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Friday, March 30, 2012

The best laid plans of mice and men...

...are no match for your pets.

Yesterday, most of my team ended up in the same all-day culture training that I went through on the 12th.  As a result, I had only three meetings, all in the morning, and after lunch I was wide open. I thought I would take advantage of not having to actually be present in the office, and work from home.  "It will be perfect," I thought to myself.  "I can cuddle the pets, work on some presentations in my sweatpants...brilliant."

Well.  I got home, set up my computer and was all set to get down to business when I smelled a foul odor.  The odor seemed to be coming specifically from the cat.  It didn't take me long to figure out that Mini had somehow manged to poop herself and then step in it.  Lovely

Natrually, I immediately tried to clean it up with numerous paper towels and soap.  After about five minutes of epic cat-bathing faliure I gave up and decided to lock Mini in the back hallway until Ben got home, because honestly, you try to wash dried poop off of your cat's leg while simultaneously holding them still and also trying to avoid multiple puncture wounds.

Once Mini was safely in solitary confinement away from all furniture, rugs and humans, I took Sid for a nice long walk around the neighborhood.  About five minutes into our stroll, I heard his tummy make a distinct gurgling sound.  This is never a good sign.  Usually it happens after he decides to have a little snack from Mini's litter box, which can happen if I'm not paying attention...which I definitely was not while wrestling with Mini and her soiled foot/leg.

Sometimes he has a horrible reaction afterwards...and sometimes nothing happens at all.  I decided to just wait it out, get some work done, and try to keep him off the furniture.  Of course, while I was answering emails he managed to scoot past me and puke all over the living room carpet. 

Instead of getting more work done at home, I ended up getting less done...and spending most of my time cleaning.  If those two weren't so damn adorable...we would have problems.

"We will poop everywhere and you will still love us"
And on that appetizing note...happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Farm of Pizza, and other shenanigans

Updates on a few of the important things in life:

I would normally post tons of photos of our new place, but sadly we currently appear to be living in a bad episode of Hoarders, and who wants to see that? No one, really.  In our exhaustion after moving everything we own from Minneapolis to St. Paul, we just haven't had the energy to unpack so everything is piled in random boxes.  To keep my sanity, I have to have at least one room that doesn't look like a war zone, and that room has become the office.  I refuse to let any unpacked boxes enter this room and will guard the entrance with my life if need be.

I am not great at moving.  I can promise at least one mental breakdown, usually around the point when you feel like you've packed and hauled everything on the planet, only to realize you're maybe about halfway there.  This is when I get ruthless and start purging recklessly.  I think that at some point on Saturday afternoon, at the end of my rope, I started yelling that EVERYTHING THAT IS NOT IN THE CAR IN ONE HOUR IS GOING IN THE GARBAGE.  Because that is completely logical, and also earth friendly.  Luckily, Ben is there as my sanity foil and his utterly calm demeanor makes me realize that I am in fact acting like a crazy person.

Unfortunately, our move coincided not-so-conveniently with Ben's end of quarter grades being due, so he has been up until the wee hours of the morning grading like a mofo.  Lest you feel too bad for him, he also has spring break next week, which means that when I leave for work at 6:45, he will be cuddling the pets in his sweatpants on the couch.  It all evens out I guess?

Work is just... crazy.  There's no other way to describe it.  First, we have several major projects launching in the next two months, and that in and of itself is a big deal.  Second, my main contact in marketing started her maternity leave last Thursday....and her colleague who is filling in for her out on PTO this week.  And a bunch of marketing-related issues completely blew up at the beginning of last week, before everyone took off leaving me basically holding the bag. I have no idea who has communicated what to whom, who has which files and what the damn process is for getting this shit figured out.  I'm not complaining - just, I have a lot of work right now, which on top the move is a bit crazy-making.

Luckily, in the midst of chaos...there is Pizza Farm.  Pizza Farm is just what it sounds like: a farm that makes Pizza.  The only downside to Pizza Farm is that a) it is in Stockholm, WI about an hour and twenty minutes from the Twin Cities, and b) it is hella crowded most of the time.  Normally, parked cars extend at least a quarter of a mile down the road, and the wait for pizza is about an hour.  Still, totally worth it.

HOWEVER... and I'm almost hesitant to say this because I feel like I'm giving away my new most favorite secret.... I think the best discovery since Pizza Farm is the fact that Pizza Farm is open in March.  Nobody thinks to go there in the spring...which is understandable, because usually we still have snow on the ground.

But, since the weather here has been summery and lovely of late, we thought March Pizza Farm sounded like a brilliant idea (I still brought a warmish jacket and scarf though, because it is Minnesota and I am not a total idiot).  We expected there to be a modest crowd, given the weather...but there were literally probaly 10 people there, total.  We got our pizza in like 10 minutes, and had the entire space in front of the pizza barn to ourselves.  We ate pizza, drank wine and beer, played frisbee, and basically had an awesome time.

Plus, the drive out to the farm is GORGEOUS.  If you take 10 to 35, you drive right along lake Pepin, and the view is spectacular.  I would go out there regularly just for the drive. 

There are definitely pros to summer Pizza Farm though - longer daylight hours, less cold, more pizza options, delicious summer veggies, lamb sausage... etc.  But, spring Pizza Farm definitely has its perks, and we're hoping to take advantage of it at least once more.

Full disclosure - these photos are from a previous Summer Pizza Farm excursion...

mmmm garlic....
Waiting for pizza
Yes folks... it really is that exciting....

One thing that completely sucks about being this busy, moving etc, is that while moving and work are driving me bananas, I have less time to do the things that keep me sane.  I haven't cooked or baked anything in weeks, and my yoga practice is down to 1-2 times a week which is not ideal.  I'm pretty sure there is an inverse relationship between frequency of yoga and frequency of moving-related meltdowns.  Someone should graph this.  I would, but I hate all graphs right now.

So - I have made a promise to myself that I am going to yoga TOMORROW.  Whether this happens in Minneapolis or St Paul has yet to be determined, but it is definitely happening.  Also, these little dudes have me inspired to get baking immediately.  I have no idea where my springform pan is, or my whisk, or really any kitchen supplies....but that's nothing a little rummaging and creativity can't fix.  Rye Crumble Bars by Saturday.  Keep me honest, people.


'night :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012


The reasons I haven't been blogging number in the thousands, but they include:

No internet: The first and simplest explaination is that I've been mostly staying at our new place, which will not have internet until Saturday.  This makes blogging difficult.  Nuff said.

Packing: The time I have spent at our Garfield place has mostly been spent throwing things in boxes, carefully packing breakables, and loading them in the car so we can haul them over to the new place.

Hell Week: This week at work has been out of control.  After you've spent 11 hours writing lengthly emails to lawyers explaining in very professional language why they might want to consider not sucking so much, and on the phone with clients wondering how their existence simultaneously provides your living and destroys you, sometimes the last thing you want to do is sit down and be creative.  Also, one of my closest co-workers, who I rely on for all of our marketing materials, is on maternity leave starting today.  And her replacement is on vacation starting tomorrow, through the end of next week.  So... things are interesting at the moment.

No sleep: Either Mini is acting out because I didn't snuggle with her this weekend, or she has suddenly become posessed by demons.  Before I go to bed she is totally normal, but between the hours of 10pm and 5:15am, her favorite activities suddenly include: running up and down the hallway as fast as possible while making strange noises, and attacking my face and feet.  After 5:15, she just lies down on top of me and begins purring and drooling in my face, refusing to leave until I get up.  Locking her out doesn't even help, because then she just sits outside making inhuman sounds, while reaching her entire arm under the door like a tiny cat zombie.  I can't.

My life is too boring:  Also, there's that.

Here are some random updates that you may or may not care about.

Apparently, it's summer now:  Last week it was 30 degrees.  Now it is suddenly 80 degrees. Not that I'm complaining, given that one year ago tomorrow a snowstorm prevented me from getting to class, and also forced my girlfriends and I to grill burgers in our snowpants during what was supposed to be a fun spring getaway.  I love it....I just don't understand it.

We are moving TOMORROW!: Movers are coming in the AM.  Ben took PTO for the entire day, and I am hoping to work from home in the afternoon so I can be there to help out a bit.  I am PUMPED.

Oook time to haul some boxes across the river.  See ya!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Aim for Grateful

Note: I wrote this on Thursday, but I posted it when I say "today" I mean Thursday...

this is a random photo of me looking like a
professional adult.  weeeeeee...

Well, the last couple of days have been...interesting.  For purely logistical reasons related to cats and my parents being out of town, I'll be spending a couple of nights alone at our new place this week in order to be more centrally located.  And by "alone" I mean "sleepover with Mini."

To answer your burning questions: no, we have no furniture in the new place.  Or food, or cooking supplies, or...anything. Luckily, my parents were kind enough to leave a roll of toilet paper and a shower curtain, so at least hygeine is taken care of.

I did plan ahead by packing our (super-awesome) air mattress and an extra blanket.  I was actually pretty pumped to sleep on the air mattress - this thing is amazing.  It inflates in seconds and is ridiculously comfortable.  I've used it for a number of previous housing transitions, and even slept on it on occasion during Christmas break from college, when we had 9 people staying at my parents house.

However, upon attempting to inflate the mattress, I discovered that the latch on the air valve is completely broken.  I looked in every cupboard, hoping that my mom had left some fixer-upper type materials. No such luck.  She was much too thorough in cleaning up after herself...I should have anticipated this.  In utter desperation I attempted to plug the valve using a t-shirt and a plastic target bag.  Unsurprisingly, this did not work.

After my fun night of sleeping on the floor, I woke up bright and early to get on the road to work, with my Starbucks coffee and breakfast sammich in tow.  For some reason I was convinced that traffic would be horrible and that it would take a bazillion hours to drive from St. Paul to Golden Valley.  It took 20 minutes.  I was safely at my desk typing emails by 7:10.  So...there's that.

About 10 minutes later, my phone rang. It was Ben. "Did you get my message?" he asked. The tone of his voice indicated that something had gone awry.


Long story short...Ben took Sid for his morning walk, realizing only too late that he didn't have his keys and was thus locked out.  Our neighbor let him into the building, but he was still SOL because everything he needed for the day was inside the apartment, which was also locked. Not to mention there was no way of getting Sid back inside. So.  Sidney is at my in-laws for the day, and Ben is at work, teaching without a computer.  Good thing our new front door does not lock automatically.

What does any of this have to do with being grateful?  Absolutely nothing.  I'm just amused by my life and wanted to talk about it.

So gratitude.  I don't think I mentioned this, but on Monday my team went through a day-long "culture training." I was skeptical going in, but aside from being trapped in a windowless room for 9 hours it was really not too bad. It was basically a day of self-reflection and what we can all do to be better leaders and act with integrity.  No kool-aid in sight.

One of the things we discussed was the "mood elevator."  Here it is:

...there we go.
Two things on this mood elevator really stood out to me.  1) That the top of the elevator is "grateful", and 2) that the transition point from negative to positive is "curious."  In order to get to understanding and positive, we have to start asking questions.  When we're in a bad place, we need to be spacious and open to possibility - asking "why" instead of immediately judging something as good or bad.

I love the following quote from David Steindl-rast: "In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy."  I couldn't agree more.  When we remind ourselves to find the beauty in where we are rather than complain about where we're not, we are not only happier, but infinitely more capable. Opportunities we didn't see before become visible.

Yes, this is life and shitty things happen.  I don't think that looking for the good in something bad equates to denial - although I've heard people make that argument, I think they're completely wrong.  It's not about trying to pretend that the bad stuff isn't bad - it's about being open to the possibility that something good could come from it. I would never look back at something horrible and say "hey - I'm really glad that happened." But I can be grateful for the strength, growth and self-knowledge I was able to cultivate only because this bad thing happened.  No mud, no lotus.

Late last year, I lost a friend - someone who should have been a shining light in our lives for a long time.  I will never think that he should have died, and I will never not be sad that the world lost him too soon.  But I'm not angry about it anymore. My anger wasn't serving anyone - it wasn't even perceptible to the people who hurt him, and it obviously wasn't bringing him back.  All I can do is be thankful to have known him.

We talked a lot about gratitude in the immersion, and I've been making a conscious effort to view the world through that lens.  When the sun is shining, be grateful for the sun.  When it rains, be grateful for the rain.  Revel in the small things, and they will give infinitely back.

Well, this has been a little bit random.  All of that rambling just to say...that when we were asked to put together "I will..." statements at the end of the training, one of mine (I had like 8...I may have gotten a little overzealous with the "I will..." statements...), my first one was "I will aim for grateful."  That certainly doesn't mean I'll always get there - just that I'll try to make it my aim, all the time.

I'll still have my judgmental moments... and irritated and anxious moments.  But at those times, if I aim for grateful, maybe I'll at least end up at curious :)

Update: I tried the duct tape/mattress strategy.  Total fail.  But...I'm grateful...that I have a floor to sleep on?  Maybe?  OK apparently I still need to work on this whole thing...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sometimes, you can go home again

The first house I ever lived in was the second floor of a lovely duplex in St. Paul.  My parents bought the house before I was born and rented out the first floor while we lived upstairs.  I have so many fond memories of growing up there - playing in the backyard, running up and down Grand Avenue with my neighborhood friends, filming "movies" in the attic (and yes, we thought our filmmaking was genius).  We also had a full front porch, where my sister and I spent a most of our time being ridiculous.

Ridiculousness in full force.
Julianna, you're welcome in advance for posting this on my public blog.
 Eventually, trying to convince my sister that the tiny office with no fourth wall was her "room" got a little old, as did moving her bed out of the way every time we needed to get into the closet.  It was time to upgrade.  Luckily, 20 years of scrimping and saving allowed my parents to build a gorgeous prairie-school house on a lake in North Oaks, and we moved there when I was 11.
North Oaks house in winter

My college years were spent living in the dorms, but when I graduated I moved to Berkeley with my friend Lindsey and our classmate Carrie, and into my first 'real' apartment!  It was nothing fancy, but it was in an amazing location and made for a great first apartment experience.  

Dad, stop taking my picture...

After I moved back to MN, my friend Tessa and I moved into a 2BR condo in the Grand Avenue neighborhood of St. Paul.  We lived there for three years and had a lot of fun and many glorious parties.  This was where Ben and I started dating, so there are a lot of special memories from those days.

2009 - One of many fun nights at the condo

When I started grad school, I moved to Minneapolis in order to be closer to school and the bus line.  I was lucky enough to find an adorable apartment in Uptown, just two blocks from the express bus to the U.  It was the first place I lived that was really "mine," and I took full advantage.  I only lived there for two years, but my place on Emerson will always have a special piece of my heart.

Living room on Emerson

Bedroom on Emerson

Last spring when Ben moved back from BG, we knew we wanted a slightly bigger space than what I currently had - plus, as much as I loved that apartment, the building didn't allow dogs.  So, we moved to a lovely two-BR condo on Garfield, which is where we live now (see pretty much any recent post for photos).  To be honest, even though I love the neighborhood, for a variety of reasons into which I will not get...into...(?? is that even a sentence.  I have no idea) I've never felt that this living situation was completely ideal.

So...long story short...we are moving!  Next week. Yes I realize I just moved, but this was really a case of stars aligning.  Also, we've known we were moving since Christmas, I just haven't blogged about it...mostly due to recurring instances of cupcakes, travels, and other things that are more fun to write about than the infinite packing of glassware.

SO.  The point of all this is...remember that duplex I grew up in?  Well, my parents never sold it.  In fact, they've continued to rent it for the last 17 years, mostly to young professionals and couples just starting out.  Literally two days after we decided we would move at the end of our lease, my mom called to say that her upstairs tenants were moving out at the end of Feburary, and that the unit was ours if we wanted it. BUT, we'd have to wait until after March because she needed a few weeks to do some necessary touch-ups. Our lease is up April 1. 

The duplex has about 250 more square feet than our current place, plus an entire attic for storage, a full front porch, and a backyard.  And, it's a 2BR+, so we'll actually have an office to work in, instead of letting all of our papers pile up on the coffee table.'s about 1/3 less expensive than our current place.  And the neigborhood is just as good if not better.

This really is a win-win all around.  At first I thought it would be weird moving back into my childhood home, but honestly it's been so long that it doesn't feel strange at all.  Looking at it from an apartment-hunting perspective gives me an even greater appreciation for what a neat space it is...and also for how much my mom is undercharging (AND how overpriced our current place is....which I kind of knew...) are some photos of our NEW HOME (as of 3/23):

Grand Ave - Living/Dining Room
Looking from the living room into the dining the built-ins with leaded glass!

Grand Ave - Dining/Living Room
...and back through the dining room into the living room

Grand Ave - Office
The Office aka my sister's old room.
That huge open space used to house a giant fish tank containing no water or fish.
I won't attempt to explain this.  Because I can't.

Grand Ave - Porch
Front porch!  Perfect for PORCH PARTY!

Grand Ave - Kitchen

Grand Ave - Kitchen
Kitchen again
 Grand Ave - Bathroom
Bathroom...which is being repainted.  Not a huge fan of the brown.

Grand Ave - Hallway

Hallway between the two bedrooms...with a LINEN CLOSET.
I am so excited to have tons of storage.

So there you have it!  It's going to add probably 10-15 minutes onto each of our commutes but honestly...totally worth it.  We're excited!  I hope the pets are excited too...although something tells me Sidney will need to do his business a few times to declare the duplex "his." Mini probably won't even notice.  As long as she gets cuddles, she's good to go.

Happy Tuesday!  And if you're in MN, enjoy the ridiculously awesome weather this week.  You never know, we might get bombed by a random April make hay while the sun shines, as they say :)

(no, I have no idea who "they" are.  Hay farmers, I would assume)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Back in the Bay! (San Fran Recap)

Now that it's Thursday, I guess I could post about my trip that I got back from on...Sunday.  Seriously though, work has been kind of insane.  I was only in the office one day last week, due to work travel from Monday-Wednesday, and leaving for Cali on Thursday evening.  Cramming 5 days worth of work into 1 day is not ideal - and it unfortunately caused me to miss out on some non-work events I'd really been hoping to make it to.  Oh well.  Such is life.  I spent most of Monday playing email catch up, worked late on Monday and Tuesday despite getting into the office at 7:30, and am just now beginning to feel like I have my life under control.  Luckily, none of these things stopped me from getting to the yoga studio on Monday.

ANYWAY.  Fun things!  My trip to SF was amazing.  I arrived at SFO late Thursday evening, so Linds and I just went back to her place, and spent some time catching up and drinking scotch :)  On Friday Linz had to work, so I hopped on BART and ventured over to my old 'hood in Berkeley!

I'd lived in Berkeley for a few months already before I realized that somehow, dumb luck had landed me in the best neighborhood in the city, hands down.  We lived right behind the Andronicos on Shattuck and Vine, two blocks from Cheeseboard, a block from Chez Panisse, and near a ton of amazing yoga studios, which I didn't even know about since I wasn't practicing yet at the time. 

the old 'hood

Philz Coffee and a cheese roll from THE CHEESEBOARD!!

My favorite Thai restaurant!  I ate here on one of my first nights in Berkeley, back in 2005.
As I was just wandering about, I walked past Yoga Kula - an Anusara-focused Hatha studio!  I dropped in to pick up a schedule, and immediately determined that I would attend the 12pm all-levels class. The only barrier to achieving this goal was that I was wearing jeans - but that wasn't anything $3 sweatpants from a nearby Wallgreens couldn't solve.  Desperation, or determination?  You be the judge.
That night we had dinner at Burma Superstar, which was fantastic!  Their Tea Leaf salad is advertised as a party in your mouth, and it did not disappoint.  The flatbread and curries were also excellent.

Saturday was Lindsey's birthday, so we kicked it off at our favorite Berkeley brunch spot, La Note!  The toughest thing for me at La Note is deciding whether I want to go sweet or savory, because both are so delicious.  In the end I went with my old standby - scrambled and eggs with goat cheese, tomatoes and toast.

The Latte bowl was an easy decision...
 After brunch, we decided to hit up Muir Woods for some hiking shenanigans.  We were both wearing ballet flats, but figured that we are awesome enough to take on the woods regardless.  Unfortunately when we got there, we could not find parking to save our lives.  Instead of trying hard, we just went "oh well!" and decided to drive into the city to shop and eat cupcakes.  It seemed reasonable.

However, we also both really had to pee.  The only place we could think to stop was Muir Beach, which neither of us had been to before... and we had no idea how beautiful it was!  The sky was ridiculously blue and clear, and the water was sparkling.  We had a little too much fun taking photos on the beach.  This was definitely the best accidental rest-stop/abandoned hiking adventure decision ever made.

tough call...or not...

B-day girl :)

I almost didn't post this because my alignment is so terrible.  I was literally about to fall out of the pose...
balancing in wet sand is harder than you would think.

After our beach adventure, we took advantage of the ridiculously clear skies to stop and take cheesy tourist photos overlooking the Golden Gate bridge.  Having lived here for a little while, I recognize how rare it is to actually be able to see the entire bridge.  I maintain that the the clouds went away in honor of Lindsey's birth and subsequent existance on the earth, but I might be biased.

Posing like tourists


Shut up.  When can you ever see the entire bridge??

As we were hitting up Peet's near the Powell BART, we noticed this lovely new addition (possibly new?  I don't know, I haven't been there for 5 years...whatever, it was new to me):

...Obviously we purchased cupcakes immediately.  When presented with sprinkles, I am really left with no choice but to consume them.

I'm just a girl who can't say no...

pre-dinner birthday cake?  why on earth not.
Dinner was at Wexler's in San Fran - an upscale-ish BBQ joint with a fun atmosphere and delicious drinks.  Lindsey ordered a Manhattan which I normally hate, but when I tried hers I LOVED it.  Any place that can make me love a Manhattan is an immediate winner in my book.   We shared an order of Scotch Eggs as an appetizer, and I ordered the Short Ribs for my meal - they were amaaaaaaaazing.
Finally got to meet some of Linz's Berkely/Oakland friends!

The next morning we had coffee and pastries, bummed around Berkely for a bit more, and then Linz drove me to the airport.  She did not do a great job of hiding her displeasure at my imminent departure.

"...but I have to go to work tomorrow?"
I'm definitely planning to make this an annual event.  Linz is one of my favorite people, and the bay is one of my favorite logically, I should visit more often!  Unfortunately it was kind of a whirlwind trip so I didn't get to see everyone I wanted to...I have a few other friends out in San Fran, and I would have loved to see them too.  Next time!  :)

...we now return to your regularly scheduled eating/sleeping/working on powerpoints that somehow must be finished by 1pm.  Shwaaa??!

Happy MARCH!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

If you're going to San Francisco...

Make sure it's your friend Lindsey's birthday!!!

Once upon a time, I lived in Berkeley - and I haven't been back to visit since probably 2006...ish?  Maybe?  Anywhoo, while there I lived with my good friend Lindsey, who has also appeared in such awesome memories as "Fun Times at St. Olaf" and "Officiating Kristina and Ben's Wedding."  As soon as I had a salary and PTO, one of the first trips I wanted to cross off my list was a visit to see Linz!

Yesterday I bummed around Berkeley while Linz was at work, visited a few of my old haunts and got re-acquainted with my old friend BART.  Today is LINDSEY'S BIRTHDAY, so we have big plans for brunch, frolicking around San Fran, and celebrating in grand style.

Have a great weekend!  Back next week with photos and further shenanigans.
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