September 22, 2017

Autumn Wish List

It is the first day of fall. It seems a little weird because it's supposed to be 90 degrees in Minneapolis today, but I'm sure I'll be complaining about the cold before we know it. The changing of the seasons always feels like a fresh start, but this one is huge for us. We are settling into our new normal and excited to explore our surroundings and spend as much time outside as possible. That means it is time to create a list. Whenever we are bored or unsure of what to do, I always reference the wishlist I posted.

1. Buy bicycles. We have moved to one of the most bike friendly cities in the country and our neighborhood was chosen specifically so we could bike to work on nice days. We are hoping to find something recycled and comfortable. If anyone knows of a good bike shop in the Twin Cities, let me know.

2. Walk/run around at least 4 new lakes in Minneapolis. There are so many within a few miles of us and I want to take advantage to get my exercise in.

3. Try some new breweries. Since we left, the brewery scene has kind of exploded around here. I've tried lots of local stuff when we've been home, but never actually been to many of the breweries.

4. Visit an Apple Orchard/Pumpkin Patch. One of those magical fall places that makes you feel like a kid again.

5. Travel to Boulder, CO. Two of our best friends left NYC for the Rockies about a month before we left and we are itching to get there for a weekend ASAP. Hopefully we can convince them to visit the great North at some point as well.

6. Have some grandparent time. Since moving away, the hardest people to track down are our grandparents. We are super excited to get to spend some more quality time with them now that we are within a few hours of them.

7. Enjoy some hometown football. We are back in Vikings territory and it feels wonderful. I don't know if we'll make it to US Bank Stadium this year since the Superbowl madness surrounding the stadium has already started, but we will definitely spend some time downtown with all of our closest purple wearing friends. I can't wait to show you all the new shirt I got for this football season.

8. Try and find a good concert or play to go to. Prices are way more affordable here for live entertainment and there is always something going on. I want to take advantage of this.

9. Plan a reunion with the rest of the Sweatpant Squad somewhere in the country to keep up with our annual Thanksgiving dinner. It wouldn't be the same holiday without them and a few bottles of champagne.

Before we moved away from St Paul, we were stuck in a routine. We went to the same places and did the same things day after day. We are determined to try everything this place has to offer and we already feel like we are in a brand new place.

What's on your wishlist for fall?

September 20, 2017

Tiny Country, Big Moment

It's been a few weeks, so here is another chapter of our European adventure. You can catch up with our time in Austria here. One of the most important things on Justin's wishlist was to visit Liechtenstein. That tiny little country has always fascinated him. Because we had a car, there was no reason to not detour about 20 miles of out of the way to have lunch here and explore a little.

We were pretty shocked. When you hear that it's a tiny country ruled by a prince, it sounds so fairytalelike. Once we crossed the border (it was the only place we got stopped the entire trip) we kind of felt like we were in the suburbs. Convenience stores and gas stations lined the road. We were determined to find the magic and it didn't take us long. There was a sign for a winery, so we pulled in. Of course, the lady working greeted us with a smile and set us up in their tasting room - we had the whole place to ourselves. The winery is actually owned by the prince. We tasted three different kinds and ended up taking a bottle with us to Switzerland.

After we finished sipping, we strolled through the property with great views of the castle. We found the road that goes up the mountain and we discovered that you can park right up near the castle and walk around the area. I thought that was so amazing that you could be so close to the royal family. They seem so accessible. They even open the castle doors every year on their national day.

I would recommend stopping here. There are some amazing hikes you can access and some beautiful sights in Vaduz. Make sure to read about the little country because it just has such a cool story.

We also learned after our amazing winery visit that it's actually really hard to get a tasting there, but we got there at the most perfect timing. Usually they are closed for private events or are packed with reservations. It was one of the highlights of our trip and we have the wine bottle filled with fairy lights on our barcart as a souvenir.

What's the smallest country you've visited? Do you have a bucket list item like this one?

September 19, 2017

Cheese, Wine and a Good Time

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Now that the weather is getting colder and we are back in our home state of Minnesota, weekends are spent crowded around patio tables soaking in the last few weeks of sunshine and warmer temperatures. We've been spending these moments catching up with friends and family members. Nothing brings people together more than wine and cheese.

We had plans with some friends this weekend, so we picked up two varieties of The Dreaming Tree wines (website here) and the items to make a cheese board. We spent the day snacking, sipping and watching football. It was a perfect little Sunday.

The Dreaming Tree wines were a big hit. We tried the Crush and the Sauvignon Blanc. Dreaming Tree Wines is the brainchild of Dave Matthews and Sean McKenzie. They focus on sustainability and give an incredible amount of money back to the environment. They have already donated over $1,000,000 to environmental organizations including the Wildness Society and Living Lands & Waters. They also used 100% recycled kraft paper as their labels and their bottles are a quarter pound lighter to make for easier transport. They use solar power at all their locations.

I am a fighter for the environment and do as much research as possible on the brands that I use often. I loved reading the back story on Dreaming Tree Wines and all about their commitment to sustainability.

Along with these two bottles of wine, we made a pretty amazing cheese plate. You really can't go wrong with cheese and the items that get paired along with it. Here are my tips to keep this simple and tasty.

Tips for Making an Amazing Cheese Plate:

1. Have a variety of cheese. You want to include a good variety of cheese. Everyone likes something different. I usually go with a stinky cheese, a hard cheese and a soft cheese. I always add in something weird that no one has heard of. In the board above, I picked out the yellow cheese called Mimolette and it was a huge success. Another good rule is to have cheese from different sources - cow, goat, sheep.

2. Include something sweet. I like to cut up some in season fruit to include with the cheese. I use pear slices with the stinky cheese instead of crackers. It's an amazing combination. I also like to put out a tropical fruit jam like passionfruit or guava and a small jar of honey. Most people have something already in their fridge that would work.

3. And something salty. Many people include meat on a cheese platter. Since we do not eat meat, I try and get a little creative. Crackers are easy and a great vessel for your cheese, but olives are usually my favorite. I also pick up cornichons if I can find them. Who can resist tiny pickles?

4. Put out the necessary utensils. Small cheese knives are important when serving a cheese platter, especially when you have a soft cheese. It doesn't need to be too fancy, I've used spoons in the past as well. You will want at least one strong knife to cut anything that is hard. The board is also important. We have a nice cheese board that we love using, but we also use the cutting board often. It all depends on how many people you are feeding.

5. Pair it with some delicious and affordable wines. The Dreaming Tree wines are high quality, but very affordable. You can find them at many different drug stores, grocery stores and supercenter stores. Just use their store locator here to find the location closest to you that carries it.

I've seen some of the fanciest cheese trays in my time, but I truly think that simple is best.

What are you waiting for? Try it out and let me know what you think. Cheers!

September 18, 2017

Las Vegas: A Photo Recap

We spent a lovely few days in Las Vegas last week for a work conference and extended by one day to get a cheaper flight and take advantage of our time there to have a little fun. We stayed at the M Resort for most of the week which is about 10 miles south of the strip but it has lots of restaurant options, a beautiful pool and a casino. It was awesome having Justin travel with me because we got a little relaxation time to not worry about housing and where in the USA our belongings are.

We checked out Friday and checked into the Flamingo for 24 hours to have some fun. We checked out the Neon Museum (which I will share more photos from later) and then walked 30,000 steps in and out of 90% of the casinos on Las Vegas Blvd plus an hour on Fremont Street. It was a blast and we were exhausted as we rolled our stuff onto our 8 AM flight Saturday.

Here were some of the highlights:

The warm, dry desert air and all the palm trees (even if they aren't native there.) It's nice to have a total change of scenery.

All the colors in the casinos and hotels. We visited a few new ones. This was the Aria lobby and it was one of my favorites.

The Neon Museum was one of the coolest things I've done in Vegas. I took so many pictures so I'll share more later, but you should definitely make the trip to this place if you are there.

The Flamingo wasn't the most glamorous hotel there, but with a giant fight that weekend, the prices were sky high and I enjoyed staying in the vicinity of my spirit animals.

I have no idea how these got so out of order, but this was the view from the M. We had a front row view of the sunrise every morning and I loved it. Any time I have a mountain view, I'm so happy.

The sunsets weren't so bad either.

I swear, we didn't have any fun.

I love the downtown area. It feels a little less expensive. The light show at night is pretty awesome, but we opted for a daytime adventure since it is near the Neon Museum. Plus, I found some French toast covered in ricotta cheese, blackberry jam and chives and it was amazing.

They were switching over the conservatory display at the Bellagio, but I never miss a chance to stop in there when I'm in town. This fall display looks amazing and it wasn't even close to being done. Also, the ceiling below... I just love it.

The Flamingo has tons of history and is one of the older hotels still around on the strip, but the pink tinted windows makes it stand out.

We enjoyed some beautiful evening weather at the Beer Park at Paris. We tried a few new awesome beers and watched drunk bachelorette parties play giant Jenga. It was absolutely hilarious.

The lights of Vegas definitely feel different at 32 than they did at 21, but I was surprised how much fun we had. I had kind of written it off prior to going for work, but now I'm plotting out what other kinds of desert adventures we could have.

Have you been to Las Vegas recently? What was your favorite casino? We had that discussion at length and couldn't decide between Aria, Paris and New York, New York.

September 11, 2017

Hamster Wheel

We have survived the first week. Well, almost a week. I should just get this out of the way:
We got in town Monday. The drive wasn't too bad, pretty uneventful. Yes, moving is stressful. We are sad to have left New York City, but we are happy to start this new adventure. We don't have a place to live yet. Yes, that's a little tough. We found a great AirBnB for the short term.
I have said that same paragraph at least 25 times in the last week. I told Justin that I should just make an announcement when we walk into the room. We had a wedding on Friday night and then a few smaller gatherings this weekend, so we saw a lot of people we haven't seen in a while. I'm grateful that so many people care what's happening, but it is starting to feel a little like a hamster wheel.

We are going to check out a few rental places this week before our work trip to Las Vegas, so I'm hoping we find a more permanent residence (you know, a 12 month lease.) Then we can begin the process of tracking down our stuff with the cross country moving company. Should be interesting.

In the meantime, I'm going to soak in time with my girlfriends and the last few days of summer. If anyone has any recommendations for Las Vegas, send them my way. It's a work conference, but we have a little down time and we extended one extra day to enjoy the desert air.

Happy Monday.