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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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.

Check it out here. Continue reading

“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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“Cause and Effect”: Ifs, Thens, and Accountability

Pictured: The famed Wisconsin Cheese Chalet. Included in the post mainly to inform everyone Wisconsin has a Cheese Chalet.

If someone is bemoaning the repercussions of an action, my mother has a response she will go to.

For example, I might say, “I’m sick from eating a whole block of gouda like an apple! Betrayal by those I love most!”

It’s at this point, my mom puts her hands out to her side, and tilts her head back and forth as she says, “cause and effect!” (To her eternal credit, if I said this, she would also probably bring me a ginger ale. I’m aggressively spoiled.) It’s her way of saying our choices have consequences.

“I spent all my money on novelty tote bags, and now I have to eat lentils and rice for dinner!”

Cause and effect!

“I didn’t replace my car battery when everyone said to replace my car battery, and now I have a dead car battery!” (True story. I have since replaced my car battery.)

Cause and effect!

In 2011, as the country was coming out of the recession and I was struggling to find a job, I made the choice to go to graduate school. Not only that, I made the choice to go to graduate school in New York City. No wait! It gets better! I made the choice to go to graduate school at a private school in New York City. And let’s just bring it home- I made the choice to go to graduate school at a private school in New York where I studied textile history.

Trust me. It’s the most lucrative of all the fields of visual culture history. Continue reading

“They’ve Seen You. You Can’t Run Away”: Muscles, Grace, and Trying Out Dance Class

I’ve always had a pretty healthy self-image, give or take a puberty.

I’m not a tiny person. I have a poochy stomach when I slouch (and also when I don’t slouch), and my hips are really just leaning in. They’re saying yes to life! They’re demanding a seat at the table! All this is to say, there is a lot of me. And society tells us that is bad.

But my body does pretty well getting me from point A to point B, and then nine more points after that. And then dancing to the song that comes on in the grocery store. And then running away from the guy who just caught me dancing in the grocery store. By and large, I like who I am.

Which is why I thought it would be fine to sign up for a ballet class.

For some context, I have desperately missed being a student which is why since last Fall, I’ve consistently been enrolled in one continuing ed night class or another. First storytelling, then Medieval gardening, and even a rogue Saturday where I learned woodworking basics from an incredibly cool Lumber Jill.

As I’ve already mentioned, I love to dance, so I figured it might be worth digging into dance classes in the area. And I found ballet.

“Just think of the wardrobe opportunities!” said all serious ballerinas ever and also me.

Immediately taken with the dance clothes that one could not do without (Leotard! Wrap around sweater! Those tights with the holes in the feet!), realizing how grateful I should be to my parents for buying me years and years of dance clothes (including a wide-leg unitard with an iridescent bubblegum pink crushed velvet bodice which feels like a worthwhile detail) because they are expensive, and then promptly forgetting my budget, I ordered everything.

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Rant Alert: I’m cold, you guys. I’m cold.

I have a complicated relationship with the cold.

I’m usually hot. The summer I spent in New York, a city that fosters a special type of muggy, only amplified by it’s general summertime hot dog water aroma, one of my favorite past times was just going to stand in the Bed, Bath & Beyond fan aisle. All of the display models were turned on, and I’d just… stand there. And it was typically the first moment in the day where I didn’t feel like I would actually rage murder the next person who blew their cigarette smoke in my face as we were walking down the sidewalk. It was brilliant.

Heat makes me feel crazy. I feel faint, but raging. Sick to my stomach, but furious. And mysteriously, a little bit sleepy all the time.

I once yelled, “I’m sorry! I’m just so hot!” in a fight with my friend when I went to visit her in LA. I forgot what we were fighting about, but I definitely yelled it while sitting in front of her open refrigerator, holding a bottle of her rose to the back of my neck. (She has since forgiven me. I think.)

I always run hot, and I know that I’m not great about it. But this morning Facebook informed me four years ago today, I announced my move to Wisconsin. And four years ago, plus a week or two, this hot-blooded person learned about the cold.

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