My editor at Simple Good and Tasty asked all of the writers to submit what their fave local or homemade holiday gifts would be. It’s a good list. I sent my contribution on a day when I was feeling a little Zack Galifiniakis, which, is not a rarity for me, I’m afraid. In any event, if you’d like some ideas for some yummies and pretties you can pick up around town, go check it out.
So hey, looking through my list, I’m thinking not too shabby. We had a great weekend and for the first time in a long time, I feel kinda sorta on top of things, although I’m sure I’ll be back on that hamster wheel as soon as the school bell rings tomorrow morning. The week-end stretched and yawned, accommodating new plans, unexpected rain and the yen to be still.
get our pumpkins One is even shaped like a Frankenstein head!
2. go to an apple orchard. We left this until Sunday and it was just too damp and intermittently rainy to go. Maybe next week end. Or next year.
ake the damn leaves Go Dash, Go!
5. square away Halloween costumes for the little peeps. Anyone know where I can get a chicken costume that doesn’t cost 70 bucks?
work on Supergirl’s book puppet project Done. Cutest Ralph the Motorcycle Mouse ever.
go see the Minnesota Stars play in the Championship Series on Saturday night – along with the pre-game Joy of the People soccer frolic and tailgating. We bundled up, brought tons of blankets and had a blast watching the Stars dominate the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. Score was 3-1 and the Stars scored all the goals, even their own. Eeek! You guys, there are a lot of soccer people in this town. Lovely to huddle into bleachers with all of them. Shine On, Stars!
make pizzas Go Dash, Go!
go to the farmers market (always) Since it was so damp on Sunday morning, I buzzed over by myself. Red kale, regular kale, garlic, squash, skirt steak, eggs, spinach, donuts, done.
have people over Sometimes a last minute, impromptu fest is the best way to go. Mixed up some peeps who didn’t know each other, included the chitlins, and braised up a big pork butt from Clancy’s. It was a hilarious night (and delicious, I think).
12. go for a hike.
pull the dead flowers out of the damn window boxes I was a BEAST in the garden on Saturday. I pointed some speakers out the windows and went to town. Not only did I clean out the window boxes, I weeded the whole garden and planted 70 tulip bulbs. I did it people! I finally did it! But listen, planting bulbs is some hard-ass work! Now I’ll need to watch Bravo TV for two days to recover. Phew.
All the kids got a couple play dates each and we also finally tried out The Anchor Fish and Chips before the soccer game on Saturday night and fell head over heels. Cool vibe, great food. And on Sunday, after a lazy brunch at Sun Street Breads (we are all crazy for the egg, bacon and cheese biscuits) I took the brood on a surprise visit to Sugar Sugar at the suggestion of Supergirlfan. What an adorable candy shop! I’m not even a candy person, but the owner has such a beautiful aesthetic and collection of old-timey and pretty candy, that I was completely charmed. This place is a little jewel, so if you haven’t been, Go! and go often, so she sticks around. Lovely.
Here’s that handsome Ralph.
The holidays are fast approaching, and like it or not, we’re going to be dropping some cash in an effort to buy that elusive perfect gift for the peeps in our lives. I’ve been meaning to revisit the 3/50 Project (remember? spend $50 bucks a month in 3 local stores) for AGES, and now is a perfect time to think about supporting our local businesses. Chances are, if we step into that little antique store or flower shop around the corner, we’re going to find something a lot more interesting than we ever would at Target. Instead of clogged parking, jostling carts and long lines, we’ll get to browse, chat, connect, possibly learn something new and feel our roots in this city spread out and down. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if we want small, independent, local businesses to thrive, we have to support them. They are the reason we love our neighborhoods the way we do, so shop up, my beauties!
This weekend is a good time to start! The 50th and Xerxes 8th Annual Holiday Shop and Stroll is being held this Saturday November 20 from 10-6 and Sunday November 21 from 12-5. Everything will be 20% off and trust me, from what I saw today, the stores are chocked full and dressed to the nines for the holidays. I highly recommend a look-see.
Specifically, don’t miss The Vintage Studio. I’ve been meaning to send you all over there for quite a while. In fact, if you’ve seen me in my super sexy seventies silver chain belt, then I probably already have. If you drive up and down 50th a zillion times a day like I do, then you might have seen the sweet little shop tucked in the old Shop in the City space. It’s definitely worth popping in, even if vintage isn’t your thing. Owner, Karen Kinney-McMullan, has a beautifully edited and displayed collection of clothes, jewelry, barware, belts and other pretty baubles. You feel like you’ve stepped into Diane von Fustenberg’s boudoire circa 1968. Chic and sexy – it’s the perfect place to pick up a smart little clutch or a new choker for all those holiday parties. Her stuff is cool, affordable (it really, truly is) and most importantly, unique. Why order a bracelet from J. Crew (don’t get me wrong, their jewelry is super cute) when you can get the real thing right in your neighborhood? Who wouldn’t rather have a cocktail ring with a story? Plush supper clubs, smoky speakeasies, grand dinner parties, epic love affairs . . . If a brooch could talk.
The Vintage Studio is located at 3016 W. 50th Street, Minneapolis, MN
Right across the street is an old fave of mine, Gallery 360. I have always been able to find unique and beautiful things in this store and it is an absolute treasure trove of gifts – anything from paintings to pot holders to ceramics to rockin’ leather cuffs. It’s almost impossible to describe the breadth and variety of beautiful handcrafted pieces, except to say it’s sort of magical. Owner, Merry Beck, has a knack for bringing together and celebrating largely local artists and artisans who create things that are sometimes quirky, sometimes edgy, always beautiful. I don’t think there is one person in my family who hasn’t gotten something from Gallery 360.
Gallery 360 is located at 3011 West 50th Street, Minneapolis, MN
Just like no one should be buying a clutch from a big box store, no one should be buying soccer cleats from one either. We’ve been going to Planet Soccer on Lyndale for a couple years now and every time we walk out of there, I’m so glad we chose to go north on Lyndale instead of south. Saint James likes a little flair on his feet and found a pair of lavender and orange cleats that are just the coolest. His indoor soccer shoes are a relatively conservative black, but they’ve got hot pink soles and laces. And if your mini soccer player wants a real Barcelona or AFA jersey, this is the place. Again, balls, cleats, jerseys, socks, shin guards – it’s all stuff we’d be buying anyway, so why not throw our dollars in the direction of this cool little store? Dick’s Sporting Goods doesn’t need me. Sports Mart doesn’t need me. But Planet Soccer? I think they kind of do. So why not?
Planet Soccer is located at 2716 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN
And if any of you are going through farmers market withdrawal like I am, get ye to Tangletown Gardens post haste. Aside from being a breath of fresh air and one of the prettiest of our neighborhood garden stores, they have a farm where they grow all sorts of heirloom veggies all summer long. Admittedly, I was so wrapped up in our various farmers markets this summer that I had sort of forgotten about this and their CSA, but last Sunday I stopped in to browse and walked out with four different kinds of potatoes and a dozen eggs. It just might be time for a bodacious frittata. And you know what else? I am hooked on fresh local eggs. Hooked, I tell you! I’ll never go back, not as long as I can help it. Who knew yolks could be orange? Gorgeous. Even as winter approaches, especially as winter approaches, Tangletown Gardens is a pretty little escape with the kids – follow it up with some custard or hot cocoa at Liberty next door and you’ve got your Saturday afternoon.
Tangletown Gardens is located at 5353 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN
Photo by Devil Baby
I have been thinking a lot about happiness and hope lately. I think people think I’m much more of an optimist than I really am. I’m not. I’m actually quite cynical. Once, I stumbled upon the term “a Russian soul” and I had a shiver of recognition. I’m not Russian, but I’ve read enough Russian literature to know: I’ve got a Russian soul. Subject to melancholy, a worrier, glass half empty, prone to fits of pique. You know the type. Maybe you are the type. But I don’t want to be the type, hence the perpetual noodling.
Life is short and a failure to see the beauty and count your blessings is actually, when you think about it, a careless act of cruelty. To yourself. But it’s so hard to be positive and present, right? And therein lies the rub. It’s kind of emblematic of the human condition. Or maybe that’s too sweeping. It’s emblematic of my condition – let’s leave it at that. We’ve talked about this before, many times. It’s a preoccupation of mine because despite my Russian soul, I want to be happy. I try to be happy. Every day, I start over, and my level of success is sketchy, at best.
At book club, during an intense and difficult discussion of The Road, the Ladies wondered how the protagonist was able to keep going, or why he bothered to keep going when nothing he could perceive with his senses or imagine with his rational mind would lead him to believe that there was anything worth living for. Quite the contrary, the danger to which he was exposing himself and, more poignantly for our book club, his son, should have outweighed any naive spark of hope he had stoking in his heart. And yet he continued on. When many others had chosen not to, he did. Is it a defining characteristic of a person to have this hope, this will to push forward, whatever the cost? Why did some, quite understandably given the circumstances, choose to opt out of the devastation, the evil, the horror that the world had become? We wondered about ourselves, what would we have done? It’s impossible to know, from the comfort of Lady Pretty Twigs’ warm and comfy living room.
On Friday night I went out with Creeper Bud and Hot Breeches to see Jamie Lidell at the Cedar. (He deserves a separate gushing music post and I will do it if I have time, but for now, suffice it to say that this vaguely nerdy British white boy has seriously got it going on.) Our night was the best kind of sandwich: a wildly entertaining soulful and booty shaking concert stuffed between two great meandering beery chats. At one point after the show we were talking about global warming and the general “hell in a handbasket” status quo (ya, I know, why, right?) and how it’s hard not to feel completely dejected about everything. Hot Breeches nodded knowingly and said, Ya, but you just can’t let yourself go there. And it’s true, we can’t. We’ve got children to care for and lunches to make. We’ve got lives to live.
I realized then and I said to my sweet companions that I think that I gravitate toward things that are beautiful or funny or whimsical or enlightening as a reaction to the dark. When I see something that strikes a happiness chord in my chest, I go after it, like a dog after a squirrel. I chase and dig and bark. I find out more about it, take a picture and put it on my blog. It is my attempt to fight the part of myself that sits, legs dangling, over a chasm of despair. These are some bad times, environmentally, economically, morally, religiously (Catholic church, I’m looking at you!), and I don’t see enough evidence that the things that need to happen to make things better are happening. But on a micro level, in day to day life, there is plenty that gives me hope. I just have to keep my eyes open.
I took this picture a couple weeks ago. I saw this sign on my walk and went back with my camera later because I was so touched by it. I was struck not only by how lucky we are to live in a city where 1. people are actually around and 2. people will actually help, but also by this individual’s need to reach out and offer his or her thanks to those people; enough to compose a letter, print it out, cover it in plastic, put it on a stick and stake it firmly in the grass. It gave me hope.
This blog, Peevish Mama, started out as a place to bitch, to vent, to put my mommy angst. I wanted to redirect my frustration and ire away from my brood and into the ether. But when I look at my “peeves” category versus my “pleasures” category, I’m surprised by the difference. You want to know the score? Peeves: 24 Pleasures: 86. Not bad for a peevish mama with a Russian soul. I guess.
And now for a bit of happiness, here’s a little Jamie Lidell for your viewing pleasure.
Since I became aware of the 350 Project, two local gems, which I have blogged about, have shuttered their storefronts. I am choosing to avoid the paranoid suspicion that I am a jinx, although I have proven myself to be a jinx in at least one boy girl matchmaking attempt gone terribly, terribly awry – but that is a story for another time.
Leuhmann, the tiny, quirky store at 50th and Bryant filled with antiques, shells, fossils, skulls, feathers, branches, vintage taxidermied creatures and all sorts of other intriguing natural curiosities has sadly closed.
Even more personally devastating to me, despite my blustery threats of becoming a vegetarian, is the loss of Galoony’s, home of Minneapolis’ most toothsome steak and cheese sub. I have been satisfying my cravings for these spicy, meaty babies at Galoony’s since 1995 when I first moved to Minneapolis and to my great joy, had most recently turned Supergirl on to the satisfying wonders of what she called “the meat sandwich.” I will never forget the moment I found out I would be losing my beloved steak and cheese spot – I was eating breakfast in the dining room when I read about it in the Southwest Pages and my shriek to the high heavens brought my family running from all corners of the house. Supergirl felt my pain and joined me in my sorry incantation: Nooooooo, noooooo, say it ain’t soooooo. ohhhhh. Galoooooony’s. ohhhhh nooooooo.
So the point of all this drama? This is for real, people. These are tough times and if we don’t make a deliberate effort to support our local businesses, they flounder and they fail. The last thing any of us wants, is to live in a land where big box national chains choke out the people who are creative enough, enterprising enough, brave enough, crazy enough to throw their hats into the ring of commerce and make a go of starting a small business.
Connectedness, conversation, depth of knowledge, passion, craftsmanship, authenticity, uniqueness, diversity – these are all things you find in your corner shop, whether it be a boutique, hardware store or butcher. Sad will be the day when the only person taking my cash is wearing a red shirt and asking if I want to save ten percent by opening a Target card. So with that, here are three more of mine. Please send me three of yours, even if, especially if, you live somewhere else. We all love a hot tip!
Kingfield Farmers Market. I love all farmers markets, but I was particularly smitten by this one because it’s the one I most often forget about. Open on Sundays from nine to one thirty at 43rd and Nicollet Ave., it’s teeny tiny but it has one or two of everything your heart desires: almonds, tomato plants, fresh eggs, cheese, fancy jerky, homemade cookies, tacos, organic meats, fresh squeezed fruit juice, and a cornucopia of fresh organic local fruits and veggies. There are always musicians and artisans for the kids to ogle and all in all, it’s a quick and easy little jaunt whether you want to bang it out in under an hour or while away the morning, noshing on yummies and chit chatting with people.
Photo by David J. Turner.
Ladyslipper Boutique. Do yourself a favor and slip into Ladyslipper at 4940 France Ave. S. in Edina. Owned by the Bluebird Boutique ladies (Sasha Martin and Allison Mowery) plus my super stylish pool friend Amanda Rose, it feels like you’ve slipped into the tip of a genie’s lamp, were said genie an accessories maven with an eye for pieces that bellydance between edgy and lady-like, chunky and dainty, modern and vintage. Guilted mirrors, chandeliers, zebra rugs, and plushy rose ottomans, it feels decadent and lovely, yet casual and lively. I was not surprised to find that I loved everything, and I mean everything in the store from the killer boots, to the tremendous bags to the one of a kind jewelry. (Doctor Dash: take note, lover!) These girls have managed to pull together an exquisitely edited collection of goodies at a range price points (some startlingly reasonable). I went in looking for a statement necklace for my brother’s wedding and after a bit of oohing and aahing, chatting, and fondling of merchandize, Amanda pointed out some necklaces made by a local sistah named Tracy Bennett under the name Scout (which I love). Each necklace is unique, made of vintage necklaces, bracelets and brooches, strung together in a way that I can only describe as quirky genius. The necklaces are asymnetrical, chunky, and modern, but derive a drapey, sweetness from the vintage pieces of which they’re made. The one I finally chose has two pretty brooches anchoring a riot of silver and gold chains and simply makes me happy. If you are a girlie girl with a bit of an attitude, duck into Ladyslipper and take a little browse. You’ll find your three wishes in a heartbeat!
Rice Paper. Tucked into leafy Linden Hills, this quiet little spot never fails to hit the spot. With a simple menu of fresh and lively Vietnamese/Thai fusion cuisine, it’s the perfect place for vegetarians or those who want major flavor, without having to roll themselves out the door. While the dishes are light and healthy, your taste buds will be shaking their booties from all the cilantro, lime, chili, and coconut love. The peanut sauce that comes with the spring rolls is to die for and they sell it to go, should you ever want to bathe in it, which, I can assure you, you will.
Cafe Ena – a couple weeks ago Nanook and Crackerjack rescued me from myself and swept me away to this Kingfield Neighborhood gem for a little Monday night love. I’ve always loved Cafe Ena for lunch with the kids because it’s never too crowded, has awesome grown up food but a totally kids are welcome here vibe. It’s the holy grail for foodies with chitlins. This was my first time for dinner and, lucky us, bottles of wine are half off on Monday nights. So we indulged in some beautiful South American whites while chatting and tucking into our toothsome dinners. Were I a real food critic, I would have made a point of trying everyone’s food, but alas I was too distracted by my jambalaya because it ROCKED! I pretty much hovered over my own plate until every last snappy, succulent grain of rice had disappeared. I ordered it spicy and it was perfect – although I was most definitely on the verge in the best way – high color in the cheeks, slightly glassy eyes, fiery buzz. Mark my words. I will be back for that jambalaya.
Birchbark Books – The other day when I was going for my post preschool drop off sanity drive, my minivan somehow ended up parked in front of this adorable Kenwood Neighborhood bookstore. I have always loved Birchbark Books, but since it’s not on my flight path, I don’t often make it over there. Pity, because stepping in, you feel like you are trespassing in the hidden away cabin of an earthy and magical book witch. It really is enchanting. My heart quickens in any bookstore, but more so here. Something about how the books are displayed, the soulful Native American presence, the carefully edited choices, make me feel like a kid in a candy store – like anything I pluck off a shelf will be a treat and a treasure. Maybe the book witch touch comes from its owner, an author I love, Louise Erdrich, who writes many of the handwritten reviews taped up on little cards in the stacks, drawing your eye to the really special books – the ones that really are words spun into magic. I cannot possibly improve upon their mission statement, so here it is: Boozhoo! Welcome! Birchbark Books is operated by a spirited collection of people who believe in the power of good writing, the beauty of hand made art, the strength of Native culture, and the importance of small and intimate bookstores. Our books are lovingly chosen. Our store is tended with care.
Liberty Custard – Apparently frozen custard is a big Wisconsin thing – not surprising that the folks who thought to batter and deep fry cheese curds should think it a fine idea to add more cream to ice cream. But I’m glad they did. On both counts. Liberty is housed in a cleverly converted gas station and manages to be retro, industrial and homey at the same time. Aside from the amazing custard, they serve really fresh sandwiches, (including a new Scott Ja-Mamas‘ pulled pork sandwich that has my name written on it), soups, hotdogs, pizza, and fancy coffee. They have vintage pinball and other games to occupy the kids, as well as a little red car that bumps along for 25 cents worth of minutes and has made each of my children grin and imagine wild rides in their toddler years. Best of all they sell toy guns and candy cigarettes. How’s that for refreshingly un-pc? Independent, indeed!
Share the love. For more info on the 3/50 Project.
Today I stumbled upon this very cool grass roots movement to preserve independent local businesses and am feeling halleluia grateful that there are people out there who are thinking what I’m thinking, but actually get off their fat asses to do something about it. I think this is a beautiful, inspired idea and although it’s something a lot of us feel on an amorphous, gut level, it’s helpful to have it all boiled down to the nitty gritty.
In Minneapolis, we are blessed with countless galleries, clothing boutiques, restaurants, book stores, coffee shops, ice cream shops, hardware stores and garden stores tucked away into our neighborhoods like aces and queens in a deck of cards. That’s why we Minneapolitans are all still here – paying more money for less house and putting up with the airplane noise. We stay so we can see more blue signs than red during election season, for the privilege of having the lakes belong to all of us, not just the lucky few with houses around them, and because of our neighborhood businesses. We’re here because we have sidewalks, which means there’s a designated spot for chatting with neighbors and, um, walking and hey, we actually have somewhere to walk to!
Within walking distance of my house I could purchase a pair of antlers, a bat skeleton or a dried Manzanita branch at Leuhmann, a card, a Laguiole wine opener, a diary or a baby gift at Patina, a chocolate shake and a burger at the Malt Shop, a glass of Prosecco and a Walleye Po’Boy at Blackbird Cafe, or sauteed Australian sea bass, parsley puree, parsnips and creamy mussel foam with a side of pappardelle with black truffles at Heidi’s. And that’s just one corner! Also at that intersection are an eco-luxe home design and furnishings store called Casa Verde, an upholstery shop, a bird supplies store, and the very sweet dry cleaner we go to. If I walk the other direction I can get to the library, my supermarket, a massage and acupuncture place called Praxis, and a cute new yoga place called Sigh.
We’re all busy and trying like nobody’s business to multitask – to crank out those errands in the two and a half hours the kid is at preschool. If I’m at Target and I need thank you notes, I’ll probably save myself the trip to the neighborhood card shop and just pick them up. The 3/50 Project is a good reminder to stop and think about where else I could be spending my dollars. Where will they do more good, be more enriching for our community, and sustain the kind of diverse and colorful businesses I want within walking distance of my house?
It’s not about spending more money – it’s about being smart about where we spend our money. It’s about not taking our little businesses for granted.
Here are the three businesses where I plan to show a little love this month. And please, oh please, tell me yours. We all love a hot tip.
Grand Cafe – my friend Lady Doctah K swept me and my knee away for a little lunchy on Friday and I have been kicking myself ever since that I don’t go Grand Cafe every single damn day. It’s been far too long and how, but how could I have forgotten how charming and perfect this little place is? Here is an example of a place that I love which could die for lack of attention – like a plant – and then I would spend the rest of my days moaning about how much I miss Grand Cafe while secretly (and rightfully) feeling wretchedly guilty. But it’s not too late! It’s still cool and unfussy inside, in that Parisian, worn wood, tiny booth, big kitchen stuffed in the back that turns out miracles on white plates kind of way. I had the polenta with a spinach, caramelized onion and artichoke sauté in a beautiful pool of Romesco sauce and it was heavenly. The polenta looked like two huge scallops and was light, nutty and the perfect sponge for the sweet, peppery, almond-crunchy Romesco. Lady Doctah K had a beautiful potato parsnip soup with a swirl of smoked almond picata and a delicious looking Caesar salad which came with a crispy piece of pancetta sitting on top of it like a jaunty hat. I tried the pancetta and it was like a succulent pig and a crispy potato chip shattered all taboos, defied their families, fell in love and had a beautiful saltydelicious baby.
Cliché - my friend Lady Canada (I’ve decided everyone from book club will be a lady), who also happens to be a personal style consultant, told me about Cliché and although I hate to give away my secret gems, I must and will for the greater good. I love this store. It’s totally quirky, hip and edgy yet lady-like. Husband and wife team Joshua and Delayna Sundberg feature lots of local talent and manage to make the store seem casual and almost homey. Cliché’s selection perfectly dovetails with my mix it up, high low, frilly butch, fashion ethos. Doctor Dash bought me a really cool bag there for Christmas by a local designer named NIKI – it was reasonably priced, beautifully made and cooler than any IT bag out there for quadruple the price. Lovey. Love. Love.
Uncommon Gardens - There are a number of lovely garden stores around here, so it’s hard to pick one, but I like Uncommon Gardens because the owner, Peggy Poore, and all of her staff are very nice women who know their stuff. They’re willing to help but equally good at backing off when you need a little space to screw up your face trying to get a mental image of your side yard. There are a couple of cats roaming around, which amuse Devil Baby, and it’s compact enough that I can let the kids wander while I shop. She specializes in hard to find plant varietals and cool, out-of-the-ordinary garden decor, so you could go nuts if you were a real garden geek. I am not, but I’ve always found everything I need and more. I happen to love this garden maven’s beautiful space and I would like her business to thrive like a robust (insert appropriate geeky plant simile here).
Share the love. For more info on the 3/50 Project.