Archive for the 'Feeling Minnesota' Category

Barnes & Noble Celebrates Teen Books

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

For you Twin City-ans and young-adult book lovers, Barnes and Noble is having a teen book fest this weekend with some great readings and events around the cities. I have copied this almost verbatim from Twin Cities Geek, which did a great job of compiling the info.

Barnes & Noble just announced its first-ever B-Fest Teen Book Festival, three days of free YA-centric events at B&N stores around the country June 10–12, including all of the locations here in Minnesota.

In addition to a set schedule of activities happening at all stores throughout the weekend—like trivia, giveaways, and a spelling bee, with advance reader’s copies of yet-to-be-released books as prizes—individual stores have been hard at work booking authors and groups to join in the festivities. Everyone I contacted was eager to talk about everything going on for the event.

“We are super excited,” said Janet Waller, who manages events for the Roseville location, which is tied with Mall of America for the largest number of author appearances scheduled. “Super excited” were the same words used by Regina Eckes at the Eden Prairie Center store, who added, “We want to be the place to go for teens, for YA literature, and celebrate everything it has to offer.”

Theodore Evans at the Ridgehaven Barnes & Noble in Minnetonka noted that not that long ago, the YA section was almost nonexistent—something that’s changed for the better in a big way over recent years. “The teen section has really blossomed, and anyone who’s anyone reads it,” he said.
B&N-Wide Events

The following programming will be going on at the same time at all Barnes & Noble locations:

Friday, June 10, 7:00 p.m.: B-In the Know

“We’re kicking off the festivities with Trivia Blast, created by Penguin Teen and Random House’s First in Line. One winner in each store will win advance reader’s copies of the most anticipated new books for teens.“

Saturday, June 11, 11:00 a.m.: B-First

“Come check out exciting giveaways, plus sneak peeks of new stories from favorite authors, including James Dashner, Ransom Riggs, and Veronica Roth.”

Saturday, June 11, 2:00 p.m.: B-Part of the Fun

“Join us for a spelling showdown, story ball, games, and activities featuring popular teen series, plus a chance to win prize packs, swag, and more!”

Sunday, June 12, 2:00 p.m.: B-Creative

“Join us to participate in a story development workshop created by Adaptive Studios and learn how to write a log line, create a spark page, and reimagine popular characters.”

Store-Specific Events

Each of the stores around the Twin Cities and beyond is doing a little something different for B-Fest, and I’ve collected everything into one big list just for you. Names marked with an asterisk (*) indicate authors who will be visiting more than one store during the course of the weekend. Note that some stores are still finalizing their event lineup, so there may be some additions between now and June 10.

This list was updated June 6, 2016.

Minneapolis—Calhoun Village
3216 West Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55416
612-922-3238

June 10, 5:00 p.m.: Carrie Mesrobian* (Cut Both Ways) and Shannon Gibney* (See No Color)
June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Pete Hautman* (Godless)
June 11, 1:00 p.m.: Laurie Wetzel* (Unclaimed)
June 12, 1:00 p.m.: B-Mighty with Mighty Media—“Join us for the inside scoop on publishing and get a sneak peek at the upcoming The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee by by Erin Petti!”
June 12, 3:00 p.m.: Meet Monica’s YA Writing Group—“Sneak a peek at the process with a local group of budding YA authors. Join the discussion with and work through the writing with the star of our store’s Kids section.”

Minneapolis—Downtown
RSM Plaza
801 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402
612-371-4443

June 10, 11:00 a.m.: Kelsey Sutton (The Lonely Ones)

Burnhaven Shopping Center
828 West County Road 42
Burnsville, MN 55337
952-892-9280

June 11, 2:00 p.m.: Andrea Cremer (Nightshade)
June 11, 4:00 p.m.: Kristin D. Van Risseghem* (The Passage, a Dance, and a Little White Dress)

Duluth—Miller Hill Mall
1600 Miller Trunk Hwy. #L25
Duluth, MN 55811
218-786-0710

June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Tom Isbell* (The Capture) and Margi Preus (Enchantment Lake)

Eagan Promenade
1291 Promenade Place
Eagan, MN 55121
651-683-1955

June 10, 7:00 p.m.: Anne Greenwood Brown and Jacqueline West (Lies Beneath)
June 11, 2:00 p.m.: Kristin D. Van Risseghem* (The Passage, a Dance, and a Little White Dress)
June 12, 2:00 p.m.: Loretta Ellsworth (In a Heartbeat)

Eden Prairie Center
8251 Flying Cloud Dr., #3000
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
952-944-5683

June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Kristin D. Van Risseghem* (The Passage, a Dance, and a Little White Dress)
June 11, 1:00 p.m.: “From Page to Screen” discussion with film critic and blogger Paul McGuire Grimes
June 12, 1:00 p.m.: Molly Beth Griffin (Silhouette of a Sparrow)
“Diversity in Teen Fiction” discussion
“Fun for Parents” discussion

Galleria
3225 W 69th St.
Edina, MN 55435
952-920-0633

June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Gary Bush* (Sail into Treachery: A Jamie Sharpe Adventure)
June 11, 1:00 p.m.: Kirstin Cronn-Mills and Jaqueline West* (Original Fake)
June 12, 2:00 p.m.: Teen Writing Workshop with Jane St. Anthony (Isabelle Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart)

HarMar Mall
2100 North Snelling Ave.
Roseville, MN 55113
651-639-9256

June 10, 7:00 p.m.: Monica Ropal* (When You Leave); Kristin D. Van Risseghem* (The Passage, a Dance, and a Little White Dress); and Gary Bush* (Sailing into Treachery)
June 11, 2:00 p.m.: Carrie Mesrobian* (Cut Both Ways); Bryan Bliss* (Meet Me Here); Peter Rennebohm (Shepherd Lake); and Rachel Gold (My Year Zero)
Sunday, 2:00 p.m.: Geoff Herbach (Anything You Want)

Mall of America
118 E. Broadway, Suite 238
Bloomington, MN 55425
952-854-1455

June 10, 6:00 p.m.: Tom Isbell* (The Capture)
June 11, 9:00 a.m.: Monica Ropal* (When You Leave)
June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Aurora Whittet (Bloodmark)
June 11, 1:00 p.m.: Tate Hallaway (Vampire Princess of Saint Paul)
June 11, 3:00 p.m.: Jacqueline West* (Dreamers Often Lie)
June 11, 5:00 p.m.: Laurie Wetzel* (Unclaimed)
June 12, 2:00 p.m.: Jenna-Lynne Duncan (Aftermath)
June 12, 4:00 p.m.: Bryan Bliss* (Meet Me Here)

Maple Grove
8040 Wedgewood Lane
Maple Grove, MN 55369
763-420-4517

June 10, 3:00 p.m.: Roseanne Cheng (The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High)
June 11, 12:00 p.m.: Nick Hupton (Stone Ridge)
June 11, 4:00 p.m.: Shannon Gibney* (See No Color)
June 12, 1:00 p.m.: Besodiah J. Nolen
June 12, 5:00 p.m.: Nick Healy, Pete Hautman*, Melody Heide, and Kasandra Duthie (editor and some of the contributors to the collection Love & Profanity)

Maplewood Mall
3001 White Bear Ave. North, Suite 1030
Maplewood, MN 55109
651-779-9999

June 12, 2:00 p.m.: Lea Richardson

Northtown Mall
710 County Highway 10 NE
Blaine, MN 55434
763-786-0686

June 11, 12:00 p.m.: Sarah Ahiers (Assassin’s Heart)

Ridgehaven Mall
13131 Ridgedale Drive
Minnetonka, MN 55305
952-546-2006

June 10, 7:00 p.m.: “Rock the Genre” writing class by English composition teacher and Loft instructor Gail Milstein, covering poetry, fiction, and nonfiction
June 11, 11:00 a.m.: Dawn Klehr (The Cutting Room Floor)
June 12, 2:00 p.m., Nora McInerny Purmort (It’s Okay to Laugh)

Rochester
Apache Mall
1201 12th Street SW, Suite 425
Rochester, MN 55902
507-281-7950

June 11, 1:00 p.m.: Jessica Stevens (Within Reach)
June 12, 2:00 p.m.: Tosca Lee (The Progeny)

Woodbury Village Shopping Center
7020 Valley Creek Plaza
Woodbury, MN 55125
651-739-7274

June 12, 2:00 p.m.: David Oppegaard (The Firebug of Balrog County) and Pete Hautman* (Godless)

LOCALLY LAID: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-Changing Egg Farm–From Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Locally Laid by Lucie B. Amundsen

Locally Laid by Lucie B. Amundsen

The cover is an answer to that old joke. Guess what?

Chicken Butt!

Lucie is a friend–our kids went to preschool together. I would say nice things about Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-Changing Egg Farm–From Scratch no matter what, but since it is charming, sweet, sad, funny, well-written, and educational I won’t need to euphemize. (That’s a word, right?)

I hope you’ve heard of Locally Laid, the farm. They’re located in North Minnesota, which is not an ideal place to start a farm. When Lucie’s husband Jason lost his job, he thought it was a good idea to start a chicken farm. They’d had good luck with back yard chickens, and there weren’t many locally sourced, ethically farmed eggs in near Duluth. How hard could it be?

Lucie did not think this was a good idea, but she and their two kids went along with it. While Jason started the farm, she took various writing jobs, pursued an MFA in the Twin Cities, washed eggs and became Locally Laid’s “marketing chick.”

My favorite chick was the tawny-colored Buff Orpington. She promised to one day be a bodacious plus-sized model of a chicken, wearing fluffy pantaloons under full feathery skirts and with as charming a personality as her appearance suggested. Predictably named Buffy, she didn’t mind being handled and rather seemed to enjoy the company, clucking softly with a closed beak as I picked her up and stroked her silky feathers.

While the farm’s name has a cheeky double entendre, it is meant first to be taken literally–these eggs are from local chickens raised on pasture and allowed to roam outdoors.

Reading the details of how this farm came to be, with the numerous obstacles, setbacks, and reality checks along the way, is an emotional roller coaster. I wanted the farm to succeed. I wanted Jason to sleep. I wanted Locally Laid to win the Super Bowl contest. I wanted to hear more from Lucie’s son Milo, because he stole the scenes he was in. Some of these things happened, some didn’t, and some sorta kinda did.

Locally Laid is a lovely mix of memoir and education on the state of agriculture in general, and chicken farming in particular. I was reminded more than once that I’m one of many people who has thoughts, opinions, and feelings about chickens, yet has never actually wrangled one. If you’ve read and enjoyed Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, or Mark Bittman’s Food Matters, then belongs next to them on the shelf.

Support a writer and farmer; buy this book, read this book. It will make you smile and you’ll learn stuff.

MY YEAR ZERO by Rachel Gold

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

myyearzero

I was given an advance e-copy of Rachel Gold’s teen romance My Year Zero in exchange for an honest review.

When I met Blake, I had no idea that she would destroy my life. She was this small person, darkly incandescent, vibrating with nervous energy. Eyes blue-gray like a kingfisher’s wing (moving as fast). I should have known by the way she went on about infinities and zero. Who falls in love with zero?

But I’m ahead of myself. The story doesn’t start with Blake. As with most great stories, it starts with sex. Excerpt From: Rachel Gold My Year Zero (advance review copy).

Lauren is a sixteen-year-old artist who lives in Duluth. More than just about anything, she wants a girlfriend, but candidates are pretty rare in northern Minnesota. Then she meets Sierra, a first-year student at the University of Minnesota. Sierra invites Lauren to the Twin Cities and introduces her to a group writing an online space opera. Lauren’s a fan of manga and anime, so her storytelling abilities, both written and artistic, make her an immediate darling of the creative group.

As Lauren becomes more involved with the story group, her already difficult relationship with her lawyer father becomes further strained when she tries to assert herself and spend more time in the cities. Lauren and Sierra begin to date, but rather than the fairy-tale romance Lauren envisioned, the reality is emotionally neglectful and abusive. Lauren grows closer to Sierra’s friend Blake, whose struggles with bipolar syndrome help Lauren see how her own emotional issues might be exacerbating things with her father and Sierra.

Lauren and the group of storytellers are a varied and interesting bunch, even when they behave immaturely and unlike-ably, which they all do—they’re in their late teens, after all. The story they’re spinning is a book-within-a-book, so really My Year Zero is two books in one.

Lauren is an appealing character. Her relationships with her father and Sierra are upsetting and all too believable. They make the book complicated and intriguing. There were many great details about the Twin Cities, though I wished for a bit more about Duluth and Lauren’s life there outside of her relationship with her dad. The pace slowed a bit in the middle, but was strong toward the end. I enjoyed going on the journey with Lauren as she fell in and out of love, tried to figure out who she was, and tackled the challenges in her life rather than hiding from them.

A Program I Hate: Twin Cities Values

Monday, July 20th, 2015

If you, too, want this program to end, or at least stop being delivered to your home, you can go to http://apps.startribune.com/tcv/feedback.php or better, call at 612-673-7305.

The letter I sent today to the Star Tribune, about their abominable Twin Cities Values Program:
img_20150720_091309_785

I’m the block leader for my neighborhood, and I am disappointed and even disgusted by the Twin Cities Values program. I entreat you to discontinue it.

Yesterday, I went to houses on our block to invite my neighbors to our National Night Out gathering. More than half of the houses had two TCV bags on the front walk, many soggy from recent rains.

This says to me that people do not want this item. Since it is not requested, you are foisting it on them, which even if it conforms to the letter of the law regarding solicitation, it disregards the intent. Since many do not bother to even pick it up–that’s how much they disdain and disregard it–I see clear evidence that your program is not appreciated. Please discontinue this program.

For many of the neighbors who were home yesterday, I brought the bags up to their house. Today, I went and collected the ones that were still out, and I’ve included a picture of the soggy, ugly pile. This pile would have been at least doubled if I’d done it yesterday.

Every time this program has been tried over the years, I call and ask to have my address removed. But the program starts again, I get them again, I have to call again. I called last week and was assured that for this round, the delivery would stop. I received a TCV. I called again today.

The woman I spoke to today said she was not able to give me information on who runs this program. I am disappointed in your utter lack of accountability for this literally trashy program.

I will be contacting the Better Business Bureau as well as the city, 311, and complaining to my councilperson, Kevin Reich, since you already have ignored my request this time, and haven’t carried it over from past times.

I will be posting this ugly photo on Facebook and Twitter, asking my friends and neighbors to also call to end delivery. I will also send this to the paper’s editor.

This program is a blight on Twin Cities. I think I’ve made it clear how much I despise and revile it. This does not reflect well on the Star Tribune, an institution I admire. Please, end Twin Cities Values.

From the Archives: How to Layer Like a Minnesotan

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Winter has hit early and hard this year. NB: I am not complaining. That would be stupid to complain, as I choose to live here in the frozen tundra. And so, I will once again share my accumulated wisdom after many winters here.

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.

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

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

aaw_logo_2_r_small_0

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

godsandmonsters1
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 godsandmonstersTC@gmail.com

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:

chance_of_snow

Tomorrow I’ll stay in.

Maybe.

“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

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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

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Date: Tuesday, December 14th

Book: Await Your Reply / Author: Dan Chaon

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