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Showing posts from 2017

Year-End Tax Planning*

So yes, despite the judgy-ness of people on the internet about how apparently "stupid" it is, we prepaid our property taxes this last week. We still don't know if we'll be able to deduct them for sure, because no one knows for sure what will happen with a contradictory and sloppy tax bill pushed through at the last minute. What I DO know is that our state and local taxes (property taxes plus state withholding plus misc. fees) combined are over $20,000 annually, so the "advantage" of doubling of the standard deduction is completely negated by the new state and local cap. For potential savings in this first year, it was worth us to take that risk (and it will be awfully nice not to have to come up with that money in May, hard as it is right now to scrape it together.)

With $112 million prepaid property taxes in Hennepin County alone, we are not the only ones. Minnesota has been hit especially hard with this one.

While you are at it, if you are still escrowing…

Preparing for Christmas

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To say it's been hectic around here would be an understatement. But, especially in the past few days, I have managed to get a lot of our Christmas preparations done.

Back before the snow I finished some greenery for the back yard, which looks even better with a layer of snow.




We hope to do luminaria in front for Christmas Eve. Right now we have a cheery sign and a wreath up though:




Even before we went to "Miracle at Lawless" I had a vision os suspending glass balls from our hall ceiling. I managed to get some great ones from the neighborhood buy-sell-trade board:




Last week, Beatrix sat down and made presents for her teachers, lovely little candle holders:




Yesterday, our friends the Freys held their annual gingerbread house making party. We love it — so much fun, and so lovely of them to host. Here are Patrick and Beatrix with their creation:


Those of you who knew my mom knew how many amazing Christmas cookies she would make every year. I've never been able to keep up…

"Well, that's not MY experience..."

Recently, I got into quite a heated email discussion with a good acquaintance, a slightly older man I had previously sat on a board with. He had emailed several of us asking us to sign some petition about boycotting the NFL because players were taking a knee. His argument was that it was not a political stance he was taking, that the flag CLEARLY represented all of us ("it's generic"), and that we all had the same rights and responsibilities with regards to it.

I did not spend intellectual time arguing the fact that NFL players standing on the field for the anthem is a relatively recent phenomenon, or any other similar fact-based arguments. His was an emotional statement, and those would not seemed pertinent to him. And really, it does not matter that the conversation about NFL players or cat food.

What I DID argue was that in America, he had every right to his opinion — and also so did I, and our opinions were different. He kept on it for a bit, until I finally said we …

Death and Taxes

It's not even that the tax bill was voted on in the middle of the night, in such a hurry that key provisions were scrawled in the margins, other elements were hidden on one page and contradicted scores of pages later, and that senators had somewhere between 60-180 minutes to try to digest the 497 pages of it. That's just cowardly, and shows that our elected representatives knew full well that they should be ashamed of the bill.

It's that this bill decimates all that Patrick and I have worked for.

Gladhill Rhone LLC is a small, 2-person company. We don't make a lot of money, but I know we do a lot of good. Each year we work with 30-50 small businesses, mainly non-profits, to help them do better at what they do. In terms of the impact that leveraged, it's priceless.

Almost every dollar we make we put directly back into the economy, supporting other small businesses. I am confident that our tiny, two-person company has more of an effect on our community than if you av…

What Happens in Vegas...

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I realized on our last day that, though it was in general a good trip, there were several things we should have done differently. Thus, despite the "what happens in Vegas" line, these are things I would have done differently:

1.  Eaten at a buffet first thing, like on Thanksgiving Day (though pizza in the sunshine was nice). We put of off until the last day, and I wish we had not. Luckily the buffet we picked had a bottomless mimosa bar.

2. Explored a wide range of casinos at first. We walked around a lot of mid-range places, putting the over the top exuberance of the Bellagio off until the last night and the sort of dismal sense that is Circus Circus until the last day. I wish I had had a better sense of the range.

3.  Seen the volcano at the Mirage explode.

4.  Had the drink. I spent days looking at people drink frozen daiquiris while walking around before I finally got one. Life was a lot nicer after the daiquiri.

5.  Seen the conservatory at the Bellagio. We saw it on S…

Circus Circus

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(and I don't mean the casino of the same name, which was kind of a depressing place to visit though we played a mean game of air hockey there....)

Back in Vegas, we spent the day in various circus endeavors.

First, we went to the Love technical tour (which was actually sitting in seats int he theater and being shown the tech, but with no performers). It was focused on the true technical aspects — sound, lights, video, and mechanics — rather than the actual rigging (though Patrick did learn that they use only 12 riggers, and all from the sides instead of above).


From there, the ultimately cheesy "Fall of Atlantis" at Caesar's Palace, plus I finally got my rum drink to walk around with! (note to self, get that earlier in the trip next time!)


That night, we had TWO Cirque shows .

First was Mystere, a very traditional Cirque show, but with the added bonus of taiko drums. Beatrix especially loved the clowns, and I found the whole thing eminently enjoyable.

Finally, we saw…

Grand Road Trip

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When is a day in Vegas not a day in Vegas? When you use Day 2 of your vacation to drive to the Grand Canyon!

We love road trips, so the 4.5/5 hour drive each way did not phase us (and truly, it would have been shorter, but it took us about 45 minutes to get in to the park). But I digress....

Currently, at least, there's an "Every Kid in a Park" program, where every 4th grader can get a national parks pass for a year, allowing their whole family access. So we got up not as early as we should have and headed out.


First up, Lake Mead. We did not stop at the Hoover Dam. I know it was a lost opportunity, but we were running late.


Soon, we crossed the Arizona border, adding another state to Beatrix's roster. The scenery got more and more magnificent.


Stopped for lunch at Seligman, the birthplace of route 66. Delgado's Sno-Top Tacos was closed for the season, so we ate at a horrible place that shall remain nameless.


Slightly eerie pit stop.


Finally, our destination. Lon…

All You Need Is Love!

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Vegas Day 1 was Thanksgiving Day. We flew out early (thanks for the airport ride, Jason!), arriving in Vegas at abut 10am. As soon as we drove down the Strip towards our hotel (luckily located a few blocks off the Strip), we realized this was not going to be the kind of Thanksgiving where only a few things were open. In typical Vegas fashion, everything — except the In-and-Out Burger — was open and full of people.

So once we checked in, we walked down to check out the action. Lunch was a very un-Thanskgiving couple of slices of pizza at an outdoor table while people-watching, and then we checked out some shops and the gardens at the Flamingo. Beatrix especially like the bath and body store where all the bath bombs were shaped like cupcakes.


We walked down to the Venetian and got our first sense of how HUGE everything in Vegas is. Outside was this large complex and canals with gondolas, but we were stunned when we walked inside and ALSO saw canals and gondolas, and full streetscapes of…

Craft-transformation!

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There are two kinds of things that put me in a  zen-like, contemplative mode that I just love — working on house projects (like painting the dining room woodwork, which I just finished), and craft projects.

Unfortunately, my craft space was an incredible disaster of piled-up mess. I could not find anything, and there was no actual room to create. Think I'm exaggerating? Here's visual proof:






The mess of it has weighed on me more than I can express. There have been a lot of times I wanted to just chuck it all, to decide I didn't need it in my life, I was not good at it, the whole thing was stupid, all because I could not handle the mess. When I DID try to do things, I could not find the right items: the pinking shears, right color thread, etc. I was about this far from giving up.

That's when, a few weeks back, my friend Emily offered to help. Emily is an incredible creative person who I first met when she ran a wonderful pop-up called Highway North for several months (sh…

David Bowie - A Life

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This has been a hard read. Not because it was not engaging, but because I kept on thinking somehow that, if I did not finish it, maybe Bowie would still be alive. Then I found out he had written a song for the SpongeBob Squarepants musical head to Broadway and figured it was all over anyway.

All humor aside, it was a wonderful book, and one that both did not deserve my slowness, but also one I wanted to linger over. It's written in an unusual style, basically full of snippets from interviews of hundreds of people who knew and worked with Bowie, so it was like being at a surreal cocktail party with only one focus. I think it's the kind of thing David Bowie would have been amused by, were he still alive.

I don't know how accurate it is, but I'm not sure that's the point. It felt like looking at a kaleidoscope of someone's life, the kind that you keep spinning and the image keeps changing.

I wish there were photos, though. I kept paging through hoping there were s…

Dear Al Franken

Today you're going to break my daughter's heart.

You see, Beatrix was born (insured) with a heart condition. When we needed to get private insurance because we no longer had it through work, she was denied coverage.. When you found out about this, just recently, your office has been great about asking about her story and about making her feel like people like her matter to you. You've fought for what is right. You're a hero to her.

And now I'm going to have to explain that picture to her. And she's not going to understand why anyone would do that, or think it was funny. In Beatrix's world, things are pretty clear-cut. People get to marry the people they love. You treat everyone the same, no matter how they look, because it's what's inside that matters. Girls are just as good as boys are (ok, well, she probably thinks girls are  little better.)

Look, I've been in the performing arts my whole life, and I've been politically active, and I'v…

#viviennesjoy

It's been an amazing weekend of community. Yesterday morning I had a meal swap, and this afternoon I went to a clothing swap. We attended a magical wedding, and a sweet Sweet 16 brunch. Beatrix had her book club.

But the thing that really hit me was today — #viviennesjoy

Last year, our friends lost their 3-year daughter to Sudden Unexplained Death Syndrome. One day she was there ... and then she wasn't. I can't even wrap my mind around it.

So what do you do when that happens, and you have another little girl to live for, and you can't crawl under a rock and give up, much as you might want to? They continued on, and have formed Vivienne's Joy Foundation to bring attention to the issue, to build a playground in her memory, and most of all, to continue the joy that Vivi brought in her short life.

This is Vivi's Week. She would have turned four last Friday, and tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of her death. And so her family wanted to mark the week to share …

Remembering Charlie

Tonight was a memorial, of sorts, for the inimitable Charlie Bethel at Open Eye. I guess I'm saying now what I should have said there.

I had met Charlie and seen his work many times by the time I actually worked with him at the Jungle. So I knew him artistically long before I knew him as a colleague, and I might have been a little stagestruck when we first interacted in the office together. Charlie was an incredible storyteller — one of the best I have ever known.

He was a pretty good person to work with, too. That was a weird, transitional year at the Jungle (and a particularly shitty year in my own life). With a lot of staff changes and part-time people and the like, Charlie was the welcoming committee, they guy that held it together. I know he did not particularly like that role — but he did it, because someone had to.

He was anxious to leave it, too. When Bain cast him in Recent Tragic Events, Charlie knew it was time to take a different step in his career, and embrace creatin…

Winter Prep

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After a long but successful Gala for circus last night, it was nice to have a quiet day today. We took Beatrix to theatre class at CTC and spent our usual productivity time at Glam Doll (we need to keep her in those classes because we get so much done!). Then a stop at the Hamline Methodist Church sale (I got a Smart Woman mug!), and at Target (I'll save you the trouble — the Chip and Joanna Gaines collection starts tomorrow). But I did drop a whopping $1 on new pantry labels.

We took Beatrix's friend Annie to lunch at Annie's Parlour (get it?), then headed home and got on an organizational bender. We got the yard trimmed and raked, brought a few plants in, closed down the fountain and put in the furniture, and filled the planters with birch logs. We cleaned up a little, did laundry, listed some plants and other things on the buy-sell-trade board, and made "poet's pie" (sweet potatoes and veggies in a pot pie).

Now we're watching LaLaLand (finally), and I…

School Community

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Today Beatrix's school had 2 big events — the Apex Fun Run (main fundraiser) during the day, and the Fall Festival at night!

The Apex Fun Run is what Randolph Heights does instead of selling cookie dough or gift wrap or whatever. It's a major fundraiser for the school, but it also gives us 2 weeks of curriculum, and a healthy experience for the kids. Maybe because it was kind of cold, but this year seemed harder for Beatrix than past years — but she did it, ran a full 36 laps (I think that's about 3 miles), and kept a great attitude.


Tonight was the Fall Festival, more of a gathering for the school community than a fundraiser. Filled with pizza, games from ring-a-pumpkin to a book walk, glitter hair and face paint, a dance, and general craziness, it was a fantastic evening of true school community. I'm so proud of the volunteers who worked so hard to make it great.

I love Beatrix's school and the sense of community it engenders.

Failed Craft Projects

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So Beatrix and I love to do craft projects together, and we've documented many of them here. But I find one major problem with social media is that everything looks all perfect and easy and successful, and you never learn about anyone's fails.

Well, we have plenty of those over here too!

For a year or so, we've had a set of glasses prefect for marbling with nail polish. It looks so perfect:



Right? Just swirl around some nail polish, kind of like suminagashi, dip the glass, and go!

So tonight we cleaned the glasses, picked the nail polish, and....

Well, it did not work like the picture.

The nail polish was gloppy and would not come out of the bottles. So then we tried to heat it, and then we tried to thin it with acetone, but first it would not come out of the bottles at all, and then it sort of dripped out.

So we tried to dip the glasses in anyway, and the nail polish looked more like, well, soap scum than marbling.

And then to proved problematic to remove from the glass.

Back in Time

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On Sunday, the Saint Paul Library had a 100th birthday celebration, with a Victorian/steampunk theme, so naturally, we had to go. We ended up spending a couple of hours playing indoor corn hole and listening to an Afro-Carribean band (not sure how those are Victorian, but whatevs...), and making all sorts of steampunk accessories like clothespin dolls, little hats, and goggles. The downtown library has a new maker room that looks like a lot of fun (even a 3D printer!)




Then, since we were feeling all history-oriented, we headed over to the Stone Saloon (Waldmann Brewery) to check it out, and loved it! It feels very east coast Colonial, and the beer was great! (also the cheese and pretzel from Brake Bread). I imagine we will be there a fair bit, so come meet us there some night!

(The night before, we had headed to River Falls, for Hogwarts Year 2 at Fox Den Books with some of Beatrix's friends and their families. Also a lot of fun!)

When Politics Gets to Be Too Much, We Drink

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In the middle of worrying about the country going to hell in a handbasket, I attended a School Board Candidate Forum that the PTA at Beatrix's school (hey, I guess that's me!) had yesterday. Let's just say it was enlightening. Even Beatrix saw through the yelling, middle-aged white guy who went around passing his card to kids and telling them to tell their parents to vote for him ("It's 1800, ladies, tell your husbands vote for Burr!"). She for sure does not want us voting for him.

So tonight we decided to do some infusions. We had been given a bitters kit awhile back, so mixed the spices with the fruits and some bourbon and vodka. I have no delusions it will be as good as the Bittercube guys, but it's worth a try:


We'll know in a month or so, come over for cocktails!

Patrick also found a vanilla "kit" and we're almost out of Mexican vanilla, so we started that too:


Some More Thoughts on #MeToo

In no particular order:

I thought I had a sense, but I am overwhelmed as to how many women in my life have posted #MeToo. But not surprised. You are all brave and wonderful and have my love and support.

If you didn't post, I also hear you. You still have a voice. It's not a contest.

If you're male and posted #MeToo, while I hear you, and hear that you were also a victim, and validate your experience, and though I know that sexual harassment and assault affects men also ... well, in this case, I wish you had left it just a day and let the women speak first.

I also hear you anyone who says "it's complicated." Who doubts her own memories or experiences. Who secretly wonders if maybe she did "lead him on"  or  "maybe it was not that bad" or "it's my fault too." Who was told that sexuality and beauty were ways to get ahead, and who wonders if she was not as good at that game, or as pretty, or not as desirable. These doubts will ea…

#MeToo

Almost exactly a year ago after speaking at Camp Coco, Patrick started a "Me too" campaign about how issues with mental illness face everyone — directly or indirectly — at some point in their lives. For awhile, the #metoo hashtag was very profound.

And now, almost exactly a year later, that same hashtag has an equally important meaning:

ME TOO If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
Please copy/paste. #metoo It's currently my Facebook status. In fact, it's on the page of the majority of my female friends tonight. And it's equally profound now.

Please think about the people you know that are using that hashtag right now (for either situation). And if you have any ideas as to what we can do to change this, I'm all ears.

Revolt

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"Revolt. She said. Revolt again."

Might be one of my new favorite phrases. An excellent title for a play. A look into a new way of living.

It's been awhile since I've seen a show at Frank Theatre, but I have a real weakness for modern feminist British playwrights, and so this one was on my MUST see list. There were practical reasons, too, like I wanted to see the new Gremlin space and Lake Monster is there (though I get enough Lake Monster through FilmNorth). But I was really interested to see how a theater company I respect so greatly would handle this script.

The answer is "amazingly." In a lot of ways, it reminds me of how Full Circle handled 365 Days/365 Plays, which is a similar kind of show created by various short scenes, played by an ensemble, that handles big issues with somewhat dark humor. The playwright is correct, "This play should not be well-behaved." And it is not.

Look, you owe it to yourself to see the show. It's only 70 min…

Building the Happy Habit

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I got this book because, in difficult times,  I needed to remind myself about all the things that make me happy.

So far, I've been a total fail. (which does not make me happy....)

The concept is easy enough. It's a journal diary, with prompts each day about things that make you happy. And when I am prompted that way, I'm extremely successful, and I can find (at least) one thing every day. So win.

But the format of the book confounds me a little. It starts with New Year's Eve, is ti took an inordinate amount of counting to get to September 25 to start the journal. And then, when I forget to do it, I get off pace. It's frustrating (and does not make me happy).

All in all, though, if I put some work into this, I think I'll be happy with the result.


(Book received from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion).

On Giving

I've been thinking a lot about how philanthropy reflects family values right now. I just wrote this for the PTA blog:

At the PTA meeting on Monday night, we discussed both why the school needs to raise funds, and that PTA needs to also separately raise funds to augment the school’s activities. As we went home last night, my husband, daughter and I got into an interesting discussion about giving, which made me think about how different families handle charitable giving — if their budget allows or it at all. For Beatrix, we have set her allowance up on a spend/save/give model, where a certain percentage of her weekly funds go into each jar. So far, for her, the giving has all been focused on animal-related causes when the jar gets full enough, but it’s always her choice. Some families I know give an annual percentage basis, similar to tithing — though it often goes to more than just their church. Others set a fixed dollar amount per year, which is often conscious of an ongoing patte…

Two Concerts, Two Nights

You may notice that I rarely write about concerts here. Plays are part of our regular life, and visual art, but not as much music. I was raised with very little music, in fact, which is why I've found it so important for Beatrix to have it (and a shout out to my aunt Jan, who started that early).

Last night, as part of a team event for my incredible client Literacy Matters, we had a group dinner wand then went to see Carbon Leaf at the Fine Line. You may not know the name, but you know at least one of their songs "Life a life less ordinary, live a life extraordinary...."

We met the band before hand and they gave a special shout out to Literacy Matters fro the stage. It was a fun concert, and nice to be out, in a club, which is not something we ordinarily do; I think our last concert together was Sia, also at the Fine Line, about a decade ago...

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Tonight, though, topped it, when we went to see Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Band play at Orchestra Hall. It …

Things are Swinging

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It's been crazy around here getting things done for the last couple of days. In the words of one piece of art (by Chank!) that we framed and hung last night, we are both:



Perhaps the BEST part though is that yesterday Patrick got the swingset set up for Beatrix. We've had it about a year, but had never had time for it before. Circus girl that she is, the trapeze is her favorite part and she has already spent quite a bit of time on it.

Due North

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I have spent the last three days doing historic survey in Ely.

You might think about taking my Minnesota card away if I admit I had never been TO Ely before, only THROUGH it. But I think the town is used to that. For its entire life it has been the last stop, the jumping-off place for going into the wilderness, for paddling off into the Boundary Waters, the Quetico, or points farther north.

But the last few days I've been studying the built environment — surveying the downtown, doing historic research, meeting with the HPC in City Hall. I've walked up and down the streets, had delicious coffee and muffins for breakfast, and ate at one of the best restaurants I've been to recently (hail Insula!). We stayed in a house in town across from the school that was like a trip back to 1972.

What you may not know about me, unless you've known me for a long time, is that during my teens I used to spend a month at a time on Widji canoe trips. Every winter I would go up a couple mo…

It's the Little Things

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Ok, so for all the bigger projects we do around the houses, it may be the small ones that I am (perhaps disproportionally) most excited about right now!

At Summit, most of the outlets have been converted to 3-prong, but as anyone who has ever tried to plug a crockpot in our dining room knows, not all of them have! The dining room was the only one that was entirely 2-prong, but the living room, den, and 3 of 4 bedrooms had 2-prong outlets mixed with 3-prong ones, and it always seems that the 2-prong was where you really needed a 3-prong (for example, at my favorite chair at the front window).

So on Sunday, my friend Anna came over, made sure the circuits could handle the load, and converted them all to 3-prongs! Bonus — we made a start on actually labelling the circuits of the circuit box.



Since we had to go to the hardware store to get the outlets, we also picked up 27 cabinet closers for the kitchen. For a high-end, Kitchens by Krengel kitchen, the cabinets have been kind of fails; th…