In between days of MIX events, I took time away from that madhouse and from work to spend time with my lovely wife, for our sixth anniversary. We had a lovely time together. Natalie stayed home with her grandma while we went thrifting and visited Minneapolis. The shopping was fun without a toddler to constantly entertain. I forgot how enjoyable it can be to quietly browse and take my time at something. Jenna scored a sweet wooden play oven for only $6.
We had a late brunch at French Meadow, one half of an omelette each. The weather was perfect for sitting outside and watching the Uptown traffic go by. The less said about our lunch at Melting Pot, the better. Food was okay, service sucked. After dinking around on Nicollet for a while it was time to head back home and relieve our babysitter.
I learned "iron" is the traditional gift for the sixth anniversary, so I started shopping on Etsy a few months ago and found this awesome necklace (as you can see above!). It's a faceted piece of jasper-streaked iron pyrite, surrounded by a hammered sterling silver ring that was patinaed dark and hand polished to resemble the color of the iron in the stone. Very unique, interesting, and beautiful... just like my bride!
The Minneapolis Indie Xpo was incredible. We got fantastic press coverage for a first year event. Four spots on Fox 9, interviews with me in Vita.mn and the Star Tribune, the Onion A.V. Club, and this great article in the Minneapolis Downtown Journal. Sarah was interviewed on Radio K's Culture Queue. The City Pages promoted us in their annual comics issue (which we helped organize) and put us on their weekly A-List. Most exciting for me, we got Boinged!
The Precious Little Film Fest was a success. A good crowd came out and filled the theatre about halfway. I delivered a welcome speech along with my fellow MC Danno Klonowski, then we sat down and got out of the way. It was fun to see the animations on a big screen and this was the perfect audience for watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
I was the first to arrive at The Soap Factory on Saturday morning, which is just the way I like it. Sarah arrived soon afterward with Brian Heater of the Daily Cross Hatch, who manned the front table as a volunteer. Kevin and my dad helped for most of the day too.
One of the Soap Factory's front desk volunteers was my old pal Cali, who I used to work with when I served on the board of the Sibley Bike Depot. Former board member John showed up too. But the biggest blast from my past was college buddy Becky, who just happened to be visiting Minneapolis with her new husband!
After a mad rush getting everyone set up and settled in I spent most of the day reading awesome comics and making new friends. I met far too many amazing and friendly folks to mention here, but I want to give a special secret shout-out to all the artists who gave me free books! You are the awesomest. Just as the day was starting to drag and the heat of the building was gnawing at me, the show was suddenly over. The artists packed up and I spent an hour stacking tables and chairs until the building was cleaned out.
I joined Sarah, Brian, Will Dinski and Top Shelf's Brett Warnock for a celebratory dinner and two pitchers of Surly Furious. Then we all headed up to Altered Esthetics (after I accidentally took Brian on a brief scenic detour towards St. Paul) for the official after-party. I hung out for a while with some deeply appreciative cartoonists but all too soon it was time to head home.
Time to start planning the Craftstravaganza!!!
I took the wire dog kennel from our office warehouse, crammed it into the back seat of the Saturn, and drove down to Cannon Falls to pick them up. Within a minute of arrival, their previous owner was stepping out of his shack with three pairs of chicken legs clutched in each fist and the dazed birds dangling below. Then I was on my way to the farm supply store with a car full of cluckers scattering feathers everywhere and relieving themselves on what I suddenly realized was a small rug and not a solid cage floor.
Natalie was thrilled when I got home and squatted down in front of the kennel to talk at the birds. Lola didn't know what to make of them and started barking and running around so we put her inside where she howled her displeasure. I was outside until 9:00 to put the finishing touches on the coop and Jenna helped me mind the door while I moved my chickens into their new home. Photos and more chicken stories to come!
As an illustration of how quickly Natalie is growing up, I've already had to re-write this blog post three times in the past couple of weeks. First it was about her favorite game, which was to pull me into the bedroom, "run 'round circle" and "fall down." But then that changed to standing in opposite corners of the room, while she counts down "ready set... GO" and then toddling towards each other at full speed. After a few passes I tackle her to the floor and tickle. "No," she giggles, "stop."
After a moment she smiles and whispers: "More." And I tickle a few seconds more before she sternly commands me to stop. Then, ever so softly, "again." And so it goes, until she's all tickled out. And now with her language skills rapidly developing, she's moved away from single words and on to descriptive phrases. Instead of simply ordering "no," she calmly explains, "all done game."
I love how Natalie is metamorphosing from a helpless baby into a real little person. She is enthralled with grown-up stuff, copying everything we do and say, especially when we don't want her to. She always wants to "help daddy" and "see, see!" She's asking "oats dat?" about things she doesn't know the name for yet. And she wants to try everything "a-self!" before she lets us help her. I'm continually amazed by how many things she actually can do by herself, like climbing into chairs, fastening buckles, and new skills every day.
The last time I made pancakes, I decided to get her involved. I stood her up on a stool in front of the mixing bowl and handed her measuring cups full of ingredients to pour in. She was thrilled at this magical process and very upset when we finished and I wouldn't let her add any more. That frustration was quickly forgotten once I wrapped her little fingers around the spoon and helped her stir.
Natalie seems like a big girl most of all when she initiates reverse play, like when she decides to put me to sleep. She instructs me to lie down, folds a blanket over me, and imitates the same process I use with her at night: patting my back, shushing, and quietly singing her rendition of "twinkle diamond sky."
We had a typhoon night this week. All night long the rain bucketed down and the sky flashed with lightning. When I slept, my dreams were nightmares of destruction. And in the morning when I walked outside, I found this:
That used to be a wall. A massive landslide swept the rocks down into our yard and mud into our basement. For scale, the hill at the point of collapse was as tall as me.
Our neighbor and Jenna's parents rallied to our aid. They erected a temporary wall at the top of the hill and connected a long hose to the gutter drain to divert water away from the hole. We are thankful that it wasn't any worse. Well, gotta go... we have work to do!
Some big dark bugs have been hanging around our garden lately. They furtively hover across the tops of plants, legs dangling underneath, but never landing... until one got into our house. I trapped it in a jar. While it was plinking around in there I got a good enough look to identify it as a great black wasp.
DID YOU KNOW? The great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) digs a multi-chambered burrow for its nest. Into each chamber it lays one egg, and deposits a large insect such as a cicada or katydid, which serves as food for the hatched young. HARD CORE.We had a friendly visitor too. One night just before bedtime we found the walking stick pictured above. Natalie spotted it on the outside of our bedroom's French doors. She was pointing, but I looked right through it at first, assuming she was talking about something in the yard. We watched for a while but it never moved. I've never seen one before so that was a lot of fun.
Just yesterday I spotted a tiny, fluffy bug. At first I thought it was a bit of down or a seed pod floating down, then I thought it was a bug that got some of that stuff stuck on it. Looks like it was actually a wooly aphid (check that photo, it's really weird-looking). On a hike we saw a butterfly weed swarming with bees, hornets, and (I think) milkweed bugs. And there was an empty cicada shell still clinging to the wall of my unfinished chicken coop. I love living in the country!
Do you want your own accordion-fold micro-comics? They will be sold in adorably tiny boxes from an old cigarette vending machine at Lutefisk Sushi. Each $4 box includes over a dozen randomly selected comics. The opening reception is tonight at Altered Esthetics from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and the show continues through most of August, with a special panel discussion after MIX!
I haven't drawn a comic in years, so returning to the world of Bob the Golfer for this one-off strip was a fun adventure. I forgot how frustrating it can be to try getting clean lines from crappy pens. And I had to set up the scanner at about 11:00 PM on the night before they were due. But I'm pretty satisfied with the end result. I hope somebody likes it!
Perfect Apple Pie Recipe, originally uploaded by Pillsbury.com
I made some apple pie ice cream. It is amazing. You start with a cinnamon-vanilla base, stuff it with caramelized apples, and mix in a crushed, oatmeal cookie "crust." Truly, the ice cream that summer dreams are made of. Here's the recipe.
My mother-in-law is lactose intolerant so I've been experimenting with vegan ice creams for her to eat. The Peanut Butter Bombshell was a big hit at our housewarming party. I've been tweaking that recipe for maximum chocolateyness. Mixing in brownies made it thick as concrete. Blending a cake yielded a puddling-like consistency but a good creamy texture.
My brother is coming from Montana to visit this weekend so I'm going to give sherbet a shot. That's his favorite. I'm really getting a kick out of ice cream making. We offer free tastings for all visitors!
Natalie had to be surgeried this week. She got cavities on all of her molars from eating dried fruit and now they're all capped and filled. It was a harrowing experience for Jenna especially, who was having flashbacks to the hospital visits of her childhood. Both mom and baby are now feeling much better.
We toured the facility on the night before so Natalie could see the space and experience some of the procedures in a non-threatening way. I think this helped put her more at ease on the day of the surgery. I know it helped me. I was not prepared for how emotional I got when her little body drooped from the anesthesia and she began to whimper in her drug-induced sleep.
She was crying when she woke up, but soon she conked out and slept most of the next four hours. By the afternoon she was running around again happy as a clam. It was sad to go through that, but quite a relief once we fixed her. Plus now she's got a mouthful of bling that will be some darn cool-looking baby teeth when they fall out. Whatever the tooth fairy brings will not be worth nearly what we spent on them!