Sunday, May 21, 2017

Refugia

I'm starting to seem like one of the awesome Minnesota Theater Bloggers with my frequency of theater blogs (yeah, I only wish!), but I can't stop thinking about Refugia at the Guthrie last night. Thanks to my years at Jeune Lune I've known Dominique Serrand for over half my life, and it was clear to me last night that this was the play that he has wanted to create for at least that long a time. I'm stopping just short of calling it his magnum opus (because I hope there's a lot of great work left of his to see), and I don't want to take away from the other great work he's directed and co-created over the years, but this is the most significant and complete piece he's directed.

I need to start by saying that the Guthrie was the most lively and intense I had ever seen it last night. With three stages active (Refugia on the proscenium, The Bluest Eye in the thrust, and Mu's Charlie Chan in the Dowling studio, plus some prom photos being taken), the lobby was filled with excited, curious people of all ages and genders and colors and interests. I know that's been a goal of the Guthrie for a long time, but it was the first time I had really felt it, and it set the perfect tone for the evening — well, that and the beautiful grey mist over the river, that "endless bridge" still has one of the best views in town.

Refugia itself a multi-layered piece whose images flash by me every time I close my eyes, that sucked me in immediately and did not let me go until I was in full-blown tears by the end. Tales by Steve Epp, that take you on a journey that only he can do, where you follow along breathlessly and don't even realize how far you have come. Intense, poignant imagery made all the stronger by flashes of knee-slapping humor. Multi-dimensional stories that don't seem to relate at all, but you know they will, and you are not disappointed even while you are surprised. Incredible performances by people you expect — hat tip to Nathan and Christina — and by a cast of performers mainly new to the Guthrie whose performances are outstanding, including an outstanding young lady (I only wish I had seen Maia Hernandez's take on it). I would say more, I'm aching to discuss every detail, but I want YOU to see it and discuss it with me, and I don't want to pre-dispose you to a single minute of it.

We walked out through the fog to our car and I was at a loss for words at this beautiful, poignant exploration of being "the other" — while at the same time being a kind of love letter to humanity.

They have it all wrong, you know, those who fear immigrants coming to their countries. For some reason — maybe their own selfishness — they assume that people come here to take. But people come to America, and to other countries all over the world, mainly to give of themselves. Refugia is just one of those gifts, and all I could manage to say to Dominique as I left was "thank you."

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Vulnerability of an Open Rehearsal


Last night, I was lucky enough to get invited to an open rehearsal for 365 Days/365 Plays: A 2017 Remix, by Full Circle Theater Company. I've admired the brand new company, begun by Rick Shiomi, Martha Johnson, and several other of the top theatre creators in Minnesota, but I have only recently begun to work with them.

I'm also very affected by Suzan-Lori Parks' work, and remember being hit hard by 365 Days/365 Plays in 2006 when she conceived of it. That year seems like yesterday and today. It was the year I lost my mom, and the year I got married, and here was this odd piece of short, direct plays that were really hard hitting. It's a spiky piece, extremely issues-based, and that year I saw several performances of the pieces from many diverse theaters, as companies nationwide collaborated in producing it as one big cycle.

So I have to admit when I found out Full Circle was doing it, my first thought was "why?" As we talked more, I saw intellectually how it fit in with their mission of "artfully addressing human nature and social justice."

But last night, even just in rehearsal, I truly saw how fantastic performances could push this issues-based piece into a whole new realm. It pushed me into a new space — and not necessarily a comfortable one, but one that I felt compelled to navigate and explore. It's been a long time since a play has challenged me in that way both intellectually and emotionally. It might be a change in me, but I am more likely to think it was the power of this production.

This was enhanced by the feeling of access from an open rehearsal. there in the basement rehearsal room at Pillsbury House, with bright fluorescent lights and rehearsal props and uncomfortable chairs and a dingy carpet, was a raw sense of adventure. Of confidence in what the actors know and an eagerness to try out new things. Of confident directors (Rick and Martha and several directors doing a few plays each) who were also pushing their boundaries. Of curiosity and exploration and even a slight crackling of danger.

The show opens in two weeks. You won't be able to get that raw rehearsal sense, but I'm pretty sure that sense of intimacy and challenge will be inherent in the finished piece. Don't miss it. Come with me opening night.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's May Day!

If I were to look over past posts, I would likely see several about the Heart of the Beast Theater's annual May Day parade. We don't have Mardi Gras, but we have May Day, and especially in times like these, there's something magical about being with a group of people experiencing May Day together. This year, more than ever, its diversity and range of ages represented really struck me. Long live May Day!

It was also a weekend of other community-building. Beatrix's art is included in this year's ArtWalk in downtown Saint Paul, so there was a small reception at the Ordway for that (and I DO mean *small,* but it was fun.) Her art is up at the Starbucks across from Subtext on 5th Street through June 4, if you want to check it out.

After that, her Norwegian dance troop danced at the Festival of Nations. They did a great job, and as we walked through the displays and food hall afterwards, lots of people had questions about the dance and her bunad.

Last night I was able to attend the fantastic Wilson Webb show opening at IFP Minnesota. I know I'm biased, but our recent shows have been hitting it out of the park. You should definitely go see it. After that, we headed over to some friends for "slipper club," a night of loungewear and relaxation.

We fit in some other events, like a family photoshoot and a baby shower, and even a walk with the dogs. It's finally spring!


Friday, May 5, 2017

Your Values, Your Kid

Lately Beatrix and I have been having a lot of discussions around the term "Smash the Patriarchy!" It started with what "patriarchy" is, and then why you would want to smash it, and then into greater depth. Quite honestly, it's an easier thing to discuss in abstract than the specifics of why Congress would want to eliminate healthcare as we know it for all Americans.

She's not 100% on board, but she kind of likes the idea and we discuss why it's important to me. She's a thoughtful kid, and doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and so she doesn't want the patriarchy to feel bad. I can accept that — for now. But I want her to keep thinking about it.

I don't remember having these kinds of discussions with my parents. I certainly saw them live their values, and so I grew to them. To this day, I share my mother's view that hypocrisy is the worst possible sin. And I got a great supportive email from my dad today after he saw me featured in an editorial. But my fierceness about issues came early on (I know those reading this who knew me in high school would agree), and as far as I can recall, sprung fully formed like Athena from Zeus. I don't think of this as unusual — philosophy, as far as I knew it from my friends, was for Philosophy Club, not necessarily the dinner table. I'm not even sure my mother read my senior thesis, but I know that she and I did not debate the complexities of Helene Cixous vs. Luce Irigaray.

Which was all to say the I don't know how this will turn out. But I like debating these things with her, and I feel, now more than ever, it's an important thing to do.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why the Circus Has My Heart

You're all so patient. This time of the year, when Beatrix is performing in 3 acts in 2 shows, when Patrick is rigging *every* show, and when I'm at the circus every spare minute lending a hand where I can, I'm scattered as heck and you patiently put up with me. Since last Monday, we've been here 34 hours, and we're just starting a 2-show day today.

But dammit, it's so so worth it. I'm typing this from my desk, while a song from Moana is playing and the toddlers are doing their adorable routine. And just like every day when they go onstage, I'm in tears. I'm so damn lucky to be able to be here.

I could wax rhapsodic about what I love about my job here, and the friends I have made. I could go on and on about how absolutely hot Patrick looks when he is rigging — I love to watch his concentration and focus on what he's doing. But most of all, I love this for my daughter.

She's literally grown up here; she came in to me to work for the first time when she was only 2 weeks old. She used to hang in her carrier while I worked. She started toddlers when she was 2; last night, when I was watching her multiple trapeze act, one of the coaches who has known her for that long pulled me aside and said "I can't believe she's up there already! Look at how great she looks!"

Circus has taught her how to work for what she wants, and how to always strive to be better. It's taught her about teamwork. It's given her a beautiful confidence and love of performing — all while thinking of where she wants to be next (like her mom, she's "never satisfied.") And the friendships she has made here, both with her BFFs Meara and Brogan, and with her older role models Elsie and Amelia, and with kids of all ages through all acts, have been amazing.

I could say more, but I'm going to rush downstairs to see her act, as I do every show. I hope that's part of my life for years to come.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Vibrant India

When I used to travel to Hong Kong often, we would always stay in Chung King Mansions, an incredible rabbit warren of guesthouses, shops, restaurants and apartments on Nathan Road on the Kowloon side. Definitely the cheapest backpacker accommodations in the city, these rooms looked out over some of the nicest real estate in the city (when you could get an outside view), and by trial and error, you could establish a relationship with remarkably nice places to stay (it's the error part that got you in trouble).

In the B-block were some of the best Indian restaurants I've been to in my life. After queuing up for the lifts (an adventure in its own right) you would eventually come to a floor where several of the restaurants felt like you actually were in India. For less than $2-3, you could stuff yourself on amazingly authentic, delicious Indian food. Just be sure to drink a lot of water.

I have not come close to replicating that here. There are a few Indian places nearby, but nothing with the same ambiance (and certainly not the prices).

So I was super-excited to try out Vibrant India, chock full of vegetarian Indian recipes. The pictures are exotically beautiful, and it is chock-ful of healthy, delicious-sounding recipes. Beatrix is especially excited about the rice dishes, while Patrick and I have liked some of the spicier ones, especially the lentil dishes.

Face it, I may not ever again experience those delicious samosas on Nathan Road. But at least this book gets me one step closer.

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



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Selby

Tonight, after picking up Beatrix from EDL, we decided to hit "Spring Fling" events on Selby.

When I first bought my house in the early 90s, Selby had a seriously bad rap. It was full of boarded up storefronts and dilapidated houses. Not dangerous (though many assumed it was), but not nice either.

It quickly picked up. I remember when both corners of Selby and Dale were empty lots, and Allan Mathewson (the new GM of Mississippi Market) and I spent days on end counting cars to try to convince the shareholders to brings a co-op to that site. I feel like I have an intense, personal relationship with every business that's gone in from Dale to the Cathedral.

It's been a little slower going in the section between Dale and Lexington, but tonight we hit the BRAND newly-open J. Selby's, and it was wonderful. Beatrix pronounced it the "best PBJ ever" (thanks to Brogan's family for showing her she likes PBJs!), Patrick loved his meat-less burger, and my beet burger was delicious (though it could use a slight ramping up in spice and the fries would use a little longer in the vat). Cold beer, a lovely atmosphere, and the friendliest servers ever. We'll be back — ALL the time.

After that we hot a few stores in the Selby/Snelling area for their "spring fling." I got to introduce Patrick to Vibrant, a store I really love near Pizza Luce (and picked up an adorable dress). It's one of those stores where you walk in and love everything there. We hit a few other stores  little further down: Patina, Martha's Garden (so lovely smelling!), Lula (great Hawaiian shirts!), Flirt, and of course Up6, where we got to chat to Megan for awhile. She's got quite the rack of t-shirts right now, definitely worth checking out!

Selby has really come into its own, and it was a lot of fun to revel in that tonight.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Minnesota!

Not to be outdone, we spent the final couple of days of spring break (after f-i-n-a-l-l-y getting out of Atlanta, Josh from West Wing was right on that....) doing some fun things in Minnesota.

Patrick had never really explored Stillwater; so while Beatrix had Norwegian dance rehearsal on Saturday afternoon, he and I headed to Tin Bins to get some work done. Then, after we picked her up, we walked around Main Street doing some shopping. Our favorite stores were the fun, owner-run ones, like the Tea & Spice store or the toy store, where they really seemed to enjoy spending time with their customers — these stood in stark contrast to several places staffed by bored teenagers, in which I might have dropped quite a bit of money if I could even entice the clerk to pay any attention to me whatsoever. Beatrix also loves antique malls, and Stillwater has quite  a few of those, so it was a really entertaining afternoon.

The next day, we headed to the Minneapolis Institute for the Arts (I refuse to call it "mia"), to see the Guillermo del Toro exhibit, which was fantastic. B and my favorite room was there "Victoriana" room, where we loved the art and the costumes. In some cases I had to push Beatrix on a little so she did not spend too much time at a potentially disturbing film clip or the like, but in general it was perfect.


On our way out, we stopped at some of the "Rock the Garden" events, including a live show by the Brains On podcast folks (which also allowed me to rant a little with one of the hosts about how much I hate S•Town).

So all in all, an excellent spring break!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Savannah

For the second part of spring break, we hit a place I've been to a few times but Patrick and Beatrix had not — Savannah, Georgia!

Our AirBnB "Stella Blue" was in an adorable part of town called "Starland" (aka the "Victorian District" when that was considered a bad area). We LOVED the area — the cool shops and restaurants, the co-op art supply place just behind our place, the delicious "Back In the Day" coffeeshop (I really want one of their cookbooks now), the great antique and vintage stores, the cool houses and people-watching. We would have had a great vacation just staying there!


But instead, we did Savannah to its finest:

-  Hit the River area and had lunch at a french cafe. Assiduously skipped the Lady and Sons because she's racist

-  Walked around various squares, checking out the "haunted" Hamilton-Turner hotel, the Mercer house, the Juliet Gordon Lowe house and the Andrew Lowe house where the Girl Scouts started.

-  Explored even more by taking a lovely carriage ride.

-  Hit the (windy) beach at Tybee, and had lunch and fed 'gators at the Crab Shack.



-  Walked around Bonaventure Cemetery. Had to text a friend in the middle to find out why rocks were piled on headstones in the Jewish section. Beatrix developed a fascination with child headstones.



-  Had perhaps the best meal of my life at The Pink House. Including drinks at the pub downstairs in full piano bar mode, and honestly the best service imaginable. A true Bucket List restaurant.



-  Toured Flannery O'Connor's birthplace, which made quite an impression on Beatrix.



-  Lost out on one ghost tour when the guide did not show up, and had a very upset kid. Got included on another one instead, which turned out to be better than the first one was. That girl loves ghost tours! (this is the balcony where Lafayette spoke!)



-  Shopped at the French Market, the SCAD store, and other fun places.



-  Had delicious chocolate martinis and skillet chocolate chip cookies at Lulu's.

-  Ate lunch at a river cafe outside of town where we decided NOT to wade in the water when we saw water moccasins!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Amelia Island

I've been to many (but perhaps not enough!) of the great beaches of the world. But for my money, there's no better beach in the world than the one at Amelia Island, Florida. It has a real spot in my heart; my mom used to go down every March, and it holds so many special memories for me.

In the past, my mom always rented the same house (which of course we looked for!), but this time we stayed at the Seaside Amelia Inn, which was a lovely place right on North Beach. They were wonderful, very detail-oriented (cooked to order breakfast, fresh flowers, etc.), and right on the beach with beach chair and umbrellas and everything. They also had cable in our 2-room suite, which we thought we would be excited to watch and turned out to be the so terrible (Tiny House Hunters: Columbus, anyone?)

Beatrix headed into the water as soon as we got there. She was not going to let some boy go farther out than she did:



That first night we looked for dinner too late and ended up at The Marina for dinner; not a mistake we'll make again. Good company though!

The next morning, we spent at our beach, before lunch at Sliders (tiki drinks for Patrick and me!) and sharks tooth hunting at that beach. I think I actually found one!

Then we found Pippi Longstocking's house, and wandered around town, before dinner at Timoti's (obviously a crowd favorite).

It was cloudy the next morning, so it looked more like an indoor day. First, though, we went to Peter's Point, which we had all to ourselves. It was beautiful!



Turned out to be a great beach day after all. We even got lunch at the Salty Pelican, the new crowd favorite (how we could eat so much after those big breakfasts is beyond me).

Drinks at 801 Beech (used to be The Beech Street, one of my mom's favorites, not quite up to par now, but still nice for drinks.)



Then dinner at the Patio Cafe; the crepes were ok, but the lovely patio, with some earnest folk singers and a lot of lizards running around, was lovely.

One more stolen half hour at the beach and a quick carriage ride tour, and out Amelia Island visit was over. It's SO lovely there and I still miss it.

ETA:  Oh, and especially for Elaine — we went to Barbara Jean's for dessert TWICE and had "chocolate stuff" each time (plus cobbler) — yum!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Speedy Reviews - Brunson's, Fish Fry, Bottle Rocket (bar)

We're headed out on spring break this afternoon, so after heading to the train wreck-that-is-the-remodeling-of-Midway-Target right now (for Baby Alive diapers, sigh), we needed some lunch before the airport. I had hear good things about Brunson's, a casual place that opened on Payne, so we decided to try it out.

And glad we did! The staff was exceptionally nice, offering Beatrix her choice of crayons or colored pencils for her coloring page (any kid knows how important that is.) Her homemade mac-and-cheese was creamy and good, thought he fruit with it was a slightly browned apple. Still, no melon, which is her indication that the place is really phoning it in in a fruit serving.

My veggie burger was also homemade, with several kids of beans, marinated peppers, and goat cheese. It came with the homemade chips, also fantastic, and washed down with an Indeed Daytripper, it was an excellent start to spring break.

Patrick had the double burger, which he reports was delicious, and the fries, which were less so. Stick with the chips.

All in all, a great casual experience that we very much enjoyed; we'll be back!

---

In total contrast, last night we ate dinner at the Holy Spirit fish fry. $10 ($5 for kids, or they can get just mac and cheese for $3) gets you a whole plate with 2 pieces of fish, coleslaw, a role, au gratin potatoes, pickles, and dessert — plus wine or beer! The line was long; we waited half and hour in it, even arriving at 5. But we ate with Beatrix's friend Natalie and Izzy and their families, and then headed over for drinks afterwards, so another very enjoyable night. there's something about eating out and knowing it goes to a good cause that feels great.

Late last nigh, I headed over to Bottle Rocket (the bar side) to meet friends after they went to the Lizzo concert. They have a late night happy hour that's pretty fun — 2-4-1 drinks and small plates appetizers (and I do mean "small" plates, as in 3 onion rings in an order). The bar is less successful of a space than the Scusi bar was; in my opinion, the wide marble barter takes up too much space. And the midnight closing is pretty fiercely enforced, with bright lights coming on, leading you to spend too much time talking outside the restaurant. But the company was great, the bar adequate, and again, a perfect kick-off toe Spring Break!

Friday, March 24, 2017

(Sort Of) A Game-Changer

I fell for the Dinner - Changing the Game cookbook the way I usually fall for big, heavy cookbooks full of beautiful pictures. It's elegant, all the pictures look delicious, and it's designed so that "each recipe in this book is meant to be dinner— one fantastic dish that is so satisfying and flavor forward it can stand alone." I love the idea of a simple-yet-lovely meal like that.

My husband, in particular, has liked the egg dishes. I like the "Ingredients to Have on Hand" section, and I really appreciate that there are  a lot of vegetarian and fish selections. I also appreciate hat there are  a few soups, and "salads that mean it," but in general it focuses on true meals, the kind that leave you full and with some leftovers.

We've made a few things form it, such as the aforementioned egg dishes, some salmon, and a delicious stovetop mac-and-cheese, almost identical to another recipe already in our rotation, but nice to have validation.

All in all, I don't think this will be the the kind of book like a few that we have where everything we make is absolutely amazing. But it's a good, solid staple to have on hand, and definitely worth checking out.


(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review, but all opinions are my own).

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bar Brigade!

Beatrix and I wanted to go out to celebrate her school conferences tonight. But when you feel celebratory, and miss Paris, where to go? I know — Bar Brigade, which opened tonight!

We walked in and were immediately seated by none other than Chef JD Fratzke himself! Beatrix was extraordinarily impressed by his manners (as was I!), and I loved the feel right away. The space holds all the charm that Luci used to have, but less like eating in your grandparent's basement.

And even better, just a few moments later Beatrix's friend Kiernan's family walked in — so we got to have the very Parisian feel of a convivial dinner.

Though I was sorely tempted by #roseontap, I ordered the Bumby, a sort of orange-infused G&T. Then, so we could sample as much as possible, Beatrix and I split the bread plate, the potatoes with chèvre, and creme fraiche, some roasted carrots with almond dressing, and a puff pastry tart with mushrooms, olives, and chèvre. All of it was amazing, with true French bistro flavors. I ogled especially the broccoli salad, the trout, and especially the oysters that our friends had, but I don't think I could have eaten another bite (we already had to take a box home).

However, we could not skip dessert. Beatrix wisely chose the pot du creme, and I have to say it's one of the best I've ever had in my life (second only to a Basque place we loved in Paris). Rich, silky chocolate, topped with whipped cream and chocolate nibs — absolutely out of this world. The nutella crepe next to us also got high marks.

I'm already dreaming of the day (tomorrow?) that I can go back and just have chocolate and rose. Lots of both.

That day might have to be tomorrow. And every day after that. I'm hooked. Best thing t happen to Saint Paul in awhile!



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Serendipity

Some days, things just work out.

This afternoon, Patrick and I dropped Beatrix off at dance, and then took advantage of the free hour to check out the new Black Stack taproom and go through design books. It was lovely. As my friend Kate said:
The new criteria for choosing dance schools for kids? Proximity to brewpub.
Heck, in the Creative Zone, you can have it all!



We were excited to go over to Highpoint Center for Printmaking, whose "Free Ink Day" I had done an Art Hounds appearance about last week — but when we got there, it was packed! Since we were hungry, we decided not to stay, and as we turned back around to go out, we explained that to the gallery manager, who was very apologetic "Oh, I'm so sorry! We were on Art Hounds, and it's just crazy!"

"Uh, yeah, that was me, sorry...."

"Omigod!" she gave me a big hug, "It's been fantastic! We're had over 350 people so far and 80% of them were new to us!! But I'm so sorry you don't get to make a print!"

Honestly, the BEST thing ever is when you talk about a great arts event, and then it's too full for you to do it!

So instead, we stopped in at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, where we had a delicious lunch and got to activate our Belly Up memberships for free Sociable cider and where Beatrix demolished her plate of rice and beans in about 2 minutes flat. The wait was too long to bowl, but she wants to go back and bowl with her brother Miles anyway, because that would be more fun.

From there, we had girl scout cookies to drop off, so headed to Linden Hills, where we ate some ice cream at Sebastian Joe's, shopped at the Wild Rumpus bookstore, and checked out the Linden Hills Poppy (sorry, Jill, I still like the Saint Paul location best, call me a homegirl!) Finally, we were able to walk down to pay homage to Brenda Ueland's historic home at 2620 West 44th Street, which is about to be demolished for an apartment building after the Minneapolis Zoning and Planning committee voted to allow it to be demolished— a sad ending to a lovely, rambling day.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tori Ramen

About 500 years after the cool kids, we finally headed to Tori Ramen tonight for dinner!

We had been warned (especially from our friends' blog here, that space was tight, so we waited for a night that Beatrix was at a GTCYS event with a friend and headed on over. We expected the worst (crowds and hipster surliness), but were pleasantly surprised to find a window 2-top available and a friendly, helpful server who did not mind our questions.

I was not all that hungry so hat the E.V. (half sized, soft egg for the win). It was warm and cozy and everything you could want on a cold rainy evening. Patrick took our server's suggestion and had the Bali Bali, and he definitely got the better meal — but then the great thing about going with your husband is he gives you some.

A small but good tap list (hibiscus cider FTW as well!), and a good date night on a rainy evening. Were it not so popular, I can see hunkering down there for a bowl of ramen and some tea and watching Selby go by.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lear, by Beatrix





Beatrix had lobbied hard to attend King Lear at the Guthrie ever since she learned it was about a king and his 3 daughters. She was also anxious to see a real tragedy; she's seen Midsummer Night's Dream and a dance version of Romeo and Juliet, but as she says "I wanted to see a grown-up play." Every year, the Guthrie does a special Shakespeare performance to involve youth (as part of the legacy of the inimitable Sheila Livingston), so we got to attend one of those matinees on Sunday.

Truth be told, I was a little worried about the length and language of the play, and Patrick was concerned about Lear's madness and the eye-gouging scene. Both turned out to be ok, though Beatrix did think it would not be good for *little* kids.

The language in particular turned out to be fine. Both she and I thought that the closed-caption style screens would be distracting, but Beatrix did not even read them, preferring to let the language sort of wash over her (I admit to glancing sometimes). She says she understood everything, mainly because she knew the story in advance, and that the action on the stage worked perfectly with the words — which is, I suppose, as it should be. She got a little bored near the end of the first act, but let's face it, that's the slowest point of the show in general.

We ran into her friend Scarlett at intermission, who had been hoping for more Elizabethan costumes, but Beatrix liked the glamorous 30s style of the production, especially the evening dresses. As far as performances, of course her favorites were the women — thus a play about sisters was right up her alley. She especially loved Cordelia (of course), but also Goneril for her power, and loved Charity Jones in multiple roles but especially as a knight. She appreciated Lear, Kent, and the Duke of Gloucester, but was no big fan of Edmund, declaring him to sound too much like the donkey in Shrek (can't please them all I suppose).

All in all, I'm going to call it an unmitigated success, and Beatrix is eager to see "ALL of Shakespeare." Good thing we have the Guthrie!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Are The Star-Bellied Sneetches the Best on the Beaches?

Ok, a disclaimer. I'm not, and never have been, a really big Dr. Seuss fan. Just not my thing, nor Beatrix's.

But the Children's Theatre Company hols a very special place in my heart, for any number of reasons. We can't afford season tickets (which was my big desire as a child Beatrix's age), but we try to get there as often as we can. Last night, Beatrix and I (and her new Baby Alive doll Maia) and I had a date to see The Sneetches: The Musical, and had a fantastic evening in second row seats!



Due to friends who went to school there and some part-time work as an usher (a million years ago), I'm very familiar with the CTC space. Still, I always am impressed by how smoothly the from of house runs there. It's easy, it's enjoyable, it's comfortable. Getting there, parking, sometimes stopping briefly at the MIA, hanging out in the lobby, getting to our seats — all extraordinarily convenient. It seems like an odd thing to comment on, but when that part of the night goes well, it makes everything else a lot more enjoyable.

I have several friends in the cast (shout out to Bradley and Max especially!), so that was fun. But I have to say that the high point for both of us was seeing our friends' daughter, Maia, in the lead role of Standee. Maia had been cast in the ensemble, and was understudying Standee, when she first got called on to play the role about a week ago. Though I hope the originally cast actor gets better soon, I'm secretly THRILLED we got to see Maia in the part, because she was OUTSTANDING. That girl, not much older than Beatrix, carried the whole show with strong singing and acting skills but mostly a comfort not he stage and an attention to other cast members that was phenomenal to see. Beatrix is still talking about it, and rightfully so.

The cast as a whole actually got me thinking a lot. It was a large cast, and effortlessly diverse, the kind of color-blind casting that might have been made a big deal about earlier in my career and now is just...done...as a matter of course. And I think that the show was much stronger for it.

Tomorrow, we'll all see King Lear at the Guthrie, so it's certainly a weekend full of different kinds of theater. We're so lucky to have these kinds of opportunities here, so if nothing else, this is my question to you — if you are not out seeing performances, what's holding you back? Rethink it if you can, because times like last night are pure magic.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Continuing Ed

As I said earlier, I've been taking  a lot of great classes lately.

I've mentioned the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota classes in a previous post, and we have been getting a lot out of those. In the past month or so we've taken one on painting, two on floor refinishing, one on electricity, and there's one we are signed up for tomorrow on plumbing if we can solve childcare (at least one of us will be going). We're also taking a really exciting one on iPhone photography with them later this month, with the always-fascinating Eric Mueller!

I'm bolstering that with some online continuing education. I'm currently beta-testing a new course on social media, which is more work than I expected, but which I'm learning a lot from (not the least of which is my ineptitude at using Google Sheets). Later this month, I'll be doing more online courses with the ever-amazing Christina Boyd-Smith, and amazing life church. Join me, it's free! Link here.

In between, I'm reading as much as I can, though I still have a propensity for fiction over non-fiction. But, as I was working on Beatrix's summer camp schedule today, I was thinking about how important learning new things is for me, especially high now. In many ways, it feels like the only way to combat the current toxic political climate, and to grow stronger, which is all kind of my theme for the year.

There are a lot of fun classes I want to take, too, if I can swing the funds. My friend Anna is teaching a sewing class I hope to do. I really want to take the Bittercube cocktail classes, but don't think we can swing the funds right now.

Am I the only one focused on learning MORE MORE MORE? I doubt it. What do you do to keep yourself curious?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

June

I picked this book up because I loved Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's previous book, Bittersweet so much, and because I am a sucker for, in order:

1)  old houses
2)  50s Hollywood
2)  artists' stories

In many ways, it did not disappoint. The house plays a front-and-center role, as does the 50s Hollywood story. Beverly-Whittemore is also especially strong at playing with the idea of what family means — in the best and the worst ways.

Though I found it a good read, I also found it to drag in several places. Maybe the multiple narrators and the switching back and forth between 1955 and 2005 were just too much. Maybe the whole premise was just a little too unbelievable. Maybe the characters never developed enough to care about them as much as I did the storyline or the house.

In any case, I'm glad enough that I read it, but I can already tell the story is  to going to stick with me for long.

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


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Our Intentional Community

After a glass of wine tonight, I was reflecting on how our ideals have become a household:

-  Patrick and myself, who met later in life, whose ideas are often counter-instinctual (i.e. minimalism vs. semi-hoarder), but whose values are almost identical and who love each other fiercely;
-  Our daughter, a crazy mix of both of us and her own ideals;
-  Our wonderful housemate, who has been gone on vacation for not even 48 hours and who I already miss greatly;
-  4 fish (enough said);
-  Crazy rescue dogs Coya (heroically rescued by our friend Wendy from a cruel backyard breeder) and neurotic Winston (equally heroically rescued by our friend Sandy after being dumped)
-  Cats Mimi (found at the doorstep), Belle (who we took in for a friend) and Dandelion (who we found on CraigsList), and now new foster kitty Tiger Lily, already settling in.

Add tho those:
-  Our amazing network of friends and family, who we love to pieces and see too little;
-  Our client base, many of whom have become friends;
-  Our collection of historic homes.

Someone asked recently if I was where I had wanted to be in life. I don't know if I am, but I know I would not want to be anywhere else but where I am.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Belly Up!

After a class in hardwood floor finishing tonight (oh, the glamour!), I got to head off to the launch party for Belly Up!

What is Belly Up, you may ask? It's an awesome new cocktail and craft beer membership program that allows you either 25 craft cocktails, 25 beers — or both! — at a variety of local bars and restaurants. You know, the kind of places you already either go to or want to go to, like Nighthawks, Tongue in Cheek, Borough, OxCart, or Heyday (where the event was tonight). They also have  variety of social events. Price point starts at $25 and goes no higher than $85 for the year (25 beers, 25 cocktails, 4 pint glasses and 4 cocktail glasses). If you buy the "full" membership you even get a set of charmingly designed beer and/or highball glasses created by local artists, though let's be real, if I have access to a whole bunch of great craft cocktails, I'm far less likely to be drinking in front of Netflix at home.

Because I was at said class, I was not able to attend the earlier part of the night, which I heard was well attended by some of my favorite food and beverage bloggers and other folks. But maybe, because I'm banging this out quickly with a handful of peanut M&Ms, just maybe I scooped some of them!

Because attending at the end of the night was far more fun. I had not been to Heyday in forever, and if the cocktail they are featuring for Belly Up members is as good as the one I had tonight, it's worth the membership right now. I got to meet and talk to some fascinating people, both attending the event and just people who stumbled across it while dining there. I got to chat with my awesome friend Dania, and to actually spend time with her husband, Noah, one of the co-founders. It was one of the friendliest, most successful events of its kind I had been to in a long time.

I had kind of soured on memberships like this; we're no longer Artshare members, my Crafttapped lapsed, and we don't even watch that much on Netflix anymore It always felt like one more thing I "had" to do, and as much as I like collecting experiences, these kind of memberships have always put pressure on me to attend places just because of the deal, rather than because I wanted to. Tonight, though, my mind was changed, and it was not just because of the congeniality of the hosts. Belly Up has a really friendly, laid-back sense that I think is going to enhance my life, rather than being one more thing on the to-do list. I think I'm sold.

Wanna go get a drink soon?

ETA: No, I did not get a membership for doing this post! I was just impressed by it. Promise. I'm not that easily swayed!


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nevertheless, She Persisted

I wear the Minnesota necklace that my friend Sommer got me almost every day. I often get compliments on it, and I say I wear it because I am too chicken to get a tattoo.

I guess I can't say that anymore.

Last week, my friend Nora came up with an idea. Like many I know, she had been turning over Mitch McConnell's words about removing Elizabeth Warren from Senate chambers in her head — "She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." And, I think like me, the ultimate irony was that, in meaning to demean Warren, those words gave her so much strength. Words have so very much power.

So, though in her words "I never thought I would get a quote from Mitch McConnell put on my body," she kept on thinking of it as a tattoo. And then she created an event for some of her friends. Wouldn't it be cool if several of her friends headed out and got the same tattoo together, and donated the proceeds to Women Winning?

And so she posted an event on Facebook. And I was like "hmm, maybe," because those thoughts had been going through my head too. I've never wanted to get a tattoo before. I thought they were fine for other people, but definitely not for me. But I couldn't stop thinking about it, so "interested" got changed to "going."

And then the post went totally viral, and all of a sudden a million people were interested. The event was supposed to start at 3 yesterday, and when I got there  little before I was #45 on the list. So I headed over to make sure Beatrix was ok at circus, then headed back. By then, there were almost 300 people on the list (no, they did not make it through them al. I think they did about 100, which is amazing. Three tattoo artists, donating their time, were hauling ass at working through tattoos, while doing each one well and making people feel relaxed and confident.

The evening was incredible, if controlled chaos! I got to spend a couple of hours with wonderful women who were knitting, and reading, and hanging out, and writing postcards to Trump. Some were getting their umpteenth tattoo. Many, like me, were getting their first. I only knew Nora and Kate going in, but as I sat there, I felt surrounded by support.

After a couple of hours my number came up, and Kyle did my tattoo. I was both freaked out and determined by that point, but it went fine. Kyle was great and reassuring, the 3 ladies who were waiting on the bench nearby were wonderfully reassuring. I don't know that I would have gotten one without the event, but I am glad I did.

The most bad-ass thing I have done in my life is to watch my mother die. The second most bad-ass thing I have done is to give birth to Beatrix. But this is the third most bad-ass, and I wear it with pride.



Some links to stories:

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/02/22/she-persisted-tattoos (written by the awesome Tracy Mumford)

http://motto.time.com/4678921/nevertheless-she-persisted-tattoos-minnesota/

http://www.startribune.com/more-than-100-women-pack-mpls-tattoo-shop-to-get-inked-with-nevertheless-she-persisted/414494043/#7 (don't read the comments. really)
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Monday, February 20, 2017

L'Chaim

On a day when out local JCC was closed due to a bomb threat, it seemed even more fitting that tonight we went to see Fiddler on the Roof by Ten Thousand Things Theater.

It was one of their free many performances, which they hold to make sure that their shows are accessible to literally all. This one was at the American Indian Center, which I had never been to. Beatrix is used to going to shows in all kinds of places, but I don't think it had ever occurred to you that you could do theatre like that in a big community space, so she was particularly fascinated.

I've actually never seen Fiddler, though it's burned into my cultural literacy. And what an amazing cast to see it with! TTT rarely sets a foot wrong in casting, and this production in particular was an embarrassment of performing riches. Though Steve Epp captivated me as Tevye (the joke when I worked at Jeune Lune was that audience members always said they would buy tickets to watch Steve read the phone book and Bradley Greenwald sing the ABC song, and we were always tempted to try it), the rest of the cast was also incredible. The performers were not only strong in their "main" roles, but also played several roles each, including moments for every man played  woman and vice versa (which amused Beatrix to no end). After seeing it, I don't know that I can imagine the show with a more standard cast (so much for "tradition.")

I was not prepared, though maybe I should have been, for how much the story resonated with political events today, and how teary it would make me. In the program, the cast bios were discussing why they do theatre now in particular, and more than ever that simple question made me realize how very important it is.

Most performances are sold out, so maybe TTT does not need your ticket dollar so much. But trust me, you need to see this show. Do whatever you can to get in.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

#IceCastles

The downside of the recent warm weather is that so many of the fun winter things to do are — very quickly — literally melting away! So we took advantage of the Ice Castles in Stillwater being open tonight for a Valentine's Day outing.

We've wanted to go for a few years, but this is the first time we got it together to do so. And I'm really glad we did!

We got there just as it was getting dark, and it was pretty quiet. The warmth meant the ice had a slight mist to it. The castle looks pretty small from the outside, and we enjoyed the twisting caverns as we walked in, and the colored lights just showing up against the ice as it got dimmer. It felt a lot like a British Christmas grotto, but made of ice.

Then we turned into the main courtyard, which was kind of amazing! There was even a fountain, and to one side was an enclosed ice slide (kids grabbed plastic mini-bogans, then went through a low tunnel and slid down an enclosed ice slide). Beatrix can be pretty anxious about sliding, but she went down this one five times in a row (easy to do, because it was relatively uncrowded).

Then we hit the maze area, which was really fun, when if most of the maze paths were a little too small for adults. Beatrix loved scrambling around. And then — just like that — it got dark, and the colored lights came on, and it was magic!

We spent quite some time in the maze, then did some other, smaller ice slides, and watched some fire dancers. All in all, it was a pretty magical way to spend a romantic evening!

After more than an hour there, we headed over to Leo's Malt Shop on Main Street for a 50s style dinner, and where we got to people-watch young couples having Valentine's Day dinners. Then home, where Beatrix had chocolate mousse cake, and I received flowers, and painting tools, proving my romantic man really knows me.

We've had a lot of Valentine's Days together, though I laugh as I look back at the calendar, because they always seem to have some kind of parental duty on them (cookie booths! dance class! music!), or various meetings and events. This is the first one that I can remember in quite some time where we spent it having fun as a family, and it was magical. Highly recommended.

(With the warm weather, I doubt the #icecastles will be open much longer. But if you get a chance to check them out, you should — it's worth it. Definitely but online in advance because it's much cheaper, and try to get there in the time frame we did, where day turns into night, for the best effects.)










Sunday, February 12, 2017

Building Community, One Room at a Time

So when you own three houses, what do you do in your free time? Head to someone else's house to take a class in painting a room!

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota has a fantastic series of classes, and the one Patrick and I took yesterday was on paint and plaster techniques. We were working on a little 1885 worker's house in South Minneapolis — a smallish dining room with high ceilings, a simple stained glass window, and an all-white starting canvas. Anders Christensen, of TigerOx Painting, was the instructor, which was great for two reasons: 1) I have known him through preservation circles for a long time and find him one of the smartest, most lives-to-his-values people I know, and 2) he's an incredible painter. I'm a pretty good painter, but I was really excited to "brush" my painting techniques (as it were).

Anders started with some general tips (summarized - it's all in the prep, sigh). We then started from the top, painting the ceiling a cream color. I'm kind of an all-white ceiling girl myself, but I have to admit, it looked pretty good here.

We then did the top of the room in a green/blue color, which the homeowner had picked from the Sherwin Williams historic palette. It came exactly 17" from the ceiling line, which was picked because the stained glass window was 17" high, and the proportions were perfect. I got to use a little roller (loved it!) to do the band. Best of all, Anders confirmed my strong belief not to tape, but to freehand the edging, and let me cut most of the room edge myself! I was in heaven!

The lower part of the wall was in a hubbard squash color, which really looked great. There was an attempt to demo part of the wall to expose the brick of the chimney, but that was a bit of a fail since it had been cemented-boarded and there was a big heating duct there. Old houses never fail to surprise, and the homeowner took it in good stead.

The workshop was great — we both had so much fun and learned a ton. Now I'm casting an eye around my own house, wondering if I should get Anders over to suggest some ideas...

Shots "during":


And after:



ETA:  Want to get in on the fun? Join us for one of the classes; Patrick and I are taking floor refinishing, plumbing, and electrical ones soon. Sustaining members get free classes with a monthly donation!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Doing the Can Can

It's Beatrix's 9th (golden) birthday, and to celebrate, she wanted to go to Can Can Wonderland.

I was down with that. I've been interested in it since it opened. It ticked all my boxes — entrepreneurial owners, art-based experience (golf holes created by artists), adaptive use of an old canning factory, and to top it off, great drinks by the Bittercube guys. What's not to like?

So you'll have to forgive me while I rave, because it was even better than expected.

The staff was super-friendly. We checked in and started playing golf right away, and had a blast trying out the different holes. I think my favorite might have been "Catch a Wave," or maybe "Grandma's Basement." It was super-fun to just all goof around together, and each hole was really creative (also HARD!)



We then got Beatrix some ice cream at the "Wee Bar," where I considered an adult milkshake, but then decided to head over to the other bar area which had a wider range of cocktails and food. When our friend Dustin from Bittercube saw we were there he brought over a cocktail with a Hawaiian name but a NOLA attitude, and if we were not hooked already, we were at the first sip of that!

We then headed over to the "Boardwalk," where we played lots of vintage arcade and pinball games. Seeing Beatrix's "pinball wizard" moves on an old machine was pretty awesome.



Plus we randomly ran into our friend Chank and our friends Jake and Laura and their beautiful girls. Even if we hadn't, though, the staff was so friendly we felt right at home.

I went in with some pretty high expectations, but I have to say the place exceeded them. If I could go back every day, I would (and I think Beatrix agrees, she was begging to play another round of golf before we left). The world needs more Can Can Wonderland.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

It was a week about looking back fifty to sixty years, with a particular eye towards race and prejudice — which, if you think about it, is not all that different than waking up every day right now in the current political climate.

It started when Patrick and I watched Loving, which had been on our must-see list for a long time but was blink-and-you-miss-it in theaters. It's the story of Loving vs. the State of Virginia, the Supreme Court decision that finally allowed interracial marriage — and I'll remind you that, though the Lovings married in 1958, the court decision was not until 1967. It's a movie that, obviously, has  a lot of meaning to Patrick and me; just think a minute, if you haven't, about what it would be like within your lifetime, to not be able to be married to the person you love. A lot of you reading this know very personally how that feels, but if you've never thought about it, it's worth considering what a privilege it is.

Loving is a very gentle, quiet movie. It did not draw a lot of attention to itself, which gives it even more power in its simplicity. Highly recommended.

Later that week, we double-family-dated with Beatrix's BFF's family to see Hidden Figures. I don't even know where to start with that one. Its strength was not being gentle, but in genuinely speaking truth to power. It made me so proud, so angry, so patriotic, so ashamed, so teary, so stoic — and all at the same time. What a story. Beatrix loved it and I'm so glad she got to see it and to have some hope in overcoming barriers. It deserves every ounce of praise it's been getting.

Saturday night, Patrick and I got a sitter and headed to downtown Saint Paul, past Crashed Ice and the Winter Carnival and the Roller Girls and god-know-what-else to go to the opening night of The Highwaymen at History Theater, a play about the development of Highway 94 and the destruction of the Rondo neighborhood in the late 1950s-early 1960s. It had been awhile since we had been there, and the whole vibe as we walked into the lobby was fascinating. It was the usual audience, but then all kinds of community groups and neighborhood activists, wine and cheese, old photos, and a real buzz to the air. The play lived up to it, one of the best pieces I have ever seen there. It was not at all what I expected, which was part of its strength, and again had more power in its simplicity (and its many monologues) than most far flashier pieces I have encountered.

Of all of these, the movies can wait — go see this now, during the run and spend some time thinking about how Saint Paul developed and how we got to where we are now. You won't regret it.*

*I even have two $10 off coupons of you want, let me know!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Going Underground

One of my favorite niche genres ton read lately has been foodie books. I recently enjoyed A Proper Drink, so thought The Underground Culinary Tour would be fun.

It was more than that. I was smitten.

The author, Damian Mogavero, has developed a sophisticated data analysis system that analyzes POS systems in restaurants to look at trends and increase sales. His examples, from hotshot Vegas places to a Long Island favorite, are fascinating, as is the way he can project those trends to nationwide chains.

Most particularly, it brings back the importance of service to a foodie culture; it's not (just) about the top chefs, but about the guest experience — something a lot of places could learn from, and that my favorite restaurants know well.

(However, not for late night reading; I ended up hungry all the time!)

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


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Friday, January 27, 2017

Pam

Who would ever think that Liquor Lyle's would be the perfect place for a wake?

Almost another lifetime ago, off and on at the end of high school, into college, and when I first moved back to Minnesota, I worked part-time at the Guthrie box office. This was back when the Guthrie was the award-winning Rip Rapson building attached to the Walker, with one thrust stage, a sprawling backstage area that included a staff bar called the Dram Shop, and the best damn box office in the Twin Cities.

The box office manager was Pam Truesdell, who, by the time she hired me, was already a Guthrie legend. Tucked back in the windowless back corner of the office, smoking god-knows-how-many packs of cigarettes a day, Pam ran that office with an iron hand. A typo on an order resulted in a "print-screen," posted on the board for everyone to see. More than 2 rings before you picked up the phone and you heard about it. And if you had worked your way up to the front window, you had better treat everyone that come into that lobby with the ultimate in courtesy, whether they had a top price seat or an $8 rush ticket.

In that way, Pam was the best boss I could ever with for. She taught me early on to demand a lot of myself — bit she also had a gift for figuring out what you were good at, and challenging you to do even better. I learned from Pam never to make excuses for yourself, but tat the same time to always give others the benefit of the doubt.

And I was not the only one. At Lyle's tonight was a wonderful group of people, of all ages, who had worked with and respected Pam (and who all had equally fierce stories about her). So many of them were people I worked with, and still care deeply about (you know who you are, and it was so wonderful to see you tonight). When Patrick dropped Beatrix off, one of them knelt down and kissed her hand, and she is still swooning about it.

This is the environment where I learned about theatre management. These are the people who made me what I am today. And I am so, so lucky to have that in my life. Pam would have loved tonight, but would have loved even more what an effect she had on people's lives. I hope she sensed even a glimmer of that.

Thank you so much, Pam.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Night Before the Inauguration

I'm thinking a lot today about losing my voice.

There have been lots of times in the past where I have not believed in my political leaders — in fact, when I have disagreed with them. But I have always felt like I could express my opinion. That I could stand up and fight. That maybe I made an impact, if not a difference.

I'm not so sure of that right now. I'm scared of repercussions, of what might happen to my family. And everything seems like a painful reminder of what we are losing, to the point where even looking over Beatrix's shoulder when she is watching Glee puts me into tears.

I'm not even sure I should be writing this now.

Tonight I went down to Park Square Theater for the #ghostlightproject. People gathered in front of theaters all over the country at 5:30 to gather as artists, to talk about who they are and what they stand for, and to know that we have each other. It was incredibly poignant and moving.

When Beatrix got home from school, we took this picture:



I had signed a MoveOn petition  asking the Girl Scouts national chapter not to march in the inaugural parade (side note: BIG fan of the Girl Scouts and what they have done for Beatrix, cannot believe that the GSUSA is participating in that event), and they had asked for it as a follow up. Beatrix herself does not understand how it fits with the Girl Scout pledge to participate, and I can't say I can explain it to her.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Meditation Resolution

Having failed so spectacular on my New Year's resolutions last year, I did not really set any thing year.

But my husband is pretty ace at meditation, and I have been fascinated by how he succeeds at it. I, on the other hand, generally suck at meditation. Once I managed it, under a kind of punk-rock guided meditation session by Russell Simmons. But otherwise, as much as I know it's good for me, as much as I know I should, I just can't.

So why pick up this book? Well, it seems achievable, for one thing. It's 52 meditations, basically one a week (ok, I got in in January so I'm already a little behind. But bear with me). It works along with a journal, which I like. I can journal. And the themes and ideas ("Are You A People Fixer?" "Trusting Your Creativity") are compelling. It comes at the idea of meditation as basically another way of thinking, rather than some deep, monk-like "practice."

I've only done one week so far. And I may fail at this too. But at least I'm giving it a try. Maybe the best resolutions are the ones I don't actually set.



Wake Up to the Joy of You

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