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!

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.


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.


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.