Showing posts from 2020

2021 Resolutions

I wondered what I had resolved for 2020, but then I went back and realized that I don't think I had made any. So let's just say that I wanted to spend more time with family, read more, and learn how to use zoom, and call the year a success. Truth be told, though I make resolutions every year, I struggle with them — particularly right now. This year? Well, suffice it to say that making it through the day and actually getting my teeth brushed seems like a huge accomplishment sometimes. Should NY Resolutions be large, overarching goals that make fundamental change? Yeah, maybe, but how do I know if I achieve that, and that's not really just a one-year thing. Should I be changing habits? Probably, but it turns out that I am really resistant to that. A Facebook group I am on was talking about a list of goals, "21 for 21" since apparently #20for20 was a big trend I missed (but I guess so did everyone else who had "travel more" on their list...)  So I go throug


 Tonight we settled down with the dogs and the warm blankets and watched SOUL on Disney+.  And it was nice to watch. It's a good thing that we upgraded tvs last year, because we have spent a lot of time over the last 9+ months watching things on it. From things meant for the small screen (ranging from Tiger King to The Queen's Gambit ), to things that were adapted for it (like Beatrix's choir concerts), it's been our portal to the world (as it has for all of you, you're reading these very words on some kind of screen right now). Today, the New York Times suggested spending New Year's Eve viewing an electronic broadcast that tours the world and "experiences" midnight in each time zone, or creating an avatar and joining a virtual Times Square. Then there are our meetings and happy hours and even holiday celebrations, all stacked boxes on a zoom screen (if we are lucky, or some other permutation like glitchy conference calls if we are not). And as I wa

Corona Christmas - Christmas Eve Meal

My grandmother used to host Christmas Eve. After she had a stroke, my mother took over matriarch duties. So when she died 14 years ago, I took it over. Before this year, we have twice not hosted Christmas Eve. One was in 1987, when I was in London, and my mom and dad actually both came over to see me (kind of amazing for divorced parents); we celebrated in London, and then went to Italy. I remember breaking into tears on Christmas Eve in an Italian restaurant in Soho because it just didn't seem right. There were good parts, too, though — my friend/then roommate Karen reminded me tonight that that was her first lefse. The next time we did not celebrate was in 2006 when my mom died. Instead, Patrick and I spent the night in a  cot in the floor of her hospital room. So I guess this year marks the 3rd time we did not celebrate, at least in the usual way. Instead, Patrick still made full a meal, and divided them into big pans to deliver. Beatrix made cookie trays. This morning we made l

Brutus on Brewpubs - Stay at Home Edition

Brutus really misses taprooms. We have discovered that, on Mondays, Insight will fill your growler for $10. Even when you add on tax and tip (because hey, these guys are risking their lives to get you beer), it's a great deal, and lasts us a couple of nights. We especially like the Small Batch "Flavor Savor." Here is Brutus, in a ridiculously cute Santa sweater, demonstrating how good it is. We're so dedicated to small taprooms that today we drove to Saint Paul Brewing, in the impending blizzard, to pick up some Haze of Infatuation. Also because they are having an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest and we believe Brutus should win.  Even if you don't have beer and a ri-donk-u-lous-ly cute dog at home, we hope you are bundled in against the elements and ready for winter holidays, pandemic version. This year, more than ever, it's not about what we want, but what we have.

The Gift of Food

 Ok, so you bring food to people when they have a baby or there's a death in the family (you do, right?) But how often do you think of doing it otherwise? In the last few weeks, we have dropped off meals for a friend who had just started a new job (and was in that phase of being overwhelmed by the number of introductory meetings you need to have with people in a new job, complicated by the virtual meeting technology aspect) — for friends who have a monster renovation project on their hands and two small children — for friends who had just moved into a new home (just a short walk from us!) In each case, the recipients were incredibly touched, and told me it truly made the things they were facing easier to handle. We've been also able to lend our other house this week to friends getting married, and to another friend who just needed a 24-hour escape before the craziness of the holiday. And done short-term rentals for a few families needing a stay-cation. These things are not hard

Corona Christmas - Cookies

So Christmas has always been a big deal in my Norwegian-American family (which is one reason why associating it with the anniversary of my mom's death has been so incredibly hard). Perhaps nothing was more important to my mother than the Christmas baking. She had a standard list of two dozen or so standard cookies and quick breads she would make. They were always the same — chocolate drop, santa's crisp, nut goodie bars, (incredibly potent) bourbon balls, lemon meringue, chocolate mint brownies, English toffee, thumbprint, pecan balls, and more (never enough chocolate, in my opinion). Baking started in November, when we would start to fill the freezer with tupperware containers filled with cookies, each with a wax paper sheet carefully between layers. Then there were the Scandinavian standards, all of which incited a lot of swearing as she made them: rosettes, krumkake, sanbakkel. It's only later I knew there were other ways — here's the krumkake I made last night, with

Pandemic Projects - 'Tis The Damn Season Crafting

Staying at home has made for slightly more Christmas crafting. I come from a tradition of exuberant 1970s holiday crafts — of sequined ornaments, and waldorf-doll-looking wise men made with nylons over styrofoam balls — and of course of Christmas baking. So when we were picking up pans at the Dollar Store yesterday for distributing Christmas dinner, I picked up a mug that I could alter to paid tribute to my favorite song from Taylor Swift's new Evermore : (it's artfully posed on the puzzle I just finished!) I followed a prompt to make a Mandalorian paper snowflake. I only had the bad scissors, and Mando's mask did not come out exactly right, but I thought it was a noble attempt. Here it is displayed with another creative concoction, the French 75s we made last night. I made Christmas cookies for a socially distanced cookie exchange (more on that later): I also did a display outside our home with the extra branches we lopped off the Christmas tree, but I think there's m

Good Things

 Some parts of life I am really liking right now: - Insight Brewery does $10 growlers on Monday night, which lasts us generously through 2 nights. - We all have a lot more screen time right now (like The Mandalorian and His Dark Materials and Small Ax ) , and the dogs like cuddling on the couch with us.  -  Zoom-inars are not as engaging as IRL events, but easier to attend. Tonight I went to a really interesting Alumnae Speaker's Series about education in the time of covid through SPA, and then a "Frankly Speaking" series through Frank Theater on race and philanthropy. -  Our house looks very nice lit up with Christmas lights. -  I'm well-stocked on books (but I could always use more!).

Pandemic (Holiday) Projects - Deck the Halls

Yup, we did not think the pandemic would last until holiday decorating time. We are already working out ways to cook the usual big Christmas Eve dinner, and then divide it up and deliver it to people. Over the weekend, though, we finished getting our decorations up. One year a couple of years back, I went all "Miracle at Lawless'" with the front hallway. This year is more restrained, though it still makes me want a cocktail. Our tree is amazing.  The fireplace is ready for Santa, even if this is the first year that Beatrix does not believe. As most of you know, this is a really hard time of the year for me — and this year it's worse than usual, for obvious reasons. I'm fighting hard against just wanting to hide under the bed until it's over. But luckily I have all of you around to make it better.

Pandemic (Holiday) Projects - May Your Season Be Bright

(I have very mixed feelings about having my pandemic projects be holiday decorating. Who would have known it would last this long?) In trying to make our home more cozy for winter, we've added a lot of warm light. I suppose it's very Norwegian, which is good since our Norwegian family is obviously not coming this year. Patrick's favorite are the lights at the fireplace, though I want to add some candles. We've added fairy lights around all of our double windows: A puzzle table with a "Together" light (kind of cheesy, but fun right now): Outside, I decorated the back window boxes: Patrick put colored lights up in front on the fence and porch. One the Christmas tree is up in the window I'll take a picture of the whole front. I think the Scandinavian countries are on to something — it certainly adds joy to every night for us!

University Grove

Last Thanksgiving, we were in Chicago, going to museums, eating out, shopping, and exploring new neighborhoods. Since this Thanksgiving we could not get away, we decided to explore a neighborhood here in our hometown. University Grove is a small enclave of architect-designed homes near the Saint Paul Campus of the U of M. The university-owned land was available only to university professors and staff, and he stipulation was that the homes in it all needed to be architect-designed. While early houses in the area tend to be colonial or tudor style (including a Lundie), subsequent construction (mainly from the late 1930s through the late 1960s) tends to be more modern in style, from architects such as Ralph Rapson, Hammel and Green, Winston & Elizabeth Close (who I am currently reading about and who also lived in the neighborhood), and more. All the houses had construction cost caps (initially $10,000, later close to $50,000), giving them a remarkable continuity even as the styles di

Have a Bookish Holiday

 Last year my amazing sister-in-law, Patrice, was with us for Christmas. Her gift was the highlight of the night — she brought a whole armful of unwrapped books, dumped them dramatically out on a coffee table in the middle of where we were gathered, and told everyone that they should chose one that spoke to them. Each book had two stories — why Patrice had chosen it (usually a personal connection with the author), and why each of us chose the book we did. It was a fascinating conversation; the book I chose was excellent; and it got my stepson back on the reading train and he has been reading like a fiend since then. It was amazing. We won't be able to do the same thing this year, if only because we obviously won't be gathering. But I'm thinking of how to maintain that spirit. I love the Icelandic idea of the Jolabokaflod or "Christmas Book Flood" where you give books and chocolate on Christmas Eve and read straight through the night until Christmas morning. And i

Quick Picks for Black Friday

Four quick picks if you are doing your holiday shopping today: 1) A fleece onesie from Poppy . I got one earlier this week, and EVERYONE needs one (and by the results to my social media posts, I am not the only one who thinks so.) Poppy is 20% off everything through Monday, and you get a free pair of gloves with purchases over $60 (though the onesies will be less than that, so buy other things too). Tell Jill I sent you. Trust me. This is the one thing everyone needs right now. 2) A membership to the Feminist Book Club . You can do a book-only monthly membership, or a whole curated box. I love the books I get — it expands what I read but also there has not been one I have not liked yet! This is another one that people have loved seeing on my social media. Even better, use my referral code for $10 off:  REF8NDXBY5AYM. 3) Cocktail kits from Lawless/Stillheart. Our own secret recipe for getting through this so far. Today only, use this code for 20% off, and say Patrick and Bethany sent y


 This is what this Thanksgiving (and Thanksgiving Eve last night) is: - An amazing Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of our wonderful friend Erica. We're talking ALL the food and the sides, and she is an amazing cook. Served up on a table that is set with our fancy china and beautifully crafted pottery, because that's how we roll. A bottle of wine from Biltmore. - A toast to our friends Carrie and Jason and their amazing kids. If we are in town, we almost always spend Thanksgiving there, and I missed that mightily this year. - Watching some Mandolorian and part 1 ("Mangrove") of the Small Axe  series. And then watching the Taylor Swift special on the making of Folklore , which has kind of been a pandemic soundtrack for me. With almost no opportunities for live art, we've been watching more streaming. Working in media with FilmNorth, this is probably good for me. I've certainly learned more/been exposed to more. -  Playing Killer Bunnies, a fire, a hot tub. - My sh

Don't Yuk Someone Else's Yum

Ok, to start out with, we're all tired. As one friend put it the other day, "We're all doing our best, but we're not doing the best that can be done." We're not getting together in person, so our interactions are mainly via social media. This is a hard medium to use effectively, where something you posted that you thought was a light joke can easily get read as a mean-spirited remark, and vice versa. And in a time where our values are being tested, it can seem all the more important to ensure that others know what we stand for, and all the more important to speak up. But in the last week, I've seen some virtue-signaling by social media that just plain sits uncomfortably with me. Statements like "Don't buy Obama's book, he doesn't need the money! You should be buying from a small local press instead!" Or on Give to the Max Day  "I don't know why you are giving to the arts. Obviously social service is WAY more important right n

Pandemic Projects - Saving Money on Water with the Flume

A few weeks back, our insurance agent let us know that we could save $300/year on insurance if we got and installed Flume water monitors . They were specially priced for the insurance company at $169 each (plus shipping), and we could get one for both Ashland and Summit. It seemed like a no-brainer to us! Not only would we have some insurance premium savings, but we could monitor use, which is especially important when we are not at Summit. Recently, we had a situation where someone was staying there and for whatever reason the floater in the toilet did not float quite right just one time when it was flushed. It was a fluke accident, but flooded the bathroom and caused several hundred dollars worth of ceiling damage in the kitchen, so we took little convincing that was a good idea. The Flume is advertised as installable yourself in 15 minutes, and I would say that was pretty accurate. You have to locate the water meter: Take a picture with the app to be sure it's compatible (spoile

A Very Covid Christmas

(I used "Christmas" because that's the main holiday we celebrate, but feel free to insert your own mid-winter celebration here). The holidays are going to suck this year. There's no two ways about it. It's going to be hard to have a "zoom Thanksgiving," or whatever people are planning. No caroling, no holiday events, shopping will be difficult, another zoom session for your Christmas dinner, explaining how Santa is handling social distancing with the elves — I get it. It's hard and it sucks. No one wants this. We're all exhausted and bone-tired of this. We all don't want it to be this way. We want to get back to normal. We want things to be ok "for the kids" (and also we really mean for us.) The fact that we've been living through this since March and now the holiday season — the time we are usually grateful, and spend time with family, and celebrate — the fact that that is being taken away from us now seems unfair and unreasona

Pandemic Projects - Tiny Edition

Elections, pandemics, snow, basic life, racism at Glam Doll Donuts — it's a lot. Which is why you have not heard from me lately. And I lack the energy to touch on any of those today. It's honestly all just way too much.  But we have done a few tiny projects. Beatrix has cleaned through her clothes and sold tons of them to save up for Christmas presents. I got new rubber stair treads in front that should help with the snow and ice, and Patrick put them down today. I've wanted these for years, so it's a win. I also got the front yard waste cleaned up before the snow, and just today I finally (just 14 years later) managed to get a vase order to attach to my mom's wall niche at the cemetery, so maybe we can decorate it this year. I ordered a Flume water sensor for each house that will monitor water usage and give us a nice annual insurance discount (we still have to install them, but that's not supposed to be hard). Beatrix starts DL full time next week (she's

Things That Made Me Happy Today - November 1 Edition

 My adorable new sweater from the new Poppy in White Bear Lake. The fact that my friend Geri got a new dog and he is a Very Good Boy. The Ramsey Hill mug filled with treats that was delivered today. Putting my "Smart Women Vote" climb on my car window. And aren't these stickers great? Day-after Halloween candy binge after a lovely, socially-distanced get-together with a few friends around a bonfire last night (thank you, Jenn and Mike!) Plus this is a joint "Corona Cleaning" post because, while Patrick was cleaning out the tupperware (I swear in the breeding process they multiply dramatically, while losing their lids), Beatrix and I cleaned up clothing storage and I organized and culled a large number of winter clothes (that's how I earned myself the new sweater). I REALLY miss clothing exchanges!

Happy Halloween - or "You Can't Keep Spirit Down"

So the amount of handwringing I have seen, for weeks now, about "You can't cancel Halloween!" has been extreme. What I have seen this weekend (other than some minivans shuttling the kids between the few places on Summit that had their lights on tonight) has been extraordinary. Patrick, Beatrix, Ximena and me listening to Halloween music and drinking hot chocolate in a crazy long line for the "Haunted Car Wash," which was short yet enjoyable, but the real fun was the togetherness. Lining the hallway with spooky dolls late last night to surprise Beatrix this morning. Beatrix putting together bags of candy to deliver to her friends (on the way to the kind of anticlimactic but somehow fun sheriff's drive-through today.) Brutus in a bumblebee costume at Saint Paul Brewing this afternoon. Our traditional get-together at Mike and Jenn's, though smaller and more distanced this year. Multiple neighbors stopping by with Halloween treats for Beatrix. Carving pumpki

Like A Boss

So there's one BIG problem with being an entrepreneur who deals with a large number of clients, with regards to developing leadership or management skills. Every.Single.Time that I go to a training, or read a book, or do some kind of other professional development, I immediately and excitedly drill down into how the techniques could help XYZ client. And I get really excited and granular, and think of everything I am going to do with that client and how I will follow the steps to Make Everything Better. Then I pop my head up like a meerkat and realize I have approximately 999,999,999 OTHER clients to develop a similar plan for, in all that intense level of detail, and I give up. So I am really good at developing specific techniques (just ask me about PPP loan applications!), but far less so at lifting myself up as a whole and generally being *better*myself. Work Like A Boss is the first book I have read in a long time that circumvents that problem. It's not about any kind of pr

Corona Cleaning - Garage Band

 This one was a big one. Our garage has filled up over the years with stuff from my dad's, building materials (our neighbor pulled over the other day and said "It's like Scherer Lumber in here!"), general lawn and garden stuff, the rugs we took out of the house when we did the floors, some things that really should have been thrown out, a lot of tools (yes, there is a table saw AND a mitre saw in that picture, as well as 2 chainsaws — see earlier note on stuff from my dad's) and pieces of orphan furniture that I keep rescuing. Like, to the point that you could not get a car in, which is what a garage is ostensibly for. So, over 2 full weekend days, we focused on cleaning it out. We got like things into like piles — oh look, all the wood is in the woodrack, all the garden materials together, all the bikes hung, etc. We threw out a ton. We organized the tools. We cleaned the rugs. We gave away a ton of rugs and weatherstripping and various small things on the neighb