Full circle

About 42 million years ago when Dan and I visited Bayfield in March, I found out that I was going to be interviewing for the Greater Madison Writing Project. While on vacation in Boulder in April, I found out that I had been accepted to the program. And as of last Thursday, I can call myself a fellow of the GMWP Summer Institute (barring a couple of assignments that I still owe my team of enthusiastic leaders). Being part of the summer program meant presenting a 90-minute ‘Teacher Workshop’ in which I shared something that I was wondering about how I taught writing. I considered prezi and power point, but the truth is, I love blogs. So I created another one for my presentation- you can find this blog, entitled ‘Inspiring Writers,’ here.

Before my summer writing adventure began in July, Dan and I took a trip back to the Bayfield area, but this time we didn’t stop at the edge of the land. This time we took the ferry across the drink to Madeline Island.

Oh, Madeline Island. We jumped off rocks into Lake Superior, cooked delicious meals in the campsite and had riproaring campfires. We drove around listening to Neil Young, drank beer at Tom’s Burned Down Bar, checked out real estate and decided that we could retire now and work later.

And speaking of Bayfield, the photo behind this story has been making me happy/ weepy for several days now. If anyone knows anyone getting married in the midwest area anytime soon, I think you should encourage them to hire this woman.

All of this leads me to beets.

You have stuck around this far, so the least I can do is give you an idea for dinner. Dan and I recently dined with our friends Martha and Dominic, who always give me inspiration for salads. On this evening in their backyard we had a salad of garden tomatoes, olive oil, basil and mozzarella cheese and one of shredded beets dressed them in citrus and herbs. I have been making a version of this beet salad religiously since that night.


Shredded beet salad with citrus and herbs

1 bunch beets (I have been using golden beets)

Handful of fresh herbs (I like a combination of parsley, chives and lemon basil)

Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime (and zest of lemon and lime, if you are so inclined)

Splash of orange juice

Glug of olive oil

Salt and pepper, optional

Shred the beets in a bowl. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a jar and give it a good shake. Pour dressing over the beets. Enjoy as is, or mix with spinach/ arugula/ lettuce.


My mom and sister, my salad gurus, have taught me that you can marinate components of the salad and then use this in place of the dressing (for example, cucumbers that have been soaking in oil, vinegar and herbs). I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Madeline Island, so I am heading back. This time I will be bringing a jar of shredded beets to pour over greens for our salads as we ponder that cabin with the lakefront view.


Don’t you just love that word? Vintage? Vintage.

This morning I am drinking an almond milk, kale, blueberry, strawberry and banana smoothie, thinking about words that I love and listening to two new songs that I discovered in the last week (due to my attempt at a new freelance career) and cannot stop playing on repeat. I’m daydreaming of asparagus at the Farmer’s Market that starts this Saturday and long train rides to Seattle….

Happy Thursday.

Wisconsin Film Festival

I love the Wisconsin Film Festival.

This year I saw seven films: Five documentaries, one mockumentary and one fictional story about a messed-up road trip. I saw one film in Norwegian, one in German and one in Russian. I attended films in four different theaters and collected three buttons. Two movies made me cry, six had me laughing out loud, and only one made me fall asleep (but it wasn’t the movie’s fault- it was near midnight and had been a long day.)

Over the course of the weekend I learned that during times of political turmoil in the former USSR they used to broadcast “Swan Lake” on all of the television stations, that there was an all-Black punk rock band emerging out of L.A. at the same time as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and that there are people in a small coastal village in Ireland right now fighting to save their way of life against a Shell Oil project to build a pipeline through their community.

Although the seven films that I saw this past weekend covered a vast part of the world and a variety of topics, I started to sense an underlying theme: In a world that seems to be dominated by money and greed, you have to follow your dreams and figure out what makes you happy. It’s all you’ve got.

And it’s something that I have been wondering about more since all of these protests started happening in Wisconsin… When you have more money than you know what to do with, what really makes you tick? What inspires you? When all you think about is how to get more money, does anything small ever make you happy? Like seeing a corgi riding around in a bike basket? Or opening a fresh bag of coffee beans? I guess what I’m really wondering is, have either of the Koch brothers ever squealed at the sight of a dog in a bright yellow rain slicker and chased after it to take its photo? And with that, I present to you my review of the documentary, Bill Cunningham New York.


        Bill Cunningham New York

          There is a 10-second clip in Bill Cunningham New York that probably would have gone unnoticed at the Wisconsin Film Festival a few months ago: Photographing an event for The New York Times‘ Style section, Bill Cunningham is seen snapping a photo of one of the now infamous Koch brothers. The audience at the Wisconsin Union Theatre Thursday evening let out a collective groan. It was the perfect juxtaposition: The billionaire Koch brother versus Cunningham, a photographer in his 80s who at one point in the film playfully curses New Yorkers for being so “extravagant and wasteful” while he fixes his rain poncho with tape.

          Full of moments that make you grin ear-to-ear, laugh out loud or try to hold back the tears; Bill Cunningham New York is a delightful and moving documentary chronicling the life of the notoriously private, bike-riding New York Times fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham, who lived in Carnegie Hall in a tiny studio apartment for over 50 years (until he was kicked out and unwillingly moved into an apartment with a view of Central Park). Some of the best scenes in the film are the ones of Cunningham taking photos for the ‘On the Street’ feature in the Sunday Times. Standing on a street corner, or biking down a busy New York boulevard, Cunningham looks unassuming until he deftly whips up his camera strung around his neck and furiously snaps one or two photos when he sees something that catches his eye. His subject could be a bright red purse or a woman in a multi-colored rain slicker; a young man with his pants hung low or a group of women wearing black high heels. According to Cunningham, he takes to the streets to discover new trends because, “The street is the best fashion show… You stay on the street and let the street tell you.”

          Don’t doubt that the Wisconsin Film Festival can change your life. A few months after seeing Food, Inc. at the festival two years ago, I became a vegetarian. Finding myself in a bit of a clothes rut, I was hoping for the same sort of results from seeing this film. I even had a headline for this review going in to the film: ‘Bill Cunningham New York or Why I Will Never Wear Dansko Clogs Again.’ And while the film is about fashion, it is more about following your obsession and finding what makes you truly happy. During one especially poignant part of the film we learn that Cunningham used to ceremoniously rip up his paychecks in the office of the magazine where he worked. Cunningham explains his actions: “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do. Don’t touch the stuff. Money is the cheapest thing; freedom… liberty, is the most expensive.” And that is the real message in Bill Cunningham New York: We should not envy people with money; we should aspire to be lucky enough to be passionate about what we do and seek beauty in our everyday lives.


Here’s to something small making you smile today. Cheers.

Just a bit outside

Happy Opening Day.

The sausages getting ready to race at the spring training game that Dan and I attended last April in Arizona

Bob Uecker back calling the plays on my radio as I hang out in my kitchen at night chopping vegetables and sipping a beer is a sure sign of spring. Other signs of spring are all around us. As I sit typing this I can hear the birds chirping away outside and I am starting to feel guilty for being inside. At all times. The Wisconsin Film Festival is underway (I am seeing my first movie tonight!) and the Farmer’s Market starts next weekend. I’m not much for making resolutions in January- there are no visual cues that this is a time for change- but reinventing oneself in the spring is something that I can get behind. Spring is a time of renewal. The days are longer. The flowers are starting to peek out of the dirt. Animals are crawling out of their holes. And there is that day coming up where all of a sudden everyone is outside; playing frisbee, grilling out, strolling around and looking prettier. You know. That day.

So I have made a few spring renewal-olutions. I want to focus more on my writing. The last few months have been a revelation for me as to what truly makes me happy. And I have found (I’ve really known it all along- it just needed to crawl out of the dirt and make me notice it again) that it’s writing. To that note, I have a new project that I am really, really excited about. I want to be more punctual. I want to worry less about germs and everything (soaps, water, lotions, nutella, blueberries, mascara, shampoo, plastic cups, cans, etc.) being poisonous (a strange phenomenon that took over me the last few years). We can only control so much and I do the best that I can. And I want to start trying more new recipes. I feel like I have been in a bit of a cooking rut. My spring goal is try one new recipe a week. And I would like to tell you about the ratatouille that I made recently with some delicious zucchini and eggplant, but that would make me late. So, another time. Go Brewers.