Bug Party

We celebrated birthday numero dos this weekend with a bug theme. It was a toss up between bugs, tools, and trucks. What a boy our boy is. Our house is pretty small, so I went with a one-bowl chile lunch that was easy to eat perched on the couch or even standing since our table only holds 5 and we had closer to 20 here. I used this recipe, my favorite chile (love the use of dried chiles and not a boat-load of tomatoes).

So, the bug theme was a hit with the kiddos-we had three two-year-olds here including FGH.

My mom and I made some bug hats out of paper plates and pipe cleaners. They weren't worn for long, but they made cute decorations on the table!
My mom also made these cookies! FGH took a bite out of at least five. She got creative and used multiple cutters for each cookie (the dragon fly is a bat (reformed) and two hearts). Very darling!

Great Grandma June made the bug cake. It's two layers of white cake with green buttercream and m&m bugs. The legs are melted chocolate.
Serious task going on here:

Cousins examining some of the presents. I like the walrus looking on.
We had a bug hunt in the kitchen (the most unpopulated room). We found a pile of fake bugs and some plastic bug collecting gear at the dollar store. It was a blast. The toddlers did really well!

And the suit. Target had this gem for the low low price of $24.99, and that included the clip-on tie! Who is this kid? Pee Wee Herman?


Crazed Farmer Talk

Peter and I attended the MN Sustainable Farming Association -SFA- conference at St. Olaf in Northfield last weekend. We were a little apprehensive about dipping our toes back into that world, the memories it might conjure, the strange welcome we might get from some of our old cohorts. As a young organic farming couple we were activists; someone even once called us "the poster couple of sustainable agriculture." We apparently still are the poster couple of sustainable ag, since our picture was blown up in the front of the auditorium as part of the SFA logo/letterhead. We are also on their website banner. Weird? Yes.

The conference was actually extremely motivating and enlightening. Mark Ritchie gave the Keynote and it was very encouraging. He stood in front of the crowd of activist farmers/chefs/retailers and talked about the importance of mainstreaming the ideas that a lot of us stand for- and in order to do that, we all need to become leaders and go out into the public with confidence and be heard. As the MN Secretary of State, he also talked about economic issues, the hard times, and the importance of entrepreneurship and small business. Good stuff to hear.

I also attended a workshop about local foods in both the city and country with Homegrown Minneapolis Megan O' Hara ( mayor RT Rybak's wife) and Dorothy Rosemeier of the U of MN program "Buy Fresh Buy Local." It was quite nice and frankly, overwhelming, to hear about all the hard work that has been put into local and sustainable food systems in Minnesota. I have always given credit to the farmers and consumers, but really, there are a lot of people in the middle that do a heck of a job bringing it all together. There are people fighting for grants to keep vendor fees at the Mill City Market affordable for producers, there are people (Homegrown Mpls initiative) starting mini- markets in high rise neighborhoods where poverty-stricken people don't have easy access to fresh groceries or even pots and pans. Kudos to all these people (including SFA!)

The conference did have an awkward point while we were watching a college produced movie about farming for the future (or something similar). All of a sudden, there was our farm on the big screen in front of us, with other owners of course, our old greenhouse and Toblerone...and what was the topic? The acquisition of the farm. AWKWARD! Could've used a head's up on that one.

Also worth mentioning about the conference, we are still quite skilled in "crazed farmer talk," the running at the mouth that happens when a farmer (who spends a lot of time alone) is asked how things are going. We will no doubt be back on a farm once again and we'll just be patient until then. And we'll take it easy. Just chickens for eggs. Veggies for ourselves and a small market business as a side business. And a CSA if it works out. And a goat maybe. We'll be over our heads and stressed out in no time.

He's Two!

Happy Birthday (yesterday) to our little Busca!
We spent a good piece of the day at Como Zoo and Conservatory. I tried to get a good "2 year" portrait which was really hard, that boy can really move and the zoo was a little distracting-though the lightening was great in the conservatory! We have a big party coming on Saturday, a bug theme for the toddler cousins.


Spring Fever

It reached a balmy 34 degrees today which lightened the mood of Minnesotans just a bit. Spring WILL come. The sun felt sunny, the sidewalks melted away for a few minutes before turning back into ice, and we even saw a huge flock of birds filling the sky as we drove in heavy traffic tonight. "Nature!" I thought when I saw them overhead.

I took out my seeds and admired them tonight. There is so much potential in the packets. I ordered from Johnny's Selected Seeds, Seed Savers, and Seeds of Change. It was a bit ridiculous to pay for shipping three times, but I'm pretty particular about my varieties. I stuck with the basics, a few fun varieties, but mostly tried and true seeds that ensure some bounty. I figured I need all the help I can get since I won't have the greatest growing conditions.

I can't wait to get going with my container gardening. I saw a lovely book at a shop about the topic yesterday, but $25 is a bit out of my budget since I liked it more for aesthetic inspiration. I may need to take a trip to goodwill this coming week and scrounge around for some shabby chic type receptacles. The book suggested big cans, bowls, all sorts of things.

My studio is more of a piled mess since I haven't been it for a good 10 days or so. It makes me crabby. I hope to get some solid hours in this weekend. I have a super exciting illustration project to work on, a children's story called "Tom's Thumbs," by Mike Van Auken. I sent him some preliminary sketches and, though many changes to come, this is the main character, Tom. Now I'm working on sketching the entire storyboard. I've certainly read quite a few children's books quite a few times, but it's still a challenge figuring out the best flow for the imagery. Fun, though. Very fun.



It's soon Carnival! (Mardi Gras). To celebrate this festive occasion the Bookbinding Team of Etsy (BEST) is hosting an online exhibition/contest much like we did for Halloween. I joined the fun and entered an accordion-style artist book. An artist book differs from my usual books because it has content of some sort. My book is best displayed opened up as a sculpture with the pages being a mixed-media expression of the colors - and feathers - of this festive day. You can visit the BEST blog and vote for your favorite book (mine is called "mixed media" on the ballot).

I have never been to Mardi Gras, I did however have the good fortune to visit Carnival in Malta when I was there. It was CRAZY. No, not crazy in a girls-showing-boobs-for-beads-while-being-really-drunk sort of way. It was very much like being plopped into another culture's very specific holiday celebration and feeling very very much like a tourist. There was a big show with costumed dancers and characters, sort of like a marching band type of show. There was a parade with huge floats that people were carrying. I remember at one point the parade stopped for a short while and a guy starting peeing from under one of the floats. How awkward. Later that night everyone was costumed and there was much ado about food vendors, music, and fun.

Perhaps we'll have a little mardi gras celebration in our house since we missed out on Valentines Day because of a bad case of stomach flu (Peter). We were in the ER all day Saturday (IVs and ultrasounds) and Sunday was a day of recuperating. No heart shaped pancakes...wonk wonk wooonk.



I couldn't handle splitting this little book duo up, so I listed them in my shop as a set. How darling for you and your valentine to each have one! They started out as paintings, black gesso on BFK rives with watercolors, gouache, and colored pencils. Being the book person that I am, they ended up torn into squares and affixed to book board. You never quite know what you're going to end up with sometimes. I just love them as a set, the icy blue on the left and the fiery one on the right. That's all the commentary on that, no need to go into depth since I was working more from my gut than brain so I don't really know that they mean anything. That's the fun of art, I guess.

We do have some plans for the weekend, nothing too romantic. Out for a little shopping trip tomorrow sans child, and a dinner and movie double date on Saturday...we're opting for the mexican food + margaritas and beers over a more romantic steaks + wine. Since the double date is with my sister and bro-in-law, romance just feels, well, creepy.

As for gifts, I need to make a trip to St. Paul's best food destination, The Golden Fig. I bought some of their aged balsamic with dill for Peter for Christmas and we quickly drained it. They have quite an assortment of balsamics, decadent chocolates, artisanal local cheeses and meats, and such splendors that I do not have the time to list. It's worth a stop. We're not big on gift giving since we're near broke, but it seems ok to spend a little extra on good food now and then, plus, it's local and all that good stuff.

I guess the other item on the agenda is making valentines with fgh. I think holidays are still a little over his head, being 23.5 months old, but we'll try to do something pink and heart-shaped.
Maybe heart-shape pancakes with strawberries???


Tea Party

We attended a darling tea party for cousin Madi's 2nd. It was just darling. Little tea cups, teapot cookies, tasty crumpets (or the like), and lots of running about. And hats.

Creativity and Motivational Dorkiness

I've always liked to think of myself as a creative type, and I think I am, but as I sit down to work day after day on creative sorts of things I've been learning about my own personal creative process. I feel like it usually takes me about 20 minutes of fooling around with the mouse (well, laptop touch pad actually), pencil, paints, cooking ingredients, etc. to really start making things that even remotely look good. Maybe my brain power is switching from the left to the right. It's hard to believe that it takes that long, I'm actually probably always switching back and forth. Maybe that's why I'm so indecisive, it's like the whole devil and angel on the shoulder thing.

Here's a fun online quiz that I took that tells me I am 54% right brained. So, that's pretty much 1/2 and 1/2 with a little leaning towards the creative side.

But really, aren't these quizzes just a load of bull? I feel like the real trick to creative breakthrough is persistence, just like anything else. When most people start a project, it looks like total poo right away, right? At least in my studio, to me, the creative process is less divine genius (capital A Artist) and more vigorous problem solving (little a artist). The key is not to get frustrated and give up. It is FIX IT FIX IT FIX IT! (in toddler voice). Plus, artists go to school to learn color theory, etc. So it's learned right? Oh such topics, dare I mention them to philosopher husband? That would be a door opened for the night, no doubt.

That brings me to the second part of the title for this entry, motivational dorkiness. It helps. I just bought a lousy made-in-china mug with "Wish it, Dream it, Do it" on the front. How embarassingly cheesy. Yet, I like it and it gives me the power to keep fixing.
If I hang a big poster with an eagle on it in my studio, I've become desperate. The mug IS slightly cool.

I'm spending more of my creative time (which has shrunk to about and hour/day lately) on the new business endeavor, so not many books are making there way into the finished pile. However, this new endeavor is farming related, so I'm super pleased.

Switch back to left brain, time to go make supper...or is that right brained? No recipe=right?


Humor in the Day

Ugh, the doldrums of winter. Everyone I talk to seems a little depressed. Peter has started his yearly rants of,
"Why do we live here, we're moving to ______," after which he goes and researches real estate in Hawaii or Nepal or somewhere less arctic.
I feel like I'm constantly drinking coffee or eating to stay energized. The coffee is now being weaned away, but that made the snacking worse. Argh!
Busy is somewhat slow compared to November and December so my drive to make books is down.
My "new business venture" has me excited but that too is a warm weather affair.
Out on a walk today I decided all these doldrums were telling me to refocus on the present and the amusing things that happen each day. Do you ever just find yourself in a situation where you think,
"How the hell did I get to be doing this?"
Well, that happens to me pretty often. I remember once feeling so strongly of that emotion when we were sharecropping at Food Farm in Wrenshall, MN. We were in an old van, about 5 of us, out finding smallish birch trees to cut down to be used for tomato trellising. We were cutting them down, throwing them in the van, then hanging on for dear life while the van tore around the countryside. I was hanging on to the back of the van, the back doors were off or open and I was standing on the back bumper. All of a sudden I couldn't stop laughing at my predicament. Oh, the joy of laughing at one's self.
Today it happened on that walk I mentioned. It was a balmy 20 and partly sunny, so I wanted to get outside. It took a good 40 minutes to get ready. His snowpants and boots were in the car, the sled was buried in a snowdrift (now ice) which was hard to find and harder to defrost, etc. etc. etc. Finally, I loaded fredrik into the backpack since the sled was just not suitable, I put a pair of my mittens on him since in the time it took me to find and then abandon the sled he had wet two pairs of mittens. So there we were, booking it down the sidewalks, snowflakes fluttering, sun shining, dog on his bright red leash, mukluks kicking the powdery snow, fgh nodding off, my rhythm was good, it even felt like exercise. Then, whoops, I almost fell, not on ice but on my mukluks, one of the leather ties had come undone and somehow whipped around and tied to the other mukluk's lace. Crazy! I bent down to untie them, fgh's mitten fell off, I tried to put it back on while he was on my back and asleep, that didn't work so I had to take him off not realizing to do this I dropped the leash. So there I am, messed up shoes, boy trying to sleep in the snowy sidewalk, dog running into the street. Thankfully our dog is well over the hill and not up for any crazy adventures. He just waited for me to suit up and we were on our way.

I like this picture because it sums up our house. Plastic pig, red socks, crooked picture, random tool in hand.