Best Of The Road - Part Two

    I’m back to finish the other blog post that I started a few months ago.  When last I wrote about our summer vacation my family was deep in the landscape of the rural midwest.  We pick up the narrative as we meandered our way from Galena, IL to Mineral Point, WI.

    We arrived in Mineral Point and I thought, huh, this looks like it could be a cool town but it’s not exactly a thriving town.  Mineral Point is tiny.  We arrived mid-week to learn that most things in Mineral Point are only open on the weekends.  The place is strange.  They have many things that a town this size shouldn’t have i.e. a huge public swimming pool, an opera house, a train museum, a really old house museum, a school for arts and crafts, and a living history museum.

    We settled into our home for the next few days and decided it was a pretty good place to rest one’s head.  Maple Wood Lodge isn’t the fanciest of accommodations, but it was lovely in it’s own quiet way.  It’s set a few miles outside of town on a 20 acre parcel.  The yard is large and well-equipped for family fun with a fire pit, volley ball net, hammock and teether ball.  From the yard you can start out on a few different hikes that let you explore the property.  The hikes are short enough that even small kids can hike the distance, but long enough that you feel like you’re sort of on a hike.  I think we would claim Maple Wood Lodge as our favorite place that we stayed during the trip.

    The highlight of Mineral Point for Mazie was definitely Pendarvis, the living history museum. I’m not sure what happened, but something about Pendarvis clicked with her and she couldn’t stop talking about the place for the next few weeks.  Even today if you mention the name, she will start off anew on the wonders of Pendarvis.

    Pendarvis consists of several very old stone houses constructed in the early and mid 1800’s.  The historical society runs costumed, guided tours through the houses that tell about the various families that lived there and what life was like for them.  It’s worth a stop if you are in the area.

    We had a hard time finding much else to do in Mineral Point as most of the town is closed during the week.  I think Mineral Point is a cool, little spot, but if we ever returned, I would go on the weekend.

    After a few nights in Mineral Point we loaded up our awesome mini-van and hit the road for Cedarburg, WI.  Cedarburg is located just a bit outside of Milwaukee.  It feels old and preserved, but in a touristy way.  It’s similar to Stillwater, MN, but bigger.

    Our accommodations in Cedarburg were strange,  but interesting.  We stayed at a farmstead that used to be in the country, but is now smack dab in the middle of suburbia.  The farmstead consists of the owner’s house, the old barn which the owners use for antique storage and two small cottages that are rented to people like us.  The good news about the cottages is that they could be really, super cool and extraordinary.  The bad news about the cottages is that they aren’t; in fact they are a little creepy.  We wouldn’t ever stay there again, but it was certainly more interesting than hanging our hats at the local Days Inn.

    We had a nice time in Cedarburg.  We visited a covered bridge that seemed too simple to be entertaining, but ended up providing at least an hour of enjoyment.  We walked the Main Street and shopped the many stores.  We sat down at Tomaso’s, a weird pizza place with great pizza (sauce on top) and superb cheese bread.  We dined at a restaurant with mediocre food and a fabulous outdoor patio that took all disappointment out of the meal because of the view.  We watched a dumb movie in our creepy cottage.  Jamie and Mazie made art at a local studio while Tyler napped.  It was a simple and sweet way to end our road trip.  I would return to Cedarburg again, especially with older kids.  I think the area has plenty to offer a family for a long weekend.

    Next year there will be no road trip through the rural midwest.  I’ve promised Jamie and I’m going to keep my promise!

    A Couple Of Old Friends

    Meet Four Seasons Mall…

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    It’s a traditional 80’s style strip mall.  As a kid/teen, it was the closest “mall” to our house and somewhere my family spent a decent amount of time.  There was a grocery store, liquor store, dance studio, Synders, pizza place and countless other small businesses.  Today all that’s left is the pizza place and a Kaplan Professional School.  The talk is that the place will soon be torn down and a Walmart will go up.  I’m guessing that a Walmart will draw more cars to the parking lot than a pizza place and a Kaplan.

    Today with much trepidation and much excitement, I headed to that pizza place to enjoy a little “pizza party”.  Marcello’s offers up excellent cheese bread and pretty tasty pizza.  It was a favorite from my teen years and it’s still a favorite today, sorta like cheese.

    I ate cheese to my heart’s content and it was delightful, delectable, delicious, dazzling and deliriously good.  I was nervous going in that I would be like an alcoholic, once returned to my vice, helpless in its grasp.  So far though, I feel good about it.  I think my cheese and grease monkey has been satiated and should stay quiet for awhile and I’ve had no adverse stomach reactions.  After being away from cheese for 34 days, the thing I noticed most about it other than it’s deliciousness was it’s saltiness.  It’s some salty stuff.  Nothing like a little distance to make one appreciate cheese with all of its beauty and its one fault.

    Join me in a little 80’s nostalgia by looking at a few pictures of Marcello’s.

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    There it is, number 26, Marcello’s Pizza & Pasta.

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    Check out that 80’s decor.  Hasn’t changed, not one little bit since the first time I was there over 25 years ago.  If that’s not staying power, I don’t know what is.

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    It’s hard to find chandeliers like that now-a-days and the faux ivy painting all over the walls is to die for.  This place is a classic.  The booths are original to the joint as well.  Nothing in the whole space has been updated since the place opened.

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    The piece de resistance, Marcello’s garlic cheese bread.  It’s always perfectly cooked, perfectly cheesed and perfectly buttered.  Unlike ever other place where you get cheese bread and they use some pre-made garlic butter stuff that all tastes the same, here the butter is real and so is the garlic.  It’s a hand-made concoction that is nothing short of perfect.  Yum!

    Day 26 of Vegfest

    The month is close to over and with that the vegan challenge.  I’m still having a great time experimenting with vegan cuisine, but I’m a little glad that the month is drawing to a close.  Cheese and I have a date and we’ve missed each other a lot and can’t wait to hang out.  Hopefully my gut will agree.  I’m planning a little pizza party for sometime next week.

    All of that said, I do plan to keep up with the vegan thing for the most part.  I think it’s good for me and for the planet and for all my animal friends.  I like the way I eat better when I eat this way.  I like how I feel on my insides better when I eat this way; I experience far less food guilt.  Food guilt is something that I’m normally steeped in.  I can’t say that it’s all gone, food guilt and I are almost as good of friends as cheese and I, but the food guilt is much dissipated.  I think no matter how I eat, I will always feel like I’m not doing a good enough job.

    On the poundage front, I’ve now lost 7 pounds.  The weight loss is so easy and natural and that feels good.  I think in time, maybe lots of time, I will return to a weight that I am comfortable with and feel good about.  I feel relaxed and very low-key about my weight.  I think it’s because I realize that eating this way it’s hard to gain weight and much easier to lose weight and so if I just sit back and hang out, my weight will take care of itself.

    I have noticed a general slacking with other things that I do in my life that I feel are important and have a positive impact.  I’ve been a reusable bag fiend for several years and I’ve accepted several plastic and paper bags during this month because I haven’t  had enough bags with me.  In the past I would shove the extras in the shopping cart, then the car, then bring a bag out to the car when I got home to put the extras in.  I’ve found myself throwing small pieces of paper away instead of walking to the kitchen and recycling them, and feeling less guilt about plastic containers that contain pre-made vegan goodies than I would had they been regular baked goods.   It’s as if I can only be so “good” and the vegan thing requires more of my “goodness” than my other way of eating.

    I’ve been meaning to post lots of other vegan stuff this month, but it’s been a really busy month and I haven’t devoted as much time to writing as I would have liked.  I guess all of those other posts will just have to wait for next month.  See you after Halloween!

    The Kate Club

    Mazie has joined her first social club.  It’s called “The Kate Club” and it’s quite exclusive.  You must be a girl, garner an invitation, and you must be willing to “eat” a leaf before you join and every day after that.  The club members call it “eating a leaf” but really all you do is put it in your mouth, chew it up, and spit it out.  The club meets during recess and focuses on chasing boys and doing what Kate says.  The club is named after Kate since she started it and so it only makes sense that she would instruct other members about what they should be doing while the club is in session.

    I’m loving this club.  I’m thinking about starting my own Tammy club where each day we drink a mommy beer and chase men…and of course, do what I say.


    It's All Vegan In Here

    Welcome to day five of my and Jamie’s vegan challenge!  So far, so good.

    I’ve known a lot of vegans and vegetarians over the years and for a long time I’ve had some moral qualms about my eating meat, but never once until just a few weeks ago had I considered giving up all animal products for any length of time.  Everything that I love in food life has something to do with an animal product.  After reading Eating Animals (an amazing book) about a month ago, the idea to at least give an animal free diet a try was born.

    I have no expectations for this challenge other than wanting to complete it.  I am curious to see if I lose weight, if I feel “better” either psychologically or physically, if I discover anything new about myself, and what I think and feel like after the month is up.  So far the process has been much more transformative than I would have imagined.  It seems stepping outside of myself food-wise is uncharted territory and it’s sort of re-framing some part of how I see the world…like maybe food isn’t everything or food can be something, but it doesn’t have to be everything.  I’m having trouble articulating the idea and it might be old news to the rest of you, but it’s new news to me and I’m interested to see if the idea develops and resonates into the future.

    So far there have been no earth-shatteringly great meals and a lot of trying to figure out what to eat, but I haven’t felt deprived and I haven’t found myself craving anything.  As of now, it seems possible to eat this way long-term, but it’s only day 5.  I’m enjoying the challenge more and having fewer issues than I thought, but I’m aware that these feelings may change at anytime and tomorrow a chips-n-cheese or cheeseburger dragon might erupt from my being.  But for now, all is well on the vegan front.

    Best Of The Road - Part 1

    On our recent family vacation, we did the most American of things…We hit the road for a week-long road trip.  Because of my general fear of flying, this is something my family is very accustomed to doing.  For us, it’s not some novel concept of returning to the family vacations of my and Jamie’s youth, it’s just the way we roll (I think I just did a pun; how cool is that?  I don’t pun often).

    This year we took a slightly different take on the all-American road trip:  We traveled the road less taken.  I mean that quite literally as most of our route directed us onto small, never heard nor seen before roads.  Roads that make you wonder why they exist, as they don’t lead anywhere except to some other nowhere.

    It was not grand nor exceptional, but it was peaceful and refreshing.  We began our journey at The Natural Gait, just outside of nowhere, somewhere in the middle of Iowa.  I don’t remember the name of the town we weren’t in and it’s not really important.  No one should go to The Natural Gait, unless maybe they have horses and want to vacation with them.  And then, it’s just a maybe.  We hung out with some good friends from Iowa City and that made The Natural Gait a much better place to be.  Enough said.

    From there our mini-van took us to Dubuque, Iowa.  Dubuque is not a hot-bed of tourism and I don’t remember how I decided we just had to visit, but visit we did.  There are a few cool things in Dubuque, so if you ever find yourself there, hit these places up…

    The National Mississippi River Museum - It was a pleasant surprise.  The section on steamboats was the unexpected highlight of the visit.  We spend a couple of hours, but if we had been without children, we could have easily spent a couple more.

     Fenelon Place Elevator  (it’s a funicular) - This thing was a trip (Are you noticing this; another pun!).  A small, old, rickety car takes you straight up a very steep hill on a small, old, rickety track.  Jamie and I both felt elated to avoid death or serious injury while riding.  The kids thought it was a blast.  The history behind the Elevator was interesting to learn as well.

    The Hotel Julien - This is the type of hotel that I am always happy to find.  A lovingly restored downtown hotel with all the modern amenities including a pool, spa and lots of character from the past.  The rooms were clean, spacious and attractively decorated. We had breakfast at the restaurant two mornings and were impressed with our food.  The hotel also had a separate bar that was handsome in decor and hopping with people and good times, but we didn’t have a chance to check it out.

    L. May Eatery -  Our meal here was the best we had during the trip.  Outstanding food was in short supply during our trip, but this place was pretty darn good.  It’s a small, upscale restaurant with a charming atmosphere that focuses on the local, sustainable food movement, and both Jamie and I eat that kind of thing up (Is it another pun?  I’m flabbergasted.).  They didn’t have a kid’s menu, but they were accommodating and welcoming to our little crazies.  Jamie’s meal of lobster lasagna was particularly good and we all, kids included, had a charming time.

    From Dubuque we hit the road and drove a short distance (about 19 miles, hardly a drive to us city folk) to Galena, IL.  I’d never heard of the place until I was looking for accommodations in Dubuque, but it’s a touristy little spot.  The town has a quaint, expansive downtown that most women would love to spend a day or two perusing.  It screams, “Come, shop, dine!”  Turns out I am like most women in this regard and could see spending a weekend enjoying the historic blocks of downtown Galena.  The area also had things more manly to attend to, but in our short stay we did not participate in any such offerings.  We walked the downtown, had a sub par lunch, and jumped back into the mini-van to head to our next destination.

    This is turning into a much longer post than I’d intended.  Hopefully, I haven’t bored the ten of you to death.  I think I’ll break here and pick up with the rest of the trip in another post.  Till next time…

    I'm Going Vegan

    Don’t get too excited everyone. It’s not happening right this minute and it’s not happening forever, but I’ve decided to try a 30 vegan challenge. Eating vegan seems hard to me on many levels, but I love a good challenge, so why not?

    It’s the next step in my trying to eat better for myself, the planet, and the animals raised for food. I’ve decided to take the month of October and give it a try. There are no summer BBQs to worry about, no State Fair, Thanksgiving or Christmas. It seems like a good time to dive in and see what the water is like.

    I plan to blog about the experience during October and include recipes that have worked for me and the family. Jamie’s decided to jump on the vegan bandwagon with me so that I won’t be lonely. Even if you have no interest in eating vegan long-term, why not give it a try for a month? Join Jamie and I on the vegan bandwagon! Doing things together usually makes them more fun…

    I’m using the remaining two weeks of September to gather recipes and psych myself up.  If you have any good vegan recipes, please pass them on.  I know I’m going to need all the help I can get!

    Larger Than The Hollywood Sign

    Okay, they aren’t really larger than the Hollywood Sign, but if Tyler stood on Mazie’s shoulders, they would be taller than me.

    Anyway, watch out Hollywood.  I’ve got future stars on my hands.  Mazie’s gunning for Carrol Burnett’s role in Annie and Tyler is looking to replace David Letterman in a few years.  Check out Mr. Emcee and the next Ms. Hannigan and get ready to talk about how you knew them way back when…

    Tyler As Emcee from Tammy Thingelstad on Vimeo.

    Mazie singing Miss Hannigan Song from Tammy Thingelstad on Vimeo.

    Cool Guy Alert

    Last Friday Mazie had a random act of kindness performed for her.  We were at the Uptown Art Fair and had stopped into a tent to look at some cool rocket paintings that we were all digging.  We started chatting with the artist and before you know it he asked Mazie to pick out a small giclee painting from the wall to take home as a gift.  He could tell she was an artist by the way she looked at his work and as one artist to another he thought she could use a little artistic inspiration.


    Needless to say she spent the rest of the day beaming and looked into her bag several times to check on her work of art.

    Thanks again Mr. William CJ; you really made Mazie’s day.  I hope you had a great Uptown Art Fair showing and I think a rocket painting may be in our future! :)

    Cake Store Is Open

    We have a Cake Store in our house.  I know, how lucky could I be.  And the best part is, so far all of the cakes are free.  I was told that The Cake Store proprietor was previously rich and didn’t give any money away and that’s why she likes to give away her cakes.  Plus, she still makes money now, so it all works out.

    I also made my very first pie, fresh Colorado peach pie.  It wasn’t a disaster, so I’m counting it a success.  Colorado peaches are delicious and it’s finally peach season, so I felt the need to celebrate.

    A Cake Store and Pie; we are one lucky household.

    Larger Than A Pee-Infested Bit Of Potty Talk

    Mazie delights in potty talk.  We have never had a strict rule forbidding its use.  I’ve always figured it’s reasonably harmless and we have bigger fish to fry.  And maybe since it’s not forbidden it will wear itself out.

    Turns out, potty talk, at least in our house, doesn’t seem likely to wear itself out.  In fact it seems to be gathering steam.  I keep hoping that allowing this outlet is in some way beneficial, like potty talk is a necessary part of growing up for most kids and disallowing the activity turns it underground where you can no longer hear what’s being said.

    I hear plenty of potty talk.  I try to give Mazie the impression that I’m ignoring her as I’m not interested in spurring on the behavior, but momma can’t help but hear most of what she says…

    Mazie and a friend have invented a teacher by the name of Ms. Twiggles.  Ms. Twiggles spends her days with a terrible urge to use the restroom and nary a restroom in sight.  She ends up with lots of clothes in need of a wash.  They absolutely love these stories and derive great joy in spinning tales of a bladder-challenged teacher.

    The other day in the car Mazie informed me that Tyler’s poop puked because it ate too much pee.  I didn’t laugh or even smile, but her creativity in the potty talk world is impressive and sometimes I can’t help but to chuckle, at least on the inside.

    Here’s what I’m wondering:  Is my lenience with the potty talk doing anything detrimental to my kid?   I haven’t read a parenting book or article that has ever addressed this topic.  Yes it’s rude.  Yes it’s gross.  But, is it harmful?  Will she end up in the long run somehow wronged?  For those parents or grandparents who have a rule against potty talk, why do you have the rule?  What I’m wondering is is the rule just for the adults and polite society, so that our ears don’t bleed from all the grossness, or is there something deeper going on, something that I haven’t identified.  If you completely disagree with me, let me know what you think and why.  If you agree with me, give me a warm fuzzy.  If you are in the middle, I’m anxious to hear.  I am really curious to hear people’s honest take on this issue.

    Childhood Stories

    Mazie loves stories; I guess most people do.  She usually requests stories from when I was a kid.  It’s always interesting to try and remember way back when and it’s fun too, so Mazie frequently gets her wish.

    She has a few favorites, like when I got knocked unconscious after sledding off a jump and landed on a parked car on Christmas Eve, or the time my friend and I were playing in the attic without my mom’s knowledge and my friend tripped coming out of the attic into my closet ceiling and broke her nose.  I thought she should just brush it off, clean up, and no one would ever know.  After all, we were supposed to have a sleep-over that night and I knew all of the blood would probably result in a cancellation.

    There was the time I pooped in the swimming pool, because I was having so much fun and didn’t want to get out and ruin my good time.  Of course what I didn’t know then that I quickly found out was that poop doesn’t magically disappear like pee in a pool.  Instead the poop starts “swimming” all on its own, the pool is evacuated and has to be drained and cleaned.  Oops.  Another Mazie favorite is the time I pooped out the window of my upstairs bedroom because my parents were busying showing the house to potential buyers and they were all camped out in the bathroom and I really had to go.  Seriously, I don’t know what was wrong with me; I was a gross kid.

    There are lots and lots of stories and they generally break down into two categories, painful things or embarrassing things.  Mazie doesn’t seem to have a preference for either type of story, she’s happy to revel in either my past embarrassment or pain.

    The Michael Vorlicek story is one of the exceptions to this rule.  Michael Vorlicek was the first boy I ever “went” with.  We were both fourth graders at Forest Hills Elementary School.  A friend of mine approached me at recess one day and asked if I wanted to “go” with Michael.  Not knowing who he was, I wasn’t sure.  I asked some of my friends and they were all of the opinion that accepting Michael’s invitation was a good idea.  So I told my friend yes, she told Michael’s friend yes, Michael’s friend told Michael yes, and viola a romance was born.

    I’m not sure how long we stayed together, but I’m guessing it was a brief affair.  Michael was nothing if not a gentleman.  He showered me with gifts.  His friends bestowed a massive heap of gum packs on me one day at lunch and I quickly became very popular.  His friends also brought me a large Valentine’s heart filled with chocolates on Valentine’s Day and a gold-colored necklace with three stars.  Michael was a generous guy, even if we never talked or looked at one another.  Such is the guise of fourth grade love.

    I’m not sure what went wrong with our love tryst, but one day it fell apart.  In what I remember as our only face-to-face exchange, I said something rude, ripped the necklace off my neck, and handed it stiffly back to Michael.  Who knows, maybe he dumped me and started showering some other girl with goodies.  I just don’t remember.

    What I do remember is that name, Michael Vorlicek.  It’s seared into my brain.  It’s on instant recall.  Sometimes I forget the name of a neighbor or an acquaintance, but I’m always on the ready with Michael Vorlicek.



    U2 At TCF Bank Stadium

    I wish I could go again.  It was that great…

    I saw my first U2 show in 1987.  I was sixteen.  It was magic.  To date it was the best show I’ve ever seen.  The whole place was filled with energy, crazy love energy.  It was weird and wonderful and beyond description.  I think it was spiritual.  I’m not kidding.

    I saw my second U2 show in 1992.  I was twenty-one.  It was a bitter disappointment.  I was disillusioned.  This band that I had devoted myself to was different and I wasn’t digging it.  The 1987 show was stripped down, bare bones, serious, heart-felt and genuine.  The 1992 show was a re-making of the band.  I knew the music had changed, but I thought the show would be the same.  It was the polar opposite of the first show.  Commercial, loud, in-your-face, staged, and loaded with irony.  I missed the irony; I missed the U2 I’d grown up with and I decided to turn my back on this new U2.

    Of course U2 didn’t know any of this and they went on making great music, touring and quickly becoming the biggest band of my generation.  I still bought their albums, but I didn’t really listen to the music the way I had before.  The Zoo TV tour had broken my heart.  They came back to the Twin Cities three times and played to sold out audiences.  I was not among the crowd.

    They say time heals all wounds and last Saturday my U2 wound was finally healed.  A mere 24 years after that awesome Joshua Tree tour, I returned to U2 land and fell in love all over again.  They are still awesome.

    This concert was a blend of the other two shows I’ve seen.  It was a big production and there was lots of glitz and glam, but it had a heartfelt sincerity and energy that I had missed during the Zoo TV tour.  And honestly, it was just good to see the boys again.

    They played a lovely mix of songs.  Lots of old and new, a couple of cover tunes, and even a song off Boy.  My favorites included “I Will Follow”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Stand By Me”, and “Hallelujah”.  It poured rain and we got soaking wet as did everyone else, band included.  The crazy stage screen contraption did all kinds of cool stuff, the boys rocked out, the fans sang, and all 60,000 people spent the whole show standing.  It was beautiful.

    The journey home was an epic, complete with two dead cell phones, a two mile walk, and lots of bus waiting and futile cab hailing.  Finally at 12:45pm, one and one-half hours after the show ended, a small man originally from another country, took notice of my flailing arms, stopped his cab, and delivered us home.  What a nice man.  I’m not sure we would be home yet if it wasn’t for that man and his cab.

    I won’t be missing another show, ever.  If they come here and I’m alive and kicking, I’ll be there!

    Fifteen Minutes

    Give two kids fifteen minutes, a vacuum, a couch, and some bubble wrap and this is what you get.

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    My Tribute To First Love

    As I was driving down the road today, I had a flash of my first love Bessie.  She was a white 1986 Mercury Grand Marquis with blue cloth interior.  Grand she was, in size and stature, and grand she lives on in my memory.  Bessie was a hand-me-down from my mom.  She bought the car new and promptly hated it.  I did too.  It was huge, ugly, and really un-cool.  It was an old person car and neither my mom nor I were old.  However once the car was mine, it was no longer what it wasn’t, but what it was.  And what it was:  my very first car.  Her name quickly became Bessie and while I’ve had many cars since, she’s my only car to ever get a name.

    I was a sophomore in college and the once un-cool beast quickly became cool.  She was a sofa on wheels.  Her hugeness meant you could pile a ton of people or stuff inside her vast interior.  She was the perfect road trip car; my constant companion during my most transient years.

    Bessie and I spent many hours touring the highways and byways of this United States.  Many people joined us and all were left with a sense of wonder.  She was special and proved it at every turn.  Even though she was old, she never broke down and left her passengers stranded.  She even pushed another car up a large hill in northern Arizona near the end of her life.  She ran out of gas once, but had the decency to glide into the gas station on fumes and die just as we pulled up to the pump.  She tackled mountain, crazy terrain, cold and snow and never let it get the best of her.

    On the way home from our last road trip together in 1997, on the border between Arkansas and Missouri, a man from Iowa named Elmer had the audacity to rear-end my darling with a full-ton pick-up truck and large trailer on the back.  It was a sad, heart-wrenching moment.  I was fuming with rage as my sweet Bessie sat mangled at the side of the road and this loser from Iowa didn’t seem to care.  Bessie was like that dog who jumps in front of danger to save his/her master.  She took the bullet and I walked away.  Sure, Elmer’s insurance had to pay some money for ruining her, but no amount of money or wishing could bring Bessie back.  Elmer killed her and I’ve never been able to forgive him.

    Bessie, wherever you are, you were the greatest car a travel loving college girl could ever have hoped for.  As my friend Liane used to say back in high school, thanks for the ride, see you at school.

    Larger Than Mom's Running Shoes

    When the cat is away, the mouse will play or so the saying goes.  Mazie was at a friend’s house for the afternoon and Tyler used his free time to play with shoes.  It was a good time putting on, tromping around, and taking off until he couldn’t figure out how to get them on again…


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    (If you are interested in seeing the full-size images, just click on the picture you would like to see!)

    Mill Valley Kitchen

    The latest in a long line of new restaurants to hit the Minneapolis dining scene is Mill Valley Kitchen on the corner of Excelsior and France Avenue in St. Louis Park.  They’ve been open just over a month and I’ve tried the place out twice.  It’s a very nice restaurant and there are three things that I really appreciate about the place:  they list the calories and nutritional breakdown of their menu items including designations for vegan and gluten-free, they use local/sustainable ingredients in most of their food, and contrary to most restaurants, when you look around the room everyone seems to have nutritious, “real” food on their plates.

    This is not a place for people who like large portions and the feeling of getting good value for their money.  I think you do get very good value for your buck here, but it’s more in the way of eating nutrient dense food that tastes good in the right sized portion than in the traditional there is a crap-load of food on my plate and it only cost me $9.95.

    They have a kid menu and I was impressed with the food they serve the kiddies.  The mac and cheese was homemade and yummy.  The chicken fingers were real, moist pieces of chicken breast, panko-breaded and baked.  The real test is the kids and they both chowed down.  Kid’s meals are served with edamame and fruit; what’s not to love.

    Prices are reasonable with most menu items around $10 and most entrees between $15-$20.  This is a place where you can enjoy your meal and feel good about enjoying your meal.  Both times I left pleasantly full, enjoyed my food, and didn’t feel guilty about indulging with either portion size or food selection.

    Speaking of indulging, dessert is another nice twist, with desserts served in a shot glass.  Perfect for an individual and at $2.50, not a big ding on the pocket book.  I found service both times to be warm, knowledgeable, attentive, and not over-bearing.

    My only complaint about this place isn’t really fair, but it’s my complaint so I’m going to lodge it.  The place is just too perfect.  Everything is pretty and safe and nice and all of the people are the same way; it’s missing an edge.  It feels very suburban, which isn’t inherently bad, but it’s not a place I could fall in love with.  So, I’m very much in like with the Mill Valley Kitchen and I’ll be back, but until things aren’t so pretty and perfect I won’t be able to give it my heart.

    Why A yBike?

    It’s now been a full week living with the yBike Pewi and a great week it has been.  If you live with or know a one or two-year-old, read this and then head to the nearest yBike retailer.  This thing is that good…

    Tyler Holding Bike
    1. The bike is cute.  It looks like a smiley face on wheels.
    2. It’s small.  We have a smaller house and it’s the first large toy we’ve owned that doesn’t take up much space.
    3. It’s light.  When it needs to be moved, it’s easy for anyone to move it.
    4. Your kid will look cute riding the thing.  Sure, your kid’s cute now, but wait till you see him/her on a yBike.
    5. Your kid will spend at least an hour a day riding the thing.  That’s an hour a day not spent trying to kill him/herself.
    6. Your kid will spend another hour a day pushing or carrying the bike.  Your child will beam with pride at the accomplishment and you will marvel at your excellent purchasing skills.
    7. Your kid can multi-task while yBiking.  Who says you can’t talk on a pretend remote control phone while riding a big red smiley face?
    8. Your older child/children will delight in riding it when the younger one is asleep.  You will smartly make a rule that the yBike is reserved for the little one while he/she is awake and remind the older one/ones of the many hours of toddler-free Y bike fun he/she/they will have when the little one is sleeping.
    9. The yBike works well on rugs and hardwood and it’s easy to get from one to the other.  He/she will again smile at the accomplishment.
    10. The yBike has 4 casters that swivel 360 degrees for easy movement.  Your kid doesn’t get frustrated and can easily move around obstacles.

    I know what the cousin is getting for his one-year-old birthday.  Go Pewi!

    Larger Than A Banana-Shaped Candy

    I distinctly remember my grade school lunches.  Mom would give me money to buy hot lunch, I would pocket the money, and choose cash over food.  In middle school I switched to a private school and along with the regular hot lunch, they also served an àla carte style lunch.  What started as a pretzel and string cheese a day, quickly morphed into a 2 or 3 pretzel a day lunch, where I brought my own money to supplement the money my mom gave me.

    Turns out it wasn’t the cash I wanted so much as the ability to eat what I wanted.  Once the opportunity to eat something I really liked arrived and I didn’t have a mom around to monitor my actions, I jumped on it and quickly did so to excess.

    Mazie is a child much like I was.  She will forgo a meal without a second thought if she deems it not to her liking, and she will eat like a large adult male if there is something that she loves up for grabs.

    I’d really like to keep her from trekking down my same food path as I don’t think it’s a very good one, but figuring out how to transform her into a person that likes lots of stuff and knows how to stop eating when she’s full, seems a daunting task.

    My latest plan involves candy.  I know, I know, it doesn’t sound good, but so far it’s working and the trade-off seems worth it.  I have high hopes that in a year or two she might genuinely like more foods and if not, well at least she’ll have better nutrition in the meantime.

    I think a lot of the battle with kids like Mazie who are really picky, but don’t have a true food aversion, is getting them to eat stuff that they don’t like more than once.  It’s been shown that if a person eats a food they don’t like, many times after eating that food 10-15 times they will either develop a taste for it or at least find it okay.  Since I can’t open Mazie’s mouth and shove the food in, and simple tactics that might work with less picky children don’t work with her, I’m sticking with the candy.

    She got a bottle of assorted fruit-shaped candy for her birthday.  Each piece of candy is small and the candy is reserved only for ’earning for eating’.  When a meal is served I tell her how many bites of something (usually 3 or 4) she doesn’t like she needs to eat to earn a piece of candy.  Once she earns a piece of candy she gets it right then and there.  There is no candy offered for foods that I know she doesn’t have a problem eating.

    A couple of nights ago she had a child-sized portion of salad and ate it all.  The salad wasn’t just some lettuce thrown into a bowl; it was chock-full of nutritious stuff.  This type of thing has never happened before.  The best we’ve done up to this point is getting her to eat a bite or two of something she doesn’t like.  Now she is eating 10-20 decent sized bites of stuff she wouldn’t have touched before.

    It’s made dinner fun instead of something she dreads, and watching her eat things willingly, without complaint, is a magical thing for me.  You can call me a bad mother and I won’t even mind.  I’ll be watching my six-year-old eat salad.

    Music To My Ears

    My husband is a pretty cool guy.  Turns out he has some pretty cool ideas in his head as well.  He told me several years ago that the best way to change something you don’t like or push for something you do like is to vote with your dollars.  Good advice.  He also encouraged me to branch out musically and stop listening to “old” music as a mainstay and instead investigate what’s out there now.  More good advice.

    For me the music of my youth is more powerful than the music of maturity.  I don’t think music today is any less awesome than it was in my teens and twenties, it could easily be better, but my ability to connect to it isn’t as strong.  Angst is worth a certain something and most of my angst has left the building.

    I can still sit back and belt my heart out to the Indigo Girls, Pink Floyd, The Cure or Trip Shakespeare, and all of the old feelings come flooding back.  It’s reassuring, powerful and easy to get stuck there instead of foraging ahead.  We have some friends in NYC who are a few years older than us and they are constantly on the look out for new music.  They see live music 4 or 5 times a week.  Their love of music blows me away.  I’m inspired by them to keep appreciating the new instead of holing away with my past.  The past is a nice place to visit, but it’s not the place I want to live.

    I prefer concerts in places where you get a comfy chair and maybe a nice meal.  A venue where you sit back and take in the music in a relaxed sort of way.  Maybe at the very end you stand up for one song and do a little light dancing.  It’s all very civil and nice and proper.  The band performs for you and you listen and appreciate.  But, every once in awhile I head out to First Avenue or a similar venue to remind myself of what music is like when it’s one of the most important things in your life.  It’s not comfortable, quiet, or relaxed, but for me it’s a bigger, brighter and more participatory experience.  It’s still not something I’m up for very often, but getting in touch with that sort of feeling is the best way for me to remember the past and live in the present.

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