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://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)

Monday, February 20, 2017


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


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)