Friday, August 31, 2012

twin city exteriors

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I'm no architecture buff (puh-lease do not ask me about styles), but I have a great appreciation for well-designed buildings and outdoor spaces. An elegant bridge can give me the shivers. So I wish I had taken more photos of the twin city spaces that I found so enchanting. As we drove through every neighborhood, I kept shouting, "Oooh, I'd live there!"at every other house we passed. But I guess if I'd taken more pictures, this post would have been five times as long.

Within sight at any given moment, there was a building or home that was...
a) adorable
b) elegant
c) quaint
or 
d) just plain beautiful.

And if not, we were immersed in natural beauty somewhere, marveling at water or trees or flowers. Here are a few shots I took as we wove our way around Minneapolis and St. Paul...

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[Minneapolis and the Stone Arch bridge over the Mississippi river]


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The falls are in the middle of the huge Minnehaha park.
Besides the gorgeous space for lounging and walking, we saw
a cute café, the founding house of Minneapolis, and bicycle cars for rent.
(The bicycle cars are officially on the bucket list...people were hysterical from the fun.)


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No pictures allowed of people with the cathedral as background. (What?!)


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Just loved that little goat perched on the rooftop.
The ASI has a green roof for insulation and water runoff!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

twin city interiors

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If you can handle the rugged winters of Minnesota, the twin cities are the place to be. When I told people my sister and brother-in-law moved there this summer, I didn't have much of an answer to the inevitable, "WHY ON EARTH?!" But now I know.

It's a place of lakes and parks, politically active citizenry, cozy bungalows right on the city edge. The people are friendly. Oh my GOSH are they ever friendly. Cosmopolitanism merges with country. The Mississippi floats by your car window at every other turn.

In an attempt to squeeze five days of beautiful experiences into just a few posts, here's a glimpse of the many beautiful interiors we experienced during my trip. If you're ever in the area, be sure to visit these amazing places.

And hope you don't mind the abundant vacation pictures. Consider it a vacation from my usual material. =)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

puppy love

I know you are just dying to hear about my vacation. I know.

But probably about half of my memory card is currently occupied by pictures of my new nephew.

So indulge me. Enjoy. And thank me later.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

why it's important to own a flashlight

One morning, you might find that you wake up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight, only to discover that the power is out.

If you don't have a flashlight, you won't be sure all your stuff is packed. Your top knot will be, minimally, a struggle. You won't be able to find the superpowered camping lantern that is stored in the top shelf of the darkest closet in your apartment.

Somehow, you'll make it. And you'll open the door to go catch your waiting taxi. But then you'll see the shadow of your cat scamper out into the dark hallway. And as you fumble with a dim iPod and an invisible set of keys, she will utter an occasional meow from some hidden corner of the building, taunting you as punishment for the many times you made her stay inside. When you've found her, you'll toss her unceremoniously back into the apartment and spend the rest of your trip wondering whether she got back out.

But the next twenty minutes will provide a distraction. The universe wants to make sure you get the message about how a missing flashlight can mess with your life. It will bring you a cab driver named Niko, who will spend the whole trip discussing topless beaches with you.

At the airport, distracted by visions of your cat starving outside your apartment door and thoughts of topless beaches bumping around your head, you'll go to the wrong kiosk to print your boarding pass. When you beg an airline employee for help, she already knows what's wrong. Sarcastic smiles. "Well, are you flying with Southwest Airlines?"

No.

This has got to be the end of this series of unfortunate events. So you take a cleansing breath and relax so you can breeze through security. Shoes off in record time. Bags organized in bins. Smiles for all.

But as your bags trundle through, you'll see it on the screen, a dark mass of razor sharp edges, a sheath of knives that someone must have slipped into your bag while you were struggling to find your ticket kiosk. You should have been prepared for those people who like to frame other people for airline security offenses. You will be pulled aside, your luggage searched, because you stupidly decided to pack...a yoga book.

And when you are on the plane, you will finally take it as a good sign that the captain starts the morning with a harmonica and gets the whole plane to clap for him at 6:30 a.m. You are on your way to a land of lakes, puppies, parks, and Swedes.

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But more on that later...first, deal with the flashlight.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

navy bean puree

I like to act on information...enthusiastically. I learn something new, and it can change my life.

The problem is, I'm always learning new things. When I found out gluten flour had such a high protein content, I bought it in bulk. Then I learned how hard it is to make seitan that doesn't a) squeak in your teeth, or b) taste like cardboard. And now I have four bags of gluten flour that have been sitting on top of our kitchen cupboards for a year.

And I'm wavering a bit on the tofu front too.

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I love soy. It's so versatile and full of protein. But gosh darn it, no one can tell me whether it's good or bad for us.

There is research on both sides of the issue. I've read that soy can help prevent breast cancer and re-balance female hormones. And I've also read the opposite. (Soy is phytoestrogenic, meaning it contains molecules that mimic the chemical structure of estrogen.)

I read and critique a lot of research in my work, and I can tell you that it is very hard to know the quality of it without reading (and understanding) a report yourself. Who has time for that? And even if a study is well done, we need to get the same results many times before we can be really sure.

And so...the jury is out on soy.

Bottom line, tofu and other soy products are usually very processed, and that's something I like to avoid if I can. But since it's such a convenient and versatile protein source, I usually have it on hand, and tap into my supply when a recipe really needs it or I'm really striving to get a lot of protein.

And just as I waver on gluten and soy, I can't quite decide if this navy bean purée should be eaten like mashed potatoes or hummus.

Try both.

Yep, both ways are good.

Navy Bean Purée

Ingredients:
1 1-lb. bag of dried navy beans*
1 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 12-oz. package of silken tofu
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp ground thyme

*If you'd rather use canned beans, you will need 5-6 cups after draining. Skip step 1.

1. Cover the navy beans with several inches of water in a large pot. Heat on the stove on high until the water comes to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until beans are very tender. Drain, and set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. (You can throw the cloves in whole, but if you chop them, add a few minutes after the onion has been cooking.) Sauté until onions are translucent.
3. Add the onions and garlic to the beans, along with the rest of the ingredients. Use an immersion blender (or transfer to a food processor) to blend until smooth. This will be very thick. I preferred it that way, but if you're having trouble blending or prefer a thinner consistency, add a splash of non-dairy milk or creamer. Serve as a side, or with fresh vegetables.


What's your opinion on soy?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

your life in one sentence

At our visit to the Mary Baker Eddy library (more than two weeks ago!), I spent some time at this exhibit:


These exercises are good. These exercises force us to think about what's important to us, and whether or not what we do every day reflects that. Here were some beautiful thoughts...






I didn't post my own sentence, because this one spoke for me (bubble letters included):


What would your sentence be?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

989 review and giveaway

Update: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to winner, Rooth!


989 is a new vitamin water that passes muster with me. It's sweetened with stevia and loaded up with vitamin B (particularly important if you're not getting a lot of animal products in your diet). 989 boasts that it's full of 9 vitamins, 84 ionic minerals, and 5 electrolytes. Yum.

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of vitamin water in general. It's one of those things that I just don't think I need. But in situations where the going is going to get tough, I'll bite (or sip?). I think they're great for all-day outdoor events or really strenuous exercise.

Who am I kidding. I had one after an easy run. We drank the other two on our trip to Portland.


All of the nutritional goodies are stored in the cap, which 989 says is to preserve freshness. When I released it on the first one, I was kind of grossed out. It looked like something was polluting my water. But once I knew what was coming, I have to admit that this step was pretty fun, if a little gimmicky.

The natural ingredients in 989 are what makes for a good product. Outside of that, I'd say it's a pretty standard vitamin water. The taste is a bit reminiscent of Pedialyte, which is my opinion of any electrolyte-enhanced beverage. If you like Gatorade or Vitamin Water, it won't be a problem. I don't really like grape-flavored anything, but the fruit punch and blueberry/pomegranate flavors were both great.

But really, you should try it for yourself. And one of you definitely will...

There are two ways to enter to win a few 989 bottles for yourself:

1. Leave a comment below about when you like having vitamin-enhanced water on hand
2. Share this giveaway on facebook or twitter (only one entry)

Leave a comment for each of the above, and be sure I have access to your email address! (It's usually best to just leave it in the comment.) The winner will be chosen at random, and the giveaway closes on 8/28.

Good luck!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

HLS

I am a little bit introverted. And a little bit lazy.

When I signed up for the Healthy Living Summit earlier this summer, I was super psyched. But as the date approached, my awkward introversion and lazy leanings ganged up on me and made me wonder if it was really going to be as great as I had hoped.

It was.


I always, always come away from meeting other bloggers feeling more inspired, more confident, more excited by all of the things I can do with this space. Surprisingly, in a huge crowd of people who all want to Make It Big, it stops being about making it big. And it starts being about authenticity and outreach and Doing Real Good. (+ taking awesome photos...thanks, Gretchen!)

It's also about swag.


And that's just from Day One. (Yoga mat, German books, and dirty rug not included.)

Honestly though, as fantastic as the free stuff and informative sessions were, the most amazing part was meeting all of these people who are doing what they love. It inspires me to do the same, even if it doesn't always mean the easy path. And it's not just about "making it" as a blogger...it's about using your blog to figure out what you're passionate about and help launch you into a place where you can share it with the world.

So thank you to all the wonderful people who have been sharing their stories with me. Here is exactly where I'd love to insert a huge running line of all the people I met this weekend. I am so so happy to have met everyone I did and really hope to learn more about them all. But it was especially wonderful to connect with Lynda, Laura, Jamie, and Molly...all amazing ladies. And of course...Holly the Healthy E.


I think I could single-handedly make Holly feel like a celebrity in one sitting. When she knew who I was, I almost peed my pants.

I can't even begin to tell you what happened for me during the event. I could tell you the whole agenda, but that doesn't capture the really important stuff...what was going on in my head. So I'll just tell you it was awesome, I hope to be able to afford a plane ticket to wherever it lands next year, and I hope what I took away from it will be visible here...as I refine my goals and expectations and messages to you, lovely readers.

And I hope you know that you are so, so dear to me. (I ran into a reader on my way home, and it was a dream come true.)

Be bold in your passions. There will always be someone who wants to listen. Me, at least. =)

Friday, August 17, 2012

the best summer dinner


farm fresh tomatoes + sweet corn on the cob + a little salt

mother earth comes up with the best recipes

Thursday, August 16, 2012

portland, me

I almost didn't want to share this secret with you. But I'm just a little bit nicer than that.

Here's the secret: for just $10 each way, you can buy a ticket to Portland, Maine on an Amtrak train. (That's $10 after you've applied the buy-1-get-1-free promotion.) The trip is just under 2.5 hours, so on Sunday, J and I found ourselves on a train, zipping our way up to Portland for a day trip.


It was our first time there, and we had so much fun. I would describe Portland as one part hippie, one part quaint, one part fishing village, and one part washed-up. We're hoping it's on the upswing after the economic downturn did some damage to the tourism industry. Because the vacant buildings are just a side note to the beauty of this quiet sea city.

But I'll just let the pictures do the talking...




 


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

aw, honey honey

For someone who doesn't eat a lot of sugar, I sure do love honey. In fact, reducing my sugar intake has given me a new appreciation of honey, because I know better than to buy those little honey bears full of the processed stuff. The real treat (and nutrients) can be found in raw, unfiltered honey.

And I know just the place to buy it...


My dad is a real honey enthusiast (yes, there is such a thing), so when we stumbled across Follow the Honey during my family's visit, we had to go inside.


Down a flight of stairs in Harvard Square you'll find this haven of a zillion types of honey and all of the honey and beeswax products you could imagine. And in the back, there's an observation hive. Honey tastings are offered up front.


But our honey adventures didn't end there...

This past weekend we found ourselves in Portland, Maine, and our first stop was the Maine Mead Works, where they offer complimentary tastings every day of the week.


It's a generous offer from this little start-up that operates with only seven people. These seven people do all of the work from start to finish, and use local, organic sources to craft a unique and delicious product.

This mead is dry and light, like a honey wine. It's available in many flavors, some of which are seasonal. (We are crossing our fingers that we'll be able to find their spice and elderberry versions around here during Christmas.) And it is all so so good. Seriously, we were blown away. J's favorites were the lavender and the dry. I loved the lavender too, but strawberry was a tough competitor.


Our host was so gracious and eager to share (I didn't even disclose that I would be blogging), and partway through the tasting, she went in the back and filled up a pitcher of their special sparkling tea mead. This stuff is phenomenal.


Based on an iced tea recipe from the head mead maker's grandmother, this easy-to-drink mead tastes like tea, lemon, mint, flowers, and of course, honey. I can imagine sipping it all day long during the summer. Sadly, they're not bottling it yet, so you can only drink it where it's offered on tap.

By the end of the visit, we were happy campers...and it wasn't just the alcohol...


If you ever find yourself in the area, offer your support to these lovely, local businesses. I'm hoping they're around for a very, very long time.