absolutely yes

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A polar-vortex brings swirls of snow and bursts of cold that can only mean one thing: time for a road trip.  Not a typical reaction, perhaps, but the promise of white-capped mountains and glistening pines had us cruising down I-95 by 9am on Saturday morning.  That’s right – we wake early enough to shower and nosh and pack before even Target is open.
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Mashed up pictures from the weekend, but only the top right is actually in the car: bottom right is the pup, top left is a gift from Jon, and the bottom left is a murder mystery party from Friday night.  For inquiring minds — we did not solve the murder.
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Totally changing topics: I wanted to make a fun game that encouraged thinking about people & things you love.  My solution?  Sweetheart mad libs.  Perhaps sweetheart isn’t the very best descriptor since this mad lib is good for best friends, pets, books, and, well, just about anything else you love.  Problem is, ‘things you love mad libs’ just didn’t sound as good.

The quirky mad lib is a simple & silly way to reflect on the unique reasons you’re grateful for the people and things in your life.  If you want to see the game, you can download it here.

To get a little rah rah rah with the mad libs, I brought them on our road trip and left them in small town cafes between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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The best part of the weekend happened when we got home and I had a letter from my dear friend Emily asking me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding.  Emily and Mike are the type of infectiously happy couple that everyone wants to be around, and I’m so honored to help them celebrate their big day.  Can you tell I’m excited?
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feels like home

Is there anything happier than walking around a lake in the middle of summer?  There is something wonderfully satisfying about knowing you can jump into the water and cool off at any time.

Perhaps, however, the walk is more beautiful in the fall?  You can proceed along as usual, except this time the trees are ablaze with dazzling colors of red, orange and gold.  Kick and crunch the leaves as you walk.

The falling leaves foretell the swirling snow, and, to be honest, I might just prefer the sparkling snowflakes to the varietal leaves.  A white blanket descends and makes everything feel overwhelming calm and peaceful.

And then, alas, what could be lovelier than the spring?  Bits of color return to the trees and the flowers slowly emerge from the snow.  A promise of summer hangs in the air and “the only problem is deciding where to be the happiest” – (Hemmingway).

This rhapsody is intended as an ode to Minneapolis, my favorite city in the world.  I’ve lived in 5 American and 3 international cities, and I’ve never come to call a place ‘home’ quite so quickly.  The seasons are stunning, the natural landscape beckons to be enjoyed (hiking, swimming, fishing, biking, etc) and the cultural milieu leaves little to be desired (Restaurants? Theater? Shopping? All here).

The best thing about Minneapolis, perhaps, is how it manages to make a cosmopolitan city feel like a charming small town.  I’m on a first-name basis with the local barista, the neighborhood grocer, and the apartment mailman.  What’s more, my best friends all live within walking distance.

A recent study shows that people truly feel more ‘at home’ in some cities based on their temperament, values, and lifestyle.  Which state(s) do you identify with?

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Images from a place for art and Time Magazine.

happily ever now

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I truly intend to write about things besides love and kindness. My head is filled with tales of mystery, stories of adventure, and legends of the past.  When I start typing, however, my fingers get all excited about the love stories and, quite simply, ruin whatever else I was planning to write.

Okay, okay, now and again I get to draw silly pictures and make jokes.  More often than not, however, I’m writing about love, friendship, and the kindness of strangers.  Maybe I’ll break the habit, but today was filled with too much goodness to be a starting point.  Perhaps next week I will get to the action-packed sci-fi adventures.

As for today, Jon played hookie from work so we could take a color-drive, visit the zoo, and have dinner at my favorite rooftop restaurant.  When we got home, my sweet friends had decorated the apartment with birthday surprises – it was some kind of wonderful.

My brother-in-law and my aunt have birthdays this week, and so I spent the early morning (before the color-drive) making birthday cards and envelopes.  The envelopes were a fun project because I made them out of wrapping paper and mod-podge.  If you’re wanting to try a fun twist on the classic greeting card, here are the steps:

Pick a wrapping paper, a card (any size) and grab some mod-podge:Image
Place the greeting card in the center of the wrapping paper, just like you’re planning to wrap a present:
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Pull the bottom of the wrapping paper over the center of the card and make a solid crease:Image
Wrap the sides of the wrapping paper over over the back of the card:
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Cut the wrapping paper where at the top of the greeting card.  Use mod-podge to glue the wrapping paper covering the right and left sides of the greeting card to the wrapping paper that you pulled over the center of the card.  It should look like this:
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Cut excess wrapping paper form the top of the card:
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Fold the top of the wrapping paper into a triangle:Image
Tape the triangle over the back of the card:Image
Front of the card (mine is being hand-delivered, but you could also put the address here):Image

I made a simple card to go inside:
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Just a regular ‘happy birthday’ stamp with white ink on red paper:Image
Here are some outtakes from my day with Jon.ImageImageImageImageImage1-IMG_6691

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the mushy-gushy-grab-a-tissue variety

For a long time, I felt an incredible sense of urgency to meet exotic people in foreign cities. I wanted to explore new lands and experience different ways of living. Above all, I wanted to learn, as quickly as possible, where I belonged.

A lucky few are born somewhere they feel comfortable, and rarely venture far from home. Others, however, associate home with a place they’ve never been, and they spend their time searching, searching, searching for somewhere that feels safe.

I know it sounds cliché, but my search for belonging ended when I met Jon. You know all those songs about how a person feels like home? That’s exactly how it was. We met, and after a few short weeks, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. My search was over.

This post ended up being of the mushy-gushy-grab-a-tissue variety, and I apologize. The thing is, I’m beginning a number of DIY projects for the apartment and the idea of belonging is on my mind. Today the crafting revolved around mason jars: I turned one into a makeup brush holder, and then I transformed another into a flower vase for my friend, Amy.
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Here is a preview of the flower vase I made for Amy:Image

Just for fun, I created this print for you to keep:
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donut mind if i do

Imagecelebrate the opening of Apricot Lane, that is!  If you’ve been reading the blog, you know how excited I am for Laura to be opening her dream boutique.  She’s filled the place with stylish clothes and even more stylish girls to help you figure out how to wear them.  

Since we all know I love parties, I stopped by this morning with a donut cake for the Apricot Lane team.  We ate a little bit, laughed a lot, and used those candles to wish Laura good luck.  Congratulations again!!
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candy from a stranger

ImageWould you take candy from a stranger?  No?  Well, what about on Halloween?  Then I bet you would.  Even the parental warning to ‘never take candy from a stranger’ has an exception to the rule.

I made edible street art out of candy the other day, and I’m hoping that my neighbors ate the entire wall over the past 48 hours.  The project made me wonder if my neighbors would hesitate before taking candy from a stranger.  Maybe you think they should refrain altogether, but, dear reader, I don’t.  If you’ll take candy from a stranger on Halloween, you can eat a street mural made of gumdrops and starbursts.

Today, I’m setting out to dispel the notion that we shouldn’t accept candy from a stranger.  Why, you ask?  It’s all about possibility.  I believe that a stranger is more likely to give you a sweet treat than something deadly.  Don’t you agree? I suppose there is no guarantee, but isn’t that just indicative of life itself?
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I believe we need to seek out the unexpected. Make room for whimsy, if you will.  We take a chance each time we interact with a stranger (we can’t be sure of their motives or temperament ), but we also open ourselves up to the possibility that they make us laugh, share a great story, or, potentially, become a friend.

“I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I was very stunned by this for many years. And then I realized, you just say, “Hi.” They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.” — Augusten Burroughs

I believe that taking risks and making experiments allow you to life a creative life.  Risks backfire, best intentions fail, and we don’t always achieve what we strive for.  But the negative outcomes make the best stories.   And as for me, I would rather be a dazzling failure than sitting in my rocking chair wishing I had taken chances.  For me, the hope or possibility that the risks are worth the reward is enough to take the leap of faith.

When the stakes are high, the challenge is great, and it’s easy to shy away from the opportunity.  But what then? All is lost.  You might seek and fail, but if you don’t seek, you will fail without doubt. And so, dear reader, I advise you take a risk today.  Perhaps start by taking candy from a stranger.  If strangers aren’t handing out candy, then find another risk – something closer to your heart, and see where it leads you.
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The best part of this random act of happiness wasn’t the candy or the laugher, it was working with Justina Louise.  Justina is an ah-may-zing wedding photographer in the Twin Cities, and she took the day off work to be silly with me.  Check out her work, and say hello — she’s lovely!

graffiti mural in downtown minneapolis

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Graffiti art has been on my bucket list for a while, so I decided to make an abstract mural with permanent marker on my favorite white wall in the city.
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Just kidding!

Did I getcha? 😉

What I actually did today was write letters to strangers on the backside of colorful construction paper, and then turned the notes into paper airplanes.  I placed the colorful planes around the University of Minnesota campus.
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The idea is that a stranger will take the plane out of the tree, and then the letter inside will come be a surprise.  A  discovery, of sorts.  Each letter is unique, and talks vaguely about the importance of taking chances.  When I was in college, I wasn’t entirely sure that studying art history was the greatest choice, but I had faith that the dots would connect down the line.  And you know what? Everything worked out better than I could have imagined.  Nothing at all went according to plan, however.

But still, the message that I wanted to share was simply to be patient, continue to follow your dreams, and don’t be afraid to take a risk.
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The bridge leads right to the art museum, and so, being me, I wandered into the galleries to see some art:
ImageImageImageImageImageAnd speaking of notes, have you seen the Disney short film The Paperman? It’s a ‘must see’ if you have 90 seconds: 

And just because this post is so quirky, I made you this:
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tisket, tasket, lunch for lovebirds in my basket

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I’m the girl walking through town with a book in her arm and a camera around her neck. When I’m reading a book (the hours we spend in bed together is almost akin to dating), I translate the words into pictures, patterns, and designs, and the activity inspires some of my most creative thinking.  I’ll be contemplating the words as the author intended them, but against my own background, experiences, and hyperbolic mind, I often envision a story all my own.

I’ve read a great number of books in which a young person is mentored by an older guide.  These mentors are always filled with wisdom, and just eager to find a student that they can fill with their knowledge of history, people, and ‘the way things were.’  That said, I’ve always thought that it would be great to have one of these encounters on my own – maybe I would help a woman cross the street and then she would tell me all about how she fought for women’s rights.  Or maybe I would sit next to an older man on a bus, and he would tell me stories about Vietnam.  I’ve got a quarter century behind me, 26 good years, but I’m yet to have one of these mysterious encounters that are so prevalent in novels.

And so, I planned a rah rah rah experiment that would make a stranger happy by planning a picnic for them.  And yes, I was secretly thinking that I would end up hearing tales of yonder all night.

To set the scene: I packed a basket with three turkey bacon wraps, a few bags of popcorn, and some pepsi-cola.  I took that basket to the park, and then I proceeded to scan the area for strangers that might want to have lunch with me.  The first woman I approached appeared to be about 70, and she was reading a novel under a shady tree.  Perhaps she was reading a novel about an elderly woman who mentors a young girl, and wishing someone would approach her with a picnic lunch.  Something told me we might be the perfect match for one another.
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I approached the woman and told her about my project, and then invited her to have lunch with me.  she smile gracefully, and then explained that her food allergies made eating with a stranger impossible.  Well fine, fair enough.  I had expected that preparing a meal for a stranger would have some trials (Jon is allergic to seafood, peanuts, zucchini, and squash, and he refuses to eat fruit or vegetables.  You could say I know a thing or two about being picky eaters).
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But I wouldn’t be defeated.  I approached a young couple holding hands on a bench, and explained my project.  Free food? They asked.  I smiled, showed them the contents of the bag, and then plopped down between them.  Suddenly date crashing seemed much more fun than learning about women’s rights and Vietnam.  And so, I spent the next hour hearing about how they had met at the park 2 months ago, and spent every day together since.  He was at college in Duleuth, and she was a senior in high school two hours south.  They were planning to make it work.

It was incredibly happy to share a meal with them and listen to the story of their summer romance.  And as for them, they seemed pretty amped-up about the free food.  Happiness all around.
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The amazing photographer Joy Lengyel made this picnic look like a photoshoot for Martha Stewart, right?  Check out her work, and maybe send her a sweet note (why not?)

Oh, and good news: Jessica Gerke won the scarf give-away from AllThingsAccessories.  Jessica, take a look at the shop, choose a scarf (teal and red retro bird, pink chevron, yellow and grey flower, or blue bird) and send me your address.  Congratulations!

you are my happy

ImageIn moments of despair or destitution, a simple act of kindness can act as a beacon of hope.  A light in the dark, if you will.  A kind deed can provide a reminder that there is good in the world, and that things can turn around for the better.

The kindness of others has seen me through some of my most trying times, and when things are going well, I like to return the favor by paying-it-forward.  My friend Ashley designed “You Are My Happy” stickers for the RAH RAH RAH project, and I decided to switch things up by asking people to give them to others.

I scribbled “please give this sticker to someone who makes you smile” on each of the stickers, and then I placed them all over the Eloise Butterfly Garden.
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Download your own stickers for free by clicking here.  And, feel free to check out Ashley’s shop, hearts beat electric.

naked cake party in the streets

A gathering without cake is just a meeting.  Cake transforms events into parties, and the sweet treat has been the honorary centerpiece of birthdays and weddings for centuries.  Last night I threw a party in the streets, and i brought … Continue reading