Showing posts from 2019

Open House

All three of us love the Minnesota History Center. Before he died, my dad used to get us a membership to it every year for Christmas, so we've been there (and to their other sites) many times. I'll never forget the time in kindergarten that Beatrix stopped at the Minnesota kiosk and was able to wow the person working there by listing off the Minnesota state bird, tree, flower, rock, and even the state muffin.

But since she was tiny, Beatrix's favorite exhibit has been "Open House." It's the story of a house on the East Side of Saint Paul (it's a real house, still there), originally built by the Schumacher family after they emigrated here from Germany (with a stop in Henderson, Minnesota on the way). It then became a duplex, and for some time that was the "Little Italy" neighborhood of Saint Paul and it had a strong Italian presence as you walk through the reconstructed kitchen.

You then move through the bedroom (with a bed that always breaks!) an…

Ode to 633 Ashland

Since I bought my house in 1993, the Hill family in this house has been our neighbors. First John and Marie and their sons, then just Marie and her younger son Eddie, and now Marie has passed (at 100!) and Eddie has moved out. The house was sold to one of those wholesale acquisition companies, who turned it around for a huge asking price (190K), and I suspect it will soon be torn down and replaced with some Pottery Barn McMansion horror.

The house is 1884 and is the earliest on the street. Ours was build in 1886, and several of the other ones on the street were moved in when the fields and playground for Webster School were put in down the street.

I know a lot of people look at this and are horrified, but I really wish we could have bought it and saved it.

Running Aces

Running Aces is a sponsor of Circus Juventas, and tonight a bunch of staff made a field trip out there to check it out!

I've actually never seen a horse race before, mainly because I don't tend to gamble and I'm too cheap to pay the cover. If you are anything like me in that, Running Aces is a good solution, because there is no cover, you can go and watch the races for free! It's also harness racing, which is really interesting to see.

(Yes, I placed my first bet ever, on Custard's Dungeon in the 5th race. No, he did not win.)

We even got to have a group picture taken with one of the winning horse in the Winer's Box. A magnificent animal.

The rest of the place was pretty interesting as well. There are several gaming tables, but it's not overwhelming. There's also a trout pond, and several of us fished for our dinner. I caught the smallest trout ever (guess he was hungry!), but Patrick was patient and waited (and caught 4 that he did not totally hook) bef…

Star Bright

Tonight we had a mini-date at Bar Brigade while Beatrix was at circus. The Lawless folks had taken over for a cocktail tasting called "Star Bright," and so we got to try 5 Hemingway-inspired cocktails, each with a highly varied store that wold do Papa proud. I introduce:

the Key West Punch (look at the flower!)

Green Isaac's Special (coconut!)

the Montgomery Martini (a true martini)

Death in the Afternoon (absinthe and sparkling wine!)

Gregorio's Rx (our fave)

I love the feeling at the Bar Brigade bar, and bartender Oona (I think that's how it's spelled) is one of the best in town. I'll happily meet you there for any happy hour I can sneak away to without feeling like a terrible parent. But this really ups the game! (cocktails on rotation for the rest of the summer)


So we have gorgeous hardwood floors, and rugs. But when you have what I refer to as a "low-rent petting zoo," the animals are going to have some accidents on said rugs. We recently purchased a Ruggable for one room, but I don't know that they are practical for everywhere, or that we can afford it — plus some of our rugs have sentimental value. So we consulted Bob Vila's tips for rug cleaning.

Basically, you vacuum the rug well, then scrub it with a mix of water, dish soap, and vinegar until it gets lathering. Rinse really well with the hose, flip over, and do it again. Of course, that means a 6x9 rug like our hall rug gets REALLY heavy.

The water coming out was disgusting, and now our pretty patio is a little damp and scungy too....

We then let it drain overnight, and hauled it into the garage so Patrick could run the steam cleaner to extract the water . We'll see. When we finished today it had kind of that "wet teddy bear" look. We also tried a smaller…

Independence Day

So secretly, I love firework shows. I understand they freak out dogs and vets with PTSD and find the amateur ones that go on far past the 4th of July annoying, but there's nothing like a good fireworks show. And I'm happy that American Independence Day is in July, because British fireworks for Guy Fawkes Day in November are cold!

We're often not even in the US for the 4th, but this year we were. After a couple of lovely, low-key parties, we found our way over to the super-secret neighborhood park where a band of unknown vigilantes sets off fireworks every year. I'd never been before (revoke my Saint Pau; card!), and last year was supposed to be the last, but a push for funding this year allowed it to happen, so we figured we had to go.

A ton of people were gathered by the time we got there, all through the park and on neighboring street corners. A tinny radio played heavily American-themed pop (think Proud to be an American and Old Town Road). Kids ran around with spar…


Anyone who knows my sister-in-law, Patrice, knows how much she adores her New Orleans porch. But you might not know how long I have coveted a good, Southern-style porch as well, though it's been a slow build to it.

I've had the furniture for awhile, and got the rug (courtesy of the neighborhood BST board) last year. There's a (perhaps too-bright) chandelier out there, and I just string the little basket lights. But the piece de resistance, which I just made and strung up during a rain squall, is the sheer curtain made from a roll of fabric I found at my dad's, which hides the neighbor's weedy yard and the big air conditioning unit.

It's not perfect yet. I would like some big floppy Boston ferns, or maybe something bright, in the planter. Some pillows might be good too. But in general I love it, and can hardly wait to hang out and read on the porch with a cocktail!


ETA:  Added some fun details, it's coming along!

In Hot Water

One reason I love our old homes is that I love creating lovely spaces for people to gather. My favorite home improvement yet is when we redid our dining room to match our china.

But sometimes, home improvements are less exciting. Like when you are up at the cabin for the weekend and your father-in-law, who is housesitting, calls to say that the water heater has failed and has leaked all over the basement floor.

That water heater was the first thing we put in when we bought the house. It's 28 years old. Sigh.

Getting a new water heater involved endless amounts of research — regular vs. tankless, power boost, etc. It also took time. Luckily we don't shower much and had another place to go to.

So today we finally got the new one put in. Your basic "forty shorty."

It was, admittedly, not my favorite way to spend $1,000 unexpectedly. But having hot water again is really nice.

Summer of Fun

In past years I've had Summer of Peacocks, Summer of Gin, and Summer of Rosé. Last year, though, was Summer of Death. Since then. I've had a year of making up for the time I took off to deal with my dad to have Fall, Winter, and Spring of Too Much Work.

So I'm declaring this summer the Summer of Fun. I'm going to work on puzzles and stay up late watching movies. I'm going to lie on the hammock and read. I'm going to take the dogs for walks. I'm going to hang out in the back yard and drink wine with friends (ok, not tonight because it's raining). I'm hoping for some great cocktails. I'm going to enjoy the heck out of hanging with Beatrix before she goes into middle school and starts not wanting to spend time with me.

And actually I'm hoping to do a lot of nothing. Or at least some of that.

I'm going to start Summer of Fun Friday night with a pool party. I hope you'll be there. But if not, we  have all summer.

When Theater Lies to You

I've bene lucky enough, in the last week, to have seen Caught by Full Circle Theater Company  and Birds of the Future by Skewed Visions — two similar yet very different shows that have turned things up-side down for me.

In both, you enter the world of the piece by entering through a very visual set space; in Caught, a gallery, and in Birds, more like my dad's basement. Both then bring you abruptly into their worlds;  in Caught that is a world of evocative words as expressed by incredible performances, and in Birds, a world of very physical performance, punctuated by a few sections of very visceral language. Caught is a more linear piece, which makes the way it spins you on your head all the more surprising. In a Skewed Visions piece, you expect to be turned around, but you still at some point sit with your neck craned wondering "How did I get here?"

Both are incredible shows (and with low ticket prices), and run for one more week. I can't recommend enough the exp…

Becoming a Learner

This morning, I attended Beatrix's LAST "Randy's Races" track and field day at Randolph Heights. It was, fittingly, just about as cold as it was for her first one in kindergarten, when Ms. Nelson broke away from her all day off-campus training to run down and whip her huge class of hellions into angelic shape, and when the entire kindergarten class ended the day by all doing the Michael Jackson "Killer" dance with Ms. Kritta. They were so tiny that many of them cried when they could not scoot their cart across the tennis court or fell out of their burlap sack as they hopped.

Today, they were much bigger. They handled the games with aplomb, as well as a lot of joy. Beatrix was chosen as one of the older kids to help with some of the younger classes. And I almost cried because the lasts are coming fast and furious now.

Immediately after, Patrick and I whipped down to a Character Recognition Luncheon by the Synergy and Leadership Exchange (the Global Executive…

Some Days

Some days you end up doing yard work over your lunch break because it's the only time you can and it's about to rain for 7 days straight. So you are in a pencil skirt and (low sensible) heels cutting down stems and raking things and thinking that there has to be a better way.

But there wasn't, really, because it was just this last weekend you got the all clear to cut down dead stems because it's been a late spring and pollinator bees were still hibernating in them. And over the weekend you worked all day Saturday and didn't want to tackle this particular yard work on mothers day, though you did do some other yard work.

So the pollinators are safe and you are cutting the stems and you have mulch in your shoe and you are thinking about this is then first year you knew not to cut the stems, and even though it's a PITA to be doing yard work on a random Wednesday afternoon it still seems like a reasonable price to pay for a pollinator or two. And you feel bad you ha…

You Betcha!

Recently, I helped a new friend set up her Quickbooks. She has a great food subscription box company called the You Betcha! Box, and as a thank you, she sent me one!

Its delivery was actually a little anticlimactic; I came home to find the subscription box, along with a box containing some new Danskos I had ordered, placed squarely in the path of a mini-waterfall off of our porch roof. Thank you, substitute mail dude (our regular guys incredibly careful, so I know it was not him!)

I had seen some of Katie's other boxes while I was there working on Quickbooks, but know this would be the best one as soon as I opened it:

First there was some great information about the small Minnesota vendors in the box, plus a coupon for a tour of a distillery in Carver (yum):. Years ago, I worked with an arts consortium forming in Carver, so I am excited to head out there and see what they have been up to! Plus, I love the focus on music education:

Then we got to the snacks, some great, distinctive…

The Rest of New York

My friend Laura writes amazing travel blog posts and I always aspire to be more like her in that. But now it's been almost 2 weeks since we have been home, and I had better get my thoughts about New York down right quick!

We got to see my friend Dawn's lovely apartment (and she made us breakfast). I'm so thrilled as to where she is in her life!

We say the amazing White Noise by Suzan-Lori Parks at the Public (my first show at the Public!). It was a little too old, likely for Beatrix, but honestly riveting for all of us. And we ran into our neighbor, Carol, and her fantastic daughter Tiffany, a photographer who lives in New York. We were so busy chatting to them after the show that we stuck around forever — just long enough to see David Diggs come out and tell him what a mind-blowing job he had done! He was charming and gracious and very quiet. (Want to know more? Studio 360 has a new piece on it that ran tonight!)

We stopped in to Steamy Hallows, a Harry Potter pop-up coff…

There Is Power in the Union

Living in London in 1987.

Listening to Billy Bragg.

Feeling like only someone who felt like that about that about Thatcher could understand how I felt about Reagan.

Walking up the stairs from the Tube stop and having my friend Fran say "I don't know how someone could break up with you because they thought you were 'too mainstream.'"

Being in a small club (Dingwalls? The Hackney Empire? Somewhere in Highgate? I don't know...) seeing Billy Bragg live for the first time.

Wearing out my live cassette tape of "Talking with the Taxman About Poetry" while drinking cheap wine from the corner store.

Understanding what it meant to be part of a force. Finding myself.

Feeling the importance of a union now even more that I understand it better (hat tip to SEIU).

Tonight seeing Billy Bragg at the Fine Line was part of all that, just *a few* years later.

Magic. Thank you


Spoiler: There Was an Intermission

I interrupt my blog travelogue to talk about the Amanda Palmer concert last night, a 4-hour epic event that reminded me that compassion and empathy are complicated, and often come from where you least expect it — and simultaneously don't come from where you might.

The scene: a packed O'Shaughnessy Auditorium. The mostly female, overwhelmingly white, audience is varied in age from goth teens to stately grandmothers. The lobby has tables from Planned Parenthood to Amanda's merchants and Patreon tables. Everyone knows they are here for something extraordinary.

And extraordinary it is. The concert is not long because Amanda *Fucking* Palmer plays thousands of songs. It's long because each song is long (6-11 minutes), and because for every song, she sets the tone by telling the story of how it came about. Each story is a nautilus of a piece that winds back around itself and leads you somewhere unexpected. It's an incredible look into how they were written and how her t…

Beaches to Broadway

Normally, when we are in New York, we have just a short time so decide to stay in Midtown. This time, though we had an equally short time, we decided to stay with our friends Julie and Neil in Brooklyn and prioritize together time, and I'm so glad we did!

(This is where I admit I had been to Brooklyn just once before in my life, to go to Julie's, and I had generally looked down on it as Not Manhattan and also Way Too Hipster. This trip was a great chance to eliminate those stereotypes.)

When we arrived Thursday, the construction in LaGuardia was causing a huge transportation backup; you had to take a shuttle, which took well over 45 minute, just to get to the taxi stand, which was still better than a 90 minute wait and over $100 fee for Lyft. So we did not get to Julie's until about 7:30, but we got delicious Thai food and then got ice cream at Ample Hills and got a little driving tour of Brooklyn.

Friday we got kind of a later start and took the subway in to go to the Gugge…

Moon Over Miami

Most people are surprised that I really like Miami. I'm not sure why — maybe they associate it only with the party scene, or with the seemingly endless number of famous-in-their-own-mind Instagrammers taking nonstop beach shots as they walk in the sand in a bikini and stilettos, or with a "lack of culture."

But what I see when I think of Miami is a gorgeous beach, where I can lay in a beach chair and watch Beatrix play in the waves in her mermaid tail. Where we can get a few fancy drinks and tacos and sit in a cabana by our rooftop pool. Where we can walk in the warmth along Ocean Avenue and take in the Deco buildings. Where we can eat outside in pedestrian-mall streets with glowing lanterns and where I can eat all the seafood I want, or Cuban food in a courtyard, or even just have a nutella croissant and strong Italian coffee for breakfast while still being outside in the warmth. Where even the chain stores like Lush seem somehow more interesting, and where I can walk t…