Travel Thursday: Minnesota via Instagram

// Thursday, April 9, 2015

Every Thursday, I’ll be posting about travel. More often than not, it will be a look back at recent trips I’ve taken, such as the British Virgin Islands, which I wrote about two weeks ago, but sometimes it will be a place I’m itching to go to, or a place a friend has visited and I can’t stop thinking about. This is a new series, and one that’s likely to evolve over time.

Last week, when I talked about the roadtrip to Minnesota I took with my boyfriend, I was really just writing the first half of the story: because once the roadtrip ended, I spent four days both playing tourist and hanging out with my boyfriend’s family (and their adorable puppy – this picture is from July, but how cute is she??). It was a wonderful, wonderful trip, so here’s a look back at playing tourist in Minnesota via Instagram.

tt2-09-nacho-mamasWe wandered around Stillwater on Friday, Nacho Mama’s in Stillwater for lunch – super cute interior, but neither one of us were particularly impressed with the food. He’s been there before and really enjoyed it, but this time around not so much.I had the El Cabo Wabo Sandwich, and everything was drowning in ranch sauce, and in spite of the assurances I received beforehand, there was so way to avoid the excessive jalapeños both on and in the bread.

tt2-10-book-teaHOWEVER: after lunch, we went into a few of the local used/rare bookstores in the downtown, and things picked up considerably. I know this sort of display isn’t unique to Stillwater, MN, but it made me smile all the same.

tt2-11-nancy-drewAND THEN THERE WAS THIS. My one regret from this trip is that I didn’t purchase this book. I couldn’t quite justify the cost at the time (wasn’t terrible, definitely – very reasonable, considering, but more than I was willing to pay for a book at that moment), but this was a first edition of the original 1930 version of The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene. I was obsessed with Nancy Drew growing up: on one trip to Florida, I brought five books with me and read more than one complete book on the plane ride there from Boston. And I still have all of the (modern) versions of the (original) series: needless to say, I probably maybe almost definitely should have bought it? But oh well. If it’s there the next time I’m in MN, I might.

tt2-12-babar-portrait BABAR. (See also: used/rare books bookstores are the best. Also, so much childhood nostalgia – though the one thing I ended up buying was a used Kurt Vonnegut hardcover, which I’ve yet to actually crack open. I showed some restraint, at least, re: wanting all of the childhood things. At least in terms of purchasing them, anyways. I liked this poster (piece of art?) a lot.)

tt2-13-stone-tap-portraitWe met T’s cousin for dinner and drinks at the Stone Tap Brewery in Hudson, WI. I was super impressed with the beer flight I had. I learned I liked saisons! I loved three of the four of them! I do not remember what all of them were/all of their names. Beer names and types: not something that sticks in my brain. That said: the Left Bridge Farm Girl was my favorite.

tt2-14-five-wattFive Watt Coffee. This is their menu: enough said. We both had the orange blossom special, and yum does not even come close to describing it.

tt2-16-mall-of-americaGratuitous picture of the roller coaster in the center of the Mall of America, because I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this a thing that exists. Also, I knew going in that the mall was gigantic, but I definitely didn’t have a good grasp of what that actually meant. There are duplicates of stores. And a roller coaster. And a ferris wheel. America is a very strange place, sometimes.

tt2-19-indeedSaturday night at Indeed Brewing Company It’s a wonderful spot – great beer, great atmosphere, great food trucks according to others (we didn’t have dinner there), great gift shop. (I may or may not have a shirt or two and some pint glasses. Like I said: great place.)

tt2-21-chimborazoAfter we had post-family-Chistmas-party beer at Indeed, we headed over to Chimborazo in Minneapolis, a delightfully wonderful Ecuadorian restaurant. Everything we had was absolutely phenomenal. If you ever find yourself in Minneapolis, I seriously cannot recommend them highly enough. Great space, great staff and service, great food.

I’m not sure when the next time I’ll be back in Minnesota is, but it’s nice to know that I’ve got a ready list of places to which I want to return when we’re back in the area. Also, I’ve started following on Instagram both Five Watt Coffee (link) and Indeed Brewing (link) on Instagram, and it makes me want all of the things. Mostly coffee. And sometimes good beer.

Have you ever been to Minnesota? Any recommendations for the next time I’m there?

yes please (but i wish there were a comma): a review of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please

// Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Last week, I finally read Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I’ve been meaning to read it since it came out this past October, enthusiastically saying, literally, yes, please, when both my boyfriend’s roommate and my downstairs neighbor offered to lend their respective copies to me, but time got away from me, and I didn’t end up picking it up until this week. (I ended up borrowing it from my neighbor after my roommate borrowed it, if that detail matters.) I liked Yes Please a great deal, but I wasn’t in love with it. One thing I did love, though, was how much she brought up Burlington, which is literally one town over from where I grew up. I loved reading about her childhood/adolescence in Burlington, because there were a whole lot of parallels, and it’s fun in the “wow, the world is small” sense to see someone famous reminiscing about a town with which I am so familiar.

I’m late to the Amy Poehler game: until I discovered and started (binge) watching Parks and Rec this summer, I didn’t really know who she was other than vaguely recognizing her from SNL, which I watch occasionally and also infrequently. I like her writing style enough, but I was frustrated by how often she talked in circles – mentioning a thing and then dancing around it for several pages before returning back to her original point. A little bit of self-depreciation is good, and appreciated, but it got to the point where it seemed like she was intentionally writing filler for her own book. Her not-infrequent acknowledgments that the book was difficult for her to write and that she’s better in person only served to highlight some of the sections that were struggling more than others. I love her writing in terms of Parks and SNL, but something felt a little flat here. (And I really wish there were a comma between yes and please.)

That said: I think Yes Please is a worthwhile book, and it’s a quick and enjoyable read. Some of her advice pieces (or maybe most of them) might border on the cliche, but they’re statements that are worth hearing, worth reading from the pen of am intelligent, influential woman who can powerfully impact so many young women and girls. That power, though, is at the root of the underlying problem I had with the book: I wanted it to be better, to be more, to figure out if it were a memoir or a call to action. I know it was both, kind of, but it could have balanced them in a more coherent way. But on the other hand, her voice is very similar to how I think, how I write when I’m not self-editing, so in that sense I liked it a great deal.

And there are moments which are absolutely wonderful, like this one from the intro:

… You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book.

So here we go, you and me. Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that might be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready. …

Is it cliche? Maybe. Definitely. Absolutely. But is it true; is it necessary to have someone write those words when it’s basically a given that millions of people will read them? Yes please. Which is, I think, the heart of the thing: if somehow the whole book had been like that, I would wholeheartedly, four hundred percent recommend it. As is, I recommend reading it, but with some caveats.

Yes Please just felt like it could have and should have been pushed a little further. Amy (can I call her Amy?) joked (“joked”) in the intro (and throughout) about how difficult it was to write the book, and joke or not, the apparent trouble she had writing it hummed under the surface of the words more than it should have. But I still very much enjoyed reading it, and I recommend reading it. But take Yes Please for what it is: a humorous, delightful, somewhat superficial, and enjoyable read by an awesome, inspirational woman and brilliant comedian. Writing a book doesn’t need to be her forte: she’s already shown how much else she can do, and I have the utmost faith that we’ll only see more wonderful projects and inspirational moments and words from her. This book is not all of the things, and it feels that way, but only because Amy Poehler has set the bar so high through everything else she does.

on sailboats and sunshine (or: resetting and resolutions)

// Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I spent January 10th – 18th in the British Virgin Islands with my boyfriend and his family, alternating between sailing, wandering islands, snorkeling, and eating good food/drinking cheap but delightful Caribbean beer. It was a week with no cell service (fyi, Verizon, which I have, has no service in the US sense; AT&T can and will frequently pick up a US signal from St. Thomas): I couldn’t call people; I more often not couldn’t receive texts; I had no data coverage. There was extremely, extremely limited WiFi at a few of the restaurants/bars. I checked email about three times? Instagram twice? I don’t think I checked Facebook.

It was wonderful.

I hadn’t realized how much I needed a digital detox, of sorts, but god, did I. It was so refreshing to just be: to sit in the sunshine, on the boat, while we sailed between various islands; to sit at dinner and bring my phone only to use as a camera, to document the restaurant or the meal or the hilariously pink drink, and then put it immediately away; to not feel like I needed to have said phone on me at all times to be reachable, to not feel like I needed to check all of the things just in case someone posted something that was ~life altering~ such that I needed to, you know, read it on social media in real time.

It was a good, welcome, relaxing step back. Does it mean I’m swearing off Facebook or Tumblr or Instagram anytime soon? Nope. But it does mean I’m more aware of my usage (excluding Facebook, which I check for about two minutes once a day anyways now and haven’t used regularly for a long time), more aware of what I’m not missing online and am missing in person. I wrote, a long time ago – before it was in vogue, per se, but I definitely absolutely wasn’t the first person to write it or think it – that I felt as if I were starting to think in 140 character thoughts. That’s not who I want to be. So I’m working at it, by writing more, by talking about writing more, by changing my routine. January hasn’t been as good for writing as I’d hoped it would be, but I’ve been taking pictures and writing words on scraps of paper and in drafts of emails, and. And that is definitely not nothing, and for now, it’s enough. It’s something I’m continually working on.

That’s what I want 2015 to be. It’s less about the big overarching goals that are damn near impossible to achieve in a tangible sense, and more about the small things that add up to a large intangible delightful mess of things. So my resolutions border on the cliche this year, but they’re important:

1. Make time to write. My eventual goal is to develop a routine, where I’m writing a set number of pages a day, or writing at a specific time every day, or something else along those lines. And while I’ve done well so far at making the time, I haven’t done so well at making it a routine, and that’s something I’m going to work on more. Because, forward.

I also bought a Q&A a Day: 5-Year-Journal (discovered and purchased via this post on C’est Christine), and that’s something I want to keep up with this year. Last year, I (unofficially?) made a resolution to note what I did every day, and I kept up with that for the first time, I think, ever: I had the 2013-2014 seventeen month version of the Moleskine Weekly Pocket Planner, and it was completely full between July 2013 and December 2014. I am so incredibly proud of that (I realize how ridiculous this sounds, because I document a lot of things, but with that sort of thing, in the past I have just sort of…faded). For 2015, I’m using the one I linked to above: it’s slightly smaller, depth-wise, which I like. It’s still soft cover and the same size (3.5″ x 5″), meaning it fits into any purse I carry, which is awesome and also necessary if I’m going to keep up with it.

And, also: I’ll be writing here more.

2. Read more books. Largely related to #1, because more reading means more thinking about words and ideas and having phrases stick in my head and become their own stories. That, and I just miss reading for fun. Last week, I tore through The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer in essentially one sitting, which really should and probably will eventually be its own post because I loved it and it gave me all of the emotions. (Sidenote: In general, for books, I highly recommend Porter Square Books: they’re local, independent, super nice, and super helpful. Second sidenote, should you want one, they still have autographed copies of The Art of Asking in store.)

3. Be better about getting enough sleep and having a regular weeknight sleep schedule. The boat reset my sleep schedule so well. We were going to bed somewhere between 10 and 11 every night, usually closer to 10, and getting up sometime between 7 and 8 each morning. I forgot – it’s so easy to forget – how much nicer it feels to be rested, to have gotten a full night’s sleep. To not feel like I need (versus want) coffee to function at anything resembling a reasonable level. I used to be better about getting up a solid 45 minutes before I had to leave for work – time to make coffee, do my makeup/morning routine, etc., and somehow over the past year I let that slide to get an extra 10-30 minutes of sleep (see also: overtired, thanks to an increasingly wonky sleep schedule).

4. Put more effort into consciously taking care of myself. I don’t not take care of myself now; this resolution is more related to #3 above: I want to make time every day to get ready for the day, whether that’s just putting on basic makeup or painting my nails or having a more consistent approach to skincare (see also: winter makes my skin SO SAD, and I need to work on making it less sad, constantly, and I want to maintain that habit throughout the year). Yoga and climbing also fall under the general consciously-take-care-of-myself umbrella: I want to get back into the habit of going to yoga at least once a week, and I want to get more comfortable with climbing because I enjoy it a lot even if it freaks me out sometimes. Yoga definitely isn’t something that comes naturally to me, and I am maybe the least flexible person on the planet, but that’s what I love about it. It’s work and it’s a challenge and it’s nice to clear my mind of everything to focus on a pose (and not destroying my body while attempting said pose).

Related, but not a separate resolution: pare down my closet/dresser, because I have an increasing number of clothes that I don’t like to wear because they don’t fit right, or I feel like they don’t fit, or I think they don’t flatter and then when I end up wearing them, I feel gross. So I want to purge and donate (or toss, if necessary) anything that falls in those categories, and start fresh. I’ve recently been feeling something akin to overwhelmed by my clothes, and it’s not like I have that much. So I want to work on that, both in the physical and emotional sense of taking care of myself.

5. Create something tangible. I’ve been attempting to learn how to knit/crochet for a while now, and I’ve already set aside my yet-unfinished scarf as an increasingly belated Christmas present for my mom. Knitting/crocheting/etc. is not something that comes easily for me: I do not have a spatial memory/mind, and I can’t visualize things well from patterns and/or watching someone do it in front of me. So it’s a struggle, but I like the challenge of it, and I think it’s a good way to “stretch” that part of my brain. So I want to create something basic (see: the scarf that is nothing but knit/purl/knit/purl, etc.) and something a little more complicated (see: following a pattern and also learning how to read a pattern).

This site, in and of itself, is something tangible, in that weird way that the Internet is. I’m going to focus on learning more about coding (helped in part by my continuing work on the company website for my employer), and I’ve been debating the merits of attempting to create a WordPress theme from scratch just for fun, to see if I can. Should be interesting.

2015 is going to be a good year.

on posting posts months after writing them?

// Friday, September 12, 2014

{Apologies. This post is a mess and about fifteen tenses but I’m posting it anyway, because I’m sick of telling myself that I’ll post it soon/as soon as I properly fix it. Because, well. I wrote pieces of this post originally in May. Early May. Let’s not talk about it…}

A couple of weekends months ago, I went on an accidental ~6mi hike, filled with water crossing adventures and realizations that any balance beam skills I had as a child are long gone. (See also: poorly marked trails -> much longer hikes than intended but also prettier ones with frogs and broken bridges and sunlight through trees).



It had been too long since I’d been outdoors in any meaningful sense of the word, and I’m going to try and get better about that this summer. (Update: I’ve succeeded! More tan than I’ve been in a long time, though in the “hey this just happened from being outside” healthy way. It’s the best.) I was considering joining the local gym my roommate joined recently, but I’ve realized that at least for now, my schedule isn’t consistent enough that I want to fork over a decent sum of money for something I’m not sure I’ll be able to use as much as I’d want to given the cost.

I’m looking forward to this summer, and July 4th travel and sailing (sparknotes update: it was absolutely wonderful) and being healthy and taking advantage of all the sunlit hours of the day. I’ve been reading an increasing number of travel blogs lately. I finally got around to purchasing an REI membership. I’ve also decided to purchase my first pair of real hiking boots (update: I purchased Merrell Moab waterproof leather low-top hiking boots and though I’ve only used them once I’m pretty sure I like them a lot.) Also, I want to go camping? I’ve never been – I’ve also never been on a ~serious~ hike – and I think it has the potential to be a great deal of fun. Mostly I just want to be outside more and do things.

Along those lines, I have a bunch of travel plans in the works. I’m excited about that;  I’ve been feeling a little static and I’m trying to find ways to work on that. So this summer, I’ll be going (see also: I went) to DC; Minnesota/Bayfield, WI; New York at some point to be determined, Montreal or and Quebec in August. It’s going to be a good summer. And in honor of said travel, I finally bought this small duffle from L.L. Bean in ‘sea holly’, which I’ve been meaning to do for forever. I have a great four-six day duffle and a wonderful messenger bag (an older version of this the Rothco Vintage Explorer Messenger Bag, which I’ve mentioned before) that’s great for an overnight but small for anything longer, but I’m lacking a good weekend away bag. I think the one from L.L. Bean will be perfect. [it is!!!]

Short term goals/to do list: go for runs, spend time with family/friends, and have some down time. [accomplished!]

Current (as of September) goals: finally go through and edit some hiking/travel pictures so that I can post some here — a picture post is long overdue at this point. Post more. Write about coding, write about Quebec, and post reviews of books that I’ve been reading.

on things i’ve been thinking about recently, or: a post before vacation*

// Friday, March 28, 2014

I leave for vacation in less than twelve hours*; I’m going to the Caribbean for six days and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve been ‘attempting to pack’ for the last four days or so, because I come from a family of compulsive overpackers (one time, when I was 11 or 12 and my mom and I went to Florida for a little less than a week, we brought – in addition to presumably more clothes than we could possibly need – my two American Girl dolls, our Razor Wheelie Scooters (the basic ones with the wheelie bar on the back, and we justified bringing them because they ~collapsed~), and somewhere between 8 and 10 Nancy Drew books for the trip (I read 3 on the way down, I think; somehow we both overlooked the fact that I should be reading more difficult books, clearly).) Nowadays, I can be on either end of the spectrum: I’ve used a Rothko Messenger Bag [in khaki], which I love, for weekend trips to NYC/weekend trips in general for the last two years, but I’ve also been known to pack a full duffle (this, in pink and black, which is also what I’ve used for my last three trips; I’m able to pack a LOT into it) for a weekend. Incidentally, that’s the duffle I’m packing for this upcoming week. (Sidenote, I’m also bringing this backpack from LLBean, which I just got in blue and with which I am kind of in love.)

But my point is this: in thinking about packing and making lists and winnowing down lists (Do I really need eleven shirts for six days? No, no I do not), it’s occurred to me just how easy it is to accumulate far too many things.

I recently happened on to the blog Our Little Apartment because I wanted to clarify a cold brew iced coffee recipe, and somehow I ended up reading ~four years of her life. Her blog (which is fantastic, and I now highly recommend it) has such a focus on being frugal without being obsessive about it. I came across a couple of different posts that really resonated with me, from discussing Target as a guilty pleasure and way to kill boredom, to how she allocates her family’s budget, to how she’ll be the bag lady sipping a latte. I’m inspired by her ‘Buy Nothing Month’ posts; that’s definitely something I should do once in a while.

Anyways, my point is this: now that I’m going on vacation for a little less than a week and then will be back and feeling like I shouldn’t spend money, I’m going to say that April will be a ‘buy nothing’ month for me. What that means, essentially, is that I am limited to spending money on only necessary items (food, bills, house items like paper towels, etc.). I’ll definitely do a few posts in April detailing how that’s going. I think, overall, I do pretty good re: purchasing, but there are things on which I should work. I’m also going to limit myself to purchasing at most one coffee per week; the k cups at work won’t kill me if I run out of time to make coffee at home before work.

*I left for vacation March 14th. It’s now March 28th. This post was 99% finished and I forgot to add the links and post it. Yes, I am the worst. Yes, I am going to backdate it in about a week but I’m still going to leave these asterisks here. So there’s that.

ps: a vacation post will be up soon. vacation was the most wonderful.