Browsing Tag



Twelve years ago on October 12th, I finished my show as Pippi Longstocking at the Norsk Høstfest and walked around to say hello to the wood workers.

There was a cute guy in suspenders and a plaid cap, carving a timberframe trestle. I stayed in character… And stopped by again later.

We went to the Ground Round for supper (along with my mom and some of the North House ‘old guys’). We spent the next 4 days of the festival together, making plans for trips to Prague and India. (Charlie the birch bark guy said “don’t go getting married tonight!”)

A week later I visited Grand Marais for the first time. We kayaked Lake Superior (and got soaked), slept in a yurt, looked at stars on the Bridge of the Master, and I kissed him on Fishhook Island.

In January we got engaged.

In August we got married.

Since then we’ve lived in the Twin Cities in an old farmhouse, at a canoe camp at the edge of the Boundary Waters, in the Indian Himalayas, in a yurt at a CSA, and now at the B&B.

I know weddings are a big deal, but the day we first met always seems like the most magical anniversary to me. ❤


Let me tell you about my granny.

Granny_leopard print shirt

Meeting Ennis, 2010

   She was born in 1923 in Belgium, which made her 92 ½ when she died this morning. She met my grandad at a dance hall during World War II; he was from England. They sent letters back and forth, though he spoke no French and she virtually no English. She didn’t see him again until he arrived in Belgium for their wedding. (So many war brides showed up in England and then never found their promised husbands that she couldn’t enter the country before marrying him. Her friends said, “He’s not going to come, he’s not going to come,” and she kept saying, “He’s coming.”) All Grandad knew was when to say oui during the ceremony. Then they went home to England.


Snooker watching in action, 2012

My mom (their former daughter-in-law) says that Grandad had no idea how much she talked, but once her English picked up he discovered just how opinionated she was. My visits to her home are always in the context of a heated monologue-debate about food. Last time it was about mustard: Sainsbury’s, an English grocery store, was having French mustard made in France– but was it really French mustard? This was discussed with Uncle Phil while the week-long snooker tournament played on the television in the background.

When my sister and I traveled solo in Europe in 2002, the discussion (held at length at a very nice Italian restaurant, then at a coffee shop, and back at the house) centered on coffee: countries of origin, how it should be roasted, the right way to brew it, and when to drink it. Back then Uncle Pat was still alive, and, as my mom said, “Pat would argue that the moon was made of cheese just to get an argument going,” and was known to switch sides seamlessly halfway through to keep up momentum; he and Granny and Uncle Phil vocalized about coffee for six hours.

My cousin, Ben, lives over there and had weekly dinners at Granny’s house. He sent me a message once: Phil had made apple crumble, and he and Granny were now assessing its merits and whether or not it lived up to Plato’s Form of Apple Crumble (though I don’t believe they would have called it that). The debate culminated with Granny throwing up her hands in the penultimate French way and saying with heavy accent, “To me, it’s nothing.”


Kathryn, the Smooshy Grandma on left; Paulette on right, 2010

I always knew she was the Scary Grandmother. I think everyone has one Smooshy Grandma and one Scary one. Granny was the one with strict rules and high expectations of manners (hinted at in the moments when rules were being bent and exceptions were being made– a tendency I notice in myself).

But she was also the grandparent who gave permission to be assertive, bold, rather fabulous. She was a young woman during a time of war rations, but her family always had butter (this still means a lot to me, having grown up surrounded by my stoic Scandinavian Depression-era people who waste nothing and try not to inconvenience anyone or ask for too much).


post-India: a huge spread of Indian food with Uncle Phil, 2012

She’d been widowed for twenty years, and though it must have been devastating, she held her own in the world. I love that she got her hair done weekly. That she wore nice clothes and jewelry (how many grandmothers can wear a leopard print top and look classy?). That when Jay and I visited she served us three kinds of cheeses and a choice of aperitifs; though she could no longer cook like she used to (homemade sorbets with waffle cookies overshadow the multiple dish meals from childhood memory) she still heated the plates in the oven before serving us a top quality frozen dinner. I had tiramisu for the first time at her house. I brought in the milk bottles (so European! So thrilling to peel back the foil tops!). I smelled her particular hair spray (in the gold bottle) and perfume (with the red and black top).

My grandad was the letter writer, and I was devastated when he died of a brain tumor. He’d send letters to me and my sister (individually– a man who understood the dreams of children! It was wonderful to get a blue airmail letter addressed just to me); at the bottom, in her curlicued French cursive, Granny would always write some version of, “Well, as usual, Grandad has given you all the news,” then sign it with an inverted pyramid of Xs.

I wonder what it would have been like to grow up down the road from her. To take the city bus to her house the way Ben did. Maybe more of our family’s hypercriticism and perfectionism would have rubbed off on me. Surely I would have been an even better cook. I expect I would have kept my French brushed up. Would have sneaked back into her bedroom and found the letters from Grandad she wouldn’t show me (“Not for young eyes,” she said, wagging her finger at me and looking very pleased with herself).

I’m sorry I didn’t know her better, but some grandparents you know well and intimately as a child, and some you don’t. But she formed me anyway. I can see her face in the shape of my own. Give me an hour around a French speaker and I’ll start puffing out my cheeks and shrugging my shoulders in her exact manner. And as my husband can attest, I’m nearly unbearable in my evaluation of my own cooking– Midwestern as I am, I completely understand the Belgian sentiment that food is divine and our mortal efforts will always, always fall short.

Every sprinkle of nutmeg on simple, buttered pasta is a nod to her.

Every nicely laid table, every snifter of smokey Laphraoig, every slice of Nutella toast.

I think this is the legacy, the inheritance I’m choosing to take from her: that there is no reason for life not to be beautiful in the details. There is no reason for food not to be delicious. That chocolates and cheese and butter and bread are the standards of true richness.

Oh, and the flair for the dramatic is mine, whether I want it or not. Because I, too, fully believe that a dish of apple crumble holds such magnificent possibilities that I am justified in throwing up my hands, pursing my lips and giving it up.

“To me, it’s nothing.”

To me, it’s everything.

family with Granny

The fam. (Check out the telltale jawlines on some of us…) 2010

Hairspray + Friends = Theatre

The week
Over the weekend Jay and I did our first ever play together! We played a married couple, along with our friends Jackson and Hannah. Dinner With Friends won the Pulitzer in 2000 and is an moving, accurate story about friendships and marriage (the highs and lows). It was powerful to not only do a play with my husband (who hadn’t done one since high school but who was amazing), but to tackle this topic.

We had great turn out for an off-season show (in tiny tourist town), and people said it really got them talking. Some said “that was a little too close to home at times!” and that this was the best theatre they’ve seen here in a long time. Great to know that people want some of the heavier stuff. (I had forgotten that relationship angst can be funny– there were a lot more laughs than I’d expected, though plenty were the laughter of recognition).

Enjoy a little photo recap:

DWF poster


Note: grape juice is FAR better than cranberry juice for fake wine. Especially if the cranberry juice is “lite” (it was on sale).


Theatre means dress up, make-up and hair spray! All rare in this practical northern climate.


FIRST TIME EVER!! I’ve never in our 10 years seen Jay put gel in his hair. But this was the 90’s…


Jackson, Jay & Hannah. (Jay is pointing to the sign that says no pictures in the dressing room…)

Drama at the door_2016-3

It’s so hard to say goodbye! (Actually, I was trying to get in for call on Friday…)

I followed this busyness up with some sleeping in, two movies (Girl Most Likely & Birdman), guitar playing, and a middle grade book splurge to counter the imminent feelings of “I never do ANYTHING” that show up immediately after I do something big.

I hope you had a lovely week/weekend!