Monday, July 29, 2013

mistaken identity // alabama shakes

So I have this, um, friend.

Last summer, she became familiar with a little band called Alabama Shakes. For the next year, she listened to them on and off. She liked them a lot, but never felt moved to Google them and somehow never saw a performance online. She didn't need to see them though, she had a pretty good mental image of the lead singer: a too-thin hipster with a big beard. Maybe even one of those twisty mustaches. The beard was red. Definitely red. And he wore a lot of flannel and maybe a University of Alabama baseball cap. Ironically, of course. 

Editor's note: this is the lead singer of Alabama Shakes:

On Friday, my friend procured an extra ticket to an Alabama Shakes concert that Sunday. She spent the next few days listening to their album in anticipation. 

As she was standing in the crowd behind a group of college potheads (you should have seen the size of their joints... ahem, at least my friend says so. Yeah. She saw them. Not me.), she realized she had never seen a picture of the band about to take the stage. So she decided to Google them. 

"Wait," she said, "the lead singer is a woman?"

"CHEEEEETOSSSSSSSS," said the collegiate scholars in front of her. 

"Um, yes?" her companion told her, "The lead singer is Brittany."

My friend had a sudden flashback to that afternoon, as she was driving with the windows down, listening to the band. "There must be someone up above," sang the mustachioed lead singer, "saying 'come on Brittany!'" 

Did he say Brittany?  my friend thought mildly. That's a weird name for a guy. Is he maybe talking about Britney Spears? Brit could probably use guidance from above. Meh, I'm probably just mishearing the lyric.

At the concert she said, "Ohhhhhhhh." Suddenly, the world made sense. She liked Alabama Shakes a teeny bit more after this revelation... and felt mildly stupid.

I mean, I think she did. I wouldn't know.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rebirth Brass Band in Minneapolis

In high school and college, my friends from camp met up in New Orleans to celebrate New Years. We called it Jew Years, because, as I've come to find out in my 29 years on this Earth, Jews NEVER miss an opportunity to use a pun.

We usually went to this legendary bar called Tipitina's, where a band called Rebirth Brass Band serenaded us with Auld Lange Syne while we toasted with the champagne that was included with our $40 ticket.

Last month, Rebirth Brass Band came to Minneapolis. For the first time in my life, I am this mysterious Southerner who knows the difference between gumbo and jambalaya and has experienced Mardi Gras and drive-thru daiquiri stands and knows the best place to park in the French Quarter and follows college football. I felt like it was my duty to bring some Louisiana flair into my friends' lives.

So we made gumbo and biscuits for 15 or so of our friends, and Y drove to the only Popeye's in Minneapolis (can you even imagine -- 3 million people and ONE Popeye's) to pick up the southern staple of fried chicken. There was sweet tea vodka and Abita Strawberry and gooey bread pudding. Just another Thursday for us -- simply EXOTIC to our friends.

After the feast, we headed downtown to the Dakota Jazz Club and ordered sazeracs and french fries (obviously).

The concert started out tame, with a few brave souls standing up and dancing at their tables.

But during the second to last song, something happened. Suddenly, the entire restaurant got up and started dancing, in a way that I'm not sure Dakota Jazz Club is used to. Those in the know started waving their napkins in the air, and every girl in the club made their way on stage.

As we were dancing behind the trombonist, my friend K said, "I wonder if he'll let me play his trombone!"

"You should ask him!" we said, but what we really meant was, "Um, no he will not let you play his several thousand dollar instrument that also happens to be his livelihood."

K tapped the trombonist on the shoulder and made a trombone motion with her hands.

Without hesitation, the guy handed her his trombone.

Louisiana experience: complete.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

diaper blowouts & brunch

Last month, something magical happened. My friend's baby had a giant diaper explosion at an art fair. 

Funnily enough, that wasn't the amazing part. 

A woman walked up to us as my friend was wrist deep in baby poop. She was carrying business cards, or maybe coupons, but it was clear she was selling something.

"Hi," she said, not noticing the sight (or smell) in front of her. My friend and I shared a telepathic moment. Does this lady really think now is the time or place for soliciting?

But then she said the words no millenial can resist:

"Would you be interested in a free brunch?"

Um, do we look like two twenty-something girls covered in shit? Of course we were interested, lady!

The restaurant in question was called Pinstripes, which I knew about only because it's in the same shopping center as two places where I have spent far too much time: West Elm and The Container Store. It has a bowling alley, a bocce court, and a fire pit with complimentary blankets... swoon.

Something interesting/amazing about Minneapolis that I've never seen in the south: fancy brunch buffets. If you invited me to a brunch buffet in Louisiana, I would assume you were inviting me to Ryan's or Golden Corral or Shoney's and I would politely decline. But here, brunch buffets are a completely different animal. There are mini waffles with strawberry balsamic cream! Gourmet biscotti! And, inexplicably, a chocolate fountain. Without fail, every buffet has one of these.  Which always makes it feel like an unimaginative wedding and like maybe I should start practicing my chicken dance.

Anyway, this Pinstripes brunch was pretty delicious and had the added bonus of making you feel like you were eating in a treehouse. I approved. 

The moral of the story: wake up and smell the baby poop. Someone might be trying to give you a free brunch. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

F Scott Fitzgerald's St. Paul

I'm going to dub this -- and the rest of this week's posts -- laterblogs. These things happened months ago, when the pressure was high to spend time outside and ignore my computer. I thought they were worth remembering, and everyone knows things never actually happened unless you blog about. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln or someone else equally important who coined the phrase "PICS OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN."


How annoyed were you by the hype over The Great Gatsby? It's the summer of Gatsby! they kept saying. Baz Luhrmann is a genius!

No doubt you were invited to at least one Gatsby party. 

Maybe you had that one friend that listened to the soundtrack nonstop for a month straight, danced the Charleston to Will.I.Am while getting ready for work, finished a book about Zelda Fitzgerald the day the movie came out, and printed a pamphlet from the St. Paul library entitled "F. Scott Fitzgerald in St. Paul: Homes & Haunts."

Oh, hi, that friend was me.

The book about Zelda was terrific, by the way. We can talk more about that later. What I really want to tell you about is the twenty mile bike ride I made Y take with me so we could do the F. Scott Fitzgerald Homes & Haunts tour -- where Scott grew up (we're on drop-the-first-initial-basis), where he and Zelda had their baby Scottie, and where they had glamorous dinners and way too many drinks. 

Our route took us across the Mississippi, then north along its banks. Eventually we headed east along miles of mansions on Summit Avenue.  Eventually, we reached what I'm pretty sure was Europe. We walked our bikes down cobblestone streets and ogled Victorian houses with the prettiest details. (I did these things, I'm pretty sure Y rolled his eyes and checked his watch.) 

And then -- in the classy style of the Fitzgeralds, no doubt --we stopped for pizza on the way home.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The [Soggy] Sunday Currently

Summer in Minnesota is wearing me down.

The sun is out from 6 am to 10 pm, and after a long winter of darkness and biting cold, you feel guilty if you spend any daylight hours indoors. It's gorgeous today, you think, but let's be honest: it could snow tomorrow if it really wanted to.

So you think, I HAVE TO DO ALL OF THE THINGS, and before you know it you've biked sixty miles, walked eight straight hours, and bought rhubarb at seventeen different farmers' markets (but haven't used any of it because baking a pie would require -- shudder -- going inside)

It's freaking exhausting.



So you sit on your back porch and silently judge the author of the memoir you're reading for doing way too many drugs until you remember that you started the day by talking to drugs necessary.

This is my Sunday. How about yours?

R E A D I N G Still on page 4 of The Engagements. I keep falling asleep. I wonder if I should give it up? The other book I have out from the library right now is Someday, Someday, Maybe, a YA novel written by Lauren Graham, (better known as Lorelai Gilmore). 

W R I T I N G things that have been in my head for months. Many thanks to Jenni for mentioning Ommwriter. That thing is magic, I think.

L I S T E N I N G to Joy Kills Sorrow. I heard their beautiful cover of Such Great Heights this morning on The Current's United States of Americana and knew I had to listen to the rest of their stuff immediately. Of course, I'm in love. They're coming here this week, but I'm sure I'm the only one I know who has even heard of them.

 In the car, I'm listening to the audiobook Sisterland. I'm definitely caught up in the story, but I think the narrator is making the protagonist much less likable than she's supposed to come across. I'm a huge fan of the author, Curtis Sittenfeld. Her first novel, Prep, spoke to me. Is that a weird thing to say? Probably. But I already admitted that I have conversations with myself in all caps, so, whatever. 

T H I N K I N G about peanut butter. I've usually had some by this time of day... I really think I'm addicted. I was all prepared to eat some vegetables for dinner last night, but then I read this post from Laura and absolutely had to have a PB&J. 

S M E L L I N G lavender. Trader Joe's put their stock of lavender next to the front door where you can't miss it. It was like walking into a lavender cloud, and there was no chance of me leaving that store without some. As Y would say, you just got advertised.

H O P I N G that the AC at my work is fixed tomorrow. Three days of no air conditioning turns an office full of smart people into delirious zombies. 

W E A R I N G a cozy blanket over pajama pants. I love, love, love that I can sit outside wrapped up in a big blanket in the month of July and not sweat. Unsurprisingly, I do not miss Louisiana summers.

L O V I N G that we spent the weekend exploring our neighborhood. Dinner at the new brewpub/bowling alley, brunch at the Italian restaurant with the fancy new patio, a walk to the corner grocery store to buy necessities, a bike ride down the bike path along the creek to the lake. 

W A N T I N G   to make ice cream. I'm dying to make mint ice cream, but my mint plant isn't really cooperating. My Jeni's ice cream recipe book has been completely underutilized this summer. 

Also wanting to see Pride & Prejudice at the Guthrie. I'm dying to see Vincent Kartheiser (aka Pete Campbell from Mad Men -- he's a native Minnesotan) go from the douchiest guy on TV to literature's perma-crush.

N E E D I N G  to buy groceries. I wasn't kidding about those 23 stalks of moldy rhubarb.

F E E L I N G the need to go outside. The rainy morning has morphed into a gorgeous, mild day. Relaxing was nice while it lasted.

C L I C K I N G this link up. I'm on board next Friday! Also, I hope you watched the Jesse and the Rippers reunion.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

the sunday currently (multicolored edition)

This weekend started with a magical walk to a wine bar and ended with some serious snuggling. And in between? Pelted with powdered dye. I'd call that a successful weekend.

R E A D I N G The Engagements (well, I'm starting it tonight). I just finished Americanah, which really messed with my head after trapping me in a glass case of emotions toward the end there.

W R I T I N G deep thoughts about my Sunday.

L I S T E N I N G to the soothing sounds of gunshots as Y plays a video game. You guys, this video game uses dogs as suicide bombs. I can't deal with that. 

T H I N K I N G about taking a second shower for the day... I, along with probably 20,000 people in the Twin Cities, am still covered in blue dye from the Color Run. 

S M E L L I N G pizza. Y did make pizza before he started killing fictional bad guys with suicide dogs, so I guess he's not all bad tonight. 

H O P I N G I don't look like a smurf tomorrow. See above.

W E A R I N G jorts and a striped t-shirt; my post Color Run brunch attire. I keep it classy.

L O V I N G season 6 of Mad Men, which we're finally catching up on. We watched the first episode live, but it was so slow that we haven't been motivated to watch the rest of it. Until now. And, in true Mad Men fashion, the episodes (and the clothes!) just keep getting better and better. 

W A N T I N G   you know, at this moment, I think I'm good.

N E E D I N G y some anti-itch cream. I got a pedicure yesterday (my first since March, I think... it was getting bad), and the woman doing it accidentally scratched a mosquito bite. I started thinking about how amazing it would be if there was a salon that only scratched mosquito bites. I would probably pay pedicure money for that right now. 

F E E L I N G hot, but artificially chilled by the AC. Sticky. Itchy. <--- essence="" of="" summer.="" the="">

C L I C K I N G articles about race, buzzfeed lists (when did buzzfeed become the voice of our generation??), and pictures of cory monteith. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

deep thoughts {with an amaro filter}

On my birthday, I flew to New Orleans for a quick trip to visit a friend in need of, well, her friends. Speaking from experience, when a parent dies it's nice to be around people who won't walk on eggshells around you. People who remind you that crying is okay and laughing is even more okay.

So, despite the circumstances, we did what we always do in New Orleans: went to a vaguely sketchy bar in a vaguely sketchy neighborhood, all of us remembering (but not saying out loud) the time half of our group was robbed at gunpoint.

This vaguely sketchy bar served cake, and somehow, that made me feel safer.

We sat outside in the oppressive heat I had forgotten how much I hate, and as we talked and laughed and reminisced, I grew distracted by my discomfort. I touched my hair and wiped my face over and over again, as if the 212th  swipe at my forehead would be the one that would get rid of the sweat pouring down my face. I was a literal hot mess.

We decided to take a picture.

As I scrolled through the Instagram filters, I became angry. That night, as I officially became another year older, I experienced my first "When I was your age I had to walk ten miles uphill in the snow" moment.  

For so many years in South Louisiana I posted photos on Facebook or pinned them to my dorm room bulletin boards, fretting about how big my hair was or how soaked my bangs were or how wet my face looked. I was a literal hot mess and I HAD NO FILTERS. I wasted so much energy thinking about how gross I was going to look when my friends handed over the doubles from their disposable camera or posted the photos on Facebook (where my CRUSH might see them, heaven forbid.) 

That night in the back yard of that vaguely sketchy bar, I could remove the sweat and frizz faster than you can say "X PRO II or Hefe?" 

Life just isn't fair. For reasons far more important than Instagram; reasons that can't be fixed with a filter. 

(But sometimes we need these frivolous things to distract us. Selfie on, world.) 

Monday, July 8, 2013

north [korea] shore

We recently returned from an amazing vacation on the beautiful North Shore of Lake Superior, and I think I will forever associate it with North Korea. 

(This is why no one will ever hire me to be a travel writer. Did I just influence anyone to visit the North Shore?)

It's not because of anything northern Minnesota did. I highly doubt North Korea is known for its waterfalls, hiking and biking trails, or lighthouses.

I just may have made a mistake in choosing which book to bring along on our trip. My Nook was loaded up with the 433 page Pulitzer Prize-winning The Orphan Master's Son. The book was amazing (surprising for a Pulitzer winner, right?), but I now understand why those books with covers depicting women on the beach are dubbed "vacation reads".

Nobody wants to resturn from a restful vacation with memories of kayaking... and Kim Jong Il. 

A few things about the Lake Superior North Shore that have nothing to do with socialist nations:

+ Go to the New Scenic Cafe for the best sandwich of your life: prosciutto with dates, arugula and cheese on ciabatta. But don't let Siri tell you how to get there; she will direct you to a random house. And that random house will probably not be home to the best sandwich of your life. 

+I accidentally showed a bunch of teenagers my underwear at a lighthouse. Don't wear a skirt by the windy shore of a giant lake. It never ends well.

+ If you're ever in the area, eat fish. Smoked fish, preferably. These people are pure Norwegian-- they know how to do fish. 

+ We stayed at the Bluefin Bay Resort, which was ridiculously well priced for our two bedroom, lake view suite. We also received complimentary access to mountain bikes and biking tours, hiking leaders, kayaks and kayaking guides, tennis equipment, and a plastic baggie filled with s'more fixings, perfect for the fire each night on the beach. AND there was a porcupine in the lobby THAT YOU COULD PET.

+ Grand Marais is a small town -- an "artist's community -- on the North Shore, about 50 miles from Canada. It's kind of the hub of activity for people vacationing in the area, and people love the small town. But I have to say, I wasn't impressed. I've visited plenty of small towns known for their charm -- Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Niagara on the Lake in Ontario, to name a few of my favorites -- and Grand Marais just didn't do it for me. 

+ There's a flower in North Korea called the Kimjongilia. Sorry, I couldn't resist. That was my favorite fact from the book. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

the sunday currently of an american girl

My fourth of July involved all of The Best Things: boat rides, barbecues, new friends, wine, George Washington earrings. I hitched a ride to the tiny, charming town of Stillwater with some friends on the fourth to check out a wine tasting, and although my wine knowledge needs a little work ("this tastes like plastic" is apparently not an appropriate thing to say while sipping a red), the winery's deck overlooking the river required no prior wine experience. 

R E A D I N G Americanah. It's nice to be reading a book about Africa that isn't all doom and gloom and genocide. This book is about normal people that live normal lives and do normal things like have crushes and write blogs. Also, fiction is my favorite way to learn about the world -- and pretty much the only way that sticks with me.

W R I T I N G a summer to do list to pin to the refrigerator, so that Y and I can refer to it instead of having the famous "What do you want to do?" "I don't know, what do you want to do?" conversation.

L I S T E N I N G to Jake Bugg today, and liking him. Also listening to Miley Cyrus play over and over again -- UNINVITED -- in my head. 

T H I N K I N G about planes, and how those passengers, and that pilot, must feel today. 

S M E L L I N G my latest perfume. I've decided that I'm going to buy a different perfume each time I run out until someone, anyone, tells me I smell good. I have friends that you can smell coming from a mile away, and I've kind of always wanted to be that person. First step? Maybe not buying perfume that smells like diabetes or is actually men's cologne... I recently realized that my latest find, Fresh Cannabis Santal, is actually cologne. Thanks for the heads up, Sephora cashier. Whatever. I like it. 

H O P I N G that the rain we're expecting tonight holds off until after our date with friends on my favorite patio.

W E A R I N G an Urban Outfitters dress that I bought in Phoenix. I was in Arizona a few summers ago for work. I dropped my bag off at the hotel, and thought it would be an excellent idea to walk around downtown PHX, 95 degrees, in jeans. I toughed it out for a mile or two, until I reached my destination -- lunch for one at Pizzeria Bianco. But on the way back, it was official: I wanted to die. Then Urban Outfitters appeared before me like a mirage and the next thing I knew, I had a new dress. 

L O V I N G barbecues, banana pudding, this advice from Caribou, the cute little neighborhood I just discovered near my work (I see many lunches there in my future), the Indian place we tried for lunch today.

W A N T I N G to go back to Stillwater and explore the Mara Mi store. In the middle of downtown Stillwater, with its old buildings and dusty antique stores, is a modern, airy stationery store/studio/cafe/bakery/bar that I'm itching to go back to. I'm kind of proud of myself; I popped my head in on the fourth of July, realized that if I went in, there was no way I would ever leave, and decided not to go in any further (in the interest of my friends getting home at a reasonable hour). 

N E E D I N G some new shirts for work. My skirt to shirt ratio is maybe 10:1, not including Target t-shirts. Also maybe needing to actually get some work done this week?

F E E L I N G full. See aforementioned Indian buffet. Their vegetable curry was kind of delicious.

C L I C K I N G "my imaginary well dressed toddler daughter", which you've probably already seen. This blogger writes her posts as (hilarious) raps. Genius. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Let's talk about a topic no blogger has ever brought up before: brunch. 

Fine, the subject of brunch has perhaps been explored in the blog world. But I was brunching before brunch was cool. As a kid, I ate cereal all. the. time -- including at that magical hour when breakfast and lunch intertwine.

In Shreveport, brunch hasn't really caught on. When we moved there in 2008, there were maybe three places that served brunch  -- and only on Sunday. Today, there are a few more places, but they leave a lot to be desired. 

I gave up on the most popular brunch spot in town after they made me an $8 fruit and yogurt parfait with canned blueberries. IN JUNE. I had literally just been blueberry picking the week before we ate there... I could have spared a few fresh ones for them.

During our third year in Shreveport, I brought up The Great Brunch Travesty with a new friend, K. She agreed, and thus began our weekly brunch club. 

We drew from a variety of inspiration: my childhood (matzah brei), K's time in Salt Lake City ("Mormon Funeral Potatoes"), cookbooks, blogs, and the fact that K had gotten an ebelskiever pan as a wedding present. 

In February, when we visited Shreveport, we of course had to have brunch. This time, the table was set a little differently, making space for the newest brunch club member: Little P.

Brunch greatest hits

carrot cake pancakes + huevos rancheros + carrot souffle

pumpkin banana ebelskievers +matzah brei

almond poppyseed pancakes + deviled eggs + fruit salad

homemade pop tarts (nutella and strawberry)

chicken and waffles (also know as That Time We Got The Guys To Cook)

bananas foster waffles

gingerbread pancakes + pear compote + bacon + scrambled eggs

beverages of choice: chai lattes, espressos, and bloody marys with homemade jalapeno vodka

 Today, in Minneapolis, I could literally try a new place for brunch every single day. But sometimes I find that I miss making my own. 

 (With a side of crazy medical stories, of course. )

Monday, July 1, 2013

Minneapolis spring

It was mid-April, and it was snowing. Y and I were driving to meet some friends at a bar, when he said it:

"LOOK! A leaf!"

I whipped my head around. It had been winter for months. The last time I'd seen any green that wasn't a pine tree or my favorite scarf was probably August. 

In that moment, the thought of seeing a leaf seemed life changing.

"WHERE?!" I asked. It was lucky I wasn't driving, or we would no longer have been on the road.

Y pointed to the car in front of us and glanced at me like I was crazy. "Right in front of us? A Nissan Leaf?"

What a tease.

It was at least 3 weeks after that moment that we did see spring's first leaf. But here's the thing I never knew about spring: when it happens, it happens fast. 

Not two days after our first warm day, tulips popped up and the trees turned bright, almost neon, green. Having lived my entire life in a place where warm was a year round thing, I always kind of assumed that trees were constantly working on growing; when the first flower blooms in Louisiana it's after weeks of warm weather. So when things went from snow-covered to technicolor in less than a week, my reaction was basically child-like awe.

After the tulips died, lilacs bloomed and the entire city smelled amazing. Vaguely, it reminded me of those few late spring days in Louisiana when the entire state was bathed in the scent of giant white magnolias on waxy green leaves. 

But I said vaguely. This is because while everyone talks about the sweet scent of magnolias, what they don't tell you is that after the perfume quickly fades away, another smell takes over the deep south for the rest of the summer: 

The smell of hot garbage. 

In contrast, I know from last year that summer in Minneapolis smells like barbecues, bonfires and bug spray. 

That smell wins.

Anyway, once the lilacs fell, covering the sidewalks with....wait for it... PURPLE RAIN, peonies took over my neighborhood.

Fun fact: before a few weeks ago, I had never seen a peony in real life. All I knew about them was that they were the wedding flower that I couldn't afford  -- every member's dream bouquet. So when my lower-middle class neighborhood became a hotbed of peonies, well, I was confused. Why did my neighbor's lawn --which had never been mowed and is home to twelve plastic donkey statues -- suddenly look like an issue of Martha Stewart Weddings? Why aren't people snipping these flowers in the dead of night and selling them in underground wedding markets? 

Before I got the chance to act on that brilliant plan, the peonies ran their course and roses began taking their place -- along with a million other UFOs (unidentified flowering objects). 

You would never in a million years guess this place was covered in snow less than two months ago. 

Or maybe you would, if you knew anything about seasons (unlike this girl).