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Gardening Season

I used to think my grandma was a little crazy for having such an enormous garden. I helped her once, but even being paid to weed couldn’t make gardening appeal to me.

Everything changed when I bought my first home in St. Paul: suddenly I was making straight lines curved, dividing and transplanting, and salvaging old bricks for edging.

Here at the B&B we inherited a beautiful perennial garden. After four years I’ve learned that weeding really has to be done right away, before everything gets tall.

Oof! This one didn’t get any attention last summer.

An unexpectedly warm May-June  has meant I’ve made a lot of progress. I find I’m about as fanatical as my grandma…


Thanks, Dad, for putting up all the lattice!

Also, I can’t recommend the Yard Butler Twist Tiller enough!

Pie Class

I taught my first pie workshop at North House Folk School to a group of 8th graders from the Virgin Islands!


I grew up in Braham, the Homemade Pie Capital of Minnesota. (Really– it’s official. We have a document from the governor).  Our Pie Day festival is the first Friday in August, and some 600+ fruit pies are made by volunteers each year. Plus, there’s a pie baking contest, a pie eating contest, and maybe a little pie-ing in the face.

some of the Pie Day volunteers. (photo source: facebook page)

I grew up baking pies with my grandma. There’s something deeply comforting in the twist of the pastry cutter through lard and flour, the clack of the rolling pin, and of course, the rich flavor of berry filling in a tender crust.

I approached North House Folk School with a bunch of ideas for baking classes (brunch, coffee cakes, Scandinavian pastries), and they loved the idea of a pie class.

Before my first class I called my mom up; I needed another experienced baker to be my sounding board. Was estimating half a pie per person too much? Was five pies in three hours totally crazy, especially with 12-year-olds?

Getting serious with a flow chart.

I’m happy to report that the class went wonderfully! The kids were great; they were creative with spices, and even did all the dishes!

We made

  • apple-cranberry galette
  • blueberry with a lattice top
  • whiskey-ginger-peach
  • mixed berry pocket pies
  • and cheater cherry pie (canned filling and homemade whipped cream)

Teaching pie baking revealed how much I know without knowing I know it. (For example, I had never noticed that I tap pie crusts to test they’re doneness).

I was also delighted to discover I wasn’t an uptight teacher. I always prefer baking solo, and I was a little worried they hyper-critical introvert cook in me might not enjoy this. But it was lovely. To be able to bake a pie feels like proof that you can survive in this world– not just on bread and water and potatoes, but that you can turn very simple things — flour, fat, water, salt, fruit– into something elegant, beautiful, and deeply satisfying.

I also realized that though the kids didn’t make stock photo-worthy pie crusts (an impossible first-time feat), even a messy pie is a beautiful pie. Brush a little egg wash on and the crust shines golden yellow. Didn’t pinch the crusts together properly? Oozing blueberry filling makes a pie look alive, real, made by a human being.

So, all in all, a VERY gratifying experience: delicious pies were made, kids were creative, and I even did some drawing that has me scheming about a hand lettered mini recipe book.

If you’d like to schedule a class, see the brochure or contact North House.

Jay Bought a Bike Shop!

Ever since I met Jay (way back in 2005), he’s wanted to own the bike shop in Grand Marais… and now he does!

Fireweed Bike Co-op had its grand opening on Memorial weekend (when he also rode a 100 mile gravel bike race). Note that it’s conveniently located next to Beth’s Fudge, and across the street from both World’s Best Donuts AND Sydney’s Frozen Custard— so you can fuel up before your ride.

My dad was visiting over the weekend and got put to work…

This makes for a busy schedule (bike shop – mayoring – B&B – summer theater – writing – family time), but it’s really exciting to see this become a reality.

Bed of Roses

More playing around on my phone, drawing on pictures.

I checked out the library’s iPad… but immediately felt like I would have to DO REAL ART, so I decided to trick myself by messing around on the phone instead.

I’m discovering how much I enjoy drawing on photos, because there’s so much background already in place; I don’t have to construct it all. And I can tell I’m becoming more aware of highlights and low lights. I’m curious to see what happens when I try out [analog] paints.

Digital Drawing: Coraline’s House

A group of picture book illustrators stayed at the B&B over Memorial weekend. I had met one of them at a SCBWI conference in Chicago last year, and she pulled a group together and headed north.

First of all, I LOVED that each of them led a workshop. It was so much more fun than being at a big conference where everyone is feeling shy and hurrying from one session to the next.

Emily led book deconstruction and reconstruction (or corruption, as my son referred to it).

Emmeline led us through chapter book illustration. We read the first chapter of Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline” and made notes of what we could draw for the full page and for the “spot,” a smaller image. (I discovered that though I like having a picture of the setting, I otherwise choose small tokens that aren’t necessarily important to the plot; others drew the characters right away, but I like to leave that up to the reader).

Alicia showed us her iPad Pro and Apple Pencil… and so began my conversion.

I’m pretty crotchety about technology; I dig my heels in and don’t like new things– i.e., I was totally anti iPod for years– and then I do a total 180.

I should have seen it coming given that I kept asking them, “But don’t people think it’s cheating to go back and forth doing your art on paper and on the computer?”

Nope, not cheating. Not cheating to use the computer, to make multiple photocopies of the “good” sketch, or to use tracing paper.

So, I tried the magic Apple Pencil (which responds to pressure, in addition to having a ton of cool options). And I was in LOVE.

It was so EASY! There was a BACK BUTTON!

I took a picture of my sketch of Coraline’s house…


And started messing around, just using the basic photo editing app on my (android) phone. I loved that I could take pictures along the way. And I discovered that in the digital medium it felt much easier to do background layers– something I seem to forget about on paper.

And here it is: Coraline’s house! Drawn on a phone with my finger!


I’m so grateful to join these lovely ladies, and to discover a very accessible way to illustrate. I’m inspired to illustrate some of my own picture books, and I’m starting to research digital drawing pad options.

My son has really enjoyed drawing on photos. Here’s “Miss Glurkel-Glurk:”


For some reason, he didn’t think it was quite as funny when I drew on a photo of him… Doesn’t this look like a fun character for a story?

Nu Är Det Synd Om Dom Döda

A beautiful song by Kraja, for a beautiful afternoon on Lake Superior.

Nu är det synd om dom döda
som ej får sitta i vårens tid
och värma sig i solen
på ljus och ljuvlig blomsterlid

Men kanske viskade dom döda
då ord till vivan och violen
som inga levande förstår

Dom döda veta mer än andra
och kanske skulle dom när solen går
då, med en glädje djupare än vår
bland kvällens skuggor ännu vandra
i tankar på den hemlighet
som bara graven vet


Now it’s a shame about the dead
Who cannot sit in spring time
And warm themselves in the sun
In the bright and lovely season of flowers

But maybe the dead whispered
Words to the primrose and the violet
That no one living understands

The dead know more than others
And maybe when the sun sets
Then, with a joy deeper than ours
Among the shadows of the evening, they shall go walking
Thinking of the secrets
That only the grave knows.

SVEA with Cook County High School Choir

The SVEA Singers will do a few songs as part of the spring choir concert on Thursday, May 18th.

7pm at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Grand Marais, MN.

Yvonne, Erika, Erin, & Rose at WTIP

The choir is directed by SVEA’s own Erika Ternes, the musical genius who can write an arrangement in five minutes or less.

… and who can do stupid human tricks:


Moana for the Win

I know I’m late to this party– I’m late to a lot of them.

I finally watched “Moana” after catering to my 7-year-old son’s repeated soundtrack requests.

I was blown away.

Not so much by the story as by the kind of story: it’s so female-focused. Not only is there no romance, there are some other big notables:


Moana’s mom is not an overprotective bear

I liked elements of “Brave,” but was irritated that the mom was the one who enforced societal oppression. I appreciated that Moana didn’t have to fight her mom in order to find herself.


The ocean is a main character

What’s more feminine than the water that birthed all life… and which ebbs and flows and follows the moon?


Grandmother safeguards Moana’s purpose

The three feminine stages of life are maiden, mother, crone. I loved the symbolism of the crone using her wisdom, experience, patience and irreverence to affirm the maiden.

The mission is to save the Creation Goddess

To restore the heart!! This is exactly what’s next in our culture: restoring the power and honor of the Divine Feminine.

Moana doesn’t set out to fight Maui. She doesn’t go out to slay monsters. She goes out to heal the wound that is birthing the monsters and destruction. Imagine what our world will look like when we make decisions that aren’t about conquering but about healing.


‘You’re a princess, not a wayfinder’

Maui explicitly calls out the elephant in the room: ‘you wear a skirt, you have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess, you’re not a wayfinder.’ THANK YOU, Disney, for finally getting past the damsel nonsense.

In “Brave” the heroine is fighting against being a damsel. In “Moana” the heroine (and the ocean) squash the damsel limitations in about two minutes of screen time– and we get to go on with the adventure, not questioning our heroine’s legitimacy.


The dark side of the Divine Feminine

Te Ka spews lava, rage, destruction. You know those hypercritical mothers-in-law in sitcoms? That’s the same thing. That’s the Divine Feminine devalued, powerless. That’s how I feel when I bump up against sexism and division of labor.

This might actually be the most powerful element of the story: the acknowledgement that what seems evil, what we think we must conquer (or at least avoid), is actually wounded and needs our help to become whole again.

She’s not a waif

Wll, at least not by Disney standards. Pretty cool to compare Moana and Ariel dolls:

The Leftovers:

A few irritating old Disney standards were still present.

Male/Female body ratio

I know Maui is a demigod, but he (and the chief) are four times the size of most of the female characters.

This is still drawing pretty hard on the old Atlas Bodybuilding standard:


Doe eyes

Although Moana isn’t quite as doe-eyed as other Disney girls, the cute-baby-animal thing is still going strong.

Why is this a problem? Because babies (animal and human) have extra big eyes for their head-size, which is why we think they’re so cute. But babyish cuteness is one thing that reinforces the attitude that females are small, weak, in need of protection, etc. Not helping the revolution.

Read more about “Baby Schema” here.


Sassy hips

She’s nowhere near as sexualized as Elsa from “Frozen,” but I think we could get rid of the little hip pop without losing any of her spunk.


That said, this is the first time in my life I’ve ever told people that they really should watch a Disney animated movie.

And the best bonus of all is hearing my son sing not only “You’re Welcome,” but walk around the house belting out “I am Moana!”

Moana for the win.