Friday, April 30, 2010

Bring On The Cake!

Happy Friday to you all!  I can't even tell you how glad I am to see the weekend staring me right in the face.  Not only is this the weekend, it is also Husby's Birthday Weekend! 

We have plans to partake in Dive Night with Ruthie and Ray tonight (post to follow on that adventure, as always) and there will also be a small family party in honor of Husby on Sunday.  That leaves the actual birthday day wide open for Husby.  He's having trouble deciding what he wants to do - go out for dinner?  request a special homemade dinner made by moi?  christen the grill for Summer 2010 with his own fabulous grilled food?  (Notice how all the "plans" are about food?) 

Makes no difference to me how Husby's birthday unfolds.  The indecisiveness he has about his own day is most certainly a result of his having to be very decisive regarding the events of the past few months with his mother's passing and currently attending to matters concerning his dad.  My only requirement of Husby is that he spend his birthday doing only what he wants, and not doing what he doesn't want.  Looks like it's going to be a very spontaneous day!

Happy Birthday to my May Basket!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Featured Shop - one9designs

About twice a month I contribute an article to the HandmadeMN blog featuring the HandmadeMN members' shops on Etsy. I thought it would be nice to have those articles on my blog too, as I really like the artists and shops I feature, and their wares might add a bit of class to my little corner of the blogosphere.

We love jewelry.  It's so personal, a reflection of what we stand for or who we are.  Designs catch our fancy because of our personalities.  Jewelry given as a gift marks a serious relationship.  That said, what could be even more personal?  Personalized jewelry. 

Kristin at one9designs puts her personality into the personalized jewelry she makes for you.  She takes sterling silver and hand stamps your mark into pieces you can cherish forever.  So pure and simple, yet so meaningful and beautiful.

Take a look at this adorable necklace for the pet lover.  A cute little paw charm along with a silver disc with the name of your pet. 

Don't forget the jewels.  Here is a dainty ring of sterling silver, personalized with your birthstone.  I just love the starburst bezel.

This one is all swirly and girly.  Silver discs stamped with the letter you want to represent your kids or whatever else suits you, along with a bigger disc stamped with the word "blessed."  I think it's my favorite.

What makes one9designs even more special is that Kristin will adjust her shop listings to fit exactly what you're looking for.  In other words, she'll make it as personal as possible, just for you.  She's nice that way.  Visit one9designs and get something really beautiful, really meaningful, and really personal. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Clock

A few years ago the family got together and helped my mom clean out her parents' house.  It was a really big job, and a really emotional job.  The times at Grama and Grampa's house were fun.  They always made sure there were exciting things to do, whether it be snowmobiling up to Witch Tree Hill or waterskiing on Tug Lake.  The thought of never again going back to "Tug" was hard to grip. 

After living there over thirty years, accumulating stuff for over fifty and never taking time to downsize, my grandparents left quite a chore for us.  It was easy throwing out old carpet remnants and dumping the remains of booze left behind the bar.  (Yes!  They had an actual, fully stocked bar in the lower level of their house, which I thought was beyond cool.)  But there were times when we had to question whether to throw, keep, or sell.  What do you do with dozens of old skeleton keys found in your Grampa's garage?  Or the scads of outdated yet sentimental record albums collected over the decades?  Decisions had to be made, and luckily my family is not the kind to bicker over where the new homes to these things would be.

One thing I got to take home with me was the clock.  Grama was kind of a contemporary woman and the old mantel clock didn't really fit into her decor, but she kept it on her credenza as a reminder of her parents.  It didn't work when I took it home and I don't even recall it ever working at my grandma's house.

It didn't matter.  Not only did I love the clock, I was the most likely to "inherit" it as I was the only one in my family with a mantel.  It was an honor and a pleasure to own it, even though it didn't work.  The clock sat on our mantel for years, stuck at 6:10. 

I knew I could easily take it in and have it looked at, but it was never a priority.  Until recently.  I spontaneously picked it up and took it to my local jewelry store/clock fixer guy and told him I just want it to work.

Finally, after decades of mute paralysis, the clock is back in operation again.  The insides are fresh and clean, yet the outside appearance remains as it has for the last eighty years.  The ticking is still something Husby and I are getting used to, but the chimes...Oh the chimes!  My mom always said how much she loved those chimes when the clock was in her grandma's house, and now I know why.  The simple two-toned chime rings the hour and half hour, all day and all night.  It gives our house a feeling of nostalgia.  It takes me back to Tug Lake, my grandparents' house.  It also takes me back to visiting my great-grandma's house, as vague as those memories are.  At the same time, through all that nostalgia, the clock always keeps me right in the moment I'm in.

Addendum: I thought it was funny how when I took these pictures of the clock it was a mere five minutes before the time it was stuck at for years. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Invisible Work

My husby is a very tidy husby indeed.  I'm grateful he doesn't leave piles of things all over the house (like I do), he puts his laundry in the hamper, he has a place for everything and everything is in its place.  However, Husby wouldn't see a dust bunny if it jumped up and bit him in the face.  He doesn't find cleaning chores pressing and really doesn't notice the difference once they're done. Or else he just chooses to turn a blind eye to filth necessary aspects of good homekeeping.

Over time I've come to refer to much of my housework as invisible work because I'm the only one who knows it's been done.  I usually do my invisible work on Friday afternoon while Husby is still at his job and I put in only four hours at the day job.  Therefore, to Husby, the work I do on those Fridays truly is invisible. 

No matter.  I know this work needs to get done and I do it.  I can't work on a greasy stove.  I can't stand a water-spotted window.  I hate lint on the carpet.  So I do it.  Magically and invisibly.

Last Friday I decided to treat myself and refrain from doing invisible work.  Of course that didn't mean the invisible work didn't have to be done.  It had to be done while Husby was at home. 

Minding my request that he vacate the area in need of attention Husby went upstairs where there was a TV and a bathroom, leaving me to wash the floor that covers a large part of the main floor of our house.  The dinette chairs were moved, the rugs vacuumed and shook, and out came the bucket, sponge mop, and Murphy's Oil Soap.

Luckily I had just enough Murphy's to do the job.  (Note to self - pick up more for spring woodwork cleaning.)  Husby was a peach and stayed clear, but has a little better idea of how my Friday afternoons are spent.  Most importantly he got a glimpse of how necessary invisible work is.  He saw the bucket of dirty water.  Yikes.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Not Exactly Royalty

Today I will be crowned.  I will be seated in a throne, of sorts, but sadly will not receive a crown like this...

Instead I'll be seated in a cushy dentist's chair (the aforementioned throne of sorts) and receive a crown on that pesky back tooth that shattered when I bit into a rye crisp contained in a bag of Gardettos.  I don't blame the Gardettos.  I still love the Gardettos.  In fact I didn't even know I broke the tooth until my tongue ran into the jagged remains of silver filling.  I'm sure the tooth particle had a marvelous journey through my digestive system.

So today I am crowned.  Today there will be no Gardettos.  Perhaps a liquid diet will suit me better. 

Chew carefully and have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Time To Honor Moms Of All Kinds

With Mother's Day coming up I thought I'd offer a few things to consider for gift giving.  Best thing about my stuff - most of it is under $20!

Here's something for the serene, earth-loving mom:

Here's something for the coffee-loving mom:

How about this for the mom who's just a tad dissatisfied with the activity level of her husband?

And for the mom who's not afraid to tell you what she thinks:

For the mom who loves to fill her home with an abundance of fragrance:

And finally, for the wine-loving mom who aspires to be every bit as perfect as the TV Moms:

Whatever type of mom you're buying for, regardless if it's your own mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, godmother, sister, aunt, or friend it might be worth your while to check out the wares at Auntie B Online.  I'd be ever so grateful if you stopped by. 

Oh, and by the way, these are great gifts for yourself too!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sidewalk Chalk

Summertime is right around the corner.  For those of you with kids, you might be wondering how you're going to fill the days for your little offspring once they're out of school for a spell. 

You could teach them how to play hopscotch, if you remember how yourself.  Of course you'll need a stretch of sidewalk and some sidewalk chalk.

Let's make it a little more interesting.  How about on one of those rainy days you undertake the project (with your kids' help of course) of making your own sidewalk chalk? 

Oh sure, it might be easier to just go out and buy some chalk, but what would be the fun in that?  I found a great tutorial on how to make your own chalk and it actually looks doable.  Once you have your chalk all made I bet you'll want to go out with the kids and create your own works of art on the front walk.

For the full tutorial on how to make your own sidewalk chalk just go to Artwork.  You'll find all sorts of other fun tutorials there too!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If You Had Looked At Me...

This past weekend I had the great pleasure to take in a little culture at the Ordway.   Every year my mom, sister and I see an opera, and this year we chose Salome.

It's been a while since an opera put a lump in my throat but this performance was so intense I couldn't help but be overwhelmed.  The artists on stage and in the pit were phenomenal and the story was, well, dramatic to say the least.

Based on Oscar Wilde's play Salome, this opera is scandalous and letcherous.  The score was written by Richard Strauss which necessitated a little bit of the 3/4 time he is so famous for.  (The waltzes, for those of you less familiar with musical composers.) 

Much to Salome's displeasure, John the Baptist rejected her affections while he was in captivity.   Also to her displeasure her stepfather, Herod, requests she dance for him to satisfy his lusty inclinations.  Salome does the Dance of the Seven Veils (a very elegant strip tease) for her stepfather, and as her reward demands the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter.  When eventually Herod honors her request, Salome finally gets to kiss the lips that had previously rejected her.  "If you had looked at me, you would have loved me," Salome tells the head of John the Baptist.

I wasn't kidding when I said it was intense! 

After the marvelous performance we headed off to Cafe Latte for a little sustenance, which of course included decadent desserts.

Some may think the opera is stuffy, but if you've never experienced it you should give it a try.  The stories are usually very dramatic and guess what?  At the Ordway they provide translations on an unobtrusive screen so you actually know what the performers are saying. 

Although it's a little more expensive, the opera is a welcome alternative to American Idol.  Hop off the couch, get dressed up and grab some culture.  Hobnob with patrons of the arts!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Have A Thing For Churches

You might remember the post I published on the St. Paul Cathedral just before Easter.  This weekend I was fortunate to experience yet another grand space, and wouldn't you know it was another church.  I have a thing for churches.  Ornate, old, enormous churches.

My nephew Fojo received the Sacrament of Confirmation on Saturday.  The event was held at St. Mary's Basilica in Minneapolis, MN.  I had never been to this church in all my many years of living in the Twin Cities.  I remembered to bring my camera this time, not only to take pictures of the boy man of the hour on his special day, but also to try to capture the grandeur of this marvelous and inspiring structure.

It's a cool thing to see people being confirmed.  They're making a stand for their faith which, even if you don't subscribe to or agree with that faith, is inspiring.  Believing in something is necessary to one's existential journey, don't you think?

The day was filled with pomp and circumstance, smells and bells, and a bishop with a very cool staff.  If nothing else the Catholics know how to put on a good show, especially in a setting like the Basilica.

Besides being proud of my Fojo taking this big step in his spiritual existence and going through months of preparation to do so, this event was yet another instance where I was moved beyond words by the artistry and genius that went into creating a church like the Basilica. 

A kick-ass organ doesn't hurt either.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Little Vignettes

Today I spent many hours engrossed in my spring cleaning.

It was a good thing. 

I feel so much more free to do the things I really want and love to do when ugly scum and grime is washed away from windows, blinds, and certain porcelain fixtures which shall remain nameless. 

My little vignettes shine.

Tomorrow I'll take a break from ammonia water.

Tomorrow I'll wake up with a rested and once again limber back.

Until next week when I undertake a little more of the spring cleaning ritual I get to sit back and feel very satisfied in my attempts to keep a home.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Don't forget to make some time to have a glass with your girlies once in a while.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's Art, Man

You may not fancy yourself an artist, but you can still create beautiful things no matter how childlike your creations may seem.  For example, look at this marvelous display of color I created...

I call it: Sun-Filled Volcano Rising To An Autumn Sky.   Sounds artsy enough doesn't it?

Believe it or not, this is sand art.  Virtual sand art.  How cool is that?  The key word is "virtual," which eliminates the actual sand, which eliminates the mess.  You create right on your computer screen.

Thisissand allows you to create countless designs with virtual sand.  Be inspired by their gallery and contribute your work to it too.  Once at the site just click on the little dark square in the upper left corner of your screen for instructions of how the sand works and create away.

Warning: This is extremely addicting.  I will not claim responsibility for any jobs lost or chores left undone by those engrossed in the creation of sand art.  You're on your own with this one.  I will, however, receive accolades for referring you to this site. 

Try Thisissand and let me know how your project(s) turn out.  Have fun!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Did You Know? Highly Fragranced Candles

Candle competition is fierce. Oh, you may not believe it given that candles are a frivolous luxury to most. But there are a lot of candle manufacturers out there, as well as independent chandlers, and it's not surprising that people think a candle is a candle is a candle.

One factor in candle choice is fragrance. The fragrances available to candle makers are outstanding, from realistic bakery scents to natural florals and spices. If you are shopping for a candle (or several) based on scent, please proceed cautiously.

It's easy to go to a store or boutique or craft show, see a candle you like, and give it a whiff. Mmm, that smells delicious! But be aware that candles with an intense fragrance when not lit may well be overloaded with fragrance oil.

You see, candle fragrance oils are designed to throw their scents when warm. That puddle of liquid wax in the center of the candle while it's burning is called the melt pool. It's the hot wax that allows the fragrance oil to flourish and throw its scent throughout the room.

If a candle has an intense cold throw (scent given off when candle is not lit) it could be it is overloaded with fragrance oil.  This makes shopping for a candle easier for some, but it also means the candle could smoke more while burning due to excessive oil in the wax.  (This isn't to say a candle should have no scent when it isn't burning, but it should not be overpowering.)

So when you're shopping for candles and you don't think the fragrance is strong enough off the shelf remember the scent will intensify in the candle's melt pool.  A responsible candle maker will include enough fragrance oil to scent a room beautifully when the candle is lit, but not so much to cause excessive smoking.

Shameless plug:  I pay special attention to the amount of fragrance oil I put into every candle sold at Auntie B's Wax.  It may not be the strongest smelling candle off the shelf, but my melt pools are to die for.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dive Night - Neumann's

Dive Night is a once monthly adventure undertaken by me and Husby, along with our friends Ruthie and Ray. Each couple alternates choosing a restaurant, one which must come under the category of "dive." Our definition of dive: a neighborhood gathering spot hiding under the radar. Casual atmosphere and good food. We're out to find the best food in the Minneapolis/St Paul area without having to pay a fortune or dress up. A sip of beer or wine doesn't hurt either.  See a list and links to the previous dive night posts here.

Ruthie and Ray outdid themselves this time.  (I think I say that every time they pick the restaurant.)  They took Husby and me to the most interesting place - Neumann's,  located in North St. Paul, Minnesota. 

As out of it as I am, I had no idea this is the oldest bar with the oldest fixtures in the State of Minnesota.  I know it's true because the sign said so.

It has been a hard couple of months for all of us.  The trials of getting older were getting the better of us and a night out was just what we needed.  Ruthie and I were much more verbose in this opinion, but I could tell Ray and Husby were happy to let loose too.  Because we were so grateful to be out, and even more grateful to be in a place that caters to people our own age (albeit much more biker-type - I was embarrassed to be wearing a cheery yellow sweater among all that leather), the food wasn't a big priority, for me at least. 

Ruthie and I had the seafood special which was a fish filet, a few shrimp, and a crab cake, served with french fries.  I'll have to admit, the seafood all came from a box, but I love that stuff.  Plus, it was fried in a frier and not baked in the oven, which makes it that much better.  The fries were fabulous (if they were from a box I'd love to know what brand they use) and we shared them with our husbands.  They ordered gyros, which didn't come with any sides.  According to Ray and Husby, they were very good.  Of course we got an appetizer too.  Onion rings that were absolutely perfect.

The most fun thing about Neumann's is the ambiance.  I'm sure its charm could be lost on some, but for us, two couples who had been there done that but not in a long time, it was very refreshing.

Not only is it quaint, it has marvelous fixtures.  Well, the oldest of any bar in Minnesota, as the sign said.

This fan was in operation when the picture was taken

Look at that copper ceiling!  I don't know if it's copper, tin, or what, but I want to believe it's original to the joint.

Check out that mounted alligator head in the upper right of the photo.  It's wearing sunglasses and from its jaws hangs a pair of child's tennies.  My kind of place!

These lovely photos were hanging in the women's bathroom.

If you're in the mood to hob nob with with a crowd that's a little rough around the edges (but sweeter than pie) and be waited on by a waitress with biceps as big as your thigh (but wouldn't hurt a fly) I would highly recommend Neumann's Bar.  Fun food, great atmosphere, and interesting crowd.  If you own a motorcycle, even better.  Don't wear a cheery yellow sweater unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb.

A special thanks to Ray, who provided the pictures in this post.  It had been such a hectic day I forgot to bring my own camera.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Fresh Air

One of the biggest reasons I like living in Minnesota is the benefit of four distinct seasons.  Sure, there are some seasons I like more than others, but each of them have something wonderful to offer and I'm always happy to experience all of the beginnings.

The crisp air of winter is giving way to the breezy, slightly more humid air of spring.  Spring air smells wonderful.  Husby and I are firm believers in allowing fresh, outdoor air into our home during the spring and summer.  Conditioned air, while controlable and constant, has nothing on real air circulating throughout the house.  And so with the commencement of warmer temperatures and light breezes comes open windows and a little bit of spring cleaning.

The rite of spring cleaning officially began when I took the feather bed out to the back deck to air out.  I'll miss the cushy softness the feather bed brings to our slumber, but the flannel sheets are being replaced with light cotton, and the feather bed must be put away until the wind switches and autumn makes its way back to us.  But before the lofty goodness of the feather bed is stored in the cedar trunk, I like to take it out into the fresh air and sunshine for a day.

You might be hearing a lot about my spring cleaning rituals in the coming posts.  Then again, you might not.  I've yet to come up with an effective routine that allows me to get all of the tasks done every single year.  It's time consuming, tedious, and can be just a little boring.  This year I'm going to give myself a break and take my time with the spring cleaning to reduce the physical and mental stress of hitting it too hard, even if it takes me until Halloween to complete it.

For now I'm satisfied to know the feather bed is aired out.  That simple act has put me in the mood to do a little more.  A little bit every day.  How wonderful and renewed the house (and I!) feels with the deep cleaning that comes with spring.  It all starts with that fresh, spring air.  Who knew something so invisible could be so inspiring?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

What Color Matches Your Personality?

Don't you just love quizzes?  Not the kind you used to have in school where you would actually be judged by your answers.  I mean these fun, little, meaningless bits of time-wasting magic.  How accurate are they?  (How honest are you with your answers?)

I found a fun one that will tell you what color matches your personality.  I imagine you could use the helpful answer in your next decorating project.  Except not me.  Turns out my personality color 

What does that say about me?  This:

"Nothing can stand between you and your demand for a calm environment. To be free of conflict and disagreement is the only way to live. In fact, it’s this philosophy that probably allows you to be comfortable in conditions that would normally bother others. Your ability to focus is undisputed, and while you enjoy attention, you still have problems understanding how to handle it. No other color out lives by the golden rule as much as you do."

Whether you believe the results of not, it's fun to see what the "experts" come up with.  Take the quiz, and let me know what color matches your personality.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Spring Thundershower

The day started out slowly. I tended to procrastinate for the most unreasonable reason of all - there was too much to do. Like a deer in headlights I examined the list of things I had to accomplish. Staring. Not wanting to do any of those things.

I finally started to pick away at the chores and tasks. I tidied up the rumpus room in anticipation of evening guests. I poured a custom candle order. I cleaned the powder room. I changed the bedding. Little by little the tasks were getting done, but the list was still very, very long.

Then I heard it in the distance. A roll of thunder. The sky got darker. And then fell the most lovely spring rain. A little lightening, a little more thunder, and steady rain. I went outside, standing under the overhang at the front door. The smell of wet dirt was delicious.

Once the rain began I realized I wouldn't finish everything on that long list of things to do. I decided to sit and enjoy the spring thundershower. There would be a little time to spare between now and getting ready for the evening events. I'll just sit, not wasting time, but savoring the entrance of spring.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Tuesday's Dead

(Written Monday)

Cat Stevens is quoted a lot on this blog.  Today I hear in my head...

Well sometimes you have to moan
When nothing seems to suit you

It's not a good thing to moan and grumble when things aren't going your way.  In fact, my dad pointed out the other day my opinions, which were less than uplifting, can be infectious.  Well dang it all anyway, some things are just wrong and I have to say so.

Today wasn't a good day for me, and I only get to look forward to Tuesday, which also brings about lyrics from Cat...

Tuesday's dead...

That's right.  I get to look forward the angst and worry that comes with a parent in the hospital, a spontaneous trip to the dentist, and a haircut.  Bad enough I have to visit a hospital, which always holds the possibility of really bad news,  but I also broke off a huge piece of tooth today, necessitating a trip to the dentist tomorrow.  Fortunately it doesn't hurt right now.  The crown I'll most likely need will hurt the checkbook, however.

Artwork by Anthony Falbo

A trip to the hair salon (yes, I still call it a salon) would normally be a welcome break in the mundane day-to-day, but I've got a stylist (yes, I still call them stylists) who thinks I can right the wrongs of a government program just because I work for a government agency.  If I can't, I worry she'll give me the cut from hell.  And guess what...I can't right those wrongs.  I see the injustice every day of my life and there's nothing anyone can do about it, least of all me.

Me, starting Tuesday

So what do you want?  I'm writing this at the end of a very discouraging Monday.  It's being posted on a very stressful Tuesday.  While you read this, think of me and and send me some good vibes. 

How's your day going?

Addendum: Feeling much better after watching that cutie pie Cat and taking in his most insightful lyrics. Things are going to be okay. At least they will be as they should.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Thank God For Fat Pants

Easter always makes me feel so...springy.  I was completely lame this year in that I didn't even put out my Easter decorations throughout the house.  I don't want to become one of those people who doesn't decorate for the holidays.  Luckily, when Ruthie and Ray came over the other night there were some decorations out - never mind they were leftovers from Christmas!  Santa is definately festive, but certainly not springy.

Husby was forgiving when I apologized for the unadorned house.  We were fortunate to be spending the day at my parents' house which is guaranteed to be decorated for the appropriate holiday.  They hide Easter baskets for the kids (Charlotte's boys) even though they are a freshman and senior in high school.  They don't make the adults hunt for eggs or baskets.  My mom gives us easy access to the treats.  A platter is full of delicious treats like Cadbury Eggs and Peeps, foil-wrapped eggs and chocolate bunnies.  The best part about the candy platter?  It is always replenished when running low on goodies which results in a never-ending sugar buzz. 

Of course all of us I ate way too much.  I couldn't get into my sweat pants fast enough once I got home. 

I hope everyone had a pleasant Easter and that it marks some new beginnings for you.  After all, isn't that what spring is all about?
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