Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Resolutions

Alright, here I go...

1) Learn to knit.
2) Write 100 paper letters to various people in my life, telling them something I really like about them.
3) Pay more attention to the communities in which I live and work — notice details and changes.
4) Actively promote and advance my friends — connect them with people, ideas, and opportunities.
5) Renovate the new house we just bought (this is kind of a no-brainer, since the city has a timeline on it and since my MIL is moving up to move into it in 6 months)

and two continued from last year:

6) Exercise more, eat better.
7) Have (at least) one friend/couple/whatever that we don't see enough over for dinner a month. (I may even throw in the challenge to cooke something from my friend Robin's cookbook for that meal!)

Two I would like but are harder to measure:

8) Be more creative — make more things. Maybe quantify by "Make one new thing a month."
9) Make our home a more comfortable, relaxing place to be.

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Ok, off in the rain/snow/sleet to a NYE party in NE Minneapolis. Excited to go, but dreading the weather and keeping Beatrix up — but we bought a big cake to bring, so we have to go!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Falling Into Place - Part 2


Ok, there was one thing I didn't mention in my post yesterday because I didn't want to jinx anything for the closing today...

...we bought another house!

It all started in the fall, when I was trying to demonstrate to someone what good deals there were in foreclosures in Saint Paul right now. I went to Edina Realty's website, and there was a house, tucked just behind the state capitol, and looking in pretty good shape, for $7,500.

A few days later, on the way to visit my mom's grave, I convinced Patrick to drive past it. We were pretty impressed by the neighborhood — it's charming, close by, and within walking distance to the new light rail. It's in an area I really had not paid much attention to before, kind of where Frogtown and the North End meet. We called our long-suffering realtor, who took us through it and was also pretty impressed (though he reports his colleagues asked "Where do you find these people?" "Well, the last house I showed them was $750,000...")

The house needed electrical work and plumbing, but was generally sound. We brought another long-suffering contractor friend through it, and he was also impressed.

So we placed an offer, which was accepted.

Except that the house was a Category 2 Registered property with the City of Saint Paul, which meant that the sellers (Freddie Mac, since it was obviously a foreclosure) had to get a Code Compliance report done. We insisted, and they eventually rejected our offer. Then we placed another offer, offering to pay for the code compliance report ourselves (we legally could not order one, since we were not the owners), and were again rejected. The house was supposedly "under offer" and went off the market. (In the meantime we went on a little "tour of foreclosures," and there is still a lot out there).

Then, in November, the house popped up again (for even less!), and this time, the listing agent had actually convinced the sellers to do a code compliance report. We placed an offer contingent on that report, and spent several nail-biting days waiting for the report. Finally, just after Thanksgiving it all came through — the work to be done was not too onerous, and we were cleared to go ahead. We still had some hurdles to clear with the city, but we made it through those.

So today, we closed on our $7,200 house!

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(What are we going to do with it? Well, fix it up, and then my mother-in-law will live there when she moves up here this summer. There are two more parents after that, so you never know, we may be looking for more place...)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Falling Into Place

A few weeks back my Facebook statuses got everyone all excited because I posted about "things falling into place." No, we didn't buy the house we were lusting after on Summit, basically because we already love the two houses we already have and are having a hard time choosing between them! But a lot of other things have been coming together:

- I picked up two more ongoing clients, which I am really excited about.
- ALL THREE organizational development proposals to MRAC that I was on board for got funded — add those to my standing clients and to several other projects, and I will be a busy girl!
- Meanwhile, Patrick is on course with his next book, and was selected to chair a major conference.
- We were able to rent out the Summit house to a very charming gentleman for the Christmas holidays, and thanks to the Blessings, purchased some great cork flooring to redo the sunroom.
- Our daycare schedule changed, and while it originally looked like it would be a major issue, has turned out to give Beatrix more school time, equal time with Alex, and less cost! (plus maybe even some date nights for us).
- Patrick worked hard to get some new shelving up in the basement, so we are on our way to organization.
- I got a great deal on some more pilates passes at the Sweatshop, so will be able to continue!

(oh, and when I originally posted that it looked like I would be able to FINALLY attend Books and Bars — that feel through, but at least Rebecca and I had a great evening at WA Frost lounge last night!)

Stay tuned for more good news...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Resolutions for 2011

Huh, looking back I realize I really LIKE my resolutions from last year...

1. House: 3 big projects
- finish cleaning and organizing basement - well, we're maybe halfway there...
- finish bedroom - finished and wonderful!
- repaint the exterior and re-do the front porch - done, and we love it!

2. Friends
- Have one friend/couple that we don't ordinarily see over for dinner a month - hands down my/our most successful 2011 resolution. Lots of fun and great to reconnect with people (and connect them with others).

3. Health
- Start exercising more and eating more healthily — MIL's stroke was a big wake-up call for this. - mixed, I do now attend pilates 1x a week and work out on the exercise bike, but not enough

4. Technology
- Some year-end notice for my strange little blog made me realize I need to be more intentional about it. - mixed, there's more to do but I feel pretty good about it.
- Tech in general — I'm tired of Patrick, the techie, having control of All Things Technical in our house. I need to better understand this, and set up my own systems. mixed - made some strides, but more to go.

5. Work
- I've got a lot of clients right now, but I need to take things to the next level with pay and happiness. - VERY successful! Yay!

6. De-access
- Sell off some of the things we are no longer using (anyone want to by a nice, low-miles Audi sedan? I'll drive it to you...). mixed, definitely more to do
- Get rid of some of the smaller stuff — clothes, housewares, etc. I know I will never do enough of this to make my husband happy (after all, he's the "Minimal Mac" guy and would be happier if we lived in 300 square feet with just an Eames chair), but it's creating a happy medium) - much better about this!

All in all, I feel pretty successful. Plus I did indeed ditch the double-space after a period habit!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Out of the Mouths...

This morning, as we went to school, Beatrix and I were talking about how nice Daddy was. She then ruminated that "I'm not always very nice to daddy," and when I asked her how replied "I kick him, I tell him the sun [her morning nightlight] is on when it's not..."

We then discussed all the people she was nice to, Daddy and Mommy and Clara and Grandma Tisch ... "And Grandma Mary Lou. Remember when we thought that Grandma Mary Lou was dead but she's not? That was funny." So then we had the whole dead discussion again — happy Monday before Christmas...

When I picked her up tonight, she was having trouble finding her various mittens. We found one, in a bag that suspiciously held one of her teacher gifts she was giving out today — travel mugs filled with chocolate candies. Only this one had a mug — and a lot of candy wrappers. When pressed on this, Beatrix concocted an elaborate story about how Teacher Kelli didn't like chocolate or peanut butter and didn't want the gift. We then had a lesson-filled evening of refilling the mug from Beatrix's candy stash and declining a trip to Santa after Beatrix blithely mentioned that she just wouldn't tell Santa about he incident (cue rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," after which Beatrix reasoned we did not live in a town, so we were ok.

I hope Santa isn't watching.....

(this was, somewhat, all made up for as described in a text from Clara today — several androgynous punk youth crossed the street in front of their car and Beatrix remarked "I just saw the Beatles!")

Monday, December 5, 2011

Occupying-ing

We're in the process of switching, from Big Bank (US Bank) to small bank (Anchor). The move was actually not politically instigated — it was because of other issues — but it correlates nicely with the Occupy Your Bank Account movement, and falls within the reasons.

I have a small trust, left to me by my mother, which I will not be able to access for some time. The trust was put in the control of US Bank, where it had been invested since my mother inherited it.

When it was first transferred, there were a number of issues, many of which I blamed on the law firm that handled my mother's will (and they were certainly far from blameless.) But, over the years, there have been any number of slip-ups by USB. i would not hear from them for ages — and then would call with a question, only to find that my trust manager had apparently disappeared into thin air. They would take me out to lunch, assuring me I was in the top 1% of their clientele, and then not return my calls. Then they would hold large meetings, where several men in suits would file through, only to have each of those men speak to Patrick and not to me. They would sell stock and securities without asking. My "private banking" status seemed to come with no recognizable perks. And then I found out that, for all of this, their fees were much higher than comparable management.

So I transferred the trust, and am closing the bank accounts. I did write my new trust advisor to let him know, before the transfer papers arrived, and heard absolutely nothing back. So apparently I am not so valuable to them as they expressed.

My new bank, on the other hand, experienced a hiccup late Friday night. My banker emailed me back about it, form her smart phone, while driving with her husband do Menomonie in a blizzard yesterday, to assure me it will be alright.

That's why I like small local businesses.

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(in an aside to that, I purchased several gifts in small local places tonight and feel rally good about them all!)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Things My Mom DID Do

A few weeks back, I posted a sad post about things my mom missed out on. Tonight, I am thinking about all the things she DID do, which are many!

- She loved traveling and travelled to hundreds of places, all around the world (many of which we went to together). She took me on my first trip, driving to New Orleans, when I was not even 4. We stayed at the Olivier House, ate at fancy restaurants, and walked down Bourbon Street where I looked through the doors at the "fancy ladies."
- Among those trips, she went through the Panama Canal, stayed in Morocco when the king was visiting, went to her favorite places like Hawaii and Thailand numerous times, brought babies back from Korea, kissed the Blarney Stone one Christmas, went on her own to Brazil (in the early 1970s!), swam with the dolphins, and climbed through rice paddies in the Philippines.
- As well as trips with me, she went on several trips with friends, experiencing exotic places and the fun of just hanging out.
- She went to Amelia Island, Florida every March, where she rented a beach house on North Fletcher Road and enjoyed the ocean all day.
- She worked a career she loved at Children's Home Society for many years, and then went on to found several small businesses, including a Halloween shop and clothing trunk shows before they were common.
- She bought her house on Summit with my dad in 1965 for $20,000, restored it, added on to it, built a swimming pool which she used every day, and loved all of it.
- She held notoriously boozy holiday parties with eminently 50s appetizers (rumaki and crab toast, anyone?).
- She loved Christmas, decorated to excess and baked 15+ kinds of Christmas cookies, plus lefse and quick breads.
- She read voraciously, crafted when she thought she *should,* and knitted haphazardly. She played a mean game of bridge.
- Although we did not go to many arts events when I was younger, when I got older and started to work in theatre she started attending a lot and loved it. She liked to go to small local theatres and the occasional big extravaganza like "Riverdance" or West End shows in London.
- She got to see me graduate 3 times. She was so happy I married Patrick. She was proud of Max and Miles, and of her whole family and all her friends.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy This

I'm not very often at a loss for words. But at least in this case, my friend Jason says this much better than I could have.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November Starts the Holiday Season

First snow today! Beatrix was very excited, but seems to have somewhat inherited my attitude towards snow — it looks pretty and all, but once you get all bundled up and head out for a walk it's still kind of cold and a PITA. Some cocoa cheered her right up, though, and it really is pretty.

Somehow (likely on Twitter?), I had heard that Linder's was doing a holiday lighting festival tonight, so we headed down there after dinner. The greenhouses are lit up so that they really do look magical, and they are filled with Christmas items. It was a completely child-oriented event, and within minutes of walking in Beatrix had received a candy cane and flower seeds from Mrs. Claus, a balloon, and a chocolate chip cookie (she insists, by the way, that chocolate chip cookies are perfectly good Christmas cookies if you draw a tree on with icing. I can't say I disagree. We stood in line for a hayride with Santa, and a large family even let us go ahead of them when there was little room left on the cart, so we got to sit right next to Santa so Beatrix could tell him just how excited she was about Christmas. The Linder's property is amazingly large, and they set up areas like "Christmas tree alley" full of sparkling trees.

After that we checked out the reindeer in the corral, listened to some Christmas carolers, appreciated the poinsettias, and — Beatrix's favorite — checked out the fairy gardens. When we got home, Beatrix said "That was really fun, thank you for taking me!" and I certainly agree! (this is a hard holiday season for me — see earlier post — and this was a great way to start it out).

Now for some Beaujolais Nouveau, another of my favorite November holidays...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pizza Lu-Sigh

Like many Americans, pizza is my go-to comfort food. And I have had a love affair with Pizza Luce since my days at Jeune Lune, where pizza from the original location was on heavy rotation — hey, I even served Luce pizza to Kevin Bacon! So, nearing the end of a long week, what better dinner solution than meeting our good friend Leah from A Taste of My Minnesota, and her darling daughters, for some pizza?

Oops.

The evening started simply enough — the waitress forgot to mention it was Happy Hour, but we did solve that and get some drinks, the three girls colored and played with chopsticks, the table next to us, seated at the same time we did, received their pizza quickly and it smelled great. The girls' food came, and our artichoke dip, and we were told the pizza would be soon. And then, nothing.

About 40 minutes in, as the girls were getting squirrely, we asked on the ETA on the pizza. We were told it was "in the oven" (well, I suppose that's good), and it would be out in 6 minutes.

Another 20 minutes passed. The boxes we had asked for for the leftover kid food had not arrived, so their leftovers turned into finger paint. We went off to find a manager, who said that a "big order" had come in and backed up the kitchen. Never mind my feelings about basic kitchen management, wouldn't you communicate that fact to your waiting patrons? The waitress arrived with the pizza, we sent it back to be boxed up because, at that point, we really had to go (near bedtime). She came back and said "I guess we're buying your pizza because of the wait." We paid, and booked out. I just had cold pizza finally for dinner, 3 hours after we first sat down.

I didn't want free pizza tonight. I wanted to sit and visit with my friend, and I wanted good food served to me in a reasonable timeframe and with pleasant service. I wanted communication, and I didn't want the feeling that we had turned invisible. Is that so much to ask?

EDITED: I have to say that Pizza Luce saw this post and took the situation very seriously, sending me a gift card and having two people to call me to find out what happened. I'm totally willing to give them another chance. I will say, though, that it engendered a lot of discussion with friends who had had similar (though not quite so bad) experiences, so I do think they have some PR work to do.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Refugee Furniture



I saw this dresser several weeks back, in someone's trash behind the Holly Tot Lot, and fell immediately in love with it. Much to Patrick's dismay, I returned later that night with a flashlight and a drill, disassembled it, and brought it home.

But something happened to Patrick when he carried it inside after several days of it taking up too much space in the garage. He saw what I had originally appreciated — this is not a piece of mass market furniture. It's extremely old, handcrafted from oak that was likely hand-milled. The carving on it is slightly primitive, again done by hand. It's kind of battered, and in some disrepair. As Patrick worked on re-assembling the piece, tightening the pieces and getting everything back together, he fell in love with it too.

I ordered some new hardware from the super-super-sale section of Anthropologie, and this morning Patrick put the hardware on and Beatrix and I polished the wood. I'm thrilled to say that the piece looks even better than I thought it might, and I am very happy I acted on impulse and brought it home!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Five Years


I'm having (a lot of a) struggle already, as we move into the holiday season that marks five years since my mother's death on Christmas Day, 2006.

In some ways, it feels stupid, self-indulgent even. Five years is just a number. It doesn't, in itself, mean any more or any less than any other number.

But we humans tend to mark time in landmarks, and there have been a lot of landmarks. Patrick and I have been married for five years (this past June). Five years is twice as long as my mom lived after the diagnosis. Five years is as old as Beatrix's friends Alex and Kelsey. Five years is half the lifespan of my favorite wine shop. And five years is that many Christmases, and birthdays, and Mother's Days, and amazing Beatrix moments, and so many other things.

My mother never got to meet my dog, or two of my cats, or most of all, her granddaughter. She never got to see her nephew get married in Norway, or meet his son. She never got to support any of the theatres I currently work for by seeing shows there, she never saw our new back yard and porch and bedroom and guest rooms. She never got to even know the idea of a Kindle (god, she would have loved that). She never got to meet some of the friends I am now closest too. Five years is really the blink of an eye, and it's an eternity.

Five years is long enough that I perhaps *should* be over losing my mother, and yet I am not even close it seems.There are times, when I am at a place that reminds me strongly of her, that it's an actual physical ache. In some ways, I have gotten used to life without her, and in some ways it's still so overwhelmingly raw and painful and life-shredding. It hits me at the worst moments sometimes — when I remember a book she liked, when I look down at my hands that are beginning to look just like hers, when I still catch myself wanting to share something with her and realize I can't, when I long for the unconditional support you get from your mother that I just don't have anymore.

So I'm trying, really hard, this holiday season. Christmas was so important to my mother, and that love has carried on to Beatrix in spades. Yet there's a big part of me that really wants to hibernate just about now, and re-emerge sometime in early January. So if I seem a little off, if it seems like I may be faking it somewhat at a holiday gathering, just know that it's five years — and that I'm hoping six will be easier.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Serious mermaid Ariel (before candy):



Silly mermaid Ariel (after candy):


Beatrix, aged 3.75, has figured out "Halloween Time" and it's her second-favorite holiday. Tonight she got to see her aunt and uncle, we stopped at her BFF Governor Dayton's house for candy (but no dogs, sadly), and then we hit the neighborhood for her to get quite a full bag. She's still a little afraid of some costumes, but heartened by the fact that ghosts are probably afraid of princesses. And she insisted on sleeping with her jack-o-lantern in her room.

And I'm trying to put this on a link exchange, so check out the other cuties if I actually get this to work:

edited - cannot get the button to work for the life of me!

I've added the button in the side bar for now if it's easier. The cuteness will slay you!

http://sellabitmum.com/2011/10/29/boo-in-the-blogosphere-halloween-costume-link-up/

Saturday, October 22, 2011

All Politics is Local

Beatrix and I drive past the Governor's Mansion on Summit usually several times a day, and when we drove past today, Governor Dayton was throwing the ball for Mingo in the front yard. Beatrix was super-excited to see them, so we stopped and walked up to the fence for a closer look. When Governor Dayton saw us, he put the leash on Mingo, then picked up the new puppy Itasca and brought him to the front steps so that Beatrix could see and pet him. Beatrix was beyond thrilled, and when I mentioned that this made her day (you'll remember a couple of months back she was on a kick about wanting to have dinner at the Governor's house because her friend Ravi's parents had) he said we should stop by and ring the doorbell anytime.

You know, over the years, I've heard a lot of people say that they voted for Bush (or similar candidates) because they were the "kind of guy you could sit down and have a beer with." But Governor Dayton is truly that kind of guy, as exemplified by our interaction today, and I could not be more impressed with him.

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We continued on to our destination, which was Lookout Park, for a year-end gardening session, which got me thinking about LGA. That park, the Holly Tot Lot, and several of the other parks we frequent, are always packed with people. Other community facilities are equally important, as are government subsidies for the arts, community development, and other things that make the places we live truly places where people want to be. Yet they are necessarily the first places to get cut when LGA is slashed, and the city can't even consider expansion of green spaces or public amenities.

I love working on these kind of projects with my friends and think it's important to demonstrate community values to Beatrix. I don't mind working at the park, or on Holcombe Circle, or keeping up the urns over Ayd Mill Road. But it seems we are all richer when we have more of those kinds of places, and I wish my city had the funding to do it.

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Finally (as I cut down the rose bushes at my own house later this afternoon), I thought a lot about consumed resources. Rahm Emanuel has suggested a congestion fee for Chicago in his next budget, and to some extent it really makes sense. I have always lived in neighborhoods that attract people, where people go to walk, to shop, to hang out, to eat and drink and otherwise appreciate. I've lived in these places, and paid more in living costs, because I appreciate these things and want to be near them. But when people chose to live somewhere else, places that are cheaper because the community does not have these amenities, and then come to my neighborhood to consume the items, shouldn't they share in some of the cost?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lessons from Belle

I could learn a lot from our new kitty.

Belle is a complete pain-in-the-ass. 4 months old, full of energy. Everything is a game or a toy. She lopes around the house fearless as anything. She acts completely crazy. She scales the drawers in my wardrobe for fun. She steals my earrings for toys. She is constantly in everything, exploring everything — "What's this? How does it work? Its it for me?" And don't even get me started on her joy when we wake up in the middle of the night because Beatrix calls. It's PLAY TIME!!

Kind of self-evident, isn't it?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Monkeys

Two breakfasts this weekend at monkey places...

Yesterday, after circus class, we checked out Mojo Monkey Donuts, which just opened at 1169 W. 7th. The place was a complete madhouse, with a long line and people snapping up the donuts as soon as the trays were put in the cases. As annoyed as I got with the myriads of people ahead of me asking "When will [x flavor] be out? Can I wait for it? What's coming up next? How long EXACTLY?" our rhythms were perfect. Not only could we get some delicious glazed donuts, but Patrick was able to get one of just 3 of the maple frosted long johns with a strip of bacon on the top. patrick is not a donut person, but he assures me that this was near-perfection. He's already calculated how far he needs to run to eat two.

The staff was friendly, but clearly harried by all the questions. My suggestion? A whiteboard where you can easily write up the current flavors (and erase them as they disappear fast!), and maybe an East-coast style yell when a new favor comes in ("Tray up of banana creme!") But they just opened, and I am sure it will smooth out.

Today, brunch at Cheeky Monkey. We both love it there, and it's close by and we eat there every chance we can. Today we were happy to walk down with our own hungry cheeky monkey for brunch. It was crowded but not crazy when we got there, and the server arrived right away to take out order; mimosas and juice arrived soon after.

And then close to an hour after our order for the food. )insert cold death glare here)

Beatrix was squirmy and hungry but held up well, probably better than I did. Patrick and I have bad karma of sometimes turning invisible in restaurants, so we were not sure what had happened — was the kitchen slammed? Did they lose our order? This was exacerbated by the fact that our server kind of abandoned us, not stopping back to check on us, let us know that the kitchen was busy, see if we needed anything, offer to bring Beatrix's toast or something before she collapsed in a mess on the floor — anything. I took Beatrix outside several times to run around, and finally our food arrived — when Patrick said "Wow, the kitchen must have been busy" the waitress said "Like nobody's business," but nothing else, no "Sorry about the wait" or anything. Hours later, I'm still ticked.

It's a really tight market in the restaurant business right now, and I've been thinking a lot lately about that. Food margins are tough, and as annoying as the wait was, I was not expecting free food or anything. But I DO expect that, when there's a situation like that, the server will communicate with me. Today, there were a good 8 servers wandering the room. The manager should have had them go tho their tables and communicate with them "Look, the kitchen got slammed, it's going to be a longer than usual wait. Can I bring your toast out early? Is there anything else you need? I promise we're working on it as quickly as possible."

Instead, they had a whole place full of mad people wondering where their food was, and they blew a chance to make those people their allies. As I said, I love the Cheeky Monkey, but I'm not in a big hurry to go back. And that makes me sad.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Skirt - But No New Boots

I was completely convinced I was going to win Sellabit Mum's Nauturalizer giveaway. I had the perfect — AMAZING — boots picked up. I blocked out some shopping time. Then I devoted last night to embellishing a skirt that had been pretty plain jane, but that I thought would look great with them. In fact, I spent so long on the skirt that I missed the actual tweet with the winner...

...who was ONE COMMENT POST off of me, snug between two of my posts!

Life is not fair.

But in the meantime, you should be reading Tracy's blog, or liking her on Facebook, or following her on Twitter (@sellabitmum). She's pretty rockstar. Even if her random-number generator is defective.

At least I have the skirt.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cathedral Hill Montessori


If you've talked to me in person lately, you've likely been surprised by the passion with which I've embraced Beatrix's new preschool. Truth is, it's taken me somewhat by surprise as well.

We considered a lot of preschools last year, from Dodge Nature Center to Sunny Hollow to Jean Lyle to Mis Amigos Spanish Immersion. In the end, based on both cost and the fact that Beatrix had been in a home based environment for her care so far, we decided to go with a neighborhood rec center. We knew it was a solid program, even if we were not overly excited about it.

Then, in July, our lives collided with Whitney and Andy, who had purchased an amazing old home that had quite a checkered past as a nursing home/home for unwed mothers/boarding school/vacant building. Their dream was to convert the mid-century addition to the side of the house to a Montessori school, and the rest of the house to their home and a B&B. When we first heard about the idea we thought "It's so wacky it just might work!" When we met them, we knew it would.

I had initially ruled out Montessori for Beatrix for preschool. I thought it might be too structured for someone who had been in home daycare, while at the same time not being academically stimulating enough. But the new school was so appealing, and the more I talked to Whitney, the more converted I became. She convinced us to give it a try in the "mini-Montessori" they had set up for their 2 children (aged 3.75 and 1.5) — and Beatrix took to it like a duck to water. Meanwhile, I've been scrambling to learn more about Montessori principles and concepts.

So now every day I drop off Beatrix in this incredible environment where there is so much to do and experience. She goes in, hangs her lunchbox in her cubby, changes shoes, and settle right in. She tells us about her "presentations" about polishing, the tree, painting, window washing, and more. She's already gotten much better about letters and numbers (just ask her about the X in her name!) And she loves it that they go across the street to the park to play.

So yes, I'm converted. Sending Beatrix to Cathedral Hill Montessori is probably the best parenting decision we've made for her so far. And I'm always one to admit when I've changed my mind.

(Want more info? Their website is here, and their Facebook page here. The awesomely talented Glimpses of Soul Photography has photos from their Gala here and here. And yes, they are still enrolling — the official opening date is October 24!)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Love Where I Live (More)

It was a crazy, full weekend, all of which reminded me how much I love where I live:

- Beatrix's circus class and breakfast afterwards at the Chatterbox.
- A gala opening at Beatrix's school — dancing in the yard to Lucy Michelle and the Blue Lapelles and Chris Koza more on this later.
- Dinner at Salut for Patrick's birthday (where they treated us like royalty), and then drinks at the Amsterdam, which may just be the perfect new downtown St. Paul hangout.
- The annual Mclaughlin Marathon Party today, which David carried off amazingly well even if it was bittersweet. There is nothing more beautiful than Summit Avenue on Marathon Sunday, and no better way to experience it than good food and good friends.
- Beatrix's friend Gwyneth's birthday party at the Children's Museum. She is so at home there and loves showing us everything.
- A surprise birthday party for our friend Sarah, which truly was a surprise.
- A trip down to the newly finished Holly Tot Lot, which was filled with young families on a beautiful summer evening. That playground has been so neglected for so long that it's especially wonderful to see it filled with life.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fall Nesting

I've been really tired lately, despite the fact that Beatrix is *finally* sleeping much better. I blames it on a heavy workload that takes up a lot of brain space, and then watching bad Netflix streaming and reading good books late into the night in order to relax.

But I have learned that exercise does help, so I've re-committed to pilates and love it. The Sweatshop just feels so comfortable to me, and I am trying to suss ways I can continue to go after my discount card runs out.

This afternoon I really wanted to just veg, but I had a training tonight to prepare for, and I had to clean off my desk to get to the materials. As part of that, I crossed off a whole bunch of small to-do items, and my work space looks so much better. Which is to say that maybe I would feel more rested if I just got a few more things done.

So I'm hoping to be a virtual whirlwind of productivity tomorrow — if you catch me on the internets, ask me why I'm not working!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Headshot

Ok, the MN Bloggers Conference was great, and I learned a lot of things.

But perhaps the best part was that I got new headshots, thanks to Glimpses of Soul Photography. Isn't she amazing?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Writing Exercises

I attended the Minnesota Blog Conference today, and was happy to attend a session by Kate Hopper on writing. Part of the session was just devoted to writing, and she challenged us to write something evocative about our childhood, so here's what came out of a 7-minute free writing session:

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Why do I love summer? Because you say the word "summer" to me and I am instantly back in those neverending summer nights, wearing my pink striped kitty cat shortie pajamas (how can I even remember back so far? those pajamas barely fit Beatrix now) — and it's the middle of the night, and the light glows pink-gold in the upstairs hall, and the night is thick and glorious with sticky warmth. And I never know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning, but my mother always does, and she scoops me up and brings me down to the basement where the yellowed white radio is set to WCCO radio, always scratchy and slightly off-station. I sit on the cool green squares of concrete, which feels so different from the still-thick air, and am allowed to sort through the divided boxes of shiny bright beads and sequins that live down there waiting for some upcoming craft project. And I don't even realize it but I've fallen asleep on the green wool army blanket, and my mother carries me back up to my still-slightly-stuffy pink and orange room and it's still summer and it always will be.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Missing Judy


Since we've lived in our neighborhood, we've lost some really wonderful and influential friends. Marianne O'Brien, Rick Raiter, Pam Gru, Tom Segar,and many more, I think of you often and am grateful for what you have brought to my life. But this week, we lost Judy McLaughlin, and right now that loss seems unbelievably hard to bear.

Judy was one of the first people to take me under her wing when I moved into my neighborhood. She taught me how to stand for what I believed in politics, from the local level on up. She taught me how to throw events. She taught me how to care passionately about things, and to organize people to care along with you. She taught me about the importance of historic preservation. She taught me how to be a steadfast and caring friend. She taught me about the importance of tradition — and when and how to break it.

Her parties were legendary. For years I counted down to midnight in the Summit Manor living room, sipped wine in her backyard, and watched the runners at the Marathon on the final descent down the hill in front of her home (when they weren't stopping to get cups of water from Paul Wellstone, that is). I've spent numerous evenings with her at various local establishments that served various kinds of alcoholic beverages, summarizing board meetings, deciding what to do next, or simply laughing with a big group of friends. When I needed advice, or just someone on my side, I could always call Judy, and she always, always set me straight.

To some extent, Judy's not gone, because she lives in in her family, in the community that she loved so much, in the entire future of Saint Paul. But of course, in the everyday way we have lost her, and I already feel the loss more strongly than I could have expected.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Love Where I Live

It's been the kind of weekend in which we have been able to take some time to enjoy where we live — and I have loved it!

Yesterday, I started a set of pilates classes at The Sweatshop, and it felt great to be doing it again (though my abs don't appreciate me today).

Then we went to breakfast at The Neighborhood Cafe on Selby. It's a favorite breakfast place — nice atmosphere, friendly service, basic but good food, and reasonable prices. They have a few kids toys and crayons for Beatrix. I keep on looking for a "better" breakfast place for variety, but I have to say, the Neighborhood is always almost perfect.

Afterwards, we took a few minutes to walk around the variety of stores at Selby and Snelling. Patina is always fun, but I really like all the smaller individual stores there. There's a tiny florist I had never noticed before, and the gate to the custom purse place was open, so we wandered back and found that they have a little courtyard with a waterfall and fish pond! We also went to Allee, because I love their clothes and really love that little courtyard. I wonder if residents and whop employees gather there at night and socialize over french wine?

Today we headed over to south Minneapolis and had breakfast an Anodyne, and then wandered around the Kingfield Farmer's Market. It's more expensive than the St. Paul market, but I love the vibe, and we always run into people we know (and today was no exception). We bought a really interesting basket of multicolored carrots, and the nice lady gave Beatrix a fresh carrot to snack on — she looked like a big bunny!

Tonight we made it to Republic just before Happy Hour ended, so we could enjoy 2 orders of the best fish tacos in town, some insanely addictive fries, and 2 beers, all for $20. I had not been there since their soft opening, and I was happy to know it's only gotten better. It amazes me that very little has actually changed int he decor of the place since it was Sgt. Preston's — same big taxidermy animals and stained glass lights — but change the expectations of the patrons, and the menu, and it becomes a whole new experience. We felt very welcome there with Beatrix, and really, those fish tacos are the best in the Twin Cities.

(and then we also hit Target for a princess lunchbox for Beatrix and Menard's for a lawnmower...)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Palumbo's Pizzeria

It's been a long time since I've been very "foodie" in this blog (despite recently joining the MN Food Blogger's group), so I thought I would throw in a review of Palumbo's Pizza, which just opened in my neighborhood on Snelling Avenue. It's in a slightly cursed space, which has already closed down Blondie's and Geordie's. The new owners have started out well by pointing out how much parking there is! Still, I don't like the space (and never have) — there's something loud and strip-mall-like about it, and always a lingering musty smell.

I met co-workers who had been there before and loved it, and we all had the margherita pizza (my standard way to measure a pizza place). It was well-priced at $6 — in fact, almost everything on the menu is under $10. Most of the vegetarian items seemed almost TOO veggie heavy, though (really? zucchini in a calzone? doesn't that get mushy?), so I stuck to the old standard.

To be fair, my lunch mates loved their pizza. I was ... underwhelmed. I found it overcooked and dry, even with a sprinkling of olive oil. The tomato was sort of melted in to the cheese, which was overcooked, and the crust dry. I've had much worse pizzas, but this was nowhere near what I have come to love at Punch, or the excellent margherita at Pazzaluna, or oven the one I sampled at Scusi last week. Something was off in the balance of salt and flavor to me as well. But again, my lunchmates loved it, so what do I know!

The gelato, from Ring Mountain Creamery in Eagan, was lovely. Very creamy and fresh tasting, with samplers available at just $1 per generous scoop. They told us the salted caramel was the best seller, but I loved the stradella, with large chocolate chunks. The chocolate was actually a little icy and low on flavor for my taste. And I didn't even get to try the other three flavors.

(since it was lunch, I didn't try the wines or beers...)

The owner stopped by to see how we liked our meals, and in general the staff was friendly. Prices were good, and again, others seem to enjoy it more than I did. I'll likely be back, but it is not going to be at the top of my lit anytime soon.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our State Fair is the Best State Fair...


We've taken Beatrix to the Fair every year since she was a baby, but this year we achieved a milestone I've always wanted to do — went to the Fair, came home, then went back at night! (my friend rachel still has the best idea: Fair --> Saints game --> back to Fair). And, we achieved all this despite the fact I had a monster cold that made me want to die.

We got there later than we wanted (see above note about the cold, plus a night of almost no sleep for everyone). Once there, we started right in on the required food — a malt from the dairy building, plus a Scotch egg for Patrick. We then met up with our friends Abby and Qui and their son Sam, to enjoy toddler adorableness petting the pigs, goats, and sheep. From there, we wandered up to the Kidway, where we met more friends — Geri, Brian, and Ravi, so Beatrix and Ravi could enjoy rides together. the carousel was a big hit (Beatrix loves them right now), but the bumper boats and safari train were also popular.

Then lots more wandering around, some hot dogs and cheese curds and strawberry lemonade, before heading home.

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Tonight, when we went back, we watched a samba band at the International Marketplace (remember our youth, when it was the "Mexican Village"? And when did the "Space Needle" become the "Space Tower"?), then headed way up north to see the K9 show. we checked out the Passive House in the environment building (tip — also the nicest restrooms at the fair), the antique tractors, and Patrick's dream car, the new Fiat. We had some more food, including deep friend cookie dough, and looked around at the skyride and the lights, saw our friend Kristen's winning crop art, and headed home again.

Some observations:

- To Beatrix, the Park-and-Ride is almost as much fun as the Fair — she loves the bus and getting there.
- When asked about her favorite part of the Fair, though, she said "You would not let me go in the Wacky House and I wanted to!" Sigh.
- I'm kind of a Fair traditionalist on food. There are some things: mini donuts from the stand by the Grandstand, vanilla malt from the dairy building, that I have to have. Cheese curds are a nice extra, and the aforementioned cookie dough, a huge foodie blog hit around here, was delicious. But, maybe because I don't eat red meat, a lot of the "blablabla on a stick" leaves me uninterested. Patrick is a Sweet Martha's cookie fan, but I find them ridiculously expensive, and talked him out of them this year.
- I have incredible memories of going to the Fair with my mom, and staying all day. Now that I am older, I am excited to build some with Beatrix!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Travel Wish List

Beatrix is getting old enough to travel, and so it's been on my mind a lot lately. Thought better than having these things swirl around in my head was getting them in a list:

Places I especially want to take Beatrix:
Well, anywhere in the world, really, but top on the list are:
- Orlando and Disney World
- New Orleans, so she can see where she comes from
- London

Places I really want to see (likely includes Beatrix! and of course Patrick):
- Macchu Picchu
- Turkey, especially Istanbul
- Costa Rica
- back to Spain
- Australia

Sunday, August 21, 2011

House Facade - Before and After

It's been quite a summer for exterior work. Here is what our place looked like at the beginning of the summer:



And the porch:



Not bad altogether, but certainly not what they could be.

The paint journey started last September, with severe damage after a hail storm. We spent literally months getting bids and going around and around with the insurance. Finally our agent stepped in and helped. This is the final work done by Mike Faricy Painting (and he writes books, too!) — we could not be happier!



But what you'll really notice is the porch. When I bought the house, the porch had blocky siding on it. When stabilizing the structure several months later, it was like Christmas when we tore off the rotted wood and found all this great, hand-carved woodwork underneath! However, despite many half-assed efforts at porch rehab, it had never really been done right. Our handyman extraordinaire, Bob Fortner, has bugged us about it for years, and he was right — "Look, that porch ought to be the jewel of the home. And that's no jewel."

This summer we set him loose on it, and he was right. He spent hours perfecting it, and it looks incredible!



So, if you need projects done, we certainly know where to send you! In the meantime, come and visit our newly-redone place!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pool Parties

Most Friday nights this summer, we've had pool parties at the Summit House. They've been very casual; we usually start by grilling something up and providing some beer, and people add to it as they arrive. People come as the can, through the front door, the side gate, the back. People bring more food and drink, until by the end of the evening the dining room table is filled completely. Kids of all ages jump immediately in the pool; their parents follow or hop in the hot tub; conversations groups form. All kinds of people, from a vast cross-section of our lives, attend, meeting new people and generally having a nice relaxing night out. At the end of each we've been tired but truly happy.

The pool parties, in a way, are somewhat metaphorical to our life. We could not be happier.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Perfect Birthday


In Mandarin Chinese, "four" is a homonym for "death." In the same way that hospitals here don't have 13th floors, ones there don't have 4th floors (or if they do, it's the maternity ward.)

Which is to say that 44 is pretty damn old.

Luckily, we celebrated enough to feel young. Earlier that day I got the worst mani/pedi of my life (Groupon fail), then Patrick and I got free lunch at Noodles and Company and did some shopping. But we really celebrated that evening.

We started out with drinks and sushi at Masu Sushi and Robata in NE Minneapolis. Great space, fresh and tasty sushi (we had rolls, always the best way to test out a new place), and the robata (little grilled things on skewers) were the prefect complement to the drinks and sushi. Plus they sent over free shots of sake!

We then headed to the speakeasy-like atmosphere of the Marvel Bar for cocktails before dinner. Loved it — very cozy, perfectly mixed drinks, the kind of feeling you used to get at the New French.

Then dinner upstairs at The Bachelor Farmer. Very fresh, we tried lots of small plates. Made me proud to be Norwegian!

Finally, a Fringe show — the show itself (some dance piece I have already forgotten the name of) was not all that great, but it was wonderful to be out. Much as I love my life now, i do miss the night when we could go out to hip places and shows, and it was lovely to recreate that, if only for an evening.

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(Great rest of the weekend too — planted raspberries and mint, got yard work done at the Summit House, finally saw Nicole Curtis' Minnehaha place which is on the market and which you should buy, saw more Fringe shows, went to the wine bar with Krista...)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I and E

Though I'm tired and have a migraine, it's been a great week. As well as Krista living with us, we had a houseguest for three days, Patricks's friend Mike from/who is Rohdesign. We had a playdate and dinner at Blackbird on Monday, friends over on Tuesday, Patio Night last night, and a fundraiser for Minnesotans United for All Families tonight. All a great lead up to my birthday tomorrow.

It's been great for me, the Extrovert. Not so much for poor Patrick, the Introvert. Nevertheless, he has been great at keeping things going, which I know has been hard when he's exhausted by all the people. I'm a very lucky girl.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Insurance Scam

I just switched birth control pills. My doctor, who I love, spent some time going through her little prescription book to find a brand that would qualify for the much-advertised $4 a month rate.

When I got to the Target pharmacy, though, it rang up at $28.86. When I asked about that, they said the $4 a month rate was only if it ran through insurance, and I was listed as uninsured. So they re-rang it and I waited around for 30 minutes.

At which point in came up at $29.96 because that was the insurance rate. Apparently, because I have a high-deductible plan, the $4 rate does not apply — it DOES, however — the cashier helpfully explained — apply for Viagra and a handful of other items. When I asked why the insurance rate was higher than the un-insured rate, I was informed, with a straight face, that it was "a SERVICE on the part of the insurance company, so that people could reach their deductibles quicker."

I declined the "service" and made them re-ring it.

You just can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pinterest Mash-Up

For a long time, i've been looking for a new jewelry storage system. I had my necklaces tossed into a dresser drawer, and then my earrings hanging on an old, metal peacock shaped holder than was a little teenage for my taste. I had liked pictures I have seen online of earring holders that used a picture frame for that purpose — the earrings hung inside the frame on pieces of screen, or wire strung across, or even foamboard.

But then I saw one that used wine corks and I was like "THIS is it!" You probably know I love wine corks and am always looking for great ways to use them.

The only frame I had in the right dimensions, though, was basic balsa wood. I figured I would paint it, maybe glue on some buttons or something for interest.

Then, I was putting away things from our road trip and inspiration hit. I had loved an image on Pinterest that framed photos form a vacation and used a map for the mat. I could cover the frame with our Boston map! Which I did, and I think it looks great!

So, for a grand cost of $0 since I had all the materials on hand, I have a great new way to store my jewelry and stay organized (worth a fortune around here.) I do, however, still keep an antique teacup by my bed to store my watch and earrings when I forget to take them off before bedtime, which pretty much happens every night...



Friday, July 22, 2011

Blaming the Victim

As I type this, I am watching a Twitter exchange between the MPR NewsCut blogger (Bob Collins) and several of my friends on Twitter. In a short version, Collins tweeted:

The idea of a youth camp run by a political party is kinda scary.

Several people (my friends included) called him out on this, and it's degenerated into kind of a Twitter snipe-fest; though anyone is welcome to have their own views, I don't think that if I were tweeting for public radio I would respond is such a curmudgeonly manner.

What Collins fails to grasp is that he is more than welcome to his opinion about whether or not political parties should run camps. But to make that your very first tweet on the subject after tweeting earlier simply that you were "Following Oslo..." reeks of "blame the victim." I think it someone had commented after Columbine that it was a "scary high school," there would have been all kinds of offense taken — and rightfully so.

Collins' comment is not unusual. It's not really all that different than wondering out-loud "Well, what was she doing there?" when finding out a woman was attacked in a bad neighborhood, or any other comment that draws an unwarranted relationship between unrelated issues. He claims that:

What I said was I like to think ppl who folo me are able to differentiate btween finding camps scary & wishing ill on attendees.

If so, why make the comment now, as your first impression of the Norway shootings? What Collins fails to grasp is that cause and effect don't stop with an issue, they continue into the reporting on it. Twitter, blogs, and other citizen-journalist methods are rapidly gaining ground as how we learn about things. And I think we owe them all a little more thought.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Read Local

Recently, I had a bad experience with, of all things, a New York Times column. A writer there was a lurker on a private message board that I belong to, and lifted some quotes from a thread on that board to use in her column, without clearing it with the original posters. Sloppy journalism/poor ethics aside, it got me thinking about reading things written by people you know, or who are in your community.

Admittedly, I am lucky in this regard. The Twin Cities has a virtual plethora of local writers — mostly penning mysteries — of which my favorites over the years have been John Sandford, Erin Hart, and occasionally Tami Hoag. This month, my aunt is going to a garden party featuring local author Marisha Chamberlain, who I originally knew as a playwright and who has written the exquisite The Rose Variations.

Lately, I found out that one of my neighbors and all-time favorite people, Mike Faricy, is an excellent author of truly compelling mysteries. And of course my husband, Patrick Rhone's book Keeping It Straight is a must-read.

What local authors have you been reading?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Children's Day

Today we did various Beatrix-themed activities, and it was a blast!

This morning, we use dour brand new membership to go to the Children's Museum with our friends Leah (plus Maesie and Ella) and Erica and Joe (plus Olivia). Everyone had a ton of fun, though we all ended up spread out all over — it was helpful to have the extra parents around to keep an eye on the kids! Beatrix gets to go to the Children's Museum often with Clara and Alex, so it was great to have her show us around.

We then had lunch at the Cheeky Monkey (though Leah had to go). Though we ate inside, I am in lust with their new patio, and hope to go back soon.

Before naps, we checked out our friend Krista's gorgeous new house, which is just perfect for her. I'm in love with it! Then long naps (for everyone).

We went to see Milly and Tillie tonight at Open Eye. Beatrix is a M&T groupie, having seen it several time last year, and I am sure we'll be back this year. Seriously, do yourself a favor and go, whether you have kids or not. Tickets are dirt cheap ($5 adults/$1 kids), the show is incredibly enjoyable for all ages, and there's free ice cream afterwards. I mean it! GO!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pimp My Block!

Wow, suddenly everyone on our block is fixing up their place!

Thanks to the hailstorm last year, pretty much everyone got new roofs — except us and our neighbor, who had just gotten new roofs. We did get approval from insurance to get our house painted though, and we're rebuilding our porch, and both look great!

But on a walk around the block with Beatrix tonight, I noticed how much work is being done. The house across the street got new porch furniture. A house halfway down the block has a whole new porch, and the one next to that is getting painted/restained (that house needs a lot of love...). The condos at the end put in a new brick path.

I love our neighborhood!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Foodie Dream Vacation

I kind of lost focus with the trip blogging because of sporadic internet, yet another glitch with the autopost to Facebook (why does that happen?), and mostly because I was, you know, too busy having a vacation and hanging with friends to write. Obviously, I'm not going to get hired as a travel blogger anytime soon.

I should be, though! Mainly because out time in the Finger Lake area was pretty much the best foodie vacation ever!

To place it in context, we stayed with my college room-mate and still one of my closest friends ever, Molly. She and her family (wonderful husband and two charming boys who Beatrix loves to pieces) have a cottage on Lake Cayuga. Even better, they have a completely separate guest cottage, so we had our own space when we wanted it, but could just hang out as well. They kids went wild playing while the adults got to hang around and eat, and talk, and drink, and read — perfection!

But the foodie part...

Our first day, we were excited to discover that there were several cheesemakers in the area as well as vineyards. We packed up the kids and headed to the Lively Run Goat Dairy, where we were able to sample all the cheeses, then tour the farm so the kids could pet the goat, see the piglets, etc. Their cheese was amazing — herbed chevre, a very smooth Cayuga blue, a soft cheese called Eidelweiss, and a perfectly salty feta. They actually buy much of the milk from local Amish farmers and keep a small herd to milk and use to to try new cheeses, to great effect.

We then visited Bellewether (hard) Cider, where the kids ran around outside and played with the cats while we did a cider tasting. Delicious, and so refreshing! We bought several bottles to bring home.

Somehow, the boys never made it to the vineyards, but Molly and I were able to make it to two. Wine tasting is the perfect way to try some new things while chatting and catching up, and we took full advantage of that. The first day we went to the Thirsty Owl, which was very good, and we were able to take a nice walk around the premises. My favorite, though, was Goose Watch Vineyard, which featured great views, an 8-pour tasting for $2, and some lovely reds. We even picked up some juice for the kids.

Lots of wineries (and dairies, and cider places, and distilleries) we did not hit, so I guess we need to go back...

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(Oh, and the best part? I don't have the picture, but the double full rainbow that arched across the lake just hours before the New York legislature approved the Marriage Equality Bill. So much hope for the future!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mad in Minnesota

Lost momentum on the blog during the trip between too much to do, some kind of messed up feed to Facebook, and internet issues. Ruminating on some posts but need to get more caught up first.

In the meantime, here's a guest post of sorts I did on the "Mad In Minnesota" blog.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Road Trip - Day 3

I posted in an on-line board that Beatrix was "travelling like a rockstar" and a friend wanted to know if she was throwing parties and trashing hotel rooms. Well, kind of...

Yesterday what should have been a 9-hour day was 12 hours due to construction and monsoon-like rains. I have never seen rain like that, that lasted that long. Constant hydroplaning and driving through lake-like flooding, and visibility so bad we could often not see the car in front of us. It was insane.

We finally reached Molly and Bernard's place on Lake Cayuga and settled in — and it was worth the drive. Their cabin is charming, the view incredible, and we're all having a great time. Beatrix's favorite part of today was "seeing the ducks on the lake," though I think she had a lot of favorites, actually — "swimming," playing with the dog, playing with the 6 and 9 year old boys, and generally having a lot of freedom.

We have our own little guest cottage, so have plenty of space and privacy, while getting to hang out with wonderful friends. It's the best of all worlds.

I'm having the perfect foodie vacation — today we visited a goat dairy and had wonderful cheese (plus the kids loved the goats), tasted some incredible hard cider, and visited a lovely vineyard.

I needed this vacation!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Road Trip Day 1

(Before I post, I should add the requisite warning that we have left vicious dog, burly housesitter, a cadre of contractors, etc. at home, so if you are reading this with the intention of stealing all we own while we are gone, think twice.)

Made it as far as South Bend, IN, today, and staying at a very lovely Residence Inn courtesy of our first experience with Priceline. large semi-suite with full kitchenette, family feel, pool and hot tub, internet, free breakfast, and even a free dinner with tumblers of wine to bring back up to our room. What's not to like? Thanks for the tip, Elaine!

Beatrix was really an awesome traveller, and I hope I haven't just jinxed our luck by saying that. We had a great day all hanging out together, playing car games, telling stories, and stopping for periodic breaks. Whether climbing the play equipment at the rest stop, doing jumping jacks at Chipotle, or watching for cows/sheep/horses, it was a lot of fun. I even got to ride in the front seat like an adult the whole day! (of course, I'm too wiped to get any work done, how does sitting in a car and navigating all day do that to you?)

Wish us the same experience tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

House-work

Over the years, I've worked off and on for a local realtor, writing brochure copy for his high-end homes. For whatever reason, he has not called me to do write-ups lately, and I was missing the experience.

However, today he called me and had me walk through two houses, and it was so much fun! I'll admit that, in the past, writing about painfully similar, new-construction suburban homes has sometimes been challenging; though they are each distinctive in some way, they often have many of the same amenities, and it's hard to make them stand apart. Luckily, the two I walked through today were lovely and very different — a Lundie-inspired lake cottage, and a relatively new home that was especially distinctive and charming.

Glad to be back at it!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pinterest

I'm a champion at finding ways to distract myself from deadlines.

In grad school, as I was studying for comps, I developed an all-consuming interest in make-up (you can see how well that worked). While planning our wedding, I worked on the house.

Now, two days before we leave for a cross-country trip and as all my clients are freaking out that I'll be out of the office for 10 days, I have developed a consuming passion for Pinterest. Rather than packing or getting work done, I'm scouring sites and pinning ideas.

I think I need a vacation...

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(I can be found on Pinterest here, if you're interested in wasting time with me...)

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Scene" at Play by Play

In some ways, there's no point in me adding my voice to something that others have said far better than I. But this morning, Patrick, Beatrix and I headed down to the all-too-sad closing sale at Play by Play Books. As Beatrix played in the shop that she loves and feels at home with (and rifled the candy bowl), and as Patrick discussed on the phone with him mom what books she needed, I looked around and already felt a profound sense of loss. I wanted to buy every book in the store, to give them homes, to know that that knowledge was somewhere safe. Even more, I wanted the sense of community that Kelly has worked so hard to foster. But as Kelly gave up her dream to realize, community is harder to form than you might think.

I'm not saying anyone in particular is to blame — not those who did not shop there, not Kelly for her choice of location, to construction or Amazon.com or anything else. But I am saying that I picked up a big bag of books today for $80, and while times have been pretty tight lately and books are just one of the things I have not been buying, well, that purchase would not have been much more, and would have done Kelly a lot more good, 2 months ago. So I guess what I've learned is that if I want something in my community, I have to be part of it. I know that intellectually, but this was a pretty hard-hitting demonstration.

If you want to support Kelly and Play by Play, there's a lot left in the closing sale, going on now. But what would mean perhaps as much to her? If there's a local place that you love, go in this weekend. Make a point to support them, to tell them you want them in your community.

I'm sorry, Kelly. I'm going to miss your dream more than you know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Anniversary



I can't believe it's been five years since I was lucky enough to marry Patrick Rhone. In some ways it seems like it was just yesterday — I remember all the details of the candlelit ceremony so vividly, and it feels like we have just begun our lives together. In other ways, it feels like we have fit an entire lifetime of experiences in those five years. Though we've experienced a lot of hardship, there's been a lot of magic too, and when I think about our life and what we have — careers we love, a beautiful daughter, amazing family and friends, two fantastic houses — it just doesn't get much better.

Thanks to a babysitting night from Krista Walsh, we were able to go out to Travail last night and have an incredible, 10-course tasting menu as we celebrated our first five years of marriage and talked about the future. As incredible as the meal was, it pales to the company. Happy anniversary, honey! I love you!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Groupon Shopping Success

I think this is the point where I admit my email in-box full of deals is like a little morning treasure trove. However, I have several friends who are extremely anti-Groupon(type offers), and I appreciate their advocacy for supporting local business.

But in my best-of-all-worlds experience yesterday, I discovered and supported two local businesses, which I plan to return to often and promote, due to their great customer service and sense of place.

I actually discovered Shoe Zoo via a coupon this winter. They have a reputation for being expensive that kept me away, but with the deal-site offer, I decided to try it out. I've since become a big convert; their shoes are the same price as anywhere else and are often on sale, the upstairs outlet is AMAZING, the staff is great, and they send Beatrix home with a free balloon. She always finds shoes there that she loves. Far more rewarding than scouring the internet for deals. This weekend I used the deal offer stacked with 20% off the outlet, so threw in a pair of shoes I would not ordinarily have purchased. Now my one-stop kids shoe store.

We then headed to Sunnyside Gardens, a new-to-us neighborhood garden center. I find plenty to overwhelm me at neighborhood garden centers, plus stellar service and personality, without having to go to huge places, thanks! (plus I love that smaller places often have more unusual plants). We bought great annuals for the planters in the backyard, and can hardly wait to go back.

So, a great family morning shopping, good deals, and a newly converted customer who will return and spend much more — I would say that everyone wins in this case!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Veolia

And here's an example of customer service issues that have gotten completely out of control.

For several years, I have had 2 properties served by Veolia, the Summit house and the Ashland house. Literally EVERY TIME I sent in payment, they would mess it up and apply the payments to the wrong account, resulting in a credit to one account and arrears to the other. Several phone calls, late charges, etc. later, they would solve it, only to make the exact same mistake in the next bill.

So I switched Ashland to e-bill. That way I could send the paper check from Summit, and pay Ashland on-line. I successfully do this for 2 billing cycles.

They forget to pick up the Christmas tree I asked them to haul, and by the time I got through to them to solve it it was too late, but at least the billing was correct.

Except then they "upgraded" the e-bill. Which apparently meant that everyone had to re-register, but they did not tell anyone that. So I didn't get an e-bill. I eventually got a paper bill, which I put aside until I realized "Hey, I have not gotten a bill in awhile" and promptly paid it.

I sent the bill on May 10, they processed it May 13, and it cleared my bank on May 16. They did not pick up the trash on the 17th or the 24th. I call today to see what is up with this, and basically they suspended service, and entered the check, so now I have a big outstanding credit.

So even though it's their fault that:
- they did not e-bill me
- that the entered the payment incorrectly

I have to pay them $30 to come out and pick up my trash. The "customer service" agent then decided it was appropriate to berate me for not opening the paper bill (you know, the one I was not supposed to get so was not looking for) and paying it earlier.

I terminated service (for which they plan to charge me $35 in a friendly touch), and immediately signed up with Allied Waste who was very helpful and happy to have my business.

I could go on in a parable about the customer service issues here, but I think you get my point. If you own a business, remember that YOUR CUSTOMERS ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE, even if you make it difficult for them to exercise that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More House News!



In an anecdote that will no doubt amuse those of you familiar with my house obsessions, Beatrix does NOT, as many of her friends do, have an imaginary friend. She has an imaginary house, which she refers to constantly as "my new house." Descriptions of it vary, but it appears to be brown, 2-story, sometimes very close by and sometimes far away, and have a pool with icky green water in the back. She lives there with her grandfather, who sometimes lets her watch all the TV she wants and sometimes won't let her watch it at all. It has a horsey bed. And someday, if we're good, we can visit her there.

In a solution that is perhaps nowhere as grand as her "New House," last weekend we got Beatrix a playhouse off of Craig's List (the pictures are dark because I took them in the garage before we moved it into the yard). It's pretty amazing, actually, with windowboxes (which we planted with marigolds yesterday), closing shutters that cover the windows (because faux shutters that would not actually fit over the windows are the bane of my existence), a doorbell that works, and nice sturdy construction. I can already tell it's going to be a summer of playhouse games. Which suits me just fine.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New New Moon

I've mourned the passing of Theatre de la Jeune Lune much more that I thought I would (even after spending over 12 years working there). Seeing the building sit empty and leaking, going to shows that critics called "Jeune-Lune reminiscent" but weren't quite there, even the momentos in our home.

So it's been really good for me, in the last few weeks, to see some amazing shows that perhaps begin a new era.

Over at Nimbus Theatre, Barbra Berlovitz stars in Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. Barbra is such a compelling performer, and the book is one of my all-time favorites, so I was a little afraid to see it on stage. But the performance is amazing — luminescent and powerful — that it reached to my inner being in the way that theatre does more than any other medium. Her performance, like the book, gains its ultimate effect from the passion of dispassion, and Barbra is spot-on. I've seen her perform since Jeune Lune, but nothing liek this.

Then, last night, we went to the opening night of Come Hell or High Water, by The Moving Company (the new Dominique Serrand and Steve Epp company, which also featured Nathan Keepers and Christina Baldwin and a large and very talented chorus. I don't even have words. The actors I know well have matured and somehow gotten even better, for incredibly stirring performances. Those new to me were a delight. The scenography was beautiful and evocative; the story all the more compelling if you listen to NPR today. I'm still thinking about the show.

I've recently seen Bob's studio; I know that Vincent is happy in France; I even caught a glimpse of a hard-hat tour Steve Richardson led down at Carleton.

For the first time, it seems like there might be a post-TJL world that incorporates the passion and poetry I had while I was there. I hope so.

See the shows.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Coming to Terms with Mother's Day

So once again I face the inherent emotional conflict that has come to be Mother's Day for me.

In some ways, it's beyond perfect. Patrick went out of his way to make me way ideal, taking care of me, an incredible gift that he knew I really wanted (more on that later), sleeping in, coffee, a haircut, a nap, relaxation. The Hanafin family has a Mother's Day Brunch tradition; for the last several years it's been at the Lake Elmo Inn, and that was delicious. Beatrix got me a board book about animal moms ("I picked it out for myself!"), which I know is Clara validating how important reading with Beatrix is to me. I'm trying really hard to even think about work and domestic tasks that are stacked up, and to just enjoy the day. Were the story to end here, it would be lovely.

But it doesn't. There's always a hole in the day where my mother should be. There's the societal expectation that I *should* probably be done grieving, when the truth is that I just grieve in a different way, a way that often sneaks up on me and strikes me unawares. I am starting to know more people who are losing parents, and even some that are losing children — an unimaginable grief — and when we talk about how we feel, I'm always struck by the fact that out experiences are so universally the same.

With others that our motherless, particularly, we discuss how it feels to have lost the person in your life who knew you the longest, with whom you always had that relationship of interwoven strength and vulnerability. With those who are moms, we talk about how we wish we had asked so many more questions of what we were like when we were young; we commiserate about how jealous we are when other people's mothers take care of the kids for the night or spoil the kids with a special holiday outfit; most of all, we feel terrible that our children don't have those grandmothers that by rights they should have.

There isn't any way to magically fix this, and in some ways, that's the hardest part. The people in my life work their hardest to try to make it better for me, by giving Beatrix grandmother-like experiences, by letting me know that they remember my mom and are thinking of me, by working really hard to make my Mother's Day lovely. In no way do I mean to seem ungrateful, because I see these things and they mean SO much to me. But I miss my mom terribly, and I want her here, and there's not a day in my life when I wonder if there wasn't something different I could have done to have her still with us.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A New Era

9/11 was, literally, a different lifetime ago. I was still at Jeune Lune, still married to Chris, my mother was in perfect health...We had a Jeune Lune intern living with us, and his girlfriend was visiting from New York for the weekend, so stayed several extra days. Together, like everyone else in the country, we watched hours of footage and wondered how it would mean the world would change.

That was soon answered. Years of colored threat levels, of shoeless airports and travel containers, of subway bombs and nightclub attacks, of vilifying the Islamic other and politicizing the personal (and the idiotic) until many times I don't recognize the world. At the same time, we've developed a citizen-journalism based news network (including my Twitter feed that kept me amused, informed, and exasperated last night), and elected our first Islamic congressman.

The news of Osama's death last night was a very adult moment for me. It's the first time I can remember waiting anxiously for the whitehouse.gov broadcast, and thinking about how the world would hopefully be very different for my daughter. I'm not glad — I don't think I could ever rejoice about someone's death, no matter how evil they were. I fear for retaliation, and I fear just as much the "easy answer" of thinking that now that Bin Laden is gone, the kind of extreme hatred/fear/misunderstanding that engendered the whole situation will somehow magically be over. I certainly don't know how to go back to as it was before, and I'm not sure we want to anyway. This is a far too simplistic way (because that what blogs are for) of summing up some very complex thoughts that I still have not fully considered.

But it feels like just *maybe*, if we don't fuck it up, it could be some kind of new beginning. I hope so.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Work

It seems like my only answer, lately, when people ask what I've been doing has been "work." To which people often respond "I'm never really sure what you do." So I thought it would add clarity to get it all written down:

- Regular clients: I have five regular clients — Circus Juventas, Open Eye Figure Theatre, the MN State Council of SEIU, the Mental Health Association of MN, and the Macalester-Groveland Community Council. For each of these organizations, I go in 1-2 time a week for a few hours at a time, generally solving their business management needs. This ranges from the basic needs, like accounting, budgets and payroll, to audit prep, to human resources, to all kinds of things like solving sales tax exemption, clearing up invoices, correcting wrong invoices, insurance needs, workers comp audits, and the like.

- Strategic planning: I'm currently working with the Rosemount Area Arts Council, the Arts Consortium of Carver County, and the Dakota County Arts Collaborative to set up strategic plans for these burgeoning community-based arts organizations. It's really fun work, tapping into my twin passions of arts and community. I'm very surprised at how different each organization is, proving that there is no one standard approach.

- Evaluation: As well as the focus groups and other evaluation I am doing for the community groups above, I am in the process of coordinating a set of focus groups and other evaluation techniques for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. Working with MRAC and the people in the focus groups has also been interesting and informative.

- Tour booking: I've been working with Theatre of Fools to book a tour of their vaudeville shows throughout Minnesota, as part of a MSAB grant (plus I've been working with them on some front of house and social media). This has been the hardest nut to crack, since even with Legacy Fund monies, outstate performing arts venues are still often as cash-strapped as their metro-area counterparts. So if you're running a performance venue in Minnesota, let's talk — I have a great, mostly-subsidized show to bring you!

- Fundraising: I've been working with Nimbus Theatre on a capital campaign for their new space. They've amazed me by turning a vacant, unheated warehouse into a cozy theatre in six weeks in time for their first show of the season, and are about to open The Year of Magical Thinking with Barbra Berlovitz next week.

- Grant panels: I'm currently sitting on two grant panels, so have spent most of my reading time in the past several weeks reading grants. This can be especially tricky because you can't read too many in a row without your mind turning into mush.

- Preservation: Tom Zahn (Thomas R. Zahn and Associates; I'm often the Associate) and I have recently finished up several projects, and are currently bidding on several more. Bids take as long as project work often does, since they usually need to be fully researched, but no one pays you to bid! Plus, as president of SARP I'm working on a lot of (unpaid) preservation work, including the upcoming Garden Stroll.

So when I say "work," it's really what I mean. I love what I do, but after looking at that list I have to get out and have some fun — suggest something to me! Conversely, I am always looking for new projects, so hit me up...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Day

This is what I know about Earth Day this year:

1) Old Navy is collecting old flip-flops starting tomorrow to recycle into playground mulch. Since I hate flip-flops and think they signify all that's wrong with America, I highly endorse this effort.

2) Lots of places are giving away free coffee when you bring in your travel mug. Caribou and Starbuck's are the usual suspects, but you had better not get in the way of my salted caramel latte at Common Roots.

3) Origins is letting you trade in your old cleanser for their stuff, and the Disney Store is giving away free carry bags if you turn in 5 plastic ones.

4) I am not telling Beatrix about Earth Day yet, because she goes nuts for holidays. However, we are at loose ends tomorrow night because Patrick is at some media event, so I suppose we'll have to find a way to celebrate...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reading

No, I haven't been writing. I've been reading — strategic plans, grant proposals, a little Bill Bryson. And lots of numbers. It's good, but better when I'm writing.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Her Hysterical Nostalgia

Lovely date night tonight at Blackbird (first time since they re-opened), and then to see Week 3 of It's Women's Work at Open Eye. Blew me away.

Zhauna's work has captivated me since I first saw her with the Dolls, some 20+ years ago. She's the kind of performer who pulls you in to the piece, to take an active role in experiencing it. Distinctive as her aesthetic is. she has not had as many chances as she likely should have to create her own work, and we talked about that, and her vision for this piece, a few weeks back at an Open Eye event. Granted, I don't see enough dance to begin with, but tonight's piece was one of the more compelling artistic experiences I have had in some time. Each time I close my eyes they are filled with images and with power.

Go see it. Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 7 at Open Eye — reserve tickets now, because tonight was full and once word gets out, it will get fuller.

--

Also amazing images by the very talented Keri Pickett. Happy I could share this wonderful date night with my wonderful husband who gets it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Other Mother

This post is part of The Week of Understanding, which has already taught me a lot about putting myself in someone else's shoes.

When I was fourteen, I realized I didn't want to be a mother. I had a summer "mother's helper" kind of job in which I cared for two young children, and much as I loved them, I was very happy to turn them over to their mother at night. In college, I remember my friend Fran sprawled out studying with he, with her head on my stomach, exclaiming "I have never heard a more barren womb!" My career and lifestyle — lots of long and irregular hours, nightly events, a house filled with hazards, world travel — were in no way child-oriented. We had a lot of friends who were childless by choice, and many more whom, though I enjoyed being with their kids, I felt that same relief at the end of the night.

And then, all in a breath, my life changed. I was no longer at the demanding job that had defined my life for the last decade, my marriage ended, and most of all, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Though at that time I did not actively decide I wanted to be a mother, I certainly mourned the exclusion of it from my life, because at that time that door seemed very firmly closed.

Two years later, another major change. I was married again, I had two stepsons who I loved dearly, and on Christmas Day, my mother passed away. With us both turning 40 later that year, we took a deep breath and thought "Why not?" And almost at that exact some moment of that exhalation of hope, our daughter was conceived.

So now I'm at that other side of motherhood. Some things are the same, and some are very different. I'm in another demanding job, which I love, but it has flexibility and it has to stop when my daughter needs me, and for both my clients and me, that's ok. We travel, perhaps not as spontaneously or exotically as before, but travelling with her seems to mean more, too. I'm already planning the Big Trips, and even the ones like Disneyworld. We go out less, but as I put it "We don't go out for as many fun things, but every day is immeasurably more fun." I have to say that the morning Princess Dance Party beats the vast majority of the Ironic Hipster Events I've been to in my lifetime. And so, for a choice that seemed to perhaps offer me less, I am given more and more each day.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Old Friends

I love it when my worlds collide, and it's been happening a lot this week.

Tonight I was able to finally experience live the photography of Deb Sussex, who I first met in a winter camping week at Widji 31 years ago. I can't believe how great it was to see her agin, having lost touch so many years ago, and to see her beautiful work glowing on the Open Eye gallery wall was amazing (do see it, if you can, it's up all weekend and selling fast!)

I was able to talk to my beautiful artist friends Nance and Mary, who I have also not seen in a long time, and learn about exciting adventures in their lives and their families.

Best of all, I was able to hug and laugh with and talk with my amazing friend Nine, and her stunningly impressive daughter Hannah. Nine has held the title of "best friend" since I first met her that same week at Widji. Over the years we've walked in the snow, written long letters, seen each other when we can, and though we don't communicate nearly often enough, have been in each others' hearts. I was reminded as we talked just how well she knows me, and how much we can easily just pick things up. And I was so happy she could talk to Patrick and see my beautiful, spirited little girl (who is just as at home as she can be on the Open Eye stage).

A mutual friend once wrote me "Nine is a witch who uses her powers for good to show people how to love," and it's true. Seeing the beautiful smile on my friend's face as we walked in the door and as she immediately ran over to hug us was one of the best parts of my year so far.