Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Decade

Ten years ago tonight, I was not sitting in my living room typing. I was down the hill, at United Hospital, sitting in a room and wondering if my mother would die that night.

For those that knew me then, that was quite the summer. My marriage had shattered, I had serious fibroids that could cause me to lose quarts of blood at a time, my house had been broken in to, and even the cat had been diagnosed with diabetes. But really, all that seemed of no consequence compared to the day in early July when my mother had called me with stomach pain, and had been diagnosed when I took her to the ER with stage IV colon cancer.

That was sort of a lost summer. I don't remember eating, or sleeping much. I remember days at the hospital, and hot summer nights sitting outside drinking with friends and trying to make some sense of what had become my life. I remember specific moments with extreme clarity — my friends Robert and Jan giving me a window fan, visiting Jennifer and Ken as they spent that summer in the NICU with Harry, crying on Tom's porch, Annie taking me to Fringe shows, sitting for hours in various late-night locations with Dan, eating burritos in Carrie and Jason's kitchen, listening to the stack of cds Mark sent, Psycho Suzi's patin (the old location), reading Clinton's biography while sitting in the sticky naugahyde hospital chair. It was before blogs, and Twitter, and Facebook, when the only way to connect was to lie on the floor and talk on the phone for hours (or long, long emails). And for each very specific moment etched into my consciousness is a crazy blur of just-getting-through.

It was a hard, hard summer — the definition of "life-changing." I'm amazed I made it through — and so very grateful that I did, and for the person it made me. It seems like yesterday, and like another lifetime ago (and really it was). And it was ten years ago, and that amazes me.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Garden Plea for Help

(file under resolution "Restore the Soul of the Summit House"…)

About 10 years back, my mother contracted with a landscaping firm (which shall remain nameless), to do a lot of work at Summit. She wanted a firm boundary between the house and the house to the east (which has literary aspirations to both Boo Radley and Miss Havisham), so they planted 4 large magnolias. Under those, they planted Annabelle hydrangeas — in front of those they put Nikko blue hydrangeas (that never flower, much less in blue) — and in front of them some scattered astilbe.

And really the whole thing (except the hydrangeas) looks like crap. The space is shaded, yes, but faces west, so the astilbe gets fried. The underplanting looks terrible. The hydrangeas only bloom on the neighbors' side (and are too big).

Tell me, dear reader, what should we do? How should we underplant? Should we tempt to divide the hydrangeas? Will the blue ones ever make it? Just don't tell me to cut down the magnolias.

Seriously, we need help.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cabin Fever

Like many other Minnesotans, "going up to the cabin" is an important part of summer for us (interesting anthropological note — I never really knew why cabins were so important in Minnesota, until I found out that, in Scandinavia, it is very common to have a cabin retreat, even if it's a relatively modest one. Here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, we simply replicate the tradition, and almost always place it on the water).

In our case, "the cabin" was built by my grandmother's family in Lake Osakis in 1902. Originally a log cabin surrounded by a screen porch on 3 sides, the porch was enclosed by salmon-pink siding the in the 1950s, and a full kitchen and bathroom added. It's changed somewhat since then, but not much. There's a lot of tradition behind the orange logs, and the psychiatrist's couch, and the Murphy beds).

The area, however, has changed a lot. When I was growing up, our family members (my grandmother's cousins) owned several other places along the point. Dottie Lindberg owned the farmhouse next door, and a sprawling acreage along the full other side of the point, with cabins for rent. A big, falling-down barn sat at the end of the lane. In the last 25 years, much has changed. Dottie died, and her land was subdivided into several large lots, with a full road going through. One family bought the point land and built a big compound, and our relatives all sold off their places. Even my mom sold her half to my aunt and uncle.

However, they are generous enough to let us go up several times a summer, and in many ways, life for Beatrix is exactly as my summers were. She plays in the water, catches frogs in buckets, talks to the neighbors and plays with their dogs, eats M&M pancakes, spreads out the farm set on the floor, sleeps under the "horsey" blanket, makes s'mores, and generally loves the place with a fierce passion.

And we love it too. But this morning (afar a long weekend of dealing with pump problems and a "we're -not-out-of-the-woods-yet" emergency with the dog ingesting mouse poison), I realized that, almost 47 years in, I have finally stopped loving the cabin like a child, and started enjoying it like an adult. It made me feel closer to my mother, and her love of the place, and made it even more precious to me. It's a pretty amazing change of view.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Some More Dining Out

We've also hit a few other places lately….

Had dinner at Sweet Pea's Public House a couple of weeks back (super-local types will remember it as the old Goby's). I had been insanely obsessed with trying it since it opened, and we had a nice meal with a friend and her daughter. It's a lot cleaner and lighter than Goby's but the decor is nothing to write home about, though there was plenty of room for the girls to dance and do skits after they finished eating. I had a lobster-avocado grilled cheese that was pretty awesome, but Patrick had a burger that he took home leftovers from — and promptly got food poisoning so badly from the leftovers that he missed his Goruck challenge … so I doubt he'll want to eat there again anytime soon…

Yesterday, after a summer of discussion between Patrick and myself of "Are taprooms ok for kids?" we finally went over to Burning Brothers Brewery on Thomas and Wheeler. Burning Brothers is co-owned by the father of one of Beatrix's classmates, so we figured it might be somewhat kid-friendly to go in the afternoon, and it was. We enjoyed lovely infused (and gluten free) beer, and played "Penguin Pile Up" with Beatrix. Fun and close by — we'll be back. I would really like to go to some other taprooms soon.

Adding those to some old favorites (The Lowry, Punch, and a so-so dinner at Green Mill made better by going at happy hours and kids-eat-free night so to was pretty cheap), and some great Independence Day party dining (BBQ, anyone?), and it's been a great couple of weeks of food!

Also super-excited to hear that a version of the Town Talk is returning, that a second Tilia may be opening in Saint Paul off the Green Line, and that Bradstreet Crafthouse is expanding and moving into the old Rye space (much as I will miss hanging at Rye with my friend Sarah). One new place I am not too excited about is Nelson's Ice Cream in the old Palumbo's spot on Snelling; they seem to mask generic-tasting ice cream with overly-large servings, and it makes me miss the Palumbo's gelato all the more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cocktail Garden

The food-oriented posts continue. It must be summer.

We have a vegetable garden — a raised bed garden we put in last summer. And we have big beds full of perennials, many of which I have gotten off a perennial exchange site this year. But what I really wanted this year was a cocktail garden, so I could make some fun and interesting new drinks. After all, it's #summerofgin.

So I grabbed two planters I had found in the alley last year (one for here, one for Summit). Patrick got me a few herbs at the Farmers' Market (chamomile, chocolate mint, rosemary, lavender, lemon verbena), and I added some from the same plant exchange (lemon balm, spearmint, lemon mint). Then I marked them with some corks, to keep on the bar theme.

Now, all I need are some good recipes, and friends to come drink. Cocktails, anyone?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Food and Art

Yeah, see, one restaurant review and already I am a food blogger.

But seriously, in the last week I have been lucky enough to attend two great food and art pairings (well, three if you count totchos at Tracy's after seeing Rosy Simas' awesome installation, but that's kind of an unlikely mix…)

The first was attending a benefit for Mixed Precipitation's Picnic Operetta. It was a lovely evening, held at the garden, studio, and theatre at Open Eye (gosh, I love that space). The drinks were delicious (gin rickey, of course, since it is #summerofgin), the food innovative, and the company lovely. If you don't know the concept of the Picnic Operetta — they put on opera performances in community gardens though out the harvest season. Tickets are by donation, the performances are first rate, and then they pair the performances with delicious food, all local, some grown especially for them. I can't think of a company that is more truly holistic in how they pair feeding the soul with feeding the body. Do NOT miss the shows this year!

Then, we attended 3-pkwy at Skewed Visions. It's a series where the artistic members (in this round Gulgun Kayim) curate an evening of new work at the studio. It was sold out, and wonderful! The first part was German artist Sandra Teitge discussing her project Dinner Exchange Americana, another fascinating idea and cultural commentary. To be honest, it was less successful in the 3-Play format than I would like, but I am excited to see it elsewhere, and that's the whole point of 3-Play, to take risks and try new things.

Food and art, interested to see how these things can pair without losing the integrity of each….