There is magic in you

By: Sarah (yes, you read that correctly)

This post is scatterbrained and it's not everything I wanted to say and not necessarily how I wanted to say it, but here goes:

One of my goals for the year was to say yes to more things. Cliché, I know, but it was important to me. The year started off great. I was spending my nights and weekends going on adventures and putting myself into situations I normally would have stayed in bed for.

The biggest problem with this goal? I started saying yes to everything. I felt like if I wasn’t doing something after work, if I wasn’t spending time with a friend or family member, I was wasting that time. And while this yielded some remarkable opportunities and crazy escapades, at some point, I was too busy saying yes that I forgot to take care of myself.

The result: I am worn out. I am changed, but I am worn out.

I consider myself now to be quite the extrovert. I would rather spend time with people, doing fun things, than alone. But something I forgot about myself throughout the year is that I need that time alone.

I need time to read. And to write. And to think. And to breathe. And be.

By myself.

However, I’m so thankful for everything I’ve been able to do this year because I said yes. Here are some things that happened this year:

-Wrote lots of letters, co-hosted a letter writing event
-Saw so much live music/shows: San Fermin, Lizzo, Jose Gonzalez, Nick Offerman, Caroline Smith, Trevor Noah, The Staves (x2), Brandi Carlile, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Motion City Soundtrack, The Beach Boys, Daughter
-Traveled around the Midwest: Chicago, Sturgeon Bay, Bayfield, Elkhart Lake, Stone Lake (x2), Door County, Madison, Holy Hill
-Went to a murder mystery party
-Ran a half marathon
-Saw Hillary Clinton speak twice
-Designed a t-shirt
-Met Nick Offerman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Took a beekeeping class
-Went to my first Brewers game
-Participated in a latte art throwdown
-Went to a few weddings (and stood up in one!)
-Went four-wheeling
-Participated in an underwear bike ride
-Discovered my love of stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking
-Explored an abandoned building full of graffiti
-Went to an adult summer camp
-Rode a motorcycle
-Went tubing down a river for the first time
-Explored a gigantic sunflower field and lavender field
-Read a new Harry Potter book (play) and saw a new Harry Potter movie and made Butterbeer
-Tried a lot of new recipes and found my love for cooking
-Went to Luke’s Diner (sort of) J
-Got new glasses for the first time in years
-Celebrated Galoween and Galentine’s Day
-Conquered my fear of and fed chickens
-Saw The Book of Mormon live and fell in love with it (new favorite musical)
-Broke my arm playing roller derby

And there’s still a little more than a month left of 2016. So while I will be spending time alone, I’ll still be saying yes to things when I want to. It’s all about balance.

1. Take a deep breath.
2. Drink water.
3. Read or watch something you love.
4. Remember there is magic in you.

Productive Things You Can Do In Response to This Election

It would be dishonest to say this past week hasn't been hard for us. Like many people across this country and the world, we have been in a weird state of disbelief, grief, worry and anger.

And perhaps this may have some people thinking, "You're just over-reacting. Typical millennial making everything personal."

But the things is, it is personal. This past week has shown us that hate speech and generalizations are valued over experience and female leadership.

We've had conversations with Trump-voters who have said that they are feeling attacked and feel like they can't say who they voted for without being labeled as racists because they voted for "policies." Policies, that we think are inherently racist and infringing on people's basic human rights. That's a problem.

And it's not okay for people to feel unsafe, Trump supporters included, but take that feeling of being attacked and multiply that by a significant amount. That is how people of color feel on a daily basis. Women. Latinos. Immigrants. LGBTQ+ community. And this is not acceptable.

After feeling this grief and anger continuously for the past week, we have discovered that the only way to cure this feeling and this country is to do something. We may feel powerless and hopeless, but this is all the more reason to utilize the power that we do have and to create our own hope.

Below is a list of things that YOU can do to help this country heal: 

1. Many small businesses are donating profits to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, ACLU, The Trevor Project: 

2. Send donations yourself to organizations that directly support causes in which you are passionate about: ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Council on American-Islamic Relations, The Trevor Project

3. Participate in protests that are taking place around the country. 

4. Encourage your girlfriends to run for office. Or run for office yourself! 

5. Post Joe Biden memes, because they're the only thing that are making people smile right now. 

6. Be a support system to friends (or strangers) who are hopeless and perhaps are contemplating suicide. Give them the support and the resources that they need. 

7. Don't be afraid to have conversations. It's SO important to have open dialogue right now. The last person you may want to talk to right now is a Trump supporter. But we need  to have respectful and open conversations with those that voted for Trump. This is probably the most important step we can take. To have conversations across the aisle or figurative wall will EDUCATE and hopefully create empathy towards minorities who are being discriminated against. 

8. Practice Self-Care. It is so important to take care of yourself. You can't give anything if you are empty. Treat yo self, if you need to.

9. Remember that there is still good in the world. 2016 has been a crazy year, but some good did come of out it. Check out this video:

Black Cat Alley

When we first moved to Milwaukee a few years ago,  we were constantly on the hunt for beautiful murals to capture. While, Milwaukee had its fair share of nice ones, they were scarce and spread out. So when we heard about the Black Cat Alley project that had started close to our apartment, we were beyond excited. The Black Cat Alley is a collaboration of artists that created a large-scale, two-block alley that showcases murals of all styles and stories.

Artists from all around the world came together for seven days to collectively paint and create this new space: transforming this old alley into an art destination. This space truly represents the thriving and collaborative art community in this city: a community we celebrate every day.

We couldn't be more excited about the works presented here. Each mural is truly breathtaking and unique. Do yourself a favor and take the time to come visit.

You can find the Black Cat Alley at Kenliworth Blvd and Ivanhoe in Milwaukee, WI.

My Reloved Life: Part 1

By: Candice Caldwell 
(images by: Julia Brenner)

I started blogging about upcycling and repurposing in 2009. However, I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. I’m intrigued by the potential in things with no apparent value. Things other people throw away. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in apartheid South Africa, surrounded by ingenious repurposing, driven by need or poverty. And then there's the influence of my very creative, very frugal parents who still scoff at the idea of buying things that can easily be “made.”

Take this background, add a dose of woodworking experience, then imagine me as a poor graduate student for seven years. If I wanted something, I had to get it cheap or free and fix it myself. This meant that almost everything I owned was one-of-kind and had my sweat and a story attached to it. I was really proud of these things. I also had to leave many of them behind. Between the ages of 23 and 30 I lived on four continents - over time, I learned not to get too attached to stuff or feel too intimidated by having to start again without it. And now I’ve come to trust that the world often provides what you need if you keep your eyes open for the potential in things.

What I know for sure is that I love having stuff that was more discovered than purchased. Today I’m going to share with you how my relationship with things plays out in my home. In part two, I’ll try to give you my answer to the question “why do we hang on to the things that we do?”

My feeling that the world will provide is especially true in Chicago, my home since 2003. In this city, people donate things by placing them in the alleys. Often, right when I need them! For example, the unusual, bamboo-legged desk I sit at every day. My neighbor was taking it out to the alley when I intercepted him. He was delighted to hand it off to someone who was gushing over it! I used beautiful, handmade paper and modpodge to cover the original linoleum top. Otherwise, it's in the condition I received it.

The neighbor who handed off the bamboo desk offered me the vintage suitcases too. I didn’t know I wanted old suitcases but I gleefully accepted them. The alley provided the console table in my entryway and a black metal plant stand that’s now a green and gold bookshelf in my living room.

Walking home one night, I almost fell over a couple of dresser drawers abandoned on the sidewalk. The drawer fronts were 1.5 inches of solid wood. I had no idea what I would use them for, but I took them for the wood. Ultimately, I paired one drawer front with a mirror I found at a local salvage warehouse and that's the upcycled shelf/mirror setup you see here.

Sometimes, need drives you to make something out of nothing. Most recently, what I needed was a kitchen organizer of some sort. So I made one out of a branch, a leather-belt and plastic bottles. It was easy and cost next to nothing.

I arrived in the US in 2002 with two suitcases - the rest of my stuff was in another country. I moved to Chicago in 2003 with a car, a guitar, the same two suitcases and a few sentimental things that survived the end of a relationship. I never got the rest of my stuff and I now understand what a gift that really was. And as I look around my home today, I see it as a representation of second chances. I’m grateful I’ve been given them, and grateful to have stood still long enough to do the same favor for things.

You can find Candice on her blog: The ReFab Diaries.

Using Instagram as a Visual Diary: Puddles

By: Rishi 

I joined Instagram about a year ago out of curiosity.  My initial dip into the platform seemed unfriendly because of the onslaught of pictures of feet, food and frappes.  At the time, I didn’t understand the social connection of Instagram and was dismayed by what I saw.

What kept me using Instagram was my curiosity about how people saw Milwaukee.  I created my account and lurked afraid to put my content out there.  

I consider myself an amateur photographer and have been taking pictures for over a decade. I know my voice and my photography is my visual diary.  I tend to be an optimist and that mindset pushes me to look for the light in the darkness.  One perspective is never right and I look to capture my subject from multiple angles. Textures, grain, grit and the imperfections that occur naturally in the world are beautiful to me.  Symmetry is not important in my life, but important to my pictures.  I use symmetry to contrast a subject and to appreciate the different elements that make up the symmetry.

As I began to wade into Instagram, I found myself taking pictures I didn’t care about.  I posted images that I thought my followers would like and not what was true to my voice (or sight).  I found myself frustrated and angry that my “followers” couldn’t see my talent.  I had lost sight and was caught up looking for approval from strangers.  Fear of losing my voice (sight) forced me to pull back and reevaluate what was important to me.

I started to follow instagrammers in Milwaukee I found interesting.  Mke_illgrammers was the gateway to all good instagrammers in our city.  I found a community of photographers who were proud of their city and didn’t see themselves in the shadow of Chicago.  They had confidence, swagger and most importantly an eye that made our city look amazing.  I attended my first instameet in March of 2015 and began an artistic journey that changed my life.  Photography on Instagram is about connecting with photographers who inspire me and want to find the beauty within Milwaukee.  They are gracious with their time and always willing to help other photographers improve their skills.  Instagram wasn’t a silo but a silo buster. It took me out as a consumer and made me a creator.

Choosing 5 images I wanted to share with you was a difficult process.  How do you choose between your children?  Five elements manifest themselves in my photography:  water, light, dark, reflection and architecture.  The basic theme of my photos is to find the light in the darkness, the grime and the grit of the world.  Most of my pictures are taken on my iPhone.  The iPhone is a powerful tool and I learned to hone my skills by practicing without guilt.  I can take as many pictures as I want and then edit them at my convenience.  I have put in 10,000 hours taking pictures and it has all been a labor of love.  I also look for beauty in the unexpected. Photography is an opportunity for me to change my perspective and to see beauty in unexpected places.

I love puddles.  Puddles may be an inconvenience to many of us but to me it is a photographic goldmine.   At the surface, a puddle seems dark and unseemly.  Upon closer inspection and depending on the depth of the puddle, there are some interesting textures at play.  The surface covered by the puddle could be speckled asphalt or gritty concrete.  Leaves and other debris add complexity to the textural layers.  I also don’t know what I am seeing until I get my camera close to the puddle.  If you get low and close to a puddle, it will reflect a part of the world we take for granted.  If done correctly, the puddle should show two worlds above and below the surface.  

I want to show my appreciation to the Duck and Owl blog for giving me the time to share my art with you.  Please feel free to follow me on Instagram (mke_rishi).

T-Time with K & Commonplace

By: Kaitlyn 

The other night, I went to a small storefront that has become a staple in Milwaukee for clean, simple and functional products ranging from menswear to candles: Commonplace. I met up with Commonplace's founder and owner, Zach Peterson, to discuss Commonplace's past, present and future.

In 2013, Zach decided to open his own online shop to showcase brands that are simple, functional and modern. His intention was to get rid of the clutter of a traditional apparel shop in order to make the actual products and brands the real focus.

"It's intentional simplicity," Zach said as he motioned to his shop that perfectly encapsulated his description, decorated with clean walls and custom wood tables.
Zach started Commonplace online in 2013 and after a year, he decided to open up his first pop-up shop in the Third Ward for two months.

He decided to start a pop up to test out how people would respond to his brands and products. Pop-ups have been popular in many other cities across the United States, but few have been seen in Milwaukee so far. Zach had great success with this pop-up due to the fact that it was a limited-time opportunity, which created more hype for his store as well as the space itself.

"It gets attention that a normal shop wouldn't get," Zach said.
The two-month endeavor was beneficial for Commonplace as well as for the space he was renting from. Zach recommended that more building owners take advantage of pop-up shop opportunities.

After his pop-up shop, Zach decided to open up his own permanent shop in Bayview, which features a bright and inviting storefront that truly beckons customers inside.

Throughout the years of being online as well as a brick and mortar store, Zach has had the opportunity to work with numerous brands from around the world in order to feature a variety of well-made collections. The store currently features over twenty different brands and makers.

"My favorite thing is getting new shipments," Zach said. "Brands are consistently releasing new items and I'm able to have a small hand in everything."

In the future, Zach hopes to work with more brands as well as participate in local collaborations to create products specifically for his store.

Zach's future plans depend on how the holiday season goes at the shop as this will be his first concrete and mortar store he has had during a holiday season.

He will be in Bayview until at least the spring and then we will decide what to do next. He might stay in Bayview. He might move to a new location. He might have more than one locations. The possibilities are endless and anything but common.

You can find Commonplace online as well as in person at 3047 S Delaware St. in Milwaukee. 

Fiction Fridays: Second Skin

By: Lisa

It was my father who bought me my first pointe shoes.

I always thought my father’s deafness made him a superior communicator. I could take a single glance at him for a fraction of a second and predict his whole mood for the day. It all had to do with the forehead wrinkles. That’s what I miss the most about him: his distinctive moods and his endearing tells.

On the cold November day when my father decided to give into the haranguing of my ballet teacher, Ms. Forgione, who insisted I was ready to stand en pointe, I was in a fierce battle with myself. On the one hand, I knew straight down to my steady, strong core that I deserved pointe shoes. I was the best in the class; I was amazing. It’s only natural that this expense—and a terrific expense it definitely was—be spent on me.

On the other hand, it was such a luxury. For my Ukrainian-born parents, born into strife and conditioned to struggle with poise and economy, luxury was completely foreign, even shameful. I was taught never to indulge in luxury. But is happiness a luxury?

But standing on the sidewalk just before entering the shop, I could read my father’s thoughts on his brow. It was straight and stern but the soft crinkles on the sides of his eyes gave him away. I read in his face that a part of him wanted to indulge in this luxury not only for me, but for himself. That day I learned that my excessive pride was genetic.

My father’s hands were quiet as we entered the sparkling 8th Avenue shop. It was a girly paradise, frills of tulle and lace poking out of every clothing carousel, shelves and shelves of rose-colored boxes that I knew held my future perfect pair of shoes. I could feel the anticipation concentrating in the space around my father and knew he felt isolated, overwhelmed. I hardly spared him a second thought. Walking up to a woman draped in folds of black, I said, “I need to get fitted for my first pointe shoes, please.”

“Really?” she asked, assessing me.

“Yes, my first pair. Could you help me?”

A tinkle of a small bell behind me signaled the entrance of my savior, the plush Ms. Forgione. I thrilled. I felt saved.

Ms. Forgione’s timely, significant appearance worked upon my father like a charm. His nervous, drawn demeanor instantly became open, charming, grateful. He greeted her in broken, distorted English that was no less enthusiastic for its clumsiness, and all I can remember thinking is that the grownups always take so long to do everything. I signed to my father and translated between the two of them, turning my father’s mix of Ukrainian, English, and sign language into something intelligible for my monolingual ballet teacher. Her dimples flashed in my father’s direction as she spoke to him, and he was fully won over.

The niceties concluded, Ms. Forgione quickly took the reins with the pointe shoe fitter, overcoming the salesperson’s inherent snobbishness.

“This is Kat,” she said, gesturing vaguely toward me. “Today she’s getting pointe shoes.” The saleswoman nodded and began to perform her own little dance.

“Nice to meet you Kat, I’m Annie. If you could please take off your shoes and socks.” I sat and did so, and then she knelt down, hovering over my bare feet. I didn’t know exactly what she was looking for, but I hoped she liked what she saw. For a ballerina, feet are everything. She touched my arches, my heels, tapped at the line my toes made, straight and even. Feet to be proud of.

“Stand there at the barre,” Annie said. I glanced at Ms. Forgione, who nodded her head. I held the bar with focus and precision, moving my feet according to the instruction of Annie, who was now being thoroughly scrutinized by Ms. Forgione.

“Rise to demi pointe, Kat,” Ms. Forgione asked. “Tendu to second.”

Finally, a buttery pair of pink pointe shoes appeared, and Annie encased my feet in them, stretching, stuffing, spacing, and tying my feet into submission. I performed the movements again, conscious of my father’s quiet attention. I felt his eyes on me, and I gave even these minute movements every bit of flair I possessed. And on the ends of my legs, my first pair of pointe shoes bent and flexed with me. A fire glowed in my chest. I felt free.

Of course, all too soon, my first shoes were soon removed and taken away, and I felt a little bereavement at the loss of such a true, close friend I had only just met. That evening, we tried on what felt like hundreds of shoes, from the fat, wide ones like Grishko, to the skinny Capezios, while Annie asked me dozens of questions about the fit. I fell in love with all of them, even the ones that hung off my feet like bits of pink elephant skin. I liked the way my feet elongated, the hard toe box transforming my common old foot into something powerful, as if I were slipping into a different identity entirely. My skinny legs ended in ballet, and it was the beginning and the end of my life.

Each time the haughty Annie came over with yet another pair of shoes, Ms. Forgione adopted a ridiculously serious manner and was more stern with me than she had ever been in class. She did all the serious things: pursed her lips, furrowed her brow, cocked her head to the side, all of it. “Plie, Kat,” she commanded in a tone much unlike her regular one, unembellished with that sparkling passion I was used to, the “t” clacking against the roof of her mouth. “Now second. Flex. First. Again.” I found the whole thing unbearably comical but I followed her orders and managed to catch my father’s eye. He smirked, I smiled.

An hour passed before I met my first pointe shoes, Bloch shoes that felt like a second skin in relevé, and I exulted. Ms. Forgione’s dimples once again made an appearance as my reflection twirled in the mirrors of the 8th Avenue store, cheeks flushed, hair sticking out from my sharp shoulders, finally, finally a ballerina. The shoes were a soft pink, subtle as a blush, but I thought again of my green tutu.

Outside the store, Ms. Forgione tousled my hair, clasped hands with my father and disappeared into the black night. Underneath a red awning, my father told me I had to be good, work hard, justify his purchase. I signed back, my hands a flurry of movement, my face still red and glowing. I assuaged my father with promises of determined work but I also saw through him. His hands spoke of responsibility, but his eyes twinkled in excitement. His American daughter was really something special.

I relished that day for months.

Oh, hello!

Oh, hello!
We're Sarah and Kaitlyn, roommates from Milwaukee who started this blog to promote creativity and life.
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