Coffee: A beautiful relationship

Like any good relationship, my courtship with coffee has evolved and deepened. My first taste of coffee came as a kid when my grandma use to give us milk and coffee. Mostly milk with a little splash of coffee . . . so really light brown milk.

When we met again I was far from home living the craziness that is the first year of college. We often met at The Union in the center of campus, coffee wearing the trendy green straw dressed as a frappuccino. Possibly a step closer to the real thing, but still in that sweet early phase when you can’t get enough. Of course, college ended and jobs and the responsibilities of real life hit me hard. Our relationship had evolved to quick and naked jolts of energy before leaving the house. You know, the time in a relationship where you are past trying to impress and you’re just comfortable and don’t always recognize what they do for you.

As always, life continued to evolve and my first baby came into my life. And my reliance on and appreciation for that glorious taste of sanity grew each day. Of course, then coffee went and surprised me and evolved to a smooth delight with the strength to support me all day. When your love for something you thought you knew forwards and backwards is renewed and strengthened – that was cold-press and me. Now we’ve settled into that phase where we just are what we are. We don’t care who judges us for spending to much time together or thinks we should get out with others . . . we are two cubes in a cup and happy as can be.

The Best At Home Cold Press Coffee

1 lb beans, coarsely ground

1 gallon water

Equipment: large bowl or container with a lid; wire mesh strainer; paper filter

Cold press grounds with water

Add the coarsely ground beans to the large container and cover with the gallon of cold water. Stir slightly so all of the grounds are wet. Cover the container and place in the fridge for 18-24 hours.

After 18-24 hours, place a paper filter in the wire mesh strainer over another large bowl or carafe. Pour the coffee/water mixture through the filter to strain out the grounds.

Finished cold press coffee

Enjoy the cold press over ice with your favorite add-ins and watered down to your desired strength. I prefer to use filtered water and add a splash of almond milk, but you do you.

Cold press can be stored in the fridge for up to 14 days (if it lasts that long 🙂 )

 

 

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3 rooms get the perfect make-over for 2016

When I graduated college I thought I’d be making great pay in no time and my dreams of traveling the world would be coming true.

However, I graduated in 2007 and entered the workforce during the Great Recession and waffled on what career path I wanted to take. So let’s just say the big bucks aren’t rolling in at this point. But, I am doing something I love and all my career searching gave me some amazing experiences I wouldn’t trade for any pile of money.

I have been fortunate that I’ve kept traveling; even if not as frequently as I dreamed of. So that means after years of attempting to escape home I’m now working on building a little cocoon for myself and my family. A place that we can call home, but also feels like a world away. A place that recharges and relaxes us.

So, we have been chipping away at projects over the two years in our home and I have big plans for this year.

Organized chaos

This year’s goal is to get our closets organized. We’ve been inspired by all those empty hotel closets and drawers and the well-curated collections you see in magazines. You know, the ones that look more like an art collection than a wardrobe.

The Container Store and Target have been our go-to places for cute organization systems that fit with our décor or the décor we hope to start establishing in said room. It has to be functional, make it easy to find anything we are looking for and take good care of our clothes. We’ve made progress in the master bedroom, but now we have to tackle the little munchkin’s chaos.

A few of our favorites so far for organizing our chaos . . .

Organized chaos

  1. Lynk Vela Over-the-Door Shoe Shelves – Target.com $24.99
  2. Wide Underbed Drawer – Containerstore.com $24.99
  3. InterDesign 16 Loop Over-the-Door Scarf Holder – Target.com $7.99
  4. Platinum elfa Mesh Start-A-Stack – Containerstore.com $119.00

Family room

When we bought our current home we were really excited to finally have a space for lounging that is tucked away, out of sight when visitors stop by. When we moved in things sort of got cobbled together and I haven’t had much time to think about what I want the space to look like. My Pinterest board is a place to start, but this year I hope to really focus in on it and make it a really special place for our family.

That means a few construction projects for the hubby 🙂

Family room

  1. Hemnes Sofa Table – ikea.com $219.00
  2. Carson 5-Shelf Bookcase with doors – Target,com $129.99
  3. Threshold Turquoise Chunky Knit Throw – Target.com $24.99
  4. Stocksund Armchair, Nolhaga dark gray – ikea.com $349.00

Office

During my MBA, the office became tiny catch-all room. This year, the plan is to design an escape where we can go to be creative, get inspired, and get things done.

Office

 

  1. Bookcase Grey 5 Shelf – Target.com $149.99
  2. Happy Wood Panel – Target.com $19.99
  3. Threshold Parsons Desk with drawers – Target.com $169.99
  4. Gray Portland Twilight – Valspar
  5. Purple Lavender Bliss – Clark + Kensington
  6. Hudson Swoop Chair – Target.com $199.99

Any big projects planned for the year?

 

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The coffee illusion #Mondaymotivation

The coffee illusion

I fully admit I have a problem sitting still. This weekend wasn’t any different. Date night on Friday and staying up until 11:30pm, because as my husband said “we are adults for one night”. A Saturday full of class work and then a night out with the girls at the Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean concert. Sunday was a time for the whole family to reunite, but still included some yard work and even more school work. My life is amazing and I feel totally blessed to do all of the things I do, but Monday morning always sneaks up on me and without coffee I’m not sure what I would do.

What keeps you going?

P.S. The coffee in the pic is called a Painter’s Mocha and even though I’m not usually a fan of sweet drinks this one is amazing. Black Sheep cafe in South St. Paul is one of our favorite places to get well crafted espresso drinks!

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Sisters take Chicago: A three day jaunt through the Windy City

Chicago skyline

Photo: Roman Boed

Chicago, the Windy City; the epicenter of city life in Illinois. Growing up in the Land of Lincoln Chicago was the big city to visit for school trips, fancy prom dresses, and weekend getaways for those that could afford it.

Now, living in Minnesota, it is still a quick trip for a weekend getaway, especially when your travel pals are still located in Illinois. The easy access, affordability, and sense of familiarity is why we chose Chi town for our first annual sisters weekend.

We desired a little relaxation and plenty of space to have fun so we rented a house instead of going the hotel route. I found a great little place on Home Away located near Lincoln Square and if I ever moved to Chicago this is probably where I would end up. (Other than the fact that the house across the street was going for close to a million!)

Easy access to the brown line, a beautiful park, lots of little restaurants and local shops, and plenty of history. Designated Lincoln Square in 1925, the area use to be heavily German. You will still find a few German relics, such as the Chicago Brauhaus, but the neighborhood has become an eclectic mix of smaller chains such as Fleet Feet and unique shops like Merz Apothecary.

Chicago el

Photo: Tony Webster

Day one I found a tasty little place named Gene’s Sausage Shop that would be my go-to spot if I lived there. A great deli, prepared salads, and killer giant pretzels; not to mention, the upper level alcohol selection and rooftop beer and wine garden. Then of course there was the consignment shop, A Secret Closet, where I grabbed a whole new outfit in less than 15 minutes and chatted with the friendly staff.

Once my sisters joined me the next day, we spent a little more time wandering Lincoln Square for shopping and dining. We enjoyed a morning coffee stop at The Grind, which seemed to be the favorite among the locals. The wait in line was well worth it! We walked out with delicious iced coffees and a moist zucchini muffin.

A quick trip on the brown line and a switch to the blue line got us to Wicker Park/Bucktown. This area is now very popular among the younger Chicagoans, and therefore has a reputation as a hipster area. However, it has great shopping, restaurants, and people watching. And it is a nice alternative to the crowds and large national chains that clutter the Magnificent Mile. We wandered up and down the neighborhood and enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Francesco’s Forno. The wide open windows and classic rustic settings made us feel like we were dining al fresco in a café a world away. We made a post lunch pit stop at the Toms store which offers coffee that gives back along side their comfy shoes that give one for one.

Wicker Park

After a long day of walking, our legs were cramping and we were ready to head back to our apartment. We decided to stay close to home base and dine in Lincoln Square. Of course, that didn’t really narrow our options or make it any easier to decide on a restaurant. We finally settled on Barba Yianni Grecian Taverna for Mediterranean and it was a great choice. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable; and the food was fantastic and authentic. We highly recommend the humos, greek salad, lamb kebobs, gyro platter, and olive plate. Really I don’t think you can go wrong with anything on the menu, but be prepared to eat big or share a meal.

Day two we hopped back on the brown line and jumped to the red line to go check out Navy Pier. Unfortunately, Navy Pier is undergoing a massive redevelopment and is currently missing some of the grandeur and fun that it is known for. I’m sure it will look amazing when it is finished, but for now I’ll keep it off the list of possible stops for future trips.

River North

Although Navy Pier was a bust, we really enjoyed our lunch at Osteria via Stato. So if you find yourself in the River North neighborhood, stop by for great pizza, Italian specialties, and drinks.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have more time to explore further, but I’m sure we will visit again. Good thing, because I’ve already started a list of places I haven’t gotten to visit yet: Chicago Foodseum, the Andersonville neighborhood, Scone City in Wicker Park, River Roast for a Hoosier Mama Pie. Any other things I should add to the list?

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5 reasons mom should plan some adults only travel

I love traveling with Olivia and one of my top goals as a parent has been to show her as much of the world as possible. However, I have recently come to realize that traveling solo and traveling adults only can be just as important.

This past weekend I met up with my sisters for a long weekend in Chicago (more on that next week). Hopefully this will be the beginning of an annual tradition because it was just what we all needed.

I had a day along before they arrived and then we had two days of fun, laughter, adult conversation, shopping, good food, and relaxation. So here are just five reasons why I know I will do it again and why I think all the overworked, overstressed moms should do the same.Chicago O'Hare airport

1. You will be reminded of why you love travel and what you hope to share with your little one. I love traveling as a family, but I will be the first to admit that traveling with kids can be stressful and no matter what it is different. Going solo reminded me of why I love the airport – the people watching, the excitement and expectation of seeing new things, and the sense of possibility that hangs in the air. Once my feet the ground in Chicago it was about being out of your comfort zone and soaking in as much as possible.

2. It is a reminder of who you are. Yes, I am a mother and a wife, but I am also a dozen other things that I was long before I took on either of those roles. Getting away from the daily grind can give you the space to remember things you love to do and things you want to bring back into your everyday life. I was reminded how much I love running when I don’t have a constant thought in the back of my mind that she might wake up before I am finished. Or that I have been a sister longer than a wife or mother and that we can rely on each other for advice, honesty, and laughter.

map3. You get a glimpse of the outside world. As a mother, especially a mother of a young child, your attention is always focused on them when they are around. You can try to fight it and give partial attention to what is around you, but there is always this mental force that draws you back to them. Are they safe? Are they having fun? Are they getting what they need? Without that, you can let that mental field down and relax your mind. You can take a look around in a way you haven’t done in a while.

4. Sleep. I’m not going to lie, the opportunity to sleep and rest your mind and body is beyond compare.

5. You will miss them and be reminded of how much you love your life for all of its craziness. When we are in the thick of everyday life we often can’t grab even a second of peace. We can’t wait to get away and leave it all behind. However, you will miss their little smiles, their stories, and their hugs before too long.

Mother's love

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Behind the label: Noble Brewer

Previously reserved for the serious beer nerd, there is now an association, magazine, clubs, and more that revolve around the growing trend of homebrewing.

I was never much of a beer drinker (as noted when we toured Du Nord Distillery), but recently I have been finding brews that have such unique and nuanced flavors that there is no denying when done well it is an enjoyable art form.

A few weeks ago, I came across a company called Noble Brewer that was described as an etsy for homebrewers and beer lovers. I don’t know that I would describe it that way, but maybe as it grows. Even in the beginning stages this company is well worth a try and the founder, Claude Burns, was gracious enough to chat with me about beer and Noble Brewer.

Inaugural shipment

The idea for Noble Brewer started perculating after Claude noticed the Sam Adams Longshot Competition, which has been running since 1996 and pits east coast homebrewers aginst west coast homebrewers. Inspired by what was coming from the competition, Claude wondered why they couldn’t bring homebrews to the masses year round? Well, there were a lot of regulations to work around, but they were finally able to come up with a plan for giving “homebrewers an easy way to share their beer with craft beer lovers and provide an amazing experience for craft beer lovers.” And Noble Brewer was born!

As the numbers from the Sam Adams competition show, there are A LOT of homebrewers. So how do you find the right ones? So far, the brewers have found Claude and his team, but they have had so many responses that they have had to start a screening process. According to Claude, the ultimate goal is to build a community where members actually choose which homebrewers beers get brought to life. This would mean members will be involved from start to finish, almost like you work at a brewery! Members will choose the beers, see it go through production, get to enjoy the end product, and then give feedback to the homebrewers.

Currently, the beers are chosen by the team at Noble Brewer and then a local brewery, Independent Brewing Company in Oakland’s Jack London Square, works to bring the small batch recipes to large scale production. The brewery works with homebrewers to make sure the essence of the original beer is maintained and then bottles the new brew to be mailed out to Noble Brewer members. You won’t find these brews anywhere except in Noble Brewer member boxes!

heart on bottles

Can’t wait to get my shipment open!

inaug ship

cracked open

The Farmhouse Ale – my favorite of the two!

The inaugural shipment included two beers – Dudeling California Farmhouse Ale and Yerba Buena Cascadian Dark Ale. Claude said the office was split between these two completely different beers and I can see why. I would have voted for both, but my favorite was definitely the California Farmhous Ale. A nice refreshing, light beer for a summer day, but with delicate flavors. As Claude noted, this one is “a pretty unique beer.” Made with organic grains, organic hops, and local organic honey, you get the slight sweetness and earthiness. I am looking forward to our next shipment to see what new flavors, producers, and places we will be enjoying.

When I asked Claude why he is passionate about craft small batch brews he said he loves the history of beer and how craft allows people to recreate old styles and create new ones that are so unique and specific to a location and person. This is something you do not get with the large beer brands, but I am definitely learning to enjoy that history and taste of place. The Noble Brewer team’s goal is to “create an experience for members by connecting them to the homebrewers and their beers” and ultimately bring people together over a great beer. Well guys, I think you’ve done that and I hope you will be doing it for years to come!

Don’t forget Father’s Day is June 21st . . . this would make a great gift for any beer loving dad!!!

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Weekly randomness: cruffins, craft beer, and Star Wars

If you asked anyone who knows me well they would probably tell you I am organized on the outside, but a total ball of randomness on the inside. I jump from topic to topic and if something grabs my attention I will tell you about it.

So here is what grabbed my attention this week . . .

cruffin

Cruffin from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, San Francisco, CA. 

The cruffin – mix between a croissant and a muffin! It might be time to head back to San Francisco 🙂

Etsy for beer lovers – Noble Brewer Noble Brewer

Homebrewers bring their best bottles to this beer club site. You sign up and get to try exclusive beers and learn about the brewers behind the scenes. Many of these homebrewers have dreams of one day owning their own brewery . . . who knows you could be trying the next big thing in craft beer.

When I was three I was reciting all the lines to Return of the Jedi so to say I am excited about this movie is an understatement 🙂

The full Monica Lewinsky TED Talk . . . she is so relatable and intelligent and you really should watch this!

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Du Nord Craft Spirits: Behind the scenes

I have certainly had my fair share of beer and wine, but at heart I will always be a spirits girl. There is something about the vast array of scents, flavors, and mouth feel that excites and hypnotizes me. Which is why I am so excited to see a craft spirits movement blooming in Minnesota. People who are passionate about what they are doing draw me in like a magnet and if they have a bottle of vodka to sip while we talk all the better.

It was one of these magnetic stories that drew me in this past weekend. My husband and I found ourselves without a toddler in tow so I decided it was time for an actual adult excursion. With a little searching I came across the Du Nord Craft Spirits Distillery tour and Cocktail Room. The story behind how people came to do what they do and the history of a product have always fascinated me. This tour did not disappoint.menu

We arrived a little before our 3:00pm tour time at a rather non-descript building in an underdeveloped area of Minneapolis. Located just off of Hiawatha and the light rail line I had been past this block hundreds of times and had no idea this was here. Of course, in my defense the cocktail room only opened in January 2015 after Minnesota law changed to allow distilleries to offer more to drink on-site than just tastings. So we partook of the rewards of the law change with a couple of pre-tour cocktails. Both the Bee’s Knees and Du Nord Salty Dog were phenomenal – beautiful color and fantastic balance of flavor.

drinks

With our cocktails in hand we joined a small group of fellow spirits lovers for a behind the scenes look at this small operation. Started by a husband and wife team they are keeping it completely Minnesotan. The name Du Nord comes from the state motto, L’Etoile du Nord (The Star of the North). They are a grain to glass operation – all of the grain comes from Minnesota growers (directly from the farmer when possible), is distilled in house, and bottled for sale at local liquor stores. As our guide Ed told us, you will never see a Du Nord Rum because Minnesota cannot grow sugar cane.

Really keeping it Minnesotan they call the big copper one in the back Zelda - F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife :)

Really keeping it Minnesotan they call the big copper one in the back Zelda – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife 🙂

So they have started with Gin and Vodka and are working on adding Whiskey and Bourbon (takes 2-3 years). The process of how science and art come together to create these elixirs was fascinating. I guarantee after learning about where and how they make the cuts, how good distilleries don’t strip away the flavor, and what goes into creating a unique formula you will have a whole new appreciation for quality spirits and the amazing things being done locally.

Aged barrels ready for their Whiskey and Bourbon . . .

Aged barrels ready for their Whiskey and Bourbon . . .

I am very excited to keep on eye on what Du Nord is up to since they are coming out with a few new formulas, including a new world flavor Gin (will have no juniper) that people will be able to vote on to pick which gets bottled and distributed, that whiskey and bourbon that will be sitting in the aged barrels, and as part of the Minnesota Distillers Guild working with the MN legislature to pass a bill that would allow on-site bottle sales similar to what you can currently do at wineries.

Until then, I will just have to head out to my favorite liquor store and pick up a bottle of L’Etoile Vodka and Fitzgerald Gin (named after famous Minnesotan F. Scott Fitzgerald). Or I can organize a group of friends for a bottling party where I get an even closer look behind the scenes when we get to help bottle the spirits and we walk away with a parting gift of our own. And of course there is always the Cocktail Room with great atmosphere, big windows to look in on the distillery, and even a food truck on-site for some Italian nibbles – happy hour here we come!

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