Aural Reflections

 Top Tens, 25 Tips, Five Steps, 50 Sexiest ...we all love getting information force fed fast. The easiest and simplest way to do this in in the form of a list. And just like the cover of every magazine, I love me my lists. Thus, below you will find 10 of my favorite songs from 2009. Not the top, not my most favorite, there may even be some that came out before 2009. Just a list of 10 songs I discovered in 2009.

Also, If you have the time I suggest checking out Pitchfork, an all-things music site. I was partly inspired by their Pitchfork P2K top 500 Tracks of the 2000s. Though I only made it through about 250 songs I was able to find some stand-outs that I had yet to hear and many I hadn't realized came out this decade. As a side note I'm happy to say that female and male vocalists are both well represented, as well as two from Minnesota.

10 Outstanding Songs of 2009:

 

Bonus Outstanding song of Angela's 2009

 

AFTER: The Remodel

In the summer of 2008 something huge happened in my life. Something that Angela and I had been planning (and saving) many months for. After three months and almost thirty showings we purchased our first house. We found it tucked in Saint Louis Park between Edina, Golden Valley, Hopkins and Minneapolis. For us, it was exactly what we wanted: close to work, near downtown, suburban-feel, fenced yard, centrally-located, big garage, move-in ready, nice kitchen, 2+ bedrooms, et cetera. Alas, it had one feature missing: a second bathroom. Having just spend almost two years in a 770 square foot apartment we both knew extra space for friends, family and eventually kids was all but a necessity. Luckily, we knew we'd be receiving a First-Time Homebuyer Credit right in the midst of an economic and housing crisis. We mentally ear-marked that money and signed on the dotted line.

We moved in, decorated, painted, adopted a Greyhound and got our ducks in order. Once we were settled we began designing the bathroom we wanted to put in the basement. For a year we clipped magazines, bookmarked websites and ripped out photos. In the fall of 2009 we finally broke ground with design in hand. We ran into some inspection issues and learned quick how serious SLP is about home inspections and housing codes. Half-way in we switched gears and installed an egress window, unexpected but needed. Three months, some dusty rooms, a clogged nose and two sore hands later we officially had ourselves a second bathroom.

Now that we're done if'n ya find yourself in the process of adding a basement bathroom and need some inspiration or just want to see if the Higgins' have any style check out the pictures below. Also, I added a few links to some of the materials we used.

The Bathroom:

Before

Framing & Egress

Tile, Fixture and Paint

Finished

Materials:

Ikea Lillangen Cabinet

Ikea Hollviken Sink

Ikea Dalskar Faucet

Ikea Anes Mirror

Toto Drake Round Toilet

Kohler Forte Shower Hardware

Home Depot Subway Tile

Merengue the Meringue

Our morning dance these past few weekends has been to plan our meals for the week and eat our breakfast in the company of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I highly recommend trying some of her recipes or watching a few shows. She's the Martha Stewart of the Food Network but much more sweet and amiable. She reminds me of my mother when I was a child. Scooting around the kitchen in a purposeful manner opening, closing, cooking, baking, mixing, mincing. I had no idea what all these methods or ingredients were at the time but it seemed a science and an art that was much too confusing. As an adult though, cooking has become a serious hobby and trying new recipes a frugal journey. And lately, we've made the Food Network our go to muzak when nothing else is on tv.

Today I did the same dance Ina did this morning. Inspired by both my mom and by Angela, my wife, I spent this afternoon baking. I say inspired because both of those women have baked a lot. Me, not so much. I cook. Pastries, breads, cakes and it's ilk have never been my forte. I feel I'm at my best with a knife and a pan. But just like a stricker needs to work on his defense I dropped the knife and plugged-in the Kitchen Aid. If you pride yourself as a magician in the kitchen then I dare you to make a Lime Meringue Tart. It was much more involved and complex than Ina had made it look. Also, the meringue took about 12 minutes to fluff up, not the 2 minutes the recipe says. Haven't tried it yet but with the amount of sugar, eggs and butter I used it's got to be delicious. See the pictures. I know the next one I make will be even better. If I ever do.

New Year's Resolutions!

I'm not a big fan of New Year's Resolutions. Mostly, because I've never done them nor feel like I would keep to them. If anyone has that much resolve wouldn't they have done it already, why would they wait. Obviously, because we're all procrastinators, myself included. Unless pushed, prodded or threatened most people don't actually finish resolutions. How does one resolve that? Culpability.

Thus, instead of just making a list in my head I've decided to write a post about it. I figured that way I've kinda resolved myself to doing what's on the list because it's now public, in writing and somewhere I'm sure to visit throughout the year. If not that, friends and family should keep me honest enough. Another way to make sure I hit my NYR (New Year's Resolutions) is to keep them acheivable and quantifiable. If I feel like I can do it, completing it is more plausible. Plus, once completed I should be able to check it off. That' why running more isn't on the list. How do I know when I've ran more? Absolutes and definitives.

So, I've started with a few resolutions. Each is meant to be focused on a certain task unlike the others and pertaining to different hobbies. At this point, I've started explaing to myself what it is I'm attempting to do. If you've read this far I applaud and sympathize with you. Without further ado, here are the minimum requirements for my 2010 Resolutions.

  1. Run a Marathon // DONE!
  2. Write a blog post once per week twice per month // NO
  3. Draw for 30 minutes once per week // NO
  4. Commute to work sans car 5 times // DONE!, biked
  5. Cook a complete meal for a group of 6 (Appetizer, Entree, Side, Dessert and Cocktail) // DONE!

And so it begins... with my first post.

Medtronic TC 10 Mile (Year 2)

Last year I ran the 2008 Medtronic TC 10 Mile along with Sean, Chris and Megan (my brothers and sister-in-law). Months prior, I would go out and run three times a week, slowly getting my running legs back and feeling healthier and less sore by the day. During these training months, we had the ritual early Sunday morning long runs at our parent's house. Tired and sleepy, all of us would hit the sidewalks of Burnsville, Apple Valley and Rosemount increasing our distance and mutual discomfort each week.

Finally, race day had arrived and Sean, Chris, Megan and I  ran with the best of them, though we may not have finished with them. Even so, I loved the experience and camaraderie of running and training with family. I found running helped focus my mind and body while releasing some of the stress and pressures of the day. It was also made each weekend a family event with all of the Gophers descending on AV.

After watching us last year, Angela knew this was something she wanted to do. Thus, when lottery sign up time came around we entered and patiently waited. We didn't get picked in the lottery and assumed our training was for naught. To our suprise Medtronic had a Special Fundraising Entry for the TC 10 Mile for those willing to raise $100 on behalf of local youth fitness partners. This years donations go toward Bolder Options, Migizi Communications, and YWCA of Minneapolis.

Lucky us, we got to run it. Best of all, we got a ride back to the starting line with my parents and proceded to enjoy some delicious post-run brunch at Good Day Cafe. Our go-to run day meal du jour. See ya next year.

Weekends + Minnesotans = Cabins + Wisconsin

The 2009 Rutter Cabin Weekend just got over and it made me once again realize how fortunate I am to have such amazing friends. Who knew I had an instristic knack for locating and hypnotize people into befriending me?

The festivites started Thursday afterwork with a lovely jaunt through the impeccably timed rain storm that seems to precede every weekend at Rutter's cabin in Waupaca, WI. Luckily, Tony and Shannon were nice enough to haul my butt over there once again. I had to survive the night since Angela had to work a half day due to shooting some commercial with Julia Roberts' husband and dropping Earl off at our favorite Jammer's Dogbreak. She finally made it and, thus, completed the list of celebrities that weekend. The VIP list included: Mason & Erika, Mike & Mariann, Eddie & Kate, Tony & Shannon and Angela & me. There was a new face to this years festivities and she turned out to be a perfect fit.

Not as crazy as some years but just as fun and memorable, with fewer hangovers, which I've been know to suffer year after year. Our schedule of events included: drinking, golfing (not me yet), running, debating, eating, boating, wakeboarding, skiing, swimming, cooking, drinking, pontooning, grilling, Cornholing, laughing, arguing, relaxing and generally enjoying the outdoors while creating memories and carousing.

I love these weekends. And like Mike has once told me, I also get sad and depressed when I have to return to the real world. I forget about work and being an adult, responsibilities are left at the door and everything become more fun. Then again, it's weekends like this that make me realize how lucky I am – how blessed I am. Can't wait for next year! Wheelhouse, hope your ready.

Pictures here.

Hummingbirds and Hand-Stamping

Lately I've been seeing a lot of bird-themed invitations, via Studio on Fire, Hello Lucky and Lisa Lefkowitz Photography. Not that this is anything new but the fact that they are using hummingbird illustrations as the key design element makes me pretty happy. Of course it has nothing to do with the wedding invitations I designed for Angela and I in the summer of 2007 for our wedding in October. Though, making them by hand created a great final result, it definitely took a long time. Hand-stamping, arm-cramping during late night assembly sessions.

Super Sweet Space Images

A great find today thanks to Draplin Design. A huge archive of low- and hi- resolution NASA photos. YES, hi-resolution also! They can be found at The Project Apollo Image Gallery but if your using them for commerical use please check the guidelines. The images remind me of another of my internet regulars, The Big Picture at Boston.com, which had a Remembering Apollo 11 image tribute. I'm especially fond of these retro images and have already found a use for them as we speak, more on that to come.

Camping at Eagle Cliff

Angela and I have always wanted to go camping. You know, get outside and rough it up like real nature-loving hippies. Sadly we never had the supplies, time or knowledge to do. Until now!

After moving into our new house last year we were able to trudge through the wedding gifts we'd received the year before but had stored in the parents' basement—our old 750 sq.ft. apartment didn't have enough space for it. Once home we realized we registered for a camper's essentials: a gas stove, 4 person tent (really 2-3 people), two sleeping bags and a cooler.

This set us up perfectly for camping, though, our summer weekends fill up unbelievable quickly with various engagements, e.g., cabins, work, travel, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and trips. Not this year. One wedding!

Camping within reach, we could easily set a tent and grill a mean burger but lacked campground knowledge and etiquette. Low and behold, Rett and Becky had already gone camping in Lanesboro, MN at Eagle Cliff Campgrounds and other good friends Amy and Kase had added some gear and knew how to keep a good fire burning all night.

With Miles and Adelaide in tow, we headed out the third week in July. I picked up a Yakima bike rack for our new (old) bikes (pics to come), packed the xB to the top (not really), dropped Earl off at the Human Society (to board) and ventured south (south-east).

We arrived at a decent time on Friday, quickly threw up the tent and grilled some burgers and corn. It was a nice weekend weather wise, overcast with hints of sun, not ideal but not horrible. The next day we went for a long bike ride from Lanesboro to Peterson, about 13 miles on a perfect path through pristine Minnesota prairies and towns. Slightly parched we picnicked in Peterson before heading back. A pit stop at a pie shop let us eagerly down three pie slices. After an excellent steak dinner courtesy Amy and Kase we talked late into the night, drinks and smores in hand.

Sunday morning we went into town and ate at Pedal Pushers Cafe. Very much a comfort-food type restaurant. There was a great buffet that was defintely not for vegetarians. I love animals but sometime bacon and sausage taste so good–I'm good at dissociating the two.

All in all, I can't wait for our next adventure in the Minnesota wilderness, which is hopefully sooner than later. Tons more pictures here.

StumpleUpon & Weatherly

StumpleUpon has the innate ability to find the most inspiring images, stories, videos, etc. online. I utterly despise it for increasing my ADHD at work in with the most genuine of distrations. I blame it for find this jem, The Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals, this morning. Truly talented work that breaks drawing down to the basics. Why did I not have this growing up? It definitely makes me want to start drawing again–put that Moleskine to good use.