#4 – Try 4 new restaurants

Who doesn’t love trying new restaurants? Living in the Twin Cities makes it really simple, too, because it’s easy to bypass an Outback Steakhouse when there are fantastic places like Joan’s in the Park. How do they make such a good steak in a pizza oven?

So #4 on my 40 in 40 list is actually a pretty easy one for me. I’m going to visit at least 4 new restaurants a year, so this is kind of a gimme on my list.

The first new restaurant I checked out was on my birthday in February. The Highland Cafe & Bakery is a little diner in a strip mall on Ford Parkway in St. Paul. I’ve driven by it a million times and never ventured in, and I’ve been missing the best french fries ever. I’m not even a huge french fry fan, but whatever you do, if you go to Highland Cafe & Bakery, you must get something with french fries. They’re battered (beer battered, maybe?) and they’re so good. The waitress told me that a few years go they changed the recipe and there was backlash, so they went back. Thanks, angry customers, because the fries are delicious. I also liked the ambiance here, because it’s like a small-town diner, including a waitress who called me “dear” and “darling” and wrote our order on those old green guest check booklets, carbon paper and all.

The next place I tried was Corner Table in Minneapolis, and sadly, I don’t remember what I ate, but it’s not because it was bad. It was chicken something or other, and it was delicious, but that’s about all I’ve got. I really should’ve taken notes or a picture of something.

Then it was onto Augustine’s Bar & Bakery in St. Paul, which is in a building that used to be a laundromat. I drove by the laundromat almost every day when I went to my old job and I had no idea it went away until my co-worker suggested we try Augustine’s. We both shared the tator tots, which were the weirdest tator tots I’ve ever had, but in a good way. It was potatoes and broccoli and more all mushed together in giant tator tots. I’d definitely try them again. For my entree I had Augustine’s Burger, and while their fries were no where near as good as the ones at Highland Cafe & Bakery, the burger was pretty good.

The last restaurant I explored this past weekend when my mom was visiting. In the Pioneer Press I read about a new Inver Grove Heights place called 1.2.3 Pasta, so I was excited to check it out. From the owners of La Grolla, 1.2.3 Pasta has a casual dining feel with fancy restaurant food. We shared the Arancini, the rice and cheese balls in the picture, and then we split the Diavola Pizza and the special for the evening, grilled chicken and asparagus on top of the largest plate of risotto I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, we didn’t finish everything, but I was so happy to have leftovers from this place. I’ll definitely be back.

#13 AND #27 – Go to the MN Zoo & Go to an IMAX movie

I finished two 40 in 40 items in one day!

I don’t know the last time I went to the MN Zoo, or even if I’ve ever been, so 13 on my 40 in 40 was to go to the MN Zoo.

I’m often not a fan of zoos because I feel so bad for the animals. I don’t like when there isn’t a lot of space for them, so I really don’t enjoy Como Zoo at all. But I was pleasantly surprised with the MN Zoo. There was a lot of space for the tigers and buffalo, and I made sure to ask if the cows that were penned up were ever released into a pasture, and they assured me they were daily.

And the kangaroos! Kangaroos are apparently new at the MN Zoo, and the attraction is super cool in that there are no fences. We walk on a dirt path and mere feet beyond the dirt path are the kangaroos. There was a sign that said kangaroos can jump as far as 25 feet in one jump, so I’m sure they could take me out, but we didn’t see any of them jump. They were having a nice, lazy day sprawled out on the grass or walking. And have you seen a kangaroo walk on all fours? Their back legs are way longer than their front legs, so just imagine a T-Rex walking on all fours. I should’ve taken a video.

After the zoo, we then went to the IMAX, number 27 on my 40 in 40, and saw the movie Dunkirk. It was different than I thought it would be in that there really isn’t much dialogue. We’re just instantly immersed in the British soldiers stranded at Dunkirk and we follow some of them and what they went through to try to get off the beach. It was really intense and I understand the praise it’s getting.

I’m not sure what’s next on my list, but this was a really fun day. Thanks to Kristen, Heather, and Jennifer for making it so much fun!

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#22 – See a play or musical at a new theater

I love the theater. Plays and musicals are totally my jam, but I feel like I sometimes go to the same theaters again and again, like the different venues owned by Hennepin Theatre Trust, the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, the Ordway, and, of course, going with my family to Theatre L’Homme Dieu in Alexandria.

Number 22 on my 40 in 40 was to make sure I’d make an effort to seek out a new theater this year.

This past weekend one of my sisters was visiting me, as she was recuperating from a surgery, and we wanted a lazy weekend. We saw some movies (The Big Sick is so good!), ate yummy food, and decided to go to a play.

The Gremlin Theatre just moved to a new location, in the same building as Lake Monster Brewing, after three years of trying to find a home. To celebrate their new space, they’re redoing the very first play they ever put on as a theater company 19 years ago – Don’t Dress for Dinner.

Don’t Dress for Dinner is a comedy of errors, a mistaken identity farce, where a husband and wife are both trying to sneak their lovers into their home for the evening. Throw in a sassy caterer and her jealous husband and this play was just what we needed. I highly recommend it if you need a good laugh.

The only bad thing about the Gremlin Theatre is the location, which sucks because it’s their new location. It’s a little hard to find, because signage isn’t good, but you locate it by entering the doors to the left of Lake Monster Brewing. But it’s not really about locating it that’s the problem. It’s the smell.

Entering the building, you’re hit in the face with a pretty gross bathroom smell. It permeates the long hallway leading up to the theater, so instantly I felt gross. I swear I could still smell it a little bit in the theater, too, and whatever it is, the building needs to fix it. When I’m going to the theater, I don’t want it to smell like porta potty.

Overall: the play was good, but the venue needs some work.

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40 in 40 Update

My 40 in 40 list has been out for a couple months now, and people keep asking me what I’ve finished on the list.

Unfortunately, the answer is nothing…completely.

Many of the items on my list are things that have to do many times: visit 4 new restaurants, buy flowers once a month, try 4 new ice cream joints, etc. And some are items that can’t happen until a later day, like going through a corn maze.

That being said, I’m making progress. I’ve visited a few restaurants, been buying flowers every month (look at those gorgeous May ones), and have tried an ice cream joint where the serving sizes are as big as my head (Nelson’s).

So I’ve done some things. I just haven’t completely finished one thing yet, but I’m getting there.

Next up: I’m meeting with a tattoo artist soon to start working on designs for my first tattoo!

 

RA Booklist 2017

Soon I’ll begin teaching my Readers’ Advisory Services course again. For you non-librarians, Readers’ Advisory (RA) is what we librarians call how we help people find books they want to read, so I help students figure out how to answer the question, “Can you recommend a good book for me?”

That’s a pretty simplistic definition of RA, because it does include more than just recommending books. However, one big part of the course is analyzing genres/categories of books so students are more knowledgeable and can feel confident recommending a variety of books.

To learn more about genres/categories of books, they read a variety of books in my course, and people always ask me for my booklist, so you’ll find it below. But just know, I don’t make students read every book on this list. They read a couple in each genre/category.

If none of these books appeal to you, don’t worry, I don’t like all of them either. Each of them represents the genre/category in a certain way so students learn about the variety in each group. If you don’t like cozy mysteries you’re not going to like the one under Mystery / Thriller (Mission Impawsible).

Literary Fiction / Short Stories

Wintering by Peter Geye
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Mystery / Thriller

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Mission Impawsible by Krista Davis

Historical Fiction

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Science Fiction

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Fantasy

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Romance / Women’s Fiction

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
If I Only Had a Duke by Lenora Bell
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan
Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Nonfiction

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward
Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo
The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang

Graphic / Comic

Saga, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden
Patience by Daniel Clowes
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

Young Adult Crossover

Naked ’76 by Kevin Brooks
The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

If you want other book recommendations, let me know.

Happy reading!

39th birthday

It’s my 39th birthday, the final year before I turn the big 4-0. I have no real reason why, but I’m not looking forward to 40.

I should be ecstatic. I feel more stable in life, with a home, wonderful family members, a job I love, and some fantastic friends who are like family. I’m not in my 20s and scrounging to make it, or in my 30s and still trying to figure out where I belong. I feel more stable than ever before, and it’s a great, satisfying feeling, but 4-0 still weighs heavily on me.

I still remember when my mom turned 40. It was old. It was really, really old. And back then she looked old. Of course, I was only 8 at the time, so 30, even 20, looked old, but something about 40 seemed exceedingly old.

But how can I be exceedingly old? I’m not old. I still feel like I’m just about to hit 30, so how in a year will I be 40?

It’s silly, and I know it’s silly, because my mom was not exceedingly old at 40 and neither am I, but this unrealistic fear of the number hovers over me.

To help me try to embrace 40, I decided I needed to do something to celebrate it, so I’m stealing an idea. My friend Megan did a 40 in 40, 40 things to do during the year leading up to 40, and I thought it was such a great idea. I’ve been so excited trying to come up with my list of 40 and I’ve been talking about it with everyone. Even yesterday I got my dentist excited about the idea and she’s stealing it to do a 30 in 30 with her husband to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

So I’m going to do a 40 in 40. 40 fun things leading up to me actually turning 40. These are things I haven’t done in a long time or  I’ve never done. Some are bigger, like taking a trip somewhere new, and some are more simple, like baking bread from scratch, but I’m hoping if I do these things in the year leading up to the big 4-0 it won’t look so grim.

Check out my 40 in 40 list. Want to do any of them with me?

This year, for real

Last year I said I’d blog more. Even though I don’t really do resolutions, I declared blogging was mine.

So, about that. This is my first post since last May.

But this year is going to be the year because this year I’m doing a 40 in 40.

At the end of February I turn 39. I have not fully accepted the fact that I’m this close to 40, but I decided I’m going to embrace it. To help me embrace it, I’m going to come up with 40 things I need to do in my 40th year. Some things will be silly, like sending $20 to different people and having them tell me how they spent it. Some things will be more elaborate, like visiting a state I haven’t visited before. But there will be 40 of them and I will blog about all of them.

Now, to start that 40 in 40 list…