Smaller Than A Redwood

“If You Put All Of Us In A Blender You Get A Girlyman”*

A big thing happened last night.  A thing big enough to justify this blog coming back from the dead.  Jamie, Jim Bernard, and I trekked down to the Entry to see Girlyman play.  It’s hard to explain why this is such a monumental event, but I’ll try…

Hadar is a guy that all three of us know.  I think I’ve only met him once and it was a long time ago, but he’s still a guy close to my heart.  He and his wife are some of the sweetest, most caring people that I’ve ever known.  They commit random acts of kindness on a regular basis and judging by their wide circle of close friends, others feel the same way.

Hadar and his wife Lois are very successful people.  They live in NYC, work hard and play hard.  They love to see live music.  They see live music more than anyone else I know.  Hadar has a blog that he keeps mainly for the purpose of recording the details from all of the shows that he and Lois see.  Most every time they see a show, Hadar writes a lengthy wrap of the show on his blog.  Jamie, Jim and I all read Hadar’s blog.  Hadar and Lois frequent many different bands, but the nexus of their relationship with live music seems to be Girlyman.  They love a lot of music and a lot of musicians, but they LOVE Girlyman.

Until last night I didn’t realize that Jim is a bit of a Girlyman fan himself.  After having dinner with Hadar one night long ago and hearing all about the wonder of Girlyman, he bought all of their CD’s and listened over and over.  I guess Jim is like that with music.  Jamie and I are armchair fans.  We own a CD or two and listen from time to time, but neither one of us has ever been captivated by the band.

Last night when we hit the club I was there more for Hadar than I was for myself.  The night felt really big.  Finally it was time to see this band that Hadar writes so much about, this band that Hadar and Lois have seen 21 times in 3.5 years, this band that Hadar and Lois have backed financially when they’ve been in a tight spot, this band that even though Hadar and Lois see so much live music, is still their favorite band.  Yes, it was a big night.  I think Jamie and Jim felt sort of the same.  Being able to see the band with other faithful readers of Hadar’s blog also made the night seem more special.

The other big part of the night was being able to blog about it the next day the way that Hadar always does.  Jamie, Jim and I were all really excited about this part of the experience as well.  It’s like everything coming full circle.

I felt odd at the show.  Both like a spectator, watching diehard fans belt out every song, and like an insider, having read so much about them and knowing Hadar.

The show opened with “See to See” which is off their new album and it was one of my favorites of the night.  Ty (Tylan) sings lead vocal on this song and I really liked her voice.  She’s an alto and I’m partial to altos.  I found myself digging the songs best when she sang lead vocal.  For the record, Ty is the woman in the middle, Doris the woman on the left and Nate the guy on the right.  Their drummer J.J. is back behind Doris, but from the photo it’s hard to tell.  She was set back pretty far from the others due to the configuration of the stage.

The second song of the night “Joyful Sign” was too bouncy and poppy for my taste.  “Easy Bake Ovens” came next, which is one of Jim’s favorites.

After these first songs, Doris told a story about her recent struggle with Leukemia and how she suffered from depression afterward.  It was a very honest and raw story and while she shared it was obvious that the whole band had been a real and integral part of her struggle.  It struck me that they were very cohesive, very together, very much like a family, very different in this respect from any other band I’ve seen.  Today I spent some time reading about the band and discovered that the 3 original members of the band were roommates for 8 years in a 900 foot apt. in Brooklyn and two of the members have been friends since 2nd grade; guess that’s where all of the cohesion comes from.

I enjoyed the rest of the show, especially the encore which was an awesome rendition of the BeeGees “Staying Alive”, but I enjoyed most getting a first hand take on Girlyman.  After reading about them for so long, it was gratifying to see them in person.  Nate has a great stage presence, he’s definitely the one leading the charge with the quips and stories, but they all blend and fit so well together that it’s more like getting a glimpse at a private conversation than it is the typical stage banter.  Ty struck me as the most reserved of the group, but also the most surprising.  When she smiled her whole face changed and she really lit up.  I loved Doris’ dress (like I wanted one for my own) and admired her for being so vulnerable on stage talking about her cancer and depression.

Girlyman isn’t quite my aesthetic in the land of music, but they’re close and I can see why Hadar loves them so much and why they have such a devoted fan base.  Seeing them live was magical in this weird amalgamation of so many words read, so much admiration and love for Hadar and Lois, and then finally getting the concrete evidence of seeing their favorite band live.  I think because I’ve only ever seen Hadar and Lois once, it was a way to get to see them through their love of music.  I don’t know exactly, but it was a great night.

When Girlyman return to town, I’ll be at the next show.  They are growing on me.  Jamie and I listened to their music this afternoon and I’ll listen to more of it again soon.  In true Hadar fashion we stole away with the set list and had it signed by the band members.  This is a classic part of most of Hadar’s posts.  He almost always has a picture of the setlist.  We also grabbed a picture with the band.

Hadar we saw Girlyman last night!  Thanks for turning us on to a great band and for sharing your love of music with us all!!!

*One explanation given by the band as to their name.  It’s a commonly asked question and one that I’ll admit to having asked in my head whenever I thought of their name.

 

Best Of The Road – Part Two

I’m back to finish the other blog post that I started a few months ago.  When last I wrote about our summer vacation my family was deep in the landscape of the rural midwest.  We pick up the narrative as we meandered our way from Galena, IL to Mineral Point, WI.

We arrived in Mineral Point and I thought, huh, this looks like it could be a cool town but it’s not exactly a thriving town.  Mineral Point is tiny.  We arrived mid-week to learn that most things in Mineral Point are only open on the weekends.  The place is strange.  They have many things that a town this size shouldn’t have i.e. a huge public swimming pool, an opera house, a train museum, a really old house museum, a school for arts and crafts, and a living history museum.

We settled into our home for the next few days and decided it was a pretty good place to rest one’s head.  Maple Wood Lodge isn’t the fanciest of accommodations, but it was lovely in it’s own quiet way.  It’s set a few miles outside of town on a 20 acre parcel.  The yard is large and well-equipped for family fun with a fire pit, volley ball net, hammock and teether ball.  From the yard you can start out on a few different hikes that let you explore the property.  The hikes are short enough that even small kids can hike the distance, but long enough that you feel like you’re sort of on a hike.  I think we would claim Maple Wood Lodge as our favorite place that we stayed during the trip.

The highlight of Mineral Point for Mazie was definitely Pendarvis, the living history museum. I’m not sure what happened, but something about Pendarvis clicked with her and she couldn’t stop talking about the place for the next few weeks.  Even today if you mention the name, she will start off anew on the wonders of Pendarvis.

Pendarvis consists of several very old stone houses constructed in the early and mid 1800′s.  The historical society runs costumed, guided tours through the houses that tell about the various families that lived there and what life was like for them.  It’s worth a stop if you are in the area.

We had a hard time finding much else to do in Mineral Point as most of the town is closed during the week.  I think Mineral Point is a cool, little spot, but if we ever returned, I would go on the weekend.

After a few nights in Mineral Point we loaded up our awesome mini-van and hit the road for Cedarburg, WI.  Cedarburg is located just a bit outside of Milwaukee.  It feels old and preserved, but in a touristy way.  It’s similar to Stillwater, MN, but bigger.

Our accommodations in Cedarburg were strange,  but interesting.  We stayed at a farmstead that used to be in the country, but is now smack dab in the middle of suburbia.  The farmstead consists of the owner’s house, the old barn which the owners use for antique storage and two small cottages that are rented to people like us.  The good news about the cottages is that they could be really, super cool and extraordinary.  The bad news about the cottages is that they aren’t; in fact they are a little creepy.  We wouldn’t ever stay there again, but it was certainly more interesting than hanging our hats at the local Days Inn.

We had a nice time in Cedarburg.  We visited a covered bridge that seemed too simple to be entertaining, but ended up providing at least an hour of enjoyment.  We walked the Main Street and shopped the many stores.  We sat down at Tomaso’s, a weird pizza place with great pizza (sauce on top) and superb cheese bread.  We dined at a restaurant with mediocre food and a fabulous outdoor patio that took all disappointment out of the meal because of the view.  We watched a dumb movie in our creepy cottage.  Jamie and Mazie made art at a local studio while Tyler napped.  It was a simple and sweet way to end our road trip.  I would return to Cedarburg again, especially with older kids.  I think the area has plenty to offer a family for a long weekend.

Next year there will be no road trip through the rural midwest.  I’ve promised Jamie and I’m going to keep my promise!

The Lady’s New Nose

It’s been a long time, but I’m finally back to finish what I started.  And speaking of finishing what I started, I should probably write that post about the second part of our trip from this past summer.  I know it’s long over-due and long forgotten, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t get it done.  I’m thinking that will be my next “all new and exciting” post.  Stay tuned for that, it just might arrive before Christmas.  Christmas makes me busy.

Without further ado, may I present our new mudroom in pictures…

    

Okay, it’s the mudroom, but mostly it’s Tyler.  This is what Tyler does each day; he gets what he wants.  In this case, he wants shoes that are located inside of the awesome mudroom cabinets.   So he climbs onto the bench, walks to the cabinet door, opens the cabinet door…

    

…climbs down, grabs the shoes, and disappears.  This leaves the lady’s new nose empty and ready for a photo.  Awww,  isn’t she lovely.

    

Now it’s Mazie turn to get in on the photo action.  The mudroom cabinet is perfection.  We have room to hang 14 coats, house a crap-load of shoes, tuck away all of our hats and mittens, and even our cookbooks have a home.  Because the mudroom is pretty narrow it’s hard to get a good picture of the front of the cabinet so you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you it’s supremely good.

    

Tyler’s back again and looking for an escape.  This offers a different view of my handsome lady’s nose with a view into the kitchen.  And just to round out the pictures, here’s a view of the mudroom just past the cabinet before you get to the desk.  There is a large opening where you can walk into our old office and pocket French doors if you want some privacy.  This means you can now make a circle inside our house.  The kids love to circle and I’ve gotta say circling isn’t just for kids, adults love it too.  And that my friends is our new mudroom and my children.  The End.

She Went And Got A New Nose

When we moved to our new house almost two years ago, I fell in love.  I’ve never been in love with a house before.  I moved around a lot as a kid and found all of our places of residence fine, but nothing extraordinary.  I bought a house in my late twenties and thought it was great, but I didn’t love it.  Same thing with house number two, great house but no love.

When we bought this house, we weren’t really looking for a house.  That is to say Jamie wasn’t looking for a house and I was always looking for a house.  I used to spend countless hours online looking at houses each week.  I would drag Jamie to open houses and occasionally demand that our realtor friend take me to a house that I just had to see.  Jamie thought our old house was excellent and had very little interest in moving.  He was interested in not being dragged to open houses and the computer to look at this house or that house.  And he’s a nice man, so he wanted me to be happy.  That’s about as much as he wanted to move.

On one open house Sunday we arrived at our current house, walked inside, and I instantly knew that this should be our house.   Jamie was on his cell phone most of the time we were here and it was only in a subsequent visit that he began to see the light.  A few short weeks later, we made an offer and a month after Tyler was born we moved in.

Our old house was bigger, had an attached garage, and a large kitchen.  Our house now has a detached garage, small kitchen and less space.  Our old house had soaring ceilings and was awash in light.  Our house now has standard 8″ ceilings and regular windows.  Our old house was great, but this house we love.  We got used to everything “less good” about our new house, but we had no place to hang our hat when we walked in the door.  Our back door had a 2′ x 2′ landing that served as our entrance to the house and our “mudroom”.  We didn’t realize how important a mudroom was to us until we didn’t have one anymore.

We are people who dream big and it is with our dream of a place to hang your coat, set your groceries, and store your shoes that we enlisted the help of an awesome company (Quatersawn) to help transform our mudroom-less house into a house with a mudroom that would make any mother proud.

We began this journey many months ago and now it is complete.  The process was long, loud, messy and pricey, but it was worth it.  It’s like our house that we were completely in love with (despite her nose) went and got a nose job…Now we are over the moon for her.

Pictures of her new nose can be seen in the next blog post.  Stay tuned!

 

 

A Couple Of Old Friends

Meet Four Seasons Mall…

It’s a traditional 80′s style strip mall.  As a kid/teen, it was the closest “mall” to our house and somewhere my family spent a decent amount of time.  There was a grocery store, liquor store, dance studio, Synders, pizza place and countless other small businesses.  Today all that’s left is the pizza place and a Kaplan Professional School.  The talk is that the place will soon be torn down and a Walmart will go up.  I’m guessing that a Walmart will draw more cars to the parking lot than a pizza place and a Kaplan.

Today with much trepidation and much excitement, I headed to that pizza place to enjoy a little “pizza party”.  Marcello’s offers up excellent cheese bread and pretty tasty pizza.  It was a favorite from my teen years and it’s still a favorite today, sorta like cheese.

I ate cheese to my heart’s content and it was delightful, delectable, delicious, dazzling and deliriously good.  I was nervous going in that I would be like an alcoholic, once returned to my vice, helpless in its grasp.  So far though, I feel good about it.  I think my cheese and grease monkey has been satiated and should stay quiet for awhile and I’ve had no adverse stomach reactions.  After being away from cheese for 34 days, the thing I noticed most about it other than it’s deliciousness was it’s saltiness.  It’s some salty stuff.  Nothing like a little distance to make one appreciate cheese with all of its beauty and its one fault.

Join me in a little 80′s nostalgia by looking at a few pictures of Marcello’s.

There it is, number 26, Marcello’s Pizza & Pasta.

Check out that 80′s decor.  Hasn’t changed, not one little bit since the first time I was there over 25 years ago.  If that’s not staying power, I don’t know what is.

It’s hard to find chandeliers like that now-a-days and the faux ivy painting all over the walls is to die for.  This place is a classic.  The booths are original to the joint as well.  Nothing in the whole space has been updated since the place opened.

The piece de resistance, Marcello’s garlic cheese bread.  It’s always perfectly cooked, perfectly cheesed and perfectly buttered.  Unlike ever other place where you get cheese bread and they use some pre-made garlic butter stuff that all tastes the same, here the butter is real and so is the garlic.  It’s a hand-made concoction that is nothing short of perfect.  Yum!

 

 

It’s A Wrap

October is over and done.  The vegan challenge is over and done.  So far I’m still eating vegan.  I’m not sure why, I’m not sure what I’m doing going forward…I’m feeling very unsure.

I had a plan in place and felt really good about it, 2 vegetarian meals a week and 2 non-vegan sweets a week.  This new plan was motivated by both my health (the vegan part) and my desires for cheese and milk chocolate (the non-vegan part).  I had planned to keep that up until I felt some reason to not keep it up.  I guess that’s still what I’m going to do, but a bunch of doubt has entered my mind as to what I should eat if I am eating for “health” and nothing else.

There are lots of different opinions about diet, health and nutrition out there, many of them backed up by research.  I’m beginning to wonder if a strict vegan diet is truly the most healthy diet you can eat or if allowing some small bit of animal stuff into the diet from time to time might be beneficial.  Jamie is convinced that a vegan diet is the best and healthiest way to eat and I thought I was convinced as well, but I’m just not sure anymore.  I plan to read more and try to come to my own conclusion, but in the meantime I feel my bets are hedged.  If vegan is the way to be, I’m mainly eating vegan and the downside to a couple of meals a week that are non-vegan shouldn’t be a big deal.  And if it really is beneficial to get some calories from animal products, I’m doing that as well.

I question why I don’t feel any different or better after eating vegan for 33 1/2 days and why I don’t feel supercharged by “plant power” the way that so many vegans describe their state of being.  I really don’t feel any better physically.  I have more gas and I visit the number two toilet more often; that is the extent of how I feel different.

Psychologically I feel 100% better.  My mind is still consumed with food, but in a good way.  I’m eager to try new, chocked-full-of-nutrient recipes and I spend a lot more time cooking.  I think about what I eat to make sure that I’m eating nutrient-dense food, whereas in the past I was mainly concerned with not gaining weight.  I still wear leather, use glue and otherwise participate in animal stuff, but I’m not eating animals and that feels really good.  I feel lighter and more at peace with my food choices.

My cholesterol has always been on the high side from the first time I had it tested at 17 until the last time it was tested a few years ago.  My HDL levels have always been great and my LDL levels are low, so it hasn’t been a big concern, but I plan to have my cholesterol checked in about a month and I’m hoping to find that it has gone down considerably.

So I guess that’s it.  It’s a wrap as they say in show biz.  The challenge was so much fun and sparked lots of good conversation with many different people.  The challenge also brought about a real change in my perception of food and how and why I eat.  Hopefully the change will stick with me…

Now I just need to find a new challenge.  Does anyone have any good ideas?

 

Day 26 of Vegfest

The month is close to over and with that the vegan challenge.  I’m still having a great time experimenting with vegan cuisine, but I’m a little glad that the month is drawing to a close.  Cheese and I have a date and we’ve missed each other a lot and can’t wait to hang out.  Hopefully my gut will agree.  I’m planning a little pizza party for sometime next week.

All of that said, I do plan to keep up with the vegan thing for the most part.  I think it’s good for me and for the planet and for all my animal friends.  I like the way I eat better when I eat this way.  I like how I feel on my insides better when I eat this way; I experience far less food guilt.  Food guilt is something that I’m normally steeped in.  I can’t say that it’s all gone, food guilt and I are almost as good of friends as cheese and I, but the food guilt is much dissipated.  I think no matter how I eat, I will always feel like I’m not doing a good enough job.

On the poundage front, I’ve now lost 7 pounds.  The weight loss is so easy and natural and that feels good.  I think in time, maybe lots of time, I will return to a weight that I am comfortable with and feel good about.  I feel relaxed and very low-key about my weight.  I think it’s because I realize that eating this way it’s hard to gain weight and much easier to lose weight and so if I just sit back and hang out, my weight will take care of itself.

I have noticed a general slacking with other things that I do in my life that I feel are important and have a positive impact.  I’ve been a reusable bag fiend for several years and I’ve accepted several plastic and paper bags during this month because I haven’t  had enough bags with me.  In the past I would shove the extras in the shopping cart, then the car, then bring a bag out to the car when I got home to put the extras in.  I’ve found myself throwing small pieces of paper away instead of walking to the kitchen and recycling them, and feeling less guilt about plastic containers that contain pre-made vegan goodies than I would had they been regular baked goods.   It’s as if I can only be so “good” and the vegan thing requires more of my “goodness” than my other way of eating.

I’ve been meaning to post lots of other vegan stuff this month, but it’s been a really busy month and I haven’t devoted as much time to writing as I would have liked.  I guess all of those other posts will just have to wait for next month.  See you after Halloween!

Veg Party!

Okay, not really, but today is day 19 of the 30 day vegan challenge and I’m proud to report that both Jamie and I are still going strong.  My stomach issues haven’t abated, which I find frustrating, and those cheesy, cheese thoughts are still creeping in, but I’m feeling good.  I’ve lost 6 pounds and still feel psychologically lighter than I did before.  I haven’t noticed any other physical changes beyond the weight loss and the constant hunger and bloated cycle I seem to spin through, but once again the challenge is still proving challenging and fun.

The grocery store and I have become really good friends.  I seem to visit it three or four times a week, and even with that frequency I always feel like I’m missing something.  I think a big part of this is learning how much and what to buy when I’m at the store and the other part is it takes some time to stock up a vegan kitchen.

When the month is over Jamie and I plan to do a comparison of what our family spends on average per week to eat vegan versus what we spend on our regular diet to feed ourselves.  I feel pretty certain that we are spending more now and I also feel that if we were on a tight budget, we could eat vegan for way less than we are spending now.  It will be curious to look at the numbers and see what they have to say.

So far the best thing I’ve eaten this month wasn’t good for me, but it was good and that is Mama Peas Dough Balls.  They remind me a lot of the peanut butter cookies that have a Hersey’s Kiss in the middle.  I’ve tried a mushroom (I still don’t like them, but I’m going to try them at least 10 more times before I really make up my mind.  I’m growing.), eaten lots of brown rice, black beans, tomatoes, hummus, pita bread, granola bars, english muffins, Triscuits and fruit and veggie smoothies.  That list seems much better than my old list and the only similarity is the granola bars.  The worst thing I’ve eaten was the mushroom, but like I said I haven’t given up on them.

If nothing else these last few weeks have gotten me out of my comfort zone and into trying different things than I would normally eat.  For someone like me who would be happy to eat the same thing each day for weeks on end this is a big step in the right direction.

If you would like to check out my other vegan posts, follow the links below!

I’m Going Vegan

It’s All Vegan In Here

Day 12 Of The Veg

 

The Kate Club

Mazie has joined her first social club.  It’s called “The Kate Club” and it’s quite exclusive.  You must be a girl, garner an invitation, and you must be willing to “eat” a leaf before you join and every day after that.  The club members call it “eating a leaf” but really all you do is put it in your mouth, chew it up, and spit it out.  The club meets during recess and focuses on chasing boys and doing what Kate says.  The club is named after Kate since she started it and so it only makes sense that she would instruct other members about what they should be doing while the club is in session.

I’m loving this club.  I’m thinking about starting my own Tammy club where each day we drink a mommy beer and chase men…and of course, do what I say.

 

Day 12 Of The Veg!

Here’s how I’m feeling on day 12…For the most part, all is well.  I have begun to mourn the loss of certain foods, like cheese, but for the most part it hasn’t been a big deal.

Eating out is much less fun than before and a much bigger hassle than eating at home.  My tummy is still experiencing some adjusting pains due to the new diet, but I’m hoping that it all settles down in there in the next few days.

I can’t say that I feel more energetic or less or any happier or less happy or anything like that.  I do feel like I’m eating much healthier and that pleases me and I’m happy that my current eating doesn’t involve any animals, but that’s about it.  The almost euphoria of the new that I felt at day 5 has faded, but I’m still enjoying the experiment.

I’ve lost 3 pounds, which is nice, but I’m also hungry a lot of the time.  I find it difficult to be full.  Either I eat and I’m hungry shortly afterward or I eat and then I feel really bloated and gross.  Once again, I’m hoping these issues work themselves out in the near future.  I also wonder if maybe “full” feels different eating this way than it did when I ate lots of cheese and other such things?

Sometimes I can’t wait for the experiment to be over so I can have pizza or cheese bread or some other cheese thing and other times I think I might extend the experiment another month or two to really give it a fair shake.  It is an interesting thing to try and now that I’m doing it I’m surprised that I’ve never tried it before.  It’s not as hard as I thought it would be in terms of sticking to it and the unforeseen benefit of not feeling consumed by food is very nice.  Stay tuned for the next update…

PS:  If you missed the other posts about this topic and you’d like to catch up, visit this link and this link to get all of the details.