Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Day of Whirling around at Art-A-Whirl

This last weekend NE Minneapolis hosted the largest open-studio art show in the country. That's the description I heard on NPR and when I heard it I thought "Right on! NE Minneapolis rocks!" I think this is the 8th year of Art-A-Whirl and each year it gets bigger and bigger. So here's the deal: NE Minneapolis has the largest concentration of Art studios in the Twin Cities. Many of the old warehouse buildings have been transformed into art studios. At times, I enjoyed wandering through the buildings as much as I enjoyed viewing the various art studios.

The best part of Art-A-Whirl for me is the all the various studios scattered through the neighborhoods of NE Minneapolis. Many local artists work in their homes and each year we get to walk around the neighborhood and see their work spaces.

And there is a wide variety of art mediums, everything from ceramics to visual media installations. There are fabric arts, blown glass, driftwood pieces, canvas paintings, photography, enormous bike-driven puppetry, etc, etc, etc. The list is endless.

There are also many crafts and antique sales. And, of course, many people take advantage of the foot traffic by holding their first springtime garage sales. The entire community of NE Minneapolis feels like a festival!

Near our home there are mostly artists that work in their homes and garages. But not too far away is Johnson Avenue where they stage a craft fair with live music playing all weekend - affectionately called Johnstock.

That's where we headed on Saturday. I had such a great time and took so many pictures that I'm going to have to spread out my posts throughout the week. In today's post I want to share some of the faces of people involved in AAW.

There was so much cute baby stuff! I had to quickly set a budget in my head so as not to overdo it. So many great onesies with creative sayings and patches. Seeing them gave me ideas for future craft projects.

Here's AJ from Heart Held Designs who was selling baby slings that I couldn't pass up. This seems like the perfect warm weather way to wear my baby.

I had to have her show me how to put the Baby Lotus Bud in it and couldn't resist taking a photo of the two of them!

The thing that I was most impressed with was all the artists and crafters that re-purposed their materials. There was a guy there who took used billboard designs and made all sorts of bags with the plastic material. What an ingenious idea. I kept thinking how so many of those large pieces of plastic are not going to end up in a landfill.

Chelsey from Silver Bug Studio takes antique and unique costume jewelry and handcrafts them into new jewelry and accessories. Isn't that a great idea?! I kept thinking what a great job! What fun to rummage around, shopping for interesting little pieces and making something entirely new and beautiful. She says that there are so many that she just loves that it is hard to sell her jewelry.

It's a good thing that she gave up her goods because as you can see from her display unit Art-A-Whirlers snatched up her beautiful pieces.

Here's some more of her work.

This is the necklace that I bought. I love it!

I'm didn't get this woman's name nor her card, but I just went nuts over her barrettes.

Normally, I wouldn't be into this kind of stuff because my hair is too thin for such pretty things. But now that I have a daughter, I have a whole new outlook on hair accouterments.

Doesn't my little preciousness look even more precious with her sweet little barrette?

This is Dalton, my neighbor. He has a ceramics studio in his garage.

He had just thrown some porcelain pieces and is in the process of making tiles for his kitchen remodeling project.

It's great seeing artists in their workspace. He's got a kick wheel which keeps the noise to a minimum. I learned a lot that day about firing clay. I'm amazed he finds the time to throw some clay around considering he has a family to look after. During this time year with Art-A-Whirl happening, I am always impressed with the dedication that artists put into their work.

Art-A-Whirl is such a unique experience with a little bit of everything thrown in. Open studios, craft fairs, galleries, food and music. It makes me proud to be a part of this community. AAW displays the heart of this incredible community!

The next post will recap our wanderings through the Thorpe Building and the many studios we visited on Sunday.
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Letters to the Baby Lotus Bud: Month Three

Dearest Little Baby Lotus Bud,

So Mother's Day was this last weekend and a few days before that big day when I was checking out our accounts and paying bills, I had a slight freakout moment as I encountered a rather large debit from Target. When was I last at Target? Umm, sometime way last week. Is this identity theft? Could be. Target seems shady to me these days. But also it not entirely unlikely that I left my debit card behind, got "mommy brain" lately. I freaked for more than fifteen minutes, then went to grab the phone to call the Big D, your big daddy. Suddenly, it hit me. Oh, yes, that there is my mother's day present. He got the very thing I asked for - a radio plus Ipod player for the kitchen. Oh, yes and the card you gave me was awesome, too!

So, then I chilled out and gave you bath because I love seeing your big eyes get even bigger.

Here's a better picture of your big eyes getting bigger.

See. Normal Eyes.

Big eyes!

Gah, I just go nuts over that look in your eyes. It's so funny and I mean in a totally cute way. I try to think of this, how cute you look when you drive me crazy. Can I admit this to you? You sort of drive me nuts in another, not so good way. I'm tired. I had two weeks with no meetings and by the end of last week, I felt lonely and tired.

One day I was so fed up I sat outside for while leaving you to fuss by yourself. Then, I came back in and decided to turn to you for comfort. We did baby yoga for a while, then I pulled out my laptop and we played, at least I played. I tried out the webcam for the first time. After a while, I started to feel better.

Started Mom and Baby class last week at the hospital where you were born. I thought perhaps I would freak out going onto that same floor but it all turned out OK. I left feeling very blessed for the experience of your birth. Most of the other mommies had pretty tough, traumatic experiences. Apparently whomever runs this program did not get the word that you came early because you are the oldest kid in the class, but not that much bigger. I don't say a whole lot in this class because you are a fairly easy baby.

At the end of Monday's class we just sat there, you and I, with the other mommies and their babies and that felt good. No agenda, just mommies and babies hanging out. It made me want to start a similar meeting at the Co-op. Once a month, perhaps, strictly BYOB - Bring Your Own Baby. I have all these ideas but my energy level doesn't necessarily match my enthusiasm.

I am so tired.

Your granny wants me to go and have three-month pictures taken of you. She is not satisfied with the pictures I've taken because they weren't done by a professional. She forgets this is what I did for a few years before I met your Daddy. Sure I don't have the props, but still I think my pictures are good.

I am so tired.

Look here at your kitty. Maxine loves your crib. The crib that we haven't moved you into yet. When we do I'm going to miss you.

I'm going to miss sleeping with you so much! Because even though I'm tired of you, I love you. I love you more than I love your Daddy and that's something I never could have thought would happen.

Well...maybe I should say I love you more but also in a different way. I still love him a lot for the man that he is and also because he carries the whole world on his shoulders.

Love from me, your mommy.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

My First Mother's Day was Surprisingly Good!

The eve of Mother's Day was tough, and so the fact that my first Mother's Day turned out nice was a surprise.

What a treat for Mother's Day! Morel mushrooms!

In the last post I griped about fussing over recipes. This evening I'm still reeling from the awesome Mother's Day dinner that we cooked. For the record, though, I have to say that there were no recipes involved in this dinner, just stuff put together at the last minute. But then I guess I should admit that all that recipe-fussing is what creates the confidence and experience necessary for throwing together a meal at the last moment. Quite possibly the best dinner I've had in years. Or maybe it was the beer that made me think this. No, it was the best meal I've had in years. The beer just made it that much better.

We had:
* rib-eye steaks from Futility Farms. I swear I can taste the sunlight in the pasture from where these cows fed during their happy lives on the farm.
* green beans cooked up with garlic and lime juice. It was a flavor combination I learned from a Puerto Rican grad school friend of mine. I cooked them while dancing with Baby Lotus Bud in my arms, so I think that added to the extra special flavor. We danced in the kitchen to the music playing on my Mother's Day gift - a new radio that also connects to my IPod. Isn't it cute? Baby Lotus Bud was supposed to be sleeping, but of course she wasn't.

* yukon gold potatoes with sour cream and chives; chives from the garden.
* and the morel mushrooms! Sauteed in butter, they topped the steaks with such flavor. Yum! It was my first taste of these mushrooms. I had wandered to the Co-op and saw them there in the produce section and thought, hmmmmm, why don't we try them? 5 bucks for just those two mushrooms, but, ohh baby, they were worth it!
* and beer! Can't forget the beer. It was a 1554 Enlightened Black Ale. Yum! I've heard from several sources that dark beer helps lactation.
* oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert!

Notice all the exclamation marks. It was that good.

So, back to the night before. I had a breakdown, I think. At about midnight when the Baby Lotus Bud woke for her last nighttime feeding, I just lost it. I am tired of her. It's safe to say that I'm sort of sick of her. At least, at the moment, at midnight I was just done. I wanted out. The awful thing is knowing that she is an easy baby. She sleeps 5 hours at night, which is quite a treat these days. She rarely cries unless she's hungry and I'm not quick to respond. She smiles a lot and she's just such a good baby. But, last night at midnight, I just felt done. My body got really warm, the room started spinning - I felt like I had vertigo again, but in actuality I think my body was worn from pumping then feeding her for one hour that evening. Breastfeeding really wears on the body, it's tiring and draining. So, immediately after the room stopped spinning, she started crying and I lost it. The Big D got me a cool glass of water, then dipped his fingers in order to cool my head, soothing me, bringing me off the ledge. I had to then turn on my side and feed her. Thankfully, she slept until 5:30 this morning. I'm getting pretty good at the "lying on the side" position for feeding so early morning feedings are no big deal. We both fall asleep again.

We woke up to a bright sunny day here in the Northeast Minneapolis. A new day. Mother's Day. She was cute. I loved her and realized that I can't live without her. I woke up to a card on my pillow. It was sweet. The Big D had put black ink on the Baby's feet and pressed them onto the card. I was impressed that he thought to do that right after I got over the fact that he put black ink on my baby's feet. And, he managed to do this without me finding out.

We got up, got dressed and headed out to our new favorite breakfast place.

We rushed to get there only to find that the place was packed so we had to wait. But, we waited outside on the nice patio and drank our coffees and took pictures and just generally chilled, figuratively and literally as it was a little chilly outside. But the coffees and the sun warmed up.

A woman sitting a few table down from us stopped by on her way out. She said it looked obvious that I was a "proud mama" and I was thinking, what? Can't you see that I'm sick of this here little baby, the rock star baby that everyone ohhs and ahhs over? This little cheeky monkey?

Anyway so we had a nice breakfast, then a nice walk, then a fantastic dinner.

And now those two, that husband and that baby of mine are crashed out on the big chair. Suddenly, everything feels all right.

It was a good day after all.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

I am not the Woman I Thought I Would Be...

I returned to Facebook this week, which, now that I think of it, could account for my blue mood today. I used to think I left Facebook because I had so many negative friends, but retrospection this week caused me to realize that I am the nexus of negativity, that perhaps, it is me that puts out, thus receives back negativity. It was a good realization, but also a smack to my sense of self.

I am not the woman I thought I would be.

Interacting with old middle school and high school friends gives me the opportunity to reflect on how far I've come since those school days. Indeed, I have come far. Yet, ever since I left the University in 2007, I find myself less and less satisfied with who I am. Why did I give up my career so easily? What happened to my desire for educational equity here in Minnesota and it's largest University? What happened to my passion and fire and fight for the good? What am I doing taking pictures of tulips and fussing over recipes for dinner?

I am not the woman I thought I would be.

A former student commented on my wall, citing me as an inspirational woman in her life. And now I find myself seeking inspiration from her. She's a beautiful young woman who is pursuing a worthwhile career while at the same time raising a daughter. Me, I left my career, granted for good reasons, but now I am a stay-at-home-mom.

I am not the woman I thought I would be.

And, yet, I am happy to have the opportunity to stay at home with my daughter. Raising her is probably the most important job I'll ever have. Not being the woman I thought I would be isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just that...

I am not the woman I thought I would be.

Leaving the University has finally opened the way into new opportunities. I am genuinely thrilled by the work I am doing with the Co-op. I like the thought of being a community organizer, it makes me feel like I am part of the Obama generation. I have also had the opportunity to try my hand at digitizing meetings for the internet, so I feel very multi-media.

And fussing over recipes is bettering my family. Learning to eat locally is healthy and economical and if those aren't two major goals for this country in this decade then I don't know what is. So, why do I feel like...

I am not the woman I thought I would be?

The other day, I talked with an old friend of mine. He and I used to teach together. We did so for six years and sometimes, I think back on those days as my revolutionary days. Last summer, we parted ways in a not so good manner. I used the excuse of the pregnancy to avoid him but I never did resolve the bad feelings I had towards him and his stated perceptions of me. He called and we had a pleasant chat until he remarked on my ability to be unemployed at this time while being snide about my work with the Co-op. Words such as privilege and wealth tumbled down on me and I felt defensive and full of shame. These words don't describe me! Nonetheless, it made me feel like...

I am not the woman I thought I would be.

Then I remembered the woman that I was. Resourceful and clever. A woman that has made wise financial decisions for my family that has allowed me to stay at home. The woman who had found a partner in life and stuck with him for over seventeen years. A woman who worked her way through graduate school and completed a Ph.D in a place that graduates very few Ph.Ds who are women of color. A woman that has taught herself to cook and found new ways to cook in ways that allows one to be thrifty and well-fed. A second-hand store girl. A re-use and recylcing girl. Indeed, a woman that has the privilege of a second home out in the woods, but also a woman that has no running water, therefore no bathroom except a porta-potty in her second home out in the woods, therefore a woman who pees out in the woods. So, yes...

I am not the woman I thought I would be.

But, I am more that I could have imagined I could be. And, being a mother is one of those things I never, ever would have imagined. I'm doing it anyway.

I am not the woman that I thought I would be. I just have to give myself pep talks every once and awhile and come to terms with the woman that I am.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mill City Cafe

Instead of heading into St. Paul, we decided to try out a breakfast place in our part of the Twin Cities. I can't believe how many times we have driven just a couple blocks away from this place not knowing what was there. The Mill City Cafe offered a breakfast that was delicious, an atmosphere that felt like "contemporary" Northeast Minneapolis (if you know what I mean, more on that later), and decor that included choice pieces that exemplified the neighborhood's Arts district.

The Mill City Cafe is located in one those old NE buildings which houses a number of art studios. The guy that introduced me to this place told me to suggest to the Big D that he use the bathroom because apparently it's located in a three-story elevator shaft.

Walking into this place is like walking into a sanctuary. Along with the peace and tranquility, there is also the possibility for inebriation, something I heartily look forward to sometime in the distant future when I am no longer breastfeeding the Baby Lotus Bud. How I miss those weekends when brunch included a Bloody Mary with a beer chaser; those times when there were always four glasses per person on the table - water, coffee, bloody mary and, of course, the beer. Don't let me get started on that because I'll just whine and yearn and ache and want. As it was, I was taken in and totally hooked by the decaf americano. Yum. So much better than decaf coffee, although I'm willing to bet that this place serves up a good one.

As usual, I did not think to take a picture of our food until we had completely wiped our plates clean. The Big D had the Ecuadoran Baked Eggs which he devoured in a flash, while I went safe (again) and ordered the biscuits and gravy. But, these were no ordinary biscuits and gravy. Oh no. I opted for the portabello mushroom gravy to go alongside my fresh made biscuit and fluffy scrambled eggs. The mushroom gravy had the same heartiness of sausage gravy and just about the same kick. That plate could possibly be the best dang biscuits and grave that I've ever had.

The Big D loves a place that has hot sauce right on the table and this place had two different bottles of the hot stuff. He likes his food spicy!

The outdoor seating was totally wonderful but unfortunately it was too windy for us that day. I'll back for it and again, I can't wait until I'm sitting out there sipping my Bloody Mary.

So, when I say it has that "contemporary" Northeast Minneapolis feel to it, I mean it has all that that makes this neighborhood great. The old building, the new art, the great food, the interesting people. You see, my in-laws are Nordeasters, part of the Norwegian/Swedish crowd that occupied this part of town alongside lots of other European immigrant and working-class communities. My father-in-law is a retired Minneapolis cop and he drives us through the neighborhood like he's on patrol. The Big D has picked up this habit, taking every side street and never taking the same route twice. When we go out with his parents it is to all those old NE joints where the food isn't always the healthiest, but it's their habit, so we do it. It's to those places where the crowd isn't always diverse to this desi girl, but to them it is when you consider there are Germans, Poles, Swede, Norwegians, etc.

The area is still full of immigrant groups and working-class folks, but now that includes Somalis, Mexicans, Ecuadorans, Lebanese, African Americans, Native Americans, Tibetans and Afghanis (the list goes on and on). Along with these communities come great places to eat including many ethnic restaurants along with hip, funky places like the Mill City Cafe. This restaurant is filled with a lot of great artwork: painting and sculptures - yet another cultural aspect of NE Minneapolis that has revitalized the area. All this right alongside the railroad tracks.

And now, Northeast Minneapolis has one more resident who adds to the diversity of the area, some little one who is part South Asian - my little Baby Lotus Bud! There were two desi girls at the table for breakfast this weekend.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

49 - Mill City Cafe

Yet another place that makes NE Minneapolis a great place to live.
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Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway

Just in case, you haven't read this on my blog before, I'm going to say it again. I live in a beautiful state - the great state of Minnesota. I love every season in this state, including the winter. Spring is downright breathtaking, but maybe that's because it follows winter and everything seems better after tough times. Kind of like how hunger is the best seasoning for any meal. Spring is that awesome season-ing after the limited colors of winter.

I was pregnant through the end of summer, fall and the first couple of months of winter. During this time, before the ice covered the city streets, I would walk the path just near my house. I considered it my track as it was a newly cemented walking/biking path. If I went to the road that defines a NE Minneapolis boundary, it would be a walk that was just over a mile. I remembered those times that I use to run this path. Why does it seem that running outside is far more strenuous than running on a treadmill? I don't know. I'm new to running, but once I tried, I was hooked.

Anyway, I never realized that this street was the northeastern leg of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. Isn't that awesome? I live in a state, where right in my very own neighborhood, there is a national scenic byway.

While I was pregnant, each walk seemed psychedelic to me. Kind of like I was Lotus in Wonderland. Friends asked me to take pictures to illustrate what I felt, but I could never capture the feeling. That was in the Fall. I can't even imagine how psychedelic this would have seemed to me right now in the Spring.

Spring in NE Minneapolis is like a fairyland, full of bright colors and unexpected beauty. Tulips are all over the place, in all different colors. Here's a common color. Yet, the tulip wasn't just satisfied with its bright red-orange color, it had to add a thin yellow edge. What a brilliant idea!

This one is little more unusual. It also gave me an opportunity to use the macro feature on my lens. Some day, one day, I might be able to afford an actual macro lens, maybe.

For some strange reason, I never realized that tulips open up during the day, then close up tight at night. Kind of looks like a rose, doesn't it? Does this tulip have an identity crisis? Heck no! How could it? It's so pretty.

Even the pinecones are beautiful.

While the tulips and flowering trees seem delicate, their beauty fleeting, these maple leaves display a glossy sturdiness. These maples are a slick, stunning presence in the neighborhood.

So, I strolled around the neighborhood, literally, what with Baby Lotus Bud in her ride and gazed and amazed at all that Spring gave us this year. And, then I spotted these chairs. So. Dang. Cute. No? I want. I want. I want to sit in these chairs with the Big D and little Baby Lotus Bud right there in the middle of us. I want to sit there and watch all the folk in my hood wander, stroll, bike, jog and walk by.

Maybe one day, the three of us will bike the whole scenic byway. I hope so because it would be a great way to see more of this great city.
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