photo of Kelly

The beginning and end photos from my 30-day DietBet. You can’t see much, if any, difference, but I can feel it!

Like so many women–and you know what? It’s not even a woman-thing. Like so many people, it is always my desire to just drop a few pounds. A month ago, I got back on the horse. I began going to the gym again three or four times a week. A couple of weeks ago, I figured out an alternative bike route to my office that is a little further but which I can ride in the same amount of time. I toned down some of my consumption habits. I joined a 30-day DietBet game.

Let’s start with the DietBet. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a website where you pay money into a multi-person game to bet that you will be able to lose a certain amount of weight. You win by meeting the target, and the pot is split by everyone who made it. For the 30-day game I just completed, the goal was to lose 4%. For me, that was 8 pounds (3.6 kg). I’m not going to lie–I joined that particular DietBet because Karina Smirnoff was the host. You know how much I love Dancing with the Stars!

I went to the gym regularly for the first few months of last year and it felt great! I dislike running, but trotting on the treadmill has kind of become my thing since I discovered the Couch to 5K business two or three years ago. It only takes a couple of weeks for me to begin seeing and feeling the difference, so that’s my approach every time I start over. I fell off the wagon (er, treadmill?) when I went on vacation last July and spent the next three-quarters of a year subsidizing other people’s memberships. But my weight also crept up to the highest it’s ever been, and so finally last month I started going again and have managed to get back in the good habit.

Feeling the inspiration on foot, I also try to bike a little more, too. From about March through about October, or for as long as the snow holds off, I bike commute to work every day, a 15-minute ride through the heart of downtown. I don’t really think of it as exercise, even though it is, and so have been trying to go out for a long ride at least once on the weekends, and a medium ride in the evening every now and then if it’s not too hot.

Perhaps you are a fan of the NFL (National Football League) and know that the Minnesota Vikings are building a brand new stadium where the Metrodome stood until last year. I guess it’s going to resemble a giant, glass Viking ship. All I really know is that they didn’t spring for bird-safe glass. We’ll see how that plays out. The area of downtown adjacent to the stadium site is also going through a major redevelopment, and shiny new office buildings are rising from the backhoed rubble of a number of former surface parking lots.

Well. All of this construction activity has wreaked havoc on the very streets that I use every day in my commute. There are closures and detours which, unless I want to go significantly out of my way in one direction or, in the other direction, ride on a busy artery with cars only thinking about the freeway access a half mile ahead. Even the quieter alternative a couple of blocks beyond that is under its own construction of a sewer project. There is no good way to bike that particular vector.

Thus, I finally broke down and tried the route that takes me along the Mississippi River bike path to a bike commuter trail to the western suburbs. I can enter and exit within blocks of home and the office. I had balked at using it because it is a longer distance, and when I’m commuting, I’m all about not wasting time. But it turns out that, even though it’s 3.25 miles versus the 2.5 miles (5.2 km vs 4 km) of the downtown route, it doesn’t take me any more time because there are only a couple of interactions with streets and I don’t usually have to stop even once, and I can just go. Riding this route for the first time was an epiphany! It’s easier, it’s so much less stressful, it’s scenic, and the longer distance fits in with my increased activity desires.

photo of several meals

These are a few of the quick (usually about 30 minutes to prepare), delicious, home-cooked meals I’ve been making.

The final component of the last month has been to be more mindful of when and how much I’m consuming. For me, the largest part of that is to cut back on the beer. Instead of three or four, I try to keep it to a couple. And instead of my favorite double IPA or big stout, I often choose ones with lower alcohol content. Along with that is the realization that it also helps to eat a lighter supper earlier rather than later. Gorging on a burger at the bar is a whole lot different than freshly preparing a meal of more sensible foods (that I actually like better anyway). A staple has been a few ounces of salmon, a pile of asparagus, and one-half cup or less of a whole grain, such as quinoa or my new favorite, farro. I have resumed documenting everything that goes down my gullet in the Lose It! app. I don’t necessarily try to meet the calorie budget that it suggests, but the act of tracking eventually causes you to more carefully consider your choices.

So doing all of these things consistently for the last five weeks paid off. I surpassed my DietBet target and lost 8.8 pounds (4 kg), and won $49.68 on my $30 bet! My stamina has increased so much from the treadmill trotting and wobbly bits are coming a little more under control. Mainly, I just feel better and that is very satisfying. The knowledge that this happens when I keep up with things is what gets me through the afternoons when I’d rather just go home (okay, that, and that I’ve been watching 30 Rock while I trot to distract myself).

But it’s my desk-neighbor at work who put the extra little spring in my step today. She’s 23 and just out of college, where she was a competitive swimmer and is still someone who you would call an athlete. A couple of weeks ago I was moaning about being sore from my first session of strength training the day before and we had a brief conversation about my activities at the gym. Well, today she asked me how it all was going and was astonished when I said I had gone fourteen times last month. We talked a little more and I mentioned that I had lost about 7 pounds (3.2 kg). In response she uttered the five words at the top of the page and that is the most gratifying and motivating thing of all!


Addendum: Because I want to keep the momentum going, I joined another DietBet game. This one goes on for six months with a final target of a 10% loss. There are monthly official weigh-ins with their own mini-targets, and you can win those, too. I tried one last year with little success, but I feel like I have a better attitude now. Stay tuned!

Every now and then I come across a meal that is, to my palate, a masterpiece. There have been two recently.

Beer & Beast at the Acadia: smoke Scotch egg and Oskar Blues Reeb Rye'd ale

Beer & Beast at the Acadia: smoke Scotch egg and Oskar Blues Reeb Rye’d ale

The first was a smoked scotch egg at one of my neighborhood joints, Acadia. Once a month they have what they call “Beer & Beast” for which they make a special meal, which usually involves the smoker out back, that they pair with a special beer. I was a little skeptical about a smoked scotch egg because breaded, fried food isn’t my bag, but they have a few hotshot young cooks in the kitchen and one bite in, my fears were allayed. The egg was excellent, the Oskar Blues Reeb Rye’d beer was excellent, and the two together sent me into nirvana.

Not too long after that, another neighborhood establishment, Town Hall Brewery, had their annual Barrel Aged Beer Week. They made some crazy and delicious fancy beers, releasing one per day throughout the week. I went in right away on Monday and learned that they developed some special food items to pair with the beers. I chose the seared scallops because I have a soft spot for scallops.

photo of scallops dinner

This was one amazing plate!

I’ll admit that I gave the plate a quite the side-eye when it arrived. The scallops with bacon-onion jam, farro with fire-roasted tomatoes, and grilled zucchini floated on a pool of white sauce. Okay. Maybe they wanted to visually fill out the plate or something. I reread the menu card. “Beurre blanc,” it said. “French for white sauce makes it sound fancier,” I interpreted.

My white-sauce snobbery quickly melted away as I tasted what an excellent carrier it was, helping to blend all of the the flavors together in a most excellent way. The tastes and textures balanced each other nicely, from the salt and crisp of the scallops and the sweet and smoke of the bacon-onion jam to the savory and chewy of the farro. Once again I found myself in my happy food place.

I had already been thinking that I’d try to return later in the week once more of the beers had been released. After eating I knew I would return, if only to have that delicious plate again!

In the meantime, I encountered a chef friend to whom I raved about this meal, including recounting my attitude about the “white sauce, well, beurre blanc.” What comes around goes around. He gave the side-eye right back to me without further explanation. After we parted, I became curious about this unfamiliar cooking term and looked it up. I stood corrected and publicly apologized to beurre blanc on social media. It is not white sauce. It is white, that’s true, but it’s actually an emulsification of butter in white wine that results in a sauce-like entity that is particularly complimentary to fish and seafood.

photo of beer flight

Town Hall Barrel Aged Week, flight 1: Foolish Angel, Buffalo Bock (2015), Twisted Trace (2015)

I went back to Town Hall on Thursday. That evening, there were enough of the special beers available so I ordered a flight. In case you’re wondering, the Foolish Angel was my favorite of the beers I tried. The general manager, Scot, who I got to know last year in a bowling league at one of Town Hall’s other locations, was flitting around so I was able to compliment him on it. He was pleased because it was a new beer this year.

photo of beer flight

Town Hall Barrel Aged Week, flight 2: Project 3106 (2015), Czar Jack (2015), Duke of Wallonia (2015)

But more importantly, I had the scallops dish again! Somebody different must have been in the kitchen, though, because the plate came out with at least twice as much beurre blanc, which was twice too much, and maybe a third less farro, which was a third too little. It was still as delicious as I remembered from three days earlier, though I did not come close to finishing all of the sauce. Then I decided to take the rest of it home with me for use at a later date, an endeavor made much easier by having exactly the right sized plastic container in my bag from my breakfast. (I always pack my breakfast and eat at my desk. Saves me fifteen to thirty minutes in the morning. Fifteen to thirty more minutes of sleep. But I digress.) I long ago got over feeling embarrassed about pulling out my own container at a restaurant in order to stow leftovers. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

That night as I lay in bed I had the ultimate brain wave. Along with the leftover beurre blanc, I had half of the ingredients necessary to recreate this meal at home. I had a zucchini, onions, bacon pieces, brown sugar, and sun-dried tomatoes. My mission was clear!

I located a recipe for bacon-onion jam that used only basic ingredients, read about how to pan-sear scallops, learned some more about beurre blanc, and purchased scallops and farro. I was ready to begin. The jam recipe is not at all fussy, it just needs and hour and a half of prep and cook time to get the reduction. I got that going first and enhanced the recipe with some dried currants for good measure. The farro was next. It needed about thirty minutes, and I included chopped sun-dried tomatoes. When the farro was done cooking, I finished it by frying it for a few minutes to crisp it up a bit; there had been something a little crispy about the Town Hall plate. As the jam and farro were finishing, I heated the pan for the scallops, getting the butter and oil nice and hot. While the scallops were searing, I reheated the leftover beurre blanc in the microwave, stirring frequently. I know, I know, I can hear you laughing from here. It was a visual disaster. The fat from the butter immediately separated into yellow oiliness, and the remaining part turned into a gloppy, viscous mess. But it still tasted heavenly and it all gets re-blended in your mouth, right?

photo of scallops dinner and beer

It doesn’t look the same as the professional version, but it tasted just about as delicious.

It was only after I had carefully plated my homemade meal with the goal of downplaying the physical appearance of the beurre blanc that I realized I had completely forgotten to make the zucchini. Oh well. With six rather than four scallops, it was plenty to consume.

The meal was delicious! I paired it with Summit Great Northern Porter. The bacon and the beer really brought out the smoky characteristics of each other.

I was very pleased with the effort!

photo of scallops dinner and beer

No Town Hall brews at home, but Summit Great Northern Porter was a fine stand-in.

Ada Theater

I get it. Maybe you’re not so interested in my Dancing with the Stars ravings, or my weekly sharing of a “Downton Tabby” photo, or my steady stream of craft beer push-posts from Untappd. On the other hand, I am only one person. On awards show night, two-thirds of the world is live-posting. That’s hard to get away from and so I take an eighteen-hour sabbatical from social media. It’s a little better since muffling hashtags became possible in Twitter; Facebook really needs to develop some form of that feature. Fear not, gentle reader, the purpose of this post is not to bitch (but thanks for listening!).

It’s true, though, that my idea for this post began with a friend’s link, in honor of the Oscars tonight, to a list of things which you no longer find in movie theaters and his follow-up request to name the first movie we ever saw in a theater.

The first two movies I remember seeing in the theater were Bambi and The Aristocats. I was a tot long before the Disney princess machine sprang to life. Going to the theater was a special occasion. As with other “out” experiences of my childhood, there were no frills. When we ate at a restaurant, we just had water to drink because soda pop or milk was too extravagant an expense. If we went to the county fair, there was no cotton candy or game-playing, because it simply wasn’t necessary. It was fun to be there and just walk around looking at things and animals. At the theater, we didn’t indulge in popcorn or other snacks.

Bambi posterI’m inclined to think that Bambi was my first movie. My mom took me. All I can remember about the experience is that I became hysterical when Bambi’s mom was killed in the forest fire. We probably went to see this movie because my mom loves rabbits, and Thumper, of course, was a major character. That backfired on her.

The Aristocats posterI’m inclined to think that The Aristocats was my second movie because after the experience of Bambi, my mom probably wanted to make sure we saw an upbeat story. I don’t remember much about that movie other than that the lady cat wore a pearl necklace. She did, right?

In conjunction with remembering the movies, I thought about the Ada Theater in which I saw them. You might recall from other posts that I think of my childhood town fondly. The theater was right on Main Street. It still is. This afternoon I found this nice page about it.

My third movie theater memory is from high school, after we had moved back to my parents’ home town in Wisconsin. I was fifteen and my friend was fourteen, and her dad had dropped us off at the theater downtown. I don’t remember what the movie was that we were going to see, but it must have been rated PG, because we were going in on our own, but perhaps it was PG with a racy reputation, because my friend’s dad was inspired to say that I could easily pass for sixteen or seventeen. I thought absolutely nothing of it at the time, but when I was older and recalled it, I realized that it was a kind of creepy thing for him to have said. Don’t worry, I don’t remember any other questionable behavior by him.

So in honor of Oscar, those are some way-back movie memories. In the last twenty-four hours, I’ve watched Secretary, In Your Eyes, and Unfinished Sky. I recommend all three.

Why do I torture myself year after year? I willingly go to a place where I get to hang out with 150,000 of my closest friends. I spend a hot summer day outside in the sun. I tolerate waiting in long lines for the ladies room. I eat battered, deep-fried, junky food. What is this torture? Why, the Great Minnesota Get-Together, of course!

Any self-respecting Minnesotan will trek to the Minnesota State Fair at least once each year. I have friends who go multiple times. Take my friend Jen A, for example, whose husband is in the Army. They got stationed in Guam for three years. A year ago he left a month before Jen. Jen waited until after the Fair. And when has she come back for a visit? To coincide with the Fair. She has been there just about every day. I don’t know how she does it. I go for a few hours and I’m done in. Think I’m joking about attendance of 150,000? Look at this. And I went on the last Sunday. The last Sunday usually goes over 200,000.

These just in:

Quotes from Jen (which I include because I truly am impressed by your desire, determination, and stamina, and I know you were doing what you love to do): 1) “After a 15.5 hour day yesterday, I’ve logged 67 hours at the fair this year. A record for me. One day to go. (Sunday).” 2) “My last day at the fair. 16 hours for a total of 83 hours over 6 days. That’ll do.”

2014 State Fair breaks all-time attendance record. Thank goodness I didn’t go on Saturday, attendance 252,092.

So this is the fun I had at the fair.

photo of overheated Kelly

When I bike to the fair, I am hot and miserable before I even pass through the gate.

Biking to the fair.

Just like going to the fair at all, biking to it always seems like a good idea before I do it. It’s a four-and-a-half-mile ride, most of which is on a dedicated bike- and busway. Easy route, but even if the temperature isn’t too hot, I get overheated. So I’m at a disadvantage before I even get through the gate.

I should also mention that the fair encourages you to not take your car. As could benefit me, there are three bike corrals. Unfortunately they are at the three corners of the grounds other than the one where the transitway spits me out. Getting to a bike corral adds a half-mile onto my ride. But I’m glad they have them because it takes a lot of the thinking out of arriving at the Fair.

Anyway, I had a couple of personal connections at the fair.

Personal connections and vegetables in general.

My coworker’s grandmother enters vegetables every year. And she wins every year. Look at those Yukon gold potatoes! Jen (a different Jen) helped harvest those winners. And since I love vegetables, you get a photo of the west wall of the Horticulture Building. And who wouldn’t be impressed by giant pumpkins, Charlie Brown?

photo of potatoes

Blue ribbon Yukon Gold potatoes dug up and sorted by my coworker, grown by her grandmother.

photo of giant pumpkin

It’s the Great Pumpkin!

panoramic photo of vegetables

These are a few of my favorite vegetables.

photo of Larry's painting

A little purple goes a long way.

I also managed to find my nextdoor neighbor Larry’s painting in the Fine Arts building. As my mentor Chris Gargan always said, a little purple goes a long way. Or was that John Ribble? It was twenty+ years ago.

photo of mini-donut beer

Mini-donuts! In beer form!


Natch, it didn’t take me long to acquire beer. Unlike last year, Lift Bridge Brewery made PLENTY of their Mini-Donut Brown Ale. It sounds so wrong, but it works. This year there was also a s’mores beer replete with a floating marshmallow, and a lager that came with blueberry frozen foam.

photo of Kelly with beer

Kelly visits a beer exhibit. Yes, a beer exhibit.

A great thing about the Minnesota State Fair is that it keeps up with the times. Whether it’s an evening of Minnesota bands, sponsored by The Current, or craft beer, the fair is all over it. Back by popular demand for the third year, was the Land of 10,000 Brews exhibit, also in the Horticulture Building. This is where there are six options for four-beer flight from Minnesota breweries. The selections vary daily. Sometimes there’s fancy stuff, but mostly it’s a way to support our burgeoning craft beer industry.

[Update from the interim between writing and posting: Some asshole robbed the exhibit at gunpoint a couple hours after the Fair closed for the year. Armed robbery of over $10,000.]

photo of double-wide stroller

Does she look like she’s actually having fun?

Major annoyances.

I’m pretty sure I ranted about this last year, too, and every year before that. If it’s not old enough to walk under its own power, it’s most likely not old enough to really comprehend, and therefore actually enjoy, what is going on at the fair, and should therefore be left at home. Your doublewide stroller isn’t doing anybody, and I mean anybody, least of all you, any favors. Tell the truth. Do you actually enjoy pushing that thing through the throng, having to constantly apologize to the crowd around you for needing non-standard space accommodation, the crowd which is already annoyed by the rest of the crowd? Are you having fun when the tot is screaming because it wants cotton candy, or is over-stimulated, or is over-tired? And when it falls asleep, well, what was the point anyway?

photo of parade float

It’s a parade. Yay.

While we’re on the subject of hindrances to the already crowd-hindering crowd, what about the daily parade? I guess some people watch it, but it seems like it’s mostly meaderers scattering to the curbs to make way. I find it particularly purturbing because on either side of the street it goes down are some of the things I’m most interested in, such as the aforementioned Horticulture Building and the abeermentioned Ballpark Cafe, from whence the Mini-Donut Brown Ale (and many other fine, Minnesota brews) is served, and because I always manage to encounter it. I just want to cross the damned street. Call me a chicken if you must, apropos to the fair.

photo of Kelly with a Pronto Pup

It’s a Pronto Pup. Or is it a corndog. Huh?

Fair food.

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve likely heard of all the any-state’s fair food you can get on a stick. Minnesota’s fair does food on a stick like no other. However, I mostly avoid it. Battered, deep-fried delights are so far from how I typically eat that it doesn’t take much of it to do me in. But I’ll always get a corndog. I don’t like weiners but I love me a corndog. I am a poor Minnesotan because I’m still not sure exactly what the difference is between a corndog and a Pronto Pup. What I do know is that this year I got a Pronto Pup rather than a corndog and I didn’t like it as well. I think a Pronto Pup is more of a batter batter while a corndog is more of a cornbread batter. Next year I shall go back to the corndog.

photo of Kelly eating corn on the cob


What never disappoints is the roasted corn on the cob. Minnesota sweetcorn, grilled in the husk. ’Nuff said. Oh, except for that they compost all the discarded cobs.


photo of weather radar progression

How much time do I have?

Weather, more beer, more food.

All afternoon I felt like I had blown it with regard to the weather. The day before, Saturday, was a little less warm, a little less humid, less unsettled. Sunday started out overcast and not-warm, but of course by the time I got pedaling the sun came out and the dewpoint started creeping up. The forecast was for a clear afternoon with rain and thunder likely in the evening. It approached more quickly.

photo of Kelly and cutout of Mark Stutrud

Hanging out with Summit Brewing founder, Mark Stutrud. Well, a reasonable facsimile of him, anyway.

I made my move in the direction of the exit when I figured, based on radar panel number three, that I had about forty-five minutes before the heavens would open. I need about twenty-five for the bike ride. Fortunately, the main Summit Brewing counter, in the International Bazaar, is right on the way to the entrance I use next to the bike corral. Summit had a fair-only brew this year, but it was not on offer on Sunday (unless it was at an auxiliary location). Nevertheless, I ordered one of the beers that was available and participated in what was their genius marketing ploy for the fair, taking a selfie with the life-sized cutout of founder Mark Stutrud. I have actually hung out with Mark several times in person, so this was a little weird, and yet, necessary.

photo of tacos

Tacos al pastore y asada.

I had just about decided that I was out of weather-time and had every intention of heading out, when I was dazzled again by what had caught my attention on the way in, tacos from Los Ocampo. I wasn’t exactly hungry, but wanted to eat, and figured that if I ate a little more at the fair, that would be enough for the day. I went for one each of the al pastore and the asada. The nice people sitting on the bench next to me approved of my choice (having vast, it seemed, experience at one of Los Ocampos’ restaurant locations) and gave me a piece of their fried plantains. It was all very good.

photo of approaching weather

Hopefully I’ll beat this home.

I finally, finally, uncorraled my bike and headed home, a little later than I meant to. On the other hand, it wasn’t already raining so I knew whatever happened, I wouldn’t get it too bad. As it was, I only got spritzed on during the second half of the ride. I got home and took my second full shower of the day. I tied my hair up in a different way that proved to be a beneficial way, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the fair.

I hate this bike!

August 28, 2014

photo of loaner bike

This looks like a perfectly wonderful bicycle. Appearances can be deceiving.

A year ago, I got a new rear wheel for my bicycle and ever since it’s been one broken spoke after another, by which I mean three. But that’s there more than I had in fifteen years with the original-equipment old wheel. A month ago I had a two and now it’s in the shop again with another one. Fortunately, the shop to which I’ve been going, One On One, has excellent customer service and they bend over backwards to make things right with no hassle. When I walked in this time the manager (I assume he’s the manager) immediately remembered without prompting that I had just been in a few weeks ago. He offered to sell me at cost (about half of retail) a sturdier rim with thicker spokes. Okay!

Only trouble is, the loaner bike they stuck me with this time is a real plonker. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic that they do loaner bikes and I’m grateful that I can keep riding. But of the three different bikes I’ve had in the last year, this one is THE WORST.

I enjoyed the bike a year ago. I particularly liked the handle grips and subsequently got similar ones for my bike to replace the original grips which I had worn smooth. The bike a month ago I didn’t like so well. That was mainly because of handlebars that were shaped and placed such that my thigh would block them whenever I tried to make a turn any sharper than a gentle arc. When I saw the current bike I was leery of its handlebars which appeared suspiciously similar, but they turned out to be okay.

photo of loaner bike's basket

I’ve seen all manner of basket on people’s bikes. I am not a fan of this front-mounted, metal crate. It seems to be original equipment of this model.

No, the beef I have with this bike is the basket. Look at it. It’s a monstrous metal crate. It makes for very front-heavy balance, which has taken some getting used to (I’m on day four with the bike). The shop guy touted it as a feature and boasted that he once carried four large pizzas in/on it. But more annoyingly, this mega-basket makes it practically impossible to maneuver through a doorway without banging and bashing the door and the frame. I have to go through two doors at home and two at the office. That’s a lot of bangers and mash (yes, yes, I know what bangers and mash really is).

photo of spring on loaner bike

Have you every seen one of these springs before? Neither have I. You must be really incompetent if you need that much help going in a straight line.

The balance issue is exacerbated by a weird feature I’ve never heard of in a bicycle. A strong spring joins the front wheel to the frame. This apparently is to help keep the wheel straight. Is this bike model for people who can’t grasp the basics of steering? Is it for people who really dig rid no-handed? I don’t get it. What the spring does for me, in combination with the front-mounted crate, is to make my steering go all wobbly when I remove my left hand from the handlebars to signal a turn. And while we’re on the subject, you do not signal a right turn by sticking out your right arm. You signal a right turn by up-bending your left arm at the elbow. Similarly, when I am properly signaling my right turn and you, the pedestrian, are standing on the corner looking at me, I am not waving hello to you. You’d be surprised how frequently either of these scenarios occurs.

But I digress.

A minor quibble is that the loaner bike only has eight gears. It’s true I’ve always said that I don’t need the twenty-one speeds that my own bike has because I only use four or five of them. But that many speeds allows for subtlety, I have realized. The difference on the loaner between the easy gear that I use for accelerating and the next, harder one seems vast by comparison.

The shop is waiting for the new wheel to come in. That won’t be soon enough for me.

photo of loaner bike

My cat picked out my sushi

August 21, 2014

Mackerel and sea bream cat food

Last Sunday, the Open Streets folks did one near my neighborhood. Open Streets is when a stretch of a road is closed to cars for a day and non-motorized folks get to go nuts on it. I’d been aware of previous events but hadn’t made it to one, so I was excited that I’d have to put forth minimum effort to attend this one.

But to be perfectly honest, the day was one of extreme relative humidity—something gross, like, the dew point was 69F and the air temperature was 71F (21C/22C). I had texted my bikey friend, Jon, at noon to inquire whether he would be toodling over, then stuck my big toe out the front door and immediately decided I wasn’t going out in that, and settled in to watch some Grand Hotel.* After the second episode I decided I at least needed to take a shower because, even inside in air conditioning, I was feeling sticky and yucky. I stood up, checked my phone, and realized that Jon had replied in the affirmative almost right away. I texted him, thinking I’d be lucky if he was still out. I was very lucky because not only was he still out but he was at my end of the two mile stretch of the open street.

Well, fine. I hated the thought of going out in that weather, yet knew I’d regret it if I didn’t finally check out such a convenient Open Streets, and knew I’d appreciate a shower more after I returned home. I met him in the beer garden in the parking lot of my local liquor store.

Dear Open Streets,
I ride my bike back and forth to work every day across two vectors of downtown, Victor. I thought suburban SUV-driving commuters who can’t think outside the car were the bane of my existence. Not so. In that one tiny ride during your event, one-half mile to a neighborhood business I often bike to anyway, I realized that, really, pedestrianing parents with cherubic children are far, far worse. No cars on the street? No motors to listen for to give us audio cues as to how to behave in common space? No problem. No trajectory is too weavy for us to wobble along. I’m riding a bicycle? I might as well be a semi-truck hurtling toward your Croc-shod toddler. You sneer in my general direction.


Beer and band gardenIn hindsight I’m very glad that, when I found Jon and said that I wouldn’t mind riding to the other end and back, he informed me that he had already done so twice and was just going to order another beer. Here’s to neighborhood brewery Harriet Brewing’s Woden Weizen!

Being the humid, unsettled weather it was, the sky soon unleashed another round of showers. Jon and I gamely stood in the rain because, let’s face it, neither of us is fancy, and it felt good. Unlike previous showers that day, though, this one lasted for more than three-and-a-half minutes. It wasn’t bad for us spectators but unfortunately for the band that was playing, the tent-shelter that was protecting them decided to let loose into the keyboard its load of water. That put a damper on the vibe.

But I digress.

I quipped to Jon that I’d still be willing to ride to the other end but he came up with a far better idea. I’m finally getting to the sushi portion of the story.

Across from the liquor store is a fairly new Thai restaurant which also has a sushi bar. It’s really like two restaurants in one. Jon said, nah, let’s just go to Sober Fish and engage in their happy hour. Okay, twist my arm, Croc-shod toddlers!

Lagunitas IPA and Sober Fish shot glassI was glad when he suggested ordering sushi items rather than Thai noodle stuff (which I do like but I was more in the mood for sushi). I was also glad when I saw Lagunitas IPA on the fairly short beer list. Lagunitas IPA goes well with raw fish things. Then I was horrified when he seemed eager to also order the house shot which consisted of cucumber vodka, ginger something, and something else. In the old days I did enjoy my vodka tonic, and in these new days I mix my Pimm’s with cucumber soda (during the two weeks of Wimbledon). Then I saw that you got to keep the shot glass.** I wasn’t too hard a sell on that, then, either.

The drinks were the easy part. It turned out that I like rolls and Jon likes sashimi. Also, we had never collaborated on a food order before so there was that awkwardness, “what do you like?” “Oh, no, what do YOU like?” I’m finally getting to the cat part of the story.

Jon made a hard sell for mackerel sashimi. I countered with advocating for spicy tuna roll. I like that a lot, and when I eat at a new sushi place it’s sort of my benchmark. Not too sophisticated in the big scheme of things but there you go. We decided we’d order both forms.

There were many sashimi choices. Tuna is my favorite raw fish in general, but I’ll always try anything once. Not that mackerel is so exotic. It’s not. Then I comprehended some of the other choices on the sashimi list and formed my opinion as to what else we should select.

As I said, Jon was a big fan of mackerel. I saw that sea bream was also on the list. So I said yes to the mackerel and suggested the sea bream as well.

Why? This is why.

A while ago I decided to bite the bullet on cost and serve my lovely cats wet food because it’s significantly better for their health than dry food. I like to get them the tuna-based kinds, and the tuna almost always includes some other seafood as an accent. The canned food ain’t cheap so I’ve been determining the best balance between ingredients and cost. Along the way I added a third cat, thereby half-againing the cat food budget, so I could no longer afford to buy the tiny cans of best-quality, tuna-based food and instead have had to figure out what’s next best.

I’ve settled on a couple of brands, one of which is pictured above. The store carries four varieties—shrimp (30¢ more per can), sardine, mackerel, and sea bream. Sea-what? Never heard of it.

Empty platesWe ordered my spicy tuna roll and also a caterpillar roll because Jon likes eel, and I like that sweet sauce that usually accompanies it. For sashimi we ordered the mackerel and, as our second sashimi selection at my behest, the sea bream. Do you see where I’m going with this?

My decision-making process: if it’s good enough for the cats, it’s good enough for me. Let’s go for it!

The mackerel was salty and firm and reminded me of smoked salmon or smoked trout. The sea bream was at the opposite end of the spectrum—tender, mild, and nutty. Jon hadn’t had it either and seemed pleasantly surprised by it.

I am embarrassed to admit that it was Jon and not I who said/thought, “This would make a good blog entry.” By that time, the sea bream and mackerel were long gone and we were down to one gyoza.


* If, by chance, you start watching Grand Hotel based on this brief mention, stick with it long enough to realize that Inspector Ayala reminds you exactly and completely of Hercule Poirot, which won’t actually take you that long. You will be richly rewarded in episode 23.

** Until that Sober Fish outing, I didn’t actually possess a shot glass. What I do have is a set of four antique aperitif, shot-sized glasses. But they’re delicate, textured glass. They were my grandparents’, and I’m always terrified that it will take only one gentle yet errant tap on the side of the Mason jar into which I mix my Wimbledon Pimm’s to shatter it to pieces. It was an easy sell to convince me order a shot that would resulting my owning a chunky, heavy-duty, actual shot glass. I guess the shot was okay. It was not much like cucumber or ginger, very sweet, and Ecto-Cooler green. One could get into trouble with them …


8:15. It is, of course, a workday for me. I bike to work every day in the not-cold weather. I’ve wimped out. I used to bike all year, down to about 15F/-10C and/or unless it was slippery-slushy-treacherous. Not any more. Now I only go down to about 40F/5C, mostly because I prefer to walk, but when it’s nice outside I can’t overlook the time savings of biking, even though it’s more stressful. I have to cross from one side of downtown to the other. I forgot to start taking photos, so you get the original of one I took to post on Instagram.


8:30. I am at my desk. I’ve eaten my breakfast and checked in with the kitten cam (eating breakfast while I’m dong things like checking email saves me precious minutes at home). It’s time to dig in. I’m project managing and art directing a 500+-page illustrated children’s story bible. No time to waste!


9:30. Oh damn, nobody made coffee yet.


10:30. My boss asked me to read a thing. It’s a series of sort of spoofy, fake news stories written from the points of view of characters from other books that we’re publishing.


11:45. Lunch at my desk. I usually eat at my desk whether I pack or go out and bring something back. Today it’s the veggie pie recipe I posted last week. In this week’s version I used brown rice, a poblano pepper, a red bell pepper, an onion, and three tomatoes. Still versatile, still delicious!


12:45. Post-lunch. This is the first and last bathroom mirror selfie you will ever, EVAR see of me.


2:00. I drink a lot of water anyway, plus the air in our building is really dry, so I feel better if I drink even more water. At a minimum I drink one glass in the morning, one with lunch, and one or two in the afternoon. Lately I’ve been getting two in before lunch, partly as a result of the weather’s having been incredibly hot for a stretch.


2:45. We play hangman with dry erase markers on the kitchen window. I’m the wordmaster this time around. The word is hubbub.


3:45. Still slaving away.


4:45. Freedom! Or at least it will be when I make it back across downtown.


5:00. First destination of the evening, a neighborhood, er, microbrewery?… brewpub? This is Minnesota and we still have on the books antiquated liquor laws from the Prohibition Era that restrict how breweries may behave. Because this one is classified as a brewpub (I think that’s what they actually are), they must keep production below 3,500 barrels per year. They’ve gotten around this by exploiting a loophole which allows them to increase capacity if they have additional physical locations. So they’ve opened a tap bar and a bowling alley bar, which garners them an extra two 3,500s of capacity per year. But I digress.

The bowling alley venue just opened up and I am in one of the inaugural bowling leagues there. I was talking to the owner as I bowled against him and he said I should get to the brewery and try the limited release very limited quantity wee heavy ale that they had tapped a few days earlier which wouldn’t be around for long and which had turned out particularly well this year (each of the three locations serve all the regular beers, but each also has one or two brews that are exclusive to it). Since the brewery is across the street from my actual first destination on Wednesdays, I complied. It was, in fact, delicious as promised. Not as boozy as some wee heavies and with a pleasant brown sugar and prune taste.


5:45. Now I’m across the street waiting for my usual early activity, beer school. Yes, I said beer school. There’s a really nifty organization called the Better Beer Society that was formed to be an educational facilitator both for people who offer and serve beer and for people who drink beer. To that end, they put on two thirteen-week sessions per year of Beer University. I am a longtime student.


6:45. This week it was learning about three of the four basic ingredients of beer (malted grain, yeast, hops, and water), which kinds of flavors each imparts, and how to taste beer, presented by beer smartypants Michael Agnew. We sampled five without knowing what they were and had to identify what we tasted, and then make a guess about the style if not the actual brand. I correctly guessed the first sample to be Victory Prima Pils and the fourth to be Rodenbach Grand Cru. I am ashamed that I did not recognize that the third sample was Odell Myrcenary, one of my top favorite beers. It was fun and interesting as always.


8:00. Now I’m at another neighborhood venue where I kill two birds with one stone. First up is to drink the Midweek Beer Geek beer, which is usually something limited that’s just been released for the season or ever, or something less common that maybe is in extremely limited release. This week it was Stone 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung (whoa, iOS, totally impressive that you predicted Götterdämmerung after just the Gött!). Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten pretty geeky with a lot of people who work in beer in town, so the local Stone Brewing brewery rep, Corey, was happy to mug it up with me for a photo. I’m going to leave the photo dark because he doesn’t know that I wanted the picture to post here.


9:30. The smartest thing I did in the context of beer, bars, and doing things was to defect from my Thursday bocce ball league to a Wednesday team (with one of my fellow Midweek Beer Geeks)—because I’m there anyway. There are two courts and four shifts, so our matches begin anywhere between 6:15 and 10:00 (there’s a schedule, of course). Tonight we played at 8:45. We actually won two of the three games. We’re very streaky.


10:30. As if I haven’t already had enough fun on Wednesdays, a year or so ago I realized that yet another other neighborhood bar has karaoke. If you’ve been with me on this blog for a long time, you may remember that I used to publish my Thursday Karaoke Report, where I’d share crappy iPhone recordings of my karaoke warblings after bowling. I still record every performance but I’m not currently doing that over here on WordPress, though I was thinking I might at least make a page to just list what I’ve sung each time.

Karaoke is where I get in trouble, because I love it so much that I tend to stay until the bitter end, and then I’m so amped up that it can sometimes be 2am by the time I get to sleep. That, of course, makes for some rather difficult Thursdays. Tonight, though I still felt compelled to go over there, oddly enough I wasn’t actually in the mood to sing, though of course I did. It was busy and I was tired already anyway, so I did actually hit the sidewalk after just the one song. Last week it was really fun because it was really slow, to the point that it was just me, another gal, and the bar staff, to Joel the host got it in his head that we all should. participate in running through the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. It was a blast! And yes, I recorded the whole thing.


Midnight. So I actually got home early for a Wednesday, though not nearly early enough for how tired I was the whole day. The cat’s got the right idea.

Good night!

Blogger Idol

September 21, 2013

beer and blogging

You’ve heard me mention before—I’m impressionable. So when my friend casually mentioned that I should enter this year’s Blogger Idol contest, that was pretty much all it took. For the last week, that notion has been niggling in the back of my brain and now that the deadline for auditioning is all but past, I’ve decided that I must spring into action and put myself out there to be judged by the world.

Of course, as a public blog under my own, real name, it’s already out there being judged by the world. Only now, if I’m chosen to continue, I’m going to have to do things to actually promote and try to improve it and gain readership.

It’s not that my goal is to make this some big thing. I write for myself, and if a few people pause to read an entry or two, well, that’s just dandy. I write because I like to write.

But I do like a challenge. And one of my favorite methods of blogging is if I am given a topic. My source used to be a website that engaged in daily “assignments.” Most often that would amount to taking a photo based on some community-voted theme. I would use my photo as the jumping-off point for some writing. That website petered out and so did the frequency of my blogging.

But recently, that wonderful blogger Chantelle over at Fat Mum Slim posted a list of fifty topic ideas, and that was just the jump-starter I needed. I have written through #7 and I have #8 ready to go. I’ve managed not to study the list too hard, so that each next topic is fairly unpremeditated. I like it that way.

And that’s why this Blogger Idol contest is interesting to me. Sure, I could win great prizes like money to spend on Marware, whose awesome leather iBook laptop satchel I have owned and loved for years, and a host of other web-,  design-, and life-related services. But the real appeal is the chance to participate in the weekly assignments over which I will have no control. That’s just the way I like it!

So watch this space, as they say! If I pass the audition, I’ll post updates on how you can help pull me through from week to week.

Thanks for reading!

And now for something lighter: I can’t believe I’ve never shared a list of pet peeves before! Roughly in order, then, from most annoying.

Fingernail clipping. I don’t shave my legs at the office, please have the courtesy to at least go into another room if you must spontaneously groom in the middle of the workday.

Open-mouth chewing. I get that you’re enthusiastic about your baby carrots. But I have started leaving for my lunch break when you make your lunch because I can’t take another half hour of your open- mouthed chomping. Crunches carry. To twenty feet way.

Smokers in front of building entryways. This one particularly gets my goat when I get to work in the morning. I am all freshly showered and optimistic about how much ass I’m going to kick today. I get immediately cranky when I have to walk through your cloud of fumes and smell it in my hair for the next hour. Thanks for ruining my day before it gets started, chump. Move your stinky habit a few feet away from the door.

People in front of me walking more slowly but not in a straight line so I am unable to pass. I know I’ve ranted about this before. Walking in public throughways would go ever so smoothly if only people observed the same conventions when walking as they do driving. Stay on your side of the road, slower traffic to the side.

People in front of me walking three or four abreast so that I am unable to pass. Please have some awareness of yourselves in the wide world. You are not the only bodies in motion and some of those other bodies would like to get around you.

People walking toward me two, three, four abreast who don’t break rank and expect me to give way. I don’t. I’ve bumped into people. Why should I flatten my solo self against the wall because you’re too self-important to have common courtesy?

Fellow bicyclists who blow through red lights and stops signs. You are breaking the law. You are a safety hazard.

SUVs on the road. We live in Minnesota and we have snowy winters and you want to feel secure on the road. I get that, especially since I have a little gnat of a car and often feel very insecure in winter driving conditions. But so often it seems like you drive with an air of entitlement and complete lack of consideration toward your fellow road warrior. It is not all about you. We’re all rushed and trying to get somewhere.

Not saying please or thank you. I might have told this story before, too. One night at closing time in my youth, I barked a command at the night manager. He completely stopped what he was doing, turned to me with his full attention, and say, “You know, I would like my job so much better if you guys just said ’please’ and ’thank you.’” That has stuck with me for these last thirty years and I try very, very hard to abide by it every time. Every time. It’s not hard and it does make things so much nicer for the party on the receiving end.

Litterers. Show some respect for the neighborhood at small and the world at large.

Other people’s toddlers and small children, usually. It most often happens at the farmer’s market or other crowded gatherings such as the State Fair. Your child is not the most precious thing to the rest of the world and nobody wants to hear it badgering you until you give in because parents these days are afraid to say no and mean it. If it is so young that can’t self-locomote, leave it and your double-wide stroller at home.

Please, was that eleven things? Thank you.

My rabbit ate my bag

July 30, 2013

Photo of Robbin Rabbit feigning innocence.

“Who, me?”

This is a tale about how you don’t notice gradual changes when every day you’re around what’s changing. So I realized it was with my well-loved leather backpack.

I live with a rabbit named Robbin. Robbin turned ten a few months ago, and though his body is experiencing typical old-age infirmities, he’s as spunky as ever and maintains his routines. One of the things he likes to do is sit amidst my shoes by the front door. I call this Shoe Bunny. He doesn’t really do anything with them; I suspect that because shoes are somewhat his own shape and size, maybe they provide him some social comfort.

photo of Robbin Rabbit as Shoe Bunny.

My backpack lives at the end of my kitchen island. Since I started working out again, I often set my gym shoes beside my backpack to air out. Robbin likes those shoes, too. A fairly new morning routine for Robbin is to sit and groom those shoes while I’m in the shower and he (and the cats) are waiting for me to serve their breakfast. By “grooming,” I mean he slobbers all over them. Sometimes, he just moves on over to my backpack.

Two Mondays mornings ago, I went to pack up my backpack for the day. I discovered that one of the straps was broken. My first thought was that it had finally worn out. I mean, look at the thing. I replaced the leather drawstring with a shoelace long ago. More recently, I lined the top with fluorescent orange Duct tap when one of the holes tore through. And I swear it used to be black, not brown. But still, just as recently as a month ago, I received a compliment on its “shabby chic” look.

Photo of the old backpack.

The old backpack in its well-worn glory.

But then I remembered that the strap had been intact on Friday when last I used it. I looked at my sweet, innocent rabbit sitting nearby and realized he must have gone for a little leather breakfast appetizer. There would be no way to repair the strap.

I’ve been trying to remember when I got this backpack. I think it was about fifteen years ago, maybe only thirteen. Fifteen, thirteen, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve beat the crap out of it and it doesn’t owe me anything.

So the time had finally come to stress out about finding a new, large, non-nylon backpack. I paid US$50 for the old backpack all those years ago. I wasn’t holding out much hope for finding a leather bag that I could afford but I fired up the internet and went shopping. I search for “large leather backpack.” To my astonishment, one of the first images that came up was of my exact backpack! It’s been so long, I wouldn’t have expected it to still exist, but there it was. But how much would it cost in modern dollars? I figured it would be at least $200. I tentatively clicked the link. SAY WHAT?! Only $100! Was I seeing things? No. A few different sites had the bag and the price ranged from $94 to $115. I chose because they had the lowest price as well as good customer reviews.

The bag arrived Thursday at the office. I was so excited that I forgot to thank Chris the UPS guy when he handed the box off to me. I chased him down in the hall and corrected that oversight. I opened the box and unpacked a pristine, black, stiff, leather backpack. Everyone in the office duly oohed and ahed.

But the real fun began when I got home and set the old and the new side by side for the photo op. Nobody who has seen the picture believes that it’s exactly the same bag! Do you?

Photo of old and new backpacks.

These are exactly the same bag.

Photo of old and new backpacks.

Really, I swear!