Monday, July 28, 2008

Tutorial: Napkins with Rik Rak Trim

This is a pretty easy project. It's great if you've dusted off your grandmother's old sewing machine and are trying to get started learning how to use it.

Itty Bitty Bird (aka Chelsea Ann) contacted me a couple of weeks ago after she spotted some cute fabric in my etsy shop. She wanted me to make napkins for her out of it and add some ric rak around the edge. It was a fun project and I love the fabric she chose. In fact, after I mentioned it to my husband, he was excited about the idea of using cloth napkins so that we can cut down on our paper napkin use and I made an extra four for our household. It's a green project too!

Here's a picture of what the final napkin can look like.

The final product is between 12 and 13 inches squared.

The best part comes first: choose and buy a yard of fabric and 6 yards of matching rik rak. (This is enough for a set of four napkins.)

Wash and dry the fabric! (This will make your napkins machine washable once they're completed.)

Iron. Iron. Iron. (As with most sewing projects, ironing is a key step to this one.)

Cut the fabric into 14" x 14" pieces (four of them).

Use your ruler and your sewing pen (with disappearing ink) and mark the fabric on the right side 1/2 inch inside of each edge.

Starting in the middle of one side, sew the rik rak onto the front of the napkin following the one inch line. (Some people like to pin the rik rak before they sew, but I prefer not t0.) Be sure to backstitch a few stitches at the beginning.

At each corner, leave the needle in the down position and turn the rik rak 90 degrees to that it runs parallel to the next side. (i.e. The rik rak is done in one continuous piece and not cut into four pieces.)

Backstitch a few stitches at the end.

(Sorry about the sudden change in rik rak color in the following pictures.)

Iron the edge of the napkin to create a crease along the stitch line so that the rik rak is now on the backside of the napkin with the edge of the rik rak peeking out on the right side.

With the wrong side facing you, turn the raw edge down 1/4 inch so that it meets the 1/2 inch crease line. Iron.

Turn down the 1/2 inch crease again and iron once more.

Basically, you've just folded over the edge of the napkin twice to create a clean edge that won't unravel.

Stitch the edge in place.

Iron again. Voila!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Feature Friday: Maybe You Should Die

WARNING: This post has some content that is probably not mom and mother-in-law appropriate. You have both been warned.

So every so often I stumble across something really cool on etsy that I end up buying. In the spirit of mutual promotion and appreciation and encouraging the spending of money and the stimulating of the economy, I'm going to periodically feature a handmade seller.

The first one is Maybe You Should Die. I actually came across their wares at the No Coast Craft Fair here in Minneapolis last year where I took this picture.

They have great cards...
but also great "mean bags" -- bean bags (or actually rice bags) with bitter, funny, mean sayings on them that you can chuck at your friends... or enemies.

Since they're based here in Minneapolis, I doubly had to order something from them. I took a phrase from Tobias in Arrested Development. You can check out the episode here.

It matches our dining room and living room (you can order it in a variety of colors). It's well-made, handy, smells like Jasmine rice, and is fun to throw at your husband when he's being a "douchechill." Check out Maybe You Should Die here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Farmer's Market Last Weekend

We've got a tiny little farmer's market a few blocks away from us that runs on Saturdays and Tuesday afternoons. Here are some pics.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You Might As Well Tag These Books with the Words "READ THIS!"

A meme that’s been floating around the internets. These were the most often “challenged” (ie someone tried to have them banned from a school or library) books last decade.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
(You can also underline those that you read in school -- I read many of those that I bolded in school, but it's getting too late to go through and do the underline coding.)

1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (I still sob every time I read this.)
10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry (If you’ve never read this… go and find it now… you can finish it in one sitting and it will be a well-spent sitting.)
15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
19. Sex by Madonna
20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (Can you even become a “woman” without reading this book?)
24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry (So being a nerdy girl is offensive to some?)
30. The Goats by Brock Cole
31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (Apartheid probably would have never ended without books like this one.)
32. Blubber by Judy Blume
33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (… and just reread it last week. Atwood is a prophet.)
38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (… find me a reader who doesn’t list this book amongst their top ten and I’ll show you someone who’s lying to try to appear noncomformist.)
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
46. Deenie by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
48. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (Really? Nerd girls, cool girls… all of them read this. It’s like the bible.)
63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
65. Fade by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
71. Native Son by Richard Wright
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
74. Jack by A.M. Homes
75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
77. Carrie by Stephen King
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bring Bar Food Home: Super Easy Onion Rings

(Serves 4-6)
3 yellow onions
2 c buttermilk
1.5 c all purpose flour
1/4 cornmeal
1 quart vegetable oil
cooking thermometer that goes up to at least 350 degrees

Peel and slice the onions to desired thickness (about .5 -.74 inches). Envy the Shun knife on my cutting board below.

Mix together the buttermilk, 1.5 t salt, 1 t pepper. Add the onions and let soak for at least 15 minutes.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, 1 t salt and .5 t pepper in another bowl.

Fire up the oil. You can use a large pot. Dump the oil in and bring the temperature to 350 degrees. The temperature will fluctuate as you add onions, so you'll need to keep an eye on the thermometer. Alternatively, you can use the "cool daddy" (the larger version is the "fry daddy"). We got ours as a shower gift and it has been awesome. We've been able to fry up wontons with various fillings and use Eric's grandmother's doughnut recipe.

Drench the onion in the buttermilk and then cover it in flour before adding them to the oil. Do only a handful at a time (depending on the size of your pot) so that the temperature doesn't drop and each onion has enough space to bubble.
It should take about two minutes to get them golden brown. Turn them once while cooking.

Let them drain on a paper towel-covered plate before moving them to a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Keep them warm in the oven while you cook up the rest.

Don't forget the ketchup. We had them with steak, beer, and watermelon. A great summer meal!

(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Eggs on Eggs

My mom is something of a holiday decorating master. With each holiday, she pulls out a giant plastic bin stuffed full of various tchotchkes to wow the neighbors, provide a cultural experience for the hoards of foreign-born Americans that have been part of her life since she married my foreign-born father, and generally baffle and amuse her children.

This spring, Mother Nature must have heard about my mom's decorating prowess. She wanted to get in on the game.

The focal point of my mom's Easter display is a large wreath that she hangs on the front doors of the house. The wreath is made of straw and grass and twigs and other natural items and then covered in unnaturally pastel ribbons and oversized wooden eggs.

This past Easter, she put out the wreath as usual, but this time some birds decided that my parents' front door was as good as spot as oh say a tree or a birdhouse, to build a nest. My mother left the nest undisturbed and before she knew it, there were four bright blue eggs in it -- hanging right on the front door.

Here's a picture.

And a close-up, just so you can see that I am not messing around with you.

I did not initially believe my mother. Why would birds build a nest in an area with so many people coming and going? Why would they build their nest on something that actually moves, swings in and out with some regularity? Won't they get seasick or doorsick or something? There was no appropriate answer to this. Perhaps the birds were kind of dumb. My mother took care of them as if they weren't. In any case, I had every cause to believe my mother. She does not lie. Or at least if she does, she fesses up to it almost immediately. It's like a tic.

The eggs, as you can see in the picture, were the bright blue green of robin's eggs, but strangely large. "It's as if," my mother said, "the robins are trying to compete with the large, fake Easter eggs." Compete indeed.

As these things go (see "birds and bees"), a short time later, my mom found these:

And once again, a close up:

Baby birds can look a little creepy -- they are so wide-eyed and wide-mouthed. Sorry, the angle isn't great, but my mom didn't want to freak out the birds too much.

So why, you might wonder, am I only blogging about this now, months after the event. For all of her decorating, traveling, and nurturing over-achievements, my mother is not as tech savvy as digital cameras require (yet). The pictures were trapped in her camera until my brother made it home for a visit.

Digital pics set free, my mom downloaded and attached these photos for me. She even wondered if it was an event she should blog. I'm saving her the trouble (or biting her idea, maybe).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Green Poppy Bag: A Star

I know, you're probably sick of seeing this bag, but it got a shout out over at Independent Design, a blog by Amanda Archer, a designer on etsy. Check out her shop here. I wish I'd found her (or she'd found me as the case may be) before I got married.

But at least I've found her now so that when I win the lottery I can afford to have my own personal designer.

All right.. only one more etsy post this week. I promise.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Soo VAC Sooo Awesome

Lars and Addie bags are now available at the gift shop at the Soo Visual Arts Center (Soo VAC) on Lyndale in Minneapolis. Some of the bags at Soo Vac are (currently) not available at the on-line shop, so stop by to see something new and to check out their latest exhibit! You can also visit Robot Love, which is right next door, for some really cool toys. Thanks to the Soo VAC! (I don't have pics of the ones that are at their gift shop, so I've just included more pics of those in the etsy shop.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

A handful of new bags....

Here's a glimpse behind the scenes at one of my etsy photo sessions: the bags, just hanging out, waiting for their turn in front of the camera. I'm posting five bags that are either entirely new or redesigns of some favorites in my shop today and tomorrow. But you, dear blog reader, get a sneak preview.
(The Dia de los Muertos looks like it's about to eat the cherries. Awkward!)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Veggies. Veggies. Veggies.

Pete (aka Butros, aka Petros, aka my brother, aka my loyal reader) asked for more pictures from the garden. So here they are. First up are the tomatoes. I wish I had a scented blog so you could share. (Sorry, Pete, with your deviated septum I'm not sure how well you could smell them even if I did have a scented blog.) We've got about four different varieties, but here are three:

The squash is totally dominating. It's completely shading the okra from all afternoon sunlight. Sorry, Okra, Patty Pan Squash is winning. A ridiculously easy, ridiculously delicious Patty Pan (a great source of magnesium and niacin) recipe coming later on once they're harvested:

Sweet sweet sugar snap peas. Sweet. Sweetness. We had some with dinner tonight. Raw. Crispy and sweet.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Armando's Chimichurri

Business Corporation has a new video up on You Tube. Not quite as hilarious as the first one (sorry, guys, it has to be said), but still made me chuckle and not just because my brother is one third of the team that makes up Business Corporation. Check it out and if you haven't seen their "Bowl Noodle" video and if you're a fan of The Wire, check that out too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Two Shout Outs

Lars and Addie got a feature on the Etsy Artists of Color blog. (I'm going to have to work on my canned answers if I want to do more features!) Also got in another treasury.

Thanks, Xenotees! Now I have to get to creating more bags for the shop so that there's actually something there when people come to visit!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sly Stallone is my hero.

Our goal for this weekend was to celebrate the founding of our country in the best way we know: watching a Rambo flick.

Unfortunately, Netflix (and possibly the Burmese government) was working very hard to thwart our long Happy Birthday, America weekend plans. The DVD we'd received in the magical red envelope would not play. We were disappointed, but decided that perhaps Netflix would send us a new one. We dropped it in the mail, reported a problem, and waited.

Now, there was an actual reason why we wanted to watch Rambo 2008 other than the freakshow attraction of a 61 year old man on a steady diet of steroids. (Here's an illustration of what happens. The first one is from 1983).

For part of our honeymoon in February of this year, we returned to Mae Hong Son, Thailand, where I lived and taught in a refugee camp for two years. The refugees I was working with were Karenni and were fleeing from a conflict with the Burmese army in their homeland, Karenni State. On our honeymoon, we spent some time with British Scott and American Sarah, friends of mine who had also taught in the refugee camps, who had met each other there and had fallen in love and gotten married.

In any case, the new Rambo movie came up in conversation and Scott and Sarah recommended watching it. It turns out that before making this movie, Stallone contacted the two smartest people he knows, the UN and Soldier of Fortune Magazine, and asked them which conflict in the world was the most brutal. Both answered Burma.

I'd like to think that Stallone made the decision to make his next movie about Burma because he wanted to bring attention to a conflict that is under-reported and not because brutal conflict = brutal movie with lots of gratuitous violence.

Scott and Sarah said we should watch it because it was interesting to see how the latest Hollywood blockbuster about Burma (and specifically about the conflict in Karen State -- the state just to the south of Karenni State) would portray the conflict. This is not to say that there are many Hollywood blockbusters about Burma (how many have actually seen Beyond Rangoon?)

Our second copy of Rambo 2008, arrived and, again, it would not play. Eric guessed that the Burmese military government had gotten their hands on all the copies of the DVD and somehow stripped the data so that no one could find out what was going on in Burma. They did not count on the technological know-how of the average American household -- or the amount of resources we pour into home entertainment. We ponied up the $5 and ordered it "on demand."

Watching this movie I felt a little bit like I was eating at a restaurant that has only a mediocre chocolate cake on the dessert menu. Yeah, the chocolate cake is good because I really wanted dessert, but, really, in this day and age, can't we have more options? Or if you're only going to have one thing on the dessert menu, can't it be really, really good and decadent? Why did you hire Sly Stallone as your pastry chef?

Written and directed by Stallone himself, the 91 minutes (which according to my calculations amounts to about 3 pages of witty dialog) tested the movie-maker's very limits.

We pick up with our anti-hero on the Thai-Burma border where he working as a snake catcher. A group of American missionaries arrive, asking for his help getting across the border and into Karen State where they hope to bring some relief in the form of bibles and medical care to the suffering Christan ethnic minorities. So far, the premise is pretty good. Missionaries venture across the border with some regularity.

But then things starts to fall apart. (All right, the thing fell apart long before it ever even started, but here's where I started to get nitpicky.)

"You know this river better than anyone," one of the missionaries begs. Missionaries usually have Karen contacts and groups that help them across the border. But Rambo is not Karen and you cannot have a Rambo movie without Rambo, so I'll play along.

John Rambo and the missionary butt heads from their first meeting. It is man of God versus man o' war. Rambo thinks that venturing over the border sans weapons is a suicide mission. The conversation opens the door to a classic Rambo one-liner:

Missionary Michael Burnett: It’s thinking like that that keeps the world from changing.
Rambo: F#$& the world.

Lured by some persuasive words about life and meaning and doing the right thing from obligatory blond, Sarah, Rambo eventually agrees to take them up the river.

When they are attacked by river pirates, it becomes apparent that Christian Sarah's chastity is going to be both the carrot and the stick in this plot. In fact, it's the ogling eyes of the pirates that makes Rambo explode, executing all of the bad guys in one fell swoop.

When the missionaries respond with shock, Rambo explains himself in yet another great one-line: “When you’re pushed, killing's as easy as breathing.”

Michael says, "I'm going to have to report you." Which, of course, made us wonder who exactly he was going to report Rambo to for killing a boatfull of river pirates. The Thai authorities? The Burmese? When killing's as easy as breathing, missionaries are such downers.

Arriving safely at an idyllic Karen village, the missionaries leave Rambo's boat and he returns to his snake hunting. As they are helping with dental care, handing out bibles and dressing amputees, the village is attacked in the first of several very graphic scenes. Babies and children are thrown into fires, women are raped, homes are burnt, and villagers are shot, beaten, dismembered and decapitating. Finally, the missionaries are captured. Here is where the Burmese military is portrayed as being inaccurately stupid.

The Burmese military junta has been in power for nearly 60 years. They have been killing ethnic minorities in their country for decades. The international community has allowed them to get away with this because the Burmese army is smart. They do not capture white missionaries. The know that this would create an international incident. The consequences for white people illegally entering the country tend to be possibly arrest and likely deportation for the white person and utter devastation for every Burmese and ethnic minority that they came in contact with. But Rambo needed white people to save and the plot had to move forward, so I was willing to play along.

Of course, having been won over by the blond, Rambo feels compelled to get involved in the rescue. He agrees to ferry a group of mercenaries sent to save the Christians to the spot where he dropped them off. The mercenary leader doesn't take too kindly to the "boat man" and puts Rambo in his place when he tries to join them on their mission.

Rambo follows them anyway and takes out a group of Burmese soldiers as they force a group of Karen villagers to run through a mine covered paddy field for entertainment. Joining the group gives Rambo another opening for another great line: "There’s not one of us that’s doesn’t want to be someplace else. Live for nothing or die for something. Your call."

The next violent climax is the rescue mission. The team of mercenaries move through the dark rainy night, taking out Burmese soldiers, and freeing a few Karen and the missionaries, except for the one who was already fed to the pigs. As this scene unfolds, the Burmese soldiers are all seated in a large hall being entertained by scantily-clad women (are they supposed to be Karen? Burmese?) reluctantly doing a traditional dance. As the killing outside continues, the soldiers inside work themselves into a methamphetamine and alcohol fueled frenzy. Outside, one of the officers walks towards Sarah's cell, clearly intending to have his way with her. Inside, the soldiers begin to taunt, mock, and pour liquor over the dancers. They start to tear at their clothes. Rambo moves towards Sarah's cell. Of course, just when before an article of her clothing can be torn from her, he kills Sarah's would-be attacker. The women inside the hall are, in the meantime, being gang-raped.

Ironically, this scene pretty much sums up part of what is going on on the international level. In the movie, it is the white woman's chastity that is held sacred. The Karen women are being raped, as they are in real life, but that is not a concern for the international community. The genocide in Burma continues, but because the world's superpowers have little interest in Burma or because China looms ever-present in the background of Burmese politics and economics, few other countries are willing to get involved.

The Burmese government is going to have to mess up big time for foreign governments to start to get involved beyond the most basic sanctions. And the Burmese government is not going to mess up because they know that John Rambo will roll in if they do.

Back in the movie, the group is found out by the Burmese army who sets out after them. Rambo takes out a good number of them with just his wits and a claymore, but they seem to come in never ending waves. There is a final, violent showdown in which the bad guys are blown apart (literally) by some absurd armor piercing bullets that Rambo is firing. The Karen rebels show up after Rambo has taken care of most of the heavy lifting, but, still, they do make an appearance.

Like, I said before, the movie was mediocre chocolate cake. At least there is a movie out there at all and Stallone even made an effort to sprinkle some dialog about the situation in Burma in the early parts of the movie (although the Karen National Union army is rather obliquely referred to as the generic "Karen Freedom Fighters) and to use Karen, Thai, and Burmese actors and extras and to speak a little Burmese himself. Sure this movie didn't and isn't going to have any real lasting effect on the situation in Burma, but I can't help but quietly applaud Stallone for at least trying. At least someone is.

All grown up.

The bag that I posted last week is all grown up and ready to leave the nest. Here are the before and after shots. More items coming to the shop this week!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Is it really possible for two such awesome things to happen in one day?

First, I was driving home yesterday afternoon and I had to stop to get some cash. I pulled over at a little bodega that I have never been to near our house. Standing at the cash machine, I glanced over at the malt liquor area and noticed this sitting on the shelf.

I thought they had discontinued this stuff! The date on the can does say 2006. Apparently either some places have been hoarding it or it doesn't fly off the shelves the way the real stuff does.

The Daily Show did a little piece on this energy drink when it first came out. They got two kids to drink some of it and they ran around going crazy for a while. At the end of the clip, one of the kids gets right up close to the camera, his hair all wild, and screams, "I'm high on cocaine!" I can't find the clip, but it's awesome.

Now there is a trio of cable guys at my house installing our cable and it is taking every fiber of my being to keep myself from getting up and asking them, "Would you like some water or some Cocaine or anything?"

Finding Cocaine was enough to make my day... no, my week, and then this happened.

My buddy Jeff (web editor over at City Pages) won a silent auction item that gave him the honor of leading the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballpark" during the seventh inning stretch of a St. Paul Saints game. (The local AA league team.) A bunch of his friends gathered at the field in St. Paul to cheer him on and enjoy the kitsch of these events (which are an illustration in what I wrote about in my last entry about the greatness of local community and culture along the lines of the "St. Paul Sieve" -- a guys who dresses as a hockey goalie and tries to defend his goal during a between inning fan involvement game -- and the verging-on-racist-or-at least-very-awkward-between-inning karaoke performance by a Japanese guy in a Dunn Brother Coffee emblazoned white tuxedo jacket with tails) .

Before the game, Eric and I were sitting out by the field enjoying a beer next to a concession stand. The Saints' mascot is a pig so the name of the concession stand was "Pigtop" and it was emblazoned in big letters across the top of the stand, which also happened to be the wall next to the bleachers above the stand. In between sips of beer, I looked up and saw this.

Yes. That is actually a cop. And yes, he is actually standing above a sign that says Pigtop. Plus, it was Irony Awareness Night at the game. You cannot make this stuff up. I only wish I'd had my real camera and not just the one on my phone. It was an amazing day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Jucy Lucy is so much more than just a burger.

According to a report on NPR this morning, some newspapers, including our local Minneapolis Star Tribune, have been outsourcing advertising design and copy writing to India and may also begin outsourcing news writing. New giant McClatchy will be cutting 10% of its workforce and some of it will be sent to India.

The Strib is amongst those newspapers that use Express KCS for outsourcing. According to KCS CEO Robert Berkeley, the employees in India admittedly have no journalism background and have likely never set foot in the town where the newspaper they are writing for is located. On NPR, Berkeley insisted that "It's about the training." They spend "four to six months training our staff in the local and cultural norms." Berkely said that the training covers such topics as what a leprechaun is and what colors are used on Valentine's Day.

I'm a little conflicted about this news. Like outsourcing in general, it seems a little insidious. First we'll outsource our ad copy and then our news and then our editorials and then our wedding vows.

According to a friend of mine who used to write ad copy, on the spectrum of writing (with Philip Roth, Joan Didion, and Joseph Mitchell on the good, virginal end), writing ad copy is on the brothel end of the spectrum. So part of me is thinking "who cares" about who writes ad copy and whether they eat chapitis at every meal?

But at the same time, I love local culture. I love community. I love all of the little quirks about a certain specific town or city or neighborhood that make it unique. Sure, they can teach writers in other countries that a leprechaun has to take you to his pot of gold when you nab them, but will they know that a sure sign that a Metro rider in Washington DC is a tourist is that they're standing on the left side of the escalator? Will they know that "Scanner Dan" Madison, WI got his scanner from a kind fireman who knew about Dan's obsession with tracking local fires? Will they know that Matt's, not the 5-8 Club has the original Jucy Lucy (and that that's the correct spelling?) Or that... well, to tell you the truth, I don't know that much about Minneapolis yet. I've only lived here for a year and a half.

But that's sort of the point... it takes living and being a part of a community for years to know it.

You know those "Mentoes" commercials where the guy or gal has some little problem, so they eat a Mento and then "ting!" a lightbulb goes off and he/she finds some clever way to solve his/her problem? Even though there's no speaking, those commercials are obviously European and all Americans know it. Watching them, it's like, "Oh, look at those silly Europeans popping their collars and trying to sling their minty treats over here in the US. They're so.... so... clearly not American." And then do you go out and buy Mentoes? No. No you don't because it's like if someone parks their car too close to mine, I might try to get a bunch of construction workers over to pick up and move my car, but I'm also to kick that guy's headlights in.

I like local. I like that local writers can maintain and enrich a local culture even if it is just as a means to sell me something. Because if local community is about anything, it's about slinging schlonk* to other locals.

*This word is courtesy of my sister's mother-in-law, who is the an amazing wordcrafter and created it to describe, well, schlonk.

Best Etsy Sale Ever.

What with the house and the upcoming construction on our second floor, the old man and I have found ourselves in communication with and in the offices of various loan/ mortgage type people. I had been e-mailing back and forth for a while with one women who worked in an office that we were hoping would give us some money. Or at least loan us some money.

Finally, after much paperwork passed through the intertubes between us, we were prepared to close. The Friday before the closing, the woman in the office e-mailed me and asked if the cupcake bag in my etsy shop had sold yet. Turns out, she'd clicked on the link that's in my signature and spied the bag.

I brought it with us to our loan closing where she told me she'd bought it for her cousin who was about to graduate from culinary school and was going to become a pastry chef. The bag was a perfect match for her cupcake tattoo. It's so freakin' cool when you know that your handycrafts are going to end up in a nice home.

Know the power of the e-mail signature.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How Do You Like Me Now?

Sorry for the aggressive sounding title of this entry, but I'm just really stoked that Lars and Addie got featured on , Indie Fixx, a really cool blog about indie crafts and handmade goods maintained by Jen Wallace. So if you found your way here from Indie Fixx, high fives all around. If you haven't visited Indie Fixx yet, get going.

Unfortunately, with the house move and totally unanticipated sales at the etsy shop, my stock is somewhat depleted. Fortunately, many new bags are already in the works and will be available next week! Here, lucky blog readers, is a rare glimpse at some of the fabrics that are featured in and inspire the new bags.
Rare glimpse indeed. Yes. There are skulls rattling around.

I'm also working on some new felted projects. Here's the body of a felted bag that's going to be similar to the Green Poppy Bag pictured above -- only machine and needle felted. That's right. Felted. Yes. Felted.

This picture also show us what our bags do when we're not home: stare out the window longingly.

Visit the shop next week for some entirely new bags with new design updates as well as some reworks of some old favorites!