Posts

Showing posts from 2016

Resolution Recap

Well, in the spectacular dumpster-fire way that 2016 was, I'm happy to report that I pretty much failed at ALL of my 2016 resolutions:

1) Photos. Frame and display a bunch. Put together some photo books. Organize iPhoto. Get rid of frames that are too twee or that I will never use.
NOPE. They are still sitting there.

2)  Storage. Organize storage spaces around the house so I can find things and be happier with what we have.
NOPE. Hot mess.
3)  Client work – improve, not just maintain. Circle around to some past clients and make sure they are still doing well. Make a conscious decision to network and land some new clients. Dedicate some real professional development time. Shuffle off client things that no longer make sense.
NOPE. But I didn’t crash and burn anyone either.

4)  Exercise. The lack of it is getting stupid.
NOPE. Just nope.
5)  Get our financial house in order. It’s not totally off the rails, but it could be much better.
NOPE. Hot mess.
6)  Have more fun!
NOPE. Politics.
7)  Talk l…

Fairy Doodles

Image
One of my goals for 2016 was to do more creative things. I was just about ready to chalk it up as a total fail when I came upon Doodletopia Fairies and decided to give it a try.

I have to say, I was at first intimidated by it. "SURE it's easy" I groused as I paged through and saw perfect drawing on one side and the instructions on the other. I put it away for a day, thinking there was no way I would even get that far.

But, on second look, it became a lot more manageable. The instructions are not overly demanding, leaving you a little space to experiment on your own. And though my first attends were not perfect, they were not bad either. I'm excited to spend some time over the winter holiday trying this with my 8-year-old daughter.

In summary — just the right amount of hand-holding to keep you feeling engaged, without being too didactic on the final product.


(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)

Holiday Nostalgia

Image
Yesterday was Beatrix's last day of school before winter break, so we decided to do some celebrating.

First we headed over to Rosedale to see a free mini-performance of The Nutcracker by Out on a Limb Dance. I have a lot of respect for their program, which is greta dance and has kids of all sizes and shapes performing, and we love The Nutcracker. It made Beatrix really anxious to dance again. After that we wandered the mall a little, including checking out The Limited, which is closing (I feel like I lost my youth just saying that). The entire mall was actually really dead and sort of run-down; I don't know if we have outgrown malls, or if malls have changed with an online culture. But it was kind of depressing.

We then decided to go to Macy's to see the Santaland on the 8th floor. I have not been in years, but my mom and I used to make a tradition of going every year, and shopping/having dinner downtown afterwards. In my youth, it changed every year, and the always-amazin…

Guerilla Gardening

Image
Beatrix and I wanted to make something special for teacher and friend gifts, but were not sure what to do besides the usual food gifts/ But then inspiration struck — why not make seed bombs for people?

A quick search on Pinterest gave us some great ideas. (Meanwhile, hero Patrick ran out on the snow to get some more seeds, since we realized that out seed packets were somehow empty and all we had were veggie seeds. Photo credits also to Patrick).

First, we tore colored tissue paper into small pieces, and mixed it with paper from the shredder to make a pulp (though we did have to pull out several parts that had had window envelopes). Beatrix thought tearing the paper was tedious, but stuck with it.

The info we had called for making the paper mulch into shapes using cookie cutters and squeezing out the water. We learned quickly that this was harder than it looked, but paper towels helped. We also realized we could not use cookie cutter shapes that were too intricate.

The information also…

December Days

"2016 has been so bad it doesn't even deserve a December" I quipped as the calendar page turned.

And then it mocked me even more by throwing even harder stuff at me — death and illness for those I care about, financial struggle, smaller issues like car problems that should be easier to get through but somehow are not. It's bone-chillingly cold, and I am tired and by the time I put Beatrix to bed at night I'm slogging along and can barely face the things I have to get done still that night.

And by now it's "deep December." I always start feeling crummy and overwhelmed exactly on the 12th, and it takes me a day to remember "oh, that's the day your mom was admitted to the hospital for the last time." It's a dull, nagging pain that gets more acute every day until Christmas, and it's worse this year because it's been ten years now, and milestone days are hard. Ten years seems like a lifetime — in many ways it is.

So I'm hold…

Cats and Guns

Image
Ok, I have to admit that I first thought How to Talk To Your Cats About Gun Safety would be more of a coffee table book, like "Why Cats Paint" or something. Though what I thought the pictures would be of I am not sure.

It turns out to be a funny little book that apparently stems out of an original zine of the same name. It's kind of grungy and cute and an amusing enough read.

This is where I have to warn you that if you are really talking to your cats about gun safety and teaching them to use firearms, it's more than a little weird....


(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)

Vanessa

Image
When I was about six months pregnant, I commented "I think we should have a doula."

Ever-practical Patrick was like "Why would we need a doula? I'll be there." (This is the same man who when I said "If I have a c-section would you go with the baby or stay with me?" said "What, is this one of those Cosmo quizzes?")

Eventually he agreed, though, that having an extra person around for Beatrix's birth would be a good thing. And the first time we met Vanessa, when we walked into Dunn Brothers to meet her and she was curled up with a 450-page book, we knew she was the right person for us. One of the best decisions we ever made).

Over the next several weeks, we spent a lot of time together as we tried different techniques to turn stubborn Beatrix around from breech (it worked!) and come up with a birth plan that we felt good about and Abbott would not pooh-pooh.

When we went in to one of our last pre-natal appointments, and they decided to admi…

Cashmere Cardigan

In the airport as we left London, I bought a soft, cozy cashmere cardigan that I have worn constantly since being home, wrapping in the memories of London.

Paris is a city you visit; London is a city you live in. While we spent a week in Paris being tourists and seeing things, we spent a week in London simply being. We shopped in all the High Street stores in St. John's Wood near our flat. Beatrix visited Hamley's Toy Store, and was in heaven. We met friends in pubs, my friend Ben took us around the new building at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Patrick's friend Matt flew down from Paisley for the day to join us.

We did to tourist-y things too. We did a bus tour, and a Thames River boat ride (so many changes in that area — and I hate to say it, but the Shard is beautiful!) We spent the morning at the Tower, where Beatrix told us about ghosts and we had a fantastic Beefeater guide. We drank tea at Kensington Palace. We went to several museums: the British Museum, the …

Guest Post on London

Image
London, by Beatrix:



London Food

Image
I was excited to read The London Cookbook for two reasons:

1)  It prepared me for our Thanksgiving week trip to London, and all the top restaurants I should have on my radar, and;

2)  I could cook all the delicious foods when I got back!

This is a heavy, thick book full of wonderful looking recipes and beautiful photos (plus some fun line drawings).

London's food has really developed some diversity and high standards, and (even with not going to many of the high end places), I would say we ate better in London than we actually did in Paris.

Back to the book, though. It's well developed, with chapters on light fare, soups, pastas, vegetarian, seafood, fowl, and meat. TWO chapters on desserts (chilled and regular), and cocktails — I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time at the back of the book...

This book is written with a great deal of love and affection for London, and that's exactly what I'm in the mood for right now. It's a beautiful tribute to a much-…

The Colors of Bowie

2016 has been a hard year, a year that's knocked us down in so many different ways, starting with the death of David Bowie. So when I knew I might need a little therapeutic coloring, I picked up the "David Bowie Retrospective and Coloring Book."

It's a little different than other adult coloring books I have worked on. Its small, square shape fits easily into a bag. The pictures are less about detailed pattern arrangement, and more about a specific look or costume. Each page has a facing page of big bubble lettering with a fact about Bowie or incident in his life. Though the costumes are effectively done, the illustrator has a hard time with his face — Bowie ends up looking more like a character in Jem and the Holograms than Ziggy Stardust — but to be fair, his very uniqueness makes him pretty hard to represent.

(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)

Fun Run

Image
Ok, I love arts and culture, but sometimes I am slow to come to an appreciation of other events. Case in point — I hated the Apex Fun Run when Beatrix's school started doing it. I didn't see the point, I didn't like the kids getting all worked up to get prizes, I worry about high overhead for fundraising activities, I was not crazy about school fundraisers in general — I only saw the "run," and not the fun.

I was categorically wrong.

Over the past 3 years, I have really come to see the value and come to appreciate Apex as an organization. Each year, they provide a leadership curriculum where they spend just a few minutes in the classroom each day with the leadership goals. They kids love it and respond to "Jazzy Jeff" and the other staff that come to their classrooms. The organization puts all this together with minimal parent involvement (well, except in the case of my awesome friend Peg who has been chairing the event and really knocking herself out o…

The Veil Is Thin

Image
Over a romantic lunch at Bruegger's today before meeting with our financial planner, I remarked to Patrick that this is always a tough time of the year for me. I'm not sure what I think of an afterlife, but it does feel that the veil between worlds is very thin this time of year (and the mornings very dark).

It perks up for Halloween night, however. Beatrix gets SO excited about it. For the past several years, we have always trick-or-treated with a group of her school friends. This year, or wonderful friends Heather and Justin (and Holly and Marie) hosted a spaghetti dinner in their garage, so everyone could eat and then head out. We stopped quickly at the governor's first, though — he was handing out a huge variety of MN foods, including sea salt caramel Nut Goodies which are The Bomb. We also got a chance to tell him what a good job he is doing:


All twelve of the kids gathered before we headed out:


We hit "Halloween Street" before it got too busy, and then seve…

Small Domesticities

Image
I slept in a little this morning after perhaps too much butter beer at a Harry Potter party last night. So when I woke up and saw a post on FB about how to clean a front loading washer, I decided it was my penance.

Here's the site, for full info: The Chic Site - How to Clean Your Front-Loading Washer. The short of it is that I cleaned the entire gasket area really well with vinegar and a toothbrush — and, well, yuk. There's also a little drain that was filled with scum — who knew? Ok, so probably the rest of you do this weekly or something, I'm not exactly a domestic goddess.

I'm also not the greatest visually, but I made a noble attempt at cleaning out the dead planet from the garage window boxes and filling them with some red dogwood twigs I was given and some old dried hydrangea. I don't think it's half bad. This is something I never would have attempted a year ago, but I credit my friend Susi for encouraging me to take some chances with floral design.


Yeste…

School Start Times

It started in a well-intentioned way a couple of years back. A number of studies show that teens are not getting enough sleep; they need between 8-10 hours a night (so the studies I read average it at 9 hours), and are averaging somewhere between 7-9 hours. We all know what it's like to be tired — you pay less attention, you are not as "sharp," you don't succeed as well. Recommendations from these studies included suggestions such as managing homework so kids are not up late, taking away technology devices so they are not texting/gaming/etc. so late (the glowing screens also are shown to be a sleep impairment), to insisting they go to bed at a reasonable time, to ... school start times.

Some vocal parents in Saint Paul have taken the latter as a way to solve some of the severe attention and test score issues Saint Paul high schools are facing, and have lobbied hard to change the start times for high school (currently generally at 7:30) to 8:30 or 9:30.

SPPS looked in…

If You Don't Go to Other People's Funerals...

Image
A long, long time, ago, I spent my junior year abroad at a magic program called the British and European Studies Group in London. This small program consisted of students from a number of American liberal arts colleges, mainly with a theatre, English, and/or history been, and brought them over to work with British tutors. It was in that year that a lot of magic happened, for me and for almost everyone else enrolled. I learned I was smart, I was capable, and that I could do anything I put my mind to. Or, as my friend David put it:
I walked away from London with a writing career, darts and a wife. Earlier this month, one of my amazing friends from that year, O'Bryan Broecker Worley, passed away due to a sudden blood clot.

It had been 28 years since I had seen her (or most other people from that program, with a few exceptions), but I wanted so much to go to the funeral. I wanted to see my amazing friend Fran, who I have kept up with and most recently saw here just a few weeks ago. I w…

All The World's a Stage

Image
Somehow, despite my love of Shakespeare, I had not yet read any of the Hogarth Shakespeare project books. However, it's safe to say that there is no author whose work I love more comprehensively than Margaret Atwood. It gives me great pain to know that I will never be able to read her Future Library book, because I know there will always be one things she has written out there that I will not get a chance to consume.

So the newly-released Hag-Seed delighted me to no end. It's the story of The Tempest, as performed in a correctional facility, in an educational program directed by somewhat of a has-been director. And it's such an embarrassment of riches:
-  not just a Shakespeare story, but perhaps my favorite
-  plenty of theatre in-jokes
-  a little bit of Canadian political humor (from the pre-JT days)
-  a prison bent, a la the ever-amazing Ten Thousand Things theatre company
-  as mentioned before, fantastic writing by Atwood; she is perhaps at her best under this kind …

Lessons From Hamilton

Image
Anyone who knows me knows that I am (still) obsessed with Hamilton. And, that above all, I love to read. So, Alexander Hamilton's Guide to Life, by Jeff Wilser, would seem to be a no-brainer "like" for me — and for the most part, that's correct.

Wilmer gives more than a nod to Lin-Manuel Miranda's genius, and also plaudits to Ron Chernow's Hamilton — though the fact that Wilser calls it "without a doubt the second-most pro-Hamilton book in history" (after Alexander Hamilton's own papers) is dubious. I give that honor to Chernow, or to Miranda's Hamil-tome.

That said, I enjoyed the conceit of this book. It's divided into short essays in theme-based sections (Romance, Office Politics, Leadership, etc.). The essays bring up some fun facts, and some general ideas, and are written in a light, friendly tone. The writing itself is a little offhand to me, and could stand with a bit more gravitas, but I'm also not one who thinks that you shou…

Library Closed

Image
The other day I posted on a neighborhood page:
Our Little Free Library has been totally pillaged lately - as in, someone comes every day and totally cleans it out to take it to Half Price Books or something. I think we're going to close it down for awhile, which bums me out. And I do mean "totally pillaged." I love it when the books fly off our shelves —it means that people are reading — but this was about the 12th time in the past couple of months that someone had completely cleared it from stem to stern. I'm a voracious reader, when everything from an ABC board book to old-school westerns to Faulker's As I Lay Dying all go in one fell swoop, I know that something is up.

After I posted, I noticed that a LOT of people were posting in neighborhood pages about this. Especially in my neighborhood, it seems like one person is coming along and emptying everyone out.

Our friend and neighbor Julio noticed my Facebook post; he's a reporter for the Pioneer Press and hi…

White Orchid

Image
Yesterday was all about cleaning out the garage. We listed some furniture for sale, have a big free pile outside, and got everything else well-organized. We'r not quite ready for winter, but it's better.

As part of that, I brought in a table and chairs I had purchased off a neighborhood BST board awhile back. Today, my friend Jennifer brought me a white orchid.

I love the way this all looks in our front window, and the tone it sets for the room!


More Camp CoCo

List posts are for the lazy, or for those who are just not going to get around to writing a full post but want to hang on to a few thoughts:

-  Very smooth, first batch Two Gingers by a campfire, passed between people. "Just one goat!"
-  Sitting on a moss-covered rock overlooking a beautiful lake and discussing your "Why?"
-  G&Ts in a dining hall with a view that Tattersall would envy.
-  Loving Nora, and thinking Dessa is The Bomb.
-  Thinking about things differently after talking to Robert Stephens (even, or maybe especially, the Instant Pot).
-  Climbing up a mountain in the dark, so that we could watch an amazing sunrise over Lake Superior.
-  Conversations — waves of conversations.
-  My husband hitting it out of the park with his keynote.
-  Stars.
-  Content. Inspired. Curious. Grateful.

Camp Coco - String Art

Image
It always bites you in the butt.

Friday morning, right before we left for Camp CoCo, I tweeted:
I'll never be a lifestyle blogger. The current trend for string art and wall weavings confuses me and makes me think it's 1971. Then we got up to camp, and I found out the community-building craft project was...string art.

And I think I rocked it, if I do say so myself.

That's just one example of how Camp CoCo changed my viewpoints and maybe even my life. More to come — but now I'm off to two meetings. That never changes.

A Proper Drink

Image
My visit to Lawless over the weekend inspired me to pick up A Proper Drink, which had been sitting on my nightstand for a bit, once I realized that it was a meatier book than interest-style cocktail recipes (though there are some of those, too, and I am considering revisiting the book by drinking my way through it).

I'm glad I picked it back up. The chapters are tasting-glass size, just enough to give you a little sense of the movers-and-shakers who revitalized the craft cocktail movement (who knew that a TGI Fridays in London had such an influence?) Simonson is an engaging writer, and the stories are interesting, especially if you already hold an interest in cocktails and popular history. My only quibble — and this is an issue with the "mixology movement" as a whole — is that relatively few women have a place in the narrative. That's the cold, hard truth, but it's unfortunate.


(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased revie…

Ghebres

More foodie posts!

Tonight after school Beatrix had Rec Check, piano, then Brownies. That meant that she ate mac and cheese in the car between events, but that Patrick and I could go out for dinner while she was earning a plein air painting badge, so we purposely chose a place she would not want to go.

I had heard about Ghebres Ethiopian restaurant on a neighborhood Facebook page, so we wanted to check it out. It's on Snelling right across from Fasika, which I have also never been to. When we got there the place was almost empty, so we were seated quickly and courteously.

The menu is small, but has the essentials, Patrick chose a curry cabbage, and I got a curry potato and carrot. They were served together on a round of injera, with a small side of lentils and of spicy greens.

The cabbage was amazing, as were the lentils. The greens were a little spicy for me, but a nice contrast. The potatoes were not the smaller pieces I am used to, but more of a wedge, and perhaps as a result, …

Night Out - Stewart's and Lawless

Yesterday was Randolph Heights' Fall Festival (hundreds of people over a few hours, indoor history exhibit, carnival games, the BunnyClogs, all kinds of fun!). I worked my *ss off for 5 hours, but then Beatrix had a friend's birthday party that night, so I could take Patrick out for his birthday.

We had dinner at Stewart's, which is the new incarnation of Cafe 128. I have to admit I was never the biggest fan of Cafe 128; I always found the prices high for basically eating in a basement rec room. The re-design makes it feel far nicer (though without losing the retro glam, in fact improving on it), but the new menu is a big improvement. It's kind of all mixed together — apps, main courses, and sides — which encourages you to try different thing together. Price points are reasonable, and it feels far more authentic than the old place. Patrick had the Lake Woebegon Shore Lunch (basically walleye with potatoes fried in bacon), which was well-flavored and hey enjoyed (though…

A Hundred Little Wings

Image
My friend Heather posted this on Facebook, about 5 minutes ago:
Maybe it isn't a diamond bullet that will fix this. Maybe its a hundred little things, with a hundred little wings that will move you. We're ok, relatively. We're reeling, but still standing (if holding on for support). We (we, really Patrick, and then I do what I can to support him) have to process complicated information quickly, and then time drags on again. There's almost no control to this, which I suppose should surprise no one.

We're not sleeping, we're feeling kind of sick, we're trying to hold it together for the sake of Beatrix. We're behind on a hundred things, and if you are the hundred-and-first, please forgive us.

The little things help. Cleaning the bathroom. The flowers and plant that arrived at our door. Coffee with friends. Little gifts dropped off with heart. A delicious dinner, delivered with heartfelt love. People over for patio night. Our steadfast neighbor, the best d…

Shop Local Saturday

Image
This morning, Patrick was ferrying around filmmaker Gary Huswit for the IFP Filmmaker's Conference, so Beatrix and I did  little local shopping — and had a great time!

First we hit Spoils of Wear, a new shop that opened on Selby near Snelling. The owner was there, and could not have been nicer (though we've hear rumors that she sometimes brings her pug dog with her and he was not there today = boo). The clothes are fantastic, very stylish and unusual and at a good price point. The store is carefully selected, and I loved a lot of the distinctive items. Best of all, all items are sustainably sourced, and many of them are local, so you can feel great about buying.

Next was ER, a tiny little extension of Elite Repeat featuring new items, many with a Minnesota theme. While Beatrix smelled the lovely candles, I appreciated the lovely accessories. There was some great jewelry, and some especially nice scarves and items (though I need a new scarf like I need a hole in my head). It…

#TBT - Vegetarian Style

Image
I picked up Anna Jones' a modern way to cook because I wanted some new, quick, vegetarian recipes for family meals. Instead, I found myself thrown back into London living circa the late 1980s. And that's not a bad thing.

Everything about the book is reminiscent of a small cafĂ© (that's pronounced "caff," by the way) in Notting Hill pre-Hugh Grant fame. The spare, clean pictures of the meals. The wide margins. The terminology (there's a lot of "mash" in these recipes.) It's all very earnest. You can imagine having  cup of tea, and then your carefully created pea and beet mash flatbread, with a rustic fruit crumble for dessert.

For the most part, honestly, these are not meals we will cook as a family. Jones herself knows that — all the pictures are of two sets of hands, lovingly scooping up exotic soups or multi-colored bowls of vegetables. But the recipes range in complexity — there are quite a few that take under 20 minutes to prepare — so I can …