Wednesday, January 21, 2015

FOOD PHILOSOPHY // PART 3 // FINAL THOUGHTS

If this series has bored you to death, my bad.

A lot of this is just me working through my thoughts for the first time- despite the fact that we've been "living it" for a little while now.

Here's the big secret though, we're not perfect and we absolutely never intend to be, because I would go insane without balance. As I've mentioned several times, we come nowhere close to tracking daily percentages of calories, carbs, cholesterol, etc. and instead just aim for a general healthy balance. When we go out to eat, all bets are off and I'm eating fries a lot of the time.. but as long as we're good at home, we allow ourselves the splurge when we're out.

Here's another secret, some of the meals we eat at home absolutely do NOT qualify as "healthy" in the traditional sense of the word: Pasta with meat sauce, burgers, "home-fries" (notice a theme with french fries? I SERIOUSLY CAN'T STOP). I think there's a misconception that health has to mean eating lettuce salad with no dressing and radishes and raw turnips. Health has a LOT to do with your goals and our goals are simply to eat naturally, not necessarily low carb or low calorie. [I do personally believe that eating naturally is the best place to start and that a lot of modern diseases and health issues can be traced to packaged foods and artificial ingredients.] I'm aware there are probably people reading this who don't consider any of the things I eat healthy.

Again, a lot of this has to do with the fact that we're not eating in a way designed to lose weight. We want to maintain our weights, and definitely have a healthy balance of meals that reflect that. For example, our meals* last week:

1. Braised pheasant (M went hunting) with asparagus and risotto w/caramelized fennel and leeks
2. Jess's Italian turkey burgers
3. Paprika chicken and spinach with a white wine butter thyme sauce and brown rice
4. Flatbread pizza on naan bread: caramelized onions and garlic with goat cheese
5. Spicy sausage, potato, and kale soup

It's no secret I consider myself a foodie (that meal list above may hint to that as well). I love trying new food and exploring new restaurants and am so grateful that the metro area in Minnesota has an unbelievable wealth of restaurants that boast a locally sourced, organic, natural kitchen. It definitely makes me feel better about eating out. That being said, lacking those qualities won't stop me from trying a restaurant. There are simply too many things I want to eat and cook to have too restrictive of a diet. This is why the philosophy we've developed in our house works for us.

Food, for Matt and I, is SO much more than fuel.. food is community. There's nothing I love more than hosting company for dinner, talking about great meals, scouting restaurant menus, researching new recipes, or trying to make something in a new way. I think it's important to note that because a lot of the way I view things stems from that belief system.

I hope this series didn't come off as preachy, and in fact, that fear is what kept me from writing about it for so long. I want to be an inclusive voice in the food conversation. A large part of why I resisted change for so long had to do with the tone of the conversation. I'm sensitive to try to not come off as judgmental or authoritative and instead just share our family's story. Now, more than ever, I am aware that making these changes involves a total shift in a person's frame of mind: The same can be said about any change- quitting smoking, kicking a bad habit, etc. I may share things along this topic as I find them, I may not ever again, but I hope this series was helpful to at least one person.


*A huge aspect of this conversation I'm overlooking in these posts is the fact that 80% of the time I truly ENJOY cooking. I have my moments where looking in the fridge fills me with rage and I want to go out to eat, but for the most part I find chopping, dicing, and sauteing therapeutic. [I am convinced there is NO BETTER SCENT than fresh minced garlic and onions sauteing in butter.] So yes, this is a different conversation if you aren't the type who enjoys cooking. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

FOOD PHILOSOPHY // PART 2

So, what does "whole, local, organic" mean? It means that as often as we can,we making decisions about our food that mean we understand what form it comes in, and as often as we can that means it's natural existing state (fresh veggies vs. frozen, making pasta sauce from tomatoes and spices vs. canned). It means that where we can, we buy food that has come from Minnesota or the Midwest (why? because midwest is best ;-), joking..kind of, but also, supporting local! yay!). Organic to us means there's as little artificial stuff (preservatives, chemicals, fillers) in our food as possible. This mostly applies to meat, dairy, and when we buy processed.

Here's a look at how this plays out for us:

1. HOW YOU SHOP 

{image from HERE}
If you want to make a baby step in the right direction, challenge yourself to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store as much as possible. As a rule of thumb, it's the healthiest areas and it's a great place to start. I play a game with myself to see how little I need from the interior and usually? It's not much. When I DO venture into the middle? I am more conscious of what I'm getting: organic free range chicken broth, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas. 

2. WHERE YOU SHOP

If you'd told me a year ago I'd be shopping at a co-op, I'd have laughed at you. First, there's a perception that co-ops are for hippies. Second, there seems to be a perception that you have to be a member or work there (neither true). Last, there seems to be a perception they're more expensive. This is true with SOME items (meat, especially) but definitely not all. In fact, at Lakewinds, where M and I go, you can buy bulk basil. Only need 6-8 leaves? You can pick out 6-8 leaves and don't have to pay $5 for a package that will go to waste. They sell SINGLE eggs and bulk pasta! SINGLE carrots! Have a recipe that calls for ONE carrot and you can't find anything in a bag less than 8? I seriously avoided carrot recipes for this reason. Drove me nuts. 

The huge benefit I've found of the co-op is that at Lakewinds especially, they're pegged as a natural food market. It's so much easier to make decisions on purchasing when you know everything is either natural, local, or organic for the most part. Does it mean eating a brick of cheese will feel good just because it's local and organic? Probably not. But there's a lot less label checking for me because I believe that when I shop there, as long as I eat in moderation and still balance my food groups, I'm already doing a lot better than I was before. 

3. WHAT YOU SHOP

Stay with me here because this may sound crazy, but as I've said before this means we eat organic veggies where we can, local or at least organic meat where we can, and full fat. 

<<record scratches>> full fat? Absolutely. 

You may remember a few years back there was a surge of low-fat and fat free options? EVERYTHING had a low fat/fat free version. I bought it. Everybody did. But turns out, low fat and fat free basically tasted like cardboard. So what did they do to compensate and make people still want to buy it? Jack it full of SUGAR. If you want a really fantastic, short, and interesting documentary on the subject, watch Fed Up. My very simplistic understanding of it goes as follows: sugar is a carbohydrate, so although the food item is labeled low fat, consuming more carbohydrates than your body needs may cause you to convert the excess calories to fat for long term storage. (VIA). Which means basically that "low fat" food item had the exact opposite affect and is making you more fat. Ironic, huh?

For us, the "WHAT" we shop boils down to the ingredients list. I want to be able to recognize all, if not at least 90% of, what's on that label. This is why, for the most part, I stay out of the middle of the grocery store. I'm not even going to get into all the gross additives that go into packaged and processed foods because a) it's not something I'm knowledgeable in and b) the rest of the way we shop is designed so we don't need to do that. There are no labels to check when you're throwing a handful of Brussels sprouts into your cart. The ONE area I've heard consistently that is most important to pay attention to is meat and dairy. There are countless studies on the effects on our bodies from the hormones that the animals are injected with, and it's frightening.

Speaking of labels, if you turn over an item of food that carries a nutrition label you may have noticed the breakdowns and percentages of daily values for various items. Yes?


Do you see a percentage missing? Where's sugar? (I'll be honest I have no idea where Protein is either but THAT'S NOT MY POINT). That's not an accident, it's the Sugar Lobby. No shitting, and Fed Up explains it far better than I do (and it's been a few weeks since I watched it) but the Sugar Lobby in Washington is so powerful they have kept these percentages off food labels based on the idea that this daily value percentage stuff is "inconclusive science", as they claim. The movie goes into a really interesting narrative about all of this, and the redirection of Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign (which initially had a large food component) to primarily an exercise campaign. Again, your Sugar Lobbyists at work, folks.

I'll be honest in saying there's a whole lot I'm uneducated on: what my daily values SHOULD be, what some of those preservatives and fillers in processed foods really are and which are the ESPECIALLY bad ones (if they can even be ranked). This is in part because it's a lot of information and I know that tracking calories and/or daily values is not something that's sustainable for me: a HUGE reason I resisted making any changes for a long time- it just  never seemed feasible. As I said before, this "how, where, what" method combined with eating mostly whole fruits, whole veggies, and protein is designed so that I am able to give myself a pass on the more stringent tracking. I am aware that veggies have naturally occurring sugars, fiber, carbs, etc., but in moderation and balance I believe eating them in their natural form means I feel fine about not tracking.

I have some closing thoughts tomorrow on balance and eating out, and how our philosophy plays in to these areas.

Monday, January 19, 2015

FOOD PHILOSOPHY // PART 1

[I'll go ahead and disclaim this post by saying I am NOT a nutritionist and I have a lot to learn on the subject, but these are just some of my simple thoughts on the matter]

Diet and fitness are such loaded words, aren't they? I don't mean diet as in, "I'm going on A diet," but rather- what you put in your mouth as a whole.

Chances are, you have strong feelings about these very general ideas. You may consider yourself a gym rat and rely on your #fitfam for motivation, but aren't as intense with respect to your diet: The "I work out to eat" people. You may eat local, whole, organic food, but not pump iron at Crossfit on the weekends. There's a whole spectrum of diet and fitness and everybody falls somewhere.

Recently, in our own home, M and I have decided to make a commitment to eat real, whole, (and whenever possible) local food. This isn't going to be a preachy place, and I very likely will never talk about it again on the blog (because of my attention span not because I don't care), but wanted to get some of my feelings out there. I also want to preserve these thoughts and reevaluate how things are going in 6 months or a year. That's part of the fun of documenting your life, right? If this stuff totally bores you to death feel free to skip over the next few days worth of content (YES I said dayS, buckle up, kids!)

The last few years have seen a surge of diets "lifestyle changes".. Paleo, the 21-Day Fix, Atkins, Whole 30, and on and on and on. You ultimately have to do what's best for you, there's no denying that. That's not taking into consideration people with food sensitivities (hi Meg!) or intolerance to things like dairy or gluten, or those diagnosed conditions like Celiac Disease. There's likely been a lot of "new" food information being thrown at you in the last few years and if you're anything like me, you're overwhelmed.

I'll admit that for the last 2-3 years, I knew I wanted to make a change in my diet but was in over my head with the information I was receiving. My train of thought went something like this, "Low-fat? High fat? Low carb diets? Fruits are good but not GREAT because they have sugar too..right? But is it better sugar? Stevia, truvia, artificial sweeteners.. or just regular sugar? Root veggies have carbs, but are they the good kind? But, don't fruit have carbs too? Is there a good kind? Is carbs the thing I should worry about? White pasta and grains are the devil.... didn't I just read something on Facebook about arsenic in rice?...."-- if that exhausted you, trust me- it exhausted me too. Every day we're told something new will kill us or give us cancer. It can be really hard to keep up.

So, for a long time, I just said "fuck it" and ate what I wanted. It was depressing and overwhelming and I let myself think that made it OK to not care.

M's dad's girlfriend is health guru and owns a fitness studio where they live in northwestern Minnesota. She's got a masters in nutrition and on the whole, knows what she's talking about. The last few years we also started spending some more time with friends of ours who ran a CSA program in the twin cities and are very into food and agriculture. Little by little the information became more digestible and I was able to hone a food philosophy that for me, felt really doable and easy to tackle:

WHOLE, ORGANIC, LOCAL

In other words, REAL food. 

There are a few simple ways to accomplish this that have been working for M and I that I'll touch on in tomorrow's post.

I do want to say this, so as to not be accused of being completely tone-deaf: In part because we're a respectably active couple (both have gym memberships and I'm doing Classpass this month) and in part because we just have a solid seemingly high-metabolism (we don't fluctuate weight in a noticeable manner), the way we eat and view food is NOT designed to lose weight. I understand and am aware that different goals mean different methods, which may include more closely examining calories and/or portion control. I'm not making a commentary on either of those items, although I think just by the way I cook naturally I do pretty well with portion sizes. My views are geared more towards the healthy food from a natural foods standpoint and not a weight standpoint. Aannndd who knows, maybe my views will evolve and I'll become more interested in those aspects and want to become lean and shredded, (HA, not likely, I <3 pizza), but this is where we're at right now. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

CLASSPASS: ONE WEEK IN.

*FTC Disclosure: I was provided a month free of classpass to try out in exchange for promotion of the program, all opinions are my own.

I wanted to check in after one week of participating in classpass with some thoughts.
My first week I attended three classes: pure barre, a gentle flow vinyasa at Kula Yoga, and spin class at The Shed in Uptown. 


I have to say- I'm generally nervous to try new things in terms of fitness. There are a lot of really rude and snobby #fitfam folks out there who aren't kind to newbies at the gym or in their classes. As a result, I have some anxiety about being that "new person". I'm a fake-it-till-you-make-it person and would rather not introduce myself to a teacher or at all let on that I'm new. 

The ladies at this pure barre (the Edina location) were SO sweet and welcoming and SO excited to hear I was from classpass- I was their "first" and they wanted to know how I liked it and how it compared to the barre fusion class I'd taken at Lifetime. 

The workout was low impact but intense in terms of muscle burn. I'd definitely go back to this studio! The only thing I would say is they all had matching pure barre brand grippy socks and I felt like I stood out with my white socks. Super lame, I know.. so if you want to fake it, at least make sure you wear blacks socks. ;-) There were only one or two times I felt the grippies would've come in handy where I felt like I was slipping, so if you don't want to buy them I think you could get away with not. 


New years day I went to the best yoga class I've ever been to at Kula in Edina. It also didn't hurt that I met up with 3 of my favorite ladies to do it. The instructor, Sydney, was SO sweet and FUNNY and literally memorized everyone's names and would shout out things like, "nice stretch, Kelly!" during class. Seriously impressive. She also cracked a few jokes, which I found SO refreshing. When you're sarcastic and not at all the "yogi-mindset" type person, it's easy to feel like people at yoga take themselves way too seriously. I also loved that she explained all the poses in normal English first for a few reps, before launching into the Sanskrit shavashana-whatsitcalled names. 

The only sad thing is Sydney teaches during the day so I doubt I'll be able to get to one of her classes again. I'm going back tomorrow with Lauren and Jess for a slightly different class with a different instructor, so we'll see how it goes! 



Hooooboy. Sunday I went to spin class with Jess and Syndal at The Shed.
If the name alone sounds intense, you're probably right about the class too. 
I loved the energy of the class, dark-ish room with lights that change colors, lots of fans, and a really high energy instructor. It was an intense and good workout... my ass is still feeling it today (less from the actual workout and more from those damn bike seats that are NEVER comfortable) but my legs felt like jello for the rest of the day. 

The one thing that I will say was slightly off-putting at The Shed was hearing of an interaction Jess had at the desk. She relayed that when she went to sign the waiver the woman made a comment like, "oh, I just love all the new 'resolution-people'!" -- she said she wasn't sure if it was couched in some slight sarcasm or not but the instructor also mentioned how full the class was and put all the newbies together. I appreciated that last part from the standpoint of feeling like I was surrounded with people I was comfortable with.. but nothing irks me more than comments about "busy gyms" or "resolution people".. just because I'm new at YOUR gym does not mean I'm a resolution person, and so fucking what if I am!? The comments always come off as pretentious and unnecessary. I understand it's moderately inconvenient to have a busy gym but you should never be an asshole to people who are trying to better themselves- regardless of when in the year they begin. 

Lastly, some thoughts on classpass as a whole: 

Positives:
  • VARIETY: I am really, really, enjoying the variety of workouts. It keeps things interesting and motivates me to want to sample a bunch of different types of gyms. I realize they have some of these at Lifetime (although Pilates and "boot camp" type classes cost extra at Lifetime) but there's something about these smaller gyms that motivates me more than Lifetime classes. 

  • ACCOUNTABILITY: In addition, one really nice feature that I think would lessen the number of times I justify skipping the gym, is if you no-show to a class they charge you $20. I'm not sure if that would apply with my free trial since I never gave out a credit card, but when you know you're literally reserving a spot and not just popping in if/when you feel like it, there's a lot more guilt in bailing. AND if I were to buy classpass next month that threat of $20 for someone on a budget is enough to shame me into keeping my reservations and attending class! 

Negatives:
  • MORNING CLASSES: This is less class-pass's fault and more the types of gyms, but one of the bummers for me is that most of these gyms don't have showers. I would prefer to work out in the morning before work, but due to the varied locations of the gyms, it wouldn't be feasible for me to go to the gym, go home to shower, and go to work. That's one thing Lifetime has that makes it really easy for me to workout in the morning. 
  • THE "SALE": It remains to be seen whether this is just me and my anxiety playing a factor, or a correct perception, but a part of me feels like these smaller gyms expect classpass to be a trial run of their gym from which I will then go on to purchase memberships or individual classes. I'll admit I don't know the compensation system with respect to the participating gyms or if there even IS one. I will say for myself, if I were to use classpass after my trial- it would be so I don't HAVE to sign up at each of these gyms individually.. or pay drop in fees. I would treat it as a gym membership and not a trial run. I wonder if the idea is the 3-visits-per-gym limit would incentivize people to revisit those gyms that they really love MORE per cycle and thus, pay the drop in fees? I am maybe ashamed to admit this but I have zero loyalty to a gym.* I would happily create a schedule that would only make room for 3 visits to a gym a month. (i.e. Yoga Tuesday nights for 3 weeks, Spin on Sunday mornings for 3 weeks)-- the other reason this is feasible is there are SO many gyms on the list that I could in theory still go to spin twice a week- at two different gyms. As long as you're not scared of some variety or a new gym, you could get in the types of workouts you want all month long. All that to say, is I worry I'll go to a gym and feel guilty as a classpasser (it has yet to happen) or feel pressured into being "sold" on additional classes. It remains to be seen how this pans out and I'll definitely update with my thoughts on this as I attend more classes!
Overall this has been a really fun experiment so far. It's giving me some serious pause about quitting Lifetime (and saving $30 a month). If I can find a routine that works for me to go a few nights a week and/or weekends, I seriously may. Stay tuned. 



*I used to be the same way with haircuts, too.. I know so many women who are BFF with their hairstylist but it used to be- I wanted a cut/color so impulsively, I'd call salons until I found one to take me THAT NIGHT- yes I was crazy-- I have since found a salon home and have seen the same girl THREE TIMES since finding it- that's freakin' commitment people. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

TO-DO LIST: REVISITED

I thought it'd be fun to revisit my "to-do" list from last year. 

I've never been a fan of resolutions because they seem forced and shallow. 
I know "words" of the year are trendy, too. 
I just feel like picking something like that sets me up for failure. I always want to try to be better, more patient, etc. So, I decided last year that a life list was a good place to start to encompass everything I hope to be, do, and dream about in the year. I'm pretty proud of the damage we did in 2014 and excited to see how it grows and changes in 2015. Instead of starting a new list, I'm just going to keep coming back and editing this one, striking out lines where we've completed goals and indicating the year next to it, and adding things as they appeal to me or I hear about them. The "restaurant" and "travel" and "MN" stuff will always be growing because I'm always finding new things to do and MN is a mecca of hot new restaurants. 

SO, here's how 2014 went! 


Me things

  • Work out more (ugh, I know... but when your dad has a heart attack and you're told it's genetic.. these things become more important) [2014: I'm actually really proud of this. I went at LEAST once a week if not 2-3 times most weeks and love that aspect of my routine. I was even given the chance to try out a cool new fitness thing here in Minneapolis that I may not have otherwise been so excited about! 2015: I signed up for Classpass full time as my new gym and LOVE IT]
  • Be more consistent meal planning (okay, so both of these are "2014" things.. actually they're EVERY year things, but I need to get into a routine I enjoy. [2014: we've been really good about this! They don't always make it into our google "Meals" calendar but we shop early in the week at some point every week. We've started going to the Lakewinds Coop and LOVE the drive down Minnetonka blvd so I can see this becoming a new Sunday morning tradition. More importantly at the tail end of 2014 we decided to make a more conscious decision to eat "real" food. I may delve into a whole post about this, but this means full fat, local, organic, hormone free whenever we can!]
  • Speak ill of others less.. I should devote an entire post to this, but it's a bad habit of mine. If I think something negative, or something I don't agree with, about someone.. I'm quick to find someone to validate my feelings. If you want to armchair-psychologize that statement, yes, it stems from a virtual lifetime of feelings of inadequacy, of not fitting in, so I get a high when I'm validated as being "right" in my sentiments. I just need to, NOT. anymore. [2014: still room for improvement here.. but I don't recall being AS bitchy!]
  • Be more organized (on a consistent basis)- mostly this means my laundry and my bedroom. M and I are transitioning into the main floor guest room soon (as in.. Saturday). This room has been my "getting ready" room, and home to my closet. M takes up the entire closet in the master. It's easier to ignore the mess when I don't have to sleep in it, and it's easier to ignore our current master bedroom mess because it's not MY stuff. The whole point of this room swap/room transformation is because I want to create a space I ENJOY being in. A calm, inviting, adult space. [2014: I've been OK about making things LOOK clean? but the laundry thing still sucks.]
  • Take more pictures: there is irony in this one. I have a DSLR, but I have this weird hang up about using it. I am always so annoyed by "that person" at get togethers, who is always shouting "GINA, come here. ANDREW get in the photo. LOOK AT me. Okay everyone, ready!?!" I just want to club them. I never want to BE that person, but I love taking and looking at nice photos. I also have a hang-up that because I have a DSLR - I feel stupid bringing it to "smaller" events. It feels like such a formal camera. I know that sounds insane. I'm hoping once I get the camera bag insert and it's easier to tote around, I will. [2014: man.. after Italy I fell off the wagon HARD on this one. I'm hoping an early 2015 trip to AZ will spur me back into photo taking. Also, getting an iPhone hurt me a bit here, since it takes such great photos]

Minnesota things

  • Go to the landscape arboretum
  • Go to the sculpture garden (if for no other reason than I can have a picture with that damn spoon and cherry)
  • Alpine Coaster (Added just to check off because SO MUCH FUN  [2015])
  • State Parks
    • Afton [2014]
    • Interstate State Park- Taylor's Falls [2014]
    • Banning
    • Jay Cooke  [2015]
  • Visit more wineries/explore the area, specifically:
    • Woodland Hills Winery, Delano, MN
    • Buffalo Rock Winery, Buffalo, MN
    • Alexis Bailley Vineyards, Hastings, MN
    • Cannon River Winery, Cannon Falls, MN
    • Winehaven Winery & Vineyard, Chisago, MN [2016]
    • Chankaska Wines, Kasota, MN [we gave this as a Christmas gift to M's dad so I'm positive this will happen in 2015!!]
  • EATS- whenever M and I are hungry or planning a date night, we tend to revert to old favorites. The MSP area is SUCH a wealth of FABULOUS foodie places, it makes me sad that we do this. Of course when you're hungry you go with fast. SO hopefully having a list of "must try" places will prompt us to recall them, and then eat at them! (the trouble with this list is I add too it as much as I cross things off- THIS IS NOT A REAL PROBLEM but zomg, so many noms). 
    • Revival
    • Brewer's Table (Surly Taproom) 
    • Nighthawk's [Brunch 2016]
    • Libertine [Dinner 2016] 
    • Third Bird (Brunch) 
    • Travail
    • Tinto Cocina & Cantina
    • Lyn 65 [Dinner 2016]
    • L'Etoile du Nord (Brunch) 
    • Victory 44
    • Broders [Dinner 2016] 
    • Heirloom [Dinner 2016] 
    • 4Bells [Dinner 2016] 
    • Monello
    • Restaurant Alma
    • Eastside [Dinner 2016] 
    • Cook (Brunch)
    • Ramen Kazama
    • Upton 43
    • Porcheteria
    • Sanctuary
    • Eat Street Social (Brunch and Dinner)
    • The Butcher and the Boar (beer garden  [2015])
    • Bradstreet Neighborhood Crafthouse [Dinner 2016] 
    • Rookery
    • Brasserie Zentral Closed 2016
    • Coup d'Etat
    • The Salt Cellar
    • Saint Dinette [Dinner 2016] 
    • St. Genevieve
    • Heyday
    • Rival House
    • Pizzeria Lola
    • Pajarito
    • Red Rabbit
    • Tulibee 
    • Mercury Dining Room and Rail 
    • Sea Salt Eatery [dinner 2016] 
    • 6smith (brunch 2016] 
    • Hola Arepa (Brunch and Dinner [2014])
    • The Butcher and the Boar (beer garden  [2015])
    • Wiseacre (brunch is out of this world [2014] AND Dinner)
    • Icehouse (Brunch [2015] and dinner) 
    • The Kenwood (Brunch and Dinner [2015]
    • Union (brunch [2014] AND Dinner [2015])
    • Corner Table (Brunch [2014- and they STOPPED SERVING IT NOW, TRAGIC] AND Dinner [2015]
    • Masa (Brunch AND Dinner[2014]) CLOSED  [2015]
    • Heartland  [2015]
    • Tilia (Brunch  [2015] AND Dinner  [2015]
    • The Rabbit Hole [2014]
    • Tiny Diner [2014] - I will say, of ALL the 2014 restaurants, I was underwhelmed ONLY here
    • The Pig Ate My Pizza [2014]
    • The Copper Hen (Brunch [2015])
    • Parella [2015]
    • Marche [2015]
    • Sonora Grill [2014]
    • Birchwood Cafe[2015- brunch and dinner]
    • La Grolla [2015]
    • World Street Kitchen [2014]
    • Rincon 38  (Every meal should involve 20 small meals. Tapas #FTW) [2014]
    • La Belle Vie [2015]
    • Spoon and Stable  [2015]
    • Pig & Fiddle [2014]
    • Northeast Social [2014]
    • The Sample Room [2014]
    • Lago Taco [2014]
    • Burch Steak and  Burch Pizza [both 2014]
    • Hello Pizza [2014]
    • Mattie's on Main [2014]
    • Blackbird Cafe [2014]
  • Spend a weekend on the North Shore (Two Harbors, Gooseberry, etc), JUST us- The thing about going to college in northern MN is, every time we've been up there previously, it'd been to visit with other people. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'd like to take M to northern MN and just have it be us.
  • Spend a weekend in Duluth, JUST us (see above).
  • Kayak on a river- M LOVES doing this, and I think I'd enjoy it, too. Preferably a quiet-ish river, or even a creek- one that doesn't hold the high potential for killing me (a la the Mississippi). [2014- I kayaked the city lakes with him! We're looking at a Minnehaha Creek trip this summer as well as a bigger St. Croix River trip!] [2015- Kayamping]
  • Camp- I've only been camping once, but it was a lot of fun. I'd love to do it again with M. If you have the right gear and plan ahead it can be a really cool experience.
  • I'm drawing a blank on other Minnesota-y things but want to get this post published, so as I recall things I'll definitely come back and add here.
Travel (United States)
I have to say something about my travel desires: If you offer me Rome or Naples, I'll take Naples* every time. Call me uncouth, but I'm way more drawn to natural pneomenon over man made. What I mean by that is, I'd rather explore a lesser known, lesser "historically significant" coastal town of a country (if they're on the coast) than a mainland megalith. I'd rather wander down smaller streets, with less tourists, and get more of a local flavor than wander around the city center with a headset tour guide telling me how old this church is. I'm not saying this to be pretentious, and I do find some of that stuff interesting (I did it in Malta and enjoyed it) but I am just drawn to the lesser discovered places. For example: summer after my 1L year of law school (for you newbies around here) I participated in study abroad. We could've chosen London, Prague, Istanbul, Galway, Chile, or Malta (that were "sponsored" through our school). I chose Malta. The common response I got when telling people I was going to Malta, was, ".. wait.. where?" I knew I could, and probably would, travel to some of those other countries in my lifetime. If I had never been offered Malta as a study abroad though? I never would have gone. It is, in my opinion, one of the coolest and most beautiful little countries that nobody has ever heard of.
That being said, there are obviously a few cities on these lists that are well known. But, I'd argue they're also naturally beautiful. Hence, the draw. :)
  • Maine (anywhere on the coast)
  • Boston, MA
  • Vermont, New Hampshire and/or Connecticut (in the fall)
  • Charlston, SC
  • Savannah, GA (with a stop to Tybee Island)
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Arizona ([2015] recap HERE)
  • Austin and/or San Antonio, TX
  • San Francisco/Napa, CA
  • Lake Tahoe, CA
  • Hawaii
  • Seattle, WA [2014, recap HERE and Tacoma, HERE] -- and as a result, has sprung:
  • Central, WA (think Mount Ranier, outdoorsy stuff, [close, but Spokane [July 2015])
  • Glacier National Park- West Glacier, MT
  • Coeur d'Alene, ID (after M's road trip to Seattle, this is now a 'must-see!..and I agree![July 2015])
    International
  • Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Banff, AB, Canada
  • Italy
    • Cinque Terra [2014, recap HERE]
    • *Naples I have it on good authority from people who are from Italy, and 95% of the internet, that Naples, Italy is actually a trash dump. Womp. 
    • Rome  [2014, recap HERE and HERE]
    • Florence  [2014, recap HERE and HERE]
    • Venice
    • Lake Como
    • Bari (where my family is from)
  • Greece (specifically the islands/coast- Thessaloniki and Santorini to be precise).
  • Rijeka, Croatia
  • Iceland
  • Geneva, Lucerne, Bergen, Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Australia
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Portugal
  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
I think it's easy to get stuck in a functional rut. We've been going to Florida for a few years because it's convenient and we stay cheaply, but I know when I get to be 40 and have kids and can't travel as easily I'm not going to be saying "gee I'm glad we went to Florida 15 times and I never got to see Hawaii!) I want to start picking random places and going just BECAUSE. Not because we have family there, not for work, just because it sounds cool. Hopefully M and I can knock off one of the international spots for a 1-year anniversary trip. [2014 was a success in this respect! Although it was a little early, I think it totally counts. :)]


So there's my list. Not a NYE Resolution, not a 30 before 30, just a really aspirational "to do" list with no deadline. :)


What are some things you're dying to do? Any "Minnesota" things I clearly left off here?