the blahs

I'm not making excuses for the lack of posting recently because I don't have any good ones. I've been busy (what's new?) and things have been changing (what's new?). I've been doing more writing at work lately (that is not completely new, just increased) so maybe that's why I've been writing less at home (not an excuse - a possible explanation... there's a difference). And I've been doing other stuff... but tonight I'm prompted to post because I want to and it's been too long. And I've had my share of hearing some sad or depressing things today, so I'm going to a) do something that makes me happy (write) and b) do it about something I enjoy.

Did you know that it's officially spring now?!  The first day I really noticed it was when I came home a couple of weeks ago and was able to pull out the old grill to make dinner!  I'm not sure what it is about the first grill of the season, but it is second to none. Seriously. So we had grilled pork steak for dinner and it was delicious.  And simple, with some tastefully simple seasoning of some sort that was sitting on the counter and butternut squash risotto (found in the frozen section of your local Byerly's... if you don't have Byerly's, I'm sorry because you are totally missing out).

A friend of mine said that she didn't know anyone from around here who ate pork steak, so she was surprised -- her family in St. Louis ate it a lot, but apparently not in the Madison area.  Boy are they missing out.  We had this relatively often growing up and I love it.  If you haven't tried it, please do... and then let me know what you think!  (p.s. Laura - this is also what I use in grandma's mock chow mien hotdish in case you decide to try that with your grandpa.)

Also, if you haven't had pork steaks, they are ginormous and since it's just the two of us, it makes for some good leftovers.  So, a couple of days later after that was gone we had grilled chicken with McCormick's Grill Mates marinade (chipotle pepper style). Again, highly recommend.  We love these seasoning marinade packet things -- just put them in a gallon ziploc bag with oil and water (and whatever else it tells you to do) and marinate for the day.  It turns out looking like this:

With some mixed greens, apples, feta cheese, and some cranberry vinaigrette dressing it's not too shabby for dinner. 

So here's the thing that I think I've finally learned about grilling: It is unnecessary to keep the heat on high or medium-high.  Getting it done faster is not the goal.  Doing it well (but not blackened... if you know what I mean) is the goal. So for goodness sake, turn the heat down.  The other thing I've learned is that you don't have to open the cover when it's smoking.  It's a grill. It's supposed to do that.  AND if you turn the heat down a little, you have less fires which previously necessitated the opening of the grill.  Seeing the correlation here?  It took me a while, too...

So far, two successful grill experiences... I win!

And then it snowed again. But it was nice this week, and now it's raining, and it might snow this weekend a little... but I don't care because it's spring!  And I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in their, friends. Things are looking up and it's good to be back.

Oh, and p.s. -- a special shout out to friend Chad today.  Good luck at the fight this weekend, buddy!


Ziggy zaggy, ziggy zaggy, hoi hoi hoi!

I'm a bit delinquent in my posts, but I wanted this one to be great - witty, well-written, and totally awesome to best represent the story.  Turns out that waiting didn't make it any more witty, well-written, or totally awesome -- but all I ask is that it's not boring. :)

So, last weekend, some of my awesome cousins -- Holly, Dianne, Colene, and Chelsey -- came to visit and I think I can speak for everyone (based on the emails I've gotten over the past few days from them) that we all had a blast! I was a little worried when, days before they got here, the rule was set: What happens in Maple Grove stays in Maple Grove.  If you've been here, it's not exactly Vegas... so what were they planning to do?!  Let's face it, though - my family enjoys a good party. And we're good at it. That being said, this is the for-public-consumption version of the story and we're stickin' to it.

Things started off tame enough.  We had lunch with Keith at Granite City, which is always good, and bloody mary's were had. And food, of course; I don't just feed my visitors bloody mary's. When we parted ways with Keith and he headed out of town and we headed to Minneapolis where I gave them the grand tour of all of the most interesting things in town - my office, the Guthrie, where the big ice skating rink is, and the deflated metrodome.  You know, big city livin'.  We went to the Midtown Global Market, which is place with a bunch of different kiosk-type shops with international foods, jewlery, clothes, and other goods from various countries around the world.  If you haven't been there, it's a great place to try something new for lunch and just look around.  Holly found some cool earrings, Chelsey found a cool ... well, I don't really know how to explain it... but it was cool, and in the local foods area, they even sell Spring Grove pop! The strawberry is good with ice cream, and the lemon sour is good with vodka, in case you were wondering. :)

After that, we drove did some more driving around, saw a few big houses/mansions, and made our way over to the sculpture garden. 

... Maybe this is a good time to break in and give you some context.  We were in Dianne's really awesome mini-van and I was driving. They were convinced that people were a) pointing, b) laughing, and c) giving strange looks to them on the way up to my place, in the van.  I wasn't sure about it, until someone pointed and laughed at us.  I told Dianne that, on the bright side, I'm driving and they all think it's my really cool van and that they are all stuck with me. haha!  It wasn't the first look, apparently, and it wasn't the last.  But we just laughed.  So, I think that means that they were laughing with us? or we were laughing with them?  It doesn't matter.  We were all laughing. ...

And now, back to the sculpture garden.  It's much cooler there in the summer because you can see the rest of the sculptures that were snow covered, but we just wanted to see the spoon & cherry.  We all got our picture by it, but I don't have a copy (hint, girls - please send copies of photos), but I do have this one with Chelsey!  And for what it's worth, my shadow is in it, also. And I think the other one is Holly.

We hit downtown for a little while after this and went to the big Target (2 levels) to get some coffee for the next morning and just to be there because Target is awesome.  And you can't be on Nicollet Mall while visiting here without without getting your picture taken by the Mary Tyler Moore statue. 

Can you find Chelsey?  It's like Where's Waldo? 

So, after GC for lunch, MGM for shopping, sculpture garden, target, and a visit with Mary (we're on a  first name basis now), we went to a restuarant I really like called Spill the Wine.  And this, I think, was the turning point from really fun to hilarious and awesome. And this is also where Kate joined in and it was great to see her!  We had appetizers, wine, a couple of us had dinner, a few of us had wine. I'm not pointing fingers. And we had conversation and laughs, and it was a good chance for us all to get to know each other a little better, too... outside of a standard holiday. 

Spill the Wine was fun, but it's not a party place.  It's a wine bar and it would be weird if someone got up to start dancing. So, we headed off to our next destination - Psycho Suzi's, which recently moved into a new location and I haven't been to the new site, yet.  But according to their website, they have 3 themed bars and a couple of my friends have told me how awesome it is there. 

Apparently it's really SUPER awesome because when we go in the vicinity there were cars everywhere and nowhere to park my awesome van. We drove around. And around. And then parked a few blocks away to call Kate -- we needed a new plan. 

So, we headed to the Gasthof - a German restuarant/bar that's pretty popular... you've probably heard of it or maybe you've been there.  When we walked in, the entire dining room was singing and it's a really fun atmosphere -- but we spent most of the time downstairs.

  • Picture this: lots of young people (under 80) hanging out in the basement of a building to listen to (and often dance) to polka music.  On purpose. Having fun. And drinking.  And then the band plays AC/DC Shook me all night long - polka-style.     
As hard as the girls' tried to convince Kate to stay out all night, she did have to leave us after a while.  Kate: next time we'll have to arrange for you to stay... you missed some of the interesting stuff! ha.  I won't get into all the detail, but I will say that we had a few drinks, did a little dancin', and made some new friends... and decided that next time they come, we're skipping the rest and going straight to Gasthof for some hearty German food and to get our polka on -- maybe during Oktoberfest! 

I don't have many photos to share, because by this point the rule had kicked in - and was extended to to be What happens in the Minneapolis-area...  Don't worry, though - nothing illegal, and nothing highly inappropriate.  And maybe we just want to leave a little to the imagination. :)  So I'll leave you with this:

And then we went home and had pizza.

Thanks for coming, girls!  Until next time... ziggy zaggy, ziggy zaggy, hoi hoi hoi!