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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rain = ew.

Sorry for the double posting but... ew.
Yes you read the post title correctly. It is raining. In December in Minnesota. Not just drizzling or misting, this is serious rain and it is not messing around. I guess maybe we should all be thankful that it isn't more snow, piling on top of the 85 billion feet of snow already on the ground but come on. And to make matters worse, the rain and warmish weather are melting the snow and leaving giant puddles-slash-lakes all over the street, sidewalks and pretty much everywhere and turning Minneapolis into a giant, grey sludgy mess.

Well played, Minnesota weather. Well played indeed. You may have won this one but I am leaving the country in two days and will not return until you've decided to be more reasonable.

I also wonder if the gross weather is creating gross people. Following the mean people run-ins that ticked me off so much a couple of weeks ago, Ben had ANOTHER mean person encounter just a couple of days ago! He was parking his car outside my apartment and acidentally love-tapped the person behind him... which obvioulsy isn't awesome, but it's something everyone has probably done at least a couple of times. As luck would have it the car's owner saw this happen and came at Ben, yelling "What is wrong with you??" and asking if he was drunk or high. Ben being the extremely polite person that he is, apologized profusely and asked if the gentleman (note: I am using this term quite loosely) would like his number and insurance information in case there was any damage. This offer was not so politely declined. So basically, dude just wanted to yell at somebody, regardless of whether there was an actual problem.

This just confuses me so much. But you already know that, I don't need to rant about it again. I would just encourage everyone to remember that when someone yells at you or tries to make you feel bad about yourself, it's much more about them than it is about you. The other night in class, Ali mentioned that meanness and irritability are hidden deep in our hips and glutes, so maybe our neighborly friend just needs to hang out in supine pigeon for a while. Mean guy - if you are reading this, I highly encourage you to do some hip openers. Please.

Frog legs, crispy tails and pickled pigs feet!

No, I am not describing a witch's's what I had for dinner last night!
Ben and I finally made it to Piccolo, a new-ish restaurant in my neighborhood that I'd been hearing interesting things about. One of my co-workers went there this summer and was not overly impressed by the tiny portion sizes (too shmancy seeming I think)... but ironically this just made me want to try it even more because it reminded me of my other favorite restaurant, the wine bar at Heartland. I'm not sure how much it's changed since Heartland moved to a new location, but what I really love about the wine bar is that the portions are small enough that I can order a salad and entree, and even share a dessert with a friend and not feel completely stuffed afterwards. I love tasting a bunch of different things rather than having one giant slab of meat placed in front of me... and, while the prices at a place like Heartland are definitely higher than they would be for the same portion of food at say, Applebees, you're also eating all fresh, high-quality, local ingredients, and to be totally honest if you get the smaller portions your bill doesn't come out to be much different from what it would be at any other restaurant, just less (but better) food...which isn't really a bad thing anyways.

Anywhoo, moving on - Piccolo. I kept driving past it on Bryant and wanting to try it but never found the occasion to go. Then one day, Ben and I were watching an entire afternoon marathon of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and there was Piccolo, featured in the "Midwest" episode! When we saw that they served crazy things like pig's feet and used delicious seasonal ingredients, we knew we had to check it out.

The first thing I noticed is that the service is AMAZING. They greated us warmly, took our coats and sat us promptly even though we were a few minutes early for our reservation. Our table was in the small and cozy back room, which required a walk through the kitchen. Everyone welcomed us with smiles even though they were obviously busy cooking. They even comped our wine when it arrived late which was COMPLETELY unnecessary but pretty much blew me away because I cannot even imagine that happening anywhere else. You can tell the staff at Piccolo really take pride in their restaurant and in the food they serve, and our server Andrea was awesome.

As far as what we ate - we ordered a beet terrine, frog legs with mushrooms, crispy pig tail with swiss chard, and eggs topped with pickled pigs feet, truffle butter and parmesean. I may have ordered that last course just so I can say I've eaten pickled pigs feet ;). We finished up with a cranberry-gingerbread cake, a pot of french-press coffee and a cheese plate which was SO GOOD. We spent over 2 hours there and every second was a fantastic experience. Another interesting and cool thing - no salt at the table. As a former upscale restaurant employee, Ben was really impressed and intrigued by this. One thing I would say is that Piccolo is really not veg-friendly...they like them some meats. But, since neither of us are vegetarian we pretty much didn't care :) Needless to say, we will be going back.


This thing cracked me up.

Everything looks so good!

Eagerly awating the frog legs course... (which was delicious BTW)

My man be so handsome :)

Crispy Pig Tail! And yes...that whole thing is the tail. Yum

After watching Food Inc, I've been really trying to be more conscious of where my food comes from, and to focus on using local and seasonal ingredients as the base of all my meals. I KNOW, Food Inc is probably a totally biased documentary blah blah blah etc. But I think there is something really inspiring happening in our generation that is driving the success of restaurants like Piccolo, Heartland, Lucia's and French Meadow to name just a few - an appreciation for the process of creating food rather than just scarfing it down and worrying whether we are getting enough for our money. This attitude is definitely cropping up in the blogosphere as well - in food/healthy living blogs like Kath Eats Real Food and The Daily Dish (two of my favorites) as well as cooking blogs like 101 Cookbooks and Smitten Kitchen (also favorites). Overall, I think that despite the McDonaldsification of America, good things are starting to happen. Hopefully what is going on at Piccolo isn't just a fad, but part of a movement towards a new way of looking at food.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reading night!

Last night was reading night!

Explaination: in college, a few friends and I started reading childrens books during the week to de-stress. It started out with just a few of us taking turns reading from one of our favorite childhood books whenever we felt like it, and eventually grew into a weekly event (usually involving hot cocoa). No matter how stressed out we were, we always made time for reading night - it was our little oasis of relaxation in the middle of stressful classes, finals and projects. During our four years at St. Olaf, we made it through Wind in the Willows, Dealing with Dragons and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, to name a few.

During the 2008 holidays Ben decided to bring reading night back, and invited a bunch of the old gang (in town for the holidays) over for some wine, cookies and A Christmas Carol...and we've kept up the tradition every year since. I played hostess last night, which was so much fun. I love having people over and it was great to see everyone: Lindsey, who is now a photography grad student in Iowa City; Tyler W., who works in arts management in San Francisco; Chris, on a breif break from teaching high-schoolers in Paraguay; Mark and Tessie, now high school teachers in Eden Prarie and Edina; Biz, who has an amzing job at MPR; and Tyler N., a lawyer working for a district judge.

For munchies, we had sliced pears and kale salad, Cowgirl Creamery cheese (provided by Tyler W.), Christmas cookies from Lindsey's mom, and for the main course, pizza from Pizza Luce! (Pizza Athena, and Sausage and Mushroom). While we ate, laughed and caught up with one another, we sipped Bell's Double Cream Stout, Crispin cider, and a red wine provided by Ben.

Reading came from a lovely hodgepodge of sources - Casey at the Bat, Shel Silverstien's Where the Sidewalk Ends, Morris's Disappearing Bag, and Mark's favorite: Rumi Out of Context. This basically consisted of Mark picking up my book of Rumi poems from the coffee table and reading random excerpts out of context (i.e. "The Apple, 'Orange, why the frown?'").

Can I just say how happy it makes me that even though we're all off doing impressive adult-like things, we still find the time to get together for a little laughter, a lot of silliness, and of course, a good childrens book. :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all..

On Christmas morning we woke up to a the beautiful, snowy view from my parents house...
I always love being at my parents house...they live in the woods right on a lake, and it makes me feel like I'm at a cabin. I made coffee and after everyone had stumbled out into the kitchen in their pajamas, we started on the Gorder family Christmas tradition of pancakes and present opening.
At around 10am, our family friends Jim and Jayne stopped by - Jim and Jayne are almost like second parents to me, and their daughter Alex is one of my best friends, so it was great to see them, and Jayne gave us an adorable loaf of homemade teddy bear bread!A couple of hours later, we drove down to Ben's parents house for more gifts and dinner with his family. Ben's mom, Bekka, who is a State Fair prize-winning knitter, made me a gorgeous cashmere scarf - probably my favorite Christmas gift this year.
The house looked beautiful, warm and Christmasy - just perfect.
We had a great time with Ben's family - his grandparents Bud and Loey, two sets of aunts and uncles, four cousins (all high-school and college age) and parents. Lots of laughter, wine and great food.
When we got back to my place, we lit some candles, turned on the Christmas tree lights and watched part of Fantasia (another Christmas gift from Bekka and a childhood favorite).
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night :)

Santa Claus is coming to town...

On the 23rd, I went to a class at the Om Collective at night - it was a really lovely class, very multigenerational and full of laughter. After class Ben and I spent the evening just the two of us, with a delicious homemade asparagus and guryere tart and some scotch :) Then we watched Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince until we fell asleep...
In the morning, we had our very own Christmas morning before the madness of two days of family descended upon us. We made hot cocoa, opened presents and finished the movie. Ben gave me a lovely cloth and bracelet from his summer in Ghana and I gave him a J. Crew sweater and a Gryffindor scarf. Harry Potter nerds forever :)

After we'd finished opening gifts and washed a few dishes, we drove up to my parents house for spritz cookies! My dad is doing amazingly well with his new hip - zooming around without even a walker! So impressive. Also impressive was how quickly Ben picked up the subtle nuances of the Spritz cookie press. That thing can be awfully tempermental and he was very good at it.
Then, we drove down to St. Paul for the annual Christmas eve choir marathon. We sing two services on the 24th - one at 5:30 and one at 10:30. Our drive to church quickly became an adventure when Ben's tire got a flat on the way in to town! We stopped at a gas station to fill it with air, but the air pump was broken, so we patched it with a can of foam and drove to church. While I sang at the 5:30 service, Ben was driving around St. Paul, trying to find someone who would change his tire. Unfortunately, Christmas Eve is not the time to need a new tire. But, the foam tire held up pretty well and we made it to the restuarant to meet my parents and sister for dinner.
Dinner at The Lexington is a family tradition - mostly because it's one of the only places that's actually open on the 24th. I love eating there because they always make it look so Christmasy... and it's close enough to church so I can get there and back in time to rehearse for the second service, which is usually more of a concert than a service (this year we sang Vivaldi's Gloria)FINALLY after the second service (which was waaay too long... too much sermonizing...) we made it home by about 12:45, took some pictures in front of the tree which quickly deteriorated into goofiness, and then went to sleep.
Coming up... Christmas day!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We have nothing to fear but fear itself

I have been having a hell of a time with Pincha Mayurasana. For the record, I love arm balances. My extreme lack of hip flexibility causes me to love pretty much anything that makes me feel like I have accomplished something yet does not require my legs to be splayed out everywhere. Obviously this is something I'm working on, since the whole point of yoga is to work through difficult situations, but sometimes it's fun to hang out in a figure 4 arm balance or eight-angles pose after struggling through a weak, sad version of wide-legged seated forward bend.

Pincha, however, had me stumped. Handstand against the wall - not a problem. Headstand or tripod headstand anywhere - not a problem. But every time I tried to kick up into forearm stand, fear of falling kicked in, my shoulders collapsed and my head usually ended up bumping unceremoniously into the ground, resulting in an awkward flailing headstand sort of situation, which is obviously not what I was going for. I should probably mention that the alignment for f0rearm stand is much, much harder than headstand or handstand. It takes a lot of concentration to keep melting your heart and plugging your shoulders in, because the position of your arms makes them want to round forward. If you are instead focusing on being scared of falling, you're pretty much screwed.

Anyways, last weekend my dad had hip replacement surgery. He's been putting off doing this pretty much forever, despite the fact that he has had painful osteoarthritis for about 12 years and his surgeon did not understand how he was continuing to function. Yes - he continued trucking around, going to work, going to the gym (low-impact activities like biking and weight lifting only), and generally living life despite immense pain and inch-long bone spurs, mostly because, I think, he was afraid, he recognized the inherent risk that comes with any major surgery - you might not make it out the other side.

My dad is an extremely stubborn guy (obviously), and would say he was just waiting for the right time, but really there is no "right time" to have your leg essentially taken off and put back on again - the technology will always be a little better next year. This summer, he finally decided to go for it - I think it was a combination of wanting to be able to walk me down the aisle without pain, wanting to jog with my sister during her final college track season, and just being ready. I hung out with him the night before he went to the hospital and watched a couple of episodes of 30 Rock and The Office. The morning of the surgery, he texted me and my sister to tell us he loved us - and I realized that, as morbid as this sounds, he had made peace with the possibility that he might not be around tomorrow. I know, hip replacements are pretty routine and the risk is extremely low, but in order to make himself OK with going through with it, my dad had to first overcome his fear of the worst possible outcome, which is pretty amazing.

A couple days later I went to visit him in the hospital, where he was already back to his old self by making his PT into a contest and concentrating on beating all of the other recovering patients on the "feet walked" chart in the hall. Welcome to my family. Every other sentence he said was "I can't believe I did it. I can't believe it's over." Part of the practice of yoga is letting go of attachment, including your attachment to your body and the phyiscal world, and making peace with death. My dad had become a yogi without ever practicing a single asana.

When I got home, I decided that if my dad could overcome that much, I could certainly learn to not be afraid of banging my head on the ground in Pincha, so I rolled out my yoga mat next to the wall. "Hey there mat," I said. "My head might bang into you but I think that is OK." I placed my forearms on the ground in modified down dog, walked my feet in, willed my shoulders to stay in place, told myself I didn't care if I fell, lifted one leg and kicked up. A second later, my feet landed against the wall, and my head did not land on the ground! I stayed there for a few seconds, testing my balance, then brought my feet back to the ground, rolled up my mat and put it away, and made some cookies for my dad.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mean people suck

If we should deal out justice only, in this world, who would escape? No, it is better to be generous, and in the end more profitable, for it gains gratitude for us, and love. ~ Mark Twain
Without going into too much detail, over the last couple of days I've witnessed a couple of random acts of meanness - and when I say meanness, I mean actual mocking of random strangers for no reason. It made me sad - maybe I'm just extremely naive but I really don't understand why someone would ever do that. I made a decision a while ago that I would do my best to never deliberately be the cause of someone's bad day, and that even if someone was cruel to me I would never stoop to their level. I forget who said it, but I read a quote to the effect of "treat everyone with respect even if they don't do the same for you - not because they are kind, but because you are." Mean people especially get to me during the holidays, when we are supposed to be showing our neighbors love and compassion.

This morning I decided that instead of continuing to be mad at mean people, I will make the week leading up to Christmas a random act of kindness week, and will try to go out of my way to give one small gift each week to someone I wouldn't normally think of giving too, and counteract the bad energy with good energy

So suck it, mean people. You cannot win.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snowmageddon etc.

If you live anywhere in the Midwest, chances are some snow got all up in your business last weekend. Chances are also that the aforementioned snow is now being plowed into 10 foot piles that you have to walk around to cross the street to get to the grocery store...or maybe that's just me.

Snowmageddon Day 1: Friday Night/Saturday Morning
On Friday night I went to the Doomtree Blowout at First Ave with some friends from school.
Needless to say it was a great night of music that lasted from about 8:30 or 9pm until 1am (and yes, they were actually throwing Christmas presents at the audience). When we entered First Ave, it was not snowing at all. When we left, we could barely see the road or anything else for that matter. Getting home was quite the adventure because, as it turns out, getting on the highway near Target Field sends you on strange detours and you end up missing several exits before finally being spit out onto 94. Who knew. So we had to turn around, wet icy snow was messing up my windshield wipers etc, but we made it back safely. Hooray!

Snowmageddon Day 2: Saturday
When I woke up about 6 hours later, it was still snowing. A lot. I realized the fact that I do not own a shovel with which to dig my car might prove to be a potential problem, so I bundled up to walk over to CVS. CVS is about 3.5 blocks away, and I am in pretty good shape. However, by about block 2 I was muttering inappropriate words, wishing I had snowshoes and contemplating turning around. I felt like a pioneer, trekking through the snow to get supplies to feed their family who was trapped in a log cabin. However, 1) all I needed was a shovel, 2) I'm pretty sure most pioneers did not have poofy wind-proof coats, and 3) my log cabin has radiators.

Subplot: My dad had hip replacement surgery on Friday morning, and I'd planned on going to visit him on Saturday but after hearing horror stories from Amanda and Lia of not being able to drive more than 10 feet from where they were parked, I decided to stay home with some soup and my pricing final.

Snowmageddon day 3: Sunday = digging day
I diligently woke up at 6:50 am, put on about 80 layers of clothing and trudged out to my car. For some reason I thought I had to move it by 8am... I wondered if it could possibly be as bad as I expected.
It was.
My car is the one in back. Also the temperature was 5 below. After about 45 minutes of solid shoveling, it looked more like this:
I quickly realized that I probably needed help. I figured that all of my friends who live nearby were either still snowed in, working, or unable to drive - however, my mom was about 2 miles away at Abbott with my dad, and also his SUV.

After we dug out my car, we stopped briefly by the hospital to see my dad, then went over to St. Paul to dig out my sister, who repaid us in freshly baked cookies!
And then, back to Abbott where we supervised my dad on his evening walk and then grabbed some dinner and watched the original Miracle on 34th Street. And that is the tale of my weekend of snow. In a related story, it took me 2 hours to make the 10 minute drive to school on Monday (I drove instead of taking the bus because traffic was so bad I had no idea when the bus would actually get there).
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