good things grow

goodthingsgrow
Every now and again, I read words that speak to my heart and inspire my way of living. Emerson’s conviction that, “the more experiments you make the better” guided my college years (& inspired many adventures), Thoreau’s mandate that we “simplify, simplify, simplify” saw me through graduate school, and the wisdom of Goerthe colored my post-grad years, “Never let the things that matter most be at the mercy of the things that matter least.”
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Recently, I’ve been living by my own motto to embrace the future and remember how much time I still have: enough time to try new things, meet new people, discover new places, and become the person I’ve always wanted to be.
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I’ve always looked forward to the future, but it seems even more important to ‘dream forward’ as I grow older.  The past is important, yes, but it doesn’t need to determine what comes next.  I remind myself that ambitious projects might take a while, but the time will pass anyway – might as well pursue things I’m passionate about.
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I’ve gone and done it again — shared many more thoughts than necessary to simply tell you that a Rainbow Rowell quote inspired me so much that I made a graphic and corresponding PDF (download here :goodthingsgrow).  The other thing I meant to tell you about?  The urban flower garden that recently popped up in St. Paul.
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The garden uses painted rocks instead of flowers, and a two-story mural provides a fun backdrop for the space.  We had fun exploring the area, and there just so happened to be *free* BBQ during our visit. Fast fact: BBQ is my favorite food.
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Do you have any guiding philosophies?  Favorite food?  Have you ever been to an urban flower farm?  Check out The Ink Nest for drawings like the flowers in my graphic.heart

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every girl

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Him: “So nice to finally meet you.”
Me: “Me? There must be a mistake, I don’t think we know each other.”
Him: “Oh, you’re not Sarah/Chrissy/Anna?”
Me: “No, sorry – My name is Jen.”
Him: “Oops.”

Two minutes later, a 5’5” girl with brown hair and hazel eyes enters and the man approaches Sarah/Chrissy/Anna.  This time, however, the two of them walk off hand-in-hand to order coffee from the barista.  My guess?  It’s their first date, and the guy confused me with the itsy-bitsy photo he’d seen on Sarah/Chrissy/Anna’s online profile.
IMG_8242I’m often told that I resemble so&so’s sister, a co-worker’s friend, or a stranger’s cousin.  All the comments got me wondering: what does the average person look like?  I did a Google search and found a project called Face of Tomorrow that documents what the average person looks like in every country.  The artist hasn’t reached America yet, but I kinda look like a composite of girls from other countries (including Australia):
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All the research on ‘the average person’ made me wonder if people present themselves differently on internet dating profiles.  A little more digging and I learned, “fifty-three percent of American people surveyed said they lied in their online dating profiles.”  And when it comes to photographs, “the more attractive the picture, the more likely it is to be out-of-date.”  Interesting, right?  No wonder people have trouble finding their date in a crowd.photo (72)
That’s all I’ve got for online dating, but I’d love to hear from you: any tales from Match, Tinder or Hinge?  Any stories that make you laugh or cringe?view
My dinner club met last night, and we spent a good 20-minutes talking about how much we enjoy going to the movies.  By the end of the meal, we decided to forgo August dinner and do brunch and a movie.  I started making a list of August releases, and my top picks were Belle and What If.  photo (73)While I was watching trailers, a friend called asked if I wanted to see Boyhood in an hour.  The movie got 99% positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, and so we spent the afternoon cozied up in the theater.  Final verdict?  See the film.

Do you go to the movies often?  Is there anything you’d recommend seeing?

drink it up


0“If I forget to tell you later, I had a really great time tonight.”  Growing up, my mom had a strict policy regarding ‘age-appropriate’ movies, but the rules went out the proverbial window whenever Pretty Woman was on TV.  My mom placed her hands over my eyes whenever things got racy, but I still got to see Julia Roberts sing, “I just need your extra time and your ka-ka-ka-kissss” in the bathtub, and thank Richard Gere for a wonderful date before they even boarded his jet-plane (heading to the opera in San Francisco).
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My heart is bursting with gratitude, and this weekend I felt like Julia when I wanted to thank everyone for good times and happy moments before they even occurred.  Truth is, good times seem inevitable when you surround yourself with kindred spirits and loved ones.  It also helps when you’re able to spend summer in Minneapolis (seventy and sunny in the city of lakes? Yes please).

2We went to a block party last night, and a few people asked how we’ve enjoyed living in Minneapolis so far.  Our answer?  A mixture of ‘we’re never moving,” “we love the blend of culture and nature,” and “we’ve never met such warm and welcoming people.”  We spent today at the Minneapolis Aquatennial, a celebration of the city’s connection to water, and the famous milk-carton races reaffirmed our sentiments from the block party.  It’s pretty awesome when a city challenges the residents to race boats made entirely out of milk cartons…
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How much milk would you drink to help your team build a boat?
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The races also provided an opportunity to play with my new camera.  I tried not to be obnoxious as I ran about snapping pictures of boats, cartons, strangers, and anything else that ticked my fancy, but it was hard work pulling my finger away from the shutter button.  Is there a word for camera obsession?  “Hi, I’m Jen and I can’t stop taking pictures….”5We ended the day with ice cream at Lake Calhoun pier.  I forgot to tell Jon & company (company referring to the friends we spent the weekend with) ‘thank you’ before the weekend began, but I have plans to thank him (& them) with a rooftop BBQ on Thursday (gotta grill while the summer’s sun still shines…)

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Does your city have any unique traditions?  What was your favorite childhood film?  And, most importantly, how was your weekend?

all things

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“Are you a koala?”
“Excuse me?”
“It’s just that you’re meeting koala-my-expecations.”
A Tinder-man used the pick-up line on my friend, and she shared the comment with our book club tonight.  The silly introduction made her smile, and then it convinced the 12 of us that the man deserves a date.  Men, take notes.

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Jon and I road-tripped home from Wisconsin today, and we passed the four-hour drive listening to TED talks.  Has anyone listened to how Amy Webb hacked online dating?  I read my favorite wedding blogs as I listened to Amy talk about attracting people online, and it got me thinking about capturing ‘love at first sight.’  More specifically, we have so many photos of people that are engaged, married, and celebrating anniversaries, but we have so few images that capture the first time those people met.
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Does anyone have a photograph of the first time they met the person they ended up dating and/or marrying?  If i was a photographer, I would do a series called ‘the first glimpse.’  It would be tricky following people around on all their first dates (snapping pictures and hoping they see each other again), but I think it might be worth it.
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My head was filled with all kinds of ideas about photography and dating when I arrived home, but I shoved them aside to begin preparing for book club.  A different girl hosts each month, and July was my month: game time.
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Lucky for me, I happened to have exactly 12 of everything necessary to host the group.  Funny how things tend to work out, right?  I did get a little scroungy (is that a word?) pulling out anything that would suffice as a wineglass (oh college skills), but all is well that ends well.  Before the group arrived, Jon and I tested some drinks (I think he was just anxious to try the strawberry lemonade) and we found that slipping fruit into a wineglass ups the fannnnciness about 99%:
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Okay okay, the silly beverage photos are a little more about us playing with our new camera than trying drinks, but what can I say?  We replaced an old camera, and now I’m snapping photos left, right, and center — which makes me wonder, where do you get photo inspiration? Do you ever just want to run out the house and photograph all things? Maybe that’s just me, but I definitely felt that way today.  I had to resist every urge not to snap photos of these lovelies all night long:
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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I like good books and the girls that read them.  The ladies pictured above are some of my favorite people in Minneapolis, and I couldn’t be happier that our book club has turned into a ‘lets get together for all things’ club <3

That’s my update here: Are you in any clubs? Any suggestions for what I can photograph?

sittin’ pretty

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You can tell a lot about a person from how they handle three things: parking tickets, hot gossip, and surprise gifts. The parking ticket might be self-explanatory, but I always appreciate (aka love lots and keep around) people that take negative events in stride and focus on whatever good they can find elsewhere.
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Is hot gossip self-explanatory?  I respect people that refrain from speaking unkindly about others and/or find positive things to say in trying circumstances.  It’s fact that none of us are perfect, but why focus on the negative?  Let’s find ways to build each other up.
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The last little bit — how you handle surprises gifts  - says all kinds of things about your ability to delay gratification and remain calm in the face of tremendous excitement.  Take me, for example: I’ve always known my Christmas presents long before the morning of December 25th because I have more fun finding gifts than opening them.
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That whole diddy about parking tickets, hot gossip, and surprise gifts was presented to help you imagine my delight when I stumbled across a barn filled with old windows. Jon’s mom stored the windows after a renovation project,, and it felt like Christmas morning when I found them by accident.  I know, I know: nothing to do with parking tickets and little to do with hot gossip, but some kind of connection to surprise gifts?  Just go with it.
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Now I just have to decide what to do with the 100 windows.  Okay okay, maybe I won’t use them all- but at least 1 or 2?  That’s probably more accurate — I’ll leave the other 99/98 for another wandering crafter to uncover.  Here are some projects I’m considering:
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Frame and JarsRack, Panel Frame, Menu, Mirror, Large photo 

What do you consider ‘telling’ character situations?  What would you do with a barn full of windows?

done deal

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Yes yes yes.  I said yes all over again at 7am this morning. To be completely honest, it was the third or fourth time I promised my forever and always.  Not that I’m running around with multiple rings and loads of men, but I’ve staged a few engagements for my brother’s wedding wood-shop business.
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Lucky for us all, Jon’s parents have a gorgeous cabin in Northern Wisconsin, and their backyard is something of a fairytale.  We’ve been visiting the past couple days, and it makes me wonder how much I need to go back to the city…
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The first time I went to the cabin, Jon’s dad laughed and said I looked ‘ready to go shopping.’  In my defense, I’d been nervous to ‘meet-the-parents,’ and so I’d gone shopping for what I considered ‘cabin attire.’  I quickly learned that my boots, jeans, and sweaters were all wrong – I needed swim-wear, camo, and get’n dirty clothes.
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A few *seconds* after meeting Jon’s family, his oldest brother asked if I wanted to shoot guns in the backyard. Shoot guns? Holy macaroni — The only thing I’d ever shot was film (with a camera), but I didn’t want to appear ‘too city’ and so I said yes.  Ryan (same brother that owns the wood shop) watched as I shot a bullseye on my second try (20 gage at 50 yards).
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When Jon’s other brother, Derek, heard about my success with the gun, he asked if I’d ever caught a fish.  I answered no, but I reminded him that I was an Arizona girl living in Chicago — when would I have had the chance?
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A few hours later?  You guessed it – we headed out to the lake to cast some rods and reel some fish.  This time around, however, I failed to impress with skill and had to rely on generosity - I offered to buy ice cream for the family.  That might have been the move that won them over…
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Jon put a ring on it, but now I’m wondering whether it was the ice cream or the gun that made him so confident that I was The One.  What do you think?  And, more importantly, how was your weekend?

certified kindred

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My legs ache, my hands are blistered, and the goofy symbols on my wrists are making me laugh.  A certified FP+KS+BF came to visit, and memories of the blissful three days are stamped all over my body.
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Some confusion?  Leg pains from biking the city, blisters from paddleboarding the lakes, and ink marks from bouncers insisting we need an X-on-the-wrist to enter. Oh, and FP = Favorite Person, KS = Kindred Spirit, and BF = Best Friend.  Did anyone solve that equation without the explanation?
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Acronyms and text lingo get all kinds of negative press, but, more and more, I’m finding myself adapting the language to create new ways of saying things.  There might be some initial confusion, sure, but perhaps the new sayings become commonplace with time?  I mean, why not describe people as certified FP+KS+BF?
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I check Urban Dictionary every morning as part of my coffee+pandora+’check the news’ routine. I told Emily my favorite ‘new words of the month,’ and now I’m sharing them with you:Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 8.24.31 AM
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And now I’ve essentially gotten away from telling you about my dear friend, Emily.  The two of us met while nannying for neighboring families in Milan, and we’ve remained friends evvva since. Emily went to law school in California while I volunteered in Mexico, and then she moved to New York when I started grad school in Chicago.  A bit of jaunting around the country, and now she’s in Texas and I’m in Minnesota.
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We’ve managed to visit each other in all the cities I just mentioned, and the travel has me musing about the importance of commitment over convenience in friendship.  Yes, it’d be great if we could be BFF with the people in our town, but there’s something beautiful about committing to a friendship that travels around this great big world.

pleasure junkie

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The class almost didn’t happen because the director didn’t think anyone would want to tinker with sentences for seven weeks.  To his surprise and my delight, Beautiful Sentences opened with a waiting-list 10 students long.

The writing class felt like a gathering of kindred spirits.  We introduced ourselves by sharing our favorite sentences, and then we played “who wrote it?”  The game involves, that’s right, guessing the author of various sentences.  For example, can you guess who wrote the following:

  • “I’m anything but fine. I feel like the sun has set and not risen for five days. I’m in perpetual night here”.”
  • “She talked all the time and at first it was about people and places.”

It’s a bit tricky, so I’ll give you the answers: the first sentence is EL James from 50 Shades of Grey, and the second is Ernst Hemingway from A Moveable Feast.  Surprisingly, the entire class thought the first sentences was ‘more beautiful’ than the second.

Is this post nerdy enough for you?  ‘Cause I’m about to go all out and confess that I belong to three book clubs.  That’s not a typo — I legit read and discuss three books a month.  I created a graphic of the top-rated books from my clubs:
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My nerdy-ness will cease after I tell you about a recent article in The WSJ that featured ‘the most popular books that no one reads.”  Interesting, right?

Researchers mined Kindle data to name books people quit after reading after 25%, 50% or 75% of the novel. Their findings? People rarely finish 50 Shades of Grey or The Great Gatsby, but they absolutely never finish Capital in the 21st Century.

Do you finish every book you start?  Are you learning a new skill this summer? Get geeky and tell me your favorite sentence.

 

greener grass

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Is there somewhere you feel absolutely comfortable and at ease?  For me, that place has always been smushed between my brother and my sister.  The three of us have a similarly silly sense of humor, and coming together always means lots of laughter, inside jokes, and secret languages.
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My mom’s best friend (aka her sister) started having children when my brother, sister and I started elementary school, and our cousins quickly became like younger siblings to us.  Before they could question what was normal, we shared our silly secrets and expanded our trio to an incredibly happy sixsome.
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You can tell fate brought us Jon (my husband) and Daniel (my sister’s husband) because their quirky personalities make them a natural fit for our family. Where am I going with all this?  The eight of us got together for the Fourth of July, and the entire weekend felt like home.  I know, I know, a weekend can’t feel like home, right?  But the thing is, being with them – no matter the location – feels like home to me. photo (66)
Making something ‘feel like home’ is a pretty important task.  I grew up in Phoenix, went to college in New Orleans, and then lived in Mexico (volunteering), Chicago (graduate school), Wisconsin (husband’s job) and Minneapolis over a period of 5 years.  During that time, my parents moved to Washington DC, my brother graduated school in South Carolina, and my sister bought a home in Phoenix.  Jon’s family lives in Wisconsin and my grandparents and best friends are in Chicago.  Can you see how spread out my heart is?  The people I love are dispersed all over this wonderful country.
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I wish I could convince my nearest and dearest to buy homes on the same street as me, but it’s probably not written in the stars.  Instead, I find all kinds of happiness by bringing everyone together.  That picture above?  A little bit of the greatness – my sister’s husband, my sister, me, Jon, and my baby brother.

Where do you feel most at home?

Graphic made with the Rhonna Designs app.

something for nothing

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Tip more than you should. Be kinder than necessary. Remember what matters most. Simple truisms for good living, but lately I’ve been caught up on the “it’s what’s inside that matters most.” It applies 100% if we’re talking about people (The Little Prince says, “Beauty cannot be seen with the eyes — it must be felt with the heart,” and I couldn’t agree more) but what about when we’re talking about cream-filled cupcakes, books, gifts, and/or buildings?
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I mean, doesn’t the outside count at least a little bit? I don’t like cream-filling, I know I won’t like a book about bondage or vampires, pretty wrapping paper always helps, and good architecture makes me soon. So there. I feel a little guilty about this confession but it’s true: sometimes the outside really does matter.
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We’re visiting my family in Washington DC for the Fourth of July, and Jon’s parents are watching Kinzie for the week.  I wanted to thank them with something festive and sweet, and so I made firecracker rice krispy treats.  My own invention, simply dip rice krispies into white chocolate and cover with sprinkles.  A gift is even sweeter when you get to enjoy some of it, and so Jon and I snuck one (err 4) before giving the batch away.  I definitely recommend making these for others (errr yourself).
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Speaking of making something for yourself — I found vintage spice tins at an antique market, and I decided to make them into magnets.  A super easy project with three steps: 1) paint the tin 2) decorate with stickers 3) add a magnet.  Voilà!
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We’re flying out tomorrow, and it will be the first time Jon and I have seen fireworks together.  Can you believe that?  Every other year we’ve gone to his parents cabin where the fireworks are whatever we light-off the dock :)

Something for Nothing image made with the Rhonna Designs app :)