Friday, December 20, 2013

Life Change

'It's the small things (that make us happy)' is a dumb saying.

If everyone gathered all the 'small' things in life that would make them happier, and did them, they would collectively be a big thing.

The stuff we say isn't a big deal is usually the stuff we deal with and look at on a daily basis. So if we make all that stuff better we improve our day to day lives.

There have been some pretty huge events going on in my life lately!

One: My picture frames are higher. Someone once pointed out they were too low. A claim I vigorously disputed only to later be convicted with the truth, and then no rest came to me until the pictures were raised. So now they are higher and I am happier each time I walk into my room and look at them. I walk into my room at least 20 different times a day, so I am at least 20 times happier than I was during the time of low picture frames.

Two: The Facebook app is off my phone.  I was addicted to Facebook. Half the time I checked it I didn't even want to. And there would be no good status updates so I'd put my phone away having learned absolutely nothing. I'd also be unreasonably annoyed with people who always have boring posts about their dinner and emotional condition. I now have way more free time and have started dozens of new hobbies.

FB free zone!

Three: I quit using flavored coffee creamer. Ok, yes, 'quit' is probably a strong word. I'll most likely have flavored creamer again. Actually, I did yesterday. Some of it, like the Almond Joy kind, is so good. But for the most part I'm all plain half and half and maybe just a pinch of sugar. I can taste the delight of actual coffee now without a creamer barrier clouding the experience.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ode to the Farmer's Market

It can be hard to know if you belong in Minnesota. If you only sort of like biking, don't wear hiking sandals with dresses, and go to the co-op but don't care what's vegan, locally, sustainably or naturally grown.  

Sometimes at the co-op I walk around muttering health food buzzwords like 'free range,' or 'dairy free,' or 'probiotic apple'. This way the shelf stockers won't sense that I would drive a big truck if I had a need for one (i.e. a horse trailer) and would definitely shoot all the deer before they could moronically catapult themselves in front of my big truck.

But at the St Paul farmer's market all these problems fade away. I go up and down every aisle at least once, putting together a mental shopping list, then start over and buy things from as many stalls as possible and PUT THEM IN MY REUSABLE BAGS THANK YOU.

$20 buys a literal ton of food. I get home and kale, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and apples are everywhere. It's a total panic trying to eat everything by next Sunday so I can go to the farmer's market again. Important questions come up like: 'How can I eat more vegetables?' or 'What can go in a fruit & veggie smoothie... onions?'

When I'm old I'll probably try to convince kids in Halloween costumes that farmer's market carrot sticks are just super delicious. They won't want them and I will shove carrots in their trick-or-treat bags anyway. Then I'll be the crazy vegetable lady.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Why do car locks automatically activate when vehicles reach 15 mph? At best this feature is a deterrent for the remedial daredevil. No one seriously contemplates jumping from a car only to hear the lock and give up the notion thinking, 'Well, maybe next time.'

Why do people put beach stuff in bathrooms? Are they drawing a correlation between bathroom and ocean waters? What a profound insult to oceans, and false praise for sinks and bathtubs! They are not the same! Or is it indulgent self-pity: 'I'll certainly never swim in the Atlantic. Guess I'll put this little bowl of shells on the toilet.'

Friday, August 23, 2013

Libro Learning

La historia del espanol (By husband and wife team Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, who also wrote The History of French) is a great history lesson. Beginning with the Iberian peninsula, it talks about all of the different groups going in and out, and then moves into the colonization of Latin America.

During my freshman year Intro to Theatre class the prof of the course would constantly say, 'Theatre doesn't happen in a vacuum, folks!' Well, she would love La historia because it tells you that neither does language. It's focus is how Spanish has formed and changed, why it took hold when other languages didn't, and why it is so widely spoken today.

There have been many points in this book at which I've literally gaped in amazement and said, 'Whoa, that is so interesting.' Below are two I could immediately recall.

The idea that mariners at the time of Columbus thought the earth was flat is a myth. Portugal was extremely advanced in astronomy, trigonometry and algebra and had calculated the size of the earth quite accurately. They turned down Columbus' westward voyage to India because they knew such a journey would be five times longer than his estimated 2,500 miles. No ship could carry enough food and water. Portugal missed out on a great discovery because they knew too much. Discouraging.

The idea that Tex-Mex, or Mexican American cuisine, is an adaptation of authentic cuisine is also inaccurate.  It developed in the same grassroots manner as other foods with indigenous roots, before the U.S.-Mexican border reached is present day line. 'When Americans put cheddar cheese and sour cream on their nachos they aren't distorting an authentic custom. No one else eats nachos.' The word Tex-Mex dates back to the 1850s.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Road Trip

I flew to L.A. earlier this month to help my brother move to Iowa City. He's starting his M.B.A. Cara went to IA City early to find a place to live, etc.

 The first thing we did was load the UHaul. Nick insisted this dresser could withstand the trip. I disagreed and was proven right when it exploded on the street.

Sinatra. The cutest pug ever, gets everything he wants.

 The rest is the great Utah/Colorado scenery. If you click one of the pictures it brings up a slide show.

Friday, June 14, 2013

News Bulletin 27

Iranians are voting for a president right now and many are saying they would like the new president to fix the economy and improve relations with the world. At this moment literally every one in the world has thrown up their hands in relief at finally being provided with such a succinct summary of their desires.

The CIA is poised to make a major computing system decision, awarding a contract to either IBM or Amazon. This would be a huge coup for Amazon, made possible by the rise of cloud computing. CIA sources close to the decision say they are mostly excited to befuddle their captors during upcoming terrorist interrogations with statements like, 'I'm being serious, the data is on the cloud.' American shoppers are looking forward to purchasing CIA information online, although Amazon reps state, 'At least initially, these info packages will be quite costly.'

Russia and the U.S. are in a fight because the U.S. has decided to arm the opposition in Syria after determining Assad has resorted to using chemical weapons against the rebel army. Russia says the U.S. is wrong about the chemical weapons, and is threatening to deliver air defense missiles to Assad. Russia and the U.S. have presented a united front to Syria, however, saying 'This is not your fault and we both care for you very much. We just aren't getting along very well right now.'

Monday, May 20, 2013

Rear view

This weekend I went to the exhibition 'More Real: Art in the Age of Truthiness' at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Here is the description :

"Over the past century, a period of unprecedented technological change and global social upheaval, once agreed-upon beliefs, or “truths,” have been cast into doubt, changing and shaping our understanding and experience of reality. More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness features work by 28 of today's most accomplished and promising international artists who explore our shifting experience of reality."

It wasn't necessarily up my alley; it's hard for me to get into these questions of 'what is truth?' 'what is real?' 'what is reality?' They're good for mental mazes and a lack of closure. And I like conclusions.

Person A) What is real?

Person B) What do you mean, what is real. I'm sitting in a real chair, I just talked to a real person. I reckon I know real when I see it.

A) How do you know what you see?

B) I have other things to think about.

But I did learn one exciting thing.

Did you know each museum painting has its own little history on the back? Whenever it is loaned for another exhibition, is restored, or something happens to it, a label is attached describing what happened.

For this particular exhibition there were 3 or 4 paintings leaning against the wall, back out, so you could see these labels. The point was for viewers to question whether or not it was the real painting.

Did the artist really get 'Starry Night' on loan just so that it could face the wall?

I doubt it but don't really care. It was interesting to think about each painting's biography, all the places it has been and all the people who have seen it. Or maybe the labels were more like a resume. A painting could form its own personal summary:

'Well traveled, versatile painting has contributed to over 29 exhibitions covering a wide range of topics. Highly sought after due to aesthetically pleasing composition, strong viewer captivation abilities.'

HR should create an exhibition by painting label, using resume scanning software. So they couldn't look at the front, but had to come up with criteria and match the paintings to it based only on the labels.

Required qualifications:
Created during the ___ century
Strong example of the ____ period
Able to accurately convey meaning, story, and/or beauty to viewers
Up to date on all restorations, including frame
3 references (audio recording of comments accepted)

Preferred qualifications:
Demonstrated presence in all notable museums
Well represented by promotional materials (poster re-creations, magnets, pens, etc)

And the exhibit would would be about the downside of convenience, technology, and our increasingly impersonal culture - a period of unprecedented technological change and global social upheaval. Maybe it could be in the Art Institute's exhibition! I'm an artist! In an exhibition I didn't like. Crap.

Anyway, what I would really like would be pictures of the backs of paintings next to the real thing, all the time in every museum. Not just as part of a "Well, what do you think this could mean" exhibit.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

When I grow up I'm going to be Audrey Hepburn.

I usually don't buy magazines off the rack, but I bought this issue of Vanity Fair because it has a beautiful picture of Audrey Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn was a perfect person.

The article was about her love for Rome, her family, her style and her perfection. It's easy to tell by all of  her films and photos that she was just as charming in real life as she was on screen. Just reading about her makes one feel like a more kind, stylish and generally wonderful person.

The article talked about the relationships stars had with photographers in those days. They would pose for exclusive pictures in exchange for those photographers not publishing any unflattering, too-candid shots. But of course Audrey Hepburn didn't need these sorts of deals because photos of her blowing her nose were still featured on Vogue covers. (I made that up.)

The only thing that surprised me was learning she was married twice, because what kind of idiot allows himself to get divorced from Audrey Hepburn. It is clear her first husband developed some sort of mental illness later in life that caused him to forget everything that had happened on the previous day when waking up each morning. Kind of like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates, except he also developed a violent aversion to everything lovely and good in the world and therefore could naturally no longer be in Audrey's presence. He couldn't remember how much he liked her so the aversion to loveliness could never be overcome.


Unfortunately Vanity Fair is kind of a lame magazine and I wish they didn't have their name mucking up this cover.  In the VERY SAME ISSUE there was a, literally, FIVE PAGE article about some playboys who got in a fight in a nightclub. In agonizing detail the story lays out the two sides of the grossly pathetic story along with the current state of the resulting lawsuits. I am truly experiencing feelings of self-loathing for having read the whole thing. How could such filth be included in a magazine with an article about Audrey Hepburn.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Restaurant week schmestaurant week

Restaurant Week (RW): Restaurants around the city offer prix fixe menus for a figure that typically adds up to a smaller cheque than if you were to visit during the other 51 weeks of the year.

A great idea? One would think so. Excellent food in smaller portions is one of the most appealing things about nice restaurants, so a week that allows for a more casual sampling of menus around town is an ideal way to find a new favorite place, or to reaffirm an old one.

However - my Twin Cities restaurant week ventures have led me to believe many venues do not sign on for restaurant week wholeheartedly and are less than enthusiastic about all the diners coming in for a smaller check producing dinner than usual.

Here is the scenario I envision:

Restaurant manager: Restaurant week! What a great time to pack people in. New people will come and try our food and love us and tell all their friends.

Chef: What is this?  I have to create a full prix fixe menu for $30?! I cannot work this way! Where am I supposed to find materials at this price? Heating up Lean Cuisines?!

Diners: Well, that was ok...

I'm not a 'foodie' but I know when something is really good, because when something is really good I say, 'Oh wow. This is really good.'

Restaurant week experiences have yet to make me say, 'Oh wow. That was really good'.

One was at Capitol Grille. I had never been there before, and I'm sure the regular menu is great but I may never find out. I had a steak that was ok. Sides were nicely seasoned green beans and mashed potatoes. If someone else picked the Grille as a destination, I wouldn't say no, but I will probably never make an effort to go back.

This year I went to Vincent, a Restaurant. I had been here before and will go back because their regular menu, and bar food, is so delicious, but their restaurant week menu was lame. Mushy fish, not much flavor in anything. Come on, Vincent, the work is practically done for you. You're right next to Orchestra Hall, your space is beautiful, people want to love you!

The above are an issue because these days people know their food. If the food truck trend has taught us anything it's that fantastic food can be had anytime, anywhere by anyone. There isn't margin for a slack menu to go unrecognized by inexperienced diners awed by the formal atmosphere.

I'm sure being a part of Restaurant Week comes with some stipulations (must offer 3 courses, x number of options, etc), but restaurants shouldn't sign on unless they are going to offer things they would be willing to put on their normal menu. And they shouldn't appear to be catering to the novice diner who only cautiously ventures into a new place during RW. Restaurants must always be bold! daring! and assume everyone is a budding foodie.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

We stayed in the hotel from Sideways!

Last weekend I went to California to visit my brother and sister-in-law. We had a lovely time in Los Angeles but the highlight was our northern sojourn in Santa Barbara wine country.
We hired a driver to carry us between vineyards which, really, is the only way to sample wines comfortably.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Resolutions: 2013

I LOVE New Year's Resolutions. Just thinking about them can be one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have. (HAHAHAA! Did you catch it?!? Adapted Zoolander quote.) January is an optimal time to make them, but New Year's Resolutions should also be made whenever a good one comes up. I don't remember what it was, but I'm pretty sure I established a New Year's Resolution in October 2012.

New Year's Resolutions must also be concrete and quantifiable. Setting resolutions to do things "more often" or to do things "better" invites delusions of accomplishment.

"I resolve to go to the gym more often in 2013! I already went once! I didn't go at all in 2012. Mission accomplished!" 

"No. You totally failed."

One (lifted from my sister-in-law's FB status) : read all the books I currently own that I haven't read yet. This is a big deal because I have a lot of those. As soon as I made this resolution I took action right away by rushing out and buying another book. This wasn't intentional, I was in a bookstore and noticed a book by the Oscar winning screenwriter of one of my favorite movies (On the Waterfront). There are laws of physics I would have violated by not buying it.

[The book is The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg.]

Two: Send birthday and anniversary cards to friends and family. Immediate amendment : friends probably don't need to expect cards unless they live out of town. Baby steps here, folks. I get a head rush in stationery stores with well designed, high quality paper and pens, and will probably buy enough stock to lock myself into this resolution until death. A terrible salesperson could sell me paper products while I was standing in a burning building.

Three: Be able to look at a world map and enter the names of all countries. It was with much shame and glancing over my shoulder that I googled Trinidad and Tobago to confirm in what region of the world it lies while at work this past year. If I'm going to continue being amused by students who stop by my office and announce, "I feel like I want to study abroad sometime in maybe Europe, Italy or Rome, or what are some of the other options?", I need to international education myself a bit more.

Finally: Call immediate family once a week. Issue: I do not like talking on the phone. I do like talking to my family. And since my motion that Viner parents, children and spouses move to the Twin Cities didn't carry, I will talk on the phone more often. Perhaps I'll get used to it and then grow to like it. Like eating broccoli. I put broccoli in my fruit smoothies now; too much makes them taste kind of odd but a reasonable serving goes unnoticed. Broccoli is also good when dipped in mayonnaise. One of the few sanctioned uses for mayonnaise.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

News Bulletin

France recently decided on a 75% income tax on their wealthiest citizens. French actor GĂ©rard Depardieu applied for Russian citizenship shortly following the announcement because, according to a letter to Russia's main state-run broadcaster, he likes Russian writers and his father was once a communist. Mr Putin said Depardieu was granted citizenship because he has been in a lot of movies about Russia.

Everyone was fighting about tax breaks and spending cuts until the last minute on December 31, 2012. In a shocking turn of events, taxes will go up and decisions on spending cuts have been delayed. In other words, no one fell off the fiscal cliff and all can stop worrying about it for a few months until it's time to make more decisions. The final deal is generally thought to be a victory for democrats, but no one is super happy with it. The American people are increasingly exasperated, stating they don't know where the cliff is and 'how can anyone fall off of it if everyone just keeps moving it.'

Google CEO Eric Schmidt will be joining U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Bill Richardson, and other persons on a trip to North Korea this month despite the strong reservations of the U.S. State Department: 'This seems like a dumb idea and they know we think that but we're not the boss of them.' Considering most U.S. to North Korea trips are attempts to rescue other Americans who have been arrested in NK, there is speculation that the excursion may be related to the recent arrest of an American. Since North Korea only has about 10 websites, none of which are Google, Schmidt is thought to be going on the trip because he knows of no other way to figure out what exactly is going on.