Category Archives: love life

Happy Birthday to Me.

Today, friends I am 29.

I feel like I should have some sort of profound thoughts to hold forth on.  Perhaps the lessons learned during the golden birthday year?  Reflections on my first birthday as a mama?

Above all things, this year I have become gentler.  I have tried to be kinder to me. I have tried to be kinder to others.

We spent the weekend replenishing our La Croix stores, care of a special delivery of 15 can packs to ALDI.  #blessed.

This morning, Brady and I celebrated year four at Lake Harriet.  


We walked instead of running, but the rain held off, and it was still just as lovely.  Someday, we’ll run together in the morning again.

Critter blessed us with a family-wide afternoon nap, which we have badly needed.

I went on an expedition to Target and tried to source some new things that would expand my wardrobe.  I ended up with cardigans and breton-striped tops and the things I thought were experimental will be returned to the store, so let’s just say now that nothing is changing.

We went on a date birthday dinner  birthday dinner-date and tried TERZO, another new-to-us restaurant.  We actually relaxed.  It sort of felt…normal?  Someday we’ll go on another one.

I received a most excellent assortment of gifts: A pair of gold-beaded Minnetonka Moccasins, the rest of the June Lane china I needed in order to complete my china set.  Three of my favorite movies that we have never owned: Twister, Remember The Titans, and Independence Day.  A book of photos from our vacations of me taking pictures of things.

It was all quite nice.  So this is how we start the 29th year.

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Back at Home

We landed in Minneapolis yesterday at 5:30 PM.  We were home by 7:00 PM.  I had started my laundry by 7:15 PM.  We were eating dinner by 8:00 PM.  By 8:30 PM we were going on nearly 24 hours of being awake and I collapsed into bed.  What actually happened: I was standing in the kitchen at 8:15 PM, and suddenly, everything felt very heavy, and I knew that if I did not tuck myself in, I was going to fall asleep standing up!

I did wake up a few times during the night, but 10.5 hours later, I finally woke up properly to greet the day.  Sleep.  How magical.

Sunrises: Also so magical.

Sunrise

In the past, we have returned home from vacation one day and have headed straight back to work the next day.  This time…we didn’t do that.  It has honestly been so nice to have a day just to ourselves to relax and get our lives in order for the week ahead!  Also, after spending so much time together (and without anyone else) it gave us the chance to spend the day apart!  Marcus commandeered the basement, and I engaged in my favorite pastime of watching terrible reality TV on Marcus’ side of the bed.

I feel like now is also the time to give the full disclosure that I am just inordinately happy to be home.  Italy was just an incredible trip that we were so lucky to be able to take.  But it has also been pretty splendid to be home, sleeping in our own beds, enjoying our routine, and having a day without a schedule (or plans!).

We are having just a banner day in Minnesota.  68 degrees, sun and a scattering of clouds.  Spring pretty much started last week and the snow has completely melted.  It was actually warmer here than it was in Italy.  I went for a run outside (first one in 17 days!) and that was a really splendid way to kick off spring for us at home.

I did some online shoe shopping – I sourced two pairs of running shoes (on sale!) and a pair of nude pumps because winter wrecked my old pair.  I ate sushi for lunch.  I folded a monstrous pile of laundry.  I drank LaCroix!

Does this feel like a Dear Diary, entry yet?  Because it sort of is.  Anyway.  We are home.  It is good.

Party Weekend

Hey hey, friends.

In case you are wondering what the definition of insanity is, it is hosting two parties at your house the weekend before you head off on vacation for two and a half weeks.

That being said, you have to make hay while the sun shines.  And we know that we have one heck of a long weekend coming up!

First on the docket: The third annual Magyfest.

Three years ago, we decided that we weren’t going to attend the Winterfest thrown by the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild anymore because to be totally honest, it was really expensive.

So instead we e-mailed all of our beer fest-going friends and invited them to our house.  We told them to bring $30 of good beer each and a dish to pass.  Three years later, we’re still doing it and the people are still coming.

Magyfest 1 Magyfest 2 Magyfest 3

The food is good, the beer is better and we’ve found that everyone brings enough beer that the party serves as a sort of impromptu beer swap – because everyone gets to bring a “party favor” six pack back home with them!

Tonight (Sunday) we hosted an engagement party for Emily and Chris.  Emily is one of my sorority sisters and bridesmaids and I am so glad to share in this next part of her life.  We worked a heavy belated-Valentine’s day theme because that was her request and I think that it was really quite perfect.

The food.

EParty 2

The decorations.

EParty 3

The bride-to-be and me!

EParty 4

Another one of our dear sorority sisters, Jenna, was such a saint and brought balloons, some appetizers and some desserts.  It would have been just impossible to do without her!

As you can see from the snap above, I made everyone wear nametags so that friend groups and family could mix and mingle.  It was a real lifesaver.  There was eating, drinking and merriment.  And, no sooner had our party guests left than I directed Marcus to drag out our suitcases because it’s time for us to get packing!

 

 

Just a bit about my weekend.

Happy Sunday, kittens.

We “moved” back into our house on Friday night and that was really lovely.  Even though I slept super-well while we were staying at my in-laws’ place, it was so so so good to be able to reunite with my bed.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that on Saturday, I spent 30 minutes meeting with and breaking up with a travel agent from a business we’ve worked with before and then I spent the next hour at home booking all of our Italy hotels.  Confrontation is never fun, but it is important to say NO when you have been clear about your budget and someone is trying to talk you into spending an additional $1000.  As it stands now, the only thing we have left to do is book tickets to and from La Spezia/Cinque Terre.  Once that’s finished I can settle the rest of our sightseeing itinerary and start hunting for restaurant ideas on Trip Advisor.

Our Saturday night was a little bit more laid-back.  We went grocery shopping and I was fascinated by how the clientele of ALDI, Trader Joe’s and Cub changes with the setting of the sun.  Marcus and I cooked dinner.  We watched Gravity (which has been on our DVR for probably three months now) and drank cocktails.  On Friday, Marcus gifted me a set of those ice cube molds that freeze into baseball-sized spheres, so I was extremely excited to give that a try.  Verdict: My cocktails look fancy now.

I did get out and about to do a few fun things.

On Friday night, Linds, Katie and I headed over to Spoon and Stable for dinner.  I made the reservation probably three months ago and we ended up being able to eat at the Chef’s Table which was super cool.  They cooked while we watched them place edible flowers and whatnot on things with tweezers.  Gavin Kaysen actually brought us food and talked to us and all I could say was “hi.”  Twice.  Truly, I was astonished.

Spoon and Stable 1

For dinner I had the squash soup, the bison tartare and the crispy potatoes.

Spoon and Stable 2Spoon and Stable 3Spoon and Stable 4

For dessert, the lemon mousse.  And some cotton candy.

Spoon and Stable 5

On Sunday morning, Lis and I went to The Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen.  I have wanted to go there for a year now and finally it happened.  It’s actually owned by a guy I met in my Freshman writing seminar workshop group and his wife.  Brunch was spectacular so it is a given that I’ll be back for that.  My next goal is to get back there for their burger because I hear that it is a treat!

Copper Hen

The real reason I wanted to post this snap is because the french toast was just beyond.  I am not a french toast order-er ever, but the pecan loaf and the whipped butter are possibly something I will have dreams about.  It also compels me to expand my repertoire from Chocolate Chip Banana Bread to Maple Pecan Bread as well.  More is more, right?

I don’t want to say that I’m looking forward to Monday because an endless weekend would be quite nice, but what a lovely one this was.

Toast.

There was a point in time (for probably at least a year and a half, to be honest) where for breakfast I would eat some baked sweet potato, wilted spinach and top it with a pair of soft fried eggs and hot sauce.

If you’re wondering what that breakfast was actually like, darling Megan wrote a post about it once and all of her photos/instructions are 100% better than anything I could ever construct.

When I got back from the Texas Trip That I Haven’t Blogged About Yet in December, I ate it for a week and was completely repulsed.  I don’t know if I was just “over” the eggs or if it was the whole spinach tastes like earth-thing or what, but I could not do it.

So I’ve been on a bit of a toast crusade for the past month or so.

It has involved a lot of avocado toast.

Avocado Toast

Avocado toast is really not a new thing in this house.  I’ve been known to bring the fixings for lunch during the week if Marcus and I are out of leftovers (I really try to avoid buying lunch at all costs!) and it has made its appearance for breakfast/lunch on the weekend more times than I can count!

I’ve also been actioning a lot of smoked salmon + cream cheese.

Smoked Salmon Toast

Because smoked salmon = fancy.  It has honestly been ages since it has made an appearance on the grocery list and it is one of my favorites.  I remember the first time I ate “lox.”  We were on a Carnival cruise when I was in third grade and we were sitting down to breakfast in the formal dining room (my parents were insistent upon this – we were not buffet eaters).  I don’t know how they determined that an eight year old needed to try bagels and lox for breakfast instead of say, pancakes, but that is what they ordered for me and it has been love ever since.

Considering the fact that it used to take me a solid 15 minutes to get my breakfast assembled in the morning (heating up the spinach and potatoes, frying the eggs, cleaning the pans), clearly these are much faster options.  Toasting has freed up extra time for me to sleep in, log more intense workouts (without having to wake up before 5:00 AM), and to just relax a little bit more as I get ready for my day.

I’ll be honest, switching from my sweet potato-spinach-egg breakfast to this one worried me just a bit, because that meal was loaded with protein and fiber.  But!  This has done a great job of keeping me full.  Next week?   I may just have to try a mashed banana-almond butter-honey-combo.

Minneapolis, in a weekend.

A few months ago, Beka mentioned that she might want to come visit Mads and I in Minneapolis and we said Absolutely Yes.

Weekend Snaps 007

Also, thank you Mads for letting me use this snap!

Our city is beautiful.  Admittedly it is easier to show off without snow because our outdoor life is second to none.  It’s hard to argue with the Land of 10,000 Lakes or the fact that we have more coastline than the state of California.  But we made do with the wintery  hand we were dealt.  While I think that our restaurant/activity choices were absolutely ideal for the amount of time we had (and the amount of time we wanted to spend driving!), I know that we could have planned our time together a thousand different ways.  I think that is the hardest part about showing off a city that you love: there is never enough time.

Friday

I picked Beka up from MSP and we started making our way toward dinner at the Blue Door Pub.  Because we had some time to kill before we needed to meet up with Mads and Priscilla, I drove her down Shepard Road (and along the Mississippi River), through downtown Saint Paul so we could view the Capital building and St. Paul Cathedral, up past the beautiful homes along Summit Avenue and then again down Grand Avenue.  St. Paul: Our Splendid Capital City.

We chose the Blue Door Pub for several reasons.  As Minnesota is the birthplace of the Jucy Lucy we felt very strongly that Beka needed to sample one.  While it would have been more authentic to visit Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club, both of which both lay claim to the creation of The First Jucy Lucy, we were also seeking a venue that would allow Beka to sample cheese curds.  Non-Minnesotan/Wisconsinite/Texans live largely ignorant of this fact but true cheese curds as we know them (not those nonsense mozzarella stick bits that pass for “cheese curds” in the rest of the country) do not exist outside of these states.  So it was very important to us that Beka try these.  We feasted on jucy lucys, cheese curds, totchos and it was good.

Saturday

Weekend Snaps 001

To start our day, Mads brought an assortment of donuts from YoYo Donuts in Minnetonka.  They were absolutely delightful.  I know there are many arguments to be made for other bakeries in the area (I’m 100% sure I have tried all of them), but this was what was closest to us, end of story.

For lunch/brunch, we visited World Street Kitchen.  I have been very vocal about my love of their caramelized lamb belly since our very first visit.  It is absolutely delightful, there is no other food on earth like it, and once we were done feasting Mads and Beka understood why as well.  I had my first experience with the WSK brunch menu (Southside with Eggs for the win) and my heart was filled with joy.

After lunch, we drove over to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to look at their large Asian collection (it covers over half of the second floor) and…everything else.  Weekend Snaps 003

The permanent exhibits are free and they are just top-notch.   If you live here and you have not been you must go.  I’ve already made notes in my calendar about two exhibitions I want to visit in 2015 (the DaVinci Codex and another about Ferran Adria).

We played around with a few (translation: 10) ideas for dinner.  The sad reality?  We could only eat dinner once.  What we finally ended up settling on was a trip to Pig Ate My Pizza in Robbinsdale.  We ordered a few tasting menus ($50 per couple for three small plates, a pizza of your choice and dessert) and got to work.Weekend Snaps 004

Weekend Snaps 005

After dinner, we headed over to The Rookery for another drink.  Since they work with molecular gastronomy and run an open kitchen, it was a pretty great show to watch.

Sunday

We planned for this day to be a lazy one since we spent Friday and Saturday out and about.  However, we did have one action item on the agenda.  While mildly authentic, the cheese curds at the Blue Door Pub had Italian Seasoning in the batter and we felt betrayed because Cheese Curds Are Not Mozzarella Stick Bites.  So we ran over to The Sunshine Factory in Plymouth.  This is not  fancy sports bar, but their cheese curds are an excellent rival to those served up at The Mouse Trap during State Fair season.  If you are a cheese curd fan, you must get here immediately.  During happy hour, it’s $6 for a dinner plate full.  These people mean business.

Minnesotans, how would you fill a weekend for out-of-town visitors?

Volunteering.

For the past few years, Marcus and I have participated in Interfaith Outreach’s Holiday Gift Program.  Yes, I am aware that it isn’t even Halloween yet and here I am telling everyone about what they can do to help people over the holidays.  But bear with me!

Part of the reason I am blogging about this today is because if you live in our area and do not yet know about or support this great organization, I want to give you the opportunity to think about that!  The other reason I want to talk about volunteering and philanthropy today is because I don’t think we talk about that enough on the internet.  What do we talk about on the internet?  KaleAvocado toastPolka dot sweaters.  Expensive planners.  Fancy workout gear that we wear exclusively to run errands.

Those are all perfectly fine things, but they do not form the basis of my life or truly declare who I am as a person.  And if I’m not posting about this work because I don’t want to be self-aggrandizing (which I don’t!  honest!), that’s valid, but again it looks like my whole life is centered solely around other stuff and other things.  Spoiler alert: It’s not.

The community that we live in is considered affluent and yet, Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP) is serving 1,700+ families in our area annually in the areas of housing, child care, transportation, and employment.  They also have a massive food shelf that distributes 600,000+ pounds of food each year.

In 2012, I spent my Friday afternoons receiving and sorting donations at their food shelf.  Looking for bad dents, checking expiration dates and getting that new inventory onto the shelves and into the coolers.  I have spent the last month volunteering with their employment group, working on the job board.  Each week, I search for local job opportunities that may fit client needs based on education and experience levels and I place them in a display so that everyone who sits in the lobby has a chance to take a look at them if they have that need.

So back to the holiday program.  Yesterday, we registered for the 2014 program and were matched with our family of three.  In IOCP’s own words:

Each year, IOCP’s Holiday Gift Program matches over 500 families with sponsors who provide gifts or financial support for gifts. Sponsors providing gifts will receive gift suggestions to facilitate shopping, based on a $50-per-person guideline. Participating families range in size from one individual to larger families.

If you’re in our community, I hope that you will consider sponsoring a family (or an individual) as well because it will make a world of difference to them this December.  And for those members of the group who live out-of-town/out-of-state, I hope that you have the opportunity to consider what may be available to you in your area!