How Do You Measure, Measure 7 Months and Then Another 2 Months?

I have the very real prospect of going to Scotland within the next year. 9 months specifically.

Let me tell you why this is a big deal. Because I’ll admit on the face of it, it may not seem like a big deal. It may not even seem like a deal. But trust me, this is at the very least a deal.

Fun fact, “this is at the very least a deal” is the opening line of my Shark Tank pitch for my company, Uber for cheese.

I’ve wanted to go to Scotland since Spring of 2012, but my interest started growing the year before. A friend of mine asked me to make her wedding dress, which in hindsight, feels like an insane thing to ask a twenty-three year old who couldn’t find an actual design job so was subsequently working retail in the gift shop of an historic home.

But when she and I went fabric shopping, the only fabric that grabbed our attention was a bolt of navy and green tartan taffeta that, as luck would have it, was on sale. It was practically waiting for us.

Illustration for Schiaparelli

If you’re not familiar with tartan, imagine plaid but with a much more interesting and complicated history. A history involving magic and romanticism! A history involving nationalism and war! All of that, while still looking very much like plaid.

(There’s also a history of  a plaid, coming from the Gaelic word “plaide,” being a specific garment worn by the Scottish in colder months. But I feel like that’s not necessarily a fact you’ll want to share at parties. For the purposes of this blog post, tartan is typically the name for plaid fabric in the UK. Plaid is what we use in America.)

But my friend, being incredibly proud of her family’s Scottish history, saw it for the tartan it was.

Lucille Ball. Not my friend in her wedding dress, though the two are interchangeable.

Over the next few months, we made a wholly unexpected dress. She looked like royalty. And it had pockets, so she was sensible royalty. And while we purchased the fabric in a “let’s just do it” moment, in the end, I couldn’t imagine her wearing anything else. And officially, tartan was on my mind.

So the next year, when my 19th century dress professor was helping me brainstorm topics for the semester research project, she looked at me and said, “what about tartan?”

Little did she know, I would not only say, “yes,” but I would not be cool about it at all. The next year and a half of graduate research would be devoted to tartan. Tartan and the 19th century. Tartan and punk culture. Tartan production and cultural enchantment.

  1. Tartan is fascinating, guys!
  2. I’ve been informed my definition of fascinating is not always spot on.

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Behind the Scenes in the Smithsonian Collections

Sometimes in the course of my research/googles-gone-awry, I run into things that are too charming, interesting, or striking for me not to share. No advice, no pearls of wisdom- I’m definitely, pretty much, mostly very certain those are reasons you decide to stop by- just something cool that might brighten your day. This week? Behind the scenes in the collections of the Smithsonian Institute

Mineral Sciences Collection

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Spring and Tornado Shelters of Choice

Spring happens gradually and all at once in Wisconsin.

While there is slow improvement from the crippling cold that steals your breath and then subsequently, your hopes and dreams as February creeps into March, it’s often expected that Spring, true blue Spring, birds-are-chirping-time-to-stop-crying Spring will takes its merry time in Wisconsin.

I had the conversation a few times through the months of March and April.

“How’re you enjoying this pretty weather today?”

“Oh gosh. Isn’t it amazing? I’m just hoping it will stick.”

“You and me both.”

Spoiler alert: it never sticks.

And around mid-April you find yourself fuming at socks, holding grudges against pants, and vowing revenge on the coat that you never want to put on again, while friends in Southern climates start posting pictures of hikes and outside and smiling. Coworkers complimenting your outfits, mentioning they’re a little more tailored for warm weather, and instead of saying thank you, looking them right in the eye, and saying, “I can’t do it anymore. And neither should you.” And then they stop talking to me. One can only assume it’s because they’re too cold.

Spring always takes its time up here. And this year, especially so.

But progressively, the jackets lose their down, and boots are traded for slip-ons, and you find yourself at the farmers’ market deciding on hanging baskets for your patio garden’s grand reopening.

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Under The Parrot Umbrella: A Highlight Reel

A lot has been going on in my life lately.

I may be in a turf war with a bird, for one. (I yelled “I BEG YOUR PARDON!” when it landed a foot away from me on my patio. It did not seem phased, and has since returned to defecate all over my West Elm patio furniture.)

In similar news, I recently hit two hundred posts under the parrot umbrella! It’s a big umbrella!

We’ve cooked. We’ve complained. We’ve gone on thing you can almost count as trips.

There’s been pie. There’s been Hanukkah churros. There’s been mediocre cheese made from scratch.

I’ve gone to Milwaukee. I’ve gone to something called a Forevertron. I travelled first class once, and was abundantly not cool about it.

This blog is my show and tell, a roommate who can’t tell me my stories are bad, and my outlet. And we made it 200 posts in, and have yet to be murdered in Murder Mall. I’m calling that a win.

To commemorate the occasion, I’ve selected my ten favorite posts from over the years.

Greatest Story [I’ve] Ever Told


Believe it or not, some people call me hyperbolic (see: avian turf war). But sometimes things happen in your life that don’t need exaggeration. The “conducted a job interview in my pajamas while chasing a dog through a field” story is doing just fine on its own.

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“Can One Bake a Stick?”: Making Plant Hangers and The Art of a Stick Hunt

You guys. I think it’s happened. I think that it could maybe have possibly happened. As I type this I’ve checked the ten day forecast three times because I don’t want to jinx it, but I think we’re here. After Winter had to get in a couple more storms, after my new tires needed to flex their muscle on the icy-slush covering the roads, after I pulled my warm-weather clothes out of storage, just to keep them in their Rubbermaid container in the middle of the floor because I pulled them out too soon, it’s here.

I think it might be Spring, you guys.

I won’t lie to you. This Winter was a nail-biter. Would I make it? Or would I go screaming into the night because I couldn’t face another night getting my exercise in by walking laps around my parking deck because it was a literal two degrees outside, only to be found the next morning mumble-singing “Vacation” by the Go Gos? Well, I think I made it! Good thing I was so cool and level-headed about the whole thing!

Progressively over the last month, in a desperate attempt to bring nature back to my life because Nature herself was surprisingly obstinate, I’ve slowly been building an indoor plant collection, but because my apartment only has one entry-point for sunshine, prime territory for photosynthesis has gotten kind of crowded.

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The Almost Travel Blogger Tours Wisconsin: Milwaukee


Yes, it will be sad when the Lake Michigan lake monster gets you, but here are some ways to spend time before it does…

Wisconsin tends to have a reputation among those who don’t live here, and sometimes among those who do, of being a flyover state. That’s there’s not a ton to do. And the fact is, on the face of things, it’s not necessarily wrong.

When I moved here just over four years ago, everyone was trying to “sell” me on Wisconsin.

“Oh, you’re going to love it. There’s the farmers’ market and concerts on the square.”

“Has anyone told you about the concerts on the square? Or the cheesy bread at the farmer’s market?”

“We have this big farmers’ market! And concerts. They’re on the square.”

“I mean, you’re going to go to the farmers’ market, right? And the concerts on the square? Right? You’re going to go?”

Guys. That’s only two things. That’s not that many things.

And do they count as two when they’re both on the same square? What happens when you leave the square? Political discourse? Quiet reflection on the changing nature of time as you get older? Everyone eats cheese in silence?

Needless to say, I wasn’t convinced. And also I was pretty insufferable to be around, but that hasn’t changed.

It was about a year later that I was sitting on a flight to New York, listening to a young woman in the seat behind me complain about how boring Wisconsin was, and how she couldn’t wait to be back in the city after spending two weeks here.

She “literally” couldn’t wait, which must have been a real bummer considering we were stuck on the runway for two hours because of air traffic in Chicago, our connecting city. That’s really bad timing for literally being unable to wait.

It made me angry. Not because I hadn’t said similar things, because I had. But because I could tell she hadn’t tried. And because she was talking loudly enough that the whole plane could hear, but mostly because she hadn’t tried.

And really, there are things to do in Wisconsin if you’re willing to dig. And only most of them are on squares!

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“Do You Think This is a Game?”: How to Definitely Engage an Audience


Photographer unknown

My week started by spilling both water and coffee in my backpack.

As it turns out, 1) that was Monday’s running start and 2) I ended my day spilling water and coffee in my backpack. Also, I need a new backpack.

From the minute I sat down at my desk chair, my Monday moved at a sprint, so when I left my last meeting, when I just wanted to hobble to my car (sprinting is hard in even reasonable heels), when I just wanted to drive home where a box of popsicles was waiting for me, when I just wanted to see how many pretzel rods I could eat in twenty minutes, I instead had to prepare a work presentation for Wednesday. And I had nothing left. Nothing.

Well, actually, I did have something. I put in some work on a pretty mean Javert impression after seeing the stage production of Les Miserables twice in the last week. Imagine Jimmy Stewart doing an impression of Sean Connery doing an impression of Bane from the Batman movies. But I don’t think that really helps when you’re building power points about the nuances of IT.

Especially when that power point has to focus on the work equivalent of your sixth month dentist appointment.

Read: It’s no one’s first choice for how to spend an afternoon, but you’re going to be real sad when you don’t do it and all your teeth fall out! (Which is definitely what happens when you miss a dentist appointment.)

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