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 Vita.mn 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.