Roughing it

Continuing with the MN saga, we spent that night at Erik’s dad’s house and got up even earlier the next morning to begin the long drive up north with Erik’s stepmom, Diane. We stopped for a photo-op in Duluth …



… and for a picnic on Lake Superior. Diane had packed the most incredible feast!


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Against all the rules, we played in the water after we ate.


I was like a broken record: Are you sure this is a lake? This is not the ocean?


But where is the other side??


I suppose that is why they call it Lake Superior.


And I continued to be sold on MN as we continued our journey north.

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After many many many hours, we finally arrived up at the cabin, where Erik’s dad and brother were waiting.


I must admit that this was the part of the trip I had feared the most. Three nights in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere with FIVE adults and no electricity and no plumbing. NO PLUMBING??!!



But it was surprisingly easy and fun, especially since wild raspberries and blueberries were everywhere I looked!

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And the kitchen in the cabin was the most adorable thing I’d ever seen!


Somehow, Diane managed to prepare a gourmet feast for us every single night in that little space:


And take a look at this ingenious toasting contraption:


Breakfasts generally involved some kashi golean crunch with fruit, yogurt, and earl grey 🙂

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And water drawn from the WELL!



Lunches revolved around our planned activities, such as a 5-mile hike along the Superior Hiking Trail:


We had a really cool idea to eat our sandwiches (pre-made by me!) in the middle of the Brule River:


There was a minor incident that involved me slipping into the river during the tiptoe out to our target rocks, but I recovered quickly.


The experience was definitely worth the impromptu ice bath!


After the hike, we met Erik’s brother Peder for dessert at the Naniboujou Lodge. Can you believe this place?


More rhubarb-based treats:

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When we finished dessert, we went out behind the lodge to collect some big rocks for our planned marshmallow-roasting fire.

Again, I was in awe of Lake Superior. Remember, this is not an ocean …


… but there is a tide. There were waves.


Completely unbelievable to me! The whole way out there, I was turning my nose up at all this talk of “great” lakes. I’m an ocean girl, and I was sure I could not be swayed by these mid-western lakes. But I ate my words! There were WAVES.

The skies seemed a bit threatening later on …


… but I was determined to make the s’mores happen. I appealed to my boyfriend’s masculine side until he gave in and dusted off his old Boy Scouts talents to get the fire started.


Nobody regretted the move!


On our last night at the cabin, time got away from us and it was suddenly too late to start a fire. Never fear! We used the stove:


I was sad to leave the cabin when our three days were over, but there was one thing that made it easier:


We stopped in town for the World’s Best Donuts on our way out.



I love northern Minnesota.


Did you know that the Great Lakes were so great?

Minnesota is not a hard sell

This year, I did something I never ever ever imagined I would do in my wildest dreams.


I planned my major summer vacation to take place in Minnesota.


What reason could I possibly have for vacationing in the mid-west?


Erik happens to be from right outside of Minneapolis, and I love visiting new spots … so to the midwest it was!

Erik had flown out earlier in the week to have a bit of solo time with his family, so he came to pick me up at the airport and then drove us to St. Paul to meet Pamela and Becka, two of my best friends from NYU.

We had a very satisfying dinner at Punch Pizza, and it looked like this:


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After dinner, Erik took off to meet his mama for dinner, and I stayed with the girls to wander around downtown Minneapolis. We caught sight of the Aquatennial fireworks from Pamela’s office building …


… and then …


… we situated ourselves at Zelo for dessert!


Obviously, I was in heaven going back and forth between the rhubarb crumble and the chocolate lava cake.


(I did, however, have significantly less of the chocolate because, as I have mentioned, I was ulcer-ridden this whole summer and under doctor’s orders to stay away from chocolate, tomato, caffeine, soda, spicy food, citrus, alcohol, and any other food that sounds fun.)

The next morning, we were up with the sun in preparation for Becka’s yoga class. Lucky for me, Becka is a yoga instructor and she and Pamela pulled some strings to get me in!

I warmed up with a soymilked vanilla rooibos and a Van’s with jam:


The class was excellent! I hadn’t been to hot yoga in ages, and Becka made me realize how much I missed it. Also, the yoga studio was conveniently located above Bread and Chocolate:


I had lotssssssssss of samples:


And I took the ladies’ advice and ordered the almond croissant:


Ahhhhhhhhh, this was incredible. It was stuffed with almond paste. Mmmmmmm, it was like eating a delicious hunk of marzipan wrapped in perfectly buttery, sweet, flaky bread.


Between the croissant and the chai I got with it, I well exceeded my sugar quota for the day. I could hardly see straight when I was done! We counteracted the sugar daze with a long walk through their St. Paul neighborhood.

My goodness, would you look at this house?!


It was one of dozens and dozens. I have never seen such a high concentration of beautiful houses!


After our walk, Erik came back and collected me to head to his mom’s house for some grilling action.


We had corn on the cob, baked beans, and brats!


Watermelon for a palette-cleanser:


And carrot cake made by JohnO, Erik’s stepdad.


After dinner, Erik took me for a walk around Lake Calhoun.


I was sold in 30 seconds.


Can …


… we …


… move …


… to …


… Minnesota?


Free = Good

I may not have been taking tons of pictures of my own food this summer — sometimes, it’s just too complicated to switch back and forth from food-hands to camera-hands during a spate of high-level culinary creation — but I have definitely been cooking! One major facilitator of the photography situation, however, is pre-made food that lends itself nicely to a semi-homemade approach. (Just call me Sandra Lee, haaaaaaaa.) Thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I wound up with some tasty and free meal enhancers.

The first treat that arrived seemed slightly discouraging from the outset:


Things started looking up after I needlessly used tongs to dissemble the packaging safely:


Woohoo! Something I would absolutely never buy, as I can easily make it tastier and healthier from scratch, but a delicious treat all the same:


The strawberry pizza made an excellent quick dinner after a late night at work:


I was especially impressed by the chunks of real fruit, even though the pizza itself splintered into a number of little pieces before I even opened the box:


The mixed berry pizza survived the postal service intact and was delicious as a decadent weekend breakfast:

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In conclusion, the fruit pizzas were wonderful, and I recommend them if you are craving one but do not want to make it from scratch.

The next free sample involved like a million different kinds of hamburger and hotdog buns from Nature’s Pride. I rarely eat hotdogs and hamburgers and never cook them myself, so the bread found its way into other uses.

French toast made with CSA eggs and blackberries:

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Cheese, CSA egg, and CSA pesto “panini” (thanks to the good ol’ George):

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Bread is bread. It was good.

Side note: While I’m talking about CSA eggs, check out the variety that came in one of our half dozen batches:


That white one was HUGE! I let Erik have the giant one 🙂


Finally, this chicken and four-cheese ravioli also made an excellent last-minute dinner:


Actually, the dinner ended up not being so last-minute, as I again channeled my inner Sandra Lee and went semi-homemade with pasta sauce made completely from CSA tomatoes and garlic and balcony basil:


Obviously I covered the whole thing in cheese shreds. Sarah portion; Erik portion.


Conclusion: free food = yay! I will never turn down a free thing, though my preference is always homemade. Sometimes I wish I had a professional photographer, because I still cook tons but often don’t have the energy or time to be photographing everything along the way. I will have to work on Erik to get on top of this job!

Free, flying summer

While on the topic of this summer-gone-by, I would like to mention a few more fun (and free!) adventures in which I was able to partake amidst all the studying.

There was one day when I biked out to Gina’s house in Marine Park and joined her and her in-laws for an excursion to Riis Park Beach in the Rockaways. At the risk of repeating myself, this is the best NYC beach! Just inconvenient enough to get to that it is not covered in trash but convenient enough that it is an excellent choice for a day- (or even an afternoon-) trip.


Gina’s mother-in-law Pat Shannon is after my heart, as she is an excellent cake-maker and pre-event food planner. When I arrived at Gina’s, Pat Shannon had the makings of a beach picnic spread across the kitchen table. I assembled my sandwich with smoked turkey, honey ham, roasted red pepper, tomato, mustard, and a sandwich thin:


This sandwich + grapes = perfect beach lunch.

Later that same week (I think), the Beach Boys were playing for FREE at Coney Island:


Gina, Kate, Erin Gunn, and I made the loooong subway trip down to see them, primarily motivated by the presence of a special guest star. He’s right there in the middle of this picture, the only one wearing black. Can you guess who??


How about now?


It was John Stamos!! Uncle Jesse in the flesh!! He apparently joined the Beach Boys for their tour this summer, and this was his first night with them. He spent the night running around the stage and playing every instrument, clearly super excited to be up there. We certainly did not mind seeing him!



And neither did these zillions of people in the audience with us:


A little bit later, John Stamos took the spotlight to sing his famous ballad from Full House days, “Forever.”


It brought tears to my eyes, let me tell you! Remember this?

I was not the only one moved, either:


Awww, Full House. That used to be my favorite show!

Because the spot was so crowded for this show, we never had a chance to hunt down food. One the way to the train after, though, I sniffed out a nearby Mister Softee and made sure to get a cone before we got on the train! A girl must have priorities.

As the final free event of the summer that I will feature today, Gina, Kate, Kate’s cousin, and I managed to snag a spot on the lawn of the Elevated Acre for a free showing of The Muppets Take Manhattan. This movie scarred me as a child, but I was willing to give it another shot as a “grown” 28-year-old.


Let me just take a moment to gush about this location, a lush green (albeit fake) lawn nestled on top of a downtown Manhattan building amongst the skyscrapers:


A short walk up a few stairs …


… takes you to THIS view:

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While waiting for the movie to start at sundown, these two serenaded us with some smooth instrumentalizing:



I ate a hefty portion (cough, two bags, cough) of the free popcorn provided at the event … plus the rest of the food I had left from lunch: veggies, wheatberries, ground turkey, pesto:


Finalmente, the sun began its descent …


… and the movie was able to start!


I must admit, the movie was not nearly as sad and heartbreaking as my internal 4-year-old recalled. In fact, I loved it!


As much as I complain about having lived in New York for toooooooo long, it’s pretty unbeatable for free and accessible summer events! Now that I have no homework/classes/studying taking up all my “extra” time, I should start devoting more energy to finding fun free winter things. I can’t believe I am thinking about winter already! Once again, 2010 has been the year of the vanishing summer. I probably know the answer already, but tell me … did your summer fly by as fast as mine??

Expansion resumes

Well, hello!! I realize an unforgivable amount of time has passed since I last blogged and that this failure on my part is a serious inconvenience to the five of you who still loyally check for an update every day. However, I have a totally legitimate reason for my disappearance, as I was busy studying my brains out for my master of social work license. Last Friday, after way too many months of anxiety leading to way to many ulcers (literally), I officially passed the four-hour exam and now have some exciting letters to tack on to the end of my name: LMSW.

What? Did you say LMSW?


Yes, I said LMSW!!!!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! Now, for the first time in three years, I do not have a to-do list that involves homework or studying of any sort.


This weekend, I relaxed 😀

I also reminisced on the vanished summer of 2010 which, though it involved 92% studying, also involved 8% high-quality fun.

Back before my bike got stolen (Yeah, my bike got stolen. Here in my perfect, beautiful Brooklyn neighborhood in the wee hours of a rainy summer morning, some really nice, friendly, community-oriented person took a crazy steel-cutting tool and sliced through the chain like butter.), Erik and I set out to explore Governor’s Island.


I have lived in New York for 10 years and Brooklyn for over five, and I love how there are still new places for me to discover!

We rode through Brooklyn out to the Water Taxi stop for our free lift across the harbor and arranged ourselves in the bike line:

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The view was gorgeous from the ferry …


… but the views from the island were even more stunning!


Eaters by nature, we started scoping out the lunch options pretty soon upon arriving, weaving in and out of little side streets and through historical brick tunnels to inspect cafes, vending machines, and food carts.


We decided on a cute little food stand featuring local (as in grown on a little farm on the actual island!) and organic produce:


By the time we got to the stand, unfortunately, most of the food was gone! I guess that’s what happens when you wait until 3pm to eat lunch on an uninhabited island that shuts down at 7pm nightly.


I ordered a cup of homemade fresh pineapple ginger drink (yummmmmmmmmmm!) …


… and the last scraps of food on the grill, involving toasty chicken crumbs over a mountain of sauteed cabbage:


We enjoyed our feast with a view of Lady Liberty in the background:


The food was delicious, and it was enhanced by the scenery and the company:


When we finished eating and digesting, we loaded ourselves and our bikes back onto the ferry.


We weren’t ready to call it a day yet, so we took advantage of the water taxi’s close proximity to Red Hook to hit up the best grocery store in the world:


Before picking up an exciting array of treats not regularly available in the little bodegas and food stands of our Brooklyn neighborhood, we took a scenic stroll through the Fairway grounds. Red Hook seems to have recently learned to play up its naturally beautiful location with brilliant landscaping!

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After our stroll, we purchased Fairway goodies, loaded up our backpacks, and huffed and puffed and pedaled our way home. Sigh, I miss my bike! And summer! Needless to say, this was a beautiful, relaxing, energizing day in a sea of stress.

I will be back soon with more. Thanks for not forgetting about me!