Monthly Archives: April 2012

Guest Post Week!

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It’s Guest Post Week here at Season It Already!

~

Wineaux – a wine lover that uses a glass

The Wineaux definition above was printed on a cute t-shirt my in-laws gave me as a gift. 🙂 How appropriate!

The reason why I mention this is that something happened unintentionally. I asked three people in my life to be guest bloggers this week. After I started thinking about how I would introduce them, I realized that the reason I knew them was that we all have done in-home Wine Tastings as part of The Traveling Vineyard! Without even knowing it, I made a connection… We were all fellow Wineaux.

My biggest fear is not doing these great friends of mine justice in introducing them, but here goes! These are the people you’ll be meeting this week:

Jared and I met at a team gathering for The Traveling Vineyard, not too long after I first joined. Since then, he’s kind of become the older brother that I never had. (Okay, he’s not that much older, but my younger brother is 6 feet, 4 inches tall, so I can’t exactly call Jared my bigger brother.) Jared took some extensive courses and got his Wine Professional Certification a few years back. Our love of wine and dining out in the Twin Cities are just two things we have in common!

Jared - fellow Wineaux

I believe Penny and I first met at a Leadership Conference for The Traveling Vineyard in Florida. Although she was in Iowa, we became great friends. We worked for and earned Team Leader status right around the same time. And although it was such a great accomplishment, we wished that someone had come and thrown confetti like we just won a new car. That’s how giddy we felt. Over the years, we’ve been able to earn trips and travel together. She is one friend that will listen until the cows come home… {She is in Iowa, ya know…}. 😉 And while she can be dead honest and tell it like it is, fellow consultants still call her “Positive Penny” for a reason.

Positive (and pretty damn fun) Penny - a fellow Wineaux

Although she was a consultant on different team in Minnesota, our paths crossed enough that Stacy and I became fast friends. It seemed that we had so much to talk about right from the start. And while we didn’t really have a whole lot in common at the time {now that I give it some thought}, we think so much alike. It’s *almost* scary. Stacy and I can sit and talk for hours. When she lived nearby and worked from home, she’d let me ship my tasting sets to her address so she could sign for them. I’d come over to pick them up and we would talk for hours. It was the perfect excuse to get together and see each other. {And it was often over wine, of course.}

Stacy (a fellow Wineaux) and family - adorable, no?!

These are just three people that I have come to know and love through The Traveling Vineyard. That was one thing I didn’t expect nor was I looking for when I stared doing Wine Tastings. Rarely does someone go into a direct sales party-plan business looking for more friends. But that’s been the most rewarding part. I can’t imagine my life without these people now. It kind of makes me teary-eyed!

Oh, and if you are lucky, you just might see a guest post from Rob this week, too…We will see!

In any case, if you haven’t read my mantra anywhere quite yet, I just need to sum my guest posts up with it:

“Over a bottle of wine, many a friend is made…” (Unknown)

Cheers~
Carrie

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My Favorite Way to Eat Popcorn

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I wasn’t ever really a huge popcorn eater.

Though, we did eat the air popped stuff as kids. I loved throwing fluffy popped kernels to our dog, Jerry, as he tried to catch him in his mouth. {He definitely was a popcorn eater, just as our dogs are now!}

As I got older, I found that going to the movies and ordering a big tub of popcorn made me very thirsty…  which made me drink a ton of pop {or soda, depending from where you are reading this}… which made me have to pee in the middle of the movie… which always ended up in the middle of a significant part. So I decided: This is sooooo not worth it!

Now that I know that movie theater popcorn can be equivalent to a day’s worth of calories {or even two}, I am even less likely to get it.

But recently, I did find a way to really enjoy popcorn at home. My husband sometimes picks up those 100 calorie microwave popcorn bags, which are great, but can include unnecessary additives. So I was delighted this winter when I got popcorn in my CSA box:

The first time it showed up in the box, it was still on the cob and we had to shuck it. I don’t think that’s even the right term. Shucking is removing the leaves and silk, isn’t it? Well, we had to de-cob it, then. It was kind of fun. My husband is now my professional decobber. Ha ha.

We don’t have a popcorn popper, but my friend Ceci taught me that you can put popcorn kernels into a plain paper lunch bag, seal and microwave. Snack Girl clearly describes how to do this here. It’s great because there is no need to have any special equipment nor use any oil!

1/4 cup popcorn kernels...

... into my popcorn popper!

Popcorn is a healthy snack because in three full cups there are just 93 calories, 3.6 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. It’s the toppings that can put us over the edge if we aren’t careful.

Here is my current favorite combination of toppings:

  • Wildtree European Dipping Oil – either the Tuscan or the Garlic
    • This is combination of expeller pressed grapeseed oil {which is actually better for you than olive oil!}, garlic and other herbs.
    • I know. It’s oil, so it adds calories. But I only drizzle a half Tbsp for a two to three cup bowl of popcorn. That’s approximately 60 calories.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
    • This is the real deal. Forget the parmesan in the green can.
    • I want quality over quantity.
    • Take that quality a notch higher and get the fresh wedge and grate it when you use it. I just like having a big ol’ container from Costco like the one above so I can sprinkle it quickly on anything.
    • Only 20 calories per Tbsp!
  • Rosemary Herb Seasoning Mix from Pampered Chef – season to taste
    • This is one of my absolute favorite seasonings, but you could use any seasoning you like.

My popcorn concoction: 173 calories

You can throw in an extra Tbsp of the Parm if you love it. and you’re still under 200 calories!

Ready for a movie? If so, pop one in, curl up and give this one a try.

Note: This is not Rob’s favorite way to eat popcorn, so we make ours separately. He’ll add some butta or some cheddar seasoning to his. No matter what, we are sure to Season It Already! The possibilities are endless…

What is your favorite way to eat popcorn?

Arezzo Ristorante – Edina

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Two years ago, my husband and I were married on Pensacola Beach.

He proposed in Tuscany. We honeymooned on the Almalfi Coast.

It’s only appropriate that on our anniversary, we give you an impression of an Italian restaurant!

It had been a few years since we’d been to Arezzo Ristorante. I guess it’s technically located in {south} Minneapolis, but I like to say Edina, because that’s what I think of when I think of 50th and France.

The last time we were at Arezzo, we went with my friend Bridget and her husband. This time, after we parked, Rob said, “Hey, we should have invited Bridget and Digits!” It made me laugh. Rob gave Bridget’s husband the Poker moniker “Digits” because he works with numbers. Isn’t it funny how certain places, foods and wines remind you of people, places and experiences?

Well, we had a couple of Groupons to Arezzo. So that’s what brought us back. On our first return visit, we were in search of a good affordable bottle of Chianti Classico. Rob never liked Italian wine until our trip to Tuscany, a trip I earned doing Wine Tastings with The Traveling Vineyard. We decided on that trip that the Italians kept all the good stuff for themselves and sent the crap to the U.S. {Or maybe we just weren’t spending enough money when we bought Italian wines.}

In any case, we found one that lived up to our standards:

Tenuta La Gabbiola Chianti Classico

We liked it so much that we ordered it on Groupon Visit #2. It gets better as you give it time to evolve and open up in the glass. 😉 And at $39, it’s a pretty decent price for a restaurant.

A small part of the extensive wine list...

After you place your order, this will be brought to your table:

Rosemary Flatbread

I also like the fact that they use real candles, rather than the stinky oil kind:

Real Candle

Rob said that if we hadn’t gone to the Lexington {post coming soon!} a few months back, he would have given this his seal of approval that it was the best spaghetti carbonara he’s had in the Twin Cities. However, he did order it again on Groupon Visit #2 and said that it does come in second place as the Twin Cities’ best spaghetti carbonara and will order it again and again and again…

Spaghetti Carbonara - sautéed pancetta in extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese, tossed with egg over spaghetti

Rob was also intrigued by a side item to another entrée and asked if he could order it à la carte:

Truffle Mash

The Verdict: Meh. They smelled of truffle oil, but the flavor was lost. To be fair, maybe they would best accompany the steak they were supposed to on the menu. Nonetheless, we were glad we gave them a try.

I ordered different entrées on the two visits:

Fettucine Verdi with Sausage

I saw this item on the menu and they had me at San Marzano tomatoes and sausage. I don’t normally order red sauces at restaurants because, more often than not, they end up being too sweet. But when it comes to San Marzanos, it’s another story. The spinach {verdi} pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, the sausage spicy and I loved me the San Marzano sauce. 😉

On Groupon Visit #2, I was intrigued by the advertisement of “Neapolitan Pizzas”. I’ll be the judge of that, I thought. A nice margherita pizza sounded good anyway.

Margherita Pizza

The Verdict: It was good. The first bites were really yummy. However, as I kept eating, I wondered why I was… It wasn’t great. In true Italian fashion, they served a whole pizza. And somehow, I ate the whole thing. My complaints about the pizza were that they should have used San Marzano tomatoes {if they did, I couldn’t tell} and there should have been more cheese {just a personal preference from a Wisconsin girl!}. I would have liked basil leaves rather than chiffonade pieces, too. {Boy, do I sound like a food snob right now or what?} Would I get it again? Probably not. There are too many other things on the menu I’d like to try!

Still, Arezzo Ristorante is certainly an authentic Italian restaurant in the Twin Cities. You’ll find simple Tuscan ingredients and flavors, interesting combinations and portions that are much more reasonable than you’ll find at your local Italian chain restaurant. It’s a great place to enjoy good wine, good food and good company.

What’s your favorite Italian Restaurant where you live?

My First 5k – From Start to Finish

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I did it!

I ran a 5k!

You may have read about the little bit of anxiety I had going into this. It was more about the little details and not knowing what to expect.

And while this post is more information than you may need to know, I want to reflect on those details not only for my future reference, but also to offer insight to anyone else who may be looking forward to their first 5k!

~

Friday, the night before the race, was a gorgeous night. It was sunny and 60 degrees. It would have been a perfect night for a run… or a night out to dinner. That’s what we probably would have normally done. Instead, I came home from work and started making dinner. I made a big salad and some pasta.

And I ate too much.

It may have been nerves or anxiety… Or not knowing what to do. I was tired. But I couldn’t go to sleep that early. I felt binge-y. I ate a little more.

Then I felt the guilt.

I stopped myself. I got up. I thought to myself: You have plenty to do! You have this entire kitchen to clean. You can call your Wine Tasting host for tomorrow. You can close out your two tastings from this week. Just be normal!!! Quit thinking about it.

Yes, I was that neurotic.

I decided to do all the things I would normally do when I had “free” time like cleaning and catching up on a little non-Rob-friendly DVR {read: Dancing with the Stars & Smash}. I also got all of my clothes/gear ready for the morning. I knew this was necessary for this non-morning girl not to forget anything! I also took a hot shower before bed because my mom always told me that you’ll sleep well when you go to bed right after a bath or shower.

It worked. It didn’t take me long at all to fall asleep. But I did wake up a few times before midnight when Rob came to bed. I’m sure I was sleeping a lot lighter {more lightly?} than usual due to thoughts of the following day. But after that, I slept through the night.

I woke up to the alarm and my stomach was hurting – worst case scenario. It was the aftermath of my over-eating the night before. Due to this, I wasn’t hungry at all And I couldn’t do the #2 that everyone suggested I take care of before the race.

Nonetheless, I put this together as my breakfast:

water, hard-boiled egg, whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, banana

I knew I needed the energy. And in true non-morning-Carrie fashion, I had to scurry out the door. I ate the peanut butter toast before leaving, the banana in the car on the way there and ended up skipping the hard-boiled egg. We stopped for some Caribou Coffee on the way. I’ve read mixed reviews on coffee on race day, but since I’m not a morning person, I knew I needed it! {I thought it might help my stomach and #2 situation as well}. And of course, I sucked down water.

We got there early – like right when check-in began. We were confused about where to go because we were some of the first people there and we didn’t see any signs. But we figured it out eventually and I still didn’t have to wait in any lines. In addition, I had enough time that I could use the bathroom {real bathrooms, no Porta-Potties!} in the pavilion several times {three, to be exact} before race-time.

Pre-race

I was so glad Rob came with me to support me! He kept cracking jokes to make me laugh. It took my mind off the rest of the race and any nerves I may have had.

He took a picture of me patting this Bear’s belly – I decided it was for good luck!

Good luck belly pat

The jacket I’m wearing in the photo is brand new. I bought it at Kohl’s on Wednesday. Everyone told me not to run in anything new. But I am glad I wore it. It was a cold mid-40’s during race-time and the forecast showed rain. I wanted to be prepared. I hadn’t run in colder conditions nor in a downpour before. And although I did get hot mid-run and would have loved to ditch the jacket, it wasn’t unbearable. I think it was better to have worn it for the early part of the run and be a little warm at the end than vice versa.

I was feeling pretty laid-back before the race. It was like we were all just going out for a run. That’s something I’ve never felt before. I normally would have to psych myself up all day for a run and just do it.

At the start of the race, they congratulated and wanted a photo opp of people who last 20 to 200+ pounds. I loved checking out pictures or signs on the backs of those people who had worked so hard to lose massive amounts of weight. It was so inspiring!

We lined up what was supposed to be according to pace, but I think it mattered more for those at the very front with fast pace-times. I ended up really slow for the first 100 yards because there were so many people just walking in front of me. It took a while to pass them. I was really surprised by how many walkers and run-walkers there were!

However, before I even hit a mile, I remembered just how difficult this is. “Wow! I’ve got a ways to go,” I thought. It was a gorgeous location, running around Lake Como in St. Paul. It makes me want to give the other lakes in the Twin Cities a try! I want to say that I’ve run them.

Sidebar: Maybe I could make that a goal for the summer? Make a list of lakes and cross them off throughout the season? I do know that I’ll have to do them earlier in the day, though. I don’t think I’ll do well with heat. Running this summer may have to occur in my neighborhood before work and earlier than usual on weekends. Although I’m not a morning person, I have to remind myself that it’ll be much cooler in the morning and that I’ll have my whole evening to myself.

Back to the race…

A 5k is almost two laps around Lake Como. The second lap seemed to take F-O-R-E-V-E-R. I found that I was mostly running by myself, too. I was never really running in a cluster of people at all. Sometimes, people would pass me and later start walking. So I’d end up passing them again later.

But at this point, I was no longer passing anyone. My heart rate monitor showed I was in Zone 5 {highest level} and I wasn’t sure I could get much faster, which is what I wanted to do at Mile 3. But I kicked it into high gear and as I neared the finish line, people cheered! They yelled my name! {What a cool benefit to being in a small enough group that they check out your name by your bib number and cheer you on!}

Final stretch!

~

My goal was to run this thing in 40 minutes.

~

Official Time: 38:54

My fastest time yet! And I was finished! It felt great to be done. I could hardly believe what I had just accomplished. I grabbed some water and chose an apple over an orange or banana. I stretched a little and watched a few more people cross the finish line before we left.

To give you an idea on the size of this race: there were 161 total finishers. People were of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities. It was low-key enough that I didn’t feel intimidated, but official enough that the course was certified and the race was timed. The lake was beautiful and I lucked out by missing the rain. {Though it did rain later in the day when I was napping!}

It feels good to have one under my belt and to know now what to expect. And while I still find it a challenge every time I run, I’m signed up for two more 5k events in June. Time to get back to training…;-)

I want to thank all of you for your overwhelming support!

The First One is Tomorrow!

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My first 5k is tomorrow morning!

I’m excited.

I’m nervous.

I’m ready… I think.

I want to thank all of you who offered advice whether I spoke with you personally or if you commented on what I should expect. I had a bit of anxiety over the little things and you all made me feel more prepared with your answers. In addition, you brought up a few more things I hadn’t thought of at all!

Thank you for offering advice to a newbie, especially if you are an experienced runner who does a 5k as a warm-up. 😉 We all have to start somewhere! When I first decided I was going to do this, all I wanted to do was be able to finish it running non-stop. Now I know that I can do that. But it’s still hard.

Many people run their first 5k after they have lost all their weight. I’m doing it before I’m half-way there. I am officially down 29 lbs now and have recently had a lot of people asking what I’m doing to achieve that. It’s simple… and it’s not. So expect a post on that probably next week!

I have been reading a few running blogs and articles that I have found have offering advice and insight to new runners. I can’t tell you how invaluable this information is! So if you are new to running, be sure to read these. I found them helpful!

Nine Race-Day Tips for Your First 5k (Active.com)

How to Fuel for a 5k (Active.com) – Thanks, Bukie! 😉

New Runner Tips (Twelve-in-Twelve by MN Ann)

Running Tips (by Fit This, Girl!)

Are you Ready and Well-Prepared for Your Race Day? (Special thanks to my cuz, Kim for sending this!)

I know there are more out there and I should have organized them all in one nice spreadsheet or something to have for future reference or to share all in one post for you. I’ll get better at that. I promise.

Now my only concern?

A cold and rainy race.

I wasn’t exactly expecting that. And it was probably my biggest fear {fear used loosely here}. I haven’t run in a downpour yet. I think that was my concern for clothing. Oh well. I guess we’ll see how that goes and how cold and wet I get! Thanks to all of you out there for your advice and support! I will update you on Monday.

If you run, do you remember your first race?

…how it felt?

…if you were nervous?

The Anchor Fish & Chips – Minneapolis

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My husband really wanted to try a place that was new to us.

He had heard it had one of the best burgers in all of the Twin Cities. As a burger aficionado, he just knew he had to try it out before he writes a guest post on burgers here at Season It Already! later this month..

For me, it was a surprise. He drove to Northeast Minneapolis {one my favorites parts of the Twin Cities}, so I wondered what was up his sleeve. And as we drove passed Anchor Fish & Chips, I knew that was where Rob wanted to go.

But there was a line of people trailing out the door.

AND

My husband does not like to wait!

{This is why we usually go out to eat earlier than most people our age. If not, we try to snag two seats together at the bar.}

He looked at the line and disappointment overcame him. I told him that we had no idea how fast that line went, so we had to at least go in to check it out. He obliged. We got in line and asked how long the wait would be. “Uh… Maybe about twenty-five minutes,” the gal said. I looked at Rob. He said, “Great. You can put our name down…”

WHAT?! Did I just hear what I think I did?

She told us we could get a drink at the bar if we’d like and either stand in the entryway or go outside in the back. Whew. Something to keep him occupied for a little while longer… 😉

The place was buzzing. Tables were full and although there were two seats in the bar area, we found out that people waiting would be seated there, too. We couldn’t snag a seat. A beer it was. I saw on the menu something I love to order whenever I’m at an English or Irish pub:

Cider

Drinks in hand, we headed through the restaurant out to the back parking lot. I saw people getting up from two or three different tables. It won’t be long now, I thought. Outside, the lot reminded me of a place where employees would go out for a smoke break. It wasn’t really meant to be set up for customers. {Maybe one of the guys out there smoking and on his cell phone was an employee?} We enjoyed the lovely late afternoon weather, but didn’t need to for too long…

In less than ten minutes, the woman came out to get us. We were seated and each opened a menu on the table. It was short and simple. To me, the menu items looked authentic from what I remember from my travels in England twelve years prior.

I ordered:

The Fish & Chips

How could I not!?

When a restaurant has the phrase “fish and chips” in it’s name, shouldn’t it be our duty to give their signature item a try? Yes, I am in the process of losing weight. No, I did not plan for these calories since it was a surprise night out. Yes, it was going to set me back. But honestly, I could not pass up this opportunity. {Call me weak, if you will, but I don’t look at it that way.} There was little to nothing of healthy value on the menu anyway. And instead of griping about Rob taking me to a place where he knew there were no healthy options, I decided to just indulge in the experience.

And it was worth every bite!

I was a little worried about how my body would handle all the grease. I hadn’t eaten anything deep fried in a long time {other than stealing a few fries from his plate here and there.} But I did just fine. Still, I know that I ate way too much. I should have practiced The 50% Solution. That is something that I would do differently if I could do it over again. But surprisingly, I didn’t feel stuffed. Maybe my long run after work had worked me up an appetite? Still, I do know that this was not the food to replenish my body. It’s not something I’d do every day. Knowing that, I enjoyed it and didn’t feel one bit guilty. 😉

I had heard that the fish and chips at Anchor were tops. However, I didn’t understand how fish and chips could really be different anywhere. Now I do! I really can’t explain it. The fish was flaky and not too greasy and the “chips” just like I remembered in England. You are going to have try them for yourself.

Since Rob is allergic to fish, he opted for:

The Helicopter Burger & Chips: Burger topped with Irish Cheddar, Fischer Farms Ham & a Fried Egg.

Actually, he opted for the burger because he had read somewhere that it was one of the best in the Twin Cities.

His verdict? Well, you will just have to wait to find that out on his guest post later this month!

My verdict: I bit into the burger and all I could taste was ham. Ham is fine on a burger, but I wanted to taste the burger, too. Maybe I got too much ham in my bite? Nevertheless, I loved my fish and chips more.

Would we return? Why yes, of course. It may be a while since I don’t need another 1000 calories for dinner anytime soon. 😉 But I did learn that if I’m going to have fish and chips in the Twin Cities, why go anywhere else?

The Anchor Fish and Chips will be launching a food truck at the end of May, too!

What is your favorite place to order fish and chips?

Do you make a healthier alternative at home?

Post your favorites in the comments!

Cheers~
Carrie

The Difference Between a Good Wine and a Great Wine – Part 5

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Wine Wednesday: The Difference Between a Good Wine & a Great Wine…

In the past few weeks, we’ve been examining five reasons that differentiate a good wine from a great wine:

1) Terroir

2) Age of the Vines

3) Yield of the Vine

4) Vintage

Today, we will wrap up that topic with:

5) The Technique

Some winemakers put more time, effort and money into producing a wine than others do. Because of this, the wine that sees more attention is often better in quality. Here are some factors that will affect the outcome of a wine:

  • How the wine is destemmed and crushed
    • Is it done properly?
    • Is it done mechanically or by hand?
  • Fermentation
    • Is the temperature controlled?
    • Does the winemaker ferment slowly for best results?
  • Storage
    • Are the wines stored properly until release?
    • Are they released at the right time?
    • Does the winemaker rack the wine to eliminate undesirable solids?
  • Oak
    • Is the wine fermented or aged in oak?
    • If so, for how long?
    • If so what kind? {Different barrels give different flavors to the wine.}
    • Is the oak new or old?
  • Clarification
    • Is this done through fining? {This is a painstaking process that is careful, but time-consuming.}
    • Is it done with screen filtration? {This can strip the wine of flavor.}
  • Release
    • Is the wine rushed to the shelves?
    • Is the wine aged in the bottle prior to release?
    • Is it released at the right time?

When a winemaker invests more time, energy and resources in the making of the wine, the quality will undoubtedly be better. In my opinion, winemakers can be considered artists. Depending on what they do at each step in the wine-making process and what care they put into it, they can create a quality wine that has its own unique character every time.

Cheers~
Carrie