Archive for the 'Feeling Minnesota' Category

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Bike version

Monday, September 8th, 2014
This is not Bridge #9

Bridge #9? Who knows?

Realized yesterday that “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” could work for me as a blog title, blog subtitle, or epitaph.

Things yesterday that seemed like a good idea at the time:

1. Wearing a skirt to ride my bicycle, hoping to demonstrate the triumph of the ‘penny in yo’ pants‘ hack.

Alas, maybe its my skirt, maybe it’s my generous thighs, but I just cannot get this hack to work for me. putting the coin through both layers, back and front, does not stay, then looks like I’m shitting a coin when it falls out plus then my skirt rides up when I’m biking, and while I wear underwear and am thus not flashing my pink parts at anyone, still, it’s not the image I want to project.

2. Taking a long ride for the first time in a long time. Today, I am saddle sore. Not sure that skirt was a good choice there either, though it is dang cute.

3. Thinking I could depend on my phone’s navigation rather than carefully plotting the route to someplace I’d been to years ago, especially because it advised going over a bridge I’d had trouble finding before, PLUS a bridge in the vicinity of an area of city road washed out earlier this year by a landslide and still closed to traffic. Why yes, I am embracing run-on sentences today.

Getting there: followed phone’s directions. Instead of going way I know pretty well, I was confident I could find elusive Bridge 9. Not so. End up on rocky dirt path, and when Google maps (which still insists, years later, that bike directions are in beta, for good reason, I discover, but still, let’s get it together, already!) tells me to turn left on a bridge, the bridge is over my head, with neither end in sight.

I followed detour signs and ended up on the opposite side of river, and thought, this is wrong (which is was) but just kept going. I did finally arrive at my destination, having to re-cross river, after an hour 25 instead of the predicted 50 minutes, sweaty, late and feeling like an idiot.

Then, on way back, directions said to go straight for 5.4 miles and turn right on elusive Bridge #9. Easy, I thought, and maybe road is not washed out. BUT road is washed out, so took detour, and phone kept telling me to do impossible things like turn left into a building. I followed a nice U student who said he didn’t know which bridge was #9, but that he was going across river, so I followed him, got across river, bonus: stayed across river (yay!) and eventually found my way home.

Later, looked at map to determine I’d probably gone across Washington Avenue bridge, and have yet to get to #9.

So, what did I learn?

1. Wear pants. Possibly padded ones.

2. Bike more, so I am not going on a long ride, woefully out of shape.

3. Take a day in which I have no goal and am not hungry or tired or angry or overheated and figure out where the heck this bridge is. I had a similar problem once finding the Cedar Lake Trail entrance off the River Road (because it’s crappily marked, and almost literally a hole in the wall.)

Problems: 1. costs money. 2 and 3 sound fine, but experience shows more biking = less writing AND more eating and money spending. Solution to 2 is to moderate and alternate, and 3 is to just bike and stop biking to food destinations.

And thus, I sit in my coffee shop, writing. Not biking.

Northeast Minneapolis Art-a-Whirl 2014

Monday, May 12th, 2014


Did you know Northeast Minneapolis’ Art-a-Whirl is the biggest artist open-studio event in the US? And it’s this upcoming weekend, from Friday May 16 to Sunday May 18. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about Whirling with little ones, which I wrote about for Minnesota Monthly’s TC Taste blog here. But it’s a good set of links even if you don’t have little ones. And even if you don’t live in the Twin Cities, you can check out the art online.

And, please do. Because in writing that post, I put all the links in my draft, and they didn’t copy over to the final, so I had to enter them all again. Which was a giant pain. So go, read, and click the links, to justify all that hard, hard work, if you would, kind readers!

Gods & Monsters Book Discussion: “The Children of Men” by P.D. James

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Gods and Monsters is a free book discussion group in the Twin Cities, open to the public. We meet monthly, usually the last Sunday of the month, to discuss books with themes of religion, myth, spirituality, and more.

May’s selection is P.D. James’ Children of Men. From Wikipedia:

a dystopian novel by P. D. James that was published in 1992. Set in England in 2021, it centres on the results of mass infertility. James describes a United Kingdom that is steadily depopulating and focuses on a small group of resisters who do not share the disillusionment of the masses.

The book received very positive reviews from many critics such as Caryn James of The New York Times, who called it “wonderfully rich” and “a trenchant analysis of politics and power that speaks urgently”.

Sunday May 25, 2014, 4 pm to 5:30 pm Central Time.
Granite Studio, Eastside Food Co-op
2551 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

Food and drink are provided, or bring your own.

The co-op’s parking lot is in high demand on Sundays. Please park on the street or in the lot across the street at Central Avenue Liquors.

Find Gods & Monsters on Facebook.

RSVP or questions to

Our book for June will be Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

It’s That Time Again: How to Layer Like a Minnesotan

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Actually, it’s supposed to warm up to the 40s! today. But still, I could see people doing the Minnesota hunch this week with the below 20 temps. So I reprint my advice.


Preparing to Go Outside: The Order of Operations

First, determine the outside temperature. This system of layering will be too warm for above 20F, but below that should stand you in good stead.

Next, remember what your mother said: use the toilet.

If you wear eyeglasses, consider contacts, as they don’t steam up. I’m heading steadily into bifocal territory, though, so I rarely wear my contacts anymore. Steamed lenses are better than loss of close vision.

Apply moisturizer to face, neck and lips. Heck, everywhere. During the winter, I forego sunscreen to maximize what little vitamin D I can get from the sun.

In order, don:

1. Underwear (underpants, and bra if you wear one)
2. Undershirt (thermal or silk, longer length is best)
3. Long johns (thermal or silk). Pull waistband over bottom of undershirt. This will keep your lower back (or overbutt, as my 7yo calls it) from unwanted exposure.
4. Socks, long and thick. Pull tops over bottoms of long johns.
5. Shirt(s)
6. Pants, over bottom of shirt. Do NOT tuck overshirt into long johns.
7. Sweater
8. Snowpants
9. Boots, hat and scarf
10. Gloves/mittens. Gloves inside mittens is the warmest, but diminishes dexterity.
11. Coat. The lower the temp, the puffier and longer it should be, covering at least your butt and the top of your thighs.

This order of operations has you always pulling something over a previous layer, rather than tucking in a subsequent layer, which makes for a smoother line and means you don’t have to double back, for example if you accidentally put boots on before snow pants. Also check out Sal’s post at Already Pretty on Layering Without Lumps.

Stay warm. And remember, it’s only six months till spring.

“Get in If You Want to Live” by John Jodzio

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Get in If You Want to Live by John Jodzio is a series of 19 short shorts illustrated by 19 different artists, the first book published by Paper Darts, a Twin Cities literary magazine. It’s consistently raunchy, sometimes shocking and often laugh-out-loud funny. The book itself, as an object, is a lovely little thing, with its odd size, utilitarian-looking brown cover, and collection of striking typefaces and artists. Did I mention already that it’s raunchy, with drugs, hookers, sex and creepy though usually amusing narrators? Not for everyone, but if you like weird stories, short shorts, or zine-y books, definitely check this out.

Have Bike. Am Hungry. Will Travel.

Monday, October 17th, 2011

As I wrote before, I thought once my younger son started kindergarten, I’d spend the time writing and keeping house. This hasn’t happened. Instead I’ve been biking and eating.

I had every intention of staying in today and doing Useful Things. Then I saw a photo my friend Amy shared on Facebook of duck soup. The sun was shining. My bike’s tires were filled with air. It was time to go.

Ten-plus miles later, I got the second to last bowl of rich broth filled with squiggly noodles, bok choy, broccoli, a poached eggs, and local duck. I sat in the sun and slurped it down.

Chef Shack Duck Soup

Where I Went and What I Ate: St. Paul (about 10.5 miles each way.) Duck soup from Chef Shack food truck. $10.

Tomorrow’s weather icon looks like this:


Tomorrow I’ll stay in.


“News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist” by Laurie Hertzel

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

I won a copy of Laurie Hertzel’s News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist (book trailer here) last year on my friend Amy’s blog, New Century Reading, after leaving a comment about one of my own accidental job choices.*

I felt bad because there has been little or no free reading time in the months since I’ve started a book group, in addition to the two I already attend. But when I finished through both Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours, I thought, it’s finally time. And what a joy it was to find the time.

I was eleven or twelve when I decided that journalism was my future. I loved to write, I loved to snoop, I always wanted to know everything first. Those are pretty much the only qualifications, when you get right down to it.

Hertzel started working in the newsroom of the Duluth paper(s) in the seventies, and got shoved out of copy editing into reporting at one point. Reading the book is like sitting down with a smart funny friend who tells great stories. I loved hearing about the old school days of newspapers along with the many and various personalities of the newsroom, which reminded me pleasantly of The Imperfectionists. She also has a fascinating tale of how Duluth came to have a sister city in Russia full of Finns, and the strange and wonderful coincidences that followed from there.

This is a great book for those who love writing, are interested in newspaper history/evolution, the Northern Midwest U.S., or the emigration of Finns during the Great Depression. That’s a terrible sentence, and a good copy editor would fix it.

*Edited to add: my accidental job experience happened in the fall of my sophomore year of college. My roommate was reading the campus newsletter and said, “Didn’t you have good SAT scores? This ad says you can earn $15/hour for The Princeton Review.” I went to an interview, got called back, then trained, then taught classes, then trained some more, then got a management position, and then an executive management position, then got sick of marketing, nearly eight years after that initial interview, and went to grad school to study religion on a scholarship I got largely due to GRE scores higher than they would’ve been if I hadn’t worked for a test-prep company for eight years. I have found ways to sneak in teaching and presenting in many ways since then, even if those have not been officially my “job.”

Finally, a Food Post!

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Because I’ve been writing other places about food, I don’t write so much about it here. And a few people mentioned that they missed it, plus I’ve been lax about blogging, so this is me killing two birds with one stick. I think that must’ve been a combo of “killing two birds with one stone” and “getting off the stick.” I don’t even really know if that last one means what I think it does. Anyway.

Here is what may very well be my favorite recipe. It’s easy, it’s tasty, it’s healthful, and it’s useful. By now, I’d think I’d have it memorized and wouldn’t have to pull out my broken-spined Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison every time I make it. Which I do. I’ve written about this recipe before. Here on Girl Detective (hey, apparently Guppy used to say, Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Tomatoes), and at Simple Good and Tasty. What I love about it is that it can be made year ’round, it’s adaptable (today I stretched the recipe with a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, a half-pint of local new potatoes, 2 cups of broth rather than 1/2 cup, and bunch of absolutely beautiful carrots.) I can be precise (by peeling the carrots and potatoes and measuring) or play fast and loose, leaving skins on and throwing in whatever’s on hand. Also, I sometimes (gasp!) do not rinse the beans, but just pour in the whole can, Which goes against foodie practice, but I can’t find anything anywhere that says it’s anything other than a matter of taste/appearance, which don’t impact this stew.

chopped carrots

Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes
, adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 red potatoes, peeled and diced into cubes about the size of chickpeas
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-in. rounds
3-4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 pinch dried red pepper flakes
2 plump garlic cloves mashed with 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 c. diced tomatoes
3 c. chickpeas, cooked, or 2 15-oz. cans, rinsed
salt and pepper
1/2 c. water, broth or wine
1/2 c. chopped parsley
garnish with lemon slices and kalamata olives (it really is very tasty with these) and sliced pita bread

Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it’s lightly colored, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the potatoes, carrots, chile and garlic and cook for 5 minbutes more. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, season with 1 teaspoon salt and a few twists from the pepper mill, and add the water. Cover and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for salt, remove from heat and stir in parsley.

(Another photo should go here, but something isn’t working, and telling the system administrator, who’s sitting next to me, hasn’t helped.)

Two-Minute Mothers Day Post

Monday, May 9th, 2011

First, of all, I hope you took time to honor all the mothers in your life. If you live in the US, where it was Mothers Day, or not.

Second, I hope you took time to honor all others who get short shrift this day: those who couldn’t be mothers, those who were but aren’t, those who chose and choose not to be in spite of tremendous societal pressure, single dads, dad-dad families, and anyone else this day. There are many ways to mother, and those whose title it is don’t even always do a good job at it, so we should honor ALL.

Third of all, I’m now up to 4 minutes, and haven’t even written about the lovely day I had yesterday: eggs Florentine and my favorite draft root beer for brunch, browsed at 2 shops full of pretty, shiny things, and got a necklace and earrings. Got a double of passionfruit sorbet and chocolate/amaretto ice cream at my favorite shop, then a macchiato at a new coffee shop, then a nap, then played catch with 7yo Drake and practiced 2-wheeling on his bike with Guppy. Read my book. Went to bed.

I am so, so fortunate and I wish love to you all.

How to Layer Like a Minnesotan

Friday, March 25th, 2011

(because it’s only technically spring, here.) First, determine the outside temperature. This system of layering will be too warm for above 20F, but below that should stand you in good stead.

Next, remember what your mother said: use the toilet. As an eyeglass wearer, I start by putting in my contacts so I don’t fog up every time I go in and out of warmth. I also apply moisturizer to my face, neck and lips. During the winter, I forego sunscreen to maximize what little vitamin D I can get from the sun.

In order, don:

1. Underwear (underpants, and bra if you wear one)
2. Undershirt (thermal or silk, longer length is best)
3. Longjohns (thermal or silk). Pull waistband over bottom of undershirt. This will keep your lower back (or overbutt, as my 7yo calls it) from unwanted exposure.
4. Socks, long and thick. Pull tops over bottoms of longjohns.
5. Shirt(s)
6. Pants, over bottom of shirt. Do NOT tuck overshirt into longjohns.
7. Sweater
8. Snowpants
9. Boots, hat and scarf
10. Gloves/mittens. Gloves inside mittens is the warmest, but diminishes dexterity.
11. Coat. The lower the temp, the puffier and longer it should be, covering at least your butt and the top of your thighs.

This order of operations has you always pulling something over a previous layer, rather than tucking in a subsequent layer, which makes for a smoother line and means you don’t have to double back, for example if you accidentally put boots on before snow pants. Also check out Sal’s post at Already Pretty on Layering Without Lumps.

Stay warm. And remember, it’s only two more months until the frost date.

Can Turtlenecks Look Nice?

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Last year, Minnesota Monthly did a profile on local fashion and self-image blogger Sally McGraw. I liked her look, and loved what she had to say, so I started following her blog, Already Pretty. As this winter has dragged on, and on, I’ve found myself again and again reaching for cotton turtlenecks with the sneaking suspicion that neither Tim Gunn nor Sally McGraw would approve. I bit the bullet, and wrote to Sal:

I’m a stay-at-home mom and writer with 2 boys in NE Mpls. Right about now in winter is usually when I throw in the fashion towel. Boots, long underwear, turtlenecks under sweaters.

I struggle with winter mom fashion in MN in general, but am wondering, is there a way to wear cotton turtlenecks and look put together and not frumpy, or am I better off with non-turtles and scarves all winter long?

The response was what I had expected:

Now, turtlenecks. Honestly, they are tough to pull off. Very few people - myself included - actually look good in a close-fitting turtleneck. We wear them anyway when it’s freezing out and there are definitely times when warmth trumps fashion. If you love them lots, you can try doing a t-neck AND a scarf. Having something drapey and/or patterned to soften the harsh lines of the turtleneck helps a lot. You can also mitigate the high neck with a deep-v blazer. But going without turtlenecks and doing just scarves and cowls will look more chic and flattering. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

Her response, while disheartening, has not purged my turtlenecks from rotation, especially on days below 20F when I’ll be out and about. But it was a good reminder not to reach for the same old thing, and to give more attention to the scarves in my closet, of which there are more than a few.

What I Do After I Visit the Dentist

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

After the Dentist

I have been going to the same dentist office for 12 years. The previous dentist retired, and a new one bought his practice. They know our family, and can even say which son’s teeth seem like which parent’s. Best of all, right downstairs is one of the best Half Price Books in the area. (I worked there 12 years ago, which is why I started seeing that dentist.)

No trip is complete without a stop before or after to the bookstore. This stack of four was me restraining myself.The combination of The Morning News Tournament of Books, plus the new book group I’ve started, in which we’re reading fiction with themes of religion and mythology, hits me right in my vulnerable, compulsive book-buying spot. These I’m considering for the book group:

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller, Jr.
Lamb by Christopher Moore
Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood

After the bookstore, I go to Rustica bakery for an excellent coffee drink (macchiato nowadays) and their bittersweet chocolate cookies. Post-bookstore Rustica is one of my very happiest places.

Walking to Yoga Class

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Red monk, chipping ice, with axe.

“Far Arden” by Kevin Cannon

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

I knew I would read Far Arden sometime, as it’s a lovely looking book by a local author/illustrator of graphic novels. There was nothing to push it to the head of the TBR pile, though, till I was asked to review something for another publication. Then it jumped the queue.

Far Arden cover

Far Arden cover

Far Arden’s hero, Army Shanks, literally almost leaps off the front cover, surrounded by a lengthy (but not confusing) cast of characters, a complicated past, and a future in which he hopes to find Far Arden, a legendary idyllic island in the Northern Arctic Sea. It starts off as a swashbuckling adventure story: heroes! villains! ex-girlfiends! cute orphans! lost, legendary maps. In spite of many threads and characters, all of this meshes well and swept this reader along at a fast clip, not least because of a clever visual storytelling style and many humorous passages.

In the middle, though, this boys’ adventure becomes something more complicated and interesting. Tragedy intrudes on the characters’ adventures, and a thornier combination of story and emotion takes this in a bittersweet direction to a decidedly noir-ish ending. Fun and funny at the beginning, this goes beyond being a thumping good read. Recommended.

You can check out the whole book online, but if you like it, I recommend buying it. Not only will you support an artist and Top Shelf, one of the rare publisher’s encouraging artist-owned works, but it’s a gem of an object–small, solid, cloth-bound and covered in the colors of sunset and the sea. It feels great in the hand and will be handsome on a shelf. I’ve linked above to amazon, but recommend seeking it out at your local comic shop.

For a fitting explanation of the odd origins of this book, see Kevin’s unique explanation at Powell’s.

Books and Bars: John Jodzio and “If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home”

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Last night, Twin Cities book group Books and Bars held its first event at the Aster Cafe, a discussion of John Jodzio’s short-story collection If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home, published by local Replacement Press. Previously held on 2nd Tuesdays at the Bryant Lake Bowl, Books and Bars is trying for twice a month meetings, with 4th Tuesdays at the Aster. It was a warm spot on a blustery night, and the food and service are both good, plus beer and cheese were at happy hour prices.

First was a discussion. Folks mostly said positive things, though whether this was because Jodzio’s mother and in laws were there, I’m not sure. Some felt the stories ended too soon, others, like me, appreciated their light touch, empathy, and lurking hopefulness, so often missing in current short stories, often intent on portraits of misery.

After the discussion, Jodzio arrived and read three stories he’s been working on. If you have a chance to see him live, do so. He’s funny and a good reader of his own work. He also, as in his stories, knows the benefit of keeping things short.

I look forward to reading the stories again to see what details might surface, and this collection inspired me to reconsider my slight aversion to short stories, and give them a second chance, particularly ones by Amy Hempel, Denis Johnson, and Lorrie Moore.

If you’re a Twin City dweller, consider checking out Books and Bars if you haven’t. Upcoming selections are:

Date: Tuesday, November 9th

Book: To Kill a Mockingbird / Author: Harper Lee

Location: Bryant-Lake Bowl / Doors: 6:00 pm / Discussion: 7:00 pm


Date: Tuesday, November 23rd

Books: The Hunger Games Trilogy: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay / Author: Suzanne Collins

Location: Aster Cafe / Doors: 6:00 pm / Discussion: 7:00 pm

Call Aster Cafe for table reservations: 612-379-3138


Date: Tuesday, December 14th

Book: Await Your Reply / Author: Dan Chaon

Location: Bryant-Lake Bowl / Doors: 6:00 pm / Discussion: 7:00 pm

Twin Cities Book Fest: James Howard Kunstler and M.T. Anderson

Monday, October 18th, 2010

One of my favorite Twin Cities events is the annual Rain Taxi book fest. I walk into the building where it’s held, and a feeling of peace and happiness comes over me. “These are my people,” I think to myself, surrounded by writers and readers. All day there are exhibits by local publishers, writers, bookshops and other book-related but the real draws are the children’s pavilion, where authors read and sign all day for an all-ages audience, and my favorite, the panels throughout the day with well-known authors. This year I went to see James Howard Kunstler and M.T. Anderson, both of whose books have been recommended by fellow bookish blogger Mental Multivitamin.

Kunstler is the author of the non-fiction The Long Emergency, about the over-reliance on cheap fuel, and the wishful thinking that will get us into trouble. He’s written two novels, World Made by Hand and The Witch of Hebron (long “e” in Hebron, as they pronounce it in NY and OH), based on what life might be like in the aftermath of a fuel breakdown.

In person, Kunstler is energetic, funny, and doesn’t sugarcoat anything, as when he said each time he visits the Twin Cities the downtown gets worse and worse. He railed against what he called “the incapacity to construct a coherent narrative between what’s happening to us and what we’re going to do about it.” He sums up “what’s happening” as a threefold crisis: financial, energy and climate. He says these three are struggling for primacy, and currently the financial crisis is “winning” by getting the most attention. He noted that distress and delusion rise together, and a symptom of them is something he calls “techno-grandiosity,” especially interesting because many of the other Book Fest panels were on technology and its relation to reading, writing and publishing. Along these lines, he warned we’ll be disappointed by alternative energy sources when we don’t have cheap global fuel to fall back on. We’ll need to make radically different choices, and not just assume that solar and wind power can pick up where cheap oil leaves off. In the US, he says this means we need a viable rail system as a true alternative to motoring and aviation. Building the rail system is what he called an intelligent response, rather than just wishful thinking.

He talked about why he wrote World Made by Hand, and addressed the most frequent criticism he receives, about its unvalorous women characters. “Social situations are going to change when financial things change,” he said, noting that women gained ground in the gender wars on the corporate battlefield, in wages, jobs and status. When corporations no longer exist, he says, struggles over gender will change.

Kunstler said he also heard from many who disliked the supernatural element to the books, especially given his no-nonsense attitude to science and uncomfortable facts about where the world is headed. In the novel, the city dwellers still have remnants of enlightenment, so aren’t superstitious. This clashes with the worldview of the religious, who aren’t “burdened” by beliefs in science and technology, like the character of Brother Job, who he described as a cross between Boss Hogg and Captain Ahab.

An audience member asked what Kunstler had against bikes and bikers. The author laughed and said for him, writing a novel was an emergent self-organizing process. He realized as he wrote that after a global breakdown, things like rubber and substitutes, as well as specialized metal for sturdy bike frames, wouldn’t be readily available. Further, biking depends a lot on paved roads, which would break when they were no longer used and maintained. Instead, people would choose more reliable off-road transportation options, like horses.

While he railed at many examples of what he called “simpleton views,” he did actually offer some advice: move to smaller towns and cities like Kalamazoo, Duluth or Grand Rapids, or somewhere that has a meaningful relationship with food production.

M.T. Anderson, author of the National Book Award winner The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, was an interesting contrast to Kunstler’s “we’re all doomed, but some of us are gonna be better prepared than others” take on things. Anderson got wide recognition with his satiric novel of the future, Feed, published in 2002. In it, most U.S. citizens are connected to the feed of the title, which is a chip implant in your head of a 24/7 internet. The main character, Titus, is a “distracted idiot” said Anderson. I re-read Feed last week, and was surprised and impressed at how well it had aged. In response to an audience question, Anderson said the one big thing he’d failed to guess and that had surprised him was the weird element of aggressive self promotion that has grown from websites to weblogs to the current age of Facebook.

During the Q and A, he was asked what bedtime story he remembered reading. He said he couldn’t recall, but he did remember his father singing him a song at bedtime about Anne Boleyn. He then burst into song, hesitating over some of the lyrics, but some audience members helped out to carry it through. It was a nice way to end the session.

In Feed, Anderson chose to satirize how we’re all going to hell, technologically and ethically. I don’t think he and Kunstler would disagree, but the latter goes beyond satirizing the present, to wondering what the heck happens after that. Seeing both authors, and hearing them speak, made me very interested in reading their current books, and I’ll keep an eye on what comes next from each of them.

“Violet Days” by Chris Monroe

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Our family has become a big fan of cartoonist Chris Monroe after a helpful Barnes and Noble bookseller pointed out Monkey with a Toolbelt in the store one day. I got that and Monkey with a Toolbelt and the Noisy Problem from the library to test drive them. All four of us fell in love:

Here is Chico Bon Bon

Here, indeed. Monroe further endeared herself by signing copies for Guppy’s 4th birthday, even bringing them to our house since she was in the neighborhood. (Have I mentioned? We have a really good ‘hood.) AND she was gracious about G. Grod, who happened to ride up on his bike, drunk, just as she got out of her car. (He’d participated in the Stupor Bowl.)

When her newest book, Sneaky Sheep was released, we trekked to St. Paul for cake and the new book. I was thrilled, then, when I learned a friend of ours had a copy of Ultra Violet, a collection of Monroe’s indie comic “Violet Days” from way back when. She’s an artist from Duluth, MN, and her comics mostly center around the Violet of the title, pesky squirrels and sneaky skeletons. The humor and art, like her children’s books, are weird and endearing. If you, like us, are grownup fans of Monroe’s children’s books, you might want to track a copy down.

Or, better yet, go see her in person (!) when she comes to the Twin Cities Book Fest on Saturday October 16, along with other great authors like M.T. Anderson, William Kunstler, and, (WTF?) Alexander McCall Smith. He’s sold a couple books and a few people like him, I’ve heard.

Food Post: Autumn Vegetable Stews

Friday, October 1st, 2010

A few friends have commented about the lack of food posts this summer. I’ve been writing for the local food site Simple Good and Tasty, so that’s where my food-writing energy has been focused. In future I’ll post links to the articles. The most recent was “Local Potatoes; Global Flavors.”

Ethiopian Stew

There were other things in last week’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm-share box: basil, green beans, turnips, chard, tomatoes, onions. But the giant pile of potatoes kind of eclipsed everything else. The suddenly cooler weather plus those potatoes seemed to cry out for something warm and comforting. I glanced at my cookbook shelves, in search of recipes that would honor these humble midwestern spuds. Eureka, I thought, stew! Or, as it transpired, stews! Bland? Mushy? No way. These stews were going to be stars.

Minnesota Cooks Day at the State Fair

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

If you’re free any time today, head to the Minnesota State Fair for Minnesota Cooks Day. Admission is discounted, and there are demonstrations by local chefs all day, with free food samples of what they cook! I’ll be at the Simple Good and Tasty booth this morning, and doing things my kids wouldn’t want to the rest of the time, like visiting Creative Activities, Fine Arts and such.

My piece on how to enjoy the fair with your family is up today at Simple Good and Tasty. Check out yesterday’s post on guilty fair-food pleasures. You know: Oh, no, I shouldn’t. OK, one bite. Chomp. Ummm. OK, well one more. Wait, where’d it go?

“I Didn’t Sign on for THIS!”

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Some anniversaries have blown by this summer. My blog anniversary was in June; I can’t even find the archives anymore, though, so I can’t remember what day it was in 2002. And I moved to Minnesota in June of 1998 where I was immediately confronted with sights like this:

downed tree

except the trees were at least 4 times the size of the one above, and advertisements for cars on sale due to hail damage.

I was flabbergasted. I’d been prepared for a rough winter and distinctive accents. I had NOT known to expect tornado warnings and giant hail stones, like these that damaged our car recently in the ‘burbs.


Hard winters AND hard summers? I almost picked up and left. But didn’t. And here I am, with husband and two sons, twelve years later.

Another culture shock was Minnesotans wrote checks for everything: fast food, movies, small purchases, high end restaurants, and more. While I haven’t elongated my o’s, I have adopted this check-writing habit. Did you know it’s less expensive for businesses, especially small ones, to process checks than credit/debit cards?