Thursday, May 29, 2008

Two Treasuries

My little umbrella purse made it into two treasuries on etsy. A treasury is a list that etsy users compile based on a common theme. Maybe one of these treasuries will make it to the front page...

The first one is "Out walkin' in the rain" and the second is "Chance of rain.... 60 percent...."


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

When you scrape wallpaper, you scrape alone

We got tons done at the house this weekend, thanks to many family members. My sister came over to scrape wallpaper in the hallway on Saturday, risking exposure to lead dust. Not to worry, we wet scraped and weren't gouging the paint under the wallpaper. We mostly used DIF, but when I ran out, I started just using water and water with TSP (trisodium phosphate) and it worked fine. Maybe it's because the wallpaper was old, but I'm starting to think that the makers of DIF add some chemically scent to water and call it wallpaper remover.

On Sunday, Eric's family came down to: install the washer dryer (which we bought at the appliance sale that's going on in the Education Building at the State Fair grounds for another week or so for anyone who doesn't mind a little scratch and dent), fix most of our electrical problems on the first floor, plant herbs and zinnias, clean the windows and the garage, pull off wallpaper, scratch paint off garage windows, generally offer wisdom and support, and remove the awnings from the front of the house.

That's Eric's dad disappearing under the awning. Our house looks much cleaner and fresher without that awning.

We got only momentarily sidetracked on Sunday when my sister's family dropped by. How could you not be distracted by these three:

Gus, the four year old, actually took this picture of Des hanging on the railing.

Something like 90% of pictures I have of Gus involve him eating some sort of sweet.

Laura bought Addie her first doll. Or as Eric's mom, Lu, said, Laura bought a doll for herself. Addie wasn't really impressed.

After having two boys, the quest to turn her into a girly-girl continues.

Addie was alternately enthralled by and afraid of Bailey, the perfect toddler-sized dog.

I spent most of the weekend scraping wallpaper. Just when we thought we were done, we found out that the front hallway was also covered in wallpaper covered in paint. Fortunately, my sister and my husband were available to lend a hand -- family are the only people you could actually ask to help with certain tasks.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Donating to Burma

A few years ago I was a teacher in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. My students were fleeing the Burmese occupation of their ethnic minority homeland, Karenni State. I was in my first few days of teaching and living there when US tanks started to roll into Afghanistan in the wake of 9-11. Burma was on the axis of evil shortlist. My students were hopeful that tanks and apache helicopters would similarly move into Rangoon. I don't think that even my students really believed that it was the most likely or best scenario. What they were really voicing was their desire and need for the world to intervene on their behalf.

Months later, a conversation with one of my Karenni co-workers made this desire for outside intervention even more stark. "I feel like I'm in a prison begging for just one cup of water," Richard told me. "Even when I get a cup, I still need more."

The people of Burma no doubt hope that the outside world will intervene on their behalf now in the wake of the cyclone. Unfortunately, the Burmese government is barring all aid to the country and as weeks pass and their situation remains dire, the story gets pushed further and further from the front pages. In the meantime, people in remote areas of Burma not only have no shelter and food, but there is an increased risk of outbreaks of cholera and other diseases as clean water is scarce.

My Burmese language class buddy, Matt, is in Burma right now. He's been teaching at Gitameit Music School, where the students have been trying to get direct help to those areas hardest hit. You can see from their website that they're tirelessly bringing supplies and food to those people who need it. The website also has a list of ways to donate to organizations that are already in Burma who have local resources and staff who are better able to travel and get aid to places where it's needed. (My friend Matt has not gone on any of the relief trips because having a white guy along will draw attention from the government.) Matt recommends the Foundation for the People of Burma as a reputable and effective NGO to donate to.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Vegetable Garden In!

We spent a gorgeous Saturday morning getting our vegetable garden started. My brother-in-law Mike generously offered his green thumb. That's him pretending to have muscles. He is seriously going to embarrass his kids when they're teenagers. It's going to be awesome.
Eric loved digging up the grass.

Evidence that I actually worked and didn't just sit around taking pictures and sipping lemonade.
We planted tomatoes, radishes (four kinds!), carrots, soy beans, green beans, sugar snap peas, some kind of melon, and patty pan squash. The radishes have awesome names like German Giant and White Icicle. One of them had these supernatural shiny green seeds:

I hope they become glow in the dark radishes. I feel like Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk waiting to see what happens to the seeds that I foolishly traded for a cow. Only I never had a cow.

Also, the lilacs are starting to bloom in our backyard.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Homies Visit Minneapolis, Become Famous!

The Homie and his dog were featured in Annie Choi's blog. Read her blog. Read her book, Happy Birthday or Whatever. It's hilarious. You will laugh. Also read her piece about architects. You will laugh again.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Five Things About the First Stages of Home Improvement

1. I found that my husband is truly a homeowner at heart. One of the first things that the old man did at the new house:

He was so happy.

2. Everything that the previous owners did frustrates me to no end. I spent the evening tearing this insulation off of the beautiful original windows of this 1927 homestead:

They put this on their walls:

Why do people put wood paneling on beautiful plaster walls? Once we started tearing it off, it was like cardboard under there. Do people want to see what it's like to live in a cardboard box? Is homelessness the new black?

3. Lead is dangerous. I started to scrape off the paint and wallpaper in the downstairs hallway (pictures to come) and after doing a little interneting, I decided that it might be a little dangerous. Could there be lead paint under the ancient wallpaper? We're investigating and will post the results here. We're almost positive that what was revealed under the wood paneling was lead paint:

Turns out homelessness is not the new black -- they were probably just covering up the lead paint in a way that would most frustrate the next owners. We're pausing downstairs paint and wall related operations until we can try to get the city or the county to pay for some lead testing.

4. I carried around a pair of pliers in my back pocket all evening. Carrying around tools makes me feel like I'm really serious about this whole DIY stuff .

5. Even though drinking beer (or consuming any food or drink) around lead paint dust is a dangerous proposition, I found that like carrying tools in backpockets, drinking beer and DIY go hand and hand. Maybe PBR will sponsor our renovation.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Introducing the Green Machine!

Bikes in Minneapolis are like dandelions on your new lawn, a little sun and they start popping up everywhere.

Last summer I used my sister's bike. She was about a million months pregnant and so her bike would have sat unused in their garage. This summer, I decided that I had to get my own. So off to the new Sunrise Cyclery location I went. They had an absurd selection of two-wheeled vehicles in their shop. Unfortunately, many were there for repairs. After digging around a bit with shop owner, Jamie, I set my sights on the Green Machine, a three-speed Sears road bike. Try to not be jealous.

After a quick test ride and tune-up, I was on my way. It's a little clackety right now, but it should get better with a little riding and maybe a little oil. There's nothing better than getting back on a bike after a long winter. Like my at-the-time six year nephew Desi said last summer, "I forgot how much fun it is to ride a bike. It feels like flying!"

A few more pics of my woman powered flying machine:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New etsy bag sneak preview!

I love, love, love (that's three loves, which means I'm serious) working with this green fabric. In fact, I'm contemplating keeping this bag for myself. If I decide not to, I'll be posting it on my etsy site tomorrow (or maybe later on today so that I don't change my mind back). In the meantime, here's a preview.

Business Corporation

Check out this YouTube video. It will be the funniest thing you see all day, possibly all week and I'm not just saying that because it's my brother in the video. Be sure to read the description of the filmmakers, Business Corporation. I'm not embedding it because I want it to get lots of hits and if everyone who reads my blog watches the video, it might get two more hits. Awesome.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chino Latino is Puke

The first time I went to Chino Latino on Lyndale in Minneapolis, I was on a date. The waitress came over and asked if we had been there before. He had. I hadn't.

The waitress leaned in to begin her explanation. We expected that she would highlight some of the specials or unique characteristics of the food as most waitresses do for new customers. To my surprise, this Chino Latino waitress proceeded to give me a brief explanation of a menu. You read correctly. Not THE menu, but A menu. As in, "here are the appetizers, which you usually start your meal with. These are the main courses. The desserts are listed at the end." I'm pretty sure I was not wearing my "I'm an idiot. Treat me as such" badge that night.

But I was falling in love and happy to be anywhere with this man, so I brushed it off as waitresss silliness. We had a good laugh about it. I even chalked up the tables of white guys with Japanese-style head wraps dropping sake bombs as Karate-kid-fantasy-fulfillment. I was swooning so badly that I barely noticed that asian-latin fusion food was mediocre at best.

A few months later, after moving to the Twin Cities, I read this article about the restaurant. The fact that a restaurant serving Latin food was mistreating its Hispanic workers is so ironic that it almost becomes a cliche. I had heard talk that Chino was known for its pushing-the-limits-of-good-taste-in-an-edgy-but-harmless-way billboards. The law suit brought against management seemed to indicate that Chino's offensiveness was more than billboard deep.

Last winter, I got to witness first-hand the mythical Chino billboard. It featured a slogan about going to the eatery to get "out of the $%*#! cold." But rather than "$%*#!", they had a series of Chinese characters. I wanted to take a pic and send it to a friend who reads Chinese, but by the time I got around to it, the billboard was changed to this one:

I'm glad that Rachel Hutton over at City Pages noticed it too and was equally turned off. Chino was never on the top of my list of places to go for food or drink, but now it's off altogether.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Burma Cyclone Relief

The photos that are post in this blog are very graphic. They are from Free Burma Rangers, an amazing organization that sends aid in to areas of Karen and Karenni State that are most in need. They've been doing this for many years, long before there was a cyclone. They are a Christian organization, which is a turn-off for some people. They're getting food and medicine to places no one else will go so I say good on 'em. Scroll down for the photos.

I'm not going to try to comment on the situation on Burma because I won't be able to without totally understating or sounding inappropriately melodramatic. I'll just say that at Lars and Addie, I'll be donating 10% of sales to Burma to help with cyclone relief.

Banana Pants Clothes is donating 100% of its jewelry profits and 10% of all other profits to:

I'm not sure where Lars and Addie will be donating yet, but here are some of the likely places. This is a list from a friend from Burmese language class who was recently doing dissertation research in Burma. She got the list from one of her professors. I trust her judgment that these are all places where the aid is likely to get where it's needed.

ADRA International
Myanmar Cyclone Fund
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
(800) 424-ADRA ext. 2372

151 Ellis Street N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30303
(800) 521-2273

Project HOPE
255 Carter Hall Lane
Millwood, VA 22646
(800) 544-4673

Save the Children
54 Wilton Road
Westport, CT 06880
(800) 728-3843

U.S. Fund for UNICEF
125 Maiden Lane, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10038
(800) 4UNICEF

World Concern
19303 Fremont Ave. North
Seattle, WA 98133
(800) 755-5022, ext.7706

World Vision
P.O. Box 9716
Federal Way, WA 98063
(888) 56-CHILD

Friday, May 9, 2008

We're closing. Psyche.

We drove all the way out to Maple Grove (... or, actually, I think it might have been Maple Wood, I'm not sure) this morning, check in hand, all dressed up for a closing. After sitting in the closing office for two and a half hours, we found out that we can't close and we can't move in until Wednesday. Turns out the sellers want to check to go to their mother so that they don't have to pay the taxes. They didn't figure out that in order to have a check written to her, the deed needs to be in her name. Which it wasn't. Sucks.

They were less than agreeable to us moving in this weekend before we close even though we were assured that they would be ready to close on Wednesday. It's funny how as the buyer, you have to put down this "earnest money," but when the seller delays the closing (and drags you out to MAPLE FREAKING WOOD to do it), there's little to no accountability.

The picture above is of how we felt this afternoon. We're holding up the digital programmable thermostat that our agent gave us as a closing gift. In addition to getting that installed and getting our vegetable garden started, we were hoping to start on pulling down some wood paneling this weekend. No what are we going to do all weekend?

I will repost the post below on Wednesday.

We're closing!

I know, I know, we look a little like an ad for Coldwell Banker, but we wanted to get both the "sold" and the house in the shot. It's a little daunting to take on home ownership, but we're still really excited. My friend Kao Kalia Yang, the brilliant writer of the book The Latehomecomer, wrote in a recent e-mail, "How else do you stake root into the transient earth but for the honor of serious debt?" Exactly.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Etsy shop in full effect!

After starting my etsy shop last week, I decided that the username "rhenat" was a little too random. I'm moving everything over to It's named after my grandmother and her older brother and I have, for now, small handbags. I'll be adding lots more items over the next month.

For those of you who have never seen or visited etsy, it's a site where you can buy and sell handmade goods. It's one-stop-shopping for really cool, totally unique gifts. It's like an indie craft fair all year long in your own living room. It's awesome. Seriously. So go check it out. Go. Do it.