I just returned from Alt Summit, a business conference for pioneering and rookie bloggers held last week in Salt Lake City. It was unlike any conference I've attended and I look forward to sharing some of the good stuff in my next post. But for now, indulge me for a moment to gush about one aspect of this conference that really stood out. The flowers! They were everywhere, used to creative effect in unexpected places and generally lending a dreamy and luscious quality to the whole event. All of the young lovelies in attendance adorned themselves with flowers and I felt like I was at a midsummer festival in Scandinavia. It was girly and wonderful.
All photos by Justin Hackworth and Brooke Dennis.
Last summer, we almost bought a farm. It was a pretty place, up in Door County, Wisconsin, certified organic and very well-maintained. The stone and timber house sat nicely on the property, overlooking the horse pasture out front and the barley fields out back. But it was the fence of espaliered apple trees that completely captivated me.
Not that I would have a clue how to prune an espaliered apple tree fence. My mom grew up on a farm in Illinois, but she left for nursing school as soon as she could. She did not pass that knowledge along. Everything I know about farming I learned by reading the Little House books seventeen times. When the grasshopper cloud comes, you are screwed. Also, you can be minding your own business sweeping the dugout floor and by jingo, an oxen hoof will puncture you in the head. And don't even think about eating watermelons planted in the creek bottom.
In London last week, I spent a few afternoons wandering the streets alone while my husband attended meetings. The monuments and museums were grand, and between destinations, the people watching was just as compelling. On a whim, I decided to snap photos of street fashion. Scrolling through my phone after about fifty pics, I noticed a pattern emerge. The stylish ones were mostly men.
It's true. The Dapper Dan of Londontown is everywhere. Well-tailored, well-heeled, well-coiffed. Bespoke jacket. Tight pants. Tighter shirts. Chiseled chins.
This is my friend Ellen and her mom, Lynne. I've written about Ellen before. She throws great parties and serves fancy fizzy drinks in vintage glassware passed down by Lynne. Once, at a patio party, I was minding my own business when apropos of nothing, she hollered in my ear, "Mint green soup bowls!"
Ellen tosses out non-sequiturs faster than Yogi Berra behind home plate, but the woman is brilliant and I've learned that her odd thoughts always merit a follow-up.
The last time I traveled to Washington D.C., I went for the Women's March. Hesitant to get political on my blog, I never posted those photos here. Last weekend, I returned to D.C. to visit my son. On Saturday night, we attended the Washington Nationals baseball game. As we rose for the National Anthem, the announcer asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the violence in Charlottesville. He expressed a rejection of racism and bigotry in all its forms, and in a very emotional response, the crowd roared its approval.
On Sunday, we toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture. We certainly didn't plan it that way, but the NMAAHC, or the Blacksonian, as it is affectionately nicknamed, seemed like the ideal place to spend the day after Saturday's events. I thought you might like to learn a little about the newest addition to the Smithsonian fleet of museums.
I hosted a baby shower for a dear friend's expectant daughter last weekend. Those of you familiar with my fondness for Halloween will not be surprised that I wanted to create centerpieces with disjointed doll heads, arms, and legs. I asked my son what he thought of the idea, and his response illustrates the folly of seeking counsel on a baby shower from a nineteen-year-old male. He said, "You be you, Mom. It'll be great."
Never fear, the doll heads remained in my basement where they sit on the shelf, staring blankly into the darkness. One doll did make it upstairs. I painted his body to match the invites and the cookies and then attached him to the back of April the wicker giraffe. The parents-to-be took such a shine, I simply didn't have the heart to point out his lazy eye.
Recently, my sister and I were shopping in a beautiful furniture store up in Door County, Wisconsin, and the weather turned nasty. With the shopkeeper's permission, we got comfortable on a couch to wait out the rainstorm by looking through our phones. At that moment, my sister got a text from her eighteen-year-old daughter about a horse mystery. And I got an email from my friend Ellen also about a horse mystery.
As we compared our horse mysteries, we looked up to see Mr. Ed eavesdropping (above).
I have reclaimed the basement. It is mine. All mine.
Do I sound greedy? Territorial?
Look, it’s been four years since I started a business in our basement. My inventory, shipping supplies, and photography equipment competed for space with a drum kit, a weight bench, video game consoles, air soft guns, guitars, amps, a fooz-ball table, etc. I gazed upon walls covered with graffiti murals and family photos.
Many years ago, we moved into a new neighborhood in suburban Chicago. As we were unloading the moving truck, a couple from down the street stopped in to welcome us.
After kindly extending a plate of freshly baked cookies, they got down to brass tacks. "Might I inquire which school the children will attend in the fall?" the gentleman asked. "Well, our realtor told us that this neighborhood's grade school is awesome," I replied. He cringed and leaned in. "You know," he whispered, "they teach trades in the public high school here. Perhaps a look at the Country Day School is in order."
Today's post is a love letter to Linda McFadden, the elegant pirate in the photo above. She is the owner of Past Basket, an everything-you-could-possibly-want shop here in Milwaukee. Linda doesn't know this, but she formed my style. Those of you who have complimented my taste, who have purchased things from my shop, who like the way I set a table, let me just get this off my chest: all my best ideas are stolen from Linda.
Linda and her husband Dave opened Past Basket in Kohler, Wisconsin, in 1991, and I would ditch my four squirrelly boys to drive up and drool. Then, in 2001, the McFaddens opened their flagship store about two miles from my house. For goodness sake, you can imagine what that meant. I could jog over in a pinch.