Cattails and memories

It is interesting how the oddest and most mundane things can remind you of a place or person. How some cattails on the edge of a parking lot can make you think of a creek running through some farm land hundreds of miles away.

Cattails

Or how sunlight hitting a windowsill can make you think of your first college dorm room.

Tiny fresh strawberries that take you back to a wooden fence and open fields.

Or how you consider someplace home even though you haven’t lived there in over a decade. I suppose that is part of the reason why I love to explore wherever I am. I don’t know how long I’ll be there or when I’ll be back, but little things can transport us to a place hundreds of miles away or years ago.

Things and people change as days roll on. Subtle shifts occur and we don’t even notice them sometimes until looking back years later. Or until a swath of swaying cattails stops you in your tracks.

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Reclaiming this space and the journey

Photo cred: Alex Krivec

Maybe it is being in my thirties or having two kids instead of one or the postpartum anxiety, but I’ve reached this feeling of having stalled out. That feeling where you’ve accomplished all of the really cool things in your life. That new experiences are a thing of the past. That you are to old to try something different, challenge yourself, and face down insecurities.

It is way to early in life for that!

So I am embarking on a journey to fully embrace what I started this blog for, hopefully gain a little of my swagger back (who am I kidding I never had swagger, I’d twist my ankle), and find not only peace but growth in this new season of life.

When I started the blog I was transitioning into motherhood and out of what I thought was going to be a long term career in travel. I started this blog as a way to stay accountable to my goal of keeping my eyes open to the world and  embracing exploration. We spend so much time online and shuffling from place to place we miss the adventure that lives in each day. I started this blog to eat, travel, and meet amazing people and build my own adventure.

I want to continue to grow, learn, and challenge myself. I want to finish life saying I really lived it and provide lots of amazing memories for my children. I want to try new things – things that scare me, that make me anxious, that force me to face down insecurities and unrealistic fears of failure.

I want to meet new people – yes me, a hardcore introvert with anxiety (legit I take meds for that) want to meet people. I want to connect with people following their passions and writing their own story of life. I want to be inspired by their creativity, joy, and ability to face down their own fears.

And of course I want to eat and travel to experience new flavors, see new places, and meet new people.

So, I’m reclaiming that challenge and I’m sharing the journey as a way to stay accountable, provide a journal for my kids to look back on, and, hopefully, inspire some of you to do take on a new challenge, explore a new place, or meet some new people.

Here we go!

 

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2016 kick-off and Food Life Project launch

2015 flew by, but it was one helluva year!

joy jar A few years ago I started keeping a JOY JAR so I could always remember the wonderful things that happen, even when life gets hectic. 2015 was a banner year:

  • Several career opportunities that kept everyone excited about what they are doing.
  • The first momma & daughter day consisting of Olivia’s first live play, pizza, a bookstore stop and lots of shopping. Many more days like this to come 🙂
  • Our little girl upgraded to a big girl bed . . . where did the time go!
  • Olivia’s 3rd birthday party was amazing with a bouncy house, delicious cake, and lots of family and friends.
  • The inaugural Sister’s Weekend took place in Chicago and our minds started dreaming of all the possibilities for years to come.
  • We explored the US a little with a trip to South Dakota – saw the “rock men”, LOTS of buffalo, and enjoyed our first family camping trip. Of course, having a potty training toddler only made it that much more interesting.
  • Went Skydiving!!!! Another thing knocked off the bucket list and possibly added to the hobby list.

Of course, the biggest event of 2015 took place in the last week. Our new niece, Naomi, joined the family!

2015 is going to be a tough year to top, but I think we can do it. To kick it off I’ve set a 365 project for myself — The Food Life Project — write daily and take at least one photo. The MBA journey will be coming to an end and new doors will be opening so it is time to get focused and live with intention. Make every second count. Tackle the projects I’ve been putting off these last two years. Explore the world and live inspired.

 

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Weekly randomness: bouncy house, zombies, and wanderlust

SleepThis picture pretty much sums up how I have felt all week. On a typical week I am rushing between family time, work, and school which can leave anyone feeling a little drained, but this past week was our daughter’s third birthday and we wanted to make it extra special. So we threw a special bash and invited friends and family to our house, which equals deep cleaning, a late night arrival by family from Illinois, and lots of extra little errands to run.

All of that work and loss of sleep was well worth it though.

Olivia jumpsgiftscakeOlivia loves to jump or as she says “jump, boing, hop” so we rented a bouncy house for everyone to enjoy. We highly recommend Twin Cities Inflatables.

What birthday party is complete without a birthday cake? I searched all over for a local bakery to get our cake from and landed on Taste of Love bakery. Marie at Taste of Love did a fantastic job on our Doc McStuffins cake. A delicious and beautiful double layer chocolate cake covered in pink buttercream with smooth buttercream separating the two cake layers. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. If you get the chance, check out the cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, and other goodies from this local gem.

Of course, my mind never stopped running full throttle this past week so I still found lots of things to check out and share with everyone 🙂

zombies runningNeed motivation to keep the pace up when you’re running? There is a new app that taps into our basic instinct to fight or flee when in danger. Zombies, run! mixes gaming with exercise and definitely gets your heart beating faster during a work out. The app sets the stage during your workout with a story that you are out to get supplies in a world overrun by zombies. Your music playlist still plays, but every once in a while you get a message that a zombie is gaining on you and then you get a beeping sound that increases in frequency as the zombie gets closer. I didn’t think it would affect pace – it is fake after all – but without even realizing it the pace increased to get away from the zombies. So if we ever have a zombie apocalypse I guess I will be well trained for the supply runs.

EAT! Vancouver

EAT! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival Pastry Tasting and Panel Discussion.

As part of my economics class I am working on a group project for business travel. All this talk about hotels and airlines is making my wanderlust kick into hyperdrive. So of course I’ve been looking at places to go, people to meet, and foods to try. And I stumbled across EAT! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival. Definitely going on the list!

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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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A foe named Migraine

I’ve really been enjoying sharing stories of motherhood, cooking, and exploration with everyone. I had planned on a story of this wonderful place we recently ate at, but I got sidetracked by an old nemesis.

As I’ve done for years with this enemy I was going to work through it and share the planned post, but then I realized how many people deal with this same thing and how it really can affect everything you are – mother, wife, friend, cook, employee, writer.

Lego splitting headache

Photo: Matt Brown

The name of my nemesis – Migraine. We started doing battle in my teens and really went at it in my college years. I can usually feel it coming, but often feel paralyzed to do anything against it. The fuzzy blackness begins at the outer corners of my vision and moves in until only bright pinpoints remain. And sometimes even those disappear leaving me blind for a minute. The ringing in my ears. The pounding at my temples. The searing pain with every change in position.

I’ve had all the scans and they’ve come up empty. I’ve tried the medications – the very first one I tried made me look like a lobster only a few hours after taking it. I’ve been told to track everything: stress, workouts, mood, weather, food and drink consumed . . . all in the hopes of pinpointing that moment when it all goes wrong. Nothing has given me the answer.

So I have learned to keep going on with my daily life even when I can’t always feel all my limbs and my head is screaming “curl into a ball!” I try to stay hydrated and watch my caffeine intake. I work out daily, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and try to avoid highly processed foods. I try to get enough sleep and have learned ways to help reduce stress. Yet, Migraine and I still duel on occasion.

I hope my daughter never has to deal with this, but if she does I want her to know she isn’t alone and I understand. I know there are many people out there who deal with the same thing and have found their own ways to cope. For a day or two I might be consumed by my enemy, but I always return to be mom, friend, cook. And that story will get told after all.

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The power of a mouse

When we found out we were going to be parents one of the first things I told Nick was that I don’t want to stop traveling. I love to travel and experience new places so for my own sanity and happiness I knew I wanted to keep traveling, but more importantly I wanted our child to be a global citizen. I wanted them to understand and accept different cultures and even embrace the good (and tasty) things from around the world.

Maybe that is why the traditional family vacation spots never came up. Not that I had discounted them as a possibility, but they certainly weren’t at the top of my list. That is why when we took a recent trip to Disney World I was amazed I hadn’t given the idea more credence and I was glad we made the trip.

Disney Hollywood Studios 2014

Sad that next year the hat will be no more. Glad we got one last picture with it!

Watching Olivia and all the other kids run around smiling and excited (except during the afternoon crash) I realized that Disney is a great place to take a child if you want them to be curious, creative, and engaged. This is an environment they feel comfortable being curious in because they understand the characters and places. We have taken Olivia on several trips without anything this child focused on the agenda – Mexico, San Diego, St Louis – and she has done well, but this was something completely different for all of us. She knows who Mickey Mouse is, she was excited to see the castle, and she even got introduced to a few new characters.Meeting Pluto at Disney World

In fact, she met more than just new characters. We met people from around the globe because Mickey transcends barriers. During our few days there we heard languages and accents from all over the map and even chatted with people from Brazil, Norway, Ireland, and Guatemala, all without entering Epcot’s World Showcase. We had an amazing waitress from Vietnam give us a tablecloth to cover Olivia as she napped through lunch at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and watched a candy maker from Germany create amazing chocolate covered caramel apples only twenty minutes later. True she wasn’t getting a lesson in other cultures, but maybe she was learning another important lesson – that we aren’t as different as an accent or name may make us seem. Disney world kindness

Mickey caramel chocolate applesThat sense of familiarity is another thing that made this trip to Disney so special. My husband and I were there ten years ago on a trip during college and long before us my parents and in-laws had been. Many rides and attractions had changed, but many had stayed the same and as we waited in line or wandered past a site the memories that came back and were shared with Olivia were something special. It is comforting to know that family and friends have experienced what we are experiencing and that maybe one day Olivia will bring her own kids here to see Mickey Mouse and remember when she stood with us in this exact spot watching fireworks above the castle.

We all want our children to believe that if they truly want something and they work hard enough for it they will succeed. Walt Disney is one of the greatest examples of that and his belief in the power of imagination and a mouse has brought joy to so many other people. Disney reminds all of us that growing up doesn’t mean shedding the creativity and magic of childhood. We should carry these gifts with us and exercise them daily so it isn’t magic for just a few short years, but magic for a whole life.Chip and Dale meet Olivia

What travel is always about for us is introducing all of us to new experiences, places, and people and we accomplished that in a very special way thanks to the power of a mouse.

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