Monthly Archives: May 2014

Getting Crafty in Rochester

Getting Crafty in Rochester

It’s Day 12 of our month at Mayo Clinic and we are constantly finding surprises in the Rochester area.  A great treat this week was a local arts fair–one block long–called Art on the Avenue (Fourth Avenue Southeast ).  Since its inception a few years ago, the art fair has moved from block to block of Fourth Avenue.  Every year, a different neighbor sponsors the event and hosts a sculpture created by a local artist that was specially designed for the event.   There are bandsImage

and food and local artists–some established and some just getting started.   Here are some of our cool finds.

Yum–beautifully crafted macarons and Mondrian cake–pound cake cut and colored to represent a Mondrian painting.  Almost too pretty too eat


Sharon Su of Persimmon Bakeshop stands by her yummy wares

from Persimmon Bakeshop.


Yard Art Flower Plates by Kim Phelps

Glass flowers.   Kim Phelps, the creator of these jewel like flowers says she gathers old glass dishes from garage sales and such and then puts together many flowers at a time, moving dishes around until she finds the right fit, coming back at a later time to glue the pieces together, add glass baubles and finish her creations

Can you imagine how pretty these flowers would look in the snow?  And check out the cheerful purple house in the backgroundImage

Another great discovery, the creativity of Paul Bennett, whose Dwell Local line of upcycled, reclaimed, re-invented thrift store items  and wall hangings is just too much fun.  I’m particularly taken with his button flower signs and the terrific yardstick tables.  I had to keep reminding myself that we couldn’t haul furniture back to DC–otherwise, I might have snagged a table.Image


At the heart of all this creativity is Concerned Citizens for A Creative Community, or  C4 cooperative, a local group devoted to making space for art in Rochester.  They offer all kinds of activities and display space, helping to nurture a creative spirit for Rochester residents–and for those of us who are calling the place home for even a little bit.  Image

I will confess, however, that one of the best things about the fair, besides seeing my daughter out and about, was that people noticed my jewelry.  You feel validated when people who actually have booths at an ART FAIR say, “Oh, I love your necklace.”  There is something that makes you feel like part of the community–and the artists of Rochester are very welcoming, indeed.


I wore “She said good” and the happy homemaker “Amazing Self” to the fair that day. And they liked it, they liked it!!!!

Hotel, Motel, Crafty Girl

Hotel, Motel, Crafty Girl

Well, we have been in Rochester for five days now, arriving on the train Monday night.  We spent Tuesday getting oriented, ordering groceries, unpacking, etc and taking a test run to the Mayo Clinic.  The next three days whirred by, as Rebecca’s Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program (PPRC) at Mayo is super intense and stresses not only lots of work but lots of socializing.  They want the kids to get  back to all aspects of their life before pain, so virtually every day there is some kind of activity, often planned by the kids.  We’ve been bowling and had dinner out (kids and parents separately) and today there is archery.   So much more activity–and energy–than Rebecca has seen in months.  Not sure what the magic is, but fingers crossed it will keep working.

Now, on to the crafty part of this blog.  We are in one of the many extended stay hotels that ring Rochester.  Hardly surprising, given  the Mayo Clinic’s reputation for cutting edge medical treatments.  We have a two bedroom with a little kitchen and I knew from the beginning that we would need to make it our own and quickly if we were going to feel at home.   So, how do you convert a sterile (clean, comfortable but no  frills, pictures or knick knacks)hotel room  into a home away from home?  Here are my tips:

1.  Remember the advice for business travelers:  I’ve seen plenty of articles over the years recommending ways to personalize a hotel room.  Bring a few pictures from home, maybe a candle or scented sachet, some small trinket that makes you smile.  I tucked into our luggage a couple of pictures we love, three little jade figures from Hong Kong that represent our family, a silly poster that says “Be Nice or Leave” and some cards, including one that said “Keep Calm and Carry On,” one of Rebecca’s favorite expressions.  Michael added the Xbox to our carryon luggage!.  I also tucked the whole basket of pills we take into the food bag, so that we would be able to keep things organized and tidy (and it is a cheery red!).

2.  Consider shipping a few things, too:  Since we are here for a month (and living in Minnesota!) we knew we would probably need more than we could reasonably stick in our luggage. IMG_3458 And given that we were shipping some sweaters and other bulky items, it only made sense to tuck in a few extra knickknacks, a favorite afghan, a stuffed animal, and our handblender.  I added a tiny copper vase Michael and I picked up on vacation one year, some shutterfly photobooks, and Rebecca’s favorite pillow. Oh, and did I mention I shipped jewelry and craft supplies–but of course.

3.  Repurpose/recycle:  My dad used to make storage bins for virtually everything out of 2 liter soda bottles.  I copied that idea here, sort of, cleaning out a small  baked beans can, wrapping it with washi tape (from the Target across the street) and using it for a pencil holder.

Tin can wrapped with colorful tape.  Eco-simple!

Tin can wrapped with colorful tape. Eco-simple!

I also cut down a 12 pack soda box to make two small catch alls.  But my big crafty moment, thus far, occurred when I made several paper bag storage bins.   I saw this idea recently and it struck me as a good way to use some of the twenty or so Hy-Vee grocery bags we suddenly had in our small hotel room.  I made one bin out of a double bag and one out of a single bag.

Wouldn't Martha be proud?

Wouldn’t Martha be proud?

The double bag is stronger but harder to work with.  Anyway, here are the steps.  Cut the garbage bag down the four  folded sides until you reach the last horizontal fold (about 2/3 of the way down.  Carefully fold over the long flaps, securing them on the bottom of the bag.  Then, wrap duct tape from one end of the short side of the bag to the other (so that bottom is covered).  Finally wrap duct tape around the full bag.   Finish the top with washi tape or other brightly colored tape.   Very sturdy and good for corralling papers and other small objects.

Paper bags, duct tape, washi tape--a sturdy impromptu catchall is born

Paper bags, duct tape, washi tape–a sturdy impromptu catchall is born

Yes, yes, you can go to Target and buy containers (and I ended up doing that, too), but I won’t feel guilty about tossing these and they made me feel like I was doing something creative even in the midst of corporate sameness.

4.  Visit  grocery stores, local markets and resale shops:  When we ordered groceries,  I included two pots of African violets.  They will likely stay alive at least for the whole month, are colorful, and can easily be given away when we leave.  Today, we went to a farmer’s market and picked up jam and bread and locally sourced meats ( we are roasting a half turkey to have around for the week).  For Mother’s Day, I get to go to a flea market that happens to be taking place tomorrow.  I’m almost certain to find something fun and silly to add to our temporary home.

5.  When you run to Target for the inevitable things you forgot, look for colorful packaging and other “extras:”  A clear shoebox is nice, but one with a turquoise lid adds a pop of color in the bathroom.  Three bottles of sparkling cider suddenly become a display in the kitchen.  The tissue paper around my African violets will become part of the gift wrap for Rebecca’s  birthday presents next week.

6.  Don’t forget the essentials: Pack a pair of scissors, tape, and glue at a minimum.  I purchased duct tape and washi tape at Target, but probably would have packed them if I had more room.    And leave room, of course, for the jewelry supplies or whatever your crafting heart requires.  I will report on those craft essentials in a separate post, but suffice it to say I brought more than Michael or Rebecca thought prudent and far less than I wanted to bring.



April is over–thank heaven!


Despite the weekly reminders from the automated WordPress tickler, I didn’t write anything in April.  it was a busy, crazy, month, with some great visits from family, torrential showers, beautiful spring days, and bittersweet memories.  Rebecca had some very good days and a few really bad ones.    We marked the anniversary of my dad’s passing quietly, sending some prayers and good thoughts his way on April 27.  I’ve been thinking recently of  his grin–a particularly robust smile that filled his face whenever one of his children came home.  He also used it whenever he was making up a bit of doggerel to sing to a child or grandchild (see below). I saw that grin plenty of times upon returning from college, and graduate school, and work ,and I only wish now i could see it one more time.  Instead, I like to look for proof of his smile in the universe.

 I was thinking of all of this after getting off the shuttle bus in Rochester, Minnesota today.  We are here to attend a program for Rebecca at the Mayo Clinic and the shuttle station is as busy as any railway depot.  My shuttle was packed with people being dropped off at various hotels.  it was a noisy shuttle, not the somber ride I expected at all–it was filled with laughter.  I was texting a friend who reminded me that I was back in the Midwest, after all, but I also think that the people on that shuttle were flush with the idea that they were taking charge of their illness.  Going to Mayo is a big deal, after all, and you do immediately feel like people are kind and taking care of you.  So, I’m glad to be rid of April, hoping that May brings good things, and on the hunt for my dad’s smile here in Rochester.  I will keep you posted. Image