One Week in Boston

My blogging has been in a bit of dry spell, but it’s because I’m in the sweltering Simi Valley. Simi Valley, in fact, is in a dry spell of its own as the area is experiencing a severe drought. We’ve been asked to cut water usage to 85% of regular levels.

I’m in California for 5 weeks working at a Jewish summer camp program (for young adults!), and I have 2 weeks left. Before I came here, I had about one week in Boston. One week to “settle” into my new home…but I think I’ll really do the settling once I return to Boston in mid-July. Nonetheless, in an attempt to stay connected to the blog during these crazy California work weeks, here are some highlights from my first week in Boston:

1. American coffee in all its forms
Featuring Starbucks, 1369 Coffeehouse, and Bloc 11 – all in the Cambridge/Somerville area

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Although I’m a huge fan of coffee in Israel (and especially the fact that coffee there is served in reasonable sizes!), the coffeeshop menus in America go way beyond the scope of Israeli coffee menus. In Israel, basically the options were Americano or Cappuccino. I missed the milky-madness and sugar-bomb variety of American coffeeshops. 🙂

2. Fitness!!

Running was a big part of my time in Jerusalem, but I didn’t do any group or organized fitness there – no gyms or yoga classes! So, I was extremely excited to get my yoga groove on when I got to Boston. Within my first 24 hours, I bought a yoga mat and signed up for a trial week at Be.Yoga in Union Square:

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I also had my much-anticipated return to the November Project. For those who aren’t familiar, the November Project is a grassroots fitness community that started in Boston and has spread throughout the country (and beyond!). The group has no cost, and it is centered around fun and relationships that are formed by sweating together. The group meets three times a week – Wednesdays are the classic November Project workout: running all 37 sections of the Harvard Stadium steps.

You start at the last section:

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And 48 sweaty minutes later (if you’re me), you get to the beginning!:

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Holy cow. This workout is amazingly hard, but it’s really no wonder that it’s so popular. By the time you’re running up only the second set of stairs, you think there’s no possible way you can get to the end..but then you do. And it is so empowering! I am already looking forward to being back in Boston in a of couple weeks and returning to the steps to try to break my 48-minute time!

3. New restaurants!

Obviously, I love going out to eat. A big highlight of moving to a new city is re-starting the game to find the place’s fun/unique/delicious foods. In the week I was in Boston, I somehow ended up finding myself at Clover three times:

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Clover started as a vegetarian food truck, but it gained such popularity that it now has several storefront locations around the Boston area. There are a few right in the Cambridge neighborhoods, so it is a convenient and delicious spot for any meal of  the day. AND….EXCITING NEWS!!! Clover recently announced that they will be going certified kosher. Woohoo! This is definitely a big win for Boston kosher restaurants. 🙂

I also went for lunch with a friend at a bakery/cafe near Central Square called Flour. Flour has the typical cafe/bakery assortment of salads, sandwiches, pastries, coffee, and soup. But it also has some interesting extras like stuffed bread and homemade pizza! Everything on the menu looks delicious, and I would definitely be happy to go back there again in the future:

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4. Seeing the sights!

Noah and I love exploring. For the Sunday we had together in Boston before I went to California, we went to the Boston Science Museum:

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I had so much fun! There were a lot of really interesting exhibits – photography of food, the human body, electricity…the list goes on. The highlight of the visit for me though was watching an IMAX movie on humpback whales – it was so cool! It turns out that humpback whales were almost killed off by human hunters, but when a recording of their whale songs was accidentally discovered and released as a recording, they captured the hearts of the public and were ultimately saved by a series of conservation and protection laws. Also, baby humpback whales are 14-feet long when they are born – CRAZY!

All in all, I had a great week in Boston, and I’m excited for the adventures to continue when I’m back there in another couple weeks! See you soon, Boston. 🙂

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Where to run in Jerusalem

Alright folks, tomorrow is…

THE JERUSALEM MARATHON!

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I’m only running the half (13.1 miles or as these Israelis like to say, 21.1 kilometers), but I am pretty excited! I’ve been training for the last 12 weeks, and during that time I’ve gotten very familiar with the running options around Jerusalem. So, for anyone figuring out where to run in this beautiful metropolis, here are my top suggestions:

1. The rekevet

This was my original running grounds. Before starting to train for a half marathon, I wasn’t running much longer 3-5 mile runs, and the main rekevet route is perfect for this distance. The ‘rekevet’ refers to a tracks-to-trails path (ie, former train track, now a pedestrian and bike path). The north end of the rekevet starts near the Tahana Rishona where Emek Refaim and Derech Beit Lechem meet.

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From the Tahana, you have about a 1/2 mile of pathway until you get to an intersection with Derech Beit Lechem. From there, the rekevet path continues for another 1/2 mile until it reaches an intersection with Pierre Koenig.

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You can cross Pierre Koenig (a fairly large intersection) and have another mile or so of uninterrupted pathway. After about a mile, the path will deposit you onto A-Safa Street within an Arab neighborhood. You can run briefly across the road about 1-minute and then pick the rekevet pathway up AGAIN for another 2 miles or so:

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This part of the path will take you near Teddy Stadium, Malcha Mall, and the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. If you’re into trail running, you can even keep going onto the dirt path at the end of the paved trail. In my opinion, this rekevet pathway is definitely the best running resource in Jerusalem, and if you have a chance I highly suggest going for a jog on it!

2. Gan Sacher

The next best place I’ve found to run is Gan Sacher. Gan Sacher is Jerusalem’s largest park, and there are lots of interweaving running trails throughout the area:

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The park is located in the western city center – near to the Israel Museum and Knesset building. There are also several workout stations and large fields in Gan Sacher, making it a great place for other types of exercise besides running if that’s not your thing. 🙂

3. The Tayelet

The Jerusalem Tayelet (Promenade) is a gorgeous pathway that you can get to by following Yehuda Street east past Derech Hebron. The Tayelet itself isn’t the greatest in terms of a running pathway because it’s fairly cobblestoned:

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But the views looking out on Jerusalem and the Old City compensate for any less-than-ideal surface conditions:

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The Tayelet pathway looking out over Jerusalem only lasts about a half mile, but it then continues on a paved pathway through a park and snaking around a UN building. That pathway goes another half mile or so (perhaps a bit further) and deposits at a lookout observation point. It’s a bit short on distance to compromise an entire run, but it could be combined with some running on the rekevet for a slightly longer run (they are relatively close to one another). The Tayelet alone would also be an ideal spot for a nice walk (Shabbos walk, anyone??).

And there you have it…my main running suggestions in Jerusalem. Of course, there is also some decent running to be had on the sidewalks along main roads and residential neighborhoods. That said, lights here aren’t the greatest for running and Jerusalem drivers are notoriously nutty, so it can be a bit smoother and more relaxing to run on the aforementioned pathways.

See you on the pavement tomorrow? 😉

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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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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!

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!

A Guide to Spring (in Minnesota)

It’s definitely supposed to be spring right now. Yet, as I write this, snow falls. So, here is a guide to enjoying the season of rejuvenation in Minnesota.

1. Don’t fear the white stuff! If it’s snowy, then you might as well take advantage of it. Noah and I recently went skiing at Theodore Wirth Park. The park in north Minneapolis has 20 miles of cross country skiing trails, tubing, and snowboarding areas.

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We enjoyed a little over an hour of skiing, and we got a great workout. The trails were beautiful!

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2. Celebrate indoors! Luckily for me, the holiday of Purim provided a perfect opportunity to have fun inside. I invited friends over to make the traditional triangular-shaped Purim cookie, hamantashen.

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Another Purim tradition is costumes, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to dress like a taco:

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And a person wearing footie pajamas (read: not really a costume):

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3. Try new food! One of the best indoor activities I know is eating, so I’ve enjoyed spending more time in the kitchen as well as trying some new restaurants.

We tried Victor’s 1959 Cafe, a Cuban restaurant in south Minneapolis.

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The restaurant featured lots of unique Cuban dishes, and I was excited to try a vegetarian dish with yuca and plantains. Noah had a salmon dish with beans, rice, and plantains.

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We also tried a Cuban beer and a Cafe Cubano (espresso sweetened with sugar and a tiny bit of milk):

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Highlights from my kitchen have been chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice from the Jerusalem cookbook:

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Salmon with thyme, broccoli, and rice:

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Peanut butter granola from CarrotsnCake:

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And cilantro burgers:

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The cilantro burgers were incredibly easy to make. Recipe as follows:

– 1 lb. ground beef
– 1 bunch chopped cilantro
– 1/4 cup chopped onion
– 2 eggs, beaten
– 1/2 cup flour

Mix everything together and then broil for 8 minutes on one side and 5-7 minutes on the other side (depending how pink you like it).

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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It’s a Deal

As evidenced by my past enthusiasm for Groupons and free stuff, I am a sucker for a good deal. Is it necessary to receive multiple emails daily from Living Social and Groupon? No. Is it necessary to treasure my Costco membership as though it were the last water bottle on a deserted island? No. But I do, because I love getting a deal. Costco, here I come!

But in all seriousness, I do not feel guilty about the $$$ I spend through Living Social and Groupon. One might think I am encouraged to spend more money by receiving these tempting deals direct to my inbox multiple times each day, but it is my firm belief that they both save me money and provide me with experiences I might not otherwise pursue.

For example, I am going to take my super cute bf on a date once in a while, AND I love finding fun new places for us to try/explore. Online deals make it easier to do the former on a budget and the latter without putting in a ton of time researching. I don’t just buy any deal that comes my way, but when I see something that looks good or I’ve been wanting to do, you can bet I scoop it up right away!

Over the summer, these are my deal highlights:

1. Eat Street Social

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Noah and I had wanted to try this place after reading about their specialty cocktails on a number of occasions. As fate would have it, Living Social was offering a deal for a three-course meal for two plus a bottle of wine for the low price of $30. I’ll take it! We chose a chardonnay for the wine…

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…and the meal included a caprese salad:

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mushroom risotto (this was my favorite course!):

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and steak with mashed potatoes and asparagus:

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Unfortunately, dessert was not one of the three courses provided (a clever trick indeed), so we ordered our own – an ‘oreo’ sandwich and chocolate torte:

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2. Barre Bliss

I first tried barre classes last spring as part of a different deal (I don’t think I blogged about it unfortunately) and was immediately intrigued. Barre is a group fitness class that is fast and furiously gaining popularity. The workout has its foundation in yoga and dance conditioning. It targets muscles through isometric movements common in ballet. The classes are called ‘barre’ because they are done with a mat at a ballet barre.

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I don’t think these classes are high-impact enough to be a sole form of exercise (you will work hard and sweat a little, but it doesn’t give that post-run/spin class feeling). I will admit, though, that they really work your muscles. I might not be covered in sweat head to toe and heaving for breath after barre, but my legs start doing that crazy shake thing when you can just.barely.hold.on.

Anyway, Groupon was offering a deal for 10 barre classes at a place called Barre Bliss a mere 6 blocks from my house. Full price classes can be anywhere from $12-20 for a drop in, and this deal was 10 classes for $49. What a steal!

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3. Minneapolis Bike Tour

Noah and I were already interested in participating in this Minneapolis bike event before a Living Social deal came out offering registration at two for the price of one. Perfect!

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The Minneapolis Bike Tour is a recreational ride for people of all ages around the Grand Rounds. There is the option for a 14-mile ride or a 36-mile ride, and proceeds were used for bike safety, education events, and trail improvement.

Riders needed to start the bike tour between 7:30-8am, so we got there bright and early! The start was on Kenwood Parkway, very near the sculpture garden, and there were A TON of people!

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We milled around the various vendors to kill time before the start. There were free bananas, so we couldn’t complain:
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Once the riders got going we spaced out almost immediately. About 5 miles in was the first rest stop, located on the shores of the scenic Lake Harriet:

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I don’t know how many participants there were, but people kept pouring in our whole time at the rest stop – and we were there for a good amount of time considering how many snacks we had to choose from:

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Due to time constraints, we were only able to do the 14-mile ride this year, but it was a great route and I would love to do the longer route in the future! Plus, they gave us cool bike lights:

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As you can see, these daily-deal purchases have done little to deplete my savings and allowed me a number of fun activities throughout the summer. Moral of the story is, get your groupon on.*

*disclaimer: this advice only applies to people with a healthy level of self-restraint and no history of shopping addictions.