Monthly Archives: February 2014

I Want to Go Back to Art Class!

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Do you remember when I talked about the gymnastics unit we had in grade school gym class? How I never really appreciated the fact that our public school district had {or rented?} a set of gymnastics equipment that rotated to different schools in the district throughout the year? It’s only now that I’m learning that most kids didn’t have this opportunity to try out all of the fun stuff you see during the summer Olympics. I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I should have at the time.

The same is true for art class.

Art class was hard for me. I was a girl that did pretty well in school, but mostly because I tried to learn the right answers. Art is so much more subjective! And back in those days, I thought art was a natural skill – either you were artistic or you weren’t. Because I always got Bs in art class, I just assumed I wasn’t. And it wasn’t really that fun for me.

Now I wish I could go back to those art classes.

I don’t remember much from art class, except for the fact that our art teacher, Mr. Cook, had a beard. I wish I could just think back on what I’d learned. But I really can’t remember much at all.

And now I’m loving all of these painting classes that I’ve been taking!

Last night, my friend Jen and I took another one of these painting classes that I’ve been obsessing with lately. This one was with Brushes & Brews over at the Cherokee Tavern in West St. Paul.

This painting was titled:

Two to the Moon

Our instructor was Jessica Barnd, who is a high school art teacher. And it shows. She was an excellent instructor! This photo is of the Original painting on the right and the canvas she was working on as we went along on the left:

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Her teaching style suited me well. One of the things I love about these classes is that each one is so much different from the others. Not only am I painting a different picture, but I’m also learning different techniques from different instructors. I don’t always remember the techniques, but I’m always open to whatever is being taught. I love learning something new!

At the beginning, as per the usual, I had to Trust the Process:

Jessica showed us how to make “GPS points” in order to know where our moon, birds and major branches would go. I loved this strategy! When we started using black, she moved her canvas to the right and continued to use white instead so that everyone in the room could see what she was doing.

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At first, as we started drawing the branches, it looked like my birds were in the sea and I was drawing seaweed! This was my first thought; but when Jessica voiced this out loud about what we might be thinking about our paintings, I laughed!

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But as Jen and I know we had to Trust the Process

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And our finished works:

There is more to learn in these classes than just painting. One of the most important things I’ve learned is not to be too harsh on myself. I’m new at this. I don’t have a steady hand yet. Maybe I never will. Whenever we go to these classes I hear things like:

What are we supposed to be doing?

I can’t get my X to do X!

Mine doesn’t look like that!

I used to {and sometimes still do!} say these things, too. Everyone is so critical of their own work. And when you are sitting up close to your painting, it’s really easy to critique and compare with the original. We find that when we take a step back from the painting and look at it from the distance from which most art is viewed, we get a new perspective. And while we are busy criticizing ourselves, we look over and compliment a friend or neighbor’s painting, thinking about how it looks SOOOOOOO much better. But what’s funny is that person is usually thinking the same thing!

Here is a link to a photo of our class paintings. So you can see, everyone turns out with a REAL piece of artwork, whether you are experienced or not.

And after all is said and done and I take that piece of art home, I completely forget about every little detail that was nagging me during the painting process and just relish in the fact that it is mine.

I made it.

Painting is a process – just like life, with its flaws and all.

Trust That Process.

By the way… Did you know that blue is my favorite color? Well, I actually like all of the colors of the rainbow because they make life so beautiful. But if I *had* to pick one, it would be blue, because it is so calm and serene.

What’s your favorite color and why?

In what parts of life are you unsure of the outcome, but you try to trust the process?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Relevé

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relevé – in French it can mean elevated, sophisticated

Remember when I was excited to try out the new and only Champagne bar in Minneapolis? The Relevé Champagne Lounge is aptly named given the reputation this expensive, world-famous bubbly has.

Well, I think I set my expectations were too high.

I knew that Relevé was part of the Graves Hotel. But what I didn’t know was that it was now just the name of the bar inside Cosmos, the restaurant in the hotel.

We had been to Cosmos once, during Restaurant Week; and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Cosmos is already a swanky little place, so it’s only fitting to combine the two. But this space was nothing new-to-me. And it’s all about me, right? Kidding.

When we walked in, I was surprised that, from what I remembered, there didn’t seem to be any renovation to create this “new” Champagne lounge

It was Just. The Bar. Of The Restaurant.

If anything, some of the seating may have been rearranged and a makeshift extra bar added. Although it looked more like a display/cocktail waitress stand than anything inviting you to order a glass of bubbly.

So we just took a seat at the regular bar.

The Champagne menu was small; well at least by Pops’ standards. But there were more offerings than you’d usually find elsewhere in the Twin Cities, both by the glass and the bottle. So it’s got that.

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Although he didn’t say so, I knew Rob dreaded going to this Champagne Bar. But he really had no choice since I was driving, buying and taking him to see Pentatonix perform live. {Seriously, one of the most incredible concerts ever! Even despite the fact that we among the oldest of fans. 😉

We both decided to go with a cocktail instead of the straight bubbly:

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Rob kind of boycotted the whole Champagne experience by ordering a cocktail sans Champagne…

Nicollet Punch

Nicollet Punch – Captain Morgan 100, Fresh Orange, St-Germain, Pomegranate

Rob thought it was so good that he ordered a second one. I went with the Passion Forward. Only they were out of the passion fruit sorbet. I didn’t mind, the alternative was blood orange sorbet!

Passion Forward - Mionetto Prosecco, Passion Fruit Sorbet

Passion Forward – Mionetto Prosecco, Passion Fruit Blood Orange Sorbet

I loooooved this cocktail! I may make some on my own when I have friends over sometime. I liked how the fruity sorbet slowly fizzed and melted into the dry Prosecco. My sorbet didn’t melt completely, so I ordered a second glass of Prosecco to pour over the top. 😉 I know. I’m a genius.

They have a nice small bar menu with some upscale dishes as well as a few more approachable items. Rob, of course, ordered some sliders:

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Prime Sirloin Sliders – preserved tomato, caramelized onion, garlic mayo & fries

Rob loved them. He also loved the fries so much that they have now made it on his Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities list. {Which still needs to be updated, especially because there is a new burger that has recently bumped another out of the ranks!} What is it about Champagne Bars and Fries?

I had to go with the Walleye Sliders! They were raved about and it’s just the Midwestern thing to do, especially in a Minnesotan Champagne bar, right?

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Walleye Sliders – spicy tartar sauce & fries

These weren’t what I was expecting! I had envisioned a fried piece of walleye on a bun. But they were more like patties, like you’d find a salmon burger or a tuna cake.

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I had never had walleye like this before. They were very good and unique. I think it’s a great menu item for a hotel hosting out-of-town guests!

So overall, while pricey, we did like the food and the cocktails at the Relevé Champagne Lounge. I was just expecting more in terms of newness. Others may be impressed by the posh interior if dining there for the first time. And it might be quite different later in the evening if the place gets hopping.

Still, next time, we’d forego Relevé and instead go to the Bradstreet Crafthouse on the first floor of the hotel. It’s where we like to take out-of-town guests for a cocktail if we happen to be in downtown Minneapolis. Although, we never did mention that here.

Name a unique cocktail that you’ve enjoyed.

Cheers~
Carrie

Quick & Easy English Muffin Croutons

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This post is for me more than anyone else. Did you ever make something once, then try to make it again; then completely forgot how you made it taste so good?

This is so I don’t forget.

Last night, I was making a variation of these Pork Chops with Mushrooms and Onions that I shared in yesterday’s post. When I calculated the recipe, it occurred to me that it was very low-calorie and was not going to be a very filling meal. I could have served it over rice, but my husband isn’t really a rice-kind-of-guy. And I wanted something quick. I had leftover romaine lettuce, so I thought I’d make a simple salad. But my husband isn’t really a salad-kind-of-guy, unless it has some good croutons or pieces of bacon. 😉

So I looked up a few recipes, adapted them to what I had on hand and came up with these croutons! I have no photos because I didn’t even think of it at the time. But I do need to know how to make these again because Rob said the recipe is a keeper!

Quick & Easy English Muffin Croutons

(Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 English Muffin, split and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp parsley flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Toss English Muffin pieces in a bowl with other ingredients until coated evenly.
  • Spread on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until slightly browned.

That easy!

Of course, you can always double/triple/quadruple the recipe to have some on hand, but I like the warm crunch with a bit of chewiness in the middle that I didn’t really notice until Rob pointed it out to me. They only have that texture coming out of the oven! The next day, they’ll just be crunchy.

Do you make your own croutons?

What is your go-to recipe or method?

Cheers~
Carrie

And the 2014 Olympics come to an end…

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I just love the Olympics! I didn’t watch as much this year as I normally do. But I get excited every time it comes around. I’m sad that it has come to an end.

And please know that those twin toilet bathrooms that many found in Sochi can be found here in the states, too! Here’s a throwback photo from our visit to Michigan last summer:

Really?

O’Sullivan’s Pub – Gladwin, Michigan

In other news, yesterday was my two-year blogaversary. I don’t know what I really want to say about that. Time flies? 😉

Now it’s time for the usual…

planning

Food

Dinners:

Just an fyi – last week’s Zoodles with Meat Sauce were a hit! <<– Highly recommended. I followed this recipe, but used a julienne peeler like Jen did here. I made a meat sauce instead of meatballs.

Lunches:

  • Leftovers
  • I’m still loving these Quick & Easy Bowls! Last week’s bowls were heated. This week’s lunches will be leftovers of the Taco Salads I’m making for dinner. The layers will include:
    1. Base: romaine
    2. Grain/Starch: 1/2 cup rice {I might forego the rice this week if I don’t have time to make it and double the protein!}
    3. Protein: 1/2 cup beef & black bean mixture from above {I might put this in a separate bowl to re-heat and top on the salad at work before eating.}
    4. Veg: onion and grape tomatoes or drained canned tomatoes
    5. Fat: shredded cheese or Wholly Guacamole
    6. Sauce: Salsa-Ranch Dressing that Biz always recommends!
  • I have blackberries, bananas as well as nuts as snacks. And of course, my daily dose of dark chocolate.

Breakfasts:

  • I have a couple of options available and will make them depending on what I am in the mood/have time for each day:
    • Breakfast Quesadillas – I made a couple of these last week inspired by the Breakfast Quesadilla we had at Ike’s before our flight to St. Augustine. In my at-home version, I used:
      • Flour tortilla
      • Scrambled egg with diced onion
      • chopped tomato or salsa
      • Shredded cheddar
      • So easy and delicious! {I guess I’ve been in a Mexican/Tex-Mex mood lately!}
    • PB Toast
    • Granola with milk

Fitness

  • Post-back surgery PT exercises until I get strong enough to move into more yoga.
  • Recumbent bike
  • I should be good to get back on the treadmill next week!

Do you prefer the winter or summer Olympics?

What your favorite thing to make when you are in a mood for Mexican or Tex-Mex?

Cheers~
Carrie

Dear Summer Self…

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This post was completely stolen from inspired by Racheal. It couldn’t have come at a better time with the blizzard and eight+ inches of snow last night. While we are amidst winter, it’s time to remind our summer selves, just how much we need to appreciate it!

~

Dear Summer Carrie,

Remember this past winter when temps dropped not only below zero, but up to forty below with the wind whipping every where? It was so cold, it hurt to breathe. Remember the multiple snowstorms that shut down schools so many times that your parent friends were ready to scream?

What we woke up to this morning....

What we woke up to this morning….

Remember the winter before when you participated in the April Challenge Obesity 5k with snow and ice lining the ground and wind whipping everywhere? Or when it snowed in MAY?!

Here’s my advice for you, Summer Carrie:

GET OUTSIDE!

Get outside now. Stay outside for as long as you can. The only thing that should bring you in are hoards of mosquitoes.

Take the dogs for walks. Lots of them. They don’t have to be long ones. Even 10 minutes. They LOVE THIS. Remember, they have been cooped up all winter, too. They want to get out! To explore!

Run some races because you should be healthy by now, so you CAN!

Even when it’s raining, get outside. You won’t melt. Wear the appropriate gear and use an umbrella. Remember how much Mom loved walking in the rain in Paris? You can do that at home, too.

Run in the rain – It’s your favorite!

Go to the Farmers Market.  Walk there. Run there. Don’t drive. Stop for a coffee on your way.

Eat fresh produce like you won’t have it for a long. Because you really won’t have this fresh, local goodness come winter again!

Always get more tomatoes than you think you need. And then don’t let one single tomato go bad.  {Racheal, I’ll eat yours! 😉 }

Use the grill.  Grow some fresh herbs again.

Go swimming!

Go to an outdoor play or concert.

Go to restaurants with patios and eat outside whenever you have the opportunity.

Walk around the lakes. Run around the lakes. Go on walking dates with your girlfriends.

Go on walking dates with Rob. It’s been one of your favorite things to do together like here, here, here and here.

And take Racheal’s advice, too:

Work outside.  Blog outside.  Drink your coffee outside.  Just stay outside.  

Most importantly, when you walk outside and feel the heat from the sun kiss your face and squint your eyes, don’t you dare for one second take it for granted, because in 6 months you will be longing for that feeling. 

I agree whole-heartedly.

With love,

Winter Carrie

What do you love about summer?

What would you say to your summer self?

Cheers to Summer~
Winter Carrie

Eating & Drinking in St. Augustine

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Yes we did make it to the Old Town on the days that we didn’t golf while we were vacationing in St. Augustine.  Those were some chilly and cloudy days for Florida. Take a look!

And just like when we were in Las Vegas and Kaua’i, I didn’t snap photos at every place where we ate or imbibed. But I’ll list some of the places we tried anyway. When we go back one day, we’ll have an account of where we’d like to return {and what to order!} and where we can skip.

A1A Rail Works

A1A – Beach Front Avenue!” Did I just do that? Oh, yes, I did! And we did it all trip, too. I mentioned that the only real craft brewery in St. Augustine is the one we visited – Mile Marker. However, when Rob inquired about places with lots of tap brews at check-in, A1A was mentioned. It’s actually a brewpub and they do brew their own beer. But they do not distribute. Think Rock Bottom Brewery, or for those of you in the TC Metro, Town Hall Brewery. It was late afternoon of the day of our arrival. And it was chilly.

We settled in for some of the best beer cheese soup we’ve tasted: A1A Ale & Cheese Soup – Red Brick Ale blended with aged cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, caramelized onions and roasted barley.

And these didn’t suck either. {Actually, rather addicting!}–>: Blue Cheese Chips – Fresh, housemade chips and blue cheese cream sauce topped with scallions, smoked bacon and blue cheese crumbles.

The beer was good, but not outstanding. It’s what we expected. But I’d like to give a shout out to Terri’s Skinny Cocktail {under 125 calories}: Strawberry Soda – Cruzan strawberry rum, sugar-free triple sec, fresh-muddled mint and strawberry topped with soda. Mmmm…
~

JP Henley’s

Just behind A1A is JP Henley’s, which boasts over 70 beers and many wines by the glass. We loved the selection and ordered a couple of apps. We were served plastic forks and knives, so I felt like we were in an airport. And the food wasn’t anything special. If I were to visit JP Henley’s again, I’d go for the beer and then head over to A1A for the food! It’s smallish inside, so I can only imagine what it’d be like when it’s packed.

~

Murray Bros. Caddyshack

Yes, you guessed it. Bill Murray and his five brothers opened this place. And the location was perfect in that we had finished a day golfing and happened to be staying at the World Golf Village. But the food – not so much. Between our Cheeseburger Pizza, Pork Chops and Fiesta Salad, nothing was that great. There isn’t really a reason to go back when there’s so many other places to try in St. Augustine. However, if you are a Caddyshack fan, check it out. This place could be a museum with all of the memorabilia on the walls!

~

Milltop Tavern

After our stops at Mile Marker Brewing and the San Sebastian Winery, we parked near the old town. As we were walking around, we stopped for a coffee to warm ourselves up. Were we really in Florida?

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Then we made our way down the pedestrian-only St. George Street.

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It was late afternoon and time for some food! We hadn’t had lunch so we w climbed the stairs of the Milltop Tavern to the second floor where live music was thriving. We found a seat at a little table top against the wall. The heaters were on, but this place has to be open to the outside in nicer weather. This is a great place for local music, but the food was so-so. I had some black bean nachos while Steve & Terri ordered the black bean soup. They must like their black beans there! {For the record, I do, too.}

~

The Prince of Wales

We wandered off St. George Street hoping to explore further and maybe find another place to stop. And it was this “Taste of England” joint that was chosen. It’s basically a very small one-room restaurant with a handful of tables inside an old house. The bar seated maybe two people. When I walked through the door, my face felt instantly greasy. Maybe this is the British Equivalent to a greasy spoon? We stopped for a drink. Then Rob decided to order some onion rings, which the group seemed to love; but I was too full from my earlier nachos. The room was small enough that you could talk with everyone in it. And we kind of did… Someone was looking for prime rib in town for later that evening. We couldn’t give any advice, but the locals on the other side of the room overheard and offered theirs.

~

Barley Republic

We found an Irish Pub! This is a tradition Rob and I have that my friend Jen and I started when we spent ten weeks backpacking Europe after college. We just had to stop. And we are so glad we did. They offer over 70 beers, ten of which are on tap.

Rob peruses the menu, while Steve checks out the malt vinegar while the musician sets up for set!

Rob peruses the menu, while Steve checks out the malt vinegar while the musician sets up for set!

But the best find? They had the Southern Tier Pumking on tap! Rob and I spotted it at the same time. But we were worried. How could they still have it on tap? Would it have gone bad? We decided to chance it. We were still teaching Terri about beer outside of the light stuff! A round was ordered. We found out later that they’ve had it for a while, but just tapped it the week prior for the first time.

With the Pumking, Irish music and good friends, we felt like we were home. Well, not at home, but relaxed and content. We stayed for quite a while, some of us enjoying Pumking after Pumking {10 ouncers were only $4.50!} But Steve was eyeing the Bangers and Mash that others tables were ordering. Let’s just say he ended up getting a to-go order. And he loved it. Good food, good beer and good times. Win-win-win.

~

King’s Head British Pub

On our last day, after a long day golfing at King & Bear, we weren’t really up for going back to Old Town, so we did a little search for something not too far from the World Golf Village. We ended up at another pub! Who knew there were so many in St. Augustine? I was really not feeling like going for more greasy food, but I had no other options to offer.

Adorned with twinkle lights, it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, except for the fact that it was right off of a highway.  When we walked in, it immediately felt like a traditional British Pub to me with its dark wood, patterned red carpeting and tap handles. And despite the fact that I was originally looking for something a lot healthier, I opted for the Fish and Chips. I know. Grease. What I said I Didn’t Want. But they were the best I’ve had since Anchor Fish & Chips in the Twin Cities. I was fulfilled. And the guys enjoyed the Pasties they ordered, too.

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It was kind of cool that we didn’t always have a real lunch so that we could jump around and have a few apps here and there to try a bunch of different places. Next time, I’d love to try some St. Augustine restaurants on this list and give the Savory Faire Food Tour a try…

What’s your favorite item on an Irish or British Pub menu?

Cheers~
Carrie