Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Mommy!

Yesterday, we celebrated Mommy’s birthday.  It’s been all the buzz around these parts, “Mommy’s sixty!”  “Mommy’s turning sixty?!”  “Can you believe Mommy’s sixty?!”  But it didn’t really hit me until we were sitting at her birthday dinner and I saw the front of the card Munchkinhead made her.  “Happy 60th Birthday Mother.”

The numbers looked big and scary.  60?  I feel like I remember when my grandparents turned 60.  Maybe I do, maybe I don’t really, but it’s a number I associate with a certain image that Mommy doesn’t fit at all.  The math may say 60, but the fun factor is still stuck at 32, or at least somewhere in the 30s.

Just the other day, Mommy and I were in the pool pretending our floaty rafts were bumper cars and crashing into each other.  Old people tell me all the time, “when I was younger, I used to wear shoes like you; when you’re older you’ll be stuck in ugly shoes like mine.”  But Mommy’s shoes are still as fun as mine, so she can’t be old.

We had a fun evening out on for her birthday.  First, we all went to Cafe Centraal for birthday dinner.  Minus the less-than-stellar surprise live music, it was quite fun.  Munchkinhead was the designated driver and drove Daddy’s car.  Daddy called dibs on the front seat even though it was Mommy’s birthday and Mommy let him take it.  She, RonnyLew and I squeezed into the back.  And I do mean squeezed.  Munchkinhead dropped everyone off near the door and I took over the wheel for parking just in case parallel parking was required.  After dinner, we took Daddy home and went to Leon’s for frozen custard.  Yum!

I’m guessing Mommy finished the evening in her sewing room. That may sound like an old-people thing to do, but she’s been spending evenings in her sewing room since I was a little girl, so it’s not.

Mommy on her birthday

Happy Birthday Mommy!  This one’s for you.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Adventures with Ivory and Munchkinhead: Harley Museum

Back near the start of summer (when it was still cold), Milwaukee had a gallery night in which downtown galleries and museums were open for free to the public, including the Harley Davidson museum.  Munchkinhead and I didn’t actually know it was gallery night, we just knew the Harley museum was free that evening.  We both love Harleys – I mean, we are from Milwaukee – so we headed down to check it out.

The museum was really neat!  Munchkinhead had been to the Harley museum before, so she was sort of my tour guide.  We started upstairs, looking at the history of the company.  I was spent a bunch of time reading the old incorporation documents and board meeting minutes and such.  Munchkinhead liked the old pictures and history of how the bikes had changed.

We learned some neat stuff looking at the wall of gas tanks.  Neither of us realized AMF – as in the bowling company – had bought Harley at one point, or the fight that was put up to buy it back.  I also learned that Harleys used to be the racing bikes.  That surprised me a lot.  Munchkinhead already knew this because she’d seen the exhibit before.

There was a photo gallery that featured some pretty crazy people riding all over the place.  And an ears-on exhibit where you could test your knowledge of the classic Harley sound.  Telling a weedwacker from a Harley was easy; telling a crotch rocket from a Harley wasn’t too hard, but trying to tell one Harley engine from another, I had no idea.

Of course, the best part of the museum was the seats-on part where we could sit on different Harleys.

Munchkinhead like the army bike, of course.


Katrina on army bike (2)

And then she made me get on the scooter because she thought it went well with my outfit.

me on scooter (1)

There was also a stick-your-head-here place where you could pretend to be Evel Knievel.  The giant face-less photo had a platform behind it that made it rather difficult for me to be Evel.

Aurelia attempting to be Evel (1)


I still tried though.Aurelia attempting to be Evel (3)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Adventures with Ivory: SBW AMC

SB whata what?  Last month,  I attended my first ever State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Meeting and Conference.  The hashtag for the event was #SBWamc.  I’ve been to a couple smaller WI Bar events, but this was my first big one.  It was fabulous!

I had no idea that there hasn’t been a State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Meeting for the past 7 or 8 years.  If people there hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have guessed it either.  Everything went smoothly, the educational programs were great, the logistics appeared flawless (which means several somebodies behind the scenes were working their tail feathers off), and the extra stuff was fun and inclusive.

WP_20140625_002 The first night, the new president of the State Bar was sworn in.  The MC for the night – Mike McCarthy.  Alfred was jealous.  I was less enthusiastic than she would have been about trying to get a picture, but I did get this one almost decent one for her.  The swear in event was fun and by the time Coach got done introducing the new President, I felt like the State Bar was headed for greatness.

One of my favorite parts of WI Bar events is the passport game.  WP_20140630_001When you check-in, you get a little passport card that lists all the vendors at the event.  Your task is to visit each of the vendors and have them sign off on the passport.  When your passport’s full, you put it in a fishbowl at the Bar’s booth for a drawing.  I didn’t win a drawing prize this time, but I did win one at a previous program.  I love the passport event because it’s a good excuse to visit all the vendors and learn about lots of neat products and opportunities.  You can also pick up some pretty swanky swag, like a sewing and manicure kit!

The State Bar of Wisconsin has an excellent Twitter account.  Wisconsin isn’t exactly known for being tech savvy as a state, but man did the Bar do a great job of using Twitter at the event.  The attorneys are a little behind in terms of this tech stuff, so the Bar offered encouragement and promoted the use of social media throughout the program.  Attendees were given the hashtag ahead of time and anyone who tweeted with the hashtag 3 or more times during the conference was entered into a drawing.  There was a large monitor in the main hallway, near the snacky-snacks, that showed the hashtag feed.  There was also a Selfie-Twitter game with Jellybean, the Bar’s cow mascot at one of the parties.

Jellybean is by far my favorite thing about the State Bar here.  I just love the way Wisconsinites embrace our stereotypes – like the whole Cheeshead thing.  The cow is on the State Bar website, the cow is on programs, the cow is on a stick for selfies, and the cow is available to take home!

My favorite swag from the event:

wisbar cows

Those little foam guys are my absolute favorite.  Mommy named mine Schlai.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fireworks Blanket

16 skeins. 16 skeins of yarn.  Does it sound like a lot?  It certainly feels like a lot.  That’s how much yarn went into my new fireworks blanket.  16 skeins of Red Heart Vivid in Neon Mix. It’s a super bulky yarn that comes in only 39yd skeins (compared with your standard 100-200 for less bulky yarns).  No wonder it took so many skeins.

I picked up a few skeins of this yarn back when I was living in Cali.  I thought it was really fun and wanted to make a tube-top out of it.  I tried that, on size 8 needles – ouch my fingers.  It didn’t really work.  I tried some other things with it, used some to make a card hanger for our Christmas cards, and finally decided it would be best put to use as a large, thick blanket for laying on the grass to watch the fireworks.

fireworks blanket (1) Because this variegated yarn changes colors quickly, garter stitch looked messy.  I decided to go with a nice stockinet stitch,  giving my blanket a front and a back. 

fireworks blanket (3)However, I didn’t want the sides to curl, so I did four stitches of garter stitch on each side.  It gave the blanket a nice-side border.  The top and bottom roll didn’t bother me that much.

I also found out partway through that I was purling wrong!  I was wrapping the yarn around in such away that I was actually purling twisted stitches. You can see that in the picture above.  Once Mommy pointed that out to me, I switched to doing it correctly.  Neat to know for anytime I want to purposely purl twisted stitches.

The nice thing about super bulky yarn is that it knits super fast.  My fireworks blanket took about a month to knit and came out fabulous. Munchkinhead and I enjoyed sitting on to watch the fireworks this Fourth of July.  It sort of glows in the dusk.



Monday, July 14, 2014

Adventures with Ivory: Back in the Ville

The Annual Returned Peace Corps Volunteer meeting was going to be held at Vanderbilt.  How could I not go?!

So I called up my friend MattE who had been asking me to come visit him in Nashville.  (He’s currently working on his 3rd Vanderbilt degree, a PhD in Political Science to go with his Masters of Divinity and his law degree.)  It was the perfect trio – MattE, Peace Corps, Vandy.

So I got in Betty and we headed down, and down, and down, until we arrived late Wednesday night, hot, sticky and smiling at Cafe Cocoa where MattE and his friends were gathered.

During the day, I went to the Peace Corps events and got to meet up with some people at the law school that I like to say hi to when I’m in town.  MattE and I were able to hang out in the afternoons and evenings.  He showed me all the changes that have happened in East Nashville – it’s going from ghetto to Hipster-ville a block or so at a time.  We went to a number of restaurants, ones I’d been to when I lived there and ones that were knew to me.  And he introduced me to the girl he liked, who was his girlfriend by the time I left. ;)

MattE just bought a house a few weeks before I came down.  It’s super cute, and he has it really well setup.  It doesn’t look like a bachelor’s pad at all.  It even has a library with patio doors that go out onto a deck, and a very nice guest room with an antique bed he and friend assembled.

The Peace Corps events were fun, too.  I found a friend from Cali, the president of the NorCal RPCV group, and we were able to hang out a bit.  He introduced me to some other RPCVs he knows, one runs a chocolate company based in Madagascar.  Neat.  I met lots of other RPCVs over the weekend, including some that served in Nigeria.  It was interesting to talk with them because they served in the 60s.  The city I lived in in Nigeria wasn’t even built until the 90s.

I also met some recently returned volunteers from Zambia!  I know Zambia’s changed a lot in the past ten years; that much I can tell from Twitter.  It sounds like the program I was part of in the Peace Corps has also changed a lot.

Overall, Nashville was a great trip.  I had a lot of fun, enjoyed beautiful weather, saw old friends from different areas of life and picked up a present for Mzzzz Jones’ expected little one.  I also found out about some opportunities to go back to Africa in an IP context…

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blanket for Baby J

They say, “we’re going to have a baby.”  I hear, “go buy yarn.”  Baby blankets are one of my favorite things to knit.  The yarn is always soft, and I love trying to come up with something that will go with the parents in some way.

When Mzzzz Jones, one of my best friends from law school, said she and her husband were expecting, Mommy and I scampered off to JoAnn’s to find the perfect yarn. 

Mzzzz Jones is particularly sophisticated, in the old school Southern way that Vanderbilt had to train me in, so I wanted something soft, simple and almost elegant.  I was thinking something in navy and white, but JoAnn’s didn’t have any soft yarn in navy.  I went up and down the aisles, looking for the right texture and colors.  I finally settled on Bernat Softee Baby in Antique White and Soft Lilac, which I thought was grey and looks grey in some light, lavender in others and blue in others.

I didn’t want to do a plain garter stitch blanket and didn’t really have ideas, so I picked up a pattern book, Car Seat Blankets by Becky Stevens.  I chose a pattern I liked and decided I’d make it bigger.  I increased the border as well as the overall dimensions.  I also wanted multi-color, so decided to add stripes.   The picture with the pattern looked like this:

capture 87

However, when I got to the pattern part, I didn’t like how it was coming out with my yarn.  The pattern looked really different and it made the blanket feel to thin and delicate.   I decided not to do the whole blanket with the pattern.  Instead, I did the increased border of seed-stitch, an inner border of the pattern and then did the full interior of the blanket in seed stitch again.  I really liked the way it came out.  The Softee Baby yarn is soft and thin.  The seed stitch gave the blanket fullness that the other patterns didn’t have.  - I tried the yarn in garter and stockinette stitches, too.

Baby blankets need that silky edge for baby’s fingers to rub, so I just had to add some blanket binding.  Since my friend is having a boy, I went with light blue, which also made the grey/lilac/blue/whatever yarn appear a bit more to the bluer side.  I was very pleased with how the blanket came out.

Mzzzz Jones liked it a lot, too.  I can’t wait to see if the baby likes it as well, but there’s a few more months before he arrives, let alone realizes he has a blanket.

Shaina's baby blanket

Finished blanket

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Adventures with Ivory and Munchkinhead: Polish Fest

Luckily, that one part of a weekend I was home in June was Polish Fest weekend.  I love me some ethnic lakefront festivals.

Munchkinhead and I both have ridiculously crazy schedules, but we decided we could spare a couple hours for Sunday’s Polish Fest, especially since tickets bought before noon were only $4 each.  We started the day with church and went from church down to the Festival grounds.

Polish Fest is one of the smaller festivals – well I guess they’re all small compared to SummerFest – but there’s still plenty to do.  We checked out the special exhibit on Polish citizens who hid Jews in their homes during the Nazi occupation.  There were lots of pictures and personal stories.  We saw the standard commemorative board display for Pope John Paul.  We looked at the Polish rabbits and chickens.  We browsed through shops – were Ivory got to have her little moment of I-don’t-think-their-trademark-attorneys-would-like that.

WP_20140615_002 But who knows, maybe those actually were licensed.  Anyway…

Munchkinhead and I also listened to plenty of polka at multiple performance stages and at the obligatory pierogies.

WP_20140615_003 It was a short adventure, but we had a lot of fun.  And went home with a jar of fried carrot.

Monday, July 7, 2014

It’s July 7th!

Happy 35th Anniversary Mommy and Daddy!

Every year, as 7/7 approaches, we get all excited about Mommy and Daddy’s anniversary.  They get so happy, it’s hard for that not to be contagious.  This year, their anniversary comes as reminder not just of the happiness of marriage, but of all the other stuff that comes with those vows.

Daddy had emergency eye surgery just a bit ago and while he’ll most likely be alright and be able to see again soon, it’s a long and difficult recovery period.  Munchkinhead and I have been helping out, but nothing is as important as Mommy and Daddy’s patience with each other right now.  Daddy’s frustrated by what he can’t do – which is pretty much everything except sit or lay down.  Mommy’s tired and worn out by what she has to do, both in picking up the extra parts of running the house – like cooking all the meals; that’s Daddy’s job – and in caring for Daddy and helping him with his eye drops and such.

It’s rough on everyone when a family member is ill or somewhat incapacitated, no matter how momentarily, but watching Mommy and Daddy together is like watching a hug from God. 

Mommy’s doing her best to make sure Daddy’s as comfortable as he can be, which isn’t very.  She helps him out whenever he asks – even when he asks for stuff he insists on doing himself when Munchkinhead or I offer.  She quickly gets a towel when he knocks over his water, again, because he can’t see it.  She carries his special chair and special table headrest to wherever he needs it.  And you can see Daddy appreciates it and really is trying to make the best of an unpleasant situation.  It’s sweet.

It may not be the anniversary of their dreams, but it’s one that truly exemplifies how much they love each other.  And it’s one they’re unlikely to forget anytime soon.  Happy crazy, curve ball anniversary Mommy and Daddy.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Adventures with Ivory: My Own Nation’s Capitol

It started as a trip to visit Mzzzz Jones (who’s no longer Mzzzzz Jones, but will stay so on here), and morphed into a giant adventure.

Mzzzz Jones is going to have a baby!  And the baby is due when Mzzzz Jones and I were going to be our 5 year law school reunion.  I clearly needed a new way to see her.  Add to that a sale on Amtrak, and a trip to DC was hatched.

me on the train (1) The Capitol Limited from Chicago to DC feels super short after so many California Zephyr trips, less than 24 hours.  It was a pleasant ride and I was easily able to navigate my way from DC’s main train station to a park near Mzzzz Jones work.

(—> me on the train)

Mzzzz Jones and her husband graciously let me stay with them an entire week.  Originally, I was just going to visit for the weekend, but as I mentioned, my trip morphed. 

Soon after planning the trip, I noticed American University was offering a number of IP courses for lawyers and law students from around the world.  There was one that particularly caught my eye and it was to be held the week I was going to leave DC.  I decided to go out on a limb and apply for the course.  I got in!  And my weekend trip became a week trip.

Mzzzz Jones and I had lots of fun.  We went to (catered!) happy hour at her aunts’ house, sampled delicious foods from many restaurants, accidentally wandered into an African street festival where a steel drum band was playing “Moves like Jagger,”  checked out a new church in Maryland where they sat us in the handicap seats cuz Mzzzz Jones is expecting, and watched 3 movies.  I finally saw Coming to America.  We also watched the remake of About Last Night with Kevin Hart at her place and went to a cute little theater to see Belle.  I really liked all of them and am glad I went to Africa before seeing Coming to America.  I was shocked to learn that the lead actress in Belle, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is in one of my favorite movies, Lost in Austen.

Canadian paper (2) Mzzzz Jones also sent me off exploring on my own.  I went to the Newseum, which is huge and pretty neat.  The Pulitzer Prize Photo exhibit is intense and very emotionally draining.  I checked out a few of the Smithsonian Art Museums (because I needed to use their restrooms) and walked, like a dumb-butt, from nearly-at-the-Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial because I didn’t know how far it was.  Then I had to get my tushie back to Chinatown for dinner with Mzzzz Jones and her husband.  (<—Canadian paper example at the Newseum)

I missed the MLK memorial on my long trek because I didn’t realize it was far from the paved path.  WP_20140613_006But, thanks to a very nice gentleman I was able to see it before I left.  Mzzzz Jones and her husband threw a BBQ while I was there and lots of their friends and people from their wedding who I had met but didn’t really know came, including the best man.  I met up with Best Man my last night in town and we went exploring.  He took me to see both the MLK and FDR monuments.  It was so, so, so awesome to see them at night under a full moon with the warm summer air and a light breeze.

(—> Back of MLK monument and the moon)

The whole trip was absolutely delightful and one of the few times I wasn’t ready to go home by the time it was time to go home.  Mzzzz Jones and I spent a lot of time hanging out in law school and it was wonderful to get to hang out like that again.  I also loved DC.  I’ve been there before but never this long and in a manner where I’m getting around by myself.  I realized one day as I was walking down the street in the downtown area that I’ve spent more time in both the capitols of Zambia and Nigeria (Lusaka and Abuja, respectively) than I have in the capitol of the US.  That struck me as very crazy.  I hope I get to go back soon and spend some more time in DC.

me and Eleanor (4)

Me and Eleanor Roosevelt.  She makes me look so tiny!

Oh, and in case you were wondering – the class was excellent.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Is this Officially Old Age?

Today is a very special day.  Today is Mommy’s last day of work, ever.  She is officially retired!  And is she is very, very excited.  She’s been counting down the days since Christmas – probably longer in her head.

Mommy started working at the bank when she was 16.  She went to college, got a degree, tried out her degree in the professional world, hated it, and went back to the bank until she could figure out what she wanted to do with her life.  She’s retiring from the bank.  Ok, it’s technically a different bank, but it’s a bank.  (If you’d like to know what she did with her life, read any of the 700+ posts on here for a small glimpse of the amazingness that is Mommy.  Or follow her on Twitter.)

After today, Mommy will be easy to find.   She’ll either be in the sewing room or the pool.  In winter, it’ll be really easy to find her; the pool won’t be an option.

Congratulations and happy retirement Mommy!

Mommy cutting her retirement cake.

mommy cutting the cake (3)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Adventures with Ivory: Iowa

me and katie cropped and shrunk It’s a common response when someone tells me where they grew up, “oh! I’ve been there on vacation.”  It seems to be especially true for random towns in Iowa.  This summer, my little vacation to Iowa was a tad less random.  I went to visit Orgfish, one of my dearest and bestest friends.

We met a long, long time ago.  My family had just moved to Cudahy and I was down at the park enjoying the giant swingset.  According to Orgfish, I was jumping off the swings, landing on my head, and going back to the swings to do it again; and she thought, “that’s great. I want to be her friend.”  And we’ve been friends ever since.

Orgfish and Mr. Orgfish welcomed me gladly to their awesome home and we spent the weekend relaxing and having fun.  There were two barbeque parties, a cute movie, some games, and plenty of exploring.  We did some antique store pursuing in Kalona, quilt capitol of Iowa.  The sidewalks are decorated with “quilt squares” made out of bricks.P5310027

We even checked out the African American Museum.  Now, you’re probably thinking what we were thinking, “An African American museum in the middle of Iowa?  How good can this be?”  Well, it turns out the answer is “very good.”

The museum was created by Cedar Rapids’ African American community to showcase the history of the local community.  It does this by placing the local history within the wider African American history and within the even wider African-rooted culture.  Half of the museum is the permanent exhibit that takes you from the slave trade through today.  The other half is temporary exhibits.  We were lucky enough that the temporary exhibit was on African American music.  (And the hip hop display featured lots of Creative Commons licensed photos!)

It’s very well done and very interactive.  You hear about how awful slave ships were and see illustrations of people crammed together, but it doesn’t really hit home until you lay down on the planks and realize the person above you is going to poo all over you, and you’re going to poo on you and the person below you, too.

In addition to laying on the slave ship, we played African drums, participated in a sit in, added graffiti to a wall, DJ’d, tried on football helmets, pretended to fly an airplane and plunked around  on the piano.  I had a little trouble getting out of the flying airplane (2)


sit in

(Orgfish is participating in the sit in. I’m the mean cafe worker refusing to serve her.)

It was a fabulous trip and a great time hanging out with great friends.