Nigerian Cuisine and Why I’m Grateful for Foodie Friends

 

“Are you cooking?!” My manager interjected with concern and horror all over his face. So much faith in me.

I confirmed I absolutely was, and continued to explain that this group of adventurous friends has shaped me, and pushes me to continue growing. I’m grateful and excited to try something new with them again tonight. I also asked everyone to cross their fingers it all turns out.

This crew, or my Romies as we like to say, gets together about once a month and recently we transitioned that into a cultural dinner party. Because that’s how all 20-something’s have fun.

Emily kicked us off by teaching us how to make sushi (because she loves to make and eat sushi) and we rebranded that evening into a getting a taste of her Japanese roots. Clearly, we had to run with this.

Tamara followed, with Serbian delicacies often reserved for Christmas, which happened to be completely vegetarian. Their willingness to cater to my pescetarian diet is probably why we’re such great friends.

 

That meal included a cheese pie topped with greek yogurt and apple sauce, a chickpea and bean dish, and dessert of baklava and honey pie. All of these dishes had real Serbian names but due to our Italian tradition of drinking lots of vino, I don’t remember what they’re called.

Next, it was my time to shine. Allison is on deck with an Armenian dinner, so I was kind of dreading coming up with a vegetarian English/German menu, which is basically an oxymoron.

And then it occurred to me, my cultural dinner could be inspired by the roots my family has chosen- African. Advice from my dad and some in-depth googling brought me to our Nigerian menu.

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Peanut Soup

My loose interpretation of the recipe above included:

  • 1 tsp peanut oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 ½ lbs sweet potatoes chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, un-drained
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ -½ tsp cayenne (I personally did probably 6 shakes of this)
  • 1 package chopped frozen spinach (defrosted and cooked)
  • ½-1 tsp salt

In a 4 quart soup pot, heat the peanut oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and diced sweet potatoes. Sauté over medium heat until soft, 5-7 min.

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Greetings from my sous chef!

Add the broth, tomatoes with juice, peanut butter, tomato paste, and cayenne. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Simmer the soup, covered, over medium-low heat for 10 min. Using a potato masher, roughly mash the soup to break up the potatoes. (You are still looking to have some chunks, so a coarse mash is all you need.) Add the greens and simmer uncovered for 5 min.

Jollof Rice, a recipe I actually followed for once! I added chopped sauteed shrimp.

Tamara brought something similar to samoas from the always wonderful Minneapolis-based Afro Deli. Allison nailed her dessert responsibilities with this banana cake that I’m still dreaming of:

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And those cute African placemats? Those would be courtesy of my adventurous grandparents. It’s amazing to think that such a special Friday night in my Minneapolis home was inspired, created, and built by a couple, grandparents, and a single woman immigrating from Serbia, Armenia, and Japan; and a family in Wisconsin deciding to moving to Africa with their dogs could be exciting.

It’s creating traditions like these that keep those stories part of us, and remind us how much we have to be grateful for.

 

Wanderlust 2017- Twin Cities

If there’s one thing all my friends can agree on, it’s that my coordination on the yoga mat does not translate to the dancefloor. Regardless, I’m glued to any and all wedding dance floors, and have yet to see a shimmy that can rival my own.

So it was somewhat out of character when in Zimbabwe this January, I passed up the opportunity to join in on a large dance circle at our Boma, a traditional african dinner. It was a large circle that would alternate bringing one person into the middle, and some of these people were just amazing dancers. I worried about getting pulled to the middle and not knowing what to do, so I found a place to perch and watch with my sister.

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Place settings at the Boma

The spunky mother-daughter duo on our trip jumped in right away, and when the free-spirited daughter Wendy came back, I remember telling her with a bit of envy, “That looked so fun, it was really cool to watch.”

She replied, “Oh, yeah I wasn’t watching it- I was IN it!”

The words stung a bit, and stuck with me to become my one regret of my trip.

We could credit this to my rampant FOMO, or any cliche “I Hope You Dance” lyric, but it was something more. It was a clear moment where fear stopped me from having an experience I’ll rarely get again. Where I worried more about what strangers from the other side of the world would think more than my own desires.

I hadn’t thought about this in a while, but was reminded over the weekend while attending the Twin Cities Wanderlust event, the world’s only mindful triathlon.  After completing a 5k (part 1) on a scenic St. Paul trail, our 90 minute yoga class (part 2) was to start soon, followed by a guided meditation (part 3).
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Rather than starting the class right away, the lively emcee cued the DJ to play some party music and she was getting the crowd revved up on stage. With everyone on their mats, she was inviting everyone to start dancing- which is not something people are used to starting a yoga class with. I was bouncing around (another one of my signature moves) on my mat, when I noticed someone was invited on stage.

I mentioned to my coworker, Belinda, how fun it would be to go on stage. She encouraged me to go to the front so that if they called anyone else on, I would get to go. I think she suggested this partially to get me to dance somewhere else, but also because she likes to bring out a more carefree and bold side of others.

Thinking of the Boma, I ran to the front stage. The emcee asked who wanted to go on stage, and I fan girled hard. I was disappointed when she picked a group of three friends to come up,  but I knew me and my bad dance moves could break her down with persistence.

Once another pair was called up, I decided there was no reason I needed to wait for an invitation. If I wanted to dance on stage in front of thousands of people like a crazy person, it would be pretty pathetic to miss out just because I wasn’t called on.

So I ran up with them like we’d know each other for years.

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The view from stage, which I knew my words couldn’t do justice

It was unbelievable. I knew there was no space for overthinking like I did in Africa, or half-assed bopping like I did on my mat. So I just danced however I wanted. I was completely in my own element with thousands of faceless yogis cheering me on.

Until I recognized two of the faces, my best friends Alyx and Megan, who I also had come with moved to the front of the stage.

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A year ago, I was working up the courage to practice yoga in my sports bra. Truly. As an active meditation, I would wear a sports bra (instead of a tank top) to class and challenge myself to maintain positive self talk regardless of what was reflected in the mirrors.

Dancing on stage, in that same feared get up, in front of thousands, and being filled with the utmost joy and energy, that to me is the epitome of freedom.

In the yoga class that followed, we were reminded, “No more playing small, this is your time to live big.”

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Plank club- find best friends who also have this as their idea of fun

Wanderlust allowed me to see whether it’s a scenic 5k, a once in a lifetime dance party, a 90 minute flow with a live DJ, or an outdoor meditation, it’s all yoga. It’s a mindset. It’s saying yes, and allowing yourself to experience things as fully as you can.

Yoga is an opportunity to celebrate being alive, and express gratitude for every part of your being.

We focus so much on being smaller, fitting a certain mold, and refining the edges that aren’t perfect. There’s no need to ask permission, show up exactly as you’re meant to today- whether that’s dancing your hardest, laughing (in my case, cackling) your loudest, and daring greatly in every way.

Give yourself permission to take up space, to be seen. I promise you, there’s nothing better.

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What survived of our body paint
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Guided meditation- Wanderlust 2017 Twin Cities

The Reed Way

“Do you travel like this, as a family, often?” We were asked again and again throughout our recent 19 day trip through Southern Africa.

98Early on in our travel group of 30, we were identified by our matching blue eyes. We fielded constant concerns of my dad and sister getting sunburnt (Lindsay later to be nicknamed “The Red Apprentice”). We made iPad crossword puzzles all the rage for long bus rides, and my dad’s commentary dubbed him the Assistant Tour Guide. Our harmonious cackles often erupted without a moments notice, as a preface to the next story we needed to share with the group. In short, it’s easy to tell that the Reeds are related.

Due to our family’s ties to Southern Africa, I wasn’t sure how being in a tour group of mainly empty-nester couples, a few families, a spunky mom-daughter duo, and a couple on their honeymoon would impact the trip and its importance.

When I first met our SmarTours guide Shaun, he didn’t strike me as having the energy I had expected from the group travel I had done as a high school and college student. As time went on, I found that instead of encouraging ice breakers or making lame jokes, his energy came from his passion for South Africa and his pride in sharing his life experiences- even when raw and unfiltered.

He took interest in my dad’s years growing up in Africa, and we built a strong connection with him by asking questions of him outside of the trip logistics. I think he could tell my sister and I had never read the trip’s itinerary, and we’d rather hear his stories than find those details out any time soon.screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-9-13-18-pm

We wanted to keep taking in what it felt like to be in this place we had heard about our entire lives. We never stopped springing out of our seats for roadside baboons or elephants (including me waking up from a nap because I heard “whale,” which turned out to be a rock).

One of my grandpa’s go-to sayings was, “You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your nose.” As right as he is, it was more evident on this trip that there were other people I didn’t pick as my own.

One elderly woman was not just happy to be there. The Chief of the tribe we visited interpreted her name as Pilis, so we’ll call her that. Rather than getting to know the local hotel staff, she barked out orders for two weeks and accused them of stealing from her.

She would play up her frail age (85- which is impressive) if it scored her some perks, and was miraculously a spring chicken at any time that something cool was a long walk away. Pilis showed her stripes early on by stealing Cape Town bumper stickers because she didn’t have any Rand, the local currency. Needless to say, she thought tipping was optional. Her self awareness was minimal if existent. She wondered what was all the hype about bug spray- “Are we were going into the woods??” Close, just dodging malaria.

113115Then came time to check out of our amazing Victoria Falls lodge; and we found out that Pilis had disputed her bill from a facial she had gotten the day before. She claimed the facial bruised her because it was too much pressure. By refusing to pay the $60, Lydia, the masseuse and local Zimbabwean, had to make that money back to her boss, out of pocket.

We were furious. I felt sick to my stomach as my friend Wendy relayed this story. Wondering what we could do, I realized I had the perfect amount of US cash in my purse to cover the costs and add a tip. I am notorious for never having cash, so it felt far from coincidence.

I could leave Victoria Falls ashamed of Pilis and her disregard of others, wishing I could change her. Or I could change the situation, now.

I went to the front desk and asked for my money to cover the elderly woman who had refused to pay. When it came time to leave, Wendy introduced me and my sister to the woman that had handled the interaction with Pilis. Unfortunately, the story gets worse.

She was overjoyed that the masseuse Lydia was not going to have to pay, and explained that this ordeal had started right when she arrived for her facial. Pilis brought the clothes of her late son and offered them in exchange for the service.

Pilis got angry when Lydia refused, and reminded her that she lives in Zimbabwe so she could surely use these clothes.

The woman agreed with our horrified expressions and explained, “As Zimbabweans, we refuse to be pitied. We hold our heads higher, and we smile bigger for the next person. We don’t let people like her define us.

I was still heartbroken for all of the people who Pilis had hurt, but that I had done what I could in the Reed way. That we had been raised better, surrounded by true values, and taught to make a friend in everyone.

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When it came time to leave Victoria Falls, our Tour Guide, Douglas, asked me why I was crying, and after hearing the story, he said of Pilis, “She must have some troubles she carries on her back.”

I can’t point to Pilis to make a case for traveling in groups, but I can point to the community that was created with all of the others. There’s endless [positive] stories, adventures we could have never done on our own, and friendships our family will hold dear.

Their responses play in my head on a weekly basis. It so beautifully captures the spirit, pride, and will we saw in everyone we met during those two weeks. People, we wouldn’t have been able to meet on ground we wouldn’t have been able to cover if we weren’t traveling in this type of group.

We showed them our worst, and they still responded with their best.

It’s hard for me to picture this trip being just the Reeds, because whenever the group got to be sensory overload, we had solace in dinner for four, combining our rooms for happy hour, and staying up late to play euchre under the stars.

I can’t imagine how much Pilis’ stories of Africa will differ from the ones I heard growing up from my grandparents. But I can share my own, and encourage you, whenever possible, to go make your own.

En Route to Africa

I have been waiting to say those words for as long as I can remember. I have heard about Africa from every Reed family member, been surrounded by gorgeous artifacts, and admiring elephants since day numero uno. 

Finally, the bags are packed, the meds have been consumed for all of the diseases I’m dodging, and I’m wondering how many Instagrams a day is too many. Nine feels right to me.

In preparation for my family’s two week trip to Africa, I’ve been asked a lot about where I’m going, who I’m going with, why I’m going, and if I’ll remember not to pet the animals. 

The Where:

You know when your mom has it under control so you lose all sense of responsibility? That’s what we’re working with. What I do know is that we’ll be doing a safari, going to to Kruger National Park, and ending the trip with a visit to Victoria Falls. 

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Made this map just for you. And my own comprehension.

 

  • 4 days in Cape Town
  • 3 days in Hluhluwe
  • 2 days in Swaziland
  • 2 days in Kruger Park
  • 2 days in Johannesburg
  • 3 days in Victoria Falls

The Who:

My family loves to travel. Our big trips have mainly been to Europe, planned around when my sister was studying or living abroad in France, and when I was studying abroad in Rome. Without asking them, these are the stories I remember of their previous experiences with Africa. I have clung onto all of these stories for years as if they were my own, because in some ways they are.

My sister, Lindsay: She went to the Canary Islands when she was very young. The story I hear from this trip all the time is that my parents and grandparents were in their hotel room playing cards, while she slept in her crib in my parents’ room. At one point during the night, they heard a knock on the door, where they found little Lindsay on the search for Mom & Dad. We still don’t know how many doors she knocked on until she found the right one. 

My mom, Sheryl: Also may be referenced in these posts as SherBear, it’ll catch on one day. She’s traveled to Africa before with my dad, but I’m not sure how many countries she’s been to. One time, my parents were sleeping in a tent outside, let’s say in South Africa. My mom woke up to heavy breaths outside the tent, which she could hear and feel through the thin canvas wall. There was a huge lion standing outside their tent, my mom said her heart was racing, worried that it would barge in. Luckily, it kept on walking. 

My dad, Scott: The Africa expert, in my humble opinion. I had always heard stories of him being the only white student at a boarding school in Nigeria. On a recent trip, we visited where he wandered around Switzerland while his sisters were at boarding school there. 

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Fondue dinner in Switzerland- yes please

However, all the details have always been fuzzy to me. This may be because if you’ve ever gone on a big trip, people will ask you to “tell them everything,” but their attention spans tell you to “skim the highlights.” But I try to repeat the stories anyway, because they feel like home.

This brings us to the why.  

Why Africa? 

Apparently in eighth grade, I got to the bottom of this question. I don’t remember conducting this interview, so that’s why you keep the same desktop for 10+ years. Here is future B.A. in Journalism, 13 year-old Sarah with the facts (and notes from 2016 Sarah) on a project called My Family Story:

“For this project I called my grandma and had her tell me about her husband Jack Reed’s life. This let me learn more about my family, which I am very close with. I always loved my grandpa but I never really talked to him about his career or his amazing experiences. I loved learning so much about him, but I wish I would have done this 3 years ago, so it could be in person; my grandpa died of Cancer when I was 10 years old.”

Grandpa-isms

  • “When your retired everyday is like Sunday, except Sunday.” (I read this at his funeral and everyone laughed, but I didn’t get it for years)
  • “The k in knife is silent like the p in swimming” (Personal favorite)
  • “Finer than frog’s hair” (This was another where I would smile and nod)
  • “You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your nose.” (Still true)

“There are some people who follow their dreams in their careers and there are others that just settle for what they’re given. My grandpa, Jack Reed, never settled nor gave up. His dad was always interested in Africa, but never followed through, you could say he settled. (A little judgy for a 13 year old living in Mequon, WI) My grandpa shared the same deep interest of Africa and animals, but I wonder if he knew that he would be different; that he was going to follow his dreams.

In 1967 he was offered a Nigerian teacher education project employed by the University of Wisconsin. In Nigeria he would be writing the curriculum for teachers there. My dad and [his sisters] voted and decide they would agree to go, only if their dog could come. (ATTN: Friends, the dog-love is in my blood) When my Grandpa confirmed that would be fine, everyone was ecstatic, it was not extremely hard for the kids to leave considering they had done so much moving already. They had some doubts because it would be such a drastic change. 

‘We were curious of what we were letting ourselves get into, but more curious than doubtful,’ My grandma told me.

They moved to Nigeria in July 1967 working on the Nigerian teacher education project.  There he taught at the Amadu Bello University.  He enjoyed hunting big game there such as elephants. (This is brand new information. I think I purposefully blocked this out of my memory due to my love for elephants) His interest in animals and adventure resulted in lots of exciting camping trips, due to the world around them. The family saw Victoria Falls and would go to swamps to see any animal imaginable for the region.

They lived in Katsina, Nigeria for 2 years despite the food and water shortages, and having no phone or electrical outages. The first year in Nigeria my aunts went to the American School in Leysin Switzerland. My dad went to a primary boarding school in Nigeria where he was the only white kid. Because the school was close to home he came home every night and went back every morning like a normal school.

They lived on the edge of a dessert, so my dad would ride his horse into town and he would come back with chickens and other goods the villagers gave him. ‘All of the villagers loved the little white boy riding his horse,’ my grandma informed me. They came home after every year to see everyone back in Wisconsin, but never got severely homesick. The second year all three kids went to the International School of Ibadan, which was also a boarding school. They left Nigeria in 1969 and moved to Madison.

In Madison he taught science education at the University of Wisconsin. In 1974 he and my grandma moved to Botswana employed by the Ohio University. He taught at the University of Gabarone Botswana, where he was the Dean of school education. My grandma and grandpa stayed in Botswana for 15 years, but still returned once a year.

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My kind of decor: Grandma’s hand-me-downs from Botswana & Nigeria

All three kids were in college or graduated, so it was just the two of them. They returned to Wisconsin in 1995, two years after I was born. ‘Me and Jack first held you when you were four months old, like a peanut,’ My grandma shared. (I read this how she says peanut. All the feels)

I knew my grandpa for ten years but with all the memories I have of him, that number seems unreasonably small. (I actually only have a lot of other people’s memories of him, but I always remember his joy and humor)

He was an amazing person who able to fix anything from toys to sorrow. He wasn’t very serious, except for when it came to his dreams.

My grandpa was the type of person where no matter what, around him you would have a great time. He did what his heart told him to and didn’t follow through with something that didn’t make him happy. This reflects his career choice completely and knowing all this information has helped me understand not only him but a lot of my family. It now makes sense to me why there is always a dog in all of our family’s houses. (Finally this mystery is solved) All of his qualities and traditions are great to pick up habits from, such as his loving nature.  No one would be settling to have Jack Reed as family or a friend.”

There you have it. Stay tuned for blog updates whenever possible and follow @rarahseed for all of the Instagrams of animals and sunsets.

Happy holidays!

The tenacious pursuit of this trip, the complete disregard for details, and the emergence of an 8th grade assignment with the answers to all of my questions puts the S in Scrappy

5 Things to Try in Stillwater

After an AMAZING staycation in Stillwater, I have much to share. Anyone who has gotten a live Sarah-Reed-story before, knows that I firmly believe in the more details, the better. However, with all of the self control in the world, I give you the top 5 highlights. Here’s where to hike, where to drink, and where to eat (aka the essentials): IMG_5210

Willow River State Park: We explored a six mile trail here that was the perfect mix of grassy plains, difficult hills, and overlook views. Best of all, it led to a gorgeous waterfall {option to turn around here if 6 miles isn’t your style} and a large staircase to overlook the waterfall. We also visited William O’brien State Park the day before, which was predominantly grassy plains but was still a winner.

Charlie’s PubBrandon and I had been to this pub in the summer, and enjoyed sitting outside on the deck. Right above it is the hotel we decided to stay at this time, Water Street Inn. While the decks nice in the day, the real party is going here at night. With live Irish music on the weekends, and an intimate bar setting for other nights, you can’t go wrong. Sunday night, we were the only people at the bar, so we got to know the bartender to make his favorite drinks. Ask for the whiskey smash and an old fashioned, you won’t regret it.

IMG_5191Maple Island BrewingCan I go here everyday? I had an awesome flight consisting of an ale, maple beer, IPA, orange creamsicle, and coffee stout, Yes to everything, especially the Maple bock. A full one may have been too much, but the unique flavor was a great treat. There were two musicians playing covers (shout out to their Jbieb’s Love Yourself), which added great ambiance.  If you’re in Stillwater over the weekend, saunter over there Saturday morning for me to check out the yoga class they host- beer included and proceeds go to charity.

Tremblay’s Sweet Shop: After resisting the urge to visit Nelson’s, we wandered this quaint candy shop and I’m still dreaming of going back. There were samples, which is always a good sign, and amazing handmade truffles, turtles, brittles, and more. My bag of treats was twice the weight of IMG_5192Brandon’s, and I still see no problem with that.

Luna Rossa: Not to brag, but I know good Italian. I didn’t choose this life, it chose me. You simply do not live in Rome for four months and leave without greater expectations for pasta, wine, and fresh ingredients. With that said, Luna Rossa was the perfect place for our anniversary dinner Sunday night. Absolutely recommend the spinach and mushroom risotto topped with salmon. Add in some chianti and tiramisu, and it felt like my second home. 

Overall, 10/10 on this staycation. Stillwater’s waterfront small town vibe gives the impression you’re much farther from the Cities, when it was only a half hour commute. This allowed us to make the most of the Sunday morning- Monday afternoon trip, and be present without any stress. Explore wherever you can, it is always worth it. Let me know what you try from this list, and share where else you go!

 

Minneapolis with Mountains

Our yoga mats waiting to board, they became great friends.
Our yoga mats waiting to board, they became great friends.

It started as a “I wish we could.” Scrolling through photos of previous Yoga on the Rocks classes, imagining a city comparable to Minneapolis surrounded by mountains, and dreaming of a lifestyle that permitted guilt-free weekend travels. It’s very similar to how many of our friendships started. Being tied together by previous leadership positions, interests, and mutual friends then transitioned into seeing each other almost every day for 6 am yoga sessions, then to lunch/happy hours, life dilemma debriefs, and most significantly, for no reason at all.

Just as quickly, plans for our Denver weekend materialized and the countdown began. There’s something so powerful about travelling with like-minded people, driven by the best question “why not?” Our long weekend was filled with hiking, yoga {on paddleboards and on land}, being too enveloped in conversation to read the books we brought to the pool, shopping, brewery-runs, lots of eating, and explaining that we weren’t a bachelorette party despite the wedges and lipstick. It may not be everyone’s ideal, a sentiment I am used to, but that’s how you know you’re surrounding yourself with the right people. No complaints over here.

While there’s enough Insta’s to create a travel brochure, one of my greatest takeaways from this weekend was the concept of mental souvenirs. Some would call these memories {eye roll included} but I would call them boring.

Always one for the you-do-you mentality, I decided to go for a run after our paddleboarding adventure. Much IMG_2869to Alyx’s dismay, I left my phone behind with the defense of being able to run in Europe and not get lost prepared me for the moment. Sidebar, I actually got lost for hours during my first run in Rome, but that didn’t seem relevant at the time.

Following a paved trail close to the beach, I stumbled upon an archery range, wildlife signs, and secluded houses. Feeling the heat of the Colorado sun, I picked a stopping point in the distance, which happened to have an amazing view of the mountains, hills, prairies, valleys, and houses all leading into one another. As your classic millennial, my first thought was I wish I had my phone. But my second thought was how refreshing it was to be present. To see and savor instead of snap and share. This view is my mental souvenir.

As the weekend continued, I found connectivity wasn’t just in the scenery of Colorado. Everyone we met was warm and inviting, taking genuine interest in what brought us there. While we may pride ourselves on being products of the “Minnesota Nice” mentality, their authenticity set it apart. We also quickly learned that every CO resident who isn’t born there is considered a “transplant,” a term everyone insisted we would soon identify with.

Huge thank you to our beautiful host Becca
Huge thank you to our beautiful host Becca

By the time Friday night fell behind the peaks, we were exhausted from hiking Mount Sanitas and touring Boulder. Normally, when I suggest waking up at 5 am on vacation I get shut down very quickly, and people start to question why they went on vacation with me in the first place. Luckily, this group of yogis could agree sunrise at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre was a non-negotiable.

Once we arrived for Yoga on the Rocks {or #CPYontheRocks}, a 4-part series of guest led yoga classes in the amphitheatre, we knew all the planning and travelling {and PTO use, holla} was well worth it. Much like the 6 am classes we frequent, the venue was filled mat to mat and energy was bouncing between the peaks, despite the early start time. Our instructor for the day, the Minneapolis CPY-role model Joel, added to the unforgettable feels. From making us laugh—“Reach your arms forward like you’re seeing your favorite niece or nephew at Christmas. You don’t have a favorite, but they’re your favorite”—to creating a greater purpose for the group of 2,000 yogis—“Dedicate this practice to a friend who doesn’t know you’re thinking of them, a friend you need to tell ‘I love you,’ a friend you need to tell you’re sorry, a friend that doesn’t know they are beautiful”—which I committed to my first yoga friend, my mom.

There are too many photos to share, and even more stories to tell, and in reality I lost your attention a few IMG_2966paragraphs go, maybe got it back for the photos, but the Netflix tab at the top of the screen is going to trump sooner than later. It’s not everyday that we can plan trips and make choices that to others may seem extreme. I have had to answer the question “You went to Denver for a yoga class?” many times. On paper, yes, yes we did. But I don’t think it takes a health, yogi, or outdoor enthusiast to agree that this was so much more.

I think a lot of times, the best decisions do not make sense. Your bank account may not remember agreeing to it, your calendar may feel abused, but opportunities like these are driven by that “gut” feeling. For you, maybe it’s not a yoga class at Red Rocks, but whatever it is, stop consulting external factors and just say yes. Why not?

Parents Weekend

Despite the cold winters, most Twin City residents can’t get enough of Minneapolis and St. Paul. As a result, the hipsters in uptown, the professionals power-walking down Nicollet, and even the retirees relaxing on Grand Ave can come off as a bit annoying.

Each year I live here, I become a bigger part of the problem.

This weekend, I was able to host my parents and show them all the reasons they should be drinking the Kool-Aid as well. Interested visitors and proud residents looking for a staycation, here’s a few things from my Thursday-Monday you can’t miss:

1. Find a fair– The Uptown Art Fair was a perfect snapshot of the Twin Cities for my parents to experience. Even though not all the vendors are from Minnesota, the people, abundance of dogs and relaxed atmosphere rang true to the Cities. Even if you’re not an art expert, there’s something to be said for adventuring out of your comfort zone. It’s not too late to fit some culture into your summer, visit the Irish Fair this weekend, take throwbacks to a new level with the Renaissance Festival, mix things up with the Japanese Lighting Lantern Festival, celebrate my favorite fast-food place at the Chipotle Cultivate Festival, or of course, go big at the Minnesota State Fair!

The view from the 5th floor of the Guthrie
The view from the 5th floor of the Guthrie

2. Mill City & St. Anthony Main- Visiting the Stone Arch Bridge is a staple of a stroll in Minneapolis. However, the bookends of the bridge are rarely given as much attention. After we watched some kayakers get lowered down by the lock (new bucket list item) we wandered over to the Mill City Museum and Guthrie Theatre. This area is the place to be Saturday mornings for the farmer’s market, but it was stunning on a Monday afternoon as well. The biking and walking trails are perfect for exercising or enjoying the view of the Mississippi River. On the St. Anthony Main side of the River, enjoy wonderful restaurants, exploring trails and people watching. Farther Northeast, you’ll find my favorite meditation spot- Boom Island Park- perfect for picnics, laying out and bike rides.

3. Party with the whole block– Northeast, my favorite neighborhood, hosted In Cahoots this weekend at the Red Stag. Eight local breweries combined into four teams, each team then collaborated to create a new beer. Attendees of the event voted on the best brew, and a portion of the proceeds went to the winning team’s charity of choice. From the live music, to the people-watching, to our delicious dinner at nearby Gorkha Palace, Northeast did it again.

4. Easy Ride– Available everywhere across the Twin Cities, this self-service bike rental system is perfect for exploring different areas of the cities, while getting some exercise and a true MSP experience. My parents and I biked over to West Bank, looped through campus and rode along the East River Parkway trail- all areas we wouldn’t have had time to see on foot. You can drop the bikes off at any station throughout the city, making it as much of a commitment as you’d like.

5. Drink local– My roommates and I really out-Minneapolised ourselves and biked to the photo 1microbrewery, Dangerous Man. Upon our arrival, we found ourselves in the middle of a Donut Showdown viewing party. The head baker of the downtown shop, Angel Food, was featured on the Cooking Channel show and gathered family and friends at DM for the episode premiere. Although we weren’t aware of this event, by the end of the episode we were personally invested in her success. The evening of community engagement, biking, amazing craft beers, and samples of Angel Food donuts was the Twin Cities in a nutshell. Microbreweries are perfect for small parties, large receptions or networking events; and in case you were worried, your options aren’t limited.

For the record, I love me some St. Paul, but I didn’t venture there this weekend. Luckily, the parents are obligated to visit me throughout senior year, and that wonderful city will be at the top of the to-do list.