives from more than 80 organizations from all over the state will educate vie…

A Spirit of Halloween

Uh-huh, Halloween already this weekend (as Beatrix has reminded us several times).

If you are looking for something different to do, I highly recommend A SPIRIT OF HALLOWEEN by Theater of Fools. The company is a "Vaudeville for the 21st Century" group that I have been working with, and this piece, written by co-founder Lloyd Brant, is deliciously spooky. He originally conceived the piece as an opening act for a concert tour by The Doors, and the one-man show, based on a shaman-clown that resurrects Jim Morrison's spirit, is spookily quirky. Go to their website for tickets, and if you select the promotional rate because I told you to you can get a 25% groupon-like discount.

But hurry, it only runs this weekend, Thursday through Sunday at the Jewel Theater (above Twin Cities Magic, 250 E. 7th Street in Saint Paul.)

The Holy Grail of Customer Service

Customer service is my bugaboo. As someone who goes out a lot and spends perhaps too much of my income on consumables (or at least so says my financial planner), I am incredibly aware of how I am treated, and make my decisions accordingly. I'm also not shy about letting people know (as those on my Twitter feed can attest).

Case in point: Punch Pizza, for whom my love is well-documented. I made an offhand tweet recently about how the service had been a little off but how G.D. good the pizza was, so I forgave it. Soon after got a tweet asking what happened, and an exchange of information about what I was disappointed in, how it could have been better, and a gift certificate in the mail (against my protestations, since it really was not a big deal.) Well done, and if I wasn't already a customer for life, I would be now.

A similar situation happened over the summer with Pizza Luce, including an email exchange. And then, radio silence. Not even a "Hope you'll give us…

No More "Burns Wood or Coal"

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Well, the time finally came — to get a new furnace.

This was not your run-of-the-mill home improvement. The furnace in our house was original to it (b. 1886). The house was literally raised around it, with the bottom part of the furnace actually sunk into a pit of firebrick in the basement floor.



And really, it was not half bad. The pilot light did tend to go out, especially in the shoulder seasons of fall and spring, resulting in a little manueveur to relight that entailed turning the knob and stepping on it, reaching in, lighting, holding, etc. But it was gravity heat, and there is not much to go wrong with the idea of hot air rising. No moving parts, no filters, etc.

But it was time, it really had to go. It was no longer efficient, or really all that safe. It took a team a full day to remove the asbestos wrapped ducts:



and then we had to fill in the hole in the basement floor:



and then a full week to replace it and put in the new ducts and such.



The new furnace simply doesn't …

More Great Nights of Various Kinds

We are in the midst of "two weeks without daycare" (Beatrix's care provider is in Great Britain for a wedding), but we did squeeze in a date night the other night — it was the perfect way to get out to some of our favorite places. We had a groupon-like offer for Cafe Maude which we love but never can get to; we still have traumatic memories of going on our anniversary and baby Beatrix fussing the whole time while we took turns walking around carrying her. Last night, with small plates and lovely cocktails, was far nicer. We then headed over to King's Wine Bar for dessert, making it a near-perfect night out.

We've had some other good evenings, too. Last week I had a group of lovely ladies over for drinks and chatting. I had forgotten how much I enjoy that. Also discovered thusly that Big House Red is now available in a box and that Big Top Liquors gives out candy (Beatrix now calls it "the sucker store" and asks to go there. Chuck and Solo Vino, t…

Shop Local

It's been a wonderful day of sneaking in local shopping experiences like little easter eggs into my day. Each place has had something remarkable...

We were a few minutes early heading to Beatrix's daycare this morning, so we stopped at Bars Bakery, which just opened at Selby and Dale. They were incredibly nice to the twirling toddler, so I decided to send her to daycare with some caramel and cinnamon rolls and take some home for Patrick and me. These rolls are incredible — moist, flavorful, and well worth the price — and it will be all I can do to keep from going there every day.

Then my lovely coworkers Afton, Lauren and I stopped at Sweets for their mini-cupcake giveaway this afternoon (something with Bravo's dessert show tonight). The grapefruit and black-and-white cupcakes were little pieces of heaven, as were the Fall Spice and salted caramel French macaroons that Lauren got us.

This afternoon, Patrick and I snuck out on a date. Primp is not officially open until to…

Cubicle

I've recently joined the board of Skewed Visions, and could not be more thrilled to be associated with an amazing group of artists who start with the idea of site-specific performance and go beyond to basically create art events that fundamentally change your life.

SV has recently wrapped the first year of CUBICLE, site-specific work that you can see on your computer (thus eliminating the need for babysitters, parking, or even clothing). Please come to an event celebrating this first season:

Meet artists! Eat best food! Drink fine wine!

All episodes will be available on laptop as well as shown projected on the studio wall for Super Sad True Love Cubicle Effect!

Friday, September 17
8:00pm until we’re done
Skewed Visions Studio
Casket Arts Building
Studio 209
681 17th Ave NE
Minneapolis 55413

It's free, and there will be refreshments, so you really should not miss it.

If you decide to just watch all the episodes at home alone, embracing your inner "I," that's ok too, but the…

Punch

Ok, yes, I know, I write a lot about food. Going out to eat, with or without Beatrix, is one of our remaining pastimes from the halcyon pre-baby/toddler days, and it's an important part of our lives.

And speaking of kids, I don't know how I would exist in our current lifestyle without Punch Pizza. The pizza is cheap but incredibly flavorful, and feels like you are eating something special. We can get lightning fast takeaway, or eat there with Beatrix. They have a sense of humor, and wonderful specials. Tonight they tweeted about a free salad with pizza order, so we bought 2 pizzas, got 2 free salads, and they tossed in some rosemary foccacia.

Yum!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

It's always the everyday things. My friend Meghan says one of her most commented FB statuses was about the annoying "headband headache." For me, I brag about how much I did last night, but all anyone wants to know is "Tell me about the cupcakes!"

So without further ado...

My friend Rebecca, who clears the path for me in culinary exploration, had mentioned chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes and I was curious. She made them gluten-free, with vanilla bean batter and icing, but I decided that was too much work and stuck more closely to the original recipe.

Make a batch of cupcakes from yellow cake mix. Follow the recipe on the box, but also add 1/2 cup applesauce (sugar-free if possible). Next time I do this, I'm going to use the regular yellow cake mix — for this I used the "butter recipe" and it was a little too buttery.

Mix in 1/2 cup chocolate chips. For me, these all sank to the bottom as they were baked. Not a tragedy, but a little annoying…

Faces Hits It Out of the Park

See, I'm not so hard to please, give me a good restaurant experience and I'm over the moon!

For my birthday last night we went to Faces (formerly LoTo) on Mears Park. David Fhima has purchased and re-opened his former restaurant, and though it does not *look* much different than LoTo, it really shines.

The menu is simple and locally sourced. We each ordered, of all things, sandwiches, a chicken Monte Cristo for me and a Croque Madame for Patrick. Both were huge, came with excellent sea salt fries, and were delicious. We also had a lovely flourless chocolate cake (on the house since it was my birthday!)

Though the food was delicious, it was the wonderful service that really set it apart. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable, and treated us like royalty. The host checked in on us. Fhima himself was working the room, and though I've only met him a few times before, he was wonderfully gracious and claimed to remember me, "it's nice to see a friendly, familiar f…

Doing It Right

Well, Al Vento was a lovely Restaurant Week meal. Fresh caprese salad, gnocchi, olive oil cake — very flavorful, nice service, very pleased!

Then I went with two friends to the patio at Salut. We shared a bottle of Viognier, and J accidentally knocked over her glass of wine while reaching for the bread (and yummy salty butter). The waitress insisted on immediately bringing over a replacement glass, though it was in no way the restaurant's fault — very nice!

Restaurant Week

I'm hoping to break the restaurant curse by going to Al Vento next week.

Where are you going for Restaurant Week?

Asian Food

The other night, we ate at Pei Wei, which I tend to like (for a chain). It was their 10-year anniversary, and everyone there had the same thing we did — a coupon for 2 entrees for $10.

They were moving people through pretty fast, and then we did the restaurant equivalent of crashing their server. All of a sudden, things just stopped, and the people before us, us, and the 5 parties after us all had to wait over an hour for our food. Nothing was coming out of the kitchen; they stopped the line of people waiting to order; time just stopped. Then suddenly we all got served and things picked back up.

I don't fault them for being overwhelmed, but along the lines of my previous post, it would have been a much more enjoyable experience if they had done something about it. Come around to talk to us and update us. Offered coupons or free apps. Given Beatrix (who was a trooper, but starting to freak out) a tour of the kitchen. Anything.

So another opportunity missed. Pei Wei, if you&…

Unsolicited Restaurant Advice

Don't get me wrong; I love eating out. I bear a deep respect for the food industry, which is a hard, hard business. But really, folks, there are a lot of restaurants out there and the economy is The Suck right now — in general, you just have to try a little harder. Some case in point from my last few days:

Sunday night (before Swell Season, which was awesome!), we went out to the Uptown Cafeteria. I had heard mixed things, but was very happy with our meal. Though our reservation put us at an interior booth (and I really wanted a window), our cocktails were lovely, our food rich but good, and our waiter excellent. Score one for the home team!

Our server gave us each a stamped "Parasole Passport," explaining that if we ate at the Cafeteria, Il Gatto, and Chino Latino we would each get a stamp at each and then we would get a free cocktail. We were still a little snacky, so decided to get dessert at Il Gatto, where the host and hostess were very friendly and encouraged…

Dream Car

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For years now, my dream car has been the A4 wagon. I loved the functionality of my Impreza, and drove it into the ground. I have loved the power and handling of my mom's A6 that I inherited, but I'm just not a big fan of sedans (or "cars with butts" as I call them). My A6 is still in great shape, and I love that it reminds me of my mom and all the Florida drives we did in it, but it's just never seemed right.

This last weekend I found the dream car — a dolphin gray A4 wagon, beautifully maintained, and very similar to my A6. I jumped on it — isn't it great?

I'm naming it "Mary Lou"...

Milly and Tillie

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FREE kids show
FREE ice cream

(do I have your attention yet?)

MILLY AND TILLIE opens at Open Eye Figure Theatre this Thursday 7/15, running Th-Sat nights at 7 through August 8. Half an hour long, designed especially for pre-school and under kids, and with free ice cream to follow — how can you go wrong?

We'll be there on Thursday, and if I know Beatrix, we'll go back again at least one other time. See you there?

Lazy Summer

Uh, well you've already noticed I haven't been posting much...

Most of my time lately has been spent in looking for balance. Work, family, volunteer commitments, the house, personal life, professional development, friends — it's tough to put everything together!

The summer has really been spending time doing things with Beatrix. Some highlights:

- The farmer's market. Rather than splurging on a CSA, we've been trying to hit the farmer's market every week. We get some vegetables and maybe some plants, and wander around people watching. Extra points if we do something like breakfast and the Neighborhood Cafe or Swede Hollow Cafe as well, but have to admit I am severely underwhelmed by Pizza Luce brunches (sorry, Erica!)
- Playgrounds. Beatrix's big thing. She would be happy if we walked down to he playground at Webster School at the end of our block every day, but truth be told it's a little scungy — a lot of the equipment is too big for her, and the…

Along the Lines of Unhappy Hipsters...

Reminds me to take the whole home decor thing a little less seriously.

Catalog LIving

Family Means Someone to Buy You Ice Cream

I had a board meeting tonight, and Patrick and Beatrix headed out to Microcenter. On the way back, Beatrix, being a true Minnesotan, persuaded Patrick to stop at DQ. She wanted ice cream for herself, and for daddy, and insistently for "mommy at home," pointing to the sign with three blizzards on it and saying "Daddy, Mommy, Beatrix!"

So I got to come home to a Reeses blizzard. Excellent!

The Space That Started It All - The Pantry

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So, the one part of our house that began this organizational streak was our pantry. It drove me nuts, not only because it was messy and overwhelming, but because we were constantly losing food, which is a huge waste of time, money, and emotional energy. Even before I started the Cure, it was top on my list of things that simply had to be put in order.

It's also the room that took the longest. I started this over two months ago — Patrick and I devoted a full night to it, and didn't get through it, and then finally finished the rest in a grueling effort last night. So this shot is especially gratifying because it shows a pantry in use, not just-finished and all clean and shiny. The paint could use some touch-up, and there are some holes in the wallboard (and I have to either fish or cut bait on the corkboard), but in general I am thrilled.



I also got the spice drawers cleaned out while I was at it, thanks to Lauren's prodding:



The Cure Part 2 - Beatrix's Room, Living Room

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Neither of these rooms were on my original Cure plans, but after seeing what people were doing, I got inspired.

I've always wanted some fun Etsy prints for Beatrix's room, but I get overwhelmed, and truth be told we know so many artists that I could not justify buying anything over the internet. But then someone told me about Feed Your Soul, which publishes free downloadable art every week. I got some cheap frames from Ikea, and hung these above Beatrix's crib, with the idea that I could swap them out on a regular basis. She loves them!



That also inspired Patrick to hang her lamp, which we had tried to hang before but needed a stronger ceiling hook.






In the living room, I was inspired by finding this great platform rocker up for grabs outside the Northern Warehouse. We spent a long time gluing the joints and cleaning it up. Truth be told, it's still not as comfortable as I would like, but it's better than the ratty chair that was there, and I love the color.



We als…

Open Eye Figure Theater - June 1

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It's almost time for Open Eye Figure Theatre's Driveway Tour again! We'll be hosting the FIRST performance this year of The Adventures of Katie Tomatie, a great puppet show for families. The show is completely free of charge (though we'll be passing the hat afterwards.) It lasts about 30 minutes, and we'll provide refreshments afterwards. Won't you join us?

Tuesday, June 1
6:30pm
in our back yard (627 Ashland)

Food and Wine (not the magazine)

In the middle of this domestic binge is a lot of good food!

I'm testing recipes for a friends cookbook, and this chapter is "Big Batches." So yesterday I made a sweet potato-hominy chili, and vegetarian tamale pie, both in big freezable batches. While not exactly gourmet, they are both good dishes that I am pretty happy with.

Then tonight I made a batch of lilac cocktail syrup, basically simple syrup infused with fresh lilac blooms. It's part of my quest for the perfect summer cocktail, and I hope it tastes as good as it looks!

If not though, I've found the perfect summer cocktail: lemonade, vodka, and elderflower liquer. It's a drink invented at my friend Rebecca's on Saturday night, at a cheese tasting, tres leches cake eating, fire gazing cocktail party that was a truly wonderful evening. The best? A coffee-lavender hard cheese. Mmmmmm.

Last night, we had dinner at Heidi/Chank/Max's place. The reason Heidi is the most boss caterer ever is beca…

Home and GARDEN

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We gardened the h*ll out of the weekend.

Friday was a beautiful day, and my mind was full of numbers by mid afternoon, so I just started in on a little weeding in the pretty overgrown front yard. Well, it became one of those things that you just can't stop, and by the end of the weekend we had weeded through the entire front yard, including two badly overgrown beds that I had not really touched since Beatrix was born.

It was a lot of work, but totally worth it. Beatrix loved being outside with us and carrying the weeds back and forth from pile to pile. She also loves to water the plants; I'll have to look into getting her her own watering can, because our usual one is as big as she is!

As might be expected, I have lost some plants I know were there at one point, including (sadly enough) some beautiful mums planted years ago by my friend Scott.

The great thing, though, is that with all the beds cleared out, I can add new plants! I would really like to get some divisions from f…

Home Improvements - The Cure, Part 1

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So even though I pretty much failed the Apartment Therapy Cure, I still got several things done that I am proud of.

Our den was in pretty good shape, but a little messy. A few organizational items, like another baskets for Beatrix's books, helped a lot. I also switched out some picture frames, which likewise helped.

Before:


After:


One of the projects in the Cure was to establish "landing strips" so that things did not just get dumped by the door. I was pretty dubious, because I know how we operate, and we tend to do things like read our mail at the dining room table.

However, straightening things up by the back door, including a basket for shoes, helped a lot:


In the front hall, we wanted to make it seem more like a room and less of a dumping ground (it's also a prime play area). I set up an old table and glued the joints of an antique, handmade chair I had gotten off of CraigsList (both had been relegated to the garage):




When we redid the window, we lost the (rather ru…

Tomorrow, Tomorrow...

You know what? Today sucked.

I had a long, emotional phone call. I have an unidentified issue with my new computer that may not be warranty covered. I need about a billion dollars of work done on the Summit house. I'm incredibly behind on work (see above note re: computer). The house is a mess. It was blustery and cold. I didn't get a chance to call someone back that I needed to. I have officially failed the Apartment Therapy Cure. I accrued a library fine on a design book. Beatrix has been restless and neither of us have slept at night in days. I'm sick as a dog.

Tomorrow has GOT to be better, right?

Going Places, Doing Things

Though we have dragged Beatrix everywhere since she was a baby, one of the big delights of her current age is that she is actually participating in the things we do.

This weekend, for example, we went to the Circus Juventas performances on Saturday night. Though up past her bedtime and tired, Beatrix loved watching the kids perform (especially since the show starts with the toddlers and her friend Max was one of them.) She clapped a lot, and also loved climbing up on her chair and sliding off.

Sunday we went to Heart of the Beast's annual May Day parade and festival. Well, actually naptime precluded the parade, but we made it to the crowded hill to watch must of the pageant. Again, Beatrix was all about the experience, especially people-watching and dog-counting.

This week's activities will be more mundane, but she'll get to see lots of people she likes and she got Dairy Queen last night, so I think she'll be ok.

Two That Almost Made It

So, despite my "Great Nights Out," not every place we go turns out to be absolutely perfect. I mention these two places below exactly because of that — they were perfectly good places, that were enjoyable enough, but did not *quite* live up to my expectations. I would encourage people to go to them (or places like them, places that are ok but could do better) in order to support local businesses and help them grow. I know in both these cases I'll definitely go back.

On Thursday, Patrick and I were invited to a free lunch for the opening of the Twisted Fork, in what had been Green Mill's takeout spot on Grand and Hamline (don't worry, you can still get pizza to go!) Since it was the pre-opening, they were trying a lot of things out, and I give them an "A" for trying. they were really interested in our opinions, and I like the idea of a sustainable, casual dining place in the neighborhood. I think they have a lot of opening day jitters, because they …

Great Nights Out in 2010 - Post #5

The other night we had a really special night; Patrick's mother was in town and agreed to babysit. We are insanely jealous of those who get their parents to babysit, and Beatrix loves spending time with her grandmother, so it was a huge win for everyone.

Our first stop was Bar La Grassa, which was actually far different than I had expected. The space feels very different from its predecessor (Babalu), and was packed with an interesting crowd of hipsters and retirement-aged folks. Nothing against either group, but not sure of the connection.

We started with the "soft eggs and lobster" bruschetta, which really was All That. We followed it with small plates of pasta (the incredible gnocchi for me, fusilli for Patrick, and a third plate of torchio with artichokes and mint, which we shared. Incredible food, great people watching, decent wine, and a reasonably priced bill — no wonder people are talking about the place.

From there we went to the Bradstreet Crafthouse for coc…

More Home Improvements - The Yard

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More on home improvements that I didn't get to earlier today!

We're also working on the yard. The above pics are from our extensive patio work last year. We were wise enough to plant a ton of bulbs, and they really provided great spring color. Now we need to fill out the beds with some perennials. We also need to (finally) put in the horse trough pond, probably with some sort of raised bed from the retaining wall blocks our friends Julio and Jeaneth gave us.

The side yards got completely trashed from the roof work, and I'm trying not to mourn too hard the azaleas, rhodedendrons, and hydrangeas that got trampled (I have perhaps misplaced faith that the raspberries will return). And the front yard — well, let's just say that it definitely shows the fact that I've neglected it since Beatrix was born, and it's time to get it back into shape.

Anyone dividing or relocating any perennials they want to share? We're already on our way with a rhubarb plant from ou…

New Roof

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There's been a lot of construction craziness around here, including a new roof! I'm not used to laying out that much money in one fell swoop (yikes!), but it turned out looking great.

Currently trying to decide how much fuss I should raise over it having no "drip edge," though. Thoughts?


More SARPA Posts!

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More on Theatre and Life

So tonight, as I sat in Rough Cuts missing Beatrix's bedtime for the umpteenth time and listening to Matt Gould and Carson Kreitzer's beautiful song entitled "Miles," I couldn't help but think of the paradox of theatre and motherhood (well, likely all art and motherhood, but hey, theatre is what I know.)

"Work-life-balance" is a mythical beast in the best of worlds, and there is not a parent I know who feels like they have it pegged. The general conscensus is that if you are keeping your head above water and kind of sucking equally at each, you're doing pretty well. Everyone struggles with this, in different ways depending on what they do.

But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that theatre is especially paradoxical. To make great theatre you have to throw yourself completely into it, in strange and varied hours, and take all the passion that's in you and put it out there on stage. Yet at the same time there's that little person who…

Lost Theatre

The last two nights have reminded me both how much I love the theatre community here, and how much is missing.

Last night I went to the memorial service for Camille D'Ambrose, held at the Illusion Theatre. The event was really lovely, with family speaking during the first pat, then a sharing of memories. Lou Salerni stunned people by getting up on stage and sharing his memories — there was an audible gasp when he said who he was, and close to a standing ovation when he finished. Shirley Venard gave the last remarks, as beautiful and feisty as ever. And yet there was a sense of sadness, of what we have lost in Camille but also in a theatre community. To some extent we just don't have that anymore, that group of Equity stages doing a mix of old and new work, all playing off of each other, with a group of established actors working between them. And, to be true, by focusing on Jeune Lune for 12 years I absenced myself from that.

Jeune Lune. I still have dreams about that pla…

Preservation Blogging

As one of my duties as a SARPA (Summit Avenue Residential Preservation Association) board member, I have agreed to begin contributing to their blog. My first post is here, commemorating the new state preservation tax credit signed into law today. Congratulations to all the preservationists and community organizers that have worked so hard to put this legislation into place!

Yet Another Healthcare Rant

People keep on asking me if I am glad and relieved about healthcare reform, and if this means that everything is now fine with Beatrix.

The truth is, yes and no. The bill is not perfect, though it's a start. Most importantly, though, after delays in government and then insurance companies, it would not affect us for about a year. So I am in the middle of filling out new applications to 2 major insurance companies, asking them to reconsider accepting us as a family (Beatrix's rates will go up another $40 a month next month on her plan).

To do so, I have spent close to two hours just filling out forms. Along with that, I have spent another 2-3 hours total I have had to get the dates and medical record information from all doctor's visits within the last 2 years, which has taken multiple calls to clinics, and calls back, and waits. I have had to look up address information for all the other healthcare services we have had in the last five years. I have had to call (again …