Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A tour.

I keep thinking of this book:

Wisconsin has been dealing with some pretty interesting (read: typical Wisconsin) weather. Not very spring-like, really, but spring here is more a vast quantity of weird combo-precip than straightforward blossoms-on-trees and gentle showers-bring-flowers. It's sleet-mist or sunny-thunder or hail-rain. However, the past couple days have shown traces of sun, if not been particularly "sunny." Today I went out with my camera for the first time, on an adventure into The Great Backyard. Actually, it was a quick traipse around the back yard and then a little journey through my childhood playhouse. To see what was afoot in there, and what the flora and fauna were starting to do in the woods.

So... to begin. This is the playhouse.

My dad built this house several years ago, and first it was in our side yard (my parents' house had two yards, one that [was] on the side of the house, and one that is definitely in the back, down some stairs and above the ravine). When they decided to build a garage in the side yard, they hauled the playhouse down a level, and now it sits on the gravel path below the garage (behind and above where I'm standing to take this photo). The one great thing about putting it down at the edge of the ravine is that it got...

... a basement! It needs a good sweep, clearly. Then again, that is a mud floor. Spring cleaning, anyone?

It is outfitted with all the modern amenities.

And once you get downstairs, the door leads out to the playhouse's own backyard. And then what does one happen to find in the playhouse's back yard today?


Friday, April 12, 2013

Tobias Keene and the Generations show at The Trout Museum of Art

I just spent the majority of the day on Thursday at The Trout Museum of Art, finishing up the setup of a really wonderful exhibition that opened on a limited basis tonight, and to the public tomorrow.

"You can just be a crazy bugger, it doesn't matter." -- Tobias Keene

We finished setting up this artist's absolutely marvelous show today, and I urge anyone and everyone within getting-here distance to check this show out. It's open to the public April 13-July 21, 2013, $6 admission, and it's actually three generations of Keene painters.

Tobias Keene, whose work is the primary spectacle, lives in LA and is originally from England. His father, Arthur Keene, painted and drew for most of his life, and Tobias's grandfather, English World War II artist Arthur "Van Art" Keene was known for his illustrations, paintings and graphic work. They all have a style that reflects their generation, their subject matter, their aims as artists and painters. It's a really spectacular grouping of work. 

Tobias Keene's architectonic scale paintings, done primarily in oil, are attention-grabbing and edgy. He utilizes thick paint, huge canvases, and bright colors to demonstrate a thoroughly contemporary take on subject matter that often looks back in history, such as Louis XIV or Nike of Samothrace (the Winged Victory). They all contain a certain amount of mystery, with traditional and historical images put into a contemporary context with emphasis on pattern and color, such as The Orange Pope which depicts an image of a seated Pope, certainly an homage to Francis Bacon in a particularly Keene rendering.

My particular favorite is The Girl in the Golden Chair #4, in which Keene has captured the elusive and recognizable expression of a bored/tired/annoyed red-haired, barefoot girl slumped down in a chair, whose direct gaze draws the viewer not only into the composition, but into the imagined psyche of the subject. What is the girl doing there? Is she waiting for someone? Could she be hungry? How long has she been there? Is she waiting to go somewhere, and where might she be headed? Or, conversely, what are you looking at?

It's a must-see show, a first of its kind for Appleton. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It felt like drugs.

Yesterday was a weird day. Around 1pm I suddenly had an undefeatable urge to nap. Immediately. So I took a thirty minute power nap before heading into work (zonked, totally), and the rest of the night I was a complete carnival. Or maybe just the Tilt-a-Whirl, but that's enough for one girl.

My brain felt fuzzy and sharp at the same time. My body got achy; my legs were killing me by the end of the night. I started talking uncontrollably about stupid things; my mind was wandering. I was distracted and inattentive. But I wasn't hungry.

I got home and sat down on the couch across from my mom, and I said, "Mom, did you feel 'weird' a few days after starting the Whole30?" I didn't know how to describe it. It kind of felt like my body was going to fall apart, and my brain was seeping out of my ears a little.

Turns out it wasn't what I thought (numerous unscientific theories ranging from electrolyte imbalances to contracting a virus to having accidentally ingested some kind of neurotoxin -- well, not really, but--). I checked out the "Day 3" Whole30 email and found that, like clockwork, I was experiencing one of the tougher days in the whole project, when my body starts burning fat fuel instead of carbs/sugar fuel.

Weirdly enough, after seven hours of sleep and another long day at work, I feel much better. Yesterday is like a sort of realistic-yet-bizarre dream. And today, the best part (or perhaps the part I am most proud of)? We had an event at the bookstore this morning for which we put out FIVE BOXES of doughnuts and cookies, not to mention the trays and buckets of home-baked goods and leftover holiday candy that is always in the break room there. I successfully ignored my insane craving for danishes-cruellers-fritters-cakes and managed to leave without taking even one bite.

I'm going to cheat a little bit and have a beer at the bar tonight, but it'll be a light one. I'm a 98% Whole30-er. I admit it.

Feeling great otherwise, though. Still have not been tempted to step on the scale, but maybe I'll do it in a couple of weeks rather than waiting until the entire month is up. We'll see. Onward!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Little Things: Vintage Kitch Edition

I have a love affair with every kitchen I've ever been in. Be it the kitchen(s) I've grown up in -- my parents majorly remodeled ours, so I count it as two, or my grandparents' sprawling space, my various apartment kitchens, friends' kitchens and friends' parents' kitchens, and even the hodge-podge common area kitchens in college dorms. Pretty much that's my point right there -- kitchens are my favorite place to gather, but more than that, simple just to be.

Right now, I'm sitting at my kitchen table with my laptop and a cup of tea. My cat is trying to get my attention by being a pain in the ass, but that's not uncommon. Other than obviously doing my cooking in the kitchen, I check my email here, often sit at the table and read a book, listen to music here, and decorate/buy things for the kitchen more than any other room in my apartment.

I've got a thing for vintage kitchen... stuff. I was going to say kitchenware, but it's not really limited to just utensils or a teacup here or there (although if I did collect anything, it might be teacups). When I moved in, I inherited the cutest apartment stove I've ever seen, courtesy of my sister who lived here before me and scored it at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Enamel-top and chrome tables, wooden cupboard pulls, vintage ice cream bowls, Pyrex stacking bowls, Jadeite (or as much Fire King as the heart could desire), a Hamilton Beach malt machine, and the list goes on. Yes, it's love.

What it all comes down to, though, is that love for teacups and stacking bowls is all well and good, except a little bit silly if one doesn't use them. So I try to use them a lot. Now that I'm giving this Whole30 thing a try, I've got a feeling I'll be using things a lot more. But some stuff is just nice to look at, such as these amazing Bakelite fruit knives, which of all things in the world, hold a pretty dear place in my heart. (Fruit knives? Really?)

I can't be the only one who finds the kitchen to be the best room in the house!

It's rainy 'round here today. April showers indeed. Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day 2 and Moqueca

I've been on a cooking kick! And as Day 2 of my Whole30 trial wraps up, I have to say that I'm feeling pretty good. I admit that I've haven't cut out absolutely everything completely. I'll admit to:

A teensy tiny bit of creamer and sugar in my coffee in the morning. Compared to what I usually have, this is nothing. But drinking it black all of the time would be... well, depressing.

I bought some Terra brand vegetable chips and realized afterward that they (may) contain canola oil, which is apparently not Whole30 approved, and also just because they're chips they can be dangerous. Anyway, I love them, so I'm rationing them to make the bag last longer.

I'm probably eating more fruit than I should.

To remedy the fruit situation, I went to the store on my way home from work and bought some more snacking veggies like baby carrots and avocado that aren't sweet, but man, I have a ton of oranges sitting around. Someone's gotta eat them... I'm just watching a little more, and I'll dwindle down on fruit once I get through some of it. I'm not a fan of wasting food/money either.

On the whole, though, I feel great. I felt pretty energetic all day except for a brief period in the midday when I had gone several hours without food and became irritable and sort of lightheaded. Leftover shrimp from yesterday helped me along, and when I got home I made a version of moqueca (Brazilian fish stew) from this recipe, paired with a side of prosciutto e melone. Is there anything better than that? So simple, so divine. As for the stew, I've now plenty to last for a few days.

Even with the limitations, making new and interesting things -- and shopping for different ingredients -- is actually kind of fun.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

good ol' selfie and the whole30

The photo below has little (nothing) to do with the fact that I'm starting the Whole30 today. It's a pretty terrible quality photo, isn't it? I may or may not have done that on purpose. ;)

Partly due to my mother's unwavering dedication to eating healthier since last summer, starting off with this program before going full-fledged paleo on the world, and partly due to the fact that my own healthful eating and weight loss has hit a serious and annoying road block, I've decided to give this a try.

I've always been overweight. If not by a lot, then always by a little. Only within the last few years have I really started to take the health side of this more seriously. I took up cycling a couple of years ago, and in the summers I try to shop at the farm markets and eat whole foods as much as possible. But what about in the winter? What about when those baked casseroles start to sound real good? Or when my coworkers deposit three or four trays of baked goods in the break room and all I can think about is how much I won't be satisfied until I have another chocolate peanut butter cookie? What I need is a change of pace, a new way of looking at how I eat, and a better way of taking care of myself. That's where the Whole9 team and the Whole30 program come in (and also my mom, over at knitorious, who has taught me through her actions that this is not only possible, but enjoyable).

And the Whole30 sounds great! Whole foods only. That's it. Of course there are some limitations, but they are things I mostly already follow: No dairy (I've only got to cut out the creamer from my coffee and yogurt), no bread (no more crackers, but I haven't bought bread in months), and no sugar. THIS WILL BE CHALLENGING. But I'm halfway there. In 30 days I hope to feel more energized, fit into my clothes better, feel awesome on my bike -- because it'll actually be warm enough to get out on the road! - and create some eating habits I can take with me past the 30 days.

As far as my history with weight loss goes, I'm at my "usual" right now. Last summer I weighed in at my highest, which was 196. I freaked out and knew that was just not okay, so I counted calories and successfully lost about 25 pounds, which, give or take a couple, has remained about par for the course since November.

So for posterity, and also as a benchmark, I'm going to throw out there what is totally taboo to throw out there: my weight. I've been ashamed of it my whole life, for better or worse (we could have numerous discussions about the pros and cons of this, but it will just be depressing, so let's not). The point is, I'm not going to weigh myself for 30 days. That's part of the deal: no scale. I weigh 174 lbs. There. Big sigh. Why is that so hard to admit?

I'll keep up with this for the next thirty days, and then some, and on Monday, May 6, I'll give myself a little weigh-in and see what's up (or hopefully down), and how I feel then.


Friday, January 11, 2013


How it happened that so much time has passed since I last posted... I'm not sure. Things have happened, and I must have been so wrapped up in happening them that I never sat down to write about it. Well, that's good, isn't it -- it just makes me a bad blogger. Ha!

First things first -- The Holidays Were Awesome.

I had a fantastic holiday season. My aunt and family flew in from Rio de Janeiro for the holidays and only just left yesterday to return to the warm southern clime. A very good friend of mine flew in from Denver and I was able to see him a couple of times over the week of Christmas, as well as hanging out with some of my other VIPs. My cousin drove up from Madison just a couple of days ago for a long-awaited sister-cousin visit with my own sisters. I had a wonderful holiday party with the art museum people, and a belated holiday party is yet to be had for the bookstore. We had a wonderful, laid-back New Years Eve celebration with plenty of other relatives -- aunts, uncles, future brother-in-law and grandparents. In sum, it was and continues to be a wonderful time of year.

I've adopted a big project at the art museum that promises to keep me busy for the next few months. I have a natural deadline that falls before I depart for school. Very soon the museum will take on the annual challenge of their one-day Art at the Park art festival which takes place every July in Appleton, so there will be even more to help out with.

The bookstore continues on as it ever continues on. Post-holidays the retail world goes into recovery mode. I'm always relieved when the mad rush is over.

Books read:

A Moveable Feast -- Ernest Hemingway
The Great Gatsby -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Albums recently hooked on:

The Heist -- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
An Awesome Wave -- alt-J
Break It Yourself -- Andrew Bird
The Wild Hunt -- The Tallest Man on Earth
Ceremonials -- Florence + The Machine
All the Little Lights -- Passenger

And where school is concerned, strides have been made. Small, yet significant strides. I've been hemming and hawing, unable to decide which school would be better for me: the University of Glasgow or the University of Edinburgh. It seems that I have chosen the latter for a variety of reasons. The most important one is that I came to grips with the fact that I applied to Glasgow's technical art history program almost a year and a half ago (!?) and at the time it seemed ideal. But now, after almost two years museum experience, my interests have shifted. The bottom line is that the Masters program at Edinburgh now makes more sense. I'm pretty stoked!

So, until next time, here is some travel-porn: Real Edinburgh.