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. 🙂

 

 

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!

Wonderful Weekend

People often ask, “what was something fun you did this weekend?” Sometimes the question puts a lot of pressure on because if nothing immediately comes to mind I think, “oh no! Did I do nothing fun?!?!”

But, right now I would love to hear the question.

you: What was something fun you did this weekend?

me: EVERYTHING!

Yes, I had an absolutely phenomenal weekend. Not only was the trip to Stillwater great, but the rest of the weekend continued to be full of fun shenanigans with the love of my life, man of my dreams.

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Yes, I made that meme and am very proud.

The man in question planned a surprise outing for Sunday that I was looking forward to with great anticipation. I hopped on my bike without too many questions and followed the leader until we got here….

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Paint Your Plate is a make-it-yourself studio where you can select from a variety of dishes, figurines, and trinkets what (and how!) to paint. When we walked in, the average age of people in the store went up by about 10 years. But, no matter!

There were a lot of items to choose from, so we took some time decided what we wanted to paint:

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Eventually, I settled on a bowl and Noah chose a mug. We chose a seat at one of the tables and lightly cleaned our pieces to wipe off any dust:

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Next, it was time to choose paint colors, select stencils and stamps if we wanted, and sketch the outline of what we wanted to paint on the outside of our piece with a pencil. While we were there, we hardly talked because we were both so engrossed in our work. 🙂

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Noah put a geometric diamond design on his mug and it looked great:

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I decided to cover my bowl with stars, flowers, and polka dots.

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And since I am planning to use it for breakfast in the morning, I put a sunny message in the bottom:

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We couldn’t take the bowl and mug home with us because Paint Your Plate will glaze and fire the pieces over the course of the next week. When they’re ready, they’ll give us a call to come pick them up. I can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like!

By the time we were done at Paint Your Plate, it was past 6:00 and we were ready to bike home and go for dinner. Since we are leaving the Twin Cities soon, we are eager to go back to some of our favorite restaurants one more time. We settled on The Lynn on Bryant which we visited about a year ago and loved. As we remembered, the food was great. We even saw the Vermont-born head chef and owner sitting and talking with some customers!

We ordered the gnocchi to share as an appetizer and it was fabulous:

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The sauce was creamy and smooth, and we both especially liked the bread crumbs on top. For my entree, I ordered the Bryant Burger (veggie burger with chickpea fries).

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This is the same dish I ordered last time we visited the restaurant, but it was so good I knew that I had to get it again.

Noah ordered a lamb dish that came with a small pot pie as a side. He also thought it was excellent!

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Our eyes were a little bigger than our stomachs though, and we ended up ordering dessert even though it meant we left pretty stuffed.

Noah ordered an affogato (vanilla ice cream topped with espresso) and I ordered the warm chocolate cake:

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The chocolate cake was very dense – almost more like a thick mousse – and the ice cream on top was the perfect compliment to the warm chocolate.

This restaurant is SO good! It can be quite expensive or affordable depending on what you get. The burgers and sandwiches are $15 or less, but the regular entrees are closer to $30. So, you can definitely come on a smaller budget but be conscientious about what you order! Either way, I would say this place is worth a splurge. 🙂

Musings in Calhoun Square

Calhoun Square is located in the bustling Uptown intersection of Hennepin, Lake, and Lagoon. It houses Dogwood Coffee, Kitchen Window, about a dozen other awesome stores/restaurants, and is often hosting some sort of celebration or fair. My gym, LA Fitness, is inside Calhoun Square, and on my way there yesterday morning I really noticed how much the shopping center has grown since I moved here three years ago.

I took an extra moment to notice all the glitz and glamor that has come into Calhoun Square, and this lead to a lot of wonderings.

Such as….

Were these eggs bought specifically for this shoe display?

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Was the full impact of this shirt understood during design?

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Would my life be better if I owned bejeweled capri pants?

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How many people own an angry birds phone case?

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Or proudly wear this Hello Kitty necklace?

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Are there any human beings that look better in this dress than this mannequin? 

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And, finally, would the world be a better place if we were constantly asking one another this question?

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Calhoun Square. Check it out. Learn about yourself.

 

Pumpkin Cauliflower ‘Risotto’

I love risotto, but I almost never make it because I rarely have arborio rice on hand. I almost always, however, have brown rice on hand, so I decided to make a wannabe risotto of my own creation.

Risotto purists would say this dish bears nothing in common with true risotto because it lacks the incredible creaminess that can only be created by the slow cooking of arborio rice. To them, I say, “try this!”

I started with one cup dry brown basmati rice cooked in two cups water for about 45 minutes:

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I added 1 and 1/2 cups of vegetable broth and let heat while I started to steam a half head of cauliflower:

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After a few minutes of letting the broth heat, I added 1 cup of pumpkin puree to the rice:

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After the cauliflower was soft, I added it to the rice and let heat, covered for about 10 minutes:

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This dish was great and made about 4 servings. It is definitely best served warm, although I had it cold a couple days for lunch.

After whipping this up for dinner, I had big plans to go to the theater. The Orpheum is Minneapolis’ venue for touring Broadway shows, and for the last two years I’ve had season tickets and LOVE IT! There are about 6 shows each year, and I look forward to each one. Last week, the Orpheum was showing Once, a musical about a Scottish musician who repairs his broken heart and gets his big musical break by befriending a Czech woman.

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The inside of the Orpheum is beautiful, and I had great seats only about 20 rows from the stage:

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And no, that is not an illegal picture taken during the show. One of the most unique things about this performance was that the curtain never closed and there were always actors on stage! Additionally, the actors themselves formed the band for the show, and every actor had an instrument that they used both within character and on the side stage as part of a band. As people filed in to take their seats, the whole cast was onstage playing music and singing. At intermission, the audience was invited to go onstage and look at the set.

I loved the show and thought the music was great. I was also super impressed how the actors sang, played their instruments, and stayed so in character the whole time. If you have a chance to see Once, I would definitely recommend it!

The treacherous outdoors and Black Sheep Pizza

Finally, yes FINALLY, winter seems to be coming to an end. The snow is melting off of the sidewalks, and the road surfaces are nearly entirely visible. While the snow melting is a welcome development, it has led to a dangerous development. BLACK ICE!

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Noah recently shared this comedy sketch about black ice by Key and Peele with me, and I thought it was very funny…so check it out!

Anyway, as the snow has melted, a thin layer of black ice lays hidden on the sidewalk. In fact, I took a pretty nasty fall on the ice pictured above. I fell so hard that my keys flew out of pocket. I didn’t notice until I made it to the gym (where I was headed when leaving the apartment). I walked all the way (super cautiously, of course), and found the keys sitting at the scene of the crime:

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Since the snow and ice are melting more and more each day, I got the winter tires taken off of my bike on Wednesday. I biked to work on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and I had an awesome time.

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Even though the snow is melting, it’s still pretty cold outside, so I need the winter biking face essentials: balaclava and goggles. The helmet is an anytime must-have. 🙂

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One of the places I biked to this week was Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza. I’ve known about this pizza place for a while since it gets positive buzz within the Twin Cities food scene, and I was excited to finally try it. There are two locations: one in St. Paul and one in Minneapolis. I met a friend for lunch at the Minneapolis location on Washington Ave N.

We both ordered build your pizzas. I got mine with goat cheese, mushrooms, and fresh tomatoes. My friend ordered hers with feta, green olives, and roasted red peppers:

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The pizza was great! It was a thin crust and the toppings were flavorful. There were also a lot of great looking salads and side dishes on the menu that would be great for sharing with a larger party.