Thursday, July 20, 2017

Duluth and a Baby Shower

The following post actually occurred at the end of May:

I went back to Minnesota this past weekend. My niece Nicole was having a baby shower and I didn’t want to miss it. She will always be more than “just a niece” to me, because she lived with us for three years during high school. She is an amazing, level headed, very strong young woman, so let me just brag on her for a little bit.

Nicole was almost her little brother’s mom through some very rough times. When they came to live with us in 2001 it was hard at first for everyone. Slowly we all adjusted to our new situation and then Nicole really blossomed. She made friends, got excellent grades, played flute in the marching band, AND was a varsity cheerleader (which took some juggling on the part of the band and the cheer squad during football games!).

When it came time to go to college, Nicole had another tough choice to make. She had always been very good at math. She had always been attracted to the medical fields, but both her father and her grandfather were engineers, and we thought it would be a good field for her too. She entered engineering school at the University of Minnesota. Her dad lived in St Paul, and that way she could be close to her father and her brother and go to a good school. 

Nicole graduated from engineering school in 2008 with a degree in chemical engineering. It was the height of the recession which was a very bad time to be looking for a job of any sort. She kept applying, and stayed in Minneapolis. She met a very nice young man named Tom. And then she got a job offer with a French oil company. She took the job, and went off to work on an oil rig in western Texas.

Nicole ended up working on an oil rig in Siberia! She was lonely, and the work wasn’t what she wanted. She started to think about medicine again, and about Tom. After nine months she quit and moved back to Minnesota.

She decided to get a nursing degree, and she and Tom moved to Duluth so that she could go to school there. She completed her nursing degree, got a job in a Duluth hospital, and got engaged. Last Thanksgiving she and Tom decided to get married, while all their surviving grandparents were there. They got married the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Several weeks later, Nicole realized she was pregnant.

So now Tom and Nicole have a new house, a new puppy, and a baby on the way. They love living in Duluth (a beautiful but chilly city) and are looking forward to being parents.

I flew into Minneapolis on Friday. Sarah had to work that morning, so I took an Uber to her office. An interesting aside, my Uber driver was deaf! Uber told me when I chose him and he held up a sign with a notepad to explain how I could communicate with him. It was novel, but no big deal.

I love Sarah’s company, Zeus Jones. They are quirky, a small, boutique ad agency. They are giving her a lot of excellent opportunities, and they are family friendly too. She can even bring Mika there sometimes, much to that little dog’s delight. 

I’ve seen pictures of their office, but it was great to see it in person. It has a lot of open space, but wasn’t noisy at all. It was possible for some people to work collaboratively and not bother others. 

I sat in their reception area, charging my phone, reading, snacking. I went across the street to Wedge and got myself a breakfast bowl with eggs, spinach, brown rice, veggies, cheese. I’m not sure if it was breakfast or lunch, since I had gotten up so early to catch my flight. At least 5 of Sarah’s coworkers came over to introduce themselves and “thank” me for Sarah! It was very flattering, to her at least! I knew some of them by name from her stories from work. It was fun to meet them for “real”.

Finally she was able to tear herself away and off we went to Duluth. Its about a 2 and a half hour drive. I drove there, because I just didn’t know if I would be fit to drive back after the shower since I was so short on sleep.

It was very warm in Minneapolis that day. The high was 88 degrees as we drove up I-35 north. As we got close to Lake Superior the temperature started dropping. It dropped 30 degrees in about 5 minutes. It was a beautiful day in Duluth, but only 58 degrees. I’m glad I brought a sweater with me!

First we went over to Nicole new house. We met Jennie their new dog, who is about seven months old. She is an already big and friendly lab/pit mix. This house is high on a hill overlooking the town. It's older, built in the 20's, but in good shape. It's a great neighborhood, near the University, with lots of families and kids.

Then we drove to the shower, in a nice neighborhood overlooking Lake Superior. I was conscious of the fact that last year around this time I ran Grandma’s Marathon nearby. I wish it had been 58F THAT day! The two young ladies hosting the shower did an amazing job. They had all kinds of snacks for us. The had all kinds of fun activities. The first thing we did was sit down at a table where waterproof markers and baby onesies in various sizes were provided. There were stencils we could use, or we could just be creative. I did one with a selection of my standard doodles, hearts, stars and wiggly lines in a variety of colors. Everyone’s onesie was different. When we were finished we hung them all on a clothesline to admire. 

Then we played a couple of shower games. One game had us decipher the name of a children’s book spelled out in emojis. I knew most of them but a couple had me stumped. Then Tom showed up to help Nicole open their presents. One of the neat things the hostesses had us do was bring children’s books instead of cards. Totally without consulting each other, Sarah brought Blueberries for Sal, and I brought Make Way for the Ducklings, both by Robert McCloskey. We were the only literary-minded guests; most people brought infant board books!

There was also a photo booth, with props, which made for lots of fun photo opportunities.

AND there was an amazing cake and cake pops too.

Then it was time to drive back to Minneapolis. By this time I was very tired so I’m glad Sarah drove back. She saved us from a couple of deer crossing the interstate right in front of us too.

The next day in Minneapolis was really hot again. We went shopping for leggings and summer dresses for Sarah. Erik had a graduation party to attend so we tried a new sushi place in Wayzeta, named Sushi Fix. Not only was it close to their house, but it was very good too. We took a walk along the lake after dinner. This portion of Wayzeta is really pretty, and very wealthy. Giant mansions overlook the lake. There are bike trails and parks galore.

The next day I got up early to beat the heat and run 11 miles on the Luce trail by their house. Its  a very nice trail for running with lots of wildflowers and pretty lakes along the way.

Then  later we went to the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market, saw Cathy at the Green Machine Farm Stand, and got brunch at the Golden Deli. The rest of the afternoon we just hung out and relaxed. On a quick trip to the grocery store I popped in to the Land’s End outlet store and finally got myself a new bathing suit. I bought my first ever Tankini. I am long waisted and usually the tops aren’t long enough but this one worked.

I flew home late that evening to cold rainy New England. We actually have the fireplace on. I don’t think I’ll be using that bathing suit any time soon.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

San Francisco and Sonoma - Sauvignon Blanc and a Baseball Game

Wednesday April 26

With a 6 am flight out of Logan, I am up before 3 am. Shower, dress, meditate, coffee and a clif bar, and off we go. No issues getting on our United flight. There are a fair number of empty seats, which makes us wonder if the recent fiasco with the man being dragged off a plane because he refused to give up his seat really has had an effect.

It's a 6 hour flight, long, but not impossible. We are in SFO by 9:30 am with the time change. We grab our rental car, and off we go to Sonoma for a few days. We've been to Napa a bunch of times, but never Sonoma. 

Our b&b checkin time is 3 pm, so we have lots of time to kill. We have lunch at an amazing Mexican place, El Molino Central. Then we park the car on the square, check out the visitors center. We view the old stockade, the mission, and the "country" house of General Valejo, one of the founders of Sonoma. We stroll around the square, choosing our dinner destination, and stopping for coffee at a "basque" pastry shop which is anything but. It's finally okay to check into our b&b, An Inn2Remember. 

We eat an early dinner at The Girl and The Fig, just a block from the b&b. Excellent food. I get the 3 course prix fix meal, Lee gets a bunch of apps. We're in bed by 7:45, and sleep soundly until 5:30 am. It's been a long day!

Thursday, April 27

 We have a wine tour scheduled for today with Platypus Wine Tours. We've used them in Napa and they've always been good, taking us to small family wineries and interesting and unusual places. But first it's time for a run. There's a nice bike trail to follow, and plenty of other runners out and about. The flowers are beautiful, lots of roses, just past full bloom, little goats, and of course vineyards everywhere.

The tour is fine, but not as wonderful as previous tours. I'm not sure why. The people on the tour with us are really nice, it wasn't that. I think maybe we have had our fill of California wine tours. This is the fourth time we have gone to either Napa or Sonoma and its just time for a change. We start researching bike trips in California and we're intrigued. Maybe that will be our extra activity the next time we visit Daniel.

The first winery, Petronius, is extremely beautiful, very elegant. We taste the wine in their extensive wine cave, which is chilly after the bright warm sunshine outside. They make olive oil too and we taste it as well. It is spicy and peppery, with a bit of a bite.

Lee leaves the wine purchases mainly to me. Right now he is more of a craft beer drinker. I surprise myself this year. At almost every winery I'm attracted to their Sauvignon Blanc. I end up buying a bottle at all four wineries. They will be nice to drink this summer.

After Petronius we go to a small family winery. The owner, Chris, shows us around. He's a former physics professor from an Australian winemaking family. He specializes in Shirahs, natch, and I buy a bottle. He's funny and charming. It's my favorite stop on the tour. 

The third stop is a wine tasting venue. The woman that serves us is a bit over the top, very flamboyant. She does a cool thing where she has us taste a wine, then gives us various crushed herbs to smell and has us taste it again. It alters the taste of the wine, depending on what herbs we smell before tasting.

The last winery is high on a hill with a beautiful view, but it's large, busy, crowded, and I’m really not that impressed with their wines. Plus our little guide seems half drunk, or asleep. I buy a bottle anyway, I might as well, since then they waive the tasting fee.

We eat dinner at a Portuguese tapas bar, Tasca Tasca. It's delicious, and we're exhausted. In bed again by 8:30 and we sleep a good nine hours.

Friday April 28

In the morning we head over to Petaluma. We wander around the town, check out the river, a small park, some guitars in a local music store. We eat at a little diner, Sax's , for lunch, and then start heading toward San Francisco and Daniel's apartment.

We pick Dan up at work and take him home. Kelsey comes over and we walk to the sushi place around the corner for dinner.

Saturday April 29
This morning I run 4 miles from Dan's apartment. The weather is sunny, in the 60's; it the first time I can wear shorts and a tshirt on a run since Florida. I run down 17th street to Valencia and then up Valencia to Duboce. When I hit two miles I turn around and reverse my course. 

We decide to try dim sum in Alameda for lunch, instead of our usual pilgrimage to Hong Kong Lounge on Geary. It's okay, but not amazing. Their dumplings are flavorful, but the dough is thicker than it should be. Oh well! We've been hearing for years that dim sum in the Oakland area is really good, so now we know. 

In the afternoon, we hop in Dan's car and try to go to Baker beach. It's a beautiful day so half of San Francisco has the same idea. There is absolutely nowhere to park so we give up and park on California around Fillmore in Pacific Heights and walk around there instead. Even the ice cream stores have lines around the block so we settle for some excellent coffee from Jane's. Probably just as well!

For dinner we go to a hot new ramen shop, Mensho. They are small and their line is long as well, but it moves pretty fast. Inside it's crowded and noisy. The waitress can barely hear us, and vice versa. First she brings two beers and one water, instead of the three beers and waters we ordered. Then she gets the ramen order wrong too. She gets Dan's right but brings Lee and me some appetizer instead of the noodle bowls we ordered. After some confusion the apps are removed and we watch Dan eat his ramen while waiting for ours. I'm annoyed, because they really don't apologize, or make any special effort to bring us the correct order promptly. The ramen itself IS very good, and unusual, with a creamy broth, and some pickled bamboo shoots that taste downright strange, especially if you bite into one all by itself instead of mixed with other flavors.

Sunday April 30

Today we decide to do something I've wanted to do ever since Daniel moved to San Francisco. We are going to a baseball game! It's the Giants vs the Padres and we don't really care about either team, but we'll root for the home team, why not? As long as the Cards aren't playing I'll root for anyone except the Yankees.

We can walk from Daniel’s apartment to the stadium, another plus. We stop along the way to pick up Kelsey. It's a beautiful sunny day, and warm for San Francisco, almost 80, which for this town is downright hot. Our tickets are in the bleachers. The Giant's stadium seems gigantic, but I think its because the only games we have gone to recently have all been in spring training stadiums. 

I waste no time getting stadium food, I'm hungry! I get a margarita, and a philly cheese steak sandwich. I'm a fan ever since the one I had after the Philadelphia marathon, but I've never had one that tasted quite as good as the one I ate after running 26.2 miles....

It's pretty hot in the bleachers. Although I have on a short sleeved shirt, I'm wearing black pants. I sure wish I had had the sense to pack shorts! My legs get really hot. I finally drape my green jacket over my legs, and that helps provide some insulation from the sun.

There are some cute little kids in front of us that are fun to watch. When my margarita is gone (it wasn't very strong) I have a beer as well. At the 7th inning stretch we sing God Bless America, City by the Bay, and Take me Out to the Ballgame, of course. No Sweet Caroline, that's just the Red Sox I guess, although they played it at the end of the Philly spring training game in February.

The score is 0-0 until around the 4th, when the Giants score twice. That's where it stays until the 9th, when the Padres tie it up. Extra innings! We last through the 11th inning and then call it a day. As we're walking home a fan tells us that the Padres won, 5-2, or something like that. Oh well! 

For dinner we go to North Beach for some really good pizza. Our waitress is adorable, and very Italian. We are excited about seeing Afrogatto on the menu (ice cream with coffee poured over it, one of the delights we had in Puglia). They have a Primativo so we order a bottle, and two pizzas, one with broccoli and sausage, one with arugula, provolone and proscutto. They are delicious and we eat every single bite!

Monday, May 1

We are up at 3 am again, for another 6 am flight. Driving to the airport, returning the rental car,  checking our box of wine, it all goes smoothly if you don't count missing our exit for the rental car return. We buy breakfast burritos and coffee. The flight is full and they are asking for volunteers to check their bags. Since we will have to wait for the box of wine anyway, we check our bags for free!

Unfortunately they make us wait on the runway for an hour before we can take off, and we get a grand tour of Boston on the other end as well before we can land. Diane kindly allows us to pick up the dogs, even though we are past the time we said we would arrive. The dogs look lovely from their baths and grooming, and we are so happy to see them! I love getting to visit Daniel, but I wish he wasn't so far away. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...