Monday, August 27, 2012


I recently had the chance to borrow the electronic version of this novel, by Chris Bohjalian, from my library.
I really enjoyed this novel! I don't think its a spoiler to report that it focuses on a home birth that results in the death of the mother. The midwife is then accused of having caused the mother's death, and the story is told by her teenage daughter, Connie. There is quite a bit of frank discussion of home birth and general, and this unfortunate home birth in particular, so I wouldn't recommend this for readers who are not interested in those subjects (or who are likely to become queasy reading about them).

I think my favorite aspects of this book were those that reminded me of one of my very favorite books of all time, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. Both books featured extensive descriptions of nature, climate and weather and made these subjects central to the story, though they could easily have been left out. They both paint vivid pictures of scenery very different than I'm used to, with Midwives set in a rural community in northern Vermont. They both deal with important social issues, in this case, the role of planned home birth in modern society. But, most significantly, they both describe a trial.

If you watch Law and Order, or Boston Legal, or any of the other similar programs, you might get the impression that legal cases rarely have an impact, like grains in a mill. I certainly think that way. In this book, we see a case, and a trial, that impacts the community. Of course, its easier to draw this conclusion since the book is narrated by the daughter of the defendant. Nonetheless, the book shows us the breadth of community reactions to the allegations against the defendant and suggests the changes to the defendant as well as those around her as a result of what has happened. Sometimes a trial can be transformative. Moreover, sometimes fiction about legal topics seems to focus on swift maneuvering and outsmarting the other side with extraordinary confidence. This book describes a trial that is less about cleverness and more about trying hard, recognizing risk, and telling the truth within the limits of human memory. It's a portrayal of our justice system that is quite different than what you might read in a John Grisham. I was totally intrigued by it. The book captivated me and has left me thinking. A winning combo!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sick Day

Hi everyone! I'm sorry to report I'm taking a sick day. I'm on the mend from a scary little migraine and have been just laying low since. I'm looking forward to feeling even better and getting back on track. I hope you had a good week and are looking forward to a fun and restful weekend!

As Rodger and Hammerstein, through the inimitable Julie Andrews, tell us: when we're feeling bad, think of our favorite things! All I'll share with you today is this picture of this adorable bag. Although I know I'm not the kind of girl who would carry it, I'm daydreaming today about what that life would be like!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mustard Chicken

As you might recall, I've been obsessed with cooking in my toaster oven this summer. Luckily, in this past week, it hasn't been quite as hot. But, cooking with the toaster oven is probably still faster and easier than using the real oven. This week, I made one of my standard chicken recipes in the toaster oven. Get ready for this!

You can only use the toaster oven for this recipe if you want to make enough for 1-2 servings. I often make this when I have company coming over, where I'll make several chicken breasts. That's going to require the oven. But, for a quick weeknight meal when I'm home by myself, this is perfect!

I started by putting the chicken on the baking sheet, along with the cut up potatoes. I double line my cookie sheet with foil. I suppose you could consider that wasteful, but if the lower level of foil remains clean, I'll just leave it there as a base layer for next time.

Next, I mix up the ingredients for the sauce. It's super simple!
I use equal parts mayo and mustard to make the sauce. You can use any brand of either one that you like. I've never attempted to make this with Miracle Whip or with some kind of light Mayo - I would imagine that doing so would yield a thinner sauce than the one you'll see below.

I use a mounded teaspoon of each when I'm making enough to cover the chicken and potatoes pictured above. I really, really like this sauce so I go a little heavy on it. I first learned of this recipe in a cookbook that suggested you use a mustard more like Grey Poupon, which is already pretty creamy. You could certainly do that instead if you like that flavor better. I would imagine that if you do equal parts Grey Poupon and Mayo, you'll wind up with something that's a much lighter texture.

Okay, here's the sauce, all ready to go. Yummy!

Now the chicken and potatoes are ready to roll! I baked them in the toaster oven (without any preheating) for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

And here's the finished product, all ready to eat. Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

80s Kids

Recently, I saw two different TV commercials that I just had to share with you guys. Often, it feels to me like I'm either too old, or too young, to be the target of most ads. But, here are two ads that I am SURE are meant to appeal to the children of the 80s, like myself!

1. Hershey's Drops
Do you recognize this music? Maybe you don't. But you should! This song, Move This, is like the second most popular song by the band Technotronic, which is most famous for the song Pump Up the Jam. Since I love nothing quite like I love my old Jock Jams CDs, this song is close to my heart. In fact, my very favorite Pandora station these days is seeded by Technotronic. Hoorah!

2. Old Navy Jeans
I sure hope you recognize this girl - Jennie Garth of 90210 fame. And you'll never guess who she meets in the hallway at the high school where she is (hopefully) a teacher - BRANDON (Jason Priestley) and DYLAN (Luke Perry)!!! FOR REAL! Seriously. Old Navy must have hired a 28 year old to develop this commercial. The only way this commercial could possibly be better is if it instead starred the cast of Saved by the Bell - with Kelly Kapowski walking down the hall, finding Zack Morris and A.C. Slater. Oh well - a girl can dream!

Enjoy! Hope you don't want to buy Hershey's Drops or Old Navy jeans as much as I do!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mixtape #3

I recently made another mix CD and I thought you guys might be curious about what songs are running through my head. Click on these links, and I guarantee you at least one of these tunes will soon be stuck in yours!

1. Some Nights by Fun.
2. Scream by Usher
3. Cooler Than Me by Mike Posner
4. Can't Touch It by Ricki-Lee
5. Carry Out by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake
6. Want U Back by Cher Lloyd
7. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
8. One More Night by Maroon 5
9. Good Time by Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City
10. Rainy Day by Coldplay
11. Primadonna by Marina and the Diamonds
12. Back in Time by Pitbull
13. She Wolf by Shakira
14. Bon Bon by Pitbull
15. Danza Kuduro by Don Omar
16. Shake Senora (remix) by Pitbull, T-Pain and Sean Paul
17. Hasta Que Salga El Sol by Don Omar
18. Suerte by Shakira
19. Barbra Streisand by Duck Sauce
20. Here I Go Again on My Own by Audra Mae


Monday, August 20, 2012

Crayfish Party

Last week, the Twin Cities IKEA shop hosted a crayfish party. As soon as Magnolia invited Daisy and I to go with her, we jumped at the chance!

IKEA, at least in Minnesota, hosts these huge buffet dinner parties a couple of times a year in celebration of different Swedish holidays, charging $10 in admission. I have no idea what the atmosphere is like at these events in other parts of the country. In Minnesota, where, legend has it, there are more Swedish people than there are in Sweden, these events are ENORMOUS! Tickets always sell out during the event, if not before, and the lines are so long, the cafe usually will eventually run out of either food or dishware, or both.

We had a 7 o'clock reservation, and we got there a little bit early, hoping we could maybe beat the line. No such luck. But, we did have a nice view during much of our wait!
As we got closer, I noticed they had decorated the dining room with what are apparently traditional crayfish party decorations:
I had never even heard of a crayfish party until IKEA started advertising this event. I did some Google research to find out everything I could about it - as far as I can tell, it's a tradition that is limited to Sweden. (IKEA's two other annual parties, at Midsummer and shortly before Christmas, celebrate traditions that are also popular in Norway). Apparently, the hanging lanterns that depict "the man in the moon" are traditional!

While the wait seemed long, I guess it really wasn't. We were seated and then immediately sent off for the buffet. YES!
Okay, so here's the feast: salmon, cheese, cucumber salad, lignonberries, some hashbrown-looking thing that tasted like fish, lignonberry pop, and the bowl of crayfish. What else is on the table? The card with instructions about how to eat the crayfish and the silver bucket behind my cup is for the trash from the fish, since all you can really do with them is remove the meat from the tail.

The food was pretty good, though I definitely like Scandinavian food more than many others. Magnolia got a little creeped out by the fact that the crayfish still had their heads on, but I didn't really notice. After all, you just remove the tail so it's not like they're watching you... I thought the flavor was good, though I did get some spatter on my glasses. I'm not sure I'd order them in a restaurant, but trying them out at the buffet was fun! We also hit up the dessert tray after we ate and they had all kinds of yummy delicacies.

My favorite thing about going to these parties is that they remind me just a little bit of St. Patrick's Day. You know how everyone's a little bit Irish that time of year? Well, when you're at one of these parties, everyone's a little bit Swedish! The IKEA cafe usually serves some "American" food options but they are not available during these dinners. Here in the Twin Cities, they also bring in some kind of cultural entertainment. This time, it was a Swedish fiddling group. I think the last time I was there, it was some kind of Swedish choir. I would imagine that, in other parts of the country, groups of people who get together to celebrate Swedish heritage are a little less common, but here, they're everywhere! The group of proud Swedes is huge, too, so I always seem to run into someone I know (in addition to the friends I came with), which makes the party extra special.

After eating WAY too much, we took a walk around the store. (I know they host these to get people in the door.) We picked up only a couple of things. I think the best part, though, was that the store was quieter than usual, so we took our time. And we got to see some of the rooms at night. Like this one!
Doesn't it kind of look like the lights of a bustling city out the window? It's actually just the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, but I can always use my imagination, right?

We kept up our snails pace until we were halfway through the showroom area (not yet having even reached the marketplace), when the announcement came on that the store would be closing in 5 minutes. ACK! We moved through the rest of the shop at a pretty good clip, though we were certainly not the last to leave. We had a great evening and I'm pretty sure we'll be back at Christmas!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Summer Ends in Gold

Summer Ends in Gold

Summer Ends in Gold by marvelousminnie featuring stud earrings

I recently stopped by 21 for Love to see what was new. I've already spent much time on this blog describing my love for their stylish looks at cheap prices. I would say that the one thing I have in common with Carrie Bradshaw is that we both wear "ghetto" gold - meaning, we think of ourselves as "silver" girls, though we wear gold from time to time to mix it up or be silly. There was gold as far as the eye could see in the shop, with a few sprinkles of silver, and everything I bought was gold. Whoa! This inspired me to put together the set above. The necklace and earrings I bought are similar to those above, and I'm imagining myself wearing them with outfits like the ones I've put together here. Summer's going out in GOLD! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hearts and Flowers

As I mentioned before, I did some shopping during my trip to Duluth. I picked up a couple of really interesting little things that I knew I'd want to hang at home as art.

The first was this greeting card featuring a print reproduced by the Kenspeckle Press. I saw it and simply couldn't pass it up - it's not every day you see detailing on flower petals like that!

I also picked up this handmade paper heart basket. Decorations like these are typically hung on the Christmas tree in Norway (and Sweden, I'm told) and are made by children out of red and white construction paper. The traditional style has strips of even sizes woven together and is such a ubiquitous symbol of Norwegian Christmas that you can buy a pewter replica (check) or a paper garland featuring this shape (and check). If you want to know more about this tradition, click here. I was drawn to this one just as soon as I saw it, with modern lines and my favorite colors, pink and green!

I decided to hang these two things with another interesting card I had bought some time ago. I picked out these three frames!
I thought this was okay, but I have white walls stretching as far as the eye can see. I didn't know if adding these three additional white picture frames would look good.

I snagged some craft paint, in a color called ballet shoes, and got to work!

I was angling for this corner in my bedroom...

Here is my first attempt at hanging them:
It's not terrible, but I was disappointed that the top two frames are bumped out from the wall by their tabletop stands. This photo was taken from the main walkway through the bedroom, so I knew this would be an angle I'd see often. I decided it had to be fixed!

So, I took the frames down and planned to use tools to unscrew the metal clip that holds the stand on. However, once I got the frames to the table I realized there weren't any screws. So, I just mustered my inner Wonder Woman and pulled them right off. Score! It took about 30 seconds and they came right off, with no tearing or damage of any kind.

With my trusty level in hand, I headed back to the bedroom and hung them back up!
Here's the finished product. I'm really loving this pink-and-green semi-Scandinavian display. For the curious, the middle card bears a quote from Arthur Conan Doyle, which really speaks to me. It reads, "Life is infinitely stranger than anything mind could invent." So true!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I've been reading all kinds of different things since I bought my Nook a few weeks ago. One reason I decided to buy an E-Reader in general, and the Nook in particular, was so that I could check out digital library books. My library has an E-Book collection that is a little bit different than their paper book collection, and the E-Books are definitely organized in a different way. For these reasons, in addition to the fact that you can check books out late at night, I've found myself reading some things I don't usually read. Case in point: Last week I finished 2 John Grisham books!

1. Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer:
I first became familiar with John Grisham's work when I was probably in middle school. For most of my childhood, my family took driving trips each summer to visit relatives in Kansas or Missouri (or both!) and usually checked out a book on tape - later CD - from the library to listen to during those long trips. I still remember like it was yesterday listening to the Runaway Jury, which was a story about the death of a smoker from lung cancer and the resulting lawsuit. It was a heavy subject for a person my age!

It seems that now John Grisham is reaching out to his younger demographic. This book is the first in a series of young adult novels about Theodore Boone, an 8th grader with two lawyers for parents who spends his days hanging around the court house and his parents' law firm, helping his classmates with their problems and learning whatever he can.

I didn't totally understand this book would be written for young adults before checking it out. I'm glad I didn't! I enjoyed this book a great deal! It was interesting to see a real, defined story told with a moderate amount of character development in only about 150 pages. I always enjoy reading young adult books because they make me feel smart, since they move a little more quickly than the stuff I'm used to reading.

My very favorite aspect of this book was the author's not-so-subtle attempt to educate the reader about the workings of the American justice system. I thought it was pretty obvious that the goal was to teach the reader, though all of these interesting little factoids (right to remain silent! jury of your peers!) were woven very neatly into the story. While I know that To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic that informs some of our cultural views about racial issues and the administration of justice, I almost with this book could be required reading first!

2. The Associate
I recently went on vacation with my family again. While we didn't go on a mega-road trip across the Midwest, I still checked out a book on CD for us to listen to. The total round trip between my parents' house and Duluth is maybe 6 hours, which is definitely not enough to listen to an entire audiobook! The book I picked was The Associate and we were barely halfway through when we got back to the Twin Cities. So, I quickly got on the list and got it checked out from the library!

This book was totally captivating and I would highly recommend it. After being blackmailed with evidence of a past wrong, Kyle McAvoy is convinced to join a mega law firm and serve as a spy against one of the firm's own clients. I don't remember Grisham's work being so focused on spying and spy technique, but those themes are on constant repeat throughout this book. Most significantly, our hero, Kyle McAvoy who is a law school grad in his mid-twenties spends a lot of time trying to figure out what his surveillance is doing, how they are managing to watch him, and how to avoid detection. It definitely makes you wonder how what sorts of things you might do if you believed you were being watched. As with all of Grisham's work, the real interesting part is the plot so I'll spare you any more details lest I ruin the fun. I'll close by saying this book drew me in almost right away and was a quick read, though it did take more time than Theodore Boone. I'd highly recommend it!

P.S. I know the pictures in this post are totally weird. I figured it would be boring to always look at pictures of a dark grey cover against a light grey screen, which is the best I can do on the e-reader. I decided to do some experimenting with the special effects available in Picasa. Today's feature is Neon!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adventures with a toaster oven

Even in Minnesota, this summer was crazy hot. I live in an apartment that has two little room air-conditioners, which try really hard but have difficulty keeping the place really cool. Moreover, when they chug along they are noisy and not very energy efficient! After receiving a huge electric bill for the period from June 15 to July 15, I realized I needed to get things under control.

One way I decided to do that was to avoid the oven like the plague! My oven is at least 25 years old, usually takes 20+ minutes to pre-heat, and creates a lot of heat around it. The electricity to create all of that heat, plus the electricity to cool it all away definitely adds up. So, I've decided to get creative with my toaster oven. Here's my first little experiment: Muffins!

I have a silicone muffin pan, but it wasn't quite the right shape to fit into my toaster oven. I considered simply filling the paper cups, shoving them in there, and seeing what would happen. DO NOT DO THAT! At first, I didn't believe the online research I read that indicated this was a bad idea. I decided to line up my muffin liners inside a loaf pan for some extra insurance.

Next, I mixed up the batter according to the package directions. I used the stuff where all you have to add is water, since I don't usually keep cow's milk or eggs in the house. The reason I decided to make muffins in the first place was because I had some blueberries left over and wanted to use them up. So, I added some fresh blueberries to the mixture!

Next, I poured the batter into my prepared liners!

and then into the "little oven" (as Mom always called it when I was growing up) they went!

and here's the finished product! Looking at this picture, you probably would never believe that these muffins are completely done, through and through. The addition of the fresh fruit, because it contains its own juice, and because I didn't dry it very carefully, requires some extra cooking time. But trust me, even though these muffins look like a runny mess, they're totally solid on the inside. Though I didn't believe this would happen, the batter completely overran the muffin cups. But, I have to admit, I thought this scone shape was actually pretty cool!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paradise 777

On Saturday night, I had the chance to go see Coldplay at the Xcel Center in St. Paul as part of their Mylo Xyloto tour. I bought the tickets with a friend from book club back in January, so I have been looking forward to this for a VERY long time!

Initially, the appearance in St. Paul was scheduled for one show and the best seats sold out quickly. We were a smidgen behind schedule in booking ours, so all that was really left were these seats "beside" the stage. I was unsure what that was going to be like - especially because Ticketmaster warned us that our view would be "obstructed" - but it turned out to be totally awesome!! 

Here's a shot of the arena before things really got underway. The Xcel is where Minnesota's pro hockey team, the Wild, play and is reputed to have awesome sightlines for hockey. We were in the uppermost balcony level which was fine, though the pitch up there is pretty steep. We both were hanging on for dear life as we made our way down the steps to settle in! 

The first opening act was Charli XCX, and we missed most of her performance. The second opening act was Marina and the Diamonds.
I enjoyed her set more than I thought I would. She had moments where I thought I was listening to Adele, others where I thought she was Sissel (a Norwegian singer with a haunting voice), and still others where she had a Katy Perry sound. I think the Katy Perry-style stuff was probably meant to be ironic, but I enjoyed it! 

Then, it was time for the big moment: COLDPLAY! 
Just after the opening song, Chris Martin announced that this was the band's 777th gig and that we were going to have an f-ing good time. We sure did! This was my first Coldplay concert, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing them whenever they come back.

I was particularly impressed by the band's ability to turn songs that, on the CDs, seem like ballads into rocking jams. If you want to see the setlist, click here. I think most unexpected was that each time they leaned on the "yeahs" in the chorus in "In my place," confetti shot all over the place. For a song that can be a downer when you're at home, it was totally uplifting. The crowd loved all of it! 

I have to say, too, that this concert was the very best concert I have ever attended. I'm about to reveal some spoilers, though since Saturday was their last North American date for Mylo Xyloto, I don't think I'll be ruining anything for you guys. 

As we entered the arena, we were given wristbands: 
Each band had a little box connected to a circular strap with a slider. We put them on (according to the directions broadcasted on the screen) and then waited for the magic! 

Surprisingly, it was the strap (rather than the little box) that lit up! What's more, the wristbands (known as "xylobands," according to the label on the inside of the box), lit up in time with the music. I wouldn't describe them as keeping the beat, but instead pulsing along with the strumming of the guitar, for example. 

It was breathtaking to watch them all come on together! 

Seriously, one of the very coolest things I have ever seen at a concert! 
With that and the stage shaped like a guitar, it was a sight to behold. 

As incredible as these still shots are, the live thing is so much more incredible. I attempted to make a video, but had some serious technical difficulties. I found this one on the internet and thought you might like to watch it! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Like all good things...

... my vacation in Duluth had to come to an end.

Mom and I took a walk one afternoon from our hotel along the shore towards the ship canal. These two structures mark the borders of the ship canal, where boats pass under the aerial lift bridge to enter the harbor. While we were walking, we saw the bridge go up!

We also spent one afternoon driving around town looking for the best views from higher points on the hill. We started at the Copper Top church.

From there, we had an awesome view of the shoreline

and the city!

From there, we made our way up to Enger Park. This is a beautiful spot with a golf course, a grassy lawn area, and, best of all, a stone tower that provides the best views in all of town!

This is not for the faint of heart, as it's about 6 flights of stairs, once you climb the hill from the parking lot to even arrive at the base. But, it's completely worth it!

The harbor!

and downtown! 

and the water! 

That night, we also went for a walk at Leif Erikson park, where there is a beautiful garden. 

with the lake in the background...

Then, we walked back along the lake walk at dusk. 
and with that, our trip was pretty much done. 

After we checked out of the hotel, we had time to take a short sightseeing train ride, which was the thing I was most excited about during the trip. While it wasn't a great photo-op, I would still recommend it. Who doesn't love trains?

 The train runs right along the shore, so we got to see a bit of the town...

along with the Lester River,

and the lake, of course!

when the ride was over, we loaded up the car at the Depot and headed back to the cities!
The vacation was awesome, though I have to admit I'm looking forward to things getting back to normal around here next week. Thanks for reading!