In gratitude, Afthead style.

Thanks to Kathy for pointing out my forehead faux pas in my gratitude post.  Let’s try gratitude again, afthead style.

Thank you for bravery.

Thank you for this lake.

Thank you for these friends.

Thank you for adventures.

Thank you for this family.

Thank you for this life.

Only one forehead in the bunch of afthead memories from our vacation at my happy place this year.

Thank you for readers and for this blog. My heart is full.

Blogging Challenge – Likes and Dislikes

One of my new favorite blogs, A Funny Thing Happened When I was Learning Myself, asked that I participate in a challenge listing ten things I love and then things I hate.  I love lists, and am so excited to participate; thanks for the opportunity.  Without further ado, here is my list.

  1. Hate kale, love iceberg lettuce – I hate trendy vegetables and I hate kale the most of them all.  Who really likes that slimy bitter leaf?  I was at a party a couple of years ago and immediately defriended the people who exclaimed, “Oh yay, kale salad” when it arrived late with someone I’m no longer friends with.  Yuck.  Also, kale will give you thallium poisoning so I’m avoiding it.  Iceberg lettuce though?   I’ll eat that stuff any day:  plain, on a sandwich, or in a salad.  It’s crispy, refreshing, uncool, lacking nutrition, and doesn’t taste like weeds.  (I also hate dressing, which  makes iceberg that much better and kale that much worse.)
  2. Hate movies, love books – I’ll almost never see a movie if there is a book option.  I love getting the whole story with the pictures in my own head.  I’ve been known to see movies made from books (notably the whole Harry Potter series and Schindler’s List) but mostly I steer clear from the movie version.   Time Traveler’s Wife?  That’s a forever book to me and I’ll cry every time I read or listen to it.   I don’t need some director and actors to ruin it for me.
  3. Hate nonfiction, love fiction – The only nonfiction in my bookshelf are cookbooks and knitting books and parenting books that make me a better parent by sitting on my shelf.  Otherwise I can’t really take nonfiction.  Even if it’s compelling, the story will degrade into minutia I really don’t care about at some point and I feel obligated to read all the details.  My one exception is Sarah Vowell’s A Partly Cloudy Patriot.
  4. Hate Lord of the Rings, love Harry Potter – I gotta admit, I love fantasy books.  However, that third Lord of the Rings book is deadly to me.  About the fourth time Aragorn changed his name and all those dead kings showed up I stopped caring.  I loved the Ents, but other than that I can leave that series.  However, muggles, snitches, wizards, and Hogworts?  Well that’s pure bliss.  So much that I collect the books in many languages and formats.
  5. Hate dogs, love cats – I’m unamerican but I’ve always loved cats  and found dogs to be a bit smelly, drooly and destructive.
  6. Hate scrapbooking, love knitting – Scrapbooking is tedious, time consuming, and boring.  However, turning tiny loops of yarn into hats, scarves, mittens, and sweaters is amazing.
  7. Hate cycling, love running – Before the small Afthead turned up I actually used to do triathlons.  I will probably never do one again because my road bike got stolen, and I really don’t want to replace it because then I’d have to ride the damn thing:  stupid butt hurting two wheeled torture device that made me dig gravel out of my flesh.  That said, I will do another marathon someday.  I love running.
  8. Hate quinoa, love white rice – Okay another food thing here.  I’m against eating a grain that is indigenous to poverty stricken South America so I can have protein and they cannot have protein.  I can get protein any which-way in my diet.  I don’t need to steal it from people who don’t have a grocery store within walking distance.  White rice is delicious though, especially covered with protein laden sesame chicken.
  9. Hate school food debates, love energy usage debates – My career is focused around energy usage and how to minimize how much petroleum we use, energy we use, and greenhouse gasses we emit by using energy.  I’m happy to talk to you about what car you should buy, what fuel you should use in it, and what kind of windows you should get.  I’ll bore you to tears on the topic and eventually point out lots of ways you can feel bad about your lifestyle and energy usage if you hang out with me long enough.  However, I do not care what is in school lunches.  (See 8 and 1 for examples of my lack of food coolness.)  My kid will eat hot lunch when it is chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs or quesadillas so bring on those options and I won’t have to make lunch!  Jamie Oliver is annoying and I don’t care what he says.
  10. Hate coffee, love Diet Dr Pepper.  My whole life people have been telling me to “wait until high school,” “wait until college,” or “wait until you start working” and coffee will no longer taste like swill.  All those people are wrong.  Coffee smells amazing and tastes terrible.  It always will.  Diet Dr Pepper though?  That’s the nectar of the gods.  And when the damn Jamie-Oliver-loving creep from work asks me if I want to know how my drink of choice is going to kill me I will continue to tell him “NO!”  I have one vice, and it is a fizzy chemical bottle of joy.

Now, I invite the following blogs to participate in this super fun challenge.  Tell me ten things you love and hate.

A Wild Rumpus Tradition

There is somewhere you must visit if you are in Minneapolis, Minnesota if you are a reader, or a parent; if you are a parent of a reader; if you are a lover of books; or if you are a lover of pets.  You must visit Wild Rumpus.  You know the allusion right?  From Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Thing Are.

 “And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”

Let’s start at the door, shall we?  The youngest Afthead is almost too big for the small purple door built into the normal grown-up sized door.  Almost too big, but not quite.  5 years now we’ve been making an annual trek to the purple door.



You walk in and the store is half zoo, half pet shop, half bookstore, and half magic land.  (Yes, I know that equals two, but this bookstore is greater than a single bookstore.)  It has cats with no tails, chickens, doves, creepy albino rats, cockatiels, chinchillas, ferrets, tarantulas, fish hidden in the mirror in the bathroom, and a really ugly lizard.  The cats are free to roam the store and their tailless ends are usually followed by a parade of children trying to grab a pet or a snuggle.  The chickens are also free to roam with a similar parade of kids, but they aren’t normal chickens.  They are like poodle chickens cute but a little foreign.  If chickens and cats need a break they retreat behind the sales counter taunting the children with their proximity and inaccessibility.

When you are done staring at the floor looking for animals your eyes travel upwards to the shelves and shelves of books.  There are books taller than you can reach: picture books, beginning readers, later readers, science books, geography books and even grown up books.  In the back of the store there is a scary section.  The albino rats live there, and there is a hole in the floor where some other creature lives.  When I was a kid, this would have been where I lived.  I’ve always loved scary books.  Not my kiddo though, she’s in the beginner readers picking out books she’s never seen outside of her classroom and she’s delighted.

About this time you glance up to stretch your neck and notice the boat carving a path through the ceiling.  Yep, in case there isn’t enough magic in this place the ceiling is actually a river with a rowboat carving a path through the white ceiling and leaving a path of blue green water behind it.

If you are in Minneapolis carve out an hour and go visit.  It’s right by the airport.  You won’t regret a moment there.  In fact, you might end up feeling like you’ve doubled your investment.

Favorite Lines – Jim the Boy

“During the night something like a miracle happened: Jim’s age grew an extra digit.  He was nine years old when he went to sleep, but ten years old when he woke up.  The extra number had weight, like a muscle, and Jim hefted it like a prize.  The uncles’ ages each contained two numbers, and now Jim’s age contained two numbers as well.”

– Jim The Boy, by Tony Earley

I have not been a writer my whole life: I came to that lately.  I have been a reader my whole life, and since starting to put words to paper my love of books has grown.  I will be reading or listening to a book and have to stop to re-read or rewind a passage marveling at “how they put that”.  That said, I have always loved certain books and certain lines in certain books, so I thought I’d start to share some with you.  These phrases, they are my inspiration, and I’d love to share them with you.

This one is from Jim the Boy, by Tony Earley.  I haven’t read the book in forever, but I remember loving this line the first time I read it.  I even read it to my mom, my partner in book love, so she could hear how wonderful it was this first line in Book 1 of the novel.  Earley captures the magic of turning 10 from a child’s perspective in such a unique way.  While my daughter has always talked about how many years she has in fingers or hands, I love how Earley describes it in terms of digits, and how ten has the same number of digits as his uncles’ ages: so momentous and yet a mystery there.  Why uncles and not parents?  I tried to create a similar feel in my story The Fisherman.  Earley’s is much clearer though.  There is no question about how old Jim is or what Early is trying to convey.  But this writing thing, it’s all about learning right?

The book is a great read, and I’ve tucked it away in my backpack to enjoy again.  Watch for more favorite lines in future posts!

Super Duper Excited about Healthy Snacks!

There’s a new vending machine at work named “Healthy Vend”.  It’s been there for almost a month now.  It accepts a wide variety of payment options: cash, coins, several credit cards and Apple Pay.  Everything in it is $1.00, so it’s a super convenient and inexpensive way to grab something when I forgot my lunch or need a quick snack to tide me over before dinner.

The best part is that the snacks are not only healthy, but they are also invisible!  Or maybe they just want to give health nuts the joy of buying something out of a vending machine, while not tempting them with the almonds, beef jerky, pretzels, or gluten free cookies that so often get dubbed “healthy” but really aren’t.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m going to.  I love me a healthy snack.  Maybe tomorrow…

A Sample of Historical Aftheads

The idea of afthead was one that wouldn’t let go of me.  It started goofing off at work, when someone wondered, “What’s that called, that back part of your head where men never go bald?”  An afthead of course!  We started looking and couldn’t find a reference to an afthead, other than an occasional discussion of putting toilets in the back of boats.  We searched domains and found that was available for a pittance.  The domain searcher said to me, “You’ve come up with an actual original idea!”

For a few months, heck probably years, that statement and the afthead idea drifted around in my head.  I looked up the domain.  Eventually I bought it, and did nothing with it.  It was interesting though.  I started noticing that I had a long standing penchant for aftheads.  There is something natural, unposed, and real about snapping a shot behind someone’s back.   It draws your attention to the scenery, to where the photograph-ee is looking, and it lets their personality shine through.

First there were a series of pictures from Italy featuring my husband’s aunt Bonnie.  She passed away almost five years ago, and she was my favorite traveling companion.  I love these pictures because they are are so her.  She loved to walk, and we walked everywhere together.  In the first image she’s climbing down to a city in Cinque Terra.  I love her wide-legged stance.  She was so strong and so curious about things.  She’s reading something, and she has her horribly embarrassing fanny pack on: so practical yet so ridiculous to her then 27 year old traveling partner.  If I’d captured her from the forehead side I would have seen a different Bonnie.  A posed Bonnie who didn’t really love having her picture taken; I love this image because it is really her.


This second picture is amazing too.  We were touring around Rome looking for the Forum and the Colosseum.  We were walking and walking with our maps and guidebooks.  Every ruin, every old looking building we’d say “Oh!  Here’s the Forum” but it wasn’t.  It was drizzling, and all the panhandlers who had tried to steal the fanny pack the day before were now selling umbrellas, and Bonnie bought one.  We marveled at the multi-talented homeless people of Rome and wondered if they sold umbrellas they had stolen the day before.  Finally we turned a corner and both said, “Oh!  This is the Forum”.  It was obvious.  Bonnie then became the methodical tourist.  She visited every ruin, would read about it, and study it.  I stood back and just took the whole thing in.  I didn’t need the same attention to detail; she’d tell me any of the really interesting parts.  This left me free to take sneaky pictures of her.  In this one she’s reading something, again.  I love the umbrella discarded for the reading material, and I love the emptiness of the Forum.  It was a mystery to us how anyone could be in Rome and not go out just because of a little rain.


Similarly, I found two sets of afthead images that featured my husband.  One set is from our wedding in Scotland, and the other is from our ten year anniversary trip last year.

This one is the day we were supposed to drive to Loch Ness, but we both woke up tired and not excited about spending another day driving.  Our bed and breakfast hosts suggested we visit the white sand beaches outside of Mallaig instead.  A genius idea.  Who knew Scotland had white sand beaches?  It was the perfect honeymoon location.  Rather than fight tourists and look for Nessie we took off our shoes and relaxed.  I also love this picture because we did a lot of hiking that trip, and I spent a lot of that time behind my new husband, unable to keep up with him and angry because he wouldn’t wait for me and angry at myself for wanting him to wait.  Ah the joys of new love.


This one brings back different memories.  I was crazy into triathlon when my husband and I got married, and I remember taking this so someday I could go back to this lake and start Ironman Scotland.  I marveled at the beautiful clear water and the perfect roads for cycling.  Now I look at this and marvel at how much hair my new husband had on his afthead.


Fast forward ten years and we are in Acadia, Maine for our anniversary.  Similar look and feel to our beloved Scotland isn’t it?  But with a six year old at home starting a new school we didn’t want to go so far away.  This first picture is from one of the hikes we did that we couldn’t have done with our daughter.  It was so fun to be grownups for eight whole days.  I’m happy to report that we didn’t have one fight this trip about who was walking in front, who was carrying the backpack or which one of us should wait for the other.   Ten years of progress.


This one is another “give up the plans for a more leisurely adventure.”  The plan was to go rent bikes and ride the carriage roads all over Acadia.  Instead we showered, went for a walk on the carriage path, drove up to watch the sunset from a mountain top, splurged on a dinner in Bar Harbor, and watched the stars from a trail-head.  That part of our relationship hasn’t changed.  We pack our vacations full of plans and dreams, knowing we’ll kick some ideas to the curb and actually have more impromptu fun than our plans would have yielded.


The rest is history.  Eventually I tied a blog to my domain and started writing in public.  Since then I’ve compiled tons of other afthead pictures, but that’s enough for tonight.  Oh, except that first one of Valentina, our resident cat in Lucca, Italy.  Oh how I love that brown, warm fuzzy afthead.

Finish something, part deux

Now that the Afthead lice infestation is officially over, my hands were itching to do something more productive than comb hair.   (I spent a lot of time examining my daughter’s afthead, let me tell you!)  I wanted to finish something, like my BFF Neil Gaiman encouraged me to do a few weeks ago.  The novel is still inching along, but I’ve had a knitting project in the basket since February, and I had Women’s World Cup soccer and Tour de France to watch this weekend.  Knitting time!

My husband jokes about my knitting and my writing, “You’re so lucky.  You’ve already got all your old-person hobbies figured out.”  In retaliation I poke him with my knitting needle and make fun of him publicly on my blog.  I’m excited about my first knitting blog, because I can try some cross linking between my Ravelry page and my blog.  If you aren’t a knitter just look at the pretty pictures and wonder why on earth I’d want to work with a toasty pile of of wool when it’s over 90 degrees out. The pattern is the Chevron Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, and I used Liberty Wool from Classic Elite Yarns.  It took  about 3 skeins of the light tone (color 7804) and 3 skeins of the dark tone (7898).   It’s a really long scarf.     I also have a shower to go to next weekend for a dear friend’s baby boy.  Well there’s nothing I love more than knitting baby hats, so I also started, and finished a baby hat this weekend.  I watched a Lynda course about design and by the time it was done my yarn had become a hat!   I have found that I can learn from those online courses if my hands are busy while I’m watching.  It alleviates some of the tedium.  I’ve yet to be brave enough to bring knitting to a meeting filled day at work, but I bet it would work in person too. Sadly I think knitting at work is at best weird and at worst rude.

This pattern is a modification of the Magic Coffee Baby Hat pattern.  I used three Debbie Bliss yarns; the brown and blue are cashmerino aran (300008 and 300005) and the red is cashmerino astrakhan (31006) which is a yarn with a little texture to it.  The cashmerino yarn makes the hat both not-itchy and machine washable, critical for a baby.  I did a slip stitch on the fourth stitch of the brown row to make the brown bump in the blue stripe.  I think it’s cute and should be a great first hat for a September baby.   We are supposed to bring a book instead of a card to this shower, and as the book lover in this group of friends, I picked out the books for three of us.  I’m like a kid’s book personal shopper.  I love all three of these books.  The hat is included in the picture so you can see how teeny tiny it is.     What a productive weekend!  Now I just have to wait two months for anything I created to get worn.  The best part is, now that I’ve finished two somethings, I can start something…or tackle that sweater that was under the scarf in the knitting basket.  Just one more sleeve!  Maybe I can get it done before winter.