Monday, June 30, 2008

Greetings from Hayward, wish you were here!

Hayward, Wisconsin. Home of Cal Johnson and his world-record musky! Also, home of the American Birkebeiner and the Lumberjack World Championships.

Sounds like fun, no?

When you live in Minnesota, cities like Hayward are where you go to get away for the weekend. The whole "up north" concept was a new one to me...up north to people in Joliet is Gurnee. Or, at the very furthest, Lake Geneva. Neither of which offers much in the way of lumberjacks or muskies.

When you ask a Minnesotan what their plans are for the weekend, you will almost always hear "Ah, well, ya know - we're headed up north to the lake." To Minnesotans, "up north" is pretty much anywhere you drive for the weekend. And "the lake" means the lake where they have a cabin. You never get the name of the lake, it's just "the lake."

Minnesota is a weird, weird place.

Since I am not one for cabins, and I strongly prefer swimming in a pool, the whole "up north" thing has not really caught on in our house. Unfortunately, our options for a quick weekend getaway are limited. And Nate and I are big on the weekend getaway. Since our schedules are hectic and we often go days without seeing each other, we've made traveling together a priority.

And one of our very favorite places to go is Hayward, Wisconsin.

No kidding.

For our first anniversary, Nate and I decided to try out a little B&B in Hayward. It's a quick two hour drive from Minneapolis, and the place was on the front page of Minnesota Monthly's issue featuring the Top 10 Awesome Inns. Why not give it a shot?

Oh. My. Goodness.

The McCormick House has become our very favorite place to visit. It is a breath of fresh air, as far as B&Bs go (no frills, no lacy stuff), and it's up north in location only. Nary a moose head to be found. It's a beautiful victorian house, restored in a way that preserves the old, but welcomes the new. It is essentially the exact house I would like to own, from the huge front porch to the sweeping staircase and historic fireplaces. They have a beautiful english garden, plush outdoor furniture, a bright green lawn, and a tranquil pond. It's like living in Restoration Hardware, or Williams Sonoma. Absolutely dreamy.

Nate and I went back this past weekend, and we had a lovely time — we shopped around Hayward, spent some time alone with our feet in the water at a secluded lake, ate at two really good restaurants, stopped for ice cream, spent hours lounging outside (me with a book, Nate with a crossword), played croquet, watched the sun set with a glass of wine in the hot tub, watched a movie in bed, and just enjoyed being together.

It was the perfect weekend "up north" for this not-quite-Minnesotan girl.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Good things.

My mother has the largest collection of good things in the world.

Next to Martha, of course.

More specifically, my mom has everything one might need to throw a perfect dinner party: plates of varying sizes, shapes, patterns and colors; cloth napkins for every occasion; serving bowls and platters; multiple sets of silver; goblets; glasses; mugs; napkin rings; chargers; tablecloths and runners; candlesticks, vases, etc. etc. The list is never ending, as is her need for additional storage space.

She is an excellent party planning resource. Unfortunately, she lives 400 miles away.

Which is why I've started my own collection of good things.

When Nate and I got married, most everything we registered for was related to entertaining. Nate loves to cook and I love to make things pretty, so entertaining is kind of our thing. We don't do it very often, but it's something we both enjoy. We received the most beautiful entertaining pieces for our wedding: platters, napkins, table runners, candleholders, serving utensils, sugar bowls, crystal stemware. When I opened our first china place setting, I cried.

Since then I've collected beautiful vintage napkins and tablecloths from both of Nate's grandmothers. And I've purchased a number of other necessary items — most recently a white ceramic toothpick holder with a little domed cover, and a miniature salt and pepper set. I also bought a darling little apron, because it's important to look cute for your husband while setting the table for guests. (At least that's what I tell myself. It's not like I'll be cooking anything in it.)

I have just about everything I need to comfortably accommodate eight guests at a last-minute dinner party — a basic requirement for any good hostess.

The one thing I don't have (that I really, really, really want) is a set of plates by Jessica Rust Designs. I keep running into her work — O at Home, Real Simple — and I love it. She has a number of ready-made designs, but will also turn a photo of your house into a little illustration and put it on a plate. So sweet, I can barely stand it.

Wouldn't our front door look adorable on a plate?

Good things, indeed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sonic watch 2008: It's here, and it's delicious.

After a 45-minute drive* to the newly-opened Sonic last Tuesday night, I was:

1) Shooed away from the Sonic entrance by a police officer.
2) Sent around the block by a number of signs directing me toward the "Sonic Staging Area."
3) Corralled into a parking lot with at least 20 other cars.
4) Given a Sonic sign for my windshield.
5) Asked to line up, single file, behind a bunch of other cars.
6) Told to wait (for 25 minutes with no escape route).
7) Given the go-ahead to approach the Sonic entrance for the second time.
8) Shooed into Sonic by the same police officer.
9) Waved into the drive-thru by a woman who took the Sonic sign off my windshield.
10) Finally able to order a cheeseburger, tater tots and a diet cherry limeaid.
11) Absolutely delighted.

*Sonic is 45 minutes from work. But only 10 minutes from home, thank goodness.

Here's the pic I took with my cell phone and sent to Nate on my way home:

I know. I'm a complete dork.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My summer back-up plan.

So, as I said earlier, it's been pretty crappy outside, and my dog keeps giving me the staredown because she wants to go outside to play. But I'm sorry, I am not going to run around the yard when tornado sirens are going off and Sven Sundgaard is threatening me with quarter size hail.

Which is just about every other day lately.

When you can't go outside to play, there are really only two other options: go shopping or watch tv. Shopping is by far my favorite pastime, but it's expensive. TV is free. Well, practically free. Actually, not even close to free. We pay Comcast a whole bunch of money every month. But that bill is kind of like student loans — a fact of life. Maybe that's not the case for everyone, but definitely for us. Especially now that Nate's pursuing another degree at another private school.

Moving on...

While I am still doing my fair share to stimulate the economy, times are tough and it's important to consider less costly entertainment options. Which leads us back to television. No doubt there are fewer shows to watch during the summer months (and historically the quality of these shows has been questionable). But things are improving. For example, last summer Nate and I were completely enthralled by a show called Damages — an exceptionally good, very creepy series on FX starring Glenn Close. Unfortunately Damages won't be back until 2009. But still — an excellent example of top-notch summer programming.

On the flip side, mindless entertainment is entirely acceptable during the summer months. Enter the TBS series My Boys — 30 minutes of light, breezy television once a week. No thinking required. I feel like So You Think You Can Dance might also fit into that category. No thinking, just really, really good dancing.

Another form of viewing I look forward to in the summer is reruns. I rarely miss an episode of anything (thanks, DVR!), but the summer is a great time to catch up on really amazing shows you may have missed during the regular season. It's also a good time to plow through a television series on DVD. Right now Nate and I are watching Six Feet Under. I love it. And thankfully we don't have to wait a week for the next episode.

Here's a list of what I'll be watching this summer:

TV on TV

My Boys: Thursdays at 8:30pm on TBS
So You Think You Can Dance: Wednesdays at 7pm and Thursdays at 8pm on FOX
Psych: Season 3 begins July 18 at 9pm on USA
Burn Notice: Season 2 begins July 10 at 9pm on USA
Swingtown: Thursdays at 9pm on CBS (Warning: trashy subject matter.)
Project Runway: Season 5 begins July 16 on Bravo

Six Feet Under, Complete Series
My So-Called Life, Complete Series
Dexter, Season 2
Mad Men, Season 1

I know, seems like a fairly extensive lineup. But if the weather doesn't improve, I may be forced to expand this list...

New flowers, new fence.

The title pretty much sums it up.

Even though our midwestern summer has been rainy, severe weather-y and pretty much awful, we've managed to make some progress in the yard.

Three weeks ago we planted our little hearts out. We bought a bunch of perennials for the flower bed around the pond (joe pye weed, arizona blanket flowers, tiger lilies, cat mint, black-eyed susans and something else i can't remember) and planted violas around the front. The violas are awesome and much more weather-resistant than the pansies we planted last summer. We also planted snapdragons along the back of the pond (Forty of them — it's going to be insane when they get tall) and some zinneas. Last year's perennial additions (salvia, sedum) are thriving and look really nice, if a little massive. It's been fun watching everything bloom...I'm sure we'll have some changes to make based on how everything grows in, but we're happy so far.

The two big pots on our back patio are full of multi-colored begonias and a blue flowering vine (I keep forgetting what it's called, but it gets big and fluffy and fabulous). We also have smaller pots of marigolds and impatiens, which are thriving. I'm a little frustrated with the begonia pots, as there appears to be a bird picking at the blooms. They look a little ragged right now, but I hope they will fill in as well as they did last summer.

Our two front pots are full of happy red geraniums. My mom thinks geraniums are an old lady flower, but I love them. We also planted a verbenum bush out front, which is supposed to get up to 10 feet tall. It's well on its way.

We split a few hosta and planted those throughout the shade garden under our pine trees, along with two bleeding hearts for a little bit of color. (Again, kind of old lady, but I love the little pink heart-shaped flowers.) We also picked up a hanging basket at the farmer's market — giant white impatiens and fuchsia — and hung that under the trees. And there's a big, cheerful pot of pansies on the table.

And finally, the fence. Mattie is SO happy. She can't wait to go outside, and sits by the back door and looks at us like "Um, hello? We could be outside having fun right now. What's the hold up?" We love being able to play with her in the yard.

Of course, it's been raining constantly since we completed all of this work. Great for our plants, but not so great for enjoying them.

Oh, the irony.

A few pictures of the yard...and one of our happy puppy, too.

Best day ever.

I spent most of last week on my couch — wheezing, hacking, sneezing and feeling generally sorry for my sad, sick self. It was all very pathetic. Thank goodness for Law & Order reruns on TNT, and my loving husband — who worked 12 hour days caring for sick people only to come home and care for me.

Despite my debilitating cold, I got up last Tuesday morning determined to make it to work. Tuesday was Magazine Day, one of my favorite days of the year. Seriously, it's up there with Christmas and my birthday.

I LOVE magazines.

I have always been a voracious reader. While I was primarily interested in Nancy Drew and Judy Blume as a kid, I loved flipping through my mom's Good Housekeeping and sneaking peeks at her Redbook. (I wasn't supposed to read Redbook. My mom kept that on top of the china cabinet so we couldn't get to it, but I was smart enough to stand on a chair. A girl's gotta get her sex ed from a reliable source!) My mom also subscribed to People, which was (and still is) my favorite. That magazine caused many fights in our household — we all wanted to be the first to read it when it came on Friday, and getting it usually required trickery or a physical altercation.

Thankfully, I now have the ability to read any magazine I want — without having to stand on a chair or tackle my siblings. Currently, Nate and I subscribe to Lucky, Real Simple, People, InStyle, Domino, Martha Stewart, Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Saveur. (I think it's pretty clear who gets what.) Nothing makes me happier than finding a new magazine in my mailbox. Unfortunately, I usually power through them in about an hour, and I'm left with nothing to read for the next 29 days. (Or the next six days, as far as People is concerned.)

This is why Magazine Day comes in handy.

Every year, a professional association I belong to sponsors this event. Basically you pay $60, they give you a tote bag, and you get to take home as many magazines as you can carry. Oh, and there's also a speaker (for example, the editor-in-chief of Newsweek), but seriously. We're all there for the magazines. I went for the first time last year, and I was in awe. People bring suitcases. That's right, SUITCASES. And they fill them up with magazines and roll them out to their cars. I only had the tiny tote bag they provided...thankfully, I always carry a huge purse. I think I brought over 50 magazines home that day. It was awesome.

So, when I got the invite this year, I signed up immediately. (Side note: my employer actually pays for me to attend this event. Thank you, employer!) And there was no amount of coughing or nausea that could keep me from going. I dragged myself out of bed, threw on a suit, and headed downtown. I stayed long enough to fill my two tote bags and huge purse with magazines...and then came home. (Sorry, Mr. Newsweek.)

Blurry photo below. I should be good on magazines for a while.

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