Creativity: 3 Ways

There has been so much going on this summer and so many things I could blog about…so I’m going to do a quick recap of highlights. A lot of my highlights this summer have been connected to creativity – either my own or someone else’s.

So, here are 3 ways creativity has my summer more fun!

1. Escape the Room [in my apartment]

Noah is seriously clever. For my birthday a couple months ago, Noah gifted me a surprise activity of Escape the Room (see this post to see what Escape the Room is/when we first learned how much fun they are!). Noah set up the living room in our apartment with a bunch of clues, hidden keys, and even lock boxes! It was so fun and a very impressive endeavor.

Noah put his computer skills to use by having one of the “locked” parts of the room be his computer. I had to enter the right password to be given a clue:

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Noah also ordered this ridiculous “book” lock box from amazon:

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I found it on the shelf and thought…”when did we get this book I didn’t know we owned?”

But, lo and behold:

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It opened and had a clue inside! Noah and I take advantage of a “family” Amazon account, and he joked that he was worried my parents would think he was extremely paranoid if they had seen the purchase. Rest assured, it was used for entertainment and not secure storage of real valuables. 😉

The most exciting clue was a white piece of paper with a cut out suspiciously similar to the shape of South America. Wondering if there was a South America connection, I pulled out the game board to Pandemic (a board game that includes a board with a map of the world) and fitted the paper on top of the map:

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Sure enough, it fit! AND, the crown drawn on the paper pointed me to the last clue – King of New York, another board game Noah and I own. Inside King of New York were the keys that let me “escape the room” – I won. 🙂

Well done, Noah – I think he could go into business with make-your-own-Escape-Rooms!

2. Creative cooking!

One of my favorite activities is having people over for large, delicious holiday meals, and one of the reasons I love hosting so much is because it’s a chance to make a lot of creative dishes I wouldn’t normally cook during the week. Shortly before I left to work in California this summer, Noah and I had friends over for the Jewish holiday Shavuot (if you want to know what Shavuot is, see here). Shavuot is traditionally a dairy holiday – in contrast to other Jewish holidays where the custom is to have a meat meal. I took the opportunity to make two new dairy dishes: a cheesy pasta bake and an Israeli-style cheesecake with a breton crust and chocolate ganache.

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There was more to dinner than glorified mac-and-cheese and cheesecake, but those were definitely the highlights!

Noah has also continued his pizza magic, and he has agreed to let me “decorate” the pizzas on a few occasions. Don’t get me wrong, I love the classic margherita, but sometimes I also want a little pizazz. 🙂 Below are a spinach/goat cheese/cream pizza and a cheddar/sweet potato/yellow pepper. They were both delicious!

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3. Building Sandcastles!

During my time working at camp in California, I had the immense pleasure of getting to spend about a week with only the other staff members. Staff week = so.much.fun. Each year we do a different staff bonding activity, and the activity is always something unusual/boundary pushing. This year, we made sandcastles! Not just any sandcastles though; this was serious business.

We were met on the beach by Karch – the master builder behind Castles by Karch. He won the U.S. Sandcastle Open (yes, apparently that’s a thing), and now teaches people how to build super bomb sandcastles.

After we got to the beach and were introduced to Karch, we were divided into teams and then set to work on our castles! My group had a few set backs (read: collapsing castles) at the beginning, but we persevered and ended up getting high marks! 😉

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The other groups were also hard at work:

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Although the competition was fierce, we were all smiling at the end:

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Stay tuned for some posts about a trip to Glacier National Park soon!

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My Best Friend’s Wedding

I’ve waited a long time for the perfect chance to reappropriate this movie title, and I think the opportune time has finally come. I am en route home from 5 weeks working at camp in California, and I finally feel like I have the time to work a blog post about the event of the summer: my best friend’s wedding!

At the end of May, Noah and I went to New York for three glorious days to celebrate one of the greatest people (and a wonderful couple!). The wedding was held at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club, and since I was in the wedding party, Noah and I stayed for two nights at the Club, making it super easy to get to all of the wedding-related activities.

We left to drive to NY during the late morning on Friday and arrived in the early afternoon. We checked into an adorable room with a very cute welcome note and goody bag:

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Between wedding guests and golfers, the parking lot was starting to fill up:

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Before too long it was time to head out to the lawn for the wedding rehearsal. Noah and I went over a little early to check out the beautiful views of the Club and golf course:

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Smilin’ 🙂

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Set-up of the grounds was underway and we went through the choreography of the ceremony pretty quickly:

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Next up…the real fun started with the rehearsal dinner!

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Dinner was fabulous: delicious food, a very sweet slide show that the father-of-the-groom put together, and many smiles.

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We got back to the Club pretty late and wedding preparations were scheduled to begin quite early the next morning, so I tried to go to sleep right away once back at the room.

I met up with the bride and other bridesmaids bright and early, and we headed to Vaza Salon to get our hair and makeup done.

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While we were waiting to get started, Becca (very thoughtfully) gave me a banana bread cake – it happened to also be my birthday. 😉 What a great friend. ❤

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Once the appointments started, we were all being shuttled through hair and makeup stations pretty quickly. Although we were there for hours, it honestly was a ton of fun and didn’t feel too tedious.

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They went bold for my lipstick…

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The cutest sisters in the world (giving me sister envy!!!):

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Eventually, our transformation at the salon was complete and it was time to head back to the Club for lunch and to change into our wedding clothes! Lunch was a buffet of fruit, mini-sandwiches, and assorted beverages (primarily, champagne).

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Dressing was an adventure unto itself:

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Once the wedding dress was out in the free world, the photographer went to work:

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And we all swooned over the beautiful bride:

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Stunning, right?!?!

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We laughed…

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We cried…

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We hydrated…

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And then it was show time! The ceremony itself was beautiful – everything went on without a hiccup and several family members and friends were involved with the ceremony in some capacity. It was truly beautiful, and I think everyone in attendance cried at least once.

After the ceremony, the reception was an event all its own…

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Noah and I sat at the bridal party table and were right across from the VIPs – best seats in the house. 😉

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I don’t have that many pictures from the reception because I was too busy dancing with extreme enthusiasm – but I managed to snap a few pics of the blueberry cake and dessert cupcakes!

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Wedding favors were fill-your-own candy jars. So cute!

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And like any good party…there was an after-party! Once the band (which was great, by the way) played their last song, all those who still had energy walked over to the bride’s parents’ house for more snacks, smores, and a night-time pool party:

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Yep. It was basically the best. day. ever.

Eventually, Noah and I walked home – exhausted! – to our room at the Club. In the morning we stopped by the bride’s parents’ house again for the after-after-party. There was a delicious smattering of salads and snacks:

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More pool time:

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And (the best part!)…a grilled cheese food truck:

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Wut. ?! Noah and I shared two types of grilled cheese – both were delicious and I was too busy eating to take pics. Needless to say, it was such a joy/blessing to be part of this wedding celebration. Love you, Becs!

 

Bridesmaid Bonanza

My best friend is getting married!!

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And lucky me gets to celebrate with her! A couple weekends ago I went to NY to celebrate a “triple threat” bachelorette celebration weekend: 1) morning bridal shower brunch, 2) afternoon bridesmaid limo winery tour, 3) evening bachelorette party.

The bridal shower honestly could not have been more perfect. Everyone helped out to plan different parts of the day, and it was so touching to see how much everyone there loved the bride, chipping in to make it an extra special event. From personal experience with my parts of the planning, however, I can say that the real planning star was the bride’s sister who put in a huge amount of effort to make everything absolutely wonderful. Such a labor of love and so, so beautiful. If you can’t tell, I got a bit emotional!

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After time for eating and drinking, we played a few games together as a group (there were a lot of female family members present as well as the bridesmaids/friends):

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After many stories were shared and laughs enjoyed by all, it was time for the limo to arrive! The gals grabbed our bachelorette goody bags (complete with brightly colored lipstick, party beads, crowns, and “team bride” wine glasses) and headed out for an afternoon of wine tasting:

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The first winery stop was at Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery. The winery was seriously crowded, but the area was huge and there was a lot of open grass to spread out on.

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In addition to wine, Warwick Valley also had beer, cider, pizza, and live music that people of all ages seemed to be out enjoying. After having some lunch outdoors on blankets, we went to the bar for our first wine tasting:

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I loved the Harvest Moon wine from the list above!

Wine me:

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Stop two on the tour was Clearview Vineyard. Clearview had a completely different feel from the first stop – it was much smaller, much less crowded, and had a much more intimate feel. The owner greeted us when we arrived, seated us, and personally introduced each of the wines in our tasting menu. He also gave the bride a special cork – very sweet.

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There were originally plans to go to a third winery after Clearview, but we were all exhausted and had been at it for almost 5 hours already, so we decided it was best to go back to the house and relax a little before the bachelorette festivities continued.

After a rejuvenating dinner of pizza, everyone headed upstairs to reveal the super-secret party room to the bride:

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Her reaction was amazing when she saw all the decorations – and I can’t blame her because I had the exact same feeling when I first saw the room. It looked incredible! She was immediately instructed to put on her new “feyonce” shirt…

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…and then the games began. Don’t worry though, the games were pretty tame – mainly involving a “guess who bought the lingerie” game, bride trivia, and some B-grade karaoke:

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But just in case you think things didn’t get rowdy…don’t worry. There were penis cookies.

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Pesach is over…and now PIZZA!

Hello dear friends and family – surely the only folks who are still reading this blog after such a long hiatus. I really love blogging and sharing life’s adventures in this format, but my time for advertur-ing (not to mention recounting those adventures) has been so low during this first year of grad school – it’s been a real challenge to find time to write. You know what they say, “all work and no play makes Mollie bad at blogging” – or something like that.

Anyway, I am back with a vengeance and feeling eager to give recaps of everything that’s happened since…sheepishly looks at old postsJanuary.

Pesach (Passover) has recently ended, and as Jews everywhere have metaphorically left Egypt, we now get to celebrate freedom by eating chametz (leavened wheat/spelt/barley/oats/rye products – forbidden during Passover) again. Noah and I marked the joyous return of bread with pizza tonight.

And if you are thinking we went out for pizza, think again! Because Noah’s pizza-making hobby is stronger than ever and I am reaping all the benefits.

 

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He is the greatest.

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I don’t want to complain about Pesach though – it’s actually one of my favorite holidays. In large part, probably, because of the two seders involved. Seder literally means order, and the seder is a ritual dinner held on each of the first two nights of Pesach (one night in Israel). The traditional text (preserved in the haggadah) as well as many of the seder rituals derive from thousands of years ago. How cool is that?! The seder is an important family/community/educational tool, and many find it to be so impactful and joyous that contemporary Jewish population studies show that even families who are uninvolved with other Jewish activities/events during the year still often participate in a seder (and light Chanukah candles).

…can you tell I’m studying Jewish community for a living grad school?!

Anyway, we had the chance to host Noah’s parents, some of his extended family, my brother, and a couple friends from Minneapolis at our house for the first seder. The table was set to impress:

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Cooking consumed the 48 hours before (huge efforts put in also by Noah’s mom who made a ton of the food and provided the classic family recipes!):

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And one of the seder plates we used was something I painted myself! I’ll hopefully recount that painting adventure in an upcoming post. Spoiler: it was part of a date night.

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Noah and his dad worked hard to determine the perfect seating arrangement:

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Overall, great holiday. And now, great pizza. 🙂

One Great Dog

We got Maxi when I was 10. It took about that many years to convince my mom to get a dog, but finally, we had one! Maxi was a great pal to my brother, Samuel, and me and often a source of entertainment:

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She was always good for a snuggle:

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And, damn, that girl could eat:

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Even my mom grew to love her:

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When Maxi was about 10, we got Clover – a feisty labradoodle with a lot of energy. Sometimes too much energy:

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But Maxi and Clover were pals, and deep down they loved each other:

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Plus, they always enjoyed a good car ride together:

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The average life span of a lab is 12 years, and time definitely started taking its toll on Maxi. She got diabetes and went blind:

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And the amount of time she spent laying around without moving seemed to increase (at least she had a buddy to lay around with her!):

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Sometimes she would lumber around:

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But then she would get tired quickly:

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Maxi was 15 years old this year which, as the vet said, “for a lab is ancient!” We found out that Maxi had a large tumor and it would be increasingly difficult for her to eat and move around. We didn’t want her to be uncomfortable, and we thought the kindest thing would be to put her to sleep. As of yesterday at 2pm, Maxi won’t be around anymore.

Maxi said goodbye when I went to college:

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And she said goodbye when I moved to Minneapolis:

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And I’m so sad that I wasn’t there to say goodbye to her yesterday. So, hopefully this can serve as a goodbye of sorts.

Bye, Maxi, I will really miss you.

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How to ____ in the winter

Minnesota winters are often among the coldest in the country. This year’s winter, however, has really outdone itself. This is my seventh winter in Minnesota and by far the worst. Schools have been cancelled five times (often on government order) due to extreme temperatures, and there were 36 consecutive days where Minneapolites woke up to sub-zero temps. I’ve managed to still keep biking on some days when it’s above zero, but those days have been few and far between. What’s worse, we’re now into March and spring seems far from around the corner.

Having such a prolonged and extremely frigid winter has been a challenge to several typically-enjoyed activities. How can we Minnesotans keep up when it looks like this outside?!

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How to exercise in the winter

I have run less this winter since any time since I started running (about six years ago). Normally, I continue to run outside a few days a week during the winter and head inside to the gym for the occasional treadmill run on an especially cold day. This winter, however, I have only run outside once since December! I’ve been logging a few miles on the treadmill, but it’s also started to feel a little too much like the dreadmill…

The solution? Find new activities! Fortunately, introductory free weeks to fitness facilities abound, and I recently tried out an awesome gym called The Shed Fitness in Uptown (I know, it just sounds hardcore, right?!). The Shed offers a variety of classes including spin, circuit training, body pump, TRX, and yoga sculpt. I tried five classes during my intro week, and I definitely hope to go back for more!

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How to stay busy inside in the winter

Normally, if I’m not at work or another scheduled activity, I like to spend a lot of time outside – walking, exploring, biking, visiting friends, etc. The severity of this winter has meant a lot more time cooped up indoors in my apartment, needing to fill long periods of time. The best solution I’ve found is to do more cooking! Plus, the extra time means I can put more effort into elaborate recipes and dishes that require extra prep time. Some favorites from the last couple weeks include:

homemade ice cream

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roasted kabocha squash

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chickpea and red pepper soup with quinoa (recipe from Women’s Day magazine)

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and chilean squash (from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook)

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How to smile big in the winter

It’s no secret that weather is a large determinant of mood for many people. I’ve never considered myself to be highly impacted in this regard, but there have definitely been a few times where I feel a bit down or blue and think sunshine sure would help! In this long winter abyss, it’s been nice to take special notice of ‘the little things’ and to make an effort to do something fun/goofy every day.

feeling positive after finding this note stuck to a bathroom mirror

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enjoying an impromtu photo shoot

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Winter Highlights

My blogging has taken a hit in frequency this winter…it’s hard to keep up when completing grad school applications, applying for scholarships, and trying to pass a language placement exam. But, I miss it and want to try to keep it up! Plus, I don’t want to lose the habit for once I have more time and can post more regularly again!

Since there’s too much of a backlog to go over everything in detail, here are a few of my winter highlights…

Impromptu trip to New Orleans
Work reasons brought me to New Orleans on short notice, so we made a mini-vacation out of it and had a great time exploring the city, trying delicious food, and listening to jazz music. Highlights were the d.b.a. jazz club and beignets at Cafe du Monde:

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After New Orleans… family time in Wyoming/Colorado.
Highlights were going to two Denver Nuggets games and meeting the beautiful new baby of one of my best friends!

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The trip also included lots of great food at my favorite Denver restaurants. I love the vegetarian restaurant Watercourse…in particular because of their delicious vegan milkshakes!

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The other noteworthy Denver restaurant is breakfast joint Snooze, featuring creative pancakes:

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After food and fun in Denver, there was some great skiing in Breckenridge and Frisco:

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And, finally, last but not least, prince charming took me to a ball this weekend. 🙂

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More soon, but now I’m off to study Hebrew adjectives!