Monday, 18 November 2013

Back in Minnesota

Technically I've been back in Minneapolis, MN for a year and three months and in that time I think I may have posted a total of 3 times. I spent part of this afternoon going through my blog reading list and having a look to see what was happening on the other expat blogs. So many people have left England or wherever they were living to return to America and some have been very good about documenting what it's like to be back on your home turf. 

I admit that I've been busy getting adjusted and settled in that I didn't make as much time for writing as I would have liked to, but now that winter is drawing near I feel like more blog posts will be appearing. 

There are so many things to write about. Coming back to America has not what I thought it would be, in both good and bad ways. It has been interesting and exciting to see how Matthew adjusts to being Minnesotan and how we know think about this America and how we think about England. 

Stay tuned for more posts and thanks to all the other expat bloggers out there who continue to share their stories.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Art Buddies, Session 1

A note for my buddy Amy.

The first day of Art Buddies is so much fun. There’s a strong sense of excitement and a great buzz on that first day. I also love how everyone just pitches in and works together to get the room set up.  It’s always a good mix of familiar and new faces.

One thing that I love about the first day is that the kids get to pick their adult buddy. They don’t want anyone to have the experience of being picked last, so they have the kids draw a name from a hat. That way they get to pick you and the kids love that. 

As the kids enter the room they get a chance to call out their buddies name on the microphone. Some of the kids really like doing this and others are a bit shy. Part of the objective of the program is to build the kids confidence so they create opportunities for the kids to speak in front of the group, which is really nice.
My buddy is called Amy and she’s in the 5th grade.  After she picked me we went to sit down and got to know each other. 

On the first day the adult buddies bring something in to show their buddy what it is they do at work. We want to inspire the kids and introduce them to jobs that they may not have even known existed. 

It’s also a really nice way to break the ice. Amy was really curious about the work that I do and asked a lot of questions.  

The theme for this session is animals. We spent some time talking about the positive qualities that animals have and the kids are supposed to pick an animal that represents their good qualities and make a costume.

The brainstorming time is such a rush because all the kids are super excited. The room that we work in is filled with an amazing assortment of art supplies and everyone just wants to start walking around collecting supplies for their costume.   

All the adults try to spend a bit of time sketching and talking through ideas, but the kids can’t wait to start walking around and collecting supplies  :)
Amy didn’t want to make an animal costume and instead wanted to be an artist who painted pictures of animals. The great thing is that it’s completely fine for her to do that.  You don’t have to DO anything a certain way. 

Art buddies also stresses that the costume you make with your child doesn’t have to be the most amazing costume ever, it’s about spending time together and for you to make your child feel successful and to help foster their creativity. 

Sue does such a great job reminding us all that the point of art buddies is the shared experience and not about how great the costume is. Art buddies give the kids an opportunity to feel successful in what they are doing, everyone gets to feel important and like be a winner. 

Something new that has come into the program is the Buddy Books. We get a blank book at the start of the session so that we can write notes to our buddies, paste in photos of our kids working and we give it to the kids at the end as a keepsake. We can also use the buddy book as a way to give the kids something else to do if they are having a hard time focusing on the costume. 

I think it’s a really cool idea and Amy and I spent some time decorating our book together.

The first session was fantastic and I feel so happy to be part of Art Buddies.
I also want to mention that I do have permission to post photos of my buddy 
Amy tying up our bag at the end of the session. It was pretty full of stuff.
Amy is feeling pretty happy at the end of our first session together.

This is only one half of the room we work in. There's another huge table filled with supplies.


3:30  Help set up
3:55  Orientation
4:15  Kids arrive
5:30  Kids to bus
5:35  Clean up

Choose another volunteer to work with you and your child as a team of four. You and your "adult buddy" can support each other throughout the program, and fill in if one of you is absent.

Pair up with your child and get acquainted. Today, you'll help your child brainstorm ideas, then start creating together.

Show your child what you do.  Most of the kids have no idea that the logo on their sneakers --- or the TV ads they watch --- represent a JOB.

At this program, you'll help the children imagine themselves as powerful and important by identifying with the positive characteristics of animals. They’ll choose an animal that represents something they’re good at, then you’ll create a fanciful animal costume together. You’ll help boost the children’s confidence as they discover and celebrate their strengths.

Break the ice by looking at library books with animal pictures.  Ask the kids to tell you about themselves.  Show them our “Animals with Good Qualities” sheet, and encourage them to identify as many of their talents and strengths as they can. The more positive qualities they discover, the bigger the boost to their self-esteem.

Sometimes, kids are so anxious to get started, they’ll settle on an idea too quickly.  Tell them they can always come back to their first idea, but this is the time to explore lots of choices.

Start planning what you’ll create. We'll have paper and markers for sketching concepts. If you're ready, start creating your costume. Use your imagination!


We'll also have blank books for you and your child to write and draw in.  On the last day, you'll give the book to your child as a keepsake.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Art Buddies

One of the things I was really looking forward to doing once I came back to Minneapolis was to volunteer for Art Buddies. I had been a volunteer twice before I moved to London and it was a wonderful experience. 

The fall session started at the end of October and this semester we have a new theme, which is all about animals.

We're helping the kids imagine themselves as powerful and important by identifying with the positive characteristics of animals. 

The kids choose an animal that represents something they’re good at, then we work to create a fanciful animal costume together. 

Art Buddies was started back in 1994 by a wonderful woman called Sue Crolick, you can read her story about why she started it here. Sue and Steph Vagle are just incredible woman and are so wonderful.

Get involved:

There are lots of ways to participate and I'd be happy to talk to anyone who has questions about what it's like to be an Art Buddy. 

Have a look at their website and they are also on Facebook and Twitter.

I'll be blogging about this session so look out for more posts :) 

What is Art Buddies?

Art Buddies helps kids from low-income families discover their creative gifts while building confidence and big dreams. 

The creative volunteers come from all sorts of exciting fields — including advertising, graphic and interior design, film production, commercial photography, illustration, public relations, web design and architecture.

At every program, creative volunteers work one-on-one with their child. The kids are amazed that they each get their own adult. One boy told us, “Art Buddies is cool, cuz you get your own person!”

The workshops last from 7 to 10 weeks, with 40 mentors helping 40 kids create something fanciful and unique.  It might be a costume of a child’s future self, or a model of their dream city, or an image of themselves as “ruler of the world.”

No matter what the activity, the goal is always the same: to help the children believe in themselves and expand their vision of who they can become.

Art Buddies ends with the kids posing for professional photographers and showing off their creations in an exciting parade and performance.

Since its beginning in 1994, Art Buddies has paired over 1,800 children with over 1,800 creative people.  In the fall of 2011, we doubled the number of kids we serve to 160 per year. 

They believe in the power of creativity and one-on-one attention to change children’s lives.

Friday, 2 November 2012

A tribute to a great friend

My lovely friend Mary Ivers sends me the most wonderful music via Spotify Tweets. So even though she is far away in London, I feel like she's right here. She sent me this song tonight and I'd thought I'd share it with you. Cheers MareBear, I really miss you.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Hometown Tourist

As a quick intro, but I will be writing a separate post that covers off the move back to America, Matthew and I arrived in Minneapolis back in July.

Since that time I have found a lovely job, spent time with friends and family, met some wonderful new people, bought a second had Saab 900 and am now a homeowner.  A lot has happened and it has been a lot of fun.

The topic of this post is about being a tourist in your hometown. I recently went out to lunch with an old friend who mentioned that they had been doing some local touristy things recently.
I would say this is something that I was rather good at before I moved away, the old hometown tourist, but I am really trying to make an effort now that I am back. 

There’s so much to explore and enjoy here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. We’ve got a lot going on here and it’s going to be fun to take Matthew around and show him what’s so super about the cities and the state.

There’s a bigger piece to this story as well, but I won't get too preachy. I think it’s very important to support local businesses. These unique places are what make our city an interesting place to live in. I won’t get on a soapbox now, but we should really be thankful that people open these businesses and we should our support by shopping local…

The other day I was at the Target out in St. Louis Park and I overhear a conversation on the way to my car. One woman was saying to her friend “It’s so great around here. You've got Target and Noodles and Verizon, it’s really great.”

Yep, you've got all your big box stores right here in this strip mall. Not that I am poo pooing Target or Noodles (I am sucker for the mac and cheese with broccoli and tofu), but it just struck me a sad thing. That people were exciting by such a generic retail experience.


Before I moved away I made an effort to go to new restaurants and bars.I have my favorite haunts, but I am a firm believer in trying new things.

I am big fan of lists and I was at the library going through the Mpls St Paul magazine and they had an article about where to get interesting/good food broken out by neighborhood.  I thought it would be fun to try and see how many of these places Matthew and I could get to.

When in doubt, start with a donut!

So I decided to start with donuts, which is a pretty tasty place to start. We went to A Baker’s Wife over on 42nd Street and 28th Ave in the Powderhorn neighborhood in Minneapolis.

The article mentioned that they had a cinnamon sugar donut that must be experienced, so on Sunday morning we made our way over.

I’ve heard a lot of good things the A Baker’s Wife, but I just never went there. No reason in particular, just never made it, you know how it goes :)

A Baker’s Wife is a charming neighborhood spot; there were lots of cute families going in  to get a special Sunday treat. I went for the cinnamon sugar donut, which was warm and yummy. Matthew had a nice flaky croissant. I read online that their American tea cakes are to die for, so we’ll have to try that one next time. 

The intersection of 42nd Street and 28th Ave is an old school kind of place. It feels like old Minneapolis, in a good way. I found a blog called Twin City Sidewalks which featured this intersection, I recommend taking a look at the post and heading over to A Baker’s Wife.
Here’s to being back in a great city and hometown tourism. 

Enjoy other posts about A Baker's Wife

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