Sunday, September 23, 2012

Save the Date!

Lee is back in the saddle again with some new events this fall - one of which I was lassoed into participating! Honestly, we just kind of noodled on these ideas for a few months, spent our time in Florence hearing about the grand history of conversation and thought it would be wonderful to revive the practice! That is how "Conversations on Calhoun" came about.

Here is the short version:

We will begin on Friday, Nov 9 - 7 - 9 - and see how this g(r)oes!
St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church
on Lake Calhoun (East side of lake with the lovely gold dome)

The first topic will be Joseph Campbell's work - THE POWER OF MYTH, and the legendary interview with Bill Moyers. We'll watch 1 hour of interview, then spend the rest of the evening in conversation - over wine and light food. We hope you'll join - it is open to the public. Donations only.

Here's my pitch:

PSSSSSST! Save the date!

Cool people. Learning cool things. Together.
And then, talking about it.

Conversations on Calhoun

Lee and Alecia Stevens

In pursuit of good conversation…save these dates.

First Fridays November – March

For more information:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Full Heart

My mom with her "gammy" - the grandmother who raised her. 1938.

Lee has a mentor, Robert Sardello, who says something like this, (and I paraphrase) "You aren't truly in your heart if you don't feel a bit of sorrow."

I admit that I seem to agree that "being in your heart" sounds like a good idea. I have described some feelings / experiences to Lee recently and his response was that I was "in my heart" - for whatever that is worth. So now I want to tell you as closely as possible what this experience is like as I felt it again this weekend so the memory is close.

On Friday evening, we drove to Northfield to spend the night with my mom, whose 82nd birthday was on Saturday, Sept 15. We love going alone to spend time with her as I have a lively group of siblings and in-laws so when we all get together there is much drinking and cooking and eating and talking and I barely get a quiet moment to check in with Mama. So, we made a special point to go alone (Lee and me), have dinner with her, sleep over, then get up on Saturday morning and take her to brunch for her birthday.

First, I noticed this tender, slightly melancholy feeling while driving there. I have had this feeling before. The farmland on the way to Northfield taps a potent memory in me. As the child of farmers, grandchild of farmers, great-grandchild of farmers, I can't see the changing seasonal landscape without visceral memories. Of onions and potatoes, freshly dug up from the ground, spread out and drying on newspaper in the cellar, for example. When Dad was dying in 2010 - 2011, every single trip to Northfield reminded me that this would be the last fall harvest season, the last winter dormant season, the last spring planting season, the last summer growing season that my father would see. I felt this massive appreciation for the beauty of the farms, the reminder of what changing seasons bring and the poignancy of loss - both for him and for us. That, I think, was the full heart.

On Friday night, we shared the cooking. Mom made her magnificent, not to be beat, apple pie. (It is the crust, in particular, that is not to be beat.) I made roast salmon and there was baked squash from a local farmer, and broccoli, cauliflower and onion salad. After dinner, once it was obvious the Twins were continuing their losing streak, and we had talked about all the books we'd read in the last 3 months including the one Mom was reading for her book club, she asked if I wanted to look at my Grandma Fern's photo albums. This is her mother and she had not looked at them since her death in late 2010.

Well, we sat side by side on the sofa looking at photos that dated back to the 1920's. My grandmother was a free spirit and a party girl and she loved photographs!
We time-traveled from the 20's through the 30's and my mom's childhood on the farm of HER grands who raised her (her own mother and father, divorced after 2 years and off to find their own happiness) including a photo of my 9-year old mother and her "gammy" collecting corn cobs from the pig pen. The bare corn cobs - after the pigs ate the corn - were used to heat the home. Really. Think about this. My mom had a smile on her face while putting the corn cobs into her basket.

Then, there were the 40's, my mom's teen years and WW II to the 50's when my mom was happily married to my father, to life on the farm, the birth of 4 children, their own growth, marriages and births. What was particularly notable (and caused teary-eyed laughter) were the memorable hair styles including an unfortunate moment when I decided to wear a wig. Yes, a wig. Lee wondered what was so funny from the next room.

I slept like a log in the twin bed in the basement, with Lee in the twin bed next to me. I rarely sleep well, so this was bliss - removed from responsibility and the grace of my mother nearby.

In the morning, we went to one of the two farmer's markets in Northfield. I was determined to make vegetable soup for the weekend and thought it would be great to buy something fresh and local. The little market had only 7 or 8 vendors. The greater market was downtown on the river. But mom especially liked one vendor and wanted to take me there. In fact, his produce was spectacular. He had everything you could want: eggplant, beans, tomatoes, broccoli, onions, kale, peppers and more. He was probably 70 and looked like a farmer. Mom knew him, of course, and chatted. She mentioned he and Dad had become friends. I filled a grocery bag. It was $13. I had to throw in a couple extra and said, "have a coffee on me. Your vegetables are beautiful." How could I pay only $13 for a bag of fresh veggies!? How hard he and his wife must work to grow this and bring it to us. When I turned to leave, he looked me in the eye and said, "I miss your dad."

"Thank you. So do we."

Once again, I felt that tender, sweet, melancholy infused with gratitude. A Buddha moment, maybe, when you feel and hold opposites. Because that is the feeling - the yin/ yang, dark and light, joe and woe of William Blake - held in the heart at the same time. A very full heart.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday at the Stevens

Football is back. Here is my dirty little secret. I love football season because it means that every Sunday I have the afternoon to myself. Life with Lee is either feast or famine. We lived apart for 5 years (he in LA and NY while I stayed in MSP as my permanent home.) Now, the last two years we are here in MSP together while he has been working from home - in the same office!

So, having a little time to myself blisses me out!

Here's Lee with his football set up at 510 (we can't get Direct TV here so he's had to rig his own system.) This is so he can watch multiple games at one time. Seriously.

Me...I'm puttering in the apartment. Here is what the Living Room looks like these days. Looking for a beautiful, traditional vintage chandelier for the ceiling.

Happy Football Sunday!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Foundry Home Goods

Now, that Anna has officially opened her shop in the fabulous Commutator Foundry Company Building in the warehouse district, I want to officially introduce it here. It is dedicated to simple, beautiful, handmade items for the the home. With emphasis on purity of form and material. (at least this is what I see...)

Before you go further, here is the link:

Anna Hillegass became a friend of mine in NY - two expatriates from Minneapolis - finding our way together at times in a world very different from the one we'd grown up in. We both grew up on a farm, around animals and vegetables. But we also each had some alter ego that required the life of the man-made world - architecture, art, fashion, food. Ideas that both scared us and beckoned us. She was a true companion to me during this time and we uncovered the city together - from ABC Carpet and Home to Tiny Buttons to John Derian to the Ukrainian Museum on the Lower East Side to the Gagosian exhibits to Ralph Pucci to Sabarsky's.

Somehow, we both came back to Minneapolis. I hear this happens. Very few stay in New York for a life time if they were raised here. I am still too close to New York to understand why that is, but some day I might. I can guess. it is gritty and tough and wrings you out like you are a wet towel. But then there are all the beautiful, grand, civilized things.....

Anna was called home like many, but didn't waste a minute finding her calling. In the sunny first floor corner of her father's old warehouse building, she has created a testament to her extraordinary taste and verve - a shop that has lived in her for years. I have seen it. Today she shared it with the public and close friends and family.

I foolishly did not have a camera. But I will share images from her website here. Though the items are exquisite, the aggregate is the prize. Her display, her sense of simple beauty, her gift for flowers and comfort and joy and welcome are abundant here.

You will go to buy a gift and stay for the peace and beauty. You will be unable to keep your hands to yourself. The seduction of the turned wooden bowls, the playful ceramic drinking glasses with painted interiors, the sheepskin throws will have you in a moment. All that is missing are shopping carts - you will want so much as these affordable prices, that you will need a cart to carry it all.

Alas, Anna will have no carts. She will tenderly tell you the story of the turned bowl, the hand formed glasses and possibly the name of the sheep. She will carefully carry the beloved items to the counter where she will patiently wrap them and put them into a brown paper shopping bag. She will thank you.

You will be hooked. By Anna, by her exquisite eye for beauty and by the shop that this city needed.

Congratulations, my friend. You did it.

Enjoy - and get yourselves down to The Foundry Home Goods! 125 NORTH 1ST STREET | MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55401

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Christian Liaigre's Latest Home in Paris

Swoon. That's all I can do when I see this place. It expresses that exquisite balance of feminine and masculine, which is my favorite kind of room. I get really sick of uber femme rooms! Obvious a chick did them. If a man lives in the home, it needs to be a balance.

So here it is my new inspiration for our Living Room - I have been all over the map, but now know this is right. I my dreams, but you gotta dream.

Dining / Hallway

Living Room / Salon

Another view of the Living Room / Salon

Closet. Really.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day - a fresh start

I woke up on Sept 1 and felt like I couldn't be happier. Fall is a metaphor for starting something new. (Yeh, yeh, I know that is supposed to be Spring and rebirth and all that, but for me, fall is when I get to start a new year. Maybe because my birthday is late August so I am literally starting a new year.) This morning I began with Yoga at ONE YOGA at 9;30, it was the biggest class I've ever experienced here - over 50 people hoping to make a new start as the season changes. Most of us are part of the September Challenge at ONE YOGA, challenging us to make yoga a more conscious part of our life and see what benefits that brings. My personal goal is simply this - to bring a little more balance to my life.

I'm having to overcome my familial chant, "Work first, play later..." but of course, in my family, we didn't very often get to the play. There was always a drawer of nuts and bolts that could be organized, for god's sake.

Anyway, so I am looking for balance and starting with taking better care of myself and not always choosing to spend that extra hour or two at my desk. Sometimes its just mind-numbingly unproductive anyway.

Speaking of taking better care of myself....I haven't mentioned the spectacular gift I got from Lee for my birthday. Here is a photo of the Santa Maria Novella Breast Cream. Lest you think "what a silly gift!" use your imaginations, girlfriends.

First, I think just about the most delicious products on the planet are from Santa Maria Novella in Florence. They have been made for over 700 years, since 1221, originally by the monks living at the cloisters of Santa Maria Novella, where they gardened herbs as medicinal remedies. Over time, they developed the most exotic, divine (not a pun!) products for personal care and for the home. They are a small fortune, but MUCH cheaper when you buy them in Florence at the shop than when you buy them online in the US. Not sure why, but almost makes for a riveting excuse to got to Florence.

"Honey, really....I can't afford the SMN products here in the US. I have to go to Florence to pick up a few things."

Anyway....should you be inspired, here are my favorites:

Body Milk. It seems to have silk ball bearings in it.

My personal favorite. I swear it has helped my neck not be so saggy and turkey-ish.

Just the best for kissing.

Have a good Labor Day - and use it to hit the reset button!