Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays from Andy, Jenna, and Natalie!


Newborn Pygmy Goat, originally uploaded by Couppas

Natalie's word for "dog" is "woof" but since the "w" sound is hard, it comes out more like "foof." She is very excited about foofs. Whenever she sees one she starts to point and smile. Sometimes she says "foof, foof, foof!" and other times she is thrilled into silent admiration.

Her concepts are still very broad so everything that looks vaguely like a dog is included in the foof category. Basically any four-legged animal is a foof. Although our dog Lola is a special case who is sometimes called by her real name ("aao-ah").

But so anyway this is all just to say that my daughter has started to call me "mama."


Christopher Straub, Season 6 Ep. 1 Project Runway, originally uploaded by withremote

We went to the No Coast Craft-o-Rama last weekend, as is our annual tradition, and did some gift shopping. We know many of the vendors from Craftstravaganza so it's fun to say hi. Plus it's a good place for scoping out new artists.

One highlight this year was meeting the famous fashion designer Christopher Straub from TV's Project Runway! Of course we already knew him from being in our show for the last three years too. But we hadn't talked to him since his television appearance so it was great to see him again, and his new line of accessories (plus I bought a pair of Cricket Syndicate underpants--another yearly tradition--and had him sign them).

I love watching our vendors go on from the show to continued success. To think we contributed in some small way to their development is very rewarding. Maybe the best part of doing these events.


brown eggs, originally uploaded by Hannah [honey & jam]

I'm afraid that I may be falling in love with the city. After pining for the country for so long, I'm finally being charmed by the place where I live. When our house failed to sell this year, my wife and I had to admit: we were OK with that.

We like our house. We don't hate our neighborhood. And there are wonderful perks to the central location: great shops, bars, restaurants, playgrounds, and cultural events, all within walking distance. I can quickly get anywhere in the Twin Cities for event planning meetings, and I'm not outrageously far from my office (although it would be great to be closer). And there's no shortage of things for Natalie to do.

It also helps that one of my coworkers got a flock of chickens so I have a convenient source of farm-fresh eggs. Eventually I do want my own homestead, my own gardens, and my own hens/goats/bees/whatever. But for right now, I'm good.

A toddler´s view

A toddler´s view, originally uploaded by Andri Elfarsson

Natalie is truly a toddler; she's all over the place. It's really fun to play with her. She likes to wrestle, read books, and dance. She's also getting great at asking what she wants to do with a combination of signs, words, and pointing.

Last week I brought her to the launch party for Paper Darts, a new local literary magazine. She had a great time meeting people, looking at art, and eating gummy bears from the hors d'oeuvres table. No women hit on me this time though like when I carried Natalie to the GO LIVE event at fivetwosix salon.

Anyway the point is that she is growing up and usually a delight to be around. Plus she's going to sleep a lot easier these days. All in all, I'd say that she has leveled up as a human.

Plan to Fail

Cedar trees... in the Arz, North Lebanon, originally uploaded by Piax

November was a blur of event planning, illness, and a very busy time at work. We're emerging on the other side of that sickness and work overload, although the planning is a constant. Any project will automatically expand to fill the time allotted to it, and so these projects take over my entire life.

We did find a volunteer to help market the craft fair though! Kylee did this interview for us, isn't she great?

We finally got smart and started getting help for this stuff. I have a partner and the vague outlines of a team to organize the comic expo. The fashion event looks like it will mostly run itself once I finish winding it up. And, when I've got those all figured out... time to add a fourth event?


My wife wrote a nice entry on our Halloween weekend. I don't have much to add. We spent the holiday evening with her sister's family. I ate candy and drank a couple of beers. We played through the entire Left 4 Dead campaign and it was a lot of fun; I was the only survivor.

It's a busy time for me; we moved to a new office at my "real" job and I'm trying to plan three events for 2010. One (comic expo) is brand new, one (Swap-o-Rama-Rama) is recycled, and then there's the good ol' Craftstravaganza which turns five next year. We tried to drum up interest for an internship to help out, but so far nobody has applied. Well, if you want something done right...

Over the past few weeks, I've been meeting with people who are interested in the comic expo idea. There's another group planning a new webcomic event for next year, but their concept is almost a philosophically opposite approach from what I have in mind, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Hopefully they'll both be fun shows and then Minneapolis will have two new comic festivals to attend instead of just one!


Dave Bazan, originally uploaded by patchenphotography

I won free admission from the Current to last week's David Bazan show at the Turf Club. Micah was my plus one. First thing we did was make our way up to the bar for refreshments. I had a pint of Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat beer. I didn't know what it was, but I ordered because the tap handle was a rotary phone handset.

Nothing drives home the fact that I am an old man like staying out past midnight at a rock-n-roll concert. I was asleep on my feet halfway through, and I got my second wind around 11:45. It was a great show. Their tour diary said, "In terms of audience quality tonight was one of, if not the best, and the Turf Club is an amazing place to play."


Drago (Detalle), originally uploaded by Gisela Bohórquez

Natalie is walking a lot now. We got her to toddle back and forth between us for a while and it was fun for everybody, until she went face-first into the coffee table. At least we captured that precious moment on video!

Both my brothers were in town on Sunday. This is a rare occasion since Kevin started college and Jim moved to Montana. We celebrated with a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Jenna asked who won. I told her that when we play Dungeons & Dragons, everyone's a winner (it's true).

After they left, we looked at some houses with our agent. They were all terrible. It's slim pickin's right now in the local real estate market. We're hunkering down for one more winter in St. Paul.


I've reached the end of the world, originally uploaded by Stuck in Customs

We got some early October snow this week. I walked through the garden the night before and harvested the remaining vegetables. I pulled some monster carrots out of the ground, and a good number of green bell peppers. Some of the carrots were made into soup and my coworkers took the rest.

Natalie still doesn't walk more than a few steps at a time, and then only rarely, but she is very communicative. She signs for "water" and "more" (in addition to "milk" and "all done"). Her new words are "no," "yeah," and "Lola," which enhance her repertoire of "dog, mama, dada." Then there's the never-ending stream of babble with the occasional noise that sounds like a word, but only to her parents.

Secret Identity

My Name Is Not Clark Kent!, originally uploaded by Carlos Noboro

On Saturday I went to FallCon, Minnesota's biggest comics convention, to share my concept for the new show and ask for feedback. Everyone was incredibly gracious, friendly, and helpful.

One of the highlights for me was meeting Lucy Knisley. She is one of my favorite web comic artists and a total sweetheart in person. I spoke with several members of the Comic Conspiracy, a very cool group, plus a bunch of other talented artists.

I also ran into Sarah Morean, who organizes the awesome Twin Cities Zinefest. She has been thinking about starting an Indie comic expo for a while and I hope she will be involved. And a couple of CONvergence directors offered their assistance as well. I'm inspired! The time is now!


Grand Avenue Foot Bridge, originally uploaded by chefranden

On Saturday I took Natalie to Minneapolis. We visited the Minnesota Center for Book Arts to see all the local artists doing the 24-Hour Comic Day. Next door at Big Brain I quizzed the guy behind the desk about what he'd like to see in a new convention (thanks Rhett!). Then we drove to [REDACTED] to buy Jenna's birthday present.

Our friends Laurie and Ryan drove up from Texas to Eau Claire this weekend, so we met them there on Sunday. Their son Sebastian is only 4 days younger than Natalie. We went to Davies Center on campus, where we used to congregate between classes, and the kids played together for a while.

We had lunch at Mancinos. Their grinders are so delicious. Then we got dessert delivered on rollerblades at the new Sonic. Natalie slept on the way there and back. It was a great weekend.


Apple Picking, originally uploaded by Arvind Balaraman (Catching up :)

We got together with Jenna's family for photos on Saturday, and afterward we took Natalie and one of her cousins to a nearby orchard. The apples were delicious. The wine they made (with California/Washington grapes) was not good.

There were some animals off to the side of the barn. Natalie usually enjoys meeting new creatures. We saw a pair of cute pygmy goats and some sleeping bunnies. It was the first time she got up close to a horse, I think, and she reached out and petted it on the nose.

After football on Sunday we had to clear out for a showing. We went to the mall and I spent too much money on a jacket at Macy's; but then I always think clothes are too expensive. It's a nice fake leather jacket for fall weather. I like it. Maybe I'll keep it.

Sleep, darling

I wish you a wonderful weekend!...(^!~)... :), originally uploaded by ***irene***

I have a small
daughter called
Cleis, who is

like a golden
I wouldn't
take all Croesus'
kingdom with love
thrown in, for her


Travel Gear: Field Notes, F1 and Perfect Pencil, originally uploaded by Patrick Ng

I was writing about my career and my life and things I have learned about myself over the years, but I had trouble finding the words. Something about how I enjoy planning, building, and learning. Then Penelope Trunk posted this and the words were a mirror.

So in addition to this dead-on description:

"I am great in that [company building] phase of a business–-thinking, philosophizing, finding holes in markets, finding holes in ideas. I never give up. I always have another idea, and I don’t mind feeling lost day after day, week after week."
I would also add:

  • I love promoting other people. My paid job is a support role and that's where I gravitate in my side hustles. I get great satisfaction from being the one in the background who gets things done. In essense saying, "hey, look at these guys, check out the cool things they are doing."
  • I'm ambitious. I used to think that I lacked ambition because I didn't aspire to a high-paying job in a corner office. It turns out that is not true. When I am working for someone else I am usually content to do the best I can at the job I was hired to do. But when left to my own devices, I set extremely lofty goals for myself, and when I achieve one I just move the bar higher.
  • I need help. The other gem from the article is this: "the first sign that you are outside of your strengths is when you can’t make yourself do the work you need to do." My ambition won't allow me to back down from the projects I'm passionate about, but there's too much to do on my own. So I'll be trying something interesting this year: interns and teams.

Nickle Dickle Day

Downtown Waconia Minnesota, originally uploaded by FlappinMothra (busy unpacking)

Every year Jenna's hometown Waconia holds their "Nickle Dickle Day" celebration. It is a family tradition. We started off at the book sale where I filled a grocery bag full of books for $5. I think I got some good ones in there too. I just grabbed anything that looked interesting; I haven't emptied out the bag yet.

Some of our vendors sell stuff at the Urban Market and this was our first chance to visit. We stopped in and met the owner, Rebekah. They had some cute Japanese stickers which I bought for my 3-year-old niece.

There is an outdoor craft market in the park and car show. We looked at all four motorcycles in the motorcycle show too. My father-in-law got second place for his restored Honda Scrambler. Wooooo!


Massive Comic-Con crowd packed into the San Diego Convention Center, originally uploaded by glenn.batuyong

It all started with this. John Allison made a silly little comic about attending a fictional comics festival on Wednesday. By Friday night I have decided that this event should actually happen next year and, of course, I am up to the task.

This is how we do things around here. I get fired up about an idea and pour a lot of energy into it. Most of them fizzle and I move on to the next thing. Some have legs. The Craftstravaganza was an idea that worked. I figure I'm due for something new.

Right now I am poking around and trying to figure out if there's really a demand for an event like this, what in school they called a feasibility study. So far it seems like there is no local, alternative-styled, indie/web comics event*. It also seems like there ought to be one. If both those assumptions turn out to be true, I may be about to tumble down the rabbit hole again with this Next Big Idea.

*The closest thing I know of is the TC Zine Fest, which is awesome but not what I have in mind. The comic fairs that do exist seem to skew toward superheroes. Locals, feel free to correct me if I'm way off base here.


We took that push-around buggy car from the in-laws. Natalie still loves it like crazy. I go "vroom" when I push her around the yard in it, so she tells us she wants a ride by saying, "vuu vuu."


I finished building our composting bin!  Despite the lack of proper tools and any knowledge of what I was doing, it turned out pretty well.  I used scrap wood to cut down costs although it was much harder to cut and align.  As it turns out, the screen is the most expensive part by far.  

I cut all the joints with a hacksaw and a chisel.  Which took forever, and the resulting edges were not pretty, but the whole thing went together with the help of screws and a tube of wood glue.  I think the end result looks pretty good.  It holds all the yard waste we throw into it, which is the main thing.  Project: complete!


DJ Lance Rock, originally uploaded by techmeister

DJ Lance Rock and Brobee came to town on Saturday morning so I took the family to see them. We missed all but the end of the performance but we did run into some people we knew. We ate mini donuts and Natalie got a pinwheel, which she enjoyed pulling apart.

On Sunday Jenna slept in and Natalie came with me to the Minneapolis farmer's market. She petted a dachshund. I bought a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread from a guy wearing a Profane Existence patch (the bread is delicious).

Natalie started bobbing her head when we walked past the street guitar player. We stopped on the way out and he sang a jazzy rendition of the ABCs for her. For the next song he gave her a shaker and a bell so she could play along in her first collaboration. She was enthralled. I gave him a dollar.


Natalie took her first step! Does it count if she doesn't realize that she did it? She was standing, holding on to the coffee table, and just let go and toddled over to me. After a step or two she grabbed my pants and it was all over.

She has been standing on her own for a while now so we knew this was coming. Mostly it was unintentional. She would be holding on to something for balance, and let go to use her hand for something else. When she realizes what's going on, she usually drops to the floor. We also try to stand her up for practice; she hates that.

Anyway it was great that Jenna and I were both there to witness the first step. This little baby continues to amaze me.


saw, originally uploaded by Shannon K

Our family had a very rough weekend. It started out great: trip to the lake, good weather, tasty sandwiches. It went downhill from there and we were in a bad way by Labor Day.

Jenna got sick, feverish and exhausted. I sawed my hand. Natalie fell down the stairs. It was a nightmare and I don't want to talk about it any more. We're all okay now mostly (except for the psychic damage). At least one good thing did happen, but that's another story.


After the Harvest, originally uploaded by ToniVC

It's autumn. I can tell because I have to put on clothes before I go outside with the dog in the morning, otherwise I'm too cold. I will know it's officially winter once I need to shovel a path to get to the yard. I miss summer, but I hope it will be a long fall.


the mighty midway in all its glory, originally uploaded by smcgee

I followed my three-step plan and I feel recharged now, ready for another week. This year was baby's first Minnesota State Fair. I got to see chickens and eat a lot, Jenna took Natalie on the carousel, and we all had a fun time.

Making a guitar is harder than I thought, so I started building a compost bin instead. Progress is moving along a little better on this project. If we end up staying until spring, I figured I might as well get some compost going for next year's garden.

Jenna accused me of never eating the carrots from our garden, so I dug up a bunch. We cooked them into a quite tasty soup. We pureed until it was totally smooth. This recipe is going into the permanent file.


When the rain comes..., originally uploaded by VeNiVi (slowly back...)

Our whole house situation has got me feeling blue. I need to snap out of this funk.

Self-prescribed cure:

  • Hardcore music streaming at work today
  • Take my family to the country this weekend
  • State Fair shenanigans


hold | cancel, originally uploaded by wootam!

If you've been following along, you know we are having trouble with the sale of our house. Ultimately we had to cancel the offer. Our appraisal was significantly lower than the agreed-upon purchase price, and our erstwhile buyer-hopefuls couldn't make up the difference.

We are fortunate in that we don't need to sell, so we can be picky. Rather than selling at a loss, we decided to keep our perfectly good home in the city (for now) while it goes back on the market. The whole thing bums me out.

On the positive side, it didn't take long to start getting requests for showings again. Maybe we'll sell it this year after all.


I like this sketch I did from the Style section a few weeks back.

Cigar Box Guitar

Hobo Nickel Cigar Box Guitar, originally uploaded by Resist Banjo Works

We use hair bands tied around cupboard knobs to baby-proof the kitchen. Our daughter was pulling at them the other day, and she was delighted by the different plinking sounds she could make. I got the idea to build her some kind of instrument, and with the death of Les Paul fresh in my mind, I decided that my next project should be a simple 3-string cigar box guitar.

There are build plans all over the web. Here's a basic one, and a nicer one. As a general guide I'm starting with the detailed PDF instructions from Maker Workshop. There's another video by GeekDad, and for inspiration I'm looking at beautiful examples like the one above by Resist Banjo Works.

Menards had most of the supplies I needed (except the cigar box and a few little bits I can pick up at Ace). I also got a woodworking file to attempt basic shaping of the neck and headstock. I stood in the rasps and files aisle scratching my head until Natalie started to fuss, then I just grabbed the cheapest one and went home. I'll try to post notes as I go through this project. Wish me luck!

Jam Session

The Flaming Lips, originally uploaded by Kyle Dean Reinford

It was a great weekend for homemade food! I baked my best banana bread ever, and we made our second batch of jam with Jenna's mom.

We froze raspberries from our yard all summer (the ones we didn't immediately eat) and came up with six cups of fruit. We tried a couple of different recipes because grandma has never made raspberry jam before. One called for equal parts fruit and sugar; the other specified 2 cups of sugar in 3 cups of raspberries. I wonder which one will be better?

While we weren't making jam, we were pushing Natalie around in this plastic push buggy. She fell in love with this toy. When we pulled her out, she would make a beeline for it and try to climb back in. The look on this child's face is an accurate indicator of her expression the entire time she was riding in it.


I love the city in the morning. I can walk for blocks without seeing another person. There's no noise from cars and pedestrians shouting at themselves. Dew covers the Star Crunch wrappers on our lawn. It's beautiful.

You can keep the nightlife. I gave that up even before our baby was born. You'll find me outside at 5 AM, watering the garden, too early for the morning glories to be blooming yet.

When I'm standing back there all alone, watching the sun come up, that's when I'm the most happy to live where I do. It's almost like not being in the city at all.

Honey, I'm Home

Bee Nectar!, originally uploaded by da100fotos

Natalie doesn't exclusively prefer one of us over the other, but she has a definite preference for me when I get home from work. She squeals and comes crawling as fast as her little limbs can carry her. When she sees me her face lights up. It's daddy time!

We're inseparable for the rest of the night. If I try to hand her back to Jenna, Natalie pushes away from her mom, turns her head and makes a grumpy face. (My wife asked me to clarify: it is only when I first get home that Natalie rejects her like this.) If I actually go back out the door, she cries.

Then of course we read books and that's my favorite part of the day, snuggled up together. As much as I love her, though, I'm always glad to leave her sleeping in the crib and sneak out. Some nights I actually get to spend some time with my wife before we collapse into bed. Those are the best days of all.


urban detail metal hinge, originally uploaded by DropFocus

An appraisal was scheduled, then canceled. Our future is on hold until we get this house thing figured out. Another chance to practice patience.

Meanwhile, I gave a presentation last night at Pecha Kucha in Minneapolis. It was very interesting and a lot of fun. There were free beers, a big audience, and I stayed out way past my bedtime.

I'm pretty sure I hit all the main points and didn't say anything foolish during my talk. A lot of people came up to me afterwards and said it was good. I am going to assume it went well, until they post the presentations online, and the evidence says otherwise.


Monk, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, originally uploaded by since1968

Our buyers are looking for a new lender who will do a legitimate appraisal of our house. Now we are waiting again. If it is appraised at or above our asking price, then there should be no more barriers to selling. If it's less, who knows.

Recently, we have spent a lot of time waiting. Considering how much of life is spent in limbo, it's important to have a good attitude towards uncertainty. You could worry. Or you could cultivate patience.

I am trying to learn to be more patient. It's important in marriage, parenthood, and life.


Saginaw Street, McKees Rocks, originally uploaded by MacaDamien

Spot of bad luck in the real estate department.

Our house was appraised for 38% of the selling price that we all agreed to. Actually it wasn't even properly appraised. The buyers' lender took a look at some foreclosed properties, in the worst neighborhood in the city, and decided our house was exactly the same as those.

The appraisal process is a disaster right now, of course, so we knew this was a possibility. It's still extremely disheartening. I feel like I just got punched in the stomach by the economy.


Purple heart (Ornamental kale, Brassica oleracea), originally uploaded by butterflypsyche (mostly hibernating)

Our garden has been feeding us. We will be sad to leave it behind, but we should get plenty of food out of it before it's time to go.

This weekend I ate some raw carrots for a snack, and used kale and a bell pepper to cook "sloppy lennies." Jenna made a pasta sauce with fresh rosemary. Natalie ate handfuls of raspberries, and she loves munching on the cucumbers... I need to save a few for pickling!


contrast, saturation, sun salutation, originally uploaded by shoothead

Natalie is a great babbler and she knows a few words. Mostly, though, she communicates with gestures. And she's getting really effective with it.

Pointing at food she wants to eat. Shaking her head and pushing away when she's not interested. Waving a book at me to take, and then pulling herself up on the chair until I put her in my lap for story time.

She frequently demands that I read to her. On the one hand, I love the fact that she enjoys books, and spending time reading to my daughter is very special. On the other hand, some of the writing in these childrens' books is just awful. Time to purge our library and bring in the classics.


The Harvest Continues, originally uploaded by joaobambu

Have you read today's post on St. Paul Real Estate Blog? Teresa is our listing agent and the first paragraph is about us. We sold our house quickly, with closing scheduled at the end of September. That gives us a little under two months to find new digs.

Over the past several months we spent time doing research and showings, and found a couple of gems that we would have snapped up, if we had been in a position to act. Now that we're ready to buy, the cupboard is bare. Everything is too expensive, too run-down, or too far away. Nothing on the market today is just right.

It looks like we're going to end up renting again for a while. That's okay, we can wait until that perfect home pops up, and save money on mortgage payments in the meantime. There's nothing worse than an impulse purchase on a house.

Andy's Very Busy Week

Cirque Du Soliel KoozaMF50, originally uploaded by mddailyrecord11

Mon: Jenna's friends visited from out of town with their two kids and spent the night. Dinner at Punch. Ticket to Ride after the kids were asleep.
Tue: Picked up calling cards from boiled art editions, stopped at I Like You, met with a new partner for Craftstravaganza at Red Stag.
Wed: Buyers made an offer on our house. We counter-offered. The counter-offer was accepted.
Thu: Jenna's sister's wedding.
Fri: Submitted final slides for my Pecha Kucha presentation. 5-Year Anniversary dinner at Muddy Pig and Cirque Du Soliel Kooza downtown.
Sat: Looking at houses all afternoon.
Sun: (Scheduled) Looking at houses all day. Can't wait!

Anonymity Filter: Off

Untitled Still #7, originally uploaded by Ryan Sellars

OK, I thought it was a good idea at the time, but now it just seems silly. What's the point of anonymity on a website that nobody reads except your friends? Enough of plausible deniability.

I'm still not planning to post any family photos here, but that might change in the future too. Who knows. What's for sure is that typing my wife's name is going to be less awkward than always saying "my wife", and using my baby's name will be easier than remembering to replace it with a pseudonym.

So. We are Andy & Jenna, plus baby Natalie. But if you're reading this, you probably knew that already.

Storyteller (part 2)

Guru. Orchha, originally uploaded by entrelec

I titled the last post "Storyteller" but somehow it ended up being about rules and systems. I forgot to write anything about, you know, telling stories. This is the second thing that I enjoyed about my D&D experience.

Essentially, role-playing is interactive storytelling. This is great, because I tried writing novels and short fiction for a while, and I was not very good at it. I could do an awesome outline with plenty of interesting hooks and ideas; that came easily. Writing believable characters, dialogue, and action? Not so much.

With a role-playing game, I can just do the parts I'm good at. I set the stage and my players provide the action that moves the plot forward. We all get to share in creating a story together.


Grandfather's Watch, originally uploaded by Treefiddy

Previously I wrote about how I always read the instructions. This is not due to a lack of faith in myself or some misplaced sense of duty. Basically, I just enjoy figuring out how systems work.

Learning the rules of a new game is part of the fun for me. In fact, it's sufficient entertainment to derive the essence of gameplay from a manual, even if I never actually play the game. From when I was a young kid I loved to invent new games for the sheer joy of creation. Back then I used to play them at least once, but now I'm content to establish the possibility -- to build a universe that doesn't fall apart two days later -- and move on to the next challenge.

So it was great fun to play my first game of Dungeons & Dragons last week, with me as the Dungeon Master. (A sports analogy for the uninitiated: if you're playing a game, he's like the referee, the other players, and the field they're on, all at once.) I create and sustain the world, and other people play in it. Everyone's a winner!


Raspberry Seltzer, originally uploaded by Garrett and Rachel

We had a great harvest of raspberries, possibly more than we've ever grown before. This is partly because I learned last year that berries only grow on the last year's stalks. So I didn't decimate them last winter like I did the year before. Our sweet peas seemed to be done for the year, but they have been loving the colder weather this week, and new pods are popping off the vines.

Our house was getting lots of interest and showings, but no offers after a few weeks. It's still early, but we have a better chance of selling quickly than letting it sit on the market for months. We dropped the price and hopefully that's going to do the trick.

Two people have come through so far this weekend, plus one more today. We spent all morning cleaning inside, working in the yard, and picking up trash after the parade. When we returned after yesterday's afternoon showings, police had several young men lined up against a fence, across the street from our house. There's only so much you can do.


Cartuxa, originally uploaded by Miguel Manso

"What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous."

- Thomas Merton


Harajuku snapshot, originally uploaded by manganite

When I was younger, and I suppose this is common adolescent behavior, I spent lots of time evaluating a list of labels to define "who I was."  I defined myself by what I did, or how I dressed, or who I hung out with.  It was an easy way to pick a pre-defined identity without bothering to develop a unique personality.  Bicyclist, hippie, punk, Christian, hipster, father.  Just slap on a label, and you're done.

The problem with labels is that they didn't make me a more complete person once they were applied.  To the contrary, they limited my freedom by restricting my own definition of who I was.  Gradually I'm realizing that I didn't need labels to define myself.  In fact I don't need to define myself at all.

I can just be what I am, and that is enough.


I like alcohol, it is my vice. Occasionally I take some time off from drinking, a mini-Lent, and let my body detox. Not that I party hard these days--in a wild night I might have three or four drinks--but it's an exercise in mindfulness.

So I have been thinking about the topic of purification this week. In a splendid display of serendipity, Boing Boing tackled the topic of Personal Transformations in the Internet Age yesterday. We humans have a need to reinvent ourselves. But it's difficult to create a new identity when the shed skins from our past lives are littered around the Internet for all to see.

I think a lot (probably too much) about my online identity. What should I link where, how candid should I be, who will read this and what will they think of me? Is it ironic that I am most sincere on a (semi-)anonymous blog, that I only feel free to be totally myself in a place where nobody knows who I am?


Yoga, originally uploaded by Barbara Jambwisch

I mixed a few advanced yoga moves in with my usual "beginner's" practice this morning. Some new muscles got a workout. My back hurt so good, and the soreness worked itself out while I went about my daily business. That's the perfect amount of hurt.

My family is trying to get more active. Some nights we strap the baby into the stroller and walk around the neighborhood, other nights we sit on our butts. I would prefer if there was a higher strolling-to-loafing ratio. Right now we skew towards sedentary.

I would like to do some strength training except that workouts are so boring. Visiting my parents is great because I usually do some physical labor while we are there. I hate push-ups, but I'll gladly chop down trees, dig up roots, and haul branches. I need to get my own place in the country. Or a side hustle as a lumberjack.


akorn-AWX0207-2298, originally uploaded by Andrew Kornylak

Ashley likes to play around the bottom of the basement staircase. We bought a used gate on Craigslist to keep her away, and we haven't yet replaced it after it fell apart. (The gate at the top is new and solid, so there's no fear of her tumbling down).

She has worked on surmounting the first steps for several weeks. Yesterday she decided to try for the summit. She used to crawl up one or two steps and then fall backward, or slide back down on her belly. Last night she was determined to keep on going.

With my wife behind her ready to catch, and me calling encouragement from the top, she took one stair after another until she ascended the entire staircase by herself. I was proud and terrified. Time to replace that gate.


House Wren, originally uploaded by J Gilbert

I made a birdhouse in 2007 and stuck it on a pole in my back yard. This year, House Wrens moved in. When I approach, I hear peeping from inside and the adults fly outside to yell at me.

It's fun to have new neighbors. I hope we get to see the babies!


especialista em flores, originally uploaded by Giovana Ceregatto

Our daughter is learning to enjoy playing outside. At first we sat her on a blanket, and she was okay with that. She started moving around, but the grass bothered her and she avoided it. Then she ate some. After not too long, she was crawling all over like a happy puppy.

Last night I knelt down to pluck some weeds out of the garden while she played in the yard. Ashley was watching. She cruised over, reached into the dirt, and started picking at leaves. Just like daddy!

Sweet peas are ripening. We popped some into her mouth and she loved them, so we gave her a pod to nibble on. Play time and snack time, all in one.

Mr. Clean

Master Bedroom, originally uploaded by WHUhnnnnnnnn

Our house is consistently tidy and clean for showings. There's a place for everything (even if that place is a temporary junk drawer), and everything is in its place. Flowers are blooming, every surface sparkles, and it's amazing how much better our neighborhood looks through clean windows.

I used to come home at night and all my activities were some form of procrastination to avoid cleaning. Recently I feel relaxed and free to do things I actually want to do. Instead of playing video games I'm reading books or gardening. Instead of watching TV I'm fixing and making things. I can actually inhabit my house instead of escaping from it.

Importantly, I'm developing the habit of maintaining the "showing ready" condition. Getting the house clean reminds me how much I like it that way, and inspires me to keep it looking good. And it works because I'm doing it for myself.


Rainy day hens, originally uploaded by aroid

The day our house hit the market, we had two showings, and feedback from the agents was promising. I am trying not to get my hopes up too high, but this is exciting news. We might be homesteading before winter!

I would have only one regret if we sell quickly: missing out on the harvest. Our backyard garden is more vigorous than ever this year. I'd be mildly bummed if we moved to the country only to forsake a bounty of delicious home-grown vegetables.

On the other hand, if I have to exchange our little city garden for a yard full of chickens, I consider that a win.


sunset dog, originally uploaded by bkwrm1012002

My daughter's new hobby is practicing yoga. All on her own, without any prompting from me, Ashley has started pushing herself up into downward facing dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana). She can hold it for several seconds, just never long enough to grab the camera.

To market, to market

what i do for flickr! LOL, originally uploaded by bıtzı

Our house was listed on the MLS today. Soon we will be flooded with requests for showing and multiple offers. Until then, if you're curious, you can take a look at it here or here. Tell your friends!


Blueberry Buckle, originally uploaded by gnuf

The grocery store had 2-for-1 fresh blueberries last week, so I turned one into muffins and the other into blueberry buckle. The buckle was simple to make and very delicious. My wife said it was even better than her mom's, but don't tell anyone.

The muffins were a traditional recipe from Back to Basics, which I'm reading to get pumped up for country living. By the way, there's a lot of great information in that book about self-sufficiency and homesteading skills. I'm scouring the sections on beekeeping, raising chickens, and of course anything to do with food.

Seems I have been baking a lot recently. I love it! I should do this more often.