Who needs sleep?

Last weekend was incredible – I’m just starting to recover!  Let me tell you what I did…

On Friday night, I went to the first classroom session of my SCUBA class!  The class took place in a teensy, tiny 9-chair classroom in the basement of the Minneapolis Scuba Center.  The lessons were brief.  They were very much a high level review of the textbook, so it’s a good thing I actually did all of the assigned reading and in-book quizzes and tests. 

After I got back from class at 10pm, the Hubby and I went walking through LynLake and Uptown.  It was an excellent spring evening, and the crowds were out!  The yuppies were dolled up and standing on the sidewalks, waiting to get into Chino Latino and Stella’s.  The slightly hipper yuppies were sitting outside at the Bryant Lake Bowl and Sauce.  We took a ride on an almost-completely-built bike taxi – which was fun and a little scary – and we discovered a new comic store in Uptown, which always makes me happy.   The shop was closed when we walked by, but I snapped a picture of the store and an awesome decal on the front window.

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Bright and early on Saturday morning I rode the motorcycle out to Eagan for the last scuba classroom session, the final test and our first water lessons.  I aced the final, which came with the dubious honor of having a minute trimmed off of my 10-minute tread (the water was 88°F – I would have rather stayed in than stood shivering on the pool deck!).  After a 200-meter swim, we set up our equipment for the first time.  We put the BCD on the tank, attached the regulator to all of the right places, turned on the air (important skill, that one) and lowered the whole mess into the water.  Then we all hopped in and helped each other shrug into our gear. 

PADI Certification | Beginning Scuba Diving Lessons | PADI Open Water Diver Certificatioin Class enjoying the heated indoor pool at Scuba Center in Eagan, Minnesota. | PADI Open Water Diver Certification classes are small, limited to a maximum of eight to ten students per PADI Instructor during pool (Confined Water) training, to assure personal attention and fun while learning to Scuba dive. | Certification classes offered in Eagan, Minnesota and Minneapolis, Minnesota

photo source

We mostly stayed in the shallow end on day 1.  We followed a PADI skills list and learned how to communicate and stay with our dive buddy underwater, how to clear water from our masks and regulators, how to detach and re-attach our low-pressure inflator from the BCD, how to breathe from a free-flowing regulator, how to equalize our ears and masks, how to haul our buddy in a “tired swimmer” tank pull and body push, how to ease a leg cramp underwater, and all sorts of other skills. 

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Saturday evening, the Hubby and I went to a party at a friend’s house.  There were probably about 30 people who came and went on that night, and we got to meet some new people – always fun!  We went home relatively early because I was exhausted from messing around in a pool for three hours 🙂

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I had Sunday morning free, so I decided to head over to Valleyfair.  This was the 2010 season’s opening weekend for the amusement park, and I love me some roller coasters and thrill rides.  See?  I even know that there’s a difference between roller coasters and thrill rides!  The weather was perfect and was kind enough to give me a brilliant blue sky – perfect for pictures!

    
 

     
 

There are my two favorite photos from the park:

  

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Cut to early afternoon:  Back to Eagan for the last day of pool scuba lessons.  The instructor made us put our equipment together and take it apart four times in a row.  Damn, that’s a lot of equipment!  But I’m glad he made us do it – I should be able to remember how to set up for the Open Water dive class next month.  At one point we were sitting at the bottom of the 12-foot pool for 45-minutes straight!  We did a few buoyancy exercises, but that’s a skill I know I’ll need to work on.  It’s really hard to sit in one place in the water and not float to the surface or sink to the bottom!  Swimming or moving at a certain depth – no problem.  Hovering was a little harder.  But in the end we all passed the pool portion of the scuba lessons!

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Back in Minneapolis, later that afternoon, the Hubby and I went down to the LynLake block party.  The shops between 31st and Lake Street were open, a few Art Cars were parked in the center of the block, and a stage was set up by the intersection of 31st and Lyndale. 

This dude thought maybe one more cup would fit….some people’s kids, I tell ya.  I watched this garbage can for about three minutes, and people just kept tossing garbage in the general direction of the overflowing trash bin.  Either that, or they’d shove something in from one direction, and three pieces would fall out another side.  Seriously?

We walked a block up from the block party to Pizza Luce!  Yummy gluten-free appetizers and pizza.  Thank you Pizza Luce in South Minneapolis for finally adopting the full-time gluten-free menu!

   

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Phew.  And then I collapsed for a few hours!

Who needs sleep?
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Birthday Weekend

My birthday weekend was pretty awesome.  I went on a roadtrip on Saturday, and spent Sunday with the Hubby, friends and family.

Saturday: Road Adventures and A House Party

Ashley and I hung out on Saturday.  We decided to go on a road trip down to the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN.  We left Robbinsdale at about 10pm and fueled up with Carribou and snacks for the drive.  Austin is located in South Central MN, about 1.75 hr from the Twin Cities.

I was a little suprised to see that the Spam Museum was actually very well done and a fun place to visit.  It’s brand new (it opened in 2003), and there are all sorts of games and interactive displays to mess around with.  Who knew Spam could be so interesting?  The museum is truly a marketing wonder.  I am a little ticked at the TV display showing the Monty Python clip featuring Spam.  I’ve been humming it all weekend.

The SPAM Museum had a lot of the historical advertisements displayed, including this old-timey politically incorrect ad for Hormel Chili: “Made for Americans! It’s not too hot!.  I can’t tell if they’re talking about the chili or the Caucasian “Senorita”. 

And I almost lost it in the gift shop.  I couldn’t help but notice that this little piggy likes his Spam a bit too much.  I mean, seriously?  Talk about a fatal attraction.

We were only in the Spam Museum for about an 1.5 hr, so Ashley and I decided to continue our road trip.  We took the scenic route east through Preston, Lanesboro, Rushford and then up to my old stomping grounds of Winona before heading back up the Mississippi to Minneapolis.  Ashley hadn’t been in this part of Minnesota before and I was delighted to see her excitement at the bluffs, the Root River, the woody hills and the Mississippi River.  We stopped at Garvin Heights, a scenic overlook above Winona, which was nostalgic for me and pretty amazing for her. 

Saturday night the Hubby and I went to a party at our friends’ house and hung out with a bunch of people who we don’t get to see that often, so that was an excellent treat.  Speaking of treats: One of the hosts made Beef Wellington…soooo good…

Sunday: Shopping, Shopping, Eating, Swimming, More Eating

On Sunday morning we went to the Minneapolis Farmers Market.  Now, you may have read my post from the last time I visited.  April 24th was the “preview weekend” that didn’t start until 9am, but I didn’t know that so I showed up at 7am and the place looked like this:

Well, on Sunday May 8th we didn’t show up until 11am and…well, this is why I usually try to hit the Farmer’s Market at 7am:

The Market was wonderfully, insanely packed!  I mean it was really, really packed, but the people watching was stupendous.  All of the street musicians and performance artists were out.  All of the vendor tents were up.  There were flowers everywhere you looked, and tons and tons of veggies, meats, cheeses, spices.  It was fabulous.  What a difference a few weeks and a few hours makes!

After the Farmers Market, the Hubby and I headed over to this little Flea Market which we heard about from a friend who was vending there.  It’s not a permanent thing – it was really more of a community garage sale, but with more eclectic items for sale.  I found a metal coin bank – you know one of these guys (photo source):

cheinsmallglobebank.jpg

Mine is older than at least late 1950’s because Pakistan isn’t on the map yet – it’s still a part of India.  Africa contains these gems: French West Africa, Gold Coast, Belgian Congo, North and SouthRhodesia, Bechuana Land and Tanganyika.  In the Middle East and Asia, Russia starts at Poland and Romania, and you can find the countries of Arabia, Manchuria, Tibet, Siam, and Netherland Indies.

The Hubby’s found this Fire Extinguisher for $10.  It’s probably worth that in the copper or brass of which it’s made, and we found a similar extinguisher in Stillwater going for $95.  He’s going to try to incorporate it into his steampunk or diesel punk costume that he’s working on for CONvergence.

   

After that we celebrated Mother’s Day with the Hubby Momma and my birthday with his family at QCumbers in Edina (a slightly upscale Old Country Buffet).  I got some sweeeet birthday swag!  Then we headed over to the YMCA for a little swimming and the hot tub, and finally we hit Tiger Sushi 2 in Minneapolis that evening to celebrate my birthday with some friends.  A day of shopping, eating and swimming (and more eating!) – what’s not to love?

It was an excellent Birthday Weekend.

Birthday Weekend

Weekend Report: Kick Ass and Psycho Suzi’s

I saw Kick Ass this weekend with a bunch of coworkers from the bookstore, and I LOVED it.  Seriously, I heart Hit Girl – she’s one of the baddest ass action heroes that I’ve ever seen.  Check her out, but not at work because much like Hit Girl herself, this video is violent and crude.

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On Saturday night me, the Hubby, and our good friend Courtney went to Psycho Suzi’s, a fantastic hipster tiki-themed bar in Nordeast Minneapolis.  They’ve got famous tiki drinks like The Native’s Curse, the Crummy Scoundrel and their over-sized version of a group punch bowl, the Flaming Pele. 

I ordered a drink special that had a really geeky chemistry theme –  the Tikium Euphorium, chemical symbol “Te”.  I was hoping to be able to read the description on the sign in this picture, but sadly it’s a leeetle to small to see.  I don’t know any cool computer tricks to blow it up and maintain the resolution, but hey – it’s still a cut pic of moi!

Another great thing about Psycho Suzi’s is the trailer-trash appetizers – we ordered tater tots and pickle roll ups – dill pickles rolled in ham and cream cheese…mmmm….

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On Sunday I took Ashley to the Como Zoo in St. Paul.  We were going to take an Adventure Drive down to Manketo…oops, so an Adventure Drive is when you decide how much time you want to spend going in any one direction, then you draw a radius around your starting point, pick a direction or a highway and go explore.  But sadly, at our fueling stop (that’s the Carribou Coffee, not the gas station), I discovered that I had left my wallet at home.  By the time we got back to Minneapolis, we didn’t have nearly enough time to make it to Manketo, so we decided to shelf the Adventure Drive and go to the Conservatory and Zoo.

Ashley at the Sunken Garden

Weekend Report: Kick Ass and Psycho Suzi’s

Weekend Report: Kick Ass and Psycho Suzi's

I saw Kick Ass this weekend with a bunch of coworkers from the bookstore, and I LOVED it.  Seriously, I heart Hit Girl – she’s one of the baddest ass action heroes that I’ve ever seen.  Check her out, but not at work because much like Hit Girl herself, this video is violent and crude.

~~~~~~~~~~

On Saturday night me, the Hubby, and our good friend Courtney went to Psycho Suzi’s, a fantastic hipster tiki-themed bar in Nordeast Minneapolis.  They’ve got famous tiki drinks like The Native’s Curse, the Crummy Scoundrel and their over-sized version of a group punch bowl, the Flaming Pele. 

I ordered a drink special that had a really geeky chemistry theme –  the Tikium Euphorium, chemical symbol “Te”.  I was hoping to be able to read the description on the sign in this picture, but sadly it’s a leeetle to small to see.  I don’t know any cool computer tricks to blow it up and maintain the resolution, but hey – it’s still a cut pic of moi!

Another great thing about Psycho Suzi’s is the trailer-trash appetizers – we ordered tater tots and pickle roll ups – dill pickles rolled in ham and cream cheese…mmmm….

~~~~~~~~~~

On Sunday I took Ashley to the Como Zoo in St. Paul.  We were going to take an Adventure Drive down to Manketo…oops, so an Adventure Drive is when you decide how much time you want to spend going in any one direction, then you draw a radius around your starting point, pick a direction or a highway and go explore.  But sadly, at our fueling stop (that’s the Carribou Coffee, not the gas station), I discovered that I had left my wallet at home.  By the time we got back to Minneapolis, we didn’t have nearly enough time to make it to Manketo, so we decided to shelf the Adventure Drive and go to the Conservatory and Zoo.

Ashley at the Sunken Garden

Weekend Report: Kick Ass and Psycho Suzi's

Never Again Will I Complain About Leftovers.

Mud cookies.

I had never heard of mud cookies before.  I remember hearing that starving people will eat mud to stave off hunger, but I never imagined that an industry around mud-food could arise.

With the recent earthquakes has come a renewed interest in Haiti’s past, present and future troubles.  I saw a picture of a Haitian woman prepping mud cookies in a newspaper article and was flabbergasted.  Apparently, the edible mud is sifted to remove rocks, then mixed with salt and shortening, shaped into disks and dried in the sun.

In an article from msnbc.com, one sixteen year old girl, Charlene, says this about mud cookies:

“When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day,” Dumas said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the 6 pounds, 3 ounces he weighed at birth.

Though she likes their buttery, salty taste, Charlene said the cookies also give her stomach pains. “When I nurse, the baby sometimes seems colicky too,” she said.

Oh, and FYI: Haiti’s mud cookie industry isn’t a new phenomenon.  The msnbc article above was published in January of 2008.  The website HaitiAction.net has an article and several pictures taken in 2008, like this one of women preparing mud cookies:

Never Again Will I Complain About Leftovers.

War on Salt

There is a very interesting argument just gearing up over at sciencebasedmedicine.org.  Dr. Steven Novella (of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast and NeuroLogica blog) has introduced to us “The War on Salt”.

Accepted medical research indicates that people with high blood pressure need to decrease their salt intake to prevent cardiovascular problems later in life, but it sounds like the “war on salt” is about to come a little closer all of us. 

It seems that food awareness is a sleepy giant that is starting to stumble up onto its feet.  I know the raw/vegan/organic and “natural” foods movements have been around for decades.  And as Dr. Novella mentions, New York City has recently legislated the amount of trans fat that is allowed in certain foods.  As (literal) consumers, we are having to do a LOT of research before we eat.  It’s becoming a bit harder to plead ignorance for the  PBJ/white bread and Mac-n-Cheese diet.

Okay, it can be easy.  No processed foods, less eating out.  Fresh veggies, meats, dairy, eggs, whole grain breads, and fewer starches, sugars and sodium.  Easy enough, right?  Gets a little harder when you’re trying to work, go to school, wrangle kids, maybe single-parent, less income, two jobs, volunteer work, kids’ afterschool activities, Tivo, writing new blog posts, homework…but with some effort, it can be done.  After all, eating healthy has an extremely important and profound effect on our quality of life, so it can be argued that a little – or a lot – of attention should be paid. 

But – gah!  I was feeling overwhelmed in the grocery store last night.  Is  organic vs. conventional celery significantly nutritionally different.  I don’t think so.  Is there a benefit to eating raw food?  Might be.  Might milk from hormone-injected cows have a deterimental effect on my health?  I don’t have a clue.   I walk past most of the the pre-packaged foods in the store these days, but even if one wants to buy “fresh” starting materials, the choices are many.  Do I need to care if the cattle I’m going to ingest was grass-fed or corn-fed?  Well, I think grass-fed tastes better, but that’s completely subjective.   

Any time someone opens a conversation about healthy eating and the magical combinations of foods that will increase your chances of immortality (ooo – I know this one – it’s zero!   Or wait…is that infinity?), fierce arguments start up.  The comments section of Dr. Novella’s post has shot up from 10 to 18 in the time it’s taken me to write this post, and there are some great ideas being discussed.  Right now the hot topics are the role of government intervention in public choices, and personal responsibility.  *rubbing hands together gleefully*   Ooooo!  It’s going to be a bloody one!

As for me, constant vigilance!  I’m always updating my personal food choice habits (trying to keep up with the latest research rather than fads), but for now I think I’ll stick with the $0.99 conventional celery over the $2.99 organically grown stuff.  And maybe I’ll use a bit less salt.

War on Salt