something for nothing

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Tip more than you should. Be kinder than necessary. Remember what matters most. Simple truisms for good living, but lately I’ve been caught up on the “it’s what’s inside that matters most.” It applies 100% if we’re talking about people (The Little Prince says, “Beauty cannot be seen with the eyes — it must be felt with the heart,” and I couldn’t agree more) but what about when we’re talking about cream-filled cupcakes, books, gifts, and/or buildings?
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I mean, doesn’t the outside count at least a little bit? I don’t like cream-filling, I know I won’t like a book about bondage or vampires, pretty wrapping paper always helps, and good architecture makes me soon. So there. I feel a little guilty about this confession but it’s true: sometimes the outside really does matter.
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We’re visiting my family in Washington DC for the Fourth of July, and Jon’s parents are watching Kinzie for the week.  I wanted to thank them with something festive and sweet, and so I made firecracker rice krispy treats.  My own invention, simply dip rice krispies into white chocolate and cover with sprinkles.  A gift is even sweeter when you get to enjoy some of it, and so Jon and I snuck one (err 4) before giving the batch away.  I definitely recommend making these for others (errr yourself).
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Speaking of making something for yourself — I found vintage spice tins at an antique market, and I decided to make them into magnets.  A super easy project with three steps: 1) paint the tin 2) decorate with stickers 3) add a magnet.  Voilà!
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We’re flying out tomorrow, and it will be the first time Jon and I have seen fireworks together.  Can you believe that?  Every other year we’ve gone to his parents cabin where the fireworks are whatever we light-off the dock 🙂

Something for Nothing image made with the Rhonna Designs app 🙂

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seek adventure

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Ella Fiztergerald croons, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy,” and Justin Moore promises, “If there’s a good time in this town, we’re gonna find it.”  As for me?  I think a combination of the two songs sums up summer in Minneapolis.  The City of Lakes fills with festivals, music, and revelry when the weather warms up.  If you’re looking for a good time, you will definitely find it here.
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We celebrated our first dry weekend of summer with trips to the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and the Uptown Food Truck Festival. Both fun events, but just like the songs above, I wanted to combine the two things.  Why not have food trucks at the jazz festival?  We could dance as we eat and sing as we sip.  Sounds good, yes?
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Do y’all follow Humans of New York?  I love how the artist photographs and learns the stories of the people in his city.  I have a similar desire to learn about the people that pass me on the street: where are they going? what are they reading? are they in love?  I’m not one to ask questions, but I do snap sneaky pictures when I feel inspire (like that photo above… precious, right?)
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Maybe it has something to do with an overactive imagination and curious mind.  I do home interviews for Habitat for Humanity (interviewing people that apply for houses), and I get that same thrill when I learn a) why people moved here b) why they want a new home and c) what matters most about their new home (size, location, community, school, etc).  After the interviews, I recommend or deny the family, and then I spend forever and always wondering how they’re doing.
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Speaking of home: Jon spent the past week in Wisconsin, and he brought home my favorite yellow roses.  The flowers seem trivial compared to having him back, but I do love me some roses.  And the best kind of roses?  ‘Just Because’ roses.
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This post is a bit of a ramble, but I did make the two graphics into printable PDFs for you.  Like the images? Download them here: redwhiteyou and leavehome

How was your weekend?  Any plans for the Fourth?

strawberry bliss

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An extra-large pizza in the bed, Kinzie by our side, and Louis CK comedy on the TV.  Our night fell together haphazardly, but it couldn’t have been more perfect.  Jon came home exhausted from a week in Wisconsin, and so we ordered Galactic Pizza (they deliver the best pie in Minneapolis while dressed in superhero costumes), and scanned Amazon for something that would keep us laughing until bedtime.  We talked about this and that, wished we could be as funny as Louis CK, and washed the pizza down with homemade lemonade.  Bliss.
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I recently read that it takes 10 happy memories to negate 1 negative experience.  The good news, however, is that you can ‘save up’ good experiences to help make future conflict seem less severe.  I’m probably not going to fault Jon much after a perfect date night, right?
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Thinking about conflict made me wonder how else we can minimize bickering.  I searched Google for “relationship conflict,” hit the “feeling lucky” button, and found Close Encounters: Communication in Relationships.  Thank you, Google, that was exactly what I wanted.
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I opened the link and learned, “most spouses have between one and three arguments per week, with at least one argument per month being particularly uncomfortable.”  Oy vey, right?  Better learn how to fight right.  And, lucky for me, the author explained how: she suggested engaging in conflicting rather than avoiding it, and seeking compromise rather than being defensive.
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The happiest couples subscribe to The Accommodation Principle, and seek to “accept and recognize faults rather than retort and defend behavior.”  So, for instance, if Jon criticized me for being messy, I should say, “I can see how you would think that, and I suppose it’s true – what should we do about it?”
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Wish I had read this book along with Biology 101 and History of America.  A little more useful than knowing Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and SnO2 + H2 → Sn + 2 H2O.  Gotta know how to keep the bedroom pizza parties coming.

On another note: what should I do with those strawberries?

Like the graphics? Check out the Rhonna Designs app 🙂

make it last

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I once worried that creativity was like a pint of Ben & Jerry’s – once you used it all up, it was gone.  More and more, however, I’m realizing that creativity begets creativity.
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Sometimes I’ll a write short story and realize the supporting character would be the perfect protagonist in an entirely new work.  Other times I’ll edit a photograph and want to make a graphic capturing the emotion in the image.  Have you ever had a similar experience?
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An old version of myself saved ideas until the moment was precisely right.  Now, instead of ‘saving the best for the future,’ I’m using ideas as quickly as possible.
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Can you think of anything else we consume as quickly as possible?  Writing that sentence made me think how we generally try to ‘make things last.’  I suppose we use things before they expire, but when do we use things quickly simply for the sake of doing so?
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I’ve been going for walks every morning because I like letting the sun dry my hair.  A simple pleasure, perhaps, but my wet hair turns to icicles if I go outside in winter (thank you, Minneapolis).
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Yesterday’s walk had me wanting summery plates to for summer picnics.  My thoughts got spinning: should I paint something? Draw? Stencil?  And then, the idea came to me: I would mod podge clear plates with printed napkins.  What do you think of the result?

 

dream forward

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Growing up, my grandma was the sidekick to my grandpa’s comedic genius.  Grandpa delivered jokes like a court jester, and afternoons together meant lots of laughter and bursts of mischief.
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I cringed when my grandma served green beans, but my grandpa saved-the-day by shoveling all my veggies onto his plate whenever she turned away.  Still hungry after dinner, the dessert worked in reverse, and the brownies trekked from grandpa’s plate to mine without anyone discovering our secret.
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Grandma’s funny, yes, but she’s usually described as kind, creative, and welcoming.  My grandpa passed away a few years ago, and, shortly after, she joined the comedy troop at her retirement center.  The original sidekick now spends weeknights preparing jokes for the annual laugh festival.
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Sweet grandma surprised the entire family by revealing her comedic genius.  It took nearly 80 years to embrace her funny, but now it seems like a natural part of her personality.  Which, of course, makes me curious about the my own future: Will I embrace new talents in 50 years? Discover new passions after retirement?
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My mom recently told me that she, “met a kindred spirit and can’t believe it took this long to find her.”  Momma just cleared 50, and the the number of girls at her weekly “BFF Brunch” just keeps growing.  According to her, “there’s always room for another friend at the breakfast table.”
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So mom’s making best friends and grandma’s making people laugh.  Good new on both fronts, but more than mere statements, their activities make me eager to dream forward.
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Marina Keegan distinguished ‘dreaming forward’ as focusing on future opportunities and ‘dreaming backward’ as reflecting on lost opportunities.  In other words, don’t fret about the past, but set your sights on the goodness still to come.  If you like the ‘be the reason someone smiles’ graphic, check out Rhonna Designs 🙂

dash of lovely

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A few weeks ago, a friend said that our actions between 5pm and 10pm reveal our priorities.  She rationalized that most people spend 9 to 5 working for a paycheck, but that we make our own schedules after we clock-out.  When I got home, I mapped out my weekly activities to see if there was a correlation between my priorities and my weekly agenda.
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My findings?  I devoted the majority of my week to The Big Three (faith, family, friends) and also spent significant time pursuing creative passions (writing, photography, design), community projects (volunteering), and physical goals (yoga and running). That’s all fine, of course, but it seemed like something was missing.  Can you guess what it was?
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No – it’s not the pillows.  I’ve been wanting to make the pillows for a while, and today I had the time (and the fabric) to sew some beauties for the couch.  The missing element, however, was a growth experience.  I’ve pursued the same passions for years and years, and I felt something was needed to inspire change and expand thinking.
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My conclusion?  Volunteer with a new organization (I now tutor every Wednesday afternoon), work on a skill (I’m taking a writing class at The Loft), and meet new people (I joined a women’s group at church).  I’m two weeks into the tutoring program, and I’m positive my student has taught me more about life than I’ve imparted about reading and writing .  And as for the church group?  Instant respect and admiration for the women I’ve met.  The writing class begins in two weeks, so I’ll keep you updated on that front.
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The activities align with my original ‘priority categories,’ yet also inspire new ways of thinking about the things that matter most.  Part of me wants to try something more radical – run a marathon or take a business class – but the little changes will work for now.

How do you prioritize your time?  Do you look for growth-opportunities?

Like that keyboard photo?  Check out http://deathtothestockphoto.com/.  Graphics made with the Rhonna Designs app. 🙂

dose of hope

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Creativity, chaos, and a messy bowl of cheesecake.  An interesting trio brought together by a steady steam of failures.  Did you read my post about The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?  If so, be warned that today was nothing like that.  Sure I attempted and failed at two (count um’ up!) new things, but I really didn’t mind when everything went bust.Image
I recently started a ‘doodle a day’ project, and I wanted my first design to incorporate the words ‘some,’ ‘more,’ and ‘summer.’  After an hour of doodling, I stepped back and realized the words were out of order (it said something like ‘sum more som mer’.)  Oops.  I ditched my doodle and made all the graphics in this post.Image
A short while later,  I decided to attempt one of the many popsicle recipes trending on Pinterest.  My selection?  Strawberry cheesecake pops.  Bad choice: the pops froze over like Minneapolis in February, and getting to the creamy goodness was impossible (frozen cream cheese is not delicious).  Still craving sugar, I decided to use all the ingredients to make actual cheesecake.  The end result?  The only non-fail (actually an absolute win) of the day:Image
The recipe was Top Chef worthy, and it also turned me into an abstract artist.  See the colorful swirls of berries?  That’s what I call food art.  
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The drawings and the popsicles were unsuccessful, but the word “great” came to mind when my sister asked about my day. Thing is, I enjoy creating things (all things, really), and a failed product doesn’t ruin the joy of the effort.  
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Have you heard that saying “time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted” ?  That’s kind of how I felt about today.  And, in retrospect, the failures inspired projects that succeeded, so perhaps the missteps were part of the process?  

sparklin’ fireworks

“You flip a nickel, and heads means you stay with him and tails means you try the next one.” – Kally, 9
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Should I tell you about my weekend, or write about the gorgeous sunset descending upon Minneapolis right now?  Would you mind if I avoided both subjects and wrote about what’s on my heart?
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Thing is, I spent the weekend adventuring with my husband, and I’m sitting here wishing the weekend could go on and and on and on (and on).  Would they call that a perma-weekend?
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My weekend plans for vineyard tours and pizza farm dinners came crashing down when the forecast revealed 48-hours of thunder, lightning and rain.  Maybe not a big deal in the South, but we cherish our sunny days up here in the Midwest.
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Jon, a sweetheart and hard-worker extraordinaire,  dislikes the rain even more than I do (truth), and we half-heartedly planned a weekend of indoor picnics and House of Cards.
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Then my creative mind ran the numbers:  Minneapolis enjoys warm weather May-October, and that means we only have  24 weekends to enjoy activities out-of-doors (and free of snow).  Rain or shine, I decided we were going to have fun adventuring in the countryside.
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Rain poured, pit-pat-pit-pat, as we drove 2-hours to a vineyard Midsummer’s Eve party.  Touring a vineyard in a rainstorm? Sounds crazy, right?  Well, maybe, but we stopped five different times (interesting barns and tractors begged for a visit), and we had adventures (taste-testing taffy and flavored-pop) all the way up to St. Croix Falls.  And when we got there?  You guessed it- the rain stopped.
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Summer is too warm and wonderful (are those words synonyms?) to let slip away, and so we made plans for July and August on the drive home.  Lucky you, I created a graphic of our conversation:
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And that quote at the beginning?  It has little to do with anything in this post, but I’m famous for mixing and mashing thoughts.  That said, I came across some endearing thoughts about love:

“Eighty-four! Because at that age, you don’t have to work anymore, and you can spend all your time loving each other in your bedroom.”      -Carolyn, 8

“Many daters just eat pork chops and french fries and talk about love.” -Craig, 9

“You should never kiss a girl unless you have enough bucks to buy her a big ring and her own VCR, ’cause she’ll want to have videos of the wedding.” -Allan, 10

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.” -Greg, age 8

that good easy feeling

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“She’s an amazing cook, sure, but the incredible thing is how she does everything with such ease.”  A lovely compliment, right?  I listened to a close friend, Anna, describe how a mutual friend, Shannon, handles herself in the kitchen, and I was inspired by how Anna managed to applaud not only Shannon’s product (the meal), but also her process (cooking style).
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How often do we look beyond what was created to recognize how it was made?  It’s wonderful and humbling to find something worthy of recognition, but it’s even more awe-inspiring see something endowed with grace and ease.
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Would placing emphasis on process make us more accepting of things that deviate from the norm?  Would we, for instance, applaud something that ultimately fails, but was attempted with  love and care?  Think of a mother burning the family dinner or a father building a bookshelf that leans to the right.
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I don’t have pictures of Shannon working her magic in the kitchen, so you’ll have to settle for these images of the Brewers beating the Twins.   What I can offer you,  however, are printable  ‘best thing about you” cards.  These cards have nothing to do with valuing process over product (and nothing at all to do with baseball), but I’m sharing all the same 🙂
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I hid mine around the apartment in places that Jon frequents, but you can (obviously) use them however you wish.
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Download your own cards by clicking here.

gimme the keys

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I dreamt I was an amazing painter.  Last night, circa 12am, I threw paint on the canvas and things beyond my imagination (and much, much beyond my skill level) appeared: blooming flowers, bursting sunrises, and close friends.  When the painting was finished, I flew (wings and all) to a vineyard in Tuscany for some vino with my sister, Caitlin.  A pretty awesome dream, right?
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The funny thing is how dream-like things kept occurring throughout the day.  Jon and I visited the Artisan Parade of Homes, and we pretended to be the Mr. & Mrs. of some of Minneapolis’s finest addresses.  We probably won’t be purchasing any of *those* homes, but we did get business cards from a couple architecture firms 🙂
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Last but definitely not least, I made some blackberry cream cheese bites worthy of Top Chef.  I’ve never claimed to be a master in the kitchen, but the sweet treats have me feeling pretty excited about my kitchen skills.

If you’re feeling lazy but need a recipe to impress the masses, try this: put blackberry jam and cream-cheese inside a pillsbury crescent, wrap it up, bake inside a mini muffin tin, and then top with a blackberry.  Voilà!