every girl

Him: “So nice to finally meet you.”
Me: “Me? There must be a mistake, I don’t think we know each other.”
Him: “Oh, you’re not Sarah/Chrissy/Anna?”
Me: “No, sorry – My name is Jen.”
Him: “Oops.”

Two minutes later, a 5’5” girl with brown hair and hazel eyes enters and the man approaches Sarah/Chrissy/Anna.  This time, however, the two of them walk off hand-in-hand to order coffee from the barista.  My guess?  It’s their first date, and the guy confused me with the itsy-bitsy photo he’d seen on Sarah/Chrissy/Anna’s online profile.
IMG_8242I’m often told that I resemble so&so’s sister, a co-worker’s friend, or a stranger’s cousin.  All the comments got me wondering: what does the average person look like?  I did a Google search and found a project called Face of Tomorrow that documents what the average person looks like in every country.  The artist hasn’t reached America yet, but I kinda look like a composite of girls from other countries (including Australia):
Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 9.09.57 PM
All the research on ‘the average person’ made me wonder if people present themselves differently on internet dating profiles.  A little more digging and I learned, “fifty-three percent of American people surveyed said they lied in their online dating profiles.”  And when it comes to photographs, “the more attractive the picture, the more likely it is to be out-of-date.”  Interesting, right?  No wonder people have trouble finding their date in a crowd.photo (72)
That’s all I’ve got for online dating, but I’d love to hear from you: any tales from Match, Tinder or Hinge?  Any stories that make you laugh or cringe?view
My dinner club met last night, and we spent a good 20-minutes talking about how much we enjoy going to the movies.  By the end of the meal, we decided to forgo August dinner and do brunch and a movie.  I started making a list of August releases, and my top picks were Belle and What If.  photo (73)While I was watching trailers, a friend called asked if I wanted to see Boyhood in an hour.  The movie got 99% positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, and so we spent the afternoon cozied up in the theater.  Final verdict?  See the film.

Do you go to the movies often?  Is there anything you’d recommend seeing?

breaking hearts

Can I geek out for a minute or two or seven?  No?  Fine, this is my blog and I don’t need permission.  I’m going to let my inner-nerd take the keyboard and write whatever she pleases until the moment comes to hit ‘publish.’  

Words are simple magic.  Type and write and scribble and scratch and then, okay, perhaps delete a little because that wasn’t quite right.  Slowly but surely, the white and empty page is transformed into something that didn’t exist just 1 minute ago.  Inspiration took the void and created something that, with any luck, is universal and touching and going to make the world just a bit better. 

Does that sound like a lofty task for literature?  Perhaps, but I’ve read two books back-to-back that have made me swoon and sway and laugh-out-loud and want to hug the author.  Can we make ‘hug the author’ a new rating status on Goodreads?

These descriptions of broken hearts demonstrate the talent required for ‘hug the author’ status:

“Something in her had wanted to call 911, to whisper into the phone, someone’s heart is breaking in apartment 8C.  What a silly thought.  The police could never keep up with it, with all the breaking hearts behind closed doors of New york City apartments.  There were a thousand ways to imagine someone unhappy and so few ways to imagine someone contented.” – Anna Quindlen

“In bed that night I invented a special drain that would be underneath every pillow in New York, and would connect to the reservoir.  Whenever people cried themselves to sleep, the tears would all go to the same place, and in the morning the weatherman could report if the water level of the Reservoir of tears had gone up or down.” – Jonathan Safran Foer

I don’t always feel this way about writers– I’m a picky reader and refuse to finish anything that doesn’t impress or inspire after 50 pages.  I wondered how normal it was to toss a book you’re not loving, and I found this graphic on GoodReads:
Do you finish what you start, or are you all-too-happy to toss something you’re not enjoying?  Image
I nibbled some delicious (4-ingredient) PB&J cookies from SkinnyTaste as I read. Cookies and books is a pretty dynamite combination, right?

spirits are light

The only problem was that the day wasn’t long enough.  How often do we hop into bed wishing that we had a few more hours to enjoy the day?  Jon and I arrived at the cabin late Saturday night, and we spent Sunday enjoying family, friends, and holiday festivities.  What more could we ask for?

A highlight of the day was learning that I had my very own Christmas stalking hanging above the fireplace.  This is my second Christmas with Jon’s family, but the *1st* time I had a matching stalking — his mom sewed it up to match the stalkings she made her children 20 years ago.
My mother-in-law, Jane, planned a rah rah rah project to spread Christmas cheer to the neighbors.  The plan was simple but capable of spreading lots of joy:  festive ornaments would be placed in the surrounding woods to bring a bit of happiness to passerby.  What do you think? Gorgeous, right?
Then we finished decorating our own tree:
Jon and I got competitive with battleship:
Lucky me, I got an early Christmas present:ImageImage
The day came to an end with one of my favorite things: Christmas baking! Good news everyone (selfish news), this time I was baking baking just  for my family (as opposed to the other two times I baked cookies for strangers and friends).  Finally, at long last, I can dig into the sweet treats filling the kitchen:
Also, I received a free sample from Ginger Mail.  I love illustration, calligraphy, and design, so the surprise package absolutely made my day:
Alright, time to rejoin the cabin festivities – sledding in the morning, board games in the afternoon, and movies tonight.  I think we might have a sleigh-ride scheduled for the morning?  Anyway, with all the warmth and cuddles and snowfall and presents, I’m betting that today will be another day that I’m left wishing would go on and on and on 🙂

searching for jingle bells (literally)

Confession: I’m incredibly selfish.  So selfish, in fact, that simply making this confession makes me feel like a weight has been taken off my chest.  Besides, now we have one less secret between us.

My selfish behavior sparkled bright this weekend when Kaitlyn and Sarah suggested that I join them in baking cookies for a cause.  Cookies are my favorite, and the only thing better than giving them to others would be, well, eating the cookie dough.  My point here is that I’ll bake cookies for just about anyone – not because I’m nice, but because I’ll thoroughly enjoy eating so much of the batter.  Do you blame me?

I spent most of Sunday (read 5 hours) baking with my good friend Brittany who, for reference, could be related to Betty Crocker.  The assortment of cookie cutters, sprinklers, and icings in her apartment made me feel like I was visiting the Keebler Elf factory.  We decided to make gingerbread and sugar cookies.

In between frosting and sprinkling and cutting, we ate plenty of cookie dough:
As we baked, Brittany neutralized my selfish tendencies by suggesting we give the cookies to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.  Sweet girl, right?  I immediately agreed.  The next day we took our finished goods to the Minneapolis Skyway, and we offered cookies to the volunteers that try to make the holidays a little nicer for others:
The number of cookies baked greatly outweighed the number of bell ringers  (okay, okay, probably not if everyone got on a scale, but as an expression) and so we gave the rest of the cookies to people keeping warm in the plaza center:
A wonderful day spent spreading Christmas cheer, all because of this girl:
Spread some sweetness of your own and vote for Kaitlyn & Sarah in Cooking Light’s Bake a Second Batch competition.  Hope y’all bake treats for others and get to eat all the sweet cookie batter 🙂

the wisdom of the duck & the owl

ImageWe can do a little bit of good on our own, but surely, if we work together, we can do much more.  Unit yesterday, all my random acts of happiness had been simple projects intended to make strangers in Minneapolis smile.  That all changed on Friday when the rah rah rah projects went on a road trip to Milwaukee.

Kaitlyn and Sarah, also known as the TheDuck&TheOwl, reached out to me with a brilliant idea: why not expand the happiness projects across the Midwest?  Spread the cheer and goodwill just a bit further than Minnesota? The idea was excellent, but I worried the execution would be tricky: how would the rah rah rah projects make it out of Minneapolis?

This is where the wisdom of the duck (Kaitlyn) and the owl (Sarah) came into play: they suggested that we plan a rah rah rah experiment (code name for random act of happiness) and then execute on the project in our respective Midwest cities.  (See that delicious cookie up up up above? That was made by Kaitlyn and Sarah.  I know, I know, I want them to be my best friends, too.)

I had such a fun time making ice cream with strangers that I suggested that we do a similar project with cookies.  For the collaborative rah rah rah, we would both bring sugar cookies and frosting to the park, and then we would get strangers to decorate the treats with us.  Sounds fun and delicious, right?

The Duck, the Owl, and the Apartment Wife may be the only people who think so.  I organized the cooking making station and then asked people if they wanted to join me. 30 minutes passed without any takers, and so I started using my phone to play on Pinterest.  I wondered how the project was going for Kaitlyn and Sarah. 

 And then.

 A nice man wandered over and asked if he could sit down with me.  He said that he was a painter, and I looked like an interesting subject: a girl sitting alone with cookies and frosting.  I giggled and asked him if he’d like to decorate a sugar cookie with me.  The man agreed, and we spent the next 30 minutes decorating cookies and talking about art.  A somewhat perfect afternoon, right?Image
After he left, I asked a couple girls heading to the beach if they wanted some cookies.  They said it sounded a little strange, but they were up for it.  We swapped stories and sprinkles, and then we hung out in the grass for a bit before they ran off to work on their tans.
It was a pretty fun day in Minneapolis, but the best part was that Sarah and Kaitlyn were doing the same project in Milwaukee.  Their project went a bit differently, and you can read all about it on their blog, TheDuck&TheOwl.  They provide a revealing account of the trials&triumphs of doing random experiments with strangers.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes you improvise 🙂

The three of us want the projects to keep expanding, so if you’re interested in being involved in the next one, let us know and we’ll involve you in the planning.  It might be successful, it might be a flop, but it will definitely be interesting – and hopefully a little fun. 

 Have a great Saturday, everyone! 

party in the streets for my favorite dead author

i spent six months teaching english at a school for impoverished children at the municipal dump in puerto vallarta, mexico.  you probably just read that sentence twice for all the abnormalities– as in, this girl taught english at a dump?  and the dump had a school?  the short answer is yes, yes i did.  i volunteered to teach english (as in zero pay) six hours a day to 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade students living off the waste found in the area.  many of the families living at the dump built homes on the side of the pit, and they sold recycled waste to tourists in trendy downtown puerto vallarta. a group of canadians opened a nonprofit english school near the dump so that the children would have a healthy breakfast and learn enough english to work in the tourist zone.

i made a game of finding english books by scouring hostels, coffee shops, and, when necessary, simply asking tourists if they had recently finished anything.  i got lucky when I found Walden Pond in a hostel while visiting the fishing/surfing village of sayulita. i knew a little about the author, Thoreau, from my philosophy minor, but i had never read about the transcendentalist’s solo sojourn into the woods. the first chapter convinced me that we were kindred spirits, and I finished the nearly 500 page novel by the end of the weekend (as in, no surfing or swimming for me – i never left the hammock).

three years have passed since I volunteered in mexico, but I still try to live by the simple wisdom imparted throughout Walden Pond.  this year, i decided to celebrate thoreau’s 197th birthday with the people of minneapolis.  now, you’re probably wondering who celebrates a dead author’s birthday? quite simply, i do.  i baked cookies to look like Walden Pond, and i made cards out of my favorite Thoreau quotes.  with treats in hand, i took to the streets to get the party started:ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage