Fetus Princess*

It's baby time! Jenna's got another bun in the oven and Natalie is excited to become a big sister sometime around October 2. The three (four?) of us went in for a checkup a couple of weeks ago and listened to the heartbeat together. It was a magical family moment.

Natalie's 4-year-old cousin is staying with us for a week while her parents vacation in Mexico. It's like a preview of our life 3 years from now. Most of the time the girls are so sweet with each other and it is very nice. Sometimes they are not.

My wife is used to juggling three children when she does daycare for her other sister's kids, but for me, adjusting to double daughters is an eye-opening experience. It takes both of us to manage bedtimes and anything else that requires splitting them up, but on the other hand, Natalie needs us less when they play together. And she's having so much fun... at least for now! On balance, I'm totes stoked to add another baby (and another tree) to our home.

*We don't know yet if the fetus is a boy or girl, but we will find out if we get a chance. I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to use a picture of Adventure Time's "embryo princess" (although he or she is technically a fetus now)

The comics show I didn't do

The Big Room, originally uploaded by Mr Kevino

Everyone knows that I started planning a comics show in 2009 which eventually became the first annual Minneapolis Indie Xpo. What you may not know is that this almost didn't happen. When I was still in the early planning stages, I spoke with a gentleman who tried to convince me to do something else entirely.

When I asked artists at FallCon 2009 how they felt about a new local show, the same name came up a few times of a guy who supposedly was doing something similar (name removed to protect the innocent). When I reached out to him, he responded that he had formed a planning committee for his own show, which was scheduled around the same time we wanted to do ours. I didn't want to step on any toes or duplicate work that had already been done so I decided to sit down with him and see if it made sense to join forces.

I met with him in a coffee shop where he laid out his plans for this grand event, listing all the famous artists who were definitely going to be there, and claiming that the heavy lifting was already done. Partly this made me wonder what he needed me for. But also I realized that he had outlined a philosophically opposite approach than I was taking. The plan for their show (compared to MIX) was:

  • Three days (vs. one)
  • Three tracks of programming (vs. workshops and one room for discussions)
  • About $40 for shoppers to attend the full weekend (vs. free)
  • Suburban hotel conference room space (vs. downtown art gallery)
  • Paying to bring in national talent (vs. growing organically)
  • Focus on webcomics and podcasts (vs. local and print artists)
Ultimately, I decided that the events were so different that they wouldn't conflict. More importantly, although I would gladly attend an event like he described, I was in love with our ideas and committed to bringing them to life. I wished him the best of luck with his event, and then... nothing. He never responded, and the show never happened.

I had to chuckle a bit as this "sure thing" apparently fell through and taking a chance on building something new paid off. Then again, that's the story of my life. By the way, the show where I got this guy's name was the same place I met Sarah, who was the key to the success of MIX. And considering such a diametrically opposed approach helped to emphasize the validity and necessity of doing something different. Everything happens for a reason!

It's mud season

It came down from the sky..., originally uploaded by Dani℮l

Now that the temperature is up and some snow has melted, Natalie delights in playing outside again. For the past week, our usual routine after I get home is to run around and watch the chickens and swing until Jenna rings the dinner bell. The only problem is that our yard is a boggy mess and the gravel driveway has turned into a mud pit.

We went to the big Home & Garden show to shop for a new driveway and promptly ran into my CEO. We also watched our celebrity pal Christopher Straub doing a fashion thing with Allison Kaplan, who has given us good press for the Craftstravaganza. So it was nice to talk with all of them. Natalie's favorite part was riding up and down the Convention Center's long elevators. She also enjoyed playing in the Rainbow playgrounds, until a mean boy shut a door in her face. Anyway it got us thinking about landscaping and sheds and summer projects.

While visiting my parents in Alexandria, we shopped for riding mowers and bought seeds. Natalie helped Jenna plant them in a windowsill starter when we got home. I filled our bird feeders, picked up thawed dog poop, and cut up branches. It's beginning to feel a lot like spring (forecast for this week: 4-8 inches of snow).

Ice cream party


Last Wednesday it was snowing, and cold, and dark. It was the perfect day to defy winter by bringing frozen treats to work and having an ice cream party. I had churned up four flavors for just this occasion:
  • Coffee Gelato,
  • Burnt Caramel Gelato,
  • Chocolate Pretzel Ice Cream, and for the bold,
  • Balsamic Vinegar & Black Pepper Ice Cream.
Chocolate Pretzel was the most popular. It's a great salty-sweet combination. Quite a few folks tried the balsamic and pepper, and nobody quite liked it (I can't say I care for it either). My recipe book recommends serving it with some fresh fruit. I'll have to try that combination.

I calculated ingredient costs for some basic flavors and came out to around $3.50 a pint. Cheaper than buying some fancy-pants gourmet brand, but I'm not going to make a business from selling small batches of this stuff. Anyway, it's still a lot of fun to make and share, and Natalie loves it. Ice cream for everybody!

Daddy Drinks: Irish Whiskey

Casks in old warehouse 2 c, originally uploaded by yvescosentino

My local wine shop hosted a seminar on Irish Whiskey last night. I've wanted to do something like this for a while so I jumped at the opportunity. What better way to kick of St. Patrick's Day than to sit around sipping whiskey from the Emerald Isle?

We sampled eight different whiskeys (three of which were single malts), an Irish Coffee blend ("Hot Irishman"), and a liqueur ("Celtic Crossing"). My favorite of the night was likely the Irishman Single Malt. I took home a bottle of their blended whiskey for making mixed drinks.


MIX sells out

The Soap Factory

Yesterday at noon we put up the application forms for MIX 2011. We planned to send a big public announcement this morning, but as it turns out, we booked the entire building in eight hours. 52 artists. In 8 hours. The tables filled up fast last year, but this is freaky fast.

It was amazing to see such an incredible response. To have so many artists immediately commit to attendance is a testament to the foundation that our team built last year and the work that Sarah has done since then. Truly outstanding!

The sad part, unfortunately, is that a lot of artists got left out in the cold. I joked about filling up within 24 hours but nobody expected this reaction. MIX was on the radar of a couple of my favorite comic artists last time around, and this year I saw tweets expressing interest from more out-of-town folks I'd be especially sad to miss: Danielle Corsetto! Becky and Frank! Anthony Clark! Dang! I... I need to sit down.

It's super effective!

I made a Pokémon self-portrait drawing. Probably you will either grok this immediately or not really care (but I hope you like it). If you're not sure then look at this.

I don't draw nearly enough to have developed a "style" of my own. Whenever I sit down to make something more than a crappy little sketch, I end up borrowing heavily from the visual vocabulary of established artists. Just for fun, here's a list of my inspiration/references for this one:

Toddler update

Natalie is at her best age. She is really coming into her own and the kind of girl she is, is an all-singing, all-dancing, cake-obsessed two-and-a-half-year-old. Honestly, I love her a lot more now than when she was a baby. Like most fathers, I was able to connect with her on a deeper level once we started to have real, human conversations.

Our daughter is growing up in so many ways. It was not so very long ago that I sat by Natalie's crib and held her hand until she fell asleep, a process that sometimes took over an hour. We finally admitted this wasn't doing her any favors and started to wean her off the constant contact.

Now she might still scream and cry a bit, but eventually--much sooner than she used to--she will miraculously fall asleep on her own. My evenings have improved tremendously. In fact this is certainly another reason why I can love her more easily now than before, when I'd frequently drift off to exhausted slumber on her bedroom floor while still clutching her tiny hand. Baby steps toward independence.

New Monasticism: a community house in Minneapolis

Over a decade ago, I had what I now recognize as an important formative experience in my life and faith. Together with a group of kids from church I visited a house in Minneapolis where a bunch of dirty hippies helped their neighbors with donations of food, clothes, and time. Real Christian charity in action. We were there to pick up paint flecks from around the house next door that they had chipped off earlier in order that it could be repainted.

Coming from my limited experience, these young men and women blew my mind, and I wanted to be one of them. At the time I was attracted to superficial aspects of the lifestyle as I saw it: skateboarding to work! A CD with swears on it! Boys and girls living together! But most importantly, they had chosen intentionally to live in a "bad" neighborhood in order to serve the people in it, instead of retreating to the safety of the suburbs which had sheltered me for so long.

Watching, eating with, and working alongside the people living in that house was my first exposure to a communal Christianity. It certainly broke a conceptual box and opened my mind to new possibilities for what an authentic person of faith could be like. I regret not learning more about them (Missio Dei and Salvage Yard are a couple of groups doing this kind of ministry) but it launched me on a search for different kinds of spiritual experience that helped make me the well-rounded person I am today.

A bit of neighborhood nostalgia

Sel-Dale Laundromat - Street View, originally uploaded by Keeshond

Before we moved away from our old 'hood in St. Paul, I walked Natalie around in her stroller and told stories about her first home. We don't have any particular fondness for the Sel-Dale Laundromat that's pictured above, but it was only a couple of blocks from our house, which made it a local landmark. Other places do have special significance in our family history:

  • Great Harvest Bread, where I once forgot about Natalie and walked out the door while she sat calmly in her stroller;
  • The former restaurant (now long vacant) where Jenna and I enjoyed a romantic lunch of tapas once upon a time before she was born;
  • Fivetwosix Salon, the host of baby's first fashion show;
  • The local playgrounds where she loved to swing;
  • The Happy Gnome and Muddy Pig, where we celebrated a successful Craftstravaganza, and Sweeney's Saloon, where I sketched out the beginnings of the Minneapolis Indie Xpo.
Oh yes, we have some good memories from our years in the big city, our own roaring 20's. I am glad we lived there when we did. I would not want to move back (at least, I don't now, and I don't foresee that happening any time soon). But when I visit it always feels a little bit like coming home.

Further thoughts on running and nutrition

I'm drinking less alcohol since I started running. When I reach into the fridge at night, my hand almost subconsciously passes over the bottle of beer and grabs water or milk instead. I started eating differently, too. I'm not so quick to reach for that second donut at work. And I have definitely cut back on processed foods. My wonderful wife has been making me lunches and I mostly stock healthy snacks like nuts and fruit in my cubicle cabinets.

I still love junk food and the occasional drink (I'm like a chocoholic, but for booze). I'm just making healthier choices, more of the time. The shift has been easy and natural, because real food is delicious and when I eat good, I feel good. And--it might just be my imagination, but--I think my beer gut has shrunk a little, and maybe I'm even developing a little muscle tone. Perfect body, here I come!

Three recent unrelated adventures

A little Barred Owl flew up to our kitchen window, peeked inside, and then flew away. I was draining ravioli in the sink at the time so I was literally only a couple of feet away! It was an amazing close encounter with this beautiful bird. I've heard them hooting at night but this was our first sighting, and it was still quite bright outside, at 6:00 PM.

Chaska public library had a book sale. Natalie and I walked around and found some great vintage children's books, plus a few books for me. My favorite find: the gorgeously illustrated Richard Scarry board book I am a Bunny. Natalie was on especially good behavior and the library staff adored her.

We joined a church! Christ Victorious Lutheran is now our official home church. This is the only church we have belonged to as a couple or as a family. I hope this will provide stability and relationships for Natalie, and for us too. We are excited to get involved with this new community.

Daddy Drinks: Chocolat Chaud

chocolat chaud
chocolat chaud by Karin in Paris
This French chocolat chaud is just the thing to warm my cold bones on a bitter winter morning. So rich and creamy! Natalie's favorite part is the whipped cream on top (or, as she called it, "cheese").