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Black Panther Review

February 19, 2018

This would be my official Black Panther review, but I have not seen the movie yet. Not because I was holding off on seeing it as suggested by Aliza Worthington in a recent Medium post – “Black Panther” Is Not For Us, White People – but because I went to the wrong theater.

I really want to see it, but I don’t usually go to the movies on a Tuesday evening when school is in session. Hell, even during the summer we don’t go to movies on Tuesdays. 

I’m not a huge comic book fan. I haven’t seen most of the movies about comic book heroes, so I am unfamiliar with most of the characters in these movies. Truth be told, I had no idea who Black Panther was before I saw the trailer for this movie a few months ago. 

My interested in the movie is because of Danai Gurira, who happens to play Okoye in Black Panther. Having not seen the movie I know nothing about her character except to assume she is badass.

I love Danai Gurira. Everything about her is amazing. Of course I know of her because of her portrayal of Michonne on The Walking Dead. As you all know, I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead – oh wait, that’s a comic book…. I guess to do follow some of them. Anyway, Michonne is one of the best characters on the show. She and Carol have been my favorites for some time. Danai Gurira brings to Michonne not only her kickass sword moves but she is also the calm within the storm. I don’t think we’ve even come close to learning about the character but you can be sure that Danai Gurira will bring the story to life.

Danai Gurira portrays Michonne as a force of nature, and I suspect she brings the same life to Okoye, though there isn’t much info about the character available as I write this.

We left the house early, but as stated above, went to the wrong theater. By the time I figured out my mistake it was too late, we’d never make the trek across town in time to see the movie. I didn’t want to miss the first half hour so I said forget it and we grabbed a bite to eat instead.

I stumbled across the article mentioned above while we were having dinner. My first reaction was one of sever eye rolling. Who is this white woman who speaks for all the black people? Did black people get together and vote for her to be spokesperson? How arrogant of this woman to presume she can speak for black people or tell white people, or any people for that matter, not to see a movie because it isn’t for them.

I suspect the director, actors and producers want all the people to go to this movie. I mean, isn’t that why they made it? As of this writing the movie is projected to have earned $201 million over the opening weekend. 

I’ll update this post when I have actually seen the movie, so be sure to check back. In the mean time, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Was it as good as it looks?

Events Reviews Things I Really Like

Did This is Us Live Up to the Hype?

February 5, 2018
Did This is Us live up to the hype?

What do you think, did This is Us live up to the hype? Was it even possible to live up to all the hype that had been created for the beloved show? 

Before we go on, there are spoilers in this post. If you haven’t seen last night’s episode of This is Us, back out and read something else.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

This is Us aired immediately after the Super Bowl, which meant it aired close to 10pm CST. I don’t know about you, but that’s late for me. I want to watch the local news through the weather and then I’m in bed. 

I understand why NBC wanted to have the huge audience that was sure to tune in following the Super Bowl, but after watching the game all evening, I really wasn’t ready to focus on the show. In fact, it turns out I missed a lot of important details and ended up having to watch the episode again today.

Did This is Us Live Up to the Hype?

In this episode of This is Us, we finally witness the death of Jack, the beloved father to Randall, Kate and  Kevin and perfect husband to Rebecca. We’ve known for some time that Jack died in a fire, or as it turned out, the result of a fire. It was widely speculated that he would die because he rescued Kate’s dog. While it was not the direct cause, the act didn’t help any.

Jack dies from a heart attack brought on by all the smoke that did damage to his lungs which in turn put stress on his heart. 

Like all This is Us episodes, the story jumps around a timeline that takes place in several times in the past, the present, and now the future. I missed the future reference. I saw it, just didn’t put it together.

I have a love/hate relationship with This is Us, I love the story, I love seeing the underbelly of this nearly broken family, but I have issues with it. They may be unfounded as the story unfolds, but based on the info I have now, I have some problems with it.

All the kids are messed up – Randall has anxiety, Kevin is an addict and Kate has issues about her weight. All of things one would expect children who suffered trauma would experience. The problem is they lost their dad when they were 17. I’m not saying losing a parent at this age isn’t devastating, it is at any age. But 17 years with two parents who not only love the kids but love each other is a rare thing, no matter what timeline they’re in.

These kids had 17 years of being raised by a great dad and attentive and loving mother. Presumably, when they lost their dad, their lives went to shit. 

Except Kate already had issues with food, Randall already had anxiety and Kevin was already an asshole. 

Not that decent parents couldn’t have raised fucked up kids, it does happen, it just seems like the show is trying to lead us to believe the kids are messed up because their dad died (and their mom went on to marry his best friend, though I don’t know that we know when that happens).

All of them are beautifully broken, and yet they manage to lead successful and full lives. I get it, it’s TV. People live in homes that the regular person could never afford on their TV salaries, daycare is never an issue and the bills are always paid. I get it, I really do. 

I don’t think the show lived up to all the hype. Sure, it was sad, but I didn’t cry and I didn’t feel morally crushed. I was not heartbroken. Mostly, because I knew it was coming, and had for nearly two years. I was fairly well prepared for it.

With that in mind, I will say that it was an excellent episode. Mandy Moore did an excellent job portraying a woman who just had her life turn upside down but was unable to break. It simply wasn’t an option, she had to go on. I’m actually more interested in seeing how she copes than the kids for the moment. Yeah, I want to dig deeper into Kate’s disordered eating, but I want to know how Rebecca remains standing. Actually, I know, I’m just excited to see it portrayed in all it’s gritty glory.

Seeing Kevin and his mother reconnect was also satisfying. Kevin continues to be the third wheel when it comes to the kids, at least in relation to their mother, and that is a relationship I would like to explore. Kate has Toby, a man who seems to have it all and then some. He’s thoughtful, caring, loving and I bet he puts the seat down when he’s finished. Randall has Beth, a woman not unlike his mother who is strong as nails. She keeps him grounded and centered so when he falls, like Kate, he has someone to catch him. Kevin doesn’t really have anyone for that because he pushes everyone away, even his mother. Seeing them reach out to one another is refreshing.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow night’s episode if only to see how the grief is managed. I wasn’t satisfied with how Kate’s miscarriage played out, though I concede they probably aren’t finished dealing with that grief, just as Kate still hasn’t grieved the death of her dad.

So did This is Us live up to the hype? In my book no, but then there wasn’t a way it could. And if it had there’s no way the show could continue for much longer. It was an excellent episode that gave many of us a modicum of closure. 

And let’s not forget, Jack is still there. We’ll be seeing him in flashbacks, like we have for the last two years, going forward. Which is how it should be. As long as we have our memories, the people we love never leave us. 

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Some Thoughts on the Super Bowl

February 5, 2018
Some Thoughts on the Super Bowl

Now that it’s over, everyone can go home. Obviously, I have some thoughts on the Super Bowl and all the surrounding festivities and celebrations that took place in the Twin Cities metro area.

Some Thoughts on the Super Bowl

First and foremost, it was pretty awesome. The weather couldn’t have been better. Sure, it was cold and it snowed a few inches, but that’s what we do here and visitors can say they endured a true Minnesotan Winter. Make no mistake, it could have been a lot colder.

The cities involved – Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington and all the other places – put on a great show.

I didn’t go downtown Minneapolis – mostly because of parking, and all the people, and because I don’t care, but if I were into sports it would have been fun. It looked like there was a lot of stuff to do if you are into sports.

I didn’t go to downtown St. Paul either but that’s because I’ve seen it – a lot – and have been to the Winter Carnival many, many times. And, because it was cold. Still, I did watch the news and it all looked awesome. Bravo too whoever was in charge of that, you did a great job.

I did go to the MOA and that is a well oiled machine. I go there most mornings to get my steps in during the winter months so I watched the transformation from mall to media outlet. In just a couple of weeks the mall was completely transformed into a sports venue of sorts, and that’s following the holiday season which was also a major transformation. Today, only hours after the Eagles won the Super Bowl, the Mall of America had mostly returned to being a mall.

The fans were pretty cool. Out of town fans were pretty easy to spot, they were the ones wearing hats, mittens and several layers of coats and vests. All of them had new Sorrel boots. Everyone seemed to behave themselves. The Eagles didn’t trash Minneapolis, though they trashed their own town which is interesting… 

The celebrities were pretty cool too. Except for Justin Timberlake. Don’t get me wrong, he’s cool enough even though he projected a huge image of Prince onto a sheet at his half time show. It was close enough to being a hologram so…. I couldn’t hear most of the songs he sang during his show, but then I don’t know them anyway.

It was an okay show, certainly not the worst, but it didn’t hold a candle to the performance Prince put on in 2007. And that isn’t even where I take issue with JT. No, I’m irritated that he went to my Target on Friday and signed a bunch of his albums and then told fans the secret code to get them. That was fine, it’s that he didn’t actually go to my Target on Friday, he went on Monday and it was all staged. I know they do that, I just thought he was different. 

I didn’t get to have Jimmy Fallon over for dinner, he ended up going to some home in Champlin. I suspect it was because he didn’t get Minnesota Nice or because I goofed and said he was from California instead of New York. I have no idea how I made that mistake, I watch the show every night and it says it in the intro. 

All in all, it was a pretty positive experience. Of course, I live in St. Paul so my life wasn’t impacted that much by the festivities. I’m glad we got to show the football fans and the teams a good time and what a real winter is like and I hope many will return to spend more time here and enjoy all that this state has to offer. However, for now, everyone can just go on home. 

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Where to Eat in the Twin Cities While Visiting for the Super Bowl

January 29, 2018
Where to Eat in the Twin Cities While Visiting for the Super Bowl

Wondering where to eat in the Twin Cities while visiting for the Super Bowl? You’re not alone. If you’re here for the sport thing, there are a million sports bars in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the surrounding suburbs that make up the Twin Cities. Sports bars with walls of TVs to catch all the pre-game excitement of Super Bowl LII. However, there’s more to dining than buffalo wings and jalapeño poppers.

Or in the words of our very own Prince:

…But I’m here to tell you, there’s something else….

If this is your first time to these Midwest cities you probably won’t know where to go to get a good meal at a decent price. And there are so many great places that you won’t hear about hanging with sports fans at the US Bank Stadium or the MOA (that’s what the locals call the Mall of America). 

Of course, you’ll need to cross the river for the ones I’m about to tell you about. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great places to eat in Minneapolis, I just can’t think of any I’d want to brave the crowds and traffic for. Come over to St. Paul, we have parking!

Where to Eat in the Twin Cities While Visiting for the Super Bowl

The Commodore

79 Wester Avenue

St. Paul, MN 55102


The Commodore Bar is where all the hep cats hang out. Originally where people like F. Scott Fitzgerald got their booze on during Prohibition when folks were forced to drink in the speakeasy located in the basement. The bar has been renovated several times in the last 100 years but always retains its stunning beauty and local charm. The food is excellent.  Nothing on the menu will disappoint and the wait staff is exceptional. If you want to step back in time and experience real glamour, check out the Commodore.

W. A. Frost

374 Selby Avenue

St. Paul, MN 55102


W. A. Frost is owned by the same folks as the Commodore so the prices are similar and the food offerings are similar American cuisine and of course, the service is stellar. The difference is the ambiance. Both are lovely, just have completely different vibes. Jeans are perfectly acceptable, but you wouldn’t stick out in a cocktail dress or suit either. W. A. Frost is just a short walk up Western Avenue from The Commodore. If you really want to fit in with the locals do some bar hopping in sub-zero temps. That’s what F. Scott did.

The Lexington

1096 Grand Avenue

St. Paul, MN



The Lexington is another former Speakeasy. Originally built in the thirties and remodeled just last year, it has long been a neighborhood place to be and be seen. Enjoy an Old Fashioned at the bar while waiting for your table. The food is supper club staples like popovers, Steak Diane, and their signature pot pie. Just want a little nibble before the big game, try their relish tray, it is to-die-for. 

Looking for something a little less glamorous? How about these fine establishments:

The Nook

492 Hamline Avenue S.

St. Paul, MN 55116


The Nook is another neighborhood bar. It’s family friendly and is famous for its Juicy Lucy – as featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Feiri. It’s right across the street from where Joe Mauer and Paul Molitor went to school. If you aren’t too stuffed from the great burgers, head downstairs for a little bowling. It doesn’t get more Minnesotan than The Nook.

Groveland Tap

1834 St. Clair Avenue

St. Paul, MN



Another neighborhood joint to visit when you want a beer and a burger. Known for their onion rings and cheese curds you might feel like you’re in heaven or at the State Fair. Nope, just Mac/Groveland. Large beer selection and they’ve just added a decent wine selection.


2051 Ford Parkway

St. Paul, MN 55116


Another neighborhood bar where you’ll find plenty of great beer and good pub grub. Be warned, the folks at Tiffany’s are Packers fans… Not really sure what else there is to say.

As a Minnesotan, and mostly as a St. Paulite, I don’t venuture out of my comfort zone. I’ve been visiting these six establishments since before it was legal for me to drink. If you know of any that belong on this list, be sure to leave a link and possibly your review in the comment section.

Blogging Kids Reviews Things I Really Like

My Review of Paddington 2

January 10, 2018
My review of paddington 2

My review of Paddington 2

Ha! I’m a poet and don’t even know it! Oh yeah!!

I was invited to a free screening of Paddington 2 for review, however the views are my own. 

One of the best parts of blogging is that sometimes you get to see a great movie. And sometimes you get to see several. The weekend we saw Paddington 2 we also went to pre-screenings of Ferdinand and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I was also invited to The Greatest Showman, and really wanted to see it, but I couldn’t do one more movie in such a short period of time. Also the smell of popcorn was no longer appealing at that point.

My Review of Paddington 2

I wasn’t sure about Paddington 2. I missed the first one and barely remember the books. Also, I’m not a huge fan of live action mixed with CGI so my expectations weren’t that high. My daughter and her friend however, were super excited to see it. 

They were right to be. It was wonderful. From the moment the movie started to the final credits, we were all captivated and even a little choked up. 

Paddington 2 is the story of Paddington who lives with the Brown’s in London. Paddington loves the Browns, but misses his Aunt Lucy and decides since she can’t visit London, he will send her a pop-up picture book of London he found in his friend’s second-hand store. Of course, there’s more to the pop-up book than meets the eye and it is eventually stolen. Paddington enlists the help of his friends and new family in getting it back from the thief. 

It’s a heckuva ride!

This is a movie the whole family will love. I don’t care if you’ve got older teens (my daughter and her friend are both 14), college students or 30 somethings, this is a wonderful movie everyone will love. It’s too bad it wasn’t released before the holiday break because this would have been a perfect movie to see. 

Of all the movies we saw that weekend, hands down Paddington 2 was the favorite. In fact, the kids are looking forward to seeing it again when it is released.

For fun, check out the Paddington website.



Blogging Kids Reviews

Review of Ferdinand the Movie

December 19, 2017

What follows is my review of Ferdinand the movie. I was asked to review the movie and given complementary tickets. The opinion and views are mine alone.

The golden age of blogging might be over, but there are still some perks to blogging. One of them is being invited to review some pretty decent movies. Recently I was invited to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ferdinand and Paddingting 2. I was also invited to see The Greatest Showman, a movie I really want to see, but after all the movies in two days I just couldn’t do it. Also, if I smelled popcorn again I was going to be sick. 

I had a vague recollection of the book Ferdinand, about the bull who refused to fight, prefering to sit on the hill under the tree smelling flowers. That’s about all I remember about the book. When I learned I was going to see the movie I considered reading the book again, but never got around to it. I do recall liking the book and remembered it was my father’s favorite book from his childhood so I was looking forward to the movie, especially after seeing the trailer.

I was allowed to bring guests to the movie so invited my 14 year old daughter and one of her friends. It was the first movie of the day and we were excited. The theater was filled to capacity but we scored some decent seats and proceeded to munch on popcorn and other treats. There were no movie previews which was actually refreshing. 

In a nutshell, Ferdinand is a bull who prefers to enjoy the simpler things in life – like flowers – and would rather not fight. When we are introduced to him he is a calf more interested in the flowers growing in the bull pen than the rough housing going on with his bull friends. His father has recently been selected to fight the bullfighter and he is excited for such an honor and waits for his glorious return.

Of course, Ferdinands father never returns causing Ferdinand to run away to the other side of the canyon. He finds a new home with his girl Nina and her father Juan, who happen to have a farm where they grow beautiful flowers. After being mistaken for a dangerous beast, Ferdinand is taken from his home with Nina and her father and returned to the ranch he escaped from when he was a calf. 

All of his former friends are still at the ranch hoping to be chosen by the bullfighter to participate in the greatest bullfight. Ferdinand wants nothing to do with fighting and does his best to escape, once again, and return home to Nina.

Along the way he meets several misfit animals including some hedghogs, a calming goat and a bull that had been created in a petro dish. Hilarity ensues and the movie ends predictibly enough.

I thought the movie was light hearted and enjoyable. Since it was a cartoon or animated movie I didn’t spend a lot of time getting hung up on things that didn’t work or make sense, except for the fact that no one knew Ferdinand’s name at his new home after running away. He did not have any identification or tags on him so how they knew his name was a pretty big gaff. Calming goats were not a thing for which I was aware (they’re a thing, usually used for horses before running a race). I’m not a fan of Kate McKinnon, the actress who played the calming goat Lupe, so the character grew tiresome very quickly. Other than that, I enjoyed the movie and found myself laughing throughout the many adventures and applauding at the end.

That said, my daughter and her friend picked the movie apart pretty thoroughly on the drive home from the theater. In fact they punched so many holes in the story and pointed out so many shortcomings I started to question if I actually liked the movie. Their criticism was accurate, but they are 14 year old budding activists so they might have been hypercritical compared to a young child for which the movie is intended.



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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – No Spoilers

December 12, 2017
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review - no spoilers

This is my Star Wars: The Last Jedi review – no spoilers so don’t worry about reading the review. I give nothing away. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to attend a pre-screening of the latest Star Wars installment, even better I was allowed a +1, so I pulled the daughter out of school and brought her with me.

This is my second Star Wars review, I was also invited to Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. Full disclosure – I am probably one of 2 people who have not seen the original Star Wars movies – the other person being my daughter who went with me yesterday. It doesn’t really matter, in my humble opinion. Star Wars is such an iconic movie that it’s impossible to not know what it is about even if one hasn’t seen the movie. I know there are some who would call that hubris and sacrilige, but it is what it is and you don’t need to see any of them to enjoy this one. 

Seriously people, stop shaming me for not seeing the damn original!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – No Spoilers

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was directed by Rian Johnson and stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver…. just to name a few. Carrie Fisher died last December and I wondered how her death was going to be handled in the movie. One has to assume she was finished shooting her scenes because there is no disruption or scenes of just her back (using a double). Carrie Fisher’s Leia features largely in Episode VIII as does Mark Hamill’s Luke. Which is nice as their roles were limited in Episode VII, especially Luke’s. In The Last Jedi both are integral to the plot, not just there for nostalgia’s sake.

While I have not seen Episode IV, or any others, I have seen enough clips here and there over the years to know the general storyline – good vs evil. It’s Hamlet, it’s the same story told thousands of times over and over. The Last Jedi is not different and in many ways very similar to the original Star Wars movie. This is not a bad thing at all. The movie is intense, it is deep and it is incredibly thought provoking. I suspect more than the original Star Wars ever hoped to be.

Women play a big part of this movie. I’m not sure that is in response to the recent awakening of new feminism, the #metoo movement or just plain luck, but it is done well, with humor and without being condescending or preachy.

One of the elements I loved about this movie was how the characters were real. These are not Photoshopped actors who look better than any human could hope to Rey looks healthy, strong for sure but not the least bit worried about her waist size or how appealing she might be to the men around her. Rose, another strong woman who will hopefully be back for the next chapter is also a delight in her average, realness. There is one scene, somewhat humorous scene, where Kylo Ren has his shirt off. It may have been the camera angle or that I was sitting in the second row, but his chest looked way to big for his head. I don’t know if this was just a case of too much working out for the movie or if the actor just has a tiny head, but it was odd.

A big theme of the movie is balance – light and dark, love and hate, strong and weak – The movie itself is balance, even though there is an awful lot going on. The movie is funny, cute, sweet, dark, deep and thought provoking. It is action packed and a great way to spend a dreery afternoon in early winter. I don’t believe there is any swearing and while there is plenty of fighting, it is not gory. Young children shouldn’t have any problem with seeing this movie even though it carries a PG-13 rating.

OMG it is difficult to write a review without giving away any major plot lines or spoilers. There isn’t much I can say that won’t give something away. I will say this, just when you think you’ve figured some things out you’ll discover you might be wrong… or not.

I highly recommend this movie. If you’re looking for a great family movie over the winter break, this is it. It’s got something for everyone to love about it and it’s just so much fun! Can’t wait for the next one!!



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Did You Know You Can Make Wine at Home?

September 25, 2017
You Can Make Wine at Home

Did you know you make wine at home? And for a fraction of the cost of the box wine you’ve been choking down? I’ve been sitting on this information for several months now. I’ve meant to share it with you, but damn it’s been a busy summer. 

I started making wine this summer and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I caught on bit on Kare11 back in the spring. The hook was “if you can open a bag, you can make wine”. 

I can open a bag!

Winemaking has changed a lot since my parents attempted in back in the late 70s. I really don’t know what they did, where they got the grapes or if they had to stomp them. All I know is that in the early 80s my brother and a couple of his friends found that jug of wine that had been sitting in the basement, forgotten, and proceeded to drink it. 

It was nasty, that’s all I remember. Though that didn’t stop anyone from drinking it.

You Can Make Wine at Home

Now, it’s so much easier to make decent wine and you don’t have to stomp the grapes yourself. It’s not quite as easy as opening a bag (and the bag can be a little challenging to open, I have to use a huge ass wrench to get the cap off), but it’s a pretty uncomplicated process.

I wasn’t sure how the whole process would work so I started small. My first batch of wine was only one gallon. I did this because I figured if I screwed it up I wouldn’t be out that much. It’s hard to screw it up and it’s just as easy to make 6 gallons of wine (that’s 30 bottles!) as it is to make 1 gallon (about 5 bottles). If you like wine, just take the plunge and start with 6 gallon wine kits. You’ll thank me later, I promise.

I started with Master Vintner’s Small Batch Chardonnay. I’m not a huge fan of Chardonnay, but I can’t stand Moscato and they didn’t have a small batch of Sauvignon Blanc. So Chardonnay it was. The nice thing about these wine recipe kits is that they can be completed and ready to drink in about 5 weeks.

The directions were a little complicated, but only because I hadn’t made wine before, and they included really crappy directions. I later learned this was a mistake they were aware of and had corrected, I must have gotten an older kit. No big deal, there are plenty of YouTube videos you can watch to learn how to make wine.

Before you can crack open that bag of juice and start fermenting it, you’re going to need some equipment. Master Vintner sells complete wine making kits, these are a great way to start because you have all that you need (hopefully, I had a kit that was missing a few key items but the store was happy to provide them to me free of charge). The kits contain the carboy in your choice of plastic or glass, cleaning solution, sanitizing solution, the grape juice, yeast, wine thief, hydrometer and everything else I’m forgetting. 

Glass or Plastic?

6 gallons of liquid is heavy, the glass carboy weighs about 15 pounds when it is empty. Filled, you’re looking at about 60 pounds that you’re going to have to haul around. That’s like lifting a 10 year old. If you’ve got the upper body strength, then go for it. If not, stick with the plastic. The downside of the plastic is that it can get scratched and bacteria get settle into the scratches. You’ll be replacing your plastic sooner and more frequently than glass, something to keep in mind. You won’t mind because that means you get to go to the brewery supply store.

I live in the land of craft brew and micro brews. Every male in this state over the age of 21 is making their own beer. Some with more success than others. If you’re a single woman you’ll love the brewing supply stores. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t see a lot of straight single women in these places or if they just think we’re awesome because we like to make alcohol too, but I get asked out every time I go to one of these stores. It’s better than online dating.

My first gallon of Chardonnay didn’t turn out that well. I racked it wrong and got all kinds of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. It tasted fine, and I drank it, but it looked like crap. I didn’t have an auto siphon so I got all the gunk in it. The Fermtech Auto-Siphon is a lifesaver. For $11 it’s well worth it. 

1 Gallon of 6 Gallons?

It’s just as easy to make 6 gallons of wine as it is to make one gallon of wine, so you may as well make 6, you’re going to drink it anyway. You’ll also save a lot of money. If you make one gallon your wine ends up costing about $5 per bottle (including the bottles and corks). If you make 6 gallons it’s about $2.25 per bottle (Including bottles and corks). When you’re talking about 30 bottles of wine, that’s a significant savings. How do they compare to the wine you’d buy in the liquor store? So much better. The $2.25 bottle of wine you just made will taste as good or better than a $10 – $15 bottle of wine. Let it age a few months and you’ll have an even better bottle.



Modern Map Art – A Great Gift Idea

August 10, 2017

Summer is almost over and before you know it, it will be time to start thinking about the holidays. If you’re like me it’s harder and harder to find unique and interesting gifts for old friends and family. Modern Map Art is a great gift idea, especially for those friends and family members who have moved away.

Modern Map Art is a company that produces map posters of your city, county, town and even skyline prints. You can also get these designed on a pillow or iPhone case. 

I got a map of St. Paul, because I live in St. Paul, and I love it. I could see getting a print of the town where our family cabin is located as well as some of the places I’ve traveled to over the years. I need more free wall space, however. 

The skyline prints are beautifully designed watercolor prints. Perfect for hanging in the office, dorm or living room. 

Modern Map Art is also a great way to commemorate a trip such as honeymoon or family vacation to Europe. 

The maps are printed on museum quality matte paper and Ultrachrome ink. The ink is rated to last 200 years if framed properly and 100 years without framing. Maps can be printed in a variety of sizes and just about any color can be used. Modern Map Art also does custom designs.

Click here to learn more. 



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RAH’MN Review – The Ramen Place on Snelling

May 2, 2017
RAH'MN Review - The Ramen Place on Snelling

This is my RAH’MN review. This is not a sponsored post, all views are mine. All my Twin City peeps, I know you’ve been seeing these ramen places popping up all over town in the last year. You’re probably wondering is it really worth $7 for 25¢ worth of ramen? I’m here to tell you – probably not.

RAH’MN Review – The Ramen Place on Snelling

RAH’MN opened up in Saint Paul on Snelling Avenue about a month ago. It was packed the first night – crowds in line around the corner – so I figured we’d wait a bit. We’d gone to the Mac’s take out place two doors down, which had also just opened, and were disappointed. I wanted to give the new restaurant some time to get it’s sea legs since they are close and convenient and who doesn’t like ramen?

The daughter asked if we could give it a try, so I said sure. I went to look up the menu online, to get an idea of cost (because it’s ramen, for cryin’ out loud) and was frustrated that I had to place an order to see what was offered and what things cost. RAH’MN does not have a menu on their website, although it looks like they are trying to get one up quickly. That they tout their meats are gluten free had me laughing but irritated. 

The daughter is picky and she has food allergies, it’s always nice to be prepared when trying a new place. So, already I was frustrated. I asked some friends on Facebook about their experience and they said it was “solid”. I took that as a positive and headed on over.

Right away the ordering process was confusing. Or maybe that was just the way the door was positioned. No one seemed to know where the line began. The place was pretty busy and it smelled nice so I continued on. When I got to the counter I had a difficult time talking to the nice young man who was dishing up the ramen. The sneeze guard was too high, or he and I were both too short. I had to stand on my tippy toes to shout my questions at him. He responded with a smile, but I couldn’t hear a damn thing he said over the sneeze guard or the loud music and din of people talking to one another over the loud music. 

It’s a build your own ramen bowl, just like at Chipotle. Chipotle is stressful, it’s not as bad as ordering coffee, but it’s up there. I have been ordering Chipotle for at least a decade now and I always get the same thing for fear of holding up the line to avoid the kind of stress I endured last night.

I had no idea what my daughter wanted, but she likes all things Asian inspired so I started building her ramen.  I threw in some tufo, some bok choi and some tomatoes – all things she likes and figured I was safe. 

I wasn’t sure about the meat so I texted her a picture of the RAH’MN menu and one of all the add-ons, including 4 or 6 choices of broth.

RAH'MN menu

“No vegetables” was what she texted back.

Thanks, that helps, a lot. 

All the while the couple next to me is pushing me to the right, even though the friendly guy behind the sneeze guard hadn’t started on my order yet. In fact, he only had one bowl going. 

This caused a fair amount of anxiety because now the one he just put together for my daughter was going to become mine even though I am not supposed to eat tofu and tomatoes in ramen sounds disgusting to me. I didn’t really want pork either, which is what the kid wanted. 

Lawd knows, as a Minnesotan, there was no way I was going to ask them to start over again. 

I got pushed in front of the cashier and explained to him that there was another bowl that needed to be prepared – plain. Just ramen and broth. 

We stood there, awkwardly waiting for the guy to produce the bowl of $7.95 ramen and then he asked if I was paying for the people next to me. 

Um, no.

He bagged up my ramen bowls, cautioned me not to swing the bag around, and I was on my way.

I took a deep breath when I got outside and told myself I would not cry.

(probably more hormone related than ramen related)

A few minutes later I’m home with a dripping bag of $20 worth of ramen.

When I asked what the daughter though of it, if she liked it, her response was:


She’s 14. Everything is “meh”. She did eat most of it.

Mine on the other hand wasn’t what I wanted, but if it had been something I would have ordered I am sure it would have been ok.

It was ramen, it was way too salty and the noodles were soggy. I was disappointed, mostly because of the experience, but the cost of something that is pennies to make at home also irritated me. That’s not their fault, I walked in there willingly. I guess I figured ramen could be delicious, especially starting at $7.95 per bowl. 

It’s not.

I couldn’t finish it. The dogs like it, though I didn’t give them the broth since it was so salty.

I’d like to say we’ll give them another try, but probably not. The daughter will want to, but she’s going to have to do that on her own.

The place was clean, the staff was friendly, though not as helpful as I would have liked. The place was too loud and the food was overpriced. But other than that, it was great!

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Let’s Talk about 13 Reasons Why

April 28, 2017
Let's talk about 13 reasons why

By now you’ve heard all the hype about the Netflix series, so let’s talk about 13 Reasons Why, shall we? This is about my 5th attempt at writing about the show, and it probably won’t be my last. 

Before we go any further **** Major Spoiler Alert**** don’t read anymore if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know what happens.

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix series based on the Jay Asher book of the same name. It covers the themes most high schoolers, and many middle schoolers face every day – including bullying, rape and suicide. It’s graphic and the internet is losing its collective shit over it. Schools are sending notes home about it, every single newscast has covered it and you can’t surf the web without finding blog posts just like this one defending it or criticizing it. Paris Jackson is one of many people telling people not to watch it. I’m here to tell you, if you have kids, you should definitely watch it if for no other reason to understand what kids go through on a regular basis. 

While I have some issues with the series, I think it is always a good thing to talk about the stuff that scares us. Bullying, rape and suicide as well as teen drug and alcohol use, is scary stuff, but if we want to help kids navigate these complicated thing we’re going to need to have a dialog. 13 Reasons Why gets that dialog started.

Suicide is Never Painless

You can read a much better synopsis here, but in a nutshell the story is about a Clay Jensen, a shy high schooler who is given a shoebox of numbered cassette tapes created by Hannah Baker, a friend of Clay’s who recently killed herself. Each tape details one of the 13 reasons why she killed herself and those responsible have listened to the tapes and have been instructed to pass them along to the next person on the tape, which is why Clay has them. According to Hannah, he is partly responsible for her suicide.

Clay is responsible for her death in that he didn’t come out and tell her how he felt about her. His is one of the lesser reasons why she killed herself, though it torments Clay that he didn’t do more. Other people on the tape have teased her, bullied her, humiliated her, stabbed her in the back, and finally raped her. She even includes her guidance counselor who suggests she move on after she tells him about the rape, instead of going to the authorities and having the little snot arrested. 

It is then – when the counselor lets her down – that she comes up with the plan to create the tapes and then kill herself by getting into the bathtub and slitting her wrists – depicted rather graphically in the show.

I should mention, I have not read the book. I understand it has a different flavor to it, and I suspect it doesn’t come off as flippantly as it does in the series. I loved them, but the series felt like a too long After School Special. 

Aside from how it ends – with Hannah killing herself – there is nothing in this series that I, and many of my friends, didn’t experience at that age. What happened to Jessica – raped while passed out drunk, and Hannah – overpowered and raped, is actually quite common. Now we call it date rape, but when I was growing up it was called being in the wrong place at the wrong time or asking for it. We’ve come a long way, because we’ve been willing to talk about it. So let’s keep talking about it because clearly it’s still happening.

Teenage Wasteland

I thought the depiction of teenage life was incredibly accurate. Kids drink, they take drugs, they have sex, and they do a lot of stupid things – all while parents and teachers look the other way because they don’t want to dig too deep. My book, Minnesota Nice, is about all of these issues (I’m working on publishing soon, stay tuned for more info about that).

I also thought the depiction of the aftermath of her death – how her parents react and how the kids deal with it – was pretty well done. I didn’t see any glorifying of suicide. 

My issue is with Hannah’s storyline. She’s depressed and yet she is still motivated enough to create these 13 tapes. I get that they’re a device to move the plot along, it just seemed heavy handed to me. Plenty of teenagers kill themselves each day, most do so quietly because they already feel as though they don’t matter and that no one cares. Hannah obviously thought enough people would care to listen to the tapes. Hers was the sort of suicide most teens have fantasized about – getting even, even if it means getting dead. 

Trigger Warning

Since the show has come out, many teens, teachers and parents are worried that the show is triggering and therefore shouldn’t have been made. I can’t even begin to understand that kind of reasoning. If something is triggering then it absolutely needs to be discussed. Possibly with a professional, but certainly with a parent or trusted teacher. 

I lost three friends to suicide when I was a teenager. It’s an absolutely horrible thing to experience. And yes, cluster suicides are a thing, which is why we need to bring suicide out into the light. Thinking about suicide shouldn’t be taboo – because I promise you every single teenager (and more and more middle schoolers) have thought about their own suicide. I would hazard a guess that every human that lives and breathes has at one time or another contemplated taking their own life. And yet, we make the thought of it something to be ashamed of. 

When asked on most pediatrician questionnaires if they’ve considered suicide before, most teens will lie because they fear being pushed into therapy or the psych ward for thinking about something that is actually pretty normal. I know I have. 

It Gets Better, Promise

Life is scary, people are mean, and bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get better. It usually always gets better. And that’s the point of the series, to show how wasteful suicide is. Hannah was a smart, funny, caring, and loving young woman. She had everything to look forward to in her future, she just couldn’t see past what she was experiencing to believe it would ever get better. We need to impress upon our kids that the pressure cooker that is middle school and high school gets better. If they can just hang in there (with professional help) they will be okay. Life is always a struggle, and for some it is much worse than for others. Life is not fair, but it does get better. The more we talk about these things the less damage they can do. 

I grew up reading books like The Bell Jar, Go Ask Alice and other rather dark tales about teens descent into the abyss. Teenage years can suck for a lot of people, they did for me and many of my friends. Having those books, seeing the After School Specials, helped me feel less alone. Because if people are writing about these topics and they’re making movies and TV shows about these heavy subjects, it means someone else has experienced these shitty things and managed to not only survive, but somehow thrive.

Let’s keep talking about Thirteen Reasons Why.