A New City

For most of the summer I’ve been in the hot California desert working at camp, hence my long blogging hiatus. I’m back to real life now…but real life looks totally different than before.

Goodbye Minnesota.

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Hello Boston!

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The jump from the Midwest to the East Coast has resulted in – if nothing else – a much classier stairwell.

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Minnesota

Boston

Boston

Although I’m not in Boston for very long (only a couple weeks before a much bigger move to Israel!), there were a few things that I was looking forward to doing during my time in Boston.

First and foremost, exploring the new area! I love finding and trying new cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants, and while there was certainly more exploration to be done in Minneapolis, moving to Boston provides a whole new crop of activities. During one of our first days in Boston, Noah and I got coffee at Crema Cafe in Harvard Square.

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I got an iced Americano and thought it was amazing! I’ve been back a handful of times since. In addition to coffee, they also have a nice selection of baked goods and a small menu of sandwiches, soups, salads, and breakfast items. The drinks definitely shine more than the food, but the food is still good. Be warned, however, that Crema does NOT have wifi. A clever trick indeed for a coffee shop!

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I was also really excited to try the November Project during my time in Boston. I first read about The November Project in a Runner’s World Magazine article from November 2013. The November Project is a free fitness/social group that meets in the wee hours of the morning (ie, 6:30am). It was started in 2011 by two friends who committed to working out together every morning during the month of November. To increase motivation, they started posting about their workouts on Facebook and other social media, inviting others to join. Incredibly, people started coming, and today, as many as 600 Bostonians meet on any given Monday, Wednesday, or Friday to work out with the November Project. The group has also spread to 16 other cities! The iconic November Project workout is running the Harvard Stadium stairs (yes, all of them!), and the group continues to do the stadium workout every Wednesday. Monday workouts are held at traveling locations and Friday workouts are running Corey Hill in Brookline.

On Monday, I went to the traveling workout – this week at Old Morse Park in Cambridgeport. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but when I arrived at the park I immediately found a large group already gathered.

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Even though I knew a lot of people go to November Project, it was still surprising to actually see so many people! The November Project cofounders, Brogan and Bojan, still lead the group each meeting. Monday workouts are usually shorter because the assumption is that people run to and from the workout, so after a brief warm up, the workout was seven minutes of nonstop burpies. It was definitely tough and my chest was sore for the rest of the day!

After going once, I could tell that the social aspects of the group are really emphasized. The ‘warm-up’ was more about hugging the people around you (no one shakes hands at November Project – only big bear hugs), learning the names of a few others, and high fiving with awesomeness-affirming “f*** yeahs.”

After the workout, Brogan and Bojan take a photo of the group, give out the ‘positivity award’ to one lucky participant, and ‘Happy Birthday’ is sung to anyone who has a birthday that day. After the Monday workout, a group of regulars had breakfast together at a nearby apartment. Since I knew one of the regulars from Minneapolis, I tagged along!

After Monday, I was a little hooked and wanted to see what all the fuss was about for the Harvard Stadium steps. So, Wednesday morning, I woke up bright and early again and took a short jog over to Harvard Stadium.

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There were a lot more people there for the stadium workout than the Monday meeting, and the crowd was a lot more diverse (ie, not only young people).

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There was one older man (probably in his mid-late 60s) who was there with a trombone that he played during the workout for added motivation!

Harvard Stadium has 37 sections, and the workout is to run up the big steps and walk down the small ones.

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For me, running quickly turned into walking about halfway up each section. To complete all 37 sections is called ‘a tour,’ and Brogan told the newbies (people who had never done the steps before) to aim to complete a half tour. I completed the half tour plus three additional sections. Holy cow, it was SO difficult! I thought it would be tough, but it far exceeded my expectations. My legs were shaking by the end, and I have been incredibly sore since! The stadium steps definitely had a little bit of an addictive quality to them, and I’m already looking forward to going next Wednesday and trying to complete a full tour!

This weekend, Noah and I are taking a bike trip to Martha’s Vineyard, so I hope to be able to post soon about that adventure!

Hey Look – I’m a student

For my time in LA with the HUC program, we spent some class time at the hotel and the rest of the time at the HUC-JIR Los Angeles Campus. (post about walking around Beverly Hills here)

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The campus is directly across the street from USC, which provides a nice opportunity for HUC students to benefit from the development and resources built up around the USC campus. For example, when we had a lunch break during our first day of classes at the HUC campus, we walked across the street to USC and then found our way to the student center.

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There were several dining options within the student center, including Coffee Bean, Panda Express, California Pizza Kitchen, and a burger joint. We all grabbed food from different places and then ate together outside:

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Not having gone to a large university, it was a little overwhelming to be on the USC campus. There are so many people! And children take tours there!!

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tour group of kids looking at the Trojan statue

Besides getting a glimpse of a two new (to me) campuses, a highlight of my time in LA was a trip to the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Pier. After the last day of classes wrapped up in the evening, a bus brought us to the promenade where we had a chance to walk around and stroll down to the ocean and pier:

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I walked with a friend, and we arrived to the ocean walk just as the sun was setting:

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The Santa Monica Pier juts out from the ocean walk pathway and has a lot of energy – almost a fair-like feel (note the ferris wheel):

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The pier is lined with tourist shops and restaurants, and the view looking out towards the beach and ocean is amazing:

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Since it was the last night for the cohort to be together, we had a group dinner at a restaurant called Ristorante al Mare. This was an Italian restaurant right on the pier, and it was a great spot for a big group. They had a fairly extensive wine menu as well as a nice assortment of salads, seafood, pasta dishes, and meat entrees.

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I got a dish called Il Petto di Pollo Funghi e Patate – which was basically just a chicken breast topped with a mushroom sauce and served with potatoes.

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The next morning, it was time to conclude the program and head home. The official graduation ceremony was very nice (although sad to say goodbye to the cohort!), and I now have a very crisp certificate which I hope to frame some time in the future! After the graduation ceremony, we ate lunch together before adjournment. And, since celebration so often involves cake…

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(CAEA stands for Certificate [in Jewish Education] for Adolescents and Emerging Adults). Wahoo!

Overall, this was a great trip – leaving feeling proud to have this certificate and also lucky to have been able to enjoy a few great days in Los Angeles!

 

Three days in Paradise

After the horrible winter and ‘spring‘ in Minnesota, the weather is finally turning and warming up. Nonetheless, it was nice to escape for three days to the sunny paradise of Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong, I know LA can get hot as blazes and I don’t think I’d classify it as an Eden during the peak of summer, but for this last few days it has been absolutely perfect weather.

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I was in LA for the completion of the Certificate in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults program I’ve been part of throughout the last year through Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The program is comprised of a cohort of 16, and we come from all over the country (and one from Canada!). We all stayed at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills.

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The hotel was colorful, boutique-y, clean, and comfortable – plus there was a very swanky pool area!

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The room itself was very nice, with an extremely comfortable bed, a mini-fridge, and a shower with AMAZING water pressure:

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When I got to the hotel, I had a few hours until the first session of the program, so I set off to explore the area with another member of my cohort. The hotel is in the heart of the Beverly Hills area, surrounded by shops, restaurants, and plastic surgeons (not kidding).

We meandered from the hotel to Beverly Drive, where we stopped at Urth Caffe – a popular, natural/organic, and local cafe chain (suggested to me by a friend – thanks, Jinai!).

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Urth has an impressive selection of coffees, teas, smoothies, and specialty beverages (including tea espresso drinks!). The dessert display is certainly a sight to behold:

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I ordered a blended green tea smoothie, and my friend got a cappuccino (complete with some amazing foam art!) and a kale salad:

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The salad looked so good, I went back to Urth for dinner the next day to order it myself!

After being rejuvenated by food, we explored the area around Beverly Drive for the rest of the afternoon.

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I saw pretty much every store I’ve ever heard of plus a lot more that I never even knew existed. Mostly we window shopped, but if somewhere looked particularly appealing we would go inside to poke around. Attracted by its massiveness, we went into the mega-sized Anthropologie:

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I know that lots of people love this store, but I’ve never really shopped here. I saw a lot of dresses that I thought were cute:

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But then I looked at the price tag…

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…and now I know why I don’t shop here! I’m perfectly content with my dress from Gap Outlet, thank you very much.

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There is one thing, however, that might be a bargain at Anthropologie.

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Who knew they sold wedding dresses?! Maybe it is only at this or other very large locations, but they had a pretty broad selection:

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After Anthropologie, we wandered for a while and then noticed a place called Go Greek. The shop caught our attention because a sign in the window advertised the fact that they had yogurt flown in fresh daily from Greece. Wha?!?!

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This place was very neat. In addition to the (now) ubiquitous self-serve frozen yogurt bar…

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…You could also get fresh greek yogurt with the toppings of your choice:

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We didn’t order anything since we had just eaten. I was hoping to be able to go back later in the trip but ended up not having the opportunity. Oh well – maybe next time!

The last store that captured our interest was Merimekko. Merimekko is a Finnish design company with brightly colored and bold patterns. They make clothes, home products, and a variety of trinkets. I had heard of Merimekko previously because Noah’s parents have a set of placemats from them, but I was impressed to see the wide variety of products they sell: pillows, dresses, baby clothes…you name it!

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Eventually, it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for the start of the program so the day of exploration had to come to an end. This was a great day though of soaking up the sunshine and posing as someone who knows a lot about shopping and fashion. ;)

 

How to learn from a loved one

The title of this post was inspired by an article I read online about how to increase blog traffic. I can’t remember where the article was or I would link to it…so forgive me!

The article said that making post titles that are highly searchable (ie, ‘how to…’) is a good strategy for directing more people to your blog. I’m happy with my readership and like writing primarily for friends and family, but if tons of people start reading my blog, it might lead to a new car and free trip to Hawaii. So, why not give it a shot?!

It’s probably pretty rare for two people to have the same set of interests. And, if I did have the exact same interests of someone else, what fun would that be? So, this post is devoted to two things I have learned more about and come to enjoy through someone else.

1. Games

2. Cheese

To me, games always fell into distinct categories: sports, computer games, video games, board games.

I love sports and have had a lifelong affinity for Clue, but my video and computer game involvement never got much past Mario Kart and Pajama Sam. Noah knows a lot more about games than I do and has taught me a lot about types of games that I never even knew existed.

Dominion, for example, is a deck-building game with a slightly medieval twist.

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The object of the games is to buy provinces (victory cards), but to do so requires accumulating treasure cards (like money), often obtained through action cards. The game is a lot of fun because it’s different every single time depending on what cards you purchase and have in your deck. In fact, the action cards available each game change because only 10 action cards are available for purchase each game.

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I’ve had a lot of fun learning something new, and it’s a good excuse to work on getting my competitive spirit in check.

The second new thing that I’ve been introduced to is cheese. Growing up, my family never ate cheese on its own (ie, cheese board style). I have a couple memories of eating cheddar cheese on Ritz crackers, but that’s about as far as it goes. Noah, however, is really into cheese (remember The Wedge & Wheel?). We were so impressed with the Wedge and Wheel that we wanted to look for someplace similar in Minneapolis. After a little research, Noah thought that France 44 would be a good place to check out for dinner.

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France 44 is at the intersection of France and 44th (der) in the Minneapolis (but almost Edina) area. They specialize in wine and cheese:

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In addition to cheese, they also sell an assortment of specialty foods:

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They sell a wide array of cheeses which are all cut to order and available to-go or as part of a snack/meal at the shop:

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The selection of constantly changing cheese-inspired deli items are also a highlight:

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There were a lot of great looking items, so making a choice on what to order was difficult, but eventually we settled on a cheese board (selected by the cheesemonger with input from us), mac and cheese, roasted vegetables, and a roasted garlic chevre sandwich. For the types of cheese in the flight, there was cheddar, gruyere, and gouda.

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Everything was delicious! Now that I’m discovering the great world of cheese, I’m actually starting to notice that there are a gajillion different types, and it’s a lot of fun to try different varieties, figure out likes and dislikes, and go visit fancy cheese stores (obviously).

So glad I have someone great to teach me about new things. :)

 

 

Late Morning in LAX

I woke up this morning at 5:00am to catch a flight to Los Angeles. I’m in LA to complete a Certificate in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults through Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. I honestly can’t say enough great things about the program – I have learned SO much, everything has felt extremely applicable, and I find myself thinking constantly about things I have read/studied/done in class. Extra bonus, the program is heavily subsidized through funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation, so it is both a wonderful educational opportunity and doable financially (how unique is that?!).

The program is a hybrid learning program, combining both distance learning and on-site intensives. This third and final intensive is in Los Angeles at the HUC Campus, and we’ll be staying at the Avalon Hotel. Yes, I can’t stop singing Weezer’s ‘Beverly Hills’ song. The hotel looks awesome from the website, and I’m excited to see it in a couple hours. Right now, I’m waiting at a Starbucks near baggage claim at LAX. Another member of my cohort is landing within the next hour, and we’re going to share a cab to the hotel.

I have been spending a lot of time at Starbucks lately thanks to a Starbucks card I received as a gift. I have immediately become a Starbucks card fan (especially since I’m not paying!). Using the card, you earn stars which allow you to get free coffee and tea refills and also earn free beverages. I already got a free drink and still have about $10 left on the card!

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Plus, Oprah likes Starbucks.

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‘nuf said. 

In other news, I flew Spirit airlines for this first time today and IT IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST SECOND WORST TO COMCAST. I know Comcast is not an airline so it’s apples to oranges, but – hey – they’re both fruit!

These are my grievances with Spirit airlines:

  • Not only do they not allow checked bags, but you are also not allowed a carry-on bag!!! To bring a carry-on bag to and from LA, I would have needed to pay $90!!! My outrage forced me to stuff everything into my backpack and have an extremely uncomfortable travel day.
  • If you do not print your boarding pass prior to arriving at the airport you will have to pay $10 just to get your boarding pass!!!
  • There are NO complimentary beverages. If you would like a water, coffee, juice, or soda – guess what?! – you have to pay!!!
  • To express any seat preference, you have to pay!!! If you don’t pay for this, you are randomly placed at check-in (bad for groups and anyone who doesn’t like a middle seat)

Listen up Spirit, I bought a ticket on you because it was the cheapest option on Orbitz, but it was not THAT much cheaper and I will certainly never be seeking a seat on your plane again. My back will thank me.

In other news, I love my bowl from ‘Paint Your Plate‘ and will miss eating breakfast from it while I’m out of town. Thanks, Noah! :)

 

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Weekend Visitor

This past weekend, Noah’s sister visited from Chicago. I’d say it was an opportunity to act like a tourist…but I sort of think we always act like tourists.

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Rachel got here Friday afternoon and we went to the Midtown Global Market (site of Kitchen in the Market) for dinner and then to a Ragamala Dance show at the Walker.

No pics from Friday, but there are plenty of photos from Saturday’s activities. It was a super active day, with a run in the morning and most of the afternoon occupied by a bike ride.

Noah and I each had our own bikes, and we rented a bike for Rachel from Nice Ride.

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Noah has a leftover Nice Ride membership from the summer, so we were able to get the bike for no charge. Also, Nice Ride has recently added a lot of new bike stations (including one very close to my apartment!) and extended the no-charge ride time for members from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. Noah and I had high ambitions for the bike ride, and we wanted to show Rachel all of the Minneapolis highlights:

  • Chain of Lakes (Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, and Lake of the Isles)
  • Hiawatha Bridge and Midtown Greenway
  • Guthrie Theater and Mill District
  • Stone Arch Bridge
  • University of Minnesota
  • Nicollet Avenue Pedestrian Mall and Downtown

Please note the magical fact that all of these wonderful locations were accessible via protected bike path.

We somehow mustered the energy to hit all of the spots, although we didn’t actually bike along the chain of lakes because we could see it some from the greenway and had also run near the lakes that morning.

Hiawatha Bridge along the Midtown Greenway:

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Hiawatha Bridge and Greenway

View from the bridge linked the east and west banks of the University of MN:

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view from UofMN bridge

View of the Guthrie and Mill City Museum from the Stone Arch Bridge:

view of the Guthrie and Mill City Museum from the Stone Arch Bridge

Slightly over two hours later, the journey was complete and it was time to return the Nice Ride…

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…and get some beer!

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A friend of mine has a coworker who knows a guy who knows a guy (yes, I meant to type that twice) who works at the Excelsior Brewing Company and said he would give us a tour, so a group of us headed out there in the late afternoon. Apparently, it was one too many degrees of separation though, because when we got there the fellow in question was out boating and unable to show us around. We somehow managed to recover and sample some of the brews. On tap was a brown ale called Bitteschlappe,  Bridge Jumper IPA, and Big Island Blond. They were out of their pale ale (called XCLR), so those who ordered flights had to double up on a different variety:

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I ordered the brown ale because it had the lowest bitter rating. I enjoyed it for approximately 3oz. and then the beer flavor was too much. They say it’s an acquired taste…but I certainly have yet to acquire.

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After a sufficient amount of time in the brewery, we decided to walk around the town of Excelsior. From the drive in, we knew there was a cute Mainstreet that led to a park and pathway along Excelsior Bay. We walked through town to get to the water:

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Notice the prom pictures happening in the background behind us. This was clearly a hotspot for photos since we also saw a wedding!

When we got back to Minneapolis, we were all hungry and ready for dinner. We tried to go to Brasa but the line was too long, so we ended up at Bryant Lake Bowl instead.

Noah ordered a bison steak salad, I ordered a beef sandwich, and Rachel ordered a black bean and beet burger:

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The food was good, but we were still hungry after (maybe because of all the biking!). We picked up a slice of pizza to go from Pizza Luce later in the evening.

It was a lot of fun to have a visitor over the weekend, and I especially enjoyed the bike tour. Especially now that I know I’m leaving Minneapolis, I’ve been eager to go back to all of my favorite places one more time and, of course, take lots of pictures for the memory books!

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Humans Can Fly

A friend of mine recently got into aerials. What is aerials, you ask? It’s a form of acrobatic exercise that uses silks and other methods of mid-air suspension. I didn’t know about aerials until my friend began taking classes, so imagine my surprise to learn that it’s a fast-growing exercise option and there are a few studies around Minneapolis where one can take aerials classes.

As soon as I heard about aerials, I was fascinated. People flying though the air? Normal people who aren’t circus performers? How could there be such a thing?!

Luckily for me, Xelias, the studio where my friend hones her aerials skills, puts on an adult student showcase (essentially a recital for friends and family). I was so there!

The studio itself is in a warehouse building in Northeast Minneapolis, and the aerials equipment hung from the ceiling over a hefty layering of mats and pads:

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There were fourteen acts with small groups performing on a particular apparatus. The show featured performances on the trapeze:

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Tissu (the traditional silks):

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And the rope:

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I couldn’t take my eyes off the show the whole time. This was partly because it was entertaining/impressive to see people twirling around in the air and partly because I was wondering if someone was going to fall and plummet to their death a broken limb. Aerials seems like it takes an enormous amount of upper body strength and muscle control, and I’m sure it’s a really difficult workout. I looked into trying some classes though, and most studios require people to sign up for a semester or class package rather than just doing drop-in sessions. I suppose it makes sense given the need for skill development…but I’m not ready to make that level of commitment. Also, aerials generally seems to be pretty pricey running about $20/class or more. While it looks like it would be fun to try, I’m not exactly itching to make that sort of investment!

In other news…the Paint your Plate items are done!

I received a call on Wednesday saying the items were ready for pick-up, and I stopped by after work on Friday to get them. The mug and bowl came back wrapped in newspaper so it was extra exciting opening the package:

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Both things came out great:

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I’m looking forward to eating breakfast out of my bowl this week!