Thursday, February 27, 2014

Unleash the Hounds!

I've long wanted to be an Art Hound, but have never signed up to do it. Part of it was that so much of what I see is stuff that I am involved with, part of it was actually planning ahead to see something I'm not involved with, part of it sheer inertia.

But I'm excited to see Gidion's Knot at Pillsbury House (and it's pay-what-you-can, and there's free childcare, and even an art installation in the space). So I pitched it to the friendly hounds, and boom, there I was in the deluxe MPR studios, recording away.

Chris Roberts was a blast to hang out with and talk to, and the other Hounds this week have some fantastic plans, so come on….

Unleash those hounds!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Putting My Money Where My Market Is

I've been a co-op member for a long time. When I first moved back to the Twin Cities, I was a proud Hampden Park Co-op working member. Once or twice a month we would go in, stock the shelves, fill coolers, cut and package cheese, and do whatever needed to be done. It felt kind of like summer camp at Widji — a whole bunch of earthy crunchy types working together to make something happen.

In the 1990s, the corner of Selby and Dale was a bleak, empty lot. Various developers floated less and less attractive plans for the site, chastising the community for not falling over themselves to welcome an Un-Bank, a video chain, or fast food. We were told that spot would never be developed, that the neighborhood was too bad. We were told we needed to vacate streets and accept poor quality construction. We, as a neighborhood, said "No."

It was before the term "food desert" came into common use, but there weren't exactly a plethora of shopping options available. I worked with a group thinking about establishing our own hardscrabble co-op, and stayed up late looking st spreadsheets and options (see, nothing has changed). I just could not make it viable, and neither could anyone else on the team. Then, Mississippi Market hired a new General Manager, Allen Mathewson. Allen came in with a Southern drawl and made it his mission to get the Market board to expand. He and I sat many nights doing traffic counts on those corners. We talked to members, and to the community, and to anyone who would listen. And eventually, the board made the very risky decision to build there. It was a really rough few years as they started out, but they made it, and thrived.

Years later, that same store paid back its vote of confidence by funding the relocation and expansion of the Highland store when they lost their lease. And today, despite the encroachment of lots of other shopping options, Mississippi Market still thrives. I go to some of those other stores, but the Market still feels the most like home.

And now, in the same way the board once listened to my little group, they have responded to the Gateway co-op group on the East Side, and are proposing a new store over there, across from the Swede Hollow Cafe.

So for Patrick and myself, it was important to support that. We're not exactly rolling in extra funds right now. But yesterday we walked in and signed forms and put what we could into a member loan to help fund the new store.

And damn if it wasn't one of the best feelings I've had since holding a shovel at the Selby-Dale groundbreaking years ago.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


I'm feeling very lucky tonight about the people in my life.

I just got back from a wonderful book club. My book club, the WAMBATS, has been meeting for almost 20 years. We have wonderful meetings, where I'm afraid we discuss the book less than we should, but only because we have so much to catch up on with each other. Our friendships are deep and real, and these wonderful women know me so well.

Last night, we went to our friends Sarah and Kevin's for a Chinese New Year party. Our children are to the age where they can amuse themselves, so we can have all sorts of discussions, ranging from the Oxford comma to everyone's seminal movie. Do you ever leave a party feeling wonderfully refreshed and invigorated?

Already this month I've had some fascinating lunches, wonderful dinners with other sets of friends, a wine and Girl Scout cookie pairing with another array of impressive women, and even some good Facebook exchanges. I don't know what I've done to have such wonderful and fascinating people in my life, but I am very, very lucky.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Girl Scout Cookies

This is the first year Beatrix has been a Daisy. I wasn't a Girl Scout — my family tradition is Camp Fire Girls — but I have really appreciated the emphasis on friendship and values in her troupe. It's a nice contrast to her other extracurriculars (circus, ballet, violin, Spanish). And of course, right now is Girl Scout Cookie time!

I was unprepared, actually, for the various vituperative cookie controversies.

Most offensive is "CookieCott," which wants us to boycott Girl Scout cookie sales because the Girl Scouts cite Wendy Davis and Kathleen Sebelius (among others including Hillary Clinton, Betty Freidan, Amnesty International, and NOW) as worthy role models. Personally, if my daughter grows up to be the kind of woman that exemplifies those principles, I will be immensely proud. If anything, it makes me realize how very good the Girl Scouts could be for my daughter, and what kind of values they exemplify.

(As an aside, a competing group offers a badge for protesting outside Planned Parenthood. Exactly what I want my daughter to be doing — rolls eyes).

But controversy comes in many forms, and it's almost harder when it comes from people I believe in. This weekend I watched a minor twitter-explosion about the quality of the ingredients and how Girl Scouts would be better off baking themselves than peddling cookies. While I respect my foodie friends, I'll humbly suggest that, in this case at least, it's not about the baked goods (though I do like that the cookies are locally baked and distributed, which is why they vary by area, why they are different in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and why the Duluth chapter offers a gluten-free variety). It's about what it does for the girls and their troupe and their activities.

Beatrix is a little slow to warm up to it all, but when she does, she loves to tell you about what their troupe will do with the funds and why she likes to be a Daisy. She'll even try to do the math of selling you a few boxes (don't worry, I'll double check it). Any maybe, just maybe, it will lead her to be another Wendy Davis, someday.

(let me know if you want to order some cookies from her)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mom Wins

In the case of work/life balance, I'm at best a C-student. Between work, friends, the house, being a mom and a wife, and everything else, I come up short in at least one area daily. But tonight — just tonight — I am reveling in great mom-successes. (Shh, I know this is at the detriment of everything else. But humor me for now.)

Beatrix turned 6 this weekend and was thrilled with her birthday weekend. We somehow pulled off a "Frozen" party (more on that later), and spent the day itself at Como Zoo and Conservatory, a Finnish cultural event at Landmark Center, and at Rainforest Cafe for dinner (her pick, obviously). I can't believe she's 6.

We received word that her portfolio review was successful and qualified her for Gifted and Talented services. We have not made up our minds if we'll send her to the G&T school yet (if we even get in), but we've applied and at least that door is open.

She had African-American Parent Involvement Day today, and Patrick joined her for lunch (BBQ chicken and cornbread - rolls eyes). Next week is her Author Workshop. Plus she has the Valentine's concert this week (she's constantly singing the songs and reciting the poems), and she auditioned and got a spot in the all-school talent show next week. I'm excited that she is learning that hard work and practice pay off.

Perhaps most awesomely, she started her school Book Club today, and tonight she came home and read US a book for the first time, called "Big Ears." She was so incredibly excited about it that my heart totally swelled.

She started her school valentines tonight, and is thrilled that the Summit house is heart-bombed.

Today I received word she was awarded a scholarship for a 2-week summer camp at ArtStart, which helps us get the whole summer lined up. It's still quite the game of summer-camp-tetris (so far in the mix is likely Camp DayCroix, ArtStart, and the Gibbs Farm Museum, with maybe Camp Invention, the Science Museum, and Steppingstone), but it's starting to fall into place.

And she's thrilled to be selling Girl Scout cookies. More on that later too, but we're hosting a wine-and-cookie pairing party or two in the next couple weeks, so let us know if you want to attend, or just want to buy cookies. Her big goal is 1000 boxes — I'll be happy if she does 50!

I try hard, and despite that, I'm not always good at the mom-thing. But right now, at least, it's feeling pretty great.

Monday, February 3, 2014

How a Sassy Nordic Girl Outflanked the Mouse

If I wasn't trying to throw a "Frozen" birthday party for a 6-year-old this weekend, I would be very amused about how the movie has unhinged the normally extremely-customer-overaware Disney empire. This is a company who plans every part of your experience down to the last moment, who is a genius at cross-marketing, who runs their amusement parks like a cross between a Swiss watch and a German rail line — and they were completely unready for what a hit "Frozen" has become.

(granted, the experience is likely even more intense here in Minnesota, where we all are slightly Nordic and it does feel like some wicked enchantment has frozen our land in perpetual winter). But I digress…

After all, "Frozen" is originally based on one of Andersen's fairytale "The Snow Queen." As these things go, it's not in the Top Ten canon of princess stories, though it's no "The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf" either. It languished in production for several years until finally being given an overhaul by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. Lee, by the way, is the first woman to have directed a Disney animated feature. I think at that point, Disney just wanted the thing done and off the shelves. They gave it a Thanksgiving weekend opening and hoped for modest success, along the lines of "Hercules"or "Anastasia."

"Frozen," however, had its own mind about that. The designers were meticulous in their planning, giving Arendelle the most detailed sense of place yet in any Disney film. The composers (Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez) showed their chops in the music, which has a very sophisticated, modern edge (I can't be the only one who hears the Jason Robert Brown stylings in "Love is an Open Door.") And of course the cast is incredible. My little girl wants to be Idina Menzel.

We were all hungry for a different kind of story, one where your sister loves you just as much (actually more!) than a prince, and for snowmen that dreamed of summer and kindly reindeer, for vaguely Sami ice cutters and a storeowner with his hunky Nordic husband and sauna full of kids. A place where a princess can have fierce wintery powers and grow up to be a beloved queen (instead of the villianess Disney originally envisioned her as).

"Frozen" is now Disney's biggest animated opening of all time (and that's before the sing-a-long version was re-released last weekend, much to the dismay of the discount theaters who wanted to get it before the dvd release later this month). And, as my husband and I can assure you, the merchandise is ridiculously scarce. The party ware, the dolls, the figurines, the dresses — all with limited-to-no availability (and believe me, we've tried it all).

Disney calculated that Anna would be the heroine the little girls like, and so purportedly produced ten Anna items to each Elsa one (and now you can't get either!). When Patrick walked into the Disney store today and looked around dolefully, the sales person said "Let me guess. You're looking for Frozen? And specifically Elsa? Yeah, no luck. We unpack a load and there are 2-4 Elsa dolls, and they are gone that day." I guess my girl is not the only one who dreams of snow powers.

It's frustrating for party planning, and we've done a lot of work-arounds to come up with a "Frozen" party for Beatrix this weekend. But the whole thing actually makes my little feminist soul pretty happy. A strong princess with a voice born of by winter storms has inspired a whole legion of little girls, while her plucky and loyal sister has captivated us all. If Disney wanted to know what we really want out of our princesses, they've now heard that loud and clear.

So how about making some more?

ETA:  When I tweeted the link to this post, I checked out @DisneyFrozen. They have — wait for it — over 14,000 followers. And they have not yet tweeted.