Tag Archives: umbrellas

Tapping Into The Zeitgeist #3

Here are a few of the people, things, ideas and places I’ve been thinking about lately. Have you been thinking about them too?


One morning this winter I discovered that my PBS station sometimes rebroadcasts The Joy of Painting early in the morning. I stopped to watch Bob Ross paint a falling-down fence in front of an old shack in the woods and that was that – I was hooked. There is a tradition among Tibetan Buddhists of recognizing reincarnated masters in children… I think they overlooked Bob Ross, with his sayings like “happy little accidents,” “happy clouds,” “happy trees” and his reminders to create your own happy little world, presumably both on canvas and off.

When I was a child, I would watch Bob paint and be entranced and calmed in a way that has never quite been duplicated. Watching his show has a similar effect as having someone run their fingers through your hair or as cleaning your ears with a Q-tip after being out on a long camping trip. It’s so satisfying that you sink into the feeling, listening to his voice and watching him paint his happy little clouds in a state of bliss.

Sadly, Bob died of lymphoma in 1995 at the age of 52 but his legacy lives on through the show, which airs in syndication, and through his company, Bob Ross Incorporated,  which sells how-to DVDs (some with names like “All Barns!” “All Lakes!” and “All Mountains!” or the Bob Ross DVD Legacy for $1,378.50), art supplies and t-shirts (you gotta check out the t-shirts, which you can find on this page). I think they need a shirt that says, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bob Ross.”


If you’re a woman who went to school in the U.S. you are probably well-familiar with friendship bracelets. Made from colorful embroidery floss knotted into various patterns, many of us wore 8 to 10 of them at one time when we were in junior high and high school. I didn’t wait for anyone to make one for me, (which was kind of the point behind them – your friend would make you one), and instead happily knotted away with the bracelet taped to my leg, tying knot after knot while watching shows like Cheers and The Cosby Show on TV or, if it was summer, Days of Our Lives.  I remember making one epic bracelet that was about 16-20 strings across, resulting in a cool, thick version that I wore until it rotted off my wrist.

Well, I don’t think friendship bracelets need to be only for the young ladies. A lot of designers apparently agree with me – I’ve seen some fancy ones that incorporate pieces of vintage jewelry, rhinestones, etc that sell for $75-100.  Also back on the scene is the preppy rope bracelet – when I was in 7th grade all the popular girls wore white rope bracelets and it was considered such an exclusive act that you couldn’t exactly go out and buy one yourself if you weren’t in the group.

But there’s nothing wrong about the good, old-fashioned friendship bracelet. One puts one on and leaves it on all summer long. Once you take a shower or a swim the threads shrink to form to your wrist and the only way to really get them off is to cut them. Maybe not perfect for the corporate drone but great for anyone allowed to show they have a personality.

If you want to be a cool pal, make one for a girlfriend this summer. Note: if you use real embroidery thread and not the kind for crafts, you can be sure that they are color-fast and won’t stain clothing or skin when they get wet!

Here are some tutorials to get you started if you’ve forgotten your knotting techniques: The Basics from Ben Franklin, making the Chevron pattern and Advanced patterns for all you smarty-pants.


Maybe it’s because this was one of the wettest springs I can remember but recently I’ve become quite enamored of umbrellas. For years I lugged around an ugly navy blue and maroon one my mom gave me at some point after college. It was definitely sturdy but not pretty – it seemed like something a woman from the 1980s would have carried on her way to her job at Xerox or IBM. Then I bought a cheap, travel-sized one for a trip to Italy – it was raining when we touched down in Pisa and I got it out only to have it immediately break in the wind.

Since then I’ve been on the hunt for well-made, well-designed umbrellas. I bought two Marimekko umbrellas from the Minneapolis store Finn Style and I also acquired two amazing umbrellas from estate sales – one is green and blue plaid with the head of a Scottie dog for its handle (I long to find a similar one with a horse’s head for a handle) and the other is a perfectly preserved 1960s pink-and-red flowered one with a curved handle done in red leather with white stitching that appears to have never been used (it was carefully stored in its original plastic wrapping as well as wrapped in a cone of hardware store paper in the basement).

Keith loves to use the Scottie umbrella. He reports that you just can’t be in a bad mood when you’re holding on to the Scottie head while walking in the rain. I’ve found that spending money on tools and utilitarian objects that are well-designed often makes repetitive or tedious tasks a delight. For example, investing in an expensive German pizza cutter has made us happy in ways we never realized would matter. Same thing for a can opener. Being able to open a beautiful and/or well-made umbrella gives you the satisfaction of being prepared and stylish.


There are some things that Minneapolis gets very right and one of them is bike paths. Bike paths (and lanes) are a more civilized way to ride in many cases (except when going around the lakes, which are a free-for-all of slow bikers, fast bikers, roller bladers, runners on the bike paths and strollers). The fact is, you can’t trust drivers to look out for you. They are too busy talking on their phones to come to a complete stop at stop signs. Or they see you coming but they don’t care and gun it so as not to have to wait for 20 seconds while you roll past. Or they are filled with rage over the fact that you’ve chosen to go somewhere by bike and happen to be on the same street as them.

This digression is my way of getting around to saying that Minneapolis (and St. Louis Park)  now has a bike path that can change your life. It used to be that the Cedar Lake commuter trail into downtown Minneapolis ended approximately at Liquor Lyle’s. You’d come huffing up the slight hill after exiting the trail only to be dumped across the street from the bar, observed by some of its afternoon patrons who came outside for a smoke. No longer!

A new section of the trail connects all the way to the Mississippi River via a tunnel under Target Field. It is now possible to bike from South Minneapolis all the way to the River largely on trails. We tried it on Saturday and were giddy with excitement – getting through downtown from the commuter trail used to be a maze of biking in traffic, taking quick jogs down one-ways going the wrong way and guesswork as to where you’d end up. Now the biggest challenge is aggressive bikers who refuse to say “On your left,” before they pass you because that’s a sign of weakness.

Try the ride on Saturdays and you can continue along the river to the Mill City Farmers Market for lunch before biking through the University’s campus and all the way to Minnehaha Park if you feel so inclined.

Here’s the article about it from the Star Tribune – the best part of it is the comments section where people complain, complain, complain about what an awful waste this is. I love it.