Sunset on the Savanna

Another week, another gala...sometimes it's miserably tough to be community-minded and to have an affinity for dressing up, am I right? 

Kidding! Last Thursday, I was invited to join a group of colleagues to attend the Como Zoo's Sunset Affair, the annual fundraiser and gala event that provides a major source of funding for Como's educational programs. This year's theme was "Sundown on the Savanna," which a: sounds a bit like a cheesy romance novel, and b: was so perfectly branded and advertised...see below. Needless to say, when I got my official invite in the mail, I was all like "Yes, and can I get a glass of champagne up in here, and also when do I get to pet a giraffe?" 

With the heat index expected to soar above 115 degrees, however, I was not exactly feeling my gala-sparkliest that week, and there was of course nothing in my closet that fit the bill for "Africa-casual-chic." Solution? Anthropologie, duh, where I picked up this breezy high-low dress on Monday. I'm completely in love with it and am going to wear it all the time, pretty much. 

With my hair all pulled up off my neck, a giant pair of gold earrings and sunglasses in tow, I headed out...still feeling a bit attitudinal, per Snapchat. 

Upon arrival, we were chauffeured from the parking lots to the event in golf carts...such a fun way to start the evening! After checking in, our group immediately found the bar, and with a G&T in tow, I spent way too much time perusing the auction items and pretending I could afford an 11-night safari. As soon as I had been properly reality-checked, we headed out to make our own safari! 

The zoo was closed to the public for the event, which meant the animals were extra-active and we could get up close and personal like never before. I spent no less than 20 minutes freaking out over the giraffes...even the baby was 10 feet tall, and they were so striking and fun to watch!

The ostriches were unafraid to get up close and personal with us...I think they thought we had food? Either way, they were incredibly entertaining. Such odd-looking creatures! This one kept popping his head above, then below, the fence in the weirdest little undulations...I couldn't NOT laugh at him, and so he'd do it again and again. Probably trying to figure out what the hell was so funny about his normal everyday neck stretching routine or something. 

The Como Zoo has undergone a bit of a baby boom in recent months. In addition to the aforementioned baby giraffe, they have a 10-lb baby gorilla and a brand-new, 18-day old baby girl zebra...and the zebra above, Thelma, is due any day with another! The evening's auction included the naming rights to the new baby, and while I was definitely tempted to bid, we couldn't settle on a name. Adam voted for "Charlie," I pushed for "Daisy" as her mother's name is Minnie, and AJ was all about "Abigail," as in "Abigail the Zebra," or "A-Z." 

Whatever her name ends up being, witnessing this was enough to completely make my night. The heat and the setting sun truly did make it feel like we were enjoying a sunset on the savanna! 

Of course the zoo was dressed to the nines...cocktail tables with gorgeous floral arrangements were scattered all over the outdoor spaces, and each bar was covered in the prettiest batik-print linens. 

Our table for the night's dinner was IN the gorilla enclosure, with glass on all sides looking out into the gorillas' outdoor play space and one giant window facing into their indoor jungle-gym type area. We watched a video featuring one of my colleagues, Sheila, who sits on the board of Como, and learned a bit about the gorillas while we took our seats and savored the night's first air-conditioning. 

While we dined on coconut-curried chicken with tomato coulis and a fantastic apple-and-plantain salad, one of the zoo's gorilla trainers did a series of demonstrations with Virgil, a 400-lb 14-year old gorilla. Watching him respond to the tiniest movements of her hands and head blew my mind. At Como, animals are taught to participate in their own care by responding to visual cues with their own body movements, enabling keepers and trainers to perform medical examinations and checkups without traumatic anesthetization. Seeing it in action amazed all of us...especially as it highlighted just how HUGE the gorillas were. 

We also learned that the animals at the zoo receive a "daily enrichment" designed to make sure they stay happy and healthy. Our trainer for the evening explained that the gorillas get a harp performance twice a week. I, needless to say, did not believe this...until I Googled it and found photo proof along with this article. For some reason, I find that completely makes me wonder what else people will dream up. (Image above via the Star Tribune!)

As soon as we finished dinner, we headed back outside into the twilight to take advantage of an obscenely awesome dessert buffet and admire the animals one last time before heading home. The baby zebra was cuddling her mom under a tree, the giraffes were settling in for the night, and the heat had abated just enough to be comfortable. Before we went our separate ways, we snapped a photo with a few members of our group...dessert not included. Perfect way to end a fantastic evening! 

101 in 1001 #8, #13: Little Life Changes

I have the worst tendency to get really lazy with my appearance when it gets hot out, and when I'm terribly busy. Given that this summer has been the most brutal combination of both, my daily routine has pretty much become "shower, go to work with wet hair and nothing but moisturizer on my face, apply mascara and concealer at my desk and pull my hair up, call it a day." 

That's so terrible, but it does have a few tangible benefits. My hair, given a break from constant heat styling, is growing way faster than usual and looks way better when I do take the time to do something with it. My skin, offered a vacation from constant makeup, is clearer and healthier than it's been in a long time. Noticing that, I've been extra-focused on taking care of things at a basic level...good skincare, hair care and dental care. 

So incredibly basic, but after my scary teeth-smashing over the Fourth of July, I've been hyper-focused on taking care of my teeth and gums. I escaped having to have a root canal primarily because I have really healthy teeth, and especially with several of my front teeth being partially fake, I want to keep my real teeth looking as white and good as possible. I floss once daily, right before bed and after brushing, based on these American Dental Association guidelines (yes, I know I'm a nerd).

In addition to flossing, I use whitening toothpaste, mouthwash twice a day, brush my teeth after lunch (I KNOW, I KNOW, NERD), and use a Whitestrip once a week. Call me crazy, but having just paid the residual bills for extensive dental work, I'd rather invest the time and care now than pay a ton more down the line for more care. 

I'm also hyper-aware of skin care after encountering several family members and friends with melanoma or associated skin cancer scares. Thanks to my mom's Italian heritage, I've been blessed with the kind of olive-toned skin that tans 99% of the time in the summer, and I rarely burn as a result. That said, I've had one or two bad ones in the last few years...

...and knowing that even tanning easily and rarely burning still increases cancer risk, I wanted to be more careful about my skin this summer. (See this list of skin cancer myths, from the American Society for Dermatologists.) Even spending much of my week indoors, I go out enough to want to do something to protect my skin. So I started using Lubriderm Daily Moisture with SPF 15 every takes legit two minutes to apply, and it's improved the texture and health of my skin along with providing a little sun protection. My face lotion already has SPF in it, so I'm covered there for daily wear. 

As for days when I will be outside (dreaming of floating in Iceland's Blue Lagoon, obviously)? I've been using this SPF 30 Sun Bum screen all summer. It was an impulse purchase before our Kentucky Derby party in May, primarily because I liked the bottle, but it turns out it's organic, vegan, and smells like a piña colada...well worth the higher price tag in my book, as I don't use full sunscreen often enough to worry too much about the cost. 

Like I said, trivial things that have made a great difference this summer. Now if I could just get myself out of bed early enough to actually do my hair on the regular.....

More 101 in 1001 here...and plenty more coming up in the next few weeks! 

Lately I'm Loving

Things making me smile/on my mind/causing distraction these days: 

I'm a passionate reader - if you've EVER popped in to check out one of my monthly reading lists, it's kind of hard to miss. That said, this blog post broke my heart when I saw it shared on Facebook. I was a crazy devotee of my school libraries from kindergarten all the way through high school, and have used and abused my Hennepin County library card for the last three years with zero shame. To imagine a rural library with no books was devastating to I sent a set of Eva Ibbotson's novels, which I love, and was thrilled to check back in and see that supply had outstripped demand. So cool. 

Around town, I'm also a passionate devotee of the Minnesota Orchestra, and love spending my summers enjoying the annual Sommerfest programming by guest conductor-in-residence, Andrew Litton. This interview with him digs deep into his thirteen-year tenure as the director of Sommerfest, highlighting programming decisions, rehearsal challenges, and of course, what's next. I attended the transcendent Brahms Double Concerto with the Jodester on the 14th, and deeply appreciated this glowing review as well...Nichola Benedetti and Leonard Elschenbroich were both incredible. 

While my appreciation for gin takes second place to my love of champagne, I couldn't help but laugh and think twice about switching it up more often upon reading this unintentionally hilarious article on the surprise health benefits of gin. Who's up for a wrinkle-fighting, detoxifying, malaria-preventing G&T on my roof sometime soon?!

On Instagram lately, I'm cracking up at the dual accounts "That J.Crew Jacket" and "That J.Crew Gingham Shirt." Totally guilty of wearing my Downtown field jacket everywhere, including all over Europe in June...and who doesn't have a weakness for a hot guy in the perfect blue gingham button-down? As documented here, I totally do and feel zero shame. 

Several friends have taken and shared the results of this "Online English Vocabulary Test" lately, so naturally I had to throw my hat in the ring...especially as I've been providing synonyms for David's thesis here and there for weeks now. Results? 

Boom, bitches. I blame my latent addiction to playing vocab games on, but also the fact that this quiz was absurdly easy. Totally going to adopt the alter ego of Shakespeare and start creating words now, though. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I have a major thing for guys who read, and my bibliophile heart utterly melted at this literary love story. Fun fact: I used to shop in the bookstore in the article all the time when I studied in London...although I rarely purchased, being on a stringent student budget. Now I'm thinking I should've been flirting with their media! Oh well, I'll find my Joe Fox someday. 

Ending on the highest of high notes: Happy third birthday Prince George! William and Kate released four adorable photos of everyone's favorite cheeby-cheeked toddler prince in honor of the occasion - see them here. I'm maybe a bit too into his tiny striped whale sweater, and also I now need a cocker spaniel to feed ice cream to in my downtime. Slightly offended I didn't get invited to the tea party birthday party though...sounds like a fabulous hat opportunity and also, now that Pippa's off the market, Harry's obviously going to fall madly in love with me and get me in the tiara STAT.  

Happy Friday! Off to spend the day working on case reviews with hundreds of high schoolers at Gopher Business Day, then hopefully enjoying a beverage or two with friends. Have a great weekend! 




A Balsam Lake Bachelorette

It's been a crazy marathon of events leading up to Eva's wedding next Friday, and we just checked a big one off last weekend...her bachelorette party! We headed to her family's cabin on Balsam Lake in Wisconsin for a weekend of swimming, sunning, and celebrating one of her last weekends as a single lady, and we got so lucky with gorgeous weather the entire time we were there. 

As soon as we had all our food and liquor for the weekend unpacked, we hit the dock and sunscreened up. I, however, dodged the food-and-beverage cleanup because I gave myself the all-important task of preparing the weekend's second-most important guest. 

This is Laverne. She's a seven-foot inflatable flamingo with a sassy attitude and a penchant for floating. We had WAY too much fun with her all afternoon, and by "we," I might mostly mean me. Total impulse buy when I was having a slightly cranky day and decided nothing would make my summer more basic or happier than jumping on the novelty floatie trend in a big way. 

Our bride-to-be jumped on board right away...

...and we passed plenty of time floating off the dock sipping drinks and chatting (probably way too loudly, sorry neighbors) about all things appropriate for a bachelorette party...that is to say, inappropriate for just about everywhere else. 

Then we hit the boat! 

Eva captained, while I held down the plethora of floaties in the back. 

Selfies abounded. 

Sun was soaked up, and all too soon we were feeling a little too toasted and headed back for the dinner-and-lingerie portion of the evening. While Eva prepped the burgers for the grill, the bridesmaids did a little decorating. 

Tee hee! We played the cliched-but-oh-so-fun game of "guess who brought what lingerie, if the bride guesses right the giver drinks, if she's wrong she drinks." Eva did terribly at first, which was hilarious, and eventually caught on right in time to make us all giddy and tipsy. 

Post-dinner, we debated staying in and instead decided to get our bachelorette out on the town. By "out on the town," we mean "deep in a townie bar," and in Balsam Lake, that means Blacksmith Shop.

We rolled in around 8pm with Eva in her veil, and immediately became THE hot entertainment of the night. I think it became a game to see who could help us check what off our bachelorette list...

...starting off with "Spin the Shot." Eva ended up with some kind of Midori and blue curacao shot, while the rest of us ordered rounds of vodka Red Bulls and gin and tonics before heading out back. What's out back, you may ask? 

Why yes, as a matter of fact, the evening's feature was a mechanical bull. Which we shamelessly made Eva ride, multiple times, while the live band was warming up. Other items checked off our list: 

Take a selfie in the men's room, which was hilariously labeled "Outboards" (women's was "Inboards," ha!). We played dumb when the bartender came to pull us out, and acted like we didn't know what an outboard motor was...which...riiiiight. 

We took blow job shots, some more successfully than others (in life as in shots hahaha). 

We did shots with the bull operator. 

And Claire went home with the classiest and most innovative headwear I've seen in a long time, a nice Bud Light cowboy hat! 

After dancing our faces off to the country band that didn't know any Zac Brown, we cranked up "Chicken Fried" and headed home to play a classic bachelorette staple: 

HI BLAKE. (We named him, along with the guy on the reverse, Antonio.) Hilarity ensued. After a little more chatting and a lot of chugging water, we passed out for the night and slept through some pretty intense thunderstorms. 

Sunday morning's breakfast was exactly what the doctor ordered...tons of fruit and two breakfast bakes soaked up any residual alcohol in our systems. A successful bachelorette for sure! Next stop, #sandersons4eva in just NINE days! 

breathe. take it easy.

My mom, sister and I are headed to Chicago in November to visit Laura and Drew, but more importantly, to see "Hamilton!" Needless to say, I'm just a few levels below "rabid foaming at the mouth excitement," and have been spending an absolutely irrational amount of time listening to the soundtrack, creeping the New York cast on Snapchat, and reading about every single casting decision made for the Chicago show. Last week, casting for Alexander Hamilton, King George III, and Angelica Schuyler was announced, and I was beyond pumped to see that Karen Olivo will be joining her second Lin-Manuel Miranda production in the role of Angelica. She originated the part of Vanessa in his 2007 production "In the Heights," and has been a longtime favorite of mine. 

I've been listening to "In the Heights" for the last week or so as I've had time...zipping from work to appointments in the car, walking between meetings, tuning out as I stare off into space and eat a five-minute lunch. Things have been beyond manic for me personally, and this week is shaping up to be the pinnacle. Tomorrow I'm spending the entire day at a writing workshop, then I have a show at the Guthrie with Open Call. On Thursday during the day, I'll be speaking to hundreds of Twin Cities professionals in my new role as the United Way's Young Ambassador representative, and will spend the evening all dressed up and hopefully not melting in 100-degree heat at the Como Zoo Gala. On Friday I'm serving as a mentor for Gopher Business Days, a high school case competition I got involved with through my board work, and Saturday will see me back at Orchestra Hall for the Sommerfest season closer.

All this, coming on the heels of a few busy weeks and sandwiched between Eva's bachelorette party last weekend and a Friday AND Saturday wedding next weekend, has me fairly sure I need to take a leaf out of Thoreau's book and go all "Walden Pond" solitude on the world. I've been migraine-ridden and extra-irritable and sleep deprived and just generally unpleasant lately...the flip side of a life spent doing too many cool things. On the way home from Eva's bachelorette party, I'm pretty sure Claire could see the tension starting to creep back into my shoulders, and she gave me exactly the reality check/pep talk I needed. 

All these things going on in my life right now are so fun and exciting, and being invited to participate in (most of) them is a huge advantage for my career, as well as a sign that I'm well-regarded by people who will matter as I continue to advance. That said, I'm too introverted to ever be the kind of person who can handle two or three events in a day...I need some relax and recharge time. So I had that last night, and it was heavenly. Claire and I got our nails done, then I headed home, threw in some laundry, ordered takeout, and vegged on the couch with Hal for the entirety of "The Bachelorette." We snarked on the show, decided we should probably have a reality tv show of our own (or at least a podcast), and closed down the night with Jason Robert Brown duets. I was in bed by 10 and felt like a different was so unbelievably necessary. 

How does this come all full-circle to "Hamilton" and "In the Heights?" There's a line in "96,000," a song from ITH, with the following lyric: "It's a weekend, when we can breathe, take it easy." I haven't done that for SO long, and yesterday was a fantastic reminder that it's critically important for me to do so every so often. Although "there's a million things I haven't done," like Ham, I need to slow the fuck down and realize that it's not going to all happen at once. So that's going to become a new priority for at least the next few months...among all the concerts and plays and operas, the benefits and work events and foundation opportunities, I am going to give myself the gift of taking a break a bit more often. Here's to finding the balance, climbing the ladder, and remembering to breathe through it all.