Friday, March 29, 2019

Bits and Pieces: February and March

This month's post feels more curated than some, but there are things that aren't my story to tell. Anyway, most of this post involves the kids (as usual), and they are doing pretty well.

We spent much of February selling Girl Scout Cookies. It was kind of a lot, but Clare ended up selling more than her goal. She was proud of herself, and I am happy that we can support her troop. I bought more than I should have, though, and now I have been eating them. This is a problem.

Ben had a conference in Florida, which would have been really hard a few years ago. Now that the kids are 7 and 5, though, it really wasn't bad. They are getting to such good ages. (I say this, but oh my God daylight savings brought out the worst in Clare. She had so many tantrums!)

Katie and I took the kids for an overnight stay in Rochester during President's Day weekend. We tried to find a hotel with a water park, but we started looking too late. We ended up at a La Quinta, and you know what? It was much cheaper than a water park and the kids had a blast.

Speaking of kids, I am officially done watching Josie and Otto. I already miss seeing them on a regular basis. Josie sweetly told me that she is missing me. I watched her for four years. I hope we'll always have a special bond. Now it is time for me to figure out what I am going to do next. I think I am going to take next year to volunteer as much as I can at the school, exercise, freelance a bit, and decide what I want to be when I grow up. (And I feel incredibly privileged that I can do this.)

I won the Oscar party again this year, even though I failed to pick the correct Best Picture. (Green Book? Come on.) I think my friends are getting kind of annoyed that I win every year.

The kids finished their skating lessons and both passed on to the next level. They enjoy it, and I am glad they are not good enough skaters to play hockey.

March has been fairly low key, other than finishing skating and the normal activities. My parents were here for a long weekend. Ben and I went to the annual Blackhawks Soccer Club gala. The kids slept over at my sister's that night, so we also had a nice brunch out the next morning. It is always nice to get a little time to ourselves.

I took Clare to lunch at the American Girl Bistro. We had to get in one last visit  before the store closed. We had a fun lunch. They provided a box of conversation starters (not that Clare and I ever need help starting a conversation), but one of the topics was to say something you  admire about a family member. Clare said, "I admire you because you do all the cooking and are easily convinced to let us do stuff." Me: "...."

Well, I proved her right later when she convinced me to let her buy an accessory for her doll. I also went back later in the week to stock up for birthdays and Christmases. (Everything except dolls was 25 percent off. That stuff rarely goes on sale.)

Clare participated in the Pinewood Derby for Girl Scouts. Her car was super slow, but she did win a design award for "Best Bling." She was very proud of herself. I told her ahead of time that I didn't think she would win anything (especially since some of the other cars looked professionally done), but it did have a lot of glitter and she clearly did it herself, so maybe that's why she won. And she had fun, which is the important thing.

School conferences were this month. Both kids are still doing well, although Christopher acted silly throughout his entire conference, including pulling his shirt over his head and lying on the ground. I think he was embarrassed. Christopher still doesn't have a lot of friends, but he gets along with the other kids for the most part. He is right where he needs to be academically for pre-k. He had a scary issue with a kid on the bus, resulting in that kid being kicked off the bus, at least for know. He is taking it in stride, though, as he does most things.

Clare is Clare. She needs a push to challenge herself, but when she does she is fully capable. She is doing really well. I am very proud of her. She inherited her father's likes and dislikes when it comes to school. She does not like writing, and it is her weakest subject, which is kind of funny to me. She is a good speller, though, and an excellent reader. (She is very strong in math, as well.) I just love it when we all sit around reading books together. Even Christopher, who can't actually read. So yeah, school is going well.

Well, I guess I can't write an entire post without mentioning the weather. It has been a struggle. But it is spring now, so even if we get another blizzard or two (or another flood in the basement), the end is in sight, right?

Christopher and I baked a cake from Mary Berry's cookbook.

The Girl Scout and her piles of cookies.

Working on her Derby car at the St. Paul Tool Library.


Cousins stuffing their faces at La Quinta.

We also stopped at the Rochester Children's Museum. It is small, but Clare was proud of this stage she built.

Snow, and a Christmas wreath. I finally took it down a few weeks ago.

Fun at the school's Multicultural Fair.

Clare and her dolls. Samantha was mine when I was a kid. She is one of  the original dolls!

Her Pinewood Derby trophy with a Christopher photo bomb.

We had a good brunch the morning after the kids slept at my sister's. I love sleepovers!

Christopher and I have taken a few bus trips to pick up the car from the shop. He loves riding the city bus.


Snuffy's, two.

They were fascinated by this pigeon outside of the skyway window. (I think Clare was more interested in that than anything at the Children's Museum. She is sadly starting to outgrow that place.)

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Oscars 2019

Last year I got 23 out of 25 on my Oscar ballot. That is not going to happen this year. As I've said in the past, I enjoy seeing these movies because it gets me out of the house during my least favorite time of year. Also, any excuse to get together with friends and drink cocktails and eat pizza is fine by me. The Oscars themselves, however, hold less and less interest for me as the years go on.

8. Bohemian Rhapsody: The director is a terrible, gross person and I am glad he is now a Hollywood pariah. I did not like this movie. I love Queen. However, I flames on the sides of my cheeks hated Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. And he is probably going to win an Oscar.

7. Black Panther: I mean, I liked it. It's a better than average Avengers movie. Best Picture, though? Seems like a stretch. ( Although the way this awards season is going it will probably win.)

6. Green Book: This is a mildly entertaining movie. There are some tough scenes involving racism. However, it really did feel like too much of a redemption of a racist white guy story rather than focusing on what musician Don Shelby's life was really like.  Mahershala Ali is great, though.

5. Vice: Very similar style to The Big Short from few years ago, which is no surprise since it is the same director. Christian Bale is good as Dick Cheney, but I never really forgot that it was Christian Bale playing Dick Cheney. And of course, revisiting all of the evil things Dick Cheney did wasn't exactly uplifting. And I have now written Dick Cheney four times too many.

4. BlacKkKLansman: This was hard to watch in many ways, especially knowing how little has changed since the film took place. It was also hilarious at parts, and I liked the actors.

3. The Favourite: I did not fully know that this was about, but I loved it. Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman are brilliant. And I am sucker for a period piece.

2. Roma: This was a beautifully shot film. Very artistic. I really felt like I was seeing Mexico City in the 70s. There are some heartbreaking parts to the story, but it is very well done.

1. A Star is Born: I know, I am surprised this is number one, too. I loved this movie. I loved Bradley Cooper. The music is great, and the story well told. I didn't love the end, but overall I thought this was really well done.

Should win: Roma
Will win: Roma

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Bits and Pieces: January

Cold enough for ya? Har. Har. Har. I may be a little loopy after four days in a row with no school.  Actually, five, because they had off last Friday. Oh, and Clare and I went on Girl Scout camping trip over the weekend.

It has been a busy month. Everyone was ready to get back into our routine after the holidays. The kids started skating lessons, which they seem to be mostly enjoying. We took the kids bowling, which they loved. (It gets expensive quickly though.)

 Then I threw our schedule for a loop again by taking a trip to London.

My Mom and I flew out on the 12th, and spent the week with my brother, sister-in-law, and adorable nephew Marios. That kid is seriously the cutest. He is funny, too, and moving all over the place. He will be walking soon, I think.

We took lots of walks in the park near their house. We also walked around the Olympic Park. We had a Sunday roast. We took Marios to a soft play. My mom and I went to the top of the Shard. My brother, mom and I went to a fancy Afternoon Tea. We went to the Victoria and Albert Museum and the City of London Museum. My mom and I spent most mornings eating a full English breakfast, reading, and drinking coffee while waiting for Marios to finish his "settling in" at nursery.

My brother and I went out for a drink on our own, too. It was good to talk to him. It is hard being so far from them, especially now. I have many feelings that I don't know how to express properly.

I spent the next week trying to get over my jetlag, and then it was time for the Girl Scout camping trip. Clare and I joined her troop in Elk River. I don't like sleeping in a room with a bunch of other people, so I didn't sleep well. Clare had a great time, though. It was cold, but not unbearable. It was nice to get to know some of the other moms of girls in the troop.

And then there was snow and it was cold. The end.

Clare made me breakfast on New Year's Day.

Ben took Clare to climb the rock wall at REI after dropping me off at the airport.

She climbs right to the top, no problem.

A mysterious boy at the Tap.

I don't know why they were wearing these, honestly.

I just love this picture. Pure joy on his face, at least in that one moment.


View of London from the Shard. You can see Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast.

London again.

When you have this kind of view in the bathroom, you must take a selfie. It is the law.

The Shard. Or is it Mordor?

Fancy tea. It was good.

The cakes were good, too.

We were at the Oscar Wilde Lounge on Regent Street in Soho, near Picadilly Circus.

Trafalgar Square. We took an interesting walk from tea to get the Tube back to my brother's neighborhood.

Reading after a trip to the library.

She is into graphic novels, and read three in one day. I read them, too. I have to say, I kind of love the Babysitters Club graphic novels. 

Brief sojourn outside during the Girl Scout camping trip.

We made it outside on Monday, and have been inside ever since. (Except for a trip to a mostly deserted Target.)

Snickerdoodle bakers!

Friday, January 4, 2019


My sweet, funny, and wise grandmother, Jean, passed away on December 4. It has been hard. She was 91 years old, but it still feels too soon to lose her. Up until the end of her life, she was living in her own home, volunteering at St. Vincent De Paul and at her church, and driving her friends to lunch. She had a lot of friends.

She sent cards for every birthday and anniversary. Until the past few years, she sent boxes of cookies each Christmas. She unknowingly coined Ben's nickname for me while we were in college after sending me a package of cookies labeled "Emily No Nuts." I was always so excited to get a box from her. She even sent me a box of cookies when I was studying abroad in Spain. Her close family weren't the only recipients of her kindness - we learned at her funeral that she sent birthday cards to just about everyone she knew.

Some of the best parenting advice I have received from my mother originated with my grandma. ("Pick your battles" and "Never do for your child what she can do for herself" are two of my favorites.)

My grandma was born in Racine, Wisconsin. She married my grandpa in 1949. They were married for 63 years. (My grandpa passed away in 2013.) She lived in a number of cities in Wisconsin. My mom was raised in a suburb of Milwaukee. For the last 20 or more years she lived in a small town near Lake Michigan. She was a dedicated wife and mother. She raised five children. She faced hardships and challenges in her life, but always had a positive attitude.

Once, when we were children and spending the night at her house, she gave us each a pot and a spoon and announced that we were going to wake up my mom. And we did, gleefully banging our pots and pans.

She always had an amazing lunch spread when we visited for lunch, and never forgot the black olives or taco dip. I learned my ways of always having way too much food at parties from her. One thing I'll always remember is Grandma standing in the doorway, waving goodbye until we were out of sight.

My kids loved Meema Jean, too. I am so happy they got to know her. Clare will have memories of her, I hope.

She's given me many cookbooks over the years. I don't use them all, but I can't bear to get rid of them. I will probably keep them forever. I tried to follow her example this year and bake cookies in advance and then freeze them. I think next year I will start in November to honor her memory.

My grandma's cookies were delicious and she loved baking. Two of my most prized positions are handwritten notes from her. One contains her advice for various potential problems in the kitchen. The other is a recipe card for her Dipped Gingersnaps, my favorite Christmas cookie she baked. The best part of the recipe card are her notes, including one telling me how special I am. She was pretty special, too. I will miss her joyful laugh, funny comments, and unconditional love of her grandchildren.

Jean Bernhardt
 November 26, 1927 - December 4, 2018

Monday, December 31, 2018