Living Loft-Style (Part IV)

Now that I've shown you the entrance and entryway to My Parents' loft and have shared some of the loft's more colorful history with you, it's time to take a peek at more of the art- and light-filled living spaces in the loft.

First stop: the living room, which is actually two distinct spaces open to one another.

This is where My Sister's favorite mermaid table resides.

In the room, a petite fireplace and stained-glass windows mingle with colorful contemporary furniture (designed by the couple who own the space).

Occasionally, peculiar creatures appear. Like the monkey standing, ready to serve, next to one chaise.

And sometimes, even objects with seemingly normal functions, like this lamp, are anything but ordinary.

Down the hall from the living room is another space for relaxing. It's the media room.

But, naturally, even it manages to surprise.

There's the two-tiered seating area, with comfy couches for lounging while watching films. The movie posters on the walls. The fabric draped across the ceiling so the lights are never too bright, just as it should be in a movie theater.

And yes, this is a movie theater. Because besides the stadium seating there's ...

A giant screen on the wall. Massive. Hooked up to a projector and surround sound that makes the whole place shake.

It's a movie lover's dream (or, in My Dad's case, a sports lover's dream).


Living Loft-Style (Part III)

I'm baaaack with another episode of "look where My Parents live now!"

In today's version, I'm going to reveal a very important secret.

My Parents' temporary living space wasn't always a private residence. It used to be a bordello.

Yes, you read that right. It isn't a typo. A bordello.

Long before the Art & Wine Lovers came along and transformed this space into the loft it is now, it really was a "building where prostitutes are available," as Merriam-Webster so delicately puts it.

All the little rooms I'm about to show you (soon, I promise!) were the rooms occupied by the ladies.

Really, it's true.

But now, instead of whatever it is a Wyoming bordello might look like, we have arches and arches and more arches. And artwork and artwork and more artwork.

Perhaps hearkening back to the bordello days, however, there are a few scantily clad--or not at all clad--pieces of art.

I'm particularly fond of this lovely lady.

And this frolicking couple.

And then there's the mermaid table, with colorful fins and a tail that lights up. (My Sister wanted to take the mermaid table home to California, but, alas, it wouldn't fit in her carry-on bag.)

And so, with visions of bordellos and naked statues dancing in your head, I leave you for today. Just because I can.

P.S. My apologies to those of you who receive my blog posts by email at work. I'm sure your companies all love the above references to prostitutes and naked people. Fortunately, it's all in the name of history and art.


Living Loft-Style (Part II)

Yesterday, I introduced you to the front door of the loft My Parents are renting for the next year. Today, I'm going to allow you to peek inside.

This is the entrance to the loft, on the first floor of the building. This is where you must take off your shoes and slip on a pair of slippers before making the trek upstairs.

At the top of the stairs, a lovely statue and four very hip fellows greet you.

On the wall opposite, you'll meet the woman who owns the loft, in the form of a painting of her in her youth. (I only met her once for a moment but she is still this lovely.)

One thing I learned on my brief visit to My Parents' temporary home is that there are so many things to see in the condo you can't possibly take it all in at once.

Case in point: This little bull sitting on the floor in the upstairs entryway. I didn't even notice him in the first 24 hours we were there. In fact, every time you turn around there's another piece of art that escapes notice because there's just too much to see.

Like the smiling gold Buddha above the stairs, which I didn't realize was there until we were leaving the loft the last day of our short visit.

As for more examples of the art, you'll have to wait until tomorrow.


Living Loft-Style

My Parents recently sold their cute little house in Laramie. They sold it because in less than a year they're ditching their jobs and the Wyoming weather and moving to Lake Oconee to begin their retirement. (Although I still staunchly believe they are much too young for that sort of thing.)

In the meantime, they're renting a loft in downtown Laramie. But not just any loft. A loft owned by the couple that owns My Parents' favorite wine bar. A loft owned by a couple that also owns multiple art galleries.

So it should come as no surprise that the loft they remodeled and decorated in downtown Laramie is a bit of an art gallery itself.

Actually, that's an understatement.

It's more than a bit of an art gallery.

So this week, I'll be taking you on a tour of the art gallery-slash-loft my parents are calling home for the next year.

But today, we're not going to go any further than the front door. That's what you saw above. And this is the window beside the front door.

Sorry, Madam Opal isn't in today.

(On a side note, people sometimes leave notes for Madam Opal on the window. My parents find this a source of entertainment. We are still trying to convince My Mom to sit in the window on Halloween and read palms. She's not all that interested, but we have another week yet to change her mind.)

Come back for more tomorrow!


Carrot Cake

Yesterday was my birthday. For my birthday, I made myself a cake.

But not just any cake.

This was a carrot cake.

And not just any carrot cake. It was my grandma’s carrot cake.

I hadn't intended to make a carrot cake. Although just a few weeks ago I told someone how I always used to request Grandma's carrot cake for my birthday, I thought I'd probably have an apple pie or cookies or something like that for my birthday treat instead.

But Wednesday, the day before my birthday, Grandma Collins passed away. She decided it was time to go join her "boyfriend," as she so lovingly called my grandfather.

Grandma made sure she waited for all 11 of her children to gather at her side. And then she decided it was OK to go, that it was time to go see the husband she'd been missing dearly for just over a year.

And so, because Grandma's carrot cake was the only kind of cake I’ve ever truly liked and ever requested regularly, I baked a carrot cake in her honor.

And with each ingredient that went into the bowl, I added a memory of Grandma Collins.

Naturally, my memories began in the kitchen, not only with her carrot cake but also with the amazing fried chicken she’d make. With the bright red hot dogs she’d boil in a pot on the stove for us kids when we stayed at her house. With the tin of chocolate chip cookies she kept on the counter—always with a slice of white bread to keep the cookies soft.

There were the colorful plastic mugs she bought so each grandkid would have his or her own special cup for drinking water or Squirt or milk whenever we’d come to visit. The countertop dishwasher she’d hook up to the sink after dinner was done. The big pantry full of surprises just outside the kitchen in their little apartment.

At the kitchen table, we played board games (Scrabble, naturally, was a favorite) and twisted colorful string together into friendship bracelets.

Some of the items from the kitchen found other uses in our visits to Grandma—particularly her mixing spoons, which always served as our microphones as we performed along with Lawrence Welk in the living room.

In that living room, Grandma’s wooden rocker with the soft cushions always sat to the right of Grandpa’s big recliner. On her footstool, which also rocked, without fail you would find a crossword dictionary and a folded, half-finished crossword puzzle.

In that living room, I remember spending many afternoons watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and the news with my grandparents. I remember the hard candies—Werther’s and peppermints and those little bright yellow butterscotch disks—she kept on an end table for whoever needed a treat.

Grandma was always kind and generous when us grandkids visited (which was often)—letting us whip up magic elixirs with her lotions and creams and perfumes in the bathroom, allowing us to take over their bedroom when we were older so we could sprawl across the bed and watch first Nick At Nite and later whatever music videos came on MTV. She watched over us while we played recklessly in the backyard, hopping over the creek and squealing at snakes.

Grandma was the one who encouraged Grandpa to show us just once more how he could squeeze water from a rock. She was the one who would turn around in the front seat of the car and remind us kids—always, without fail, no matter our age—that the car wouldn’t start until all seat belts were buckled.

Whenever things went wrong, Grandma was there with a hug. Or a cookie. Or a piece of her carrot cake. Even when things went well, she was there with the same.

But here’s the thing about carrot cake. You can’t have carrot cake without cream cheese frosting.

And that’s the thing with Grandma—you can’t have Grandma without Grandpa.

Grandma was a strong-willed, independent woman until the end, with a feisty streak she shared with all the Collins women. But in my memories, whenever Grandma is there, Grandpa is there too.

So, as hard as it is to think that she’s gone, it’s OK. Because now she’s back with Grandpa, where she's happiest.

And she’s left us all more memories than we can count ... and, of course, the recipe for her carrot cake.


Building a Hoop House

On Sunday, I participated in a 10/10/10 Global Work Party at Jubilee Farm in Springfield. My task for the day: helping to build a hoop house, which will extend the growing season on the farm.

You can get a peek at the hoop house here.

It was a bit of work but beautiful weather. Unfortunately, things progressed slowly because there were only a few of us working at one time, so I never got to see the finished product. But that just gives me an excuse to go back.

On a side note, Jubilee Farm is an awesome place to visit. It's a small working farm run by a group of Domenican sisters. They have a CSA and grow lovely produce sans pesticides (basically, what they do is organic farming without officially being able to call it organic). They're always looking for help, so if you get the urge to pull some weeds or pick some produce, go visit! While you're there, be sure to check out all the cool stuff they have on their land, including a pottery studio and a labyrinth. For real.


Scenes from the City

I am a slacker. I haven't even shared my Chicago photos with you yet, and it's been weeks since we were there. How very bad of me.

Then again, I'm pretty sure you've seen similar photos before on my previous excursions to the big city. But the views from the condo where we stayed are so gorgeous, I figure you can endure a few more snapshots.

Particularly since the weather was lovely while we were.

I didn't just stay inside taking photos the whole weekend, though. I made Conservative Hubby get up close and personal with the bean in Millennium Park. (Which, by the way, he said made him dizzy. Sissy.)

The next day, I met one of my lovely friends for coffee and another mosey around Millennium Park and down Michigan Avenue. While watching this face spit water, we are pretty sure we spotted Dwight from The Office. Like, very sure. But we played it cool. That's what we do.

(And no, that's not him in the green coat. Don't be silly.)

Of course there was a Cubs game involved, too. A very chilly Cubs game, but one with a great view. Sadly, the Cards won. But we won't dwell on that.

A Cozy Cup

At the Minnesota wedding I attended a few weekends ago, my crafty friend Cara knitted little coffee cozies for all the guests. I was totally smitten.

The next weekend, in Chicago, I made use of mine instead of snagging a little disposable cardboard cuff when I sipped coffee and wandered around the city.

And Conservative Hubby used the lovely little cozie too. Only he relied on it to keep his hands warm while he drank a beverage of a different sort at the chilly Cubs game.

Hipster beer cozies: Brilliant!

Pumpkin Pancakes

The perfect fall Sunday involves brunch. Specifically bacon, eggs, and pumpkin pancakes.

Yes, pumpkin pancakes.

Conservative Hubby found the recipe in a recent issue of Men's Health and decided we had to try it. He really had to twist my arm.

The pancakes were good. Kind of like eating pumpkin pie for breakfast. In other words, they were sweet and rich and heavenly and pumpkin-y.

I recommend you try them next weekend. Or tomorrow night. Breakfast for dinner anyone?

And if you're really in the fall spirit, serve your pumpkin pancakes with apple cider. I highly recommend that.