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Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot

March 13, 2017
corned beef and cabbage instantpot vs crockpot

This week’s smackdown is Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot. I love my InstantPot, I also love my Crockpot. Both are essential kitchen tools for any level of cook. My father gave me a Crockpot when I moved into my first apartment. It was a tiny little thing, big enough to make some dip in I suppose, but I made tiny little chilis and soups in it. It had no settings, you just plugged it in and it was going. The lid was plastic and has long been chewed up by one of the many pups over the years. My father got me lots of Crockpots, I’m not really sure why, but I have several, and I love each and every one of them. The one I use most however, is the one that belonged to my father. 

My dad died before InstantPot was a thing, however I am sure he would have taken to it like a fish to water. He loved using the pressure cooker, loved to explain how the stovetop version worked and was practically giddy whenever sharing the story of his mother blowing one up in the kitchen when he was a child. 

I also love Corned Beef and Cabbage. I love the saltiness of the beef, the sort of soggy yet firm texture of the cabbage. Growing up we always had it on St. Patrick’s Day and it was one of my favorite meals, even if it stank up the house.

Mostly, I love how easy the meal is to prepare. The problem with Corned Beef and Cabbage in the Crockpot (and I really don’t know any other method to prepare it) is that it takes a fair amount of forethought. You can’t just throw together a corned beef and cabbage on the fly, you need 5 or 6 hours. 

I figured there must be a faster way, and the InstantPot seemed like a surefire way to achieve a quick corned beef and cabbage. I Googled around for recipes, actually just cooking settings, and only found ones that were actually rather complicated. In all of the InstantPot recipes for corned beef and cabbage that I found it was always a two step process — cook the corned beef first, remove it from the pot, cook the cabbage.

Sure, we’re down from 6 hours to about an hour, I just really wanted something as easy as my Instant Pot Shrimp Alfredo recipe or my Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hotdish recipe. Both of those recipes take less than twenty minutes to prepare and cook, I was hoping for something similar.

And I never found it so I thought I’d just wing it. And then I though why not do a smackdown between the two? So I did. I prepared two meals using the same recipe.

Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot

1 Corned beef – rinsed and fat side down (I don’t know if this makes a difference)

1 Cabbage – cut into wedges and placed in vessel

1 Spice packet – many people throw these away and make their own, but that seems silly to me. Throw that packet it!

4 Carrots – sliced

I skipped the potatoes, actually, I never put potatoes in my corned beef and cabbage, is that really something people do?

I added all ingredients to each cooker and set their respective settings. For the InstantPot I set it for 55 minutes on high pressure and I used the slow release method. For the Crockpot I set it on high for 6 hours and forgot about it.

*I stopped taking photos of food inside the InstantPot, it doesn’t look appealing and serves no purpose. 

The Results

Corned Beef

Both tasted great, and they tasted the same. Both were tender and juicy. I couldn’t tell any difference between the two except for color. The InstantPot corned beef was darker. That could have just been a variation of the beef, and no reflection on the cooking. I used two different brands of beef and one had noticeably more fat. It did not change the way it tasted.

Cabbage

The cabbage also came out about the same in each vessel. This actually surprised me. I figured with 55 minutes of cooking at high pressure I might just end up with mush. That didn’t happen. The cabbage pretty much kept it’s shape. The cabbage was also a little darker in the InstantPot. 

Carrots

Here’s where there was a noticeable difference. The carrots in the InstantPot were pretty mushy. They didn’t disintegrate but they were working hard to hold their shape. The carrots from the Crockpot were actually still firm, yet tender. They also retained their individual flavor, whereas the carrots in the InstantPot just tasted like the cabbage. 

While I love the ease of making corned beef and cabbage in the InstantPot, it isn’t something I’ll probably do in the future unless I’m pressed for time. There’s something about a crockpot full of corned beef and cabbage, stinking up the house, that really makes it special.

Speaking of stinking up the house – the InstantPot was no less stinky, it just didn’t go on for so long. However, the silicon ring inside the lid of the InstantPot soaked up all those flavors. This is quite common for anything you make in the InstantPot, so it might be handy to have several on hand. 

All in all, either way works great, the InstantPot version is perfect if you have a hankering for corned beef and cabbage while driving home after a long day at work. While the Crockpot is probably better if this is a Saturday or Sunday meal extravaganza.

If you’ve had success with corned beef and cabbage in the InstantPot, I’d love to hear about it, please share in the comments.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Best Valentine’s Day Gifts – Ever!

February 8, 2017
Best Valentine's Day Gifts - Ever!

If you’re looking for ideas for the best Valentine’s Day gifts – ever, then you’re in luck. I’ve been writing about Valentine’s Day gifts for as long as I’ve had a blog and I know all there is to successful gift giving for this blasted holiday. 

Click here to learn about the Top 5 Worst Valentine’s Day Presents? Or click here for past Best Valentine’s Day Presents.

And if you’re considering one of those 4 foot bears you need to read Size Matters But A Hunka Love Bear Will Not Get You Laid.

“But Jen, how can you know about something like Valentine’s Day when you’re not involved with anyone and you’ve been divorced twice? Clearly, romance is not your strong suit?”

And you would be right to ponder that conundrum. Except, because I have been in so many bad relationships, I know what not to do for Valentine’s Day. Trust me, you won’t go wrong if you use this handy Valentine’s Day gift buying guide.

Here’s the thing. Most people who actually care about the gifts are either young, madly in love, trying to find love or stay in love. For everyone else, the day is sort of a non holiday. It might be a reason to drink and eat chocolate, but that could just be a Tuesday for most people.

Chocolates and wine are always good gift ideas, you simply can’t go wrong with those – unless your significant other is a diabetic or recovering alcoholic, then probably not a good idea. 

A night out is also a safe bet, usually. I don’t know you partner so ask – some people hate crowds. As far as I am concerned, a night out at a decent restaurant is a wonderful gift because I don’t have to clean, cook or clean up after the meal. And by decent I mean anyplace that serves food. I’m not that picky. The bar has been lowered for decades.

Anyway, getting back to gifts. If you’re looking for something special but won’t break the bank, doesn’t force a commitment neither of you are prepared for and is something your Valentine might actually like — read on.

Best Valentine’s Day Gifts – Ever!

InstantPot

I know, I know, in the past I have scolded you for giving appliances. I still stand by that for the most part, but the InstantPot is different. Whoever you give this to – man, woman, and everyone in between – will love it. You cannot go wrong with an InstantPot. I prefer the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker because it makes yogurt, that’s just cool, but they have a less expensive model, the standard Instant Pot IP-LUX60 V3, and it’s awesome too. While you’re at it, get the Instant Pot Glass Lid you’ll be glad you did. 

InstantPot Cookbooks

Does your love already have an InstantPot? Probably, since everyone has been talking about them for the last couple of years. If that’s the case, you can always get them a couple InstantPot cookbooks. Here are some of my favorites:

The Instant Pot® Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Easy Recipes for Fast & Healthy Meals – This is pretty much the bible of InstantPot cookbooks. It’s a great place to start if you’re new to pressure cooking and it’s got some super easy and wonderfully tasty recipes in it. The French Onion Soup is to die for!

Paleo Cooking With Your Instant Pot: 80 Incredible Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes Made Twice as Delicious in Half the Time – I just got this one the other day because I’m doing the paleo thing again. It’s got some great recipes that are surprisingly satisfying and really easy to throw together last minute. If you’re doing paleo you’ll want to try this one out. 

Instant Pot Ultimate CookBook – 2nd Edition: The Complete Pressure Cooker Guide – Delicious and Healthy Instant Pot Recipes

Great Food Fast (Best of the Best Presents) Bob Warden’s Ultimate Pressure Cooker Recipes

Other Practical Valentine’s Day Gift ideas

Car Safety Hammer, ARCHEER 6-In-1 Emergency Rescue Kit Car Safety Hammer Seatbelt Cutter Window Breaker Auto Rescue Disaster Escape Tool, Built In Flashlight, Whistle, Magnet&Alarm Lamp

Nothing says I love you like a car hammer/window breaker device. Seriously, this thing belongs in every first aid kit, or at least vehicle safety kit. It cuts the seatbelt, breaks the window and has a built in flashlight, magnet, alarm lamp and might even make coffee. 

How to Traumatize Your Children: 7 Proven Methods to Help You Screw Up Your Kids Deliberately and with Skill – Parents of the world rejoice! Knock Knock’s bestselling How to Traumatize Your Children has been revamped with all-new totally dysfunctional illustrations. This groundbreaking instructional volume teaches you how to give your children the lifelong gifts of mental and emotional damage. Whether you employ the same ruinous techniques your parents used or try out an entirely new approach, you are bound to succeed!

Of course you just can’t go wrong with the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition, probably even better than the InstantPot. 

Roses are always nice. This Red Rose of Passion Bouquet (One Dozen Long Stemmed) – With Vase is sure to please.

And you can’t go wrong with chocolate in a heart shaped by from Godiva Chocolatier

Dumb Shit I Do Food Recipes Things I Really Like

The Best Instant Pot Chili Recipe

January 29, 2017
The Best Instant Pot Chili Recipe

If you’re looking for the best Instant Pot Chili recipe, then you’ve come to the right place. Disclaimer – this is not an authentic chili, this a chili recipe that your kids, and picky mother, will eat. If you throw it on top of some spaghetti noodles you’d have a pretty decent Cincinnati chili, but that’s weird so…  

I make a killer authentic chili too, but that takes a bit more planning and specific ingredients like a nice cut of beef instead of ground beef. This chili, the best Instant Pot Chili, is something you can make with whatever is in your pantry. It is an incredibly forgiving recipe. I used ground beef but you could use ground turkey, ground chicken, diced chicken or skip the meat completely and make it vegetarian. Whatever floats your boat!

I’m listing amounts of ingredients for posterity, use however much you prefer. I love celery and I throw a ton of it in this recipe (it gives the daughter something to do since she has to pick it all out), I also like a lot of garlic and cumin. I eyeball things, rarely measure, and I suspect most of you do the same. 

If you don’t have an Instant Pot yet you can get one here. Seriously, what are you waiting for, get your shit together and get one of these incredible time saving devices! I have the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W which is about $105, but they make a less expensive version too. The standard Instant Pot IP-LUX60 V3 Programmable Electric Pressure Cooker, 6Qt, 1000W (updated model) is only $79. The only difference between the two is the one I have makes yogurt. The other difference is that the $79 version is back ordered for 2-3 months while the 7 in 1 version is in stock. Wow.

The Best Instant Pot Chili Recipe

What you will need:

1 lb ground beef

3 cups chopped celery

2/3rd cups diced onion (I prefer white onion, but I only had yellow on hand)

4 cans beans (or more or less. I used mild chili beans, kidney beans and pinto beans because that’s what was in the pantry)

2 cans tomato sauce

1 can diced tomato

1 can sweet corn (drained)

Cumin, salt and pepper, chili powder to taste 

5 Hershey’s Kisses (or a small handful of chocolate chips or whatever you have on hand)

Brown the onions and ground beef in the Instant Pot on sauté. Drain fat and return to Instant Pot. Or just use the glass lid for the Instant Pot
to cover and drain. 

Dump all your ingredients into the Instant Pot, give it a stir and set the pressure cooker to Chili, or set it manually for 30 minutes at high pressure. 

Make sure the pressure valve is closed. I really can’t stress how important it is that this is closed. If you leave it open the Instant Pot will not pressurize and you will have just wasted a good 30 minutes, and will need to start over. Don’t ask how I know this.

 

Blogging Dumb Shit I Do How Did We Survive? Minnesota Things I Really Like Writing

A Little Song, A Little Dance, A Little Seltzer Down Your Pants

January 28, 2017
A little song a little dance a little seltzer down your pants

This past week Mary Tyler Moore passed away. The first thing that popped into my head, upon learning of her passing, was “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants”. That was the phrase from the eulogy of Chuckles the Clown that got Mary giggling during his funeral. If you’ve never seen it, you can see the scene here, it’s hilarious even without the context.

A Little Song, A Little Dance, A Little Seltzer Down Your Pants

I grew up watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Maude, Rhoda, Carol Burnett and all those other fantastic shows of the 70s. I was young, 9 or 10 but I knew instinctively that the writing on all of these shows was phenomenal. It never occurred to me that I could write for a sitcom, but I learned a lot about timing and telling a joke from these shows.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a show my whole family watched together. Do families even do that anymore? With so many ways to consume television I think the experience has been lost.

When I was a kid the TV was commonly referred to as the Boob Tube. Parents, teachers, scholars, doctors, etc… all believed it was rotting the minds of our children. And it probably was. I know I spent a fair amount of time watching TV. From After School Specials, Saturday morning cartoons, and finally the Saturday night lineup on CBS, I probably clocked in a good 25 to 30 hours a week. I’d have logged more if we had another TV. 

Mary as a trail blazing woman didn’t impact me much. Most of the shows back then had strong female characters who didn’t take any bullshit. They were smart and self sufficient and didn’t expect anyone to take care of them. For me, that’s just the way women were. 

I was more impacted by Mary as a Minnesotan and made the trek to the IDS Center when I was about 14. A couple of friends and I took the bus to Minneapolis to hang out and ride the infamous escalator. Yeah, at 14 we just got on a bus to visit another city – unaccompanied by an adult. Do kids do that today?

Because my mother was pretty much confined to the living room couch, or what we eventually called “The Judy Room”, most of my family memories took place in front of the TV. The characters on these shows were family. 

Mary, Mr Grant, Ted, Murray, Rhoda, Bob, Carol, Maude, Archie, Edith, George and Weezie – all of them had an impact on my upbringing, but it was sitting around with my family, sharing the experience of these shows, that will stay with me forever and fondly.

So thank you Mary, and everyone else, for being part of my family.

A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants!

 

Advice Books Reviews Things I Really Like Uncategorized

Buy This Book Now!

January 24, 2017
Buy this book now!

OMG I haven’t even finished this book and I had to stop and tell you to go and buy this book now! 

Buy This Book Now!

Seriously, go now, I’ll wait.

Wait, if you buy it now you won’t come back. Wait a minute. Buy it after reading this which is only going to be a few more paragraphs because honestly, I want to get back to it asap.

What book?

Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight.

Yeah, I might be on a bit of a self-help binge, but that’s okay, in fact it’s great. Get Your Sh*t Together is an anti self-help book by an anti-guru who happens to be funny as shit. If you liked You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero, you will love Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight.

While both will get you fired up about getting down to business, they take a very different, albeit funny, approach. 

If you’re in a rut, want to break out and try something new, are tired of making excuses, or just really need a kick in the ass to do the things you already know you need to do — then buy this book now! Hell, buy them both, you’ll thank you, I promise.

Get Your Sh*t Together is a really quick read, or listen, that will help you to well, get your shit together. Sarah Knight will show you how to prioritize the things you need to do so you can do the things you want to do. 

You may have heard of Sarah Knight before, she also wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do (A No F*cks Given Guide).

It seems oh so simple, and really there is nothing she says that you don’t already know, but she lights a fire under your ass all while making you laugh out loud.

Seriously, I cannot recommend this book enough. I do plan on writing a complete review as soon as I finish the book, which will probably be later this evening, so check back. Of course you don’t even need that, it’s awesome, trust me, and it will provide the motivation you need, right now, to do what you know you need to do. 

Food Minnesota Minnesota Nice Recipes Things I Really Like Winter

Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto

January 10, 2017
Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto

This recipe, Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto, is a variation of the Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish. Like all great flukes it happened because I didn’t read the recipe carefully and ended up with way too much liquid so I had to find a way to make it less soggy. I had a bag of Alessi Risotto with Mushrooms so I quickly cooked it up and added it to the mixture. 

You’ll notice I said mixture. Oops. Another mistake. I mixed all of the ingredients instead of layering them. 

Even though I am an authentic Minnesotan, I did not grow up on Tater Tot Hot Dish. I did date a guy whose mom made it (and he raved about) but that was as close to it as I got until I made it last year.

OMG it is delicious! And it’s perfect for cold weather. I have not tried it in the InstantPot because I just don’t think the Tater Tots would do well in it. They really need to get crisped up in the oven.

You can see the original recipe here.

Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 lb ground beef, browned

2 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 can vegetables (I used corn and peas because I didn’t have two cans of either one of them)

1 packaged prepared Alessi risotto with mushrooms, or any packaged rice with mushrooms

While the oven is preheating, brown the ground beef (seasoning to taste as you cook) and drain off the grease.

In a mixing bowl combine soup, ground beef, drained vegetables and risotto. Mix well. Place mixture in baking dish or casserole.

Arrange tater tots on top of mixture.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Top with your favorite variety of shredded cheese as you serve.

That’s it! This is a great hot dish for a winter day when you have to go out and shovel snow. Goes well with any boxed white wine.

Blogging Minnesota Reviews Things I Really Like Winter

Ice Castles in Stillwater

January 6, 2017
Ice Castles in Stillwater

One of the greatest thing about being a Minnesota Blogger is that I get invited to some pretty cool events. Last night I was lucky enough to attend a preview of Ice Castles in Stillwater, MN. It was a beautifully clear night out because it was -1°F, the windchill was -24°F. Trust me when I say it was cold. It might not be on your list of things to do in Minnesota – to visit a giant ice sculpture when it’s that cold, but that’s what I did.  

And you should too. 

Ice Castles in Stillwater

Ice Castles in Stillwater

The Ice Castles in Stillwater are made with a combination of hand placed icicles and running water. The people who build these magical ice structures place around 15,000 icicles by hand as they grow the ice around them using running water.

I believe this is the first year Ice Castles has been in Stillwater, MN. It’s been at the Mall of America in Bloomington before and Eden Prairie before this. Stillwater is a great place for Ice Castles. Not only is there ample free parking, but it’s such a picturesque town, something special like Ice Castles fits right in.

Controversy

You’d think something as lovely and beautiful as these ice sculptures wouldn’t have any controversy around them but you’d be wrong. Evidently there are some people who are upset that the ice structures are named Ice Castles, they argue they should be called Ice Stalagmites and Stalactites because of the way they are created. That may be so, but it’s silly to get worked up over something so petty. 

However, Ice Castles are not to be confused with the ice castles created for the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Those structure are build out of blocks of ice, not grown using running water. 

Ice Castles in Stillwater

They’re Beautiful

It doesn’t really matter how Ice Castles was formed, they’re beautiful. I toured the structure at night so the various ice walls and fountains were lit up in a stunning display of blue, red, orange, and green. I would have loved to have stayed longer to really get a good look at the way the ice was formed, it was really cool. It was also really cold and difficult to stay for too long. 

Things to Know

The floor of the Ice Castle is chopped ice/snow. This is not wheelchair or stroller accessible. Walking in the inches deep ice/snow was slightly challenging in big old lunky boots. Pets are not allowed. It is cold inside the structure, it might even be colder than outside – you know, because you’re inside a ice. There might be some science about it one way or the other but at -24°F windchill, it really doesn’t matter. 

Ice Castles in Stillwater

Dress Warm

I wore fleece tights under jeans and my legs still felt as if they had frozen. I wore boots rated to -30° and my feet were just fine. Tennies or any other kind of shoe is not going to be comfortable or easy to navigate through the ice/snow floor. Wear warm boots that have some grip to them. Mittens, hat, ear muffs and a scarf or ski mask to cover your face is completely appropriate. 

Tickets

Buy your tickets online, you’ll save a ton of cash. Click here to purchase tickets. And click here to learn more about the ice structures and how they’re made.

Ice Castles in Stillwater

Make a Day of it

Stillwater is a lovely town. If you plan on visiting Ice Castles make a day of it and have yourself an adventure. There are whimsical shops to visit and some great restaurants all within walking distance of Ice Castles. 

Blogging Books Dumb Shit I Do Events Food Kids Minnesota Minnesota Nice People Pets politics Recipes Reviews Things I Really Like Things that piss me off Writing

Redhead Ranting 2016 Roundup

December 31, 2016
Redhead Ranting 2016 Roundup

For your reading pleasure I’ve put together my sometimes annual Redhead Ranting 2016 Roundup. Every other media outlet does a roundup so I thought, what the heck, I’ll do one too!

I’m actually surprised I wrote enough this year for a roundup. In fact, I actually wrote and published 60 posts this year, which is my third time high since I started blogging in 2007. It’s twice as much as I wrote last year.

There were basically 4 categories this year, the election, my mother, recipes, and Prince, and an outlier about Dini the cat. It’s a long post, and most didn’t bother to read it, but it’s one that harkens back to my early days of blogging, when I just told a story and enjoyed the journey.

No One Ever Said There Would Be This Much Cat Vomit

Blog Posts about the Election

I really didn’t think he’d win, and I might watch too much Walking Dead.

How to Survive the Trumpacolypse

How to Prepare for the Post Election Apocalypse

OMG Stop Unfriending Each Other!

Blog Posts about my Relationship with My Mother

My relationship with my mother is difficult at best, but it isn’t unique. I also posted a story from my book, Minnesota Nice. 

Life Isn’t Fair

I Made my Mother Cry… Again

Do You Know your ACE Score?

Recipes

I cook a lot this year, mostly because I got an Instant Pot – the most awesome thing ever!

Shrimp Alfredo in 7 Minutes

Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hot Dish Instant Pot Recipe

Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish Recipe – Seriously, if you try a new dish in 2017, make it the MN Tater Tot Hotdish, you won’t be sorry. 

Best and Worst in Books and Movies and Blogs

I saw and reviewed several movies this year, they aren’t worth sharing here except for one exceptionally horrible movie I really hoped would be awesome. It wasn’t.

Independence Day Resurgence Review

Life Changing Books

Bloggers who Blog

Prince and Jacob

2016 was a year of loss, but these two are still difficult for me to reckon with. 

Summer in Minnesota 2016: We Lost Prince and Found Jacob

On the Passing of Prince, from a Minnesotan

Events Minnesota Things I Really Like Winter

Family Friendly Things to do in the Twin Cities this December

December 5, 2016
Family friendly things to do in the Twin Cities this December

If you’re looking for family friendly things to do in the Twin Cities this December look no further than all these great events taking place this month. There’s really something for the whole family to enjoy this December. Head on down to the Landmark Center in Downtown St. Paul and get your skate on at the Wells Fargo WinterSkate arena. If you’d rather take a less physical approach to the season then put on some warm clothes and head out to the Holidazzle taking place now through December 23rd.

It’s a busy month with family and friends, parties and commitments, and let’s not forget shopping, just be sure to take some time to enjoy all that this wonderful season has to offer.

Family Friendly Things to do in the Twin Cities this December

Holidazzle
When: Now through December 23rd
Where: Loring Park
Minneapolis, MN

As downtown Minneapolis’ premier holiday celebration, Holidazzle has delighted residents, visitors and downtown employees for years. Now, in 2016, this tradition is bringing family-friendly programming to Loring Park completely free.

Rice Park Powered by Xcel Energy
When: Now through December 23rd
Where: Rice Park
St. Paul, MN

Make downtown Saint Paul your family holiday destination and enjoy the beauty of Rice Park as it sparkles with thousands of twinkling lights! The festive tree will be up through January 1, 2017. The other lights will stay up and illuminate the park through the end of the Winter Carnival.

Wells Fargo WinterSkate
When: Now through February 5th
Where: Landmark Cetner
St. Paul, MN

Skaters are invited to experience the unique urban setting of downtown Saint Paul. Located in the heart of the city, Wells Fargo WinterSkate creates a fun, winter experience for visitors of all ages. The historic Landmark Center creates a beautiful backdrop for the outdoor rink, showcasing Saint Paul’s charming European architecture and old-world ambiance.

Christmas at FlyOver America
When: Now through January 2nd
Where: Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America
60 E. Broadway
Bloomington, MN

FlyOver America will transform into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Guests will have fun helping Santa search for his missing elves during an exhilarating flight across America and onto the North Pole.

St. Paul European Christmas Market
When: December 1st – 4th, December 8th – 11th, 2016
Where: Union Depot
240 E. Kellogg Blvd
St. Paul, MN

The European Christmas Market in St. Paul is based on the traditional, charming, and festive open air Christkindlmarkts that spring up in Germany, Austria and other countries during the Advent season. Shop for unique, handmade holiday gifts and decorations from local vendors, drink Glühwein (spiced mulled wine), and taste European inspired food and delicacies during the first two weekends in December.

Black Nativity
When: December 1st – 23rd, 2016
Where: Penumbra Theatre
270 N. Kent St.
St. Paul, MN

This is a timeless holiday tradition treasured across the Twin Cities! Today, kids who grew up with Black Nativity are returning with their own families. Under the direction of Lou Bellamy and the musical direction of Sanford Moore, our homegrown Christmas show returns featuring exceptional lead vocalists, the outstanding Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Choir, and the stirring choreography of Uri Sands of TU Dance. Join us for an experience full of joy, community, and spirit.

Summit Avenue Artisan Festival
When: December 3rd, 3026
Where: St. Paul’s United Church of Christ
900 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN

Join St. Paul’s United Church of Christ as we celebrate the season with our community. We are a proud Saint Paul Grand Meander event! Shop handcrafted jewelry, pottery, food items and more from our 30 local artisans. Take a photo with St. Nicholas! Enjoy a cup of Fair Trade coffee or tea and specialty Christmas items at our bake sale!

Grand Meander
When: December 3rd, 2016
Where: Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN

Grand Meander is a St. Paul tradition that captures the charm of historic Grand Avenue and the cozy communal spirit of the holidays! Pick out your Christmas tree, have breakfast with Santa, hear carolers meander from store to store, and hop on a classic trolley and ride the 20-block length of Grand Avenue.

Minnesota Zoo Santa Saturdays
When: December 3rd, 10th, 17th
Where: Minnesota Zoo
13000 Zoo Boulevard
Apple Valley, MN

December is a great time to visit the Minnesota Zoo. If you’re looking for that perfect holiday photo, bring your family and camera to the Zoo on Saturday, December 3, 10, and 17 and meet Santa. He’ll be available for photos from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze
When: December 9th – 11th, 2016
Where: Northrup at the University of Minnesota
84 Church Street SE
Minneapolis, MN

Cirque Dreams lights up the 2016 holiday season with its critically acclaimed holiday stage extravaganza, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a new cirque show, Broadway musical, and family Christmas spectacular all in one! Hailed by The New York Daily News as a “delicious confection of charm, sparkle and talent by the sleighload & so full of energy it could end our dependence on oil!”

Winter Solstice Celebration
When: December 18th, 2016
Where: Lake Hiawatha Recreation Center
2701 East 44th St.
Minneapolis, MN

Let’s welcome the return of light! Nourish your heart’s longing for renewal by tapping into the seed of potential that begins every year. This contemplative, participatory and embodied evening enters the fertile embrace of darkness as the starting point for new life. Individually and collectively it is an opportunity to shed what diminishes us. The community experience of music, meditation, and movement helps us tap into a deeper experience of connection. We gather on the solstice to remember our interconnection and access a wellspring of life that is ultimately joyful and liberating.

Bruce Munro: Winter Light at the Arboretum
When: Now through December 31st, 2016
Where: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
3675 Arboretum Drive
Chaska, MN

Winter Light At The Arboretum, the first large-scale light installation at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, will illuminate the winter landscape after dark.  This ticketed exhibit makes its Minnesota premiere with a series of five outdoor and two indoor installations that have inspiration and connection to Munro’s visits to the Arboretum, his imagination and life experience.

Gingerbread Wonderland at Norway House
When: Now through January 8th, 2017
Where: Norway House
913 East Franklin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN

The holiday tradition of gingerbread houses, called pepperkake in Norway, has crossed the sea to Norway House. Create a special piece to display – a local Twin Cities landmark or inspired structure – or just come to admire, as dozens of creations are on exhibit for this multi-generational, magically festive event. Invite family and friends to join you in baking an exhibit piece, or spark a friendly competition for bragging rights. A winning entry will be selected by professional bakers, and a “People’s Choice” award will honor the structure most admired by attendees. Gingerbread Wonderland also includes special displays from renowned local bakers.

Night Trains
When: Now through February 25th, 2017
Where: Twin City Model Railroad Museum
668 Transfer Road, Suite 8
St. Paul, MN

Night Trains Season comes to museum layouts in a magical way, the lights are turned down, the buildings and street lights glow warmly, setting the scene for specially lighted models of vintage passenger trains. The make believe town of Matlin is buried in a blizzard, and throughout the Museum the layouts are adorned with miniature Christmas lights and decorations.

#NaBloPoMo Dumb Shit I Do Minnesota Reviews Things I Really Like

The Murder Mystery Company: Totally 80s Totally Murder Review

November 22, 2016
Totally 80s Totally Murder Review

I was recently invited to a production of The Murder Mystery Company Totally 80s Totally Murder to review . The show took place at a Stillwater Knights of Columbus and people came from as far as Hastings, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Crystal and Hopkins. If you’re not from around the Twin Cities, that’s quite a hike for a Minnesotan to make on a Saturday in November. The place was packed, since the show had been sold out. I went with Leigh, my partner in most crimes, and even though she was on time I was late. Sadly, we skipped the offer of getting our picture taken when we walked in. It was my fault, I turned down the offer, and I really regret that I did. It would have been a lot of fun to have a picture of Leigh and myself dressed up in our best 80s outfits.

Let me back up a bit. The show we saw was Totally 80s Totally Murder. In a nutshell the show was about some of our favorite 80s icons. The audience was encouraged to dress in their best 80s fashion and OMG that was fun.

For me it was easy, I came of age in the 80s. I wore every fad fashion that came along during that glorious time. From headbands, crimped hair, bangles, bandanas tied around my ankle, to pink and purple make up, and especially Big Hair, I did it all. I lived in a ripped sweatshirt turned inside out and let’s not forget about the leg warmers and shoulder pads. I had it all. And because I like to hang on to things I will never wear again I still had most of it.

Leigh on the other hand, was born in the 80s so she had to fake it for the most part. She looked more like Madonna than Madonna ever did in the 80s. And she managed to crimp her hair without a hair crimper!

Totally 80s Totally Murder Review

As I said, we got there a little late. The tickets clearly state to arrive 20 minutes before the show starts, we got there about 10 minutes after the show started. I suspect we missed some directions. We were immediately seated with an incredibly enthusiastic table of women ranging in age from 28 to 60. Everyone was super excited, pumped up and dressed in their best 80s outfits.

I have to say, getting ready for this event was more fun than I have had in ages. I can’t remember the last time I wore so much makeup, and it was awesome!

If you follow me on Facebook, you can see all of my tweets with pictures as I was getting ready.

We were seated as a couple of the actors were talking to each other in the front of the room, they were arguing about something though I am not sure what it was. Coming into it a little late it was still possible to catch up. There were a few main characters – Poison – a rocker and our host who has an unnecessary almost cockney accent, Pat Minotaur – a rocker who only wants to rock and roll all night (and who has an amazing voice), Cindy – you know the kind, she just wants to have fun, Johnny – the victim and Detective P Nes. In addition to these main characters, participants from the audience played along too.

At our table the participant was Trish Hughes, a super model from the 80s who also happened to be the love interest of some of the 80s. Of course it was the 80s and everyone was sleeping with everyone else. Sadly the person who was chosen to play the super model quit about 10 minutes in which sort of confused the members of the audience who were supposed to ask her questions for clues to solve the mystery.

I’ve never been to one of these murder mystery dinner theaters before but those at my table had and they all said it was done a little differently here. That there was much more audience involvement at this version.

We were given a book with some basic info about the character at our table, she did not know if she was the murderer. Neither did the other participants. We were also given a wad of fake money with some questions written on them. The idea that we were supposed to go from table to table asking questions of the other participants (who did not know if they were the murdered) and actors. It was a bit confusing and most people didn’t bother asking questions. Instead they talked about how crazy everyone looked in their great get ups. Oh, and they went to the bar for drinks.

I forgot to mention, this was all happening over a three course meal, which was surprisingly good for a Knights of Columbus.

Each table was to submit their best educated guess about who murdered Johnny and why. Our table came in dead last, which was pretty hilarious. Our guess? In the kitchen with the rope by Ms Scarlet.

I’m not usually one for participating in anything, but this was a lot of fun. It was something completely different to do on a Saturday night and it was a great way to meet a ton of new people. People who all have a great sense of humor in their mullets, spandex and hair spray.

Even if participatory dinner theater isn’t your thing, you really should give this a try, it was such a fun experience and so much better than going to the movies or hanging out at the neighborhood bar.

#NaBloPoMo Books Things I Really Like

Life Changing Books

November 3, 2016
life changing book

This year I celebrated my 50th birthday. I knew I was going to be making some life changes, but I wasn’t sure where to start, so I started reading. After nearly a year, I have this awesome list of life changing books and now I’m sharing them with you!

I’m only including non-fiction books here. Most can be found in the self help section of any bookstore. All of them made me feel as if the author was speaking directly to me. Which is, actually, a very comforting thought because if you think about it, that means there are a lot of us struggling with the same kinds of feelings, stress, anxiety and all that other crap that pops into your head when no one else is around.

These are the books that helped me realize I don’t have to believe the things I’ve been telling telling myself for the last 45 years or so.

Life Changing Books

 

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, #1 New York Times Bestselling
Author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it NOW.

Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Your biography becomes your biology. The emotional trauma we suffer as children not only shapes our emotional lives as adults, but it also affects our physical health, longevity, and overall wellbeing. Scientists now know on a bio-chemical level exactly how parents’ chronic fights, divorce, death in the family, being bullied or hazed, and growing up with a hypercritical, alcoholic, or mentally ill parent can leave permanent, physical “fingerprints” on our brains.

The Power of Grit by Angela Duckworth

In this instant New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently noted her lack of “genius,” Duckworth, now a celebrated researcher and professor, describes her early eye-opening stints in teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a unique combination of passion and long-term perseverance.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

To make the journey into the Now we will need to leave our analytical mind and its false created self, the ego, behind. From the very first page of this extraordinary book, we move rapidly into a significantly higher altitude where we breathe a lighter air. We become connected to the indestructible essence of our Being, “The eternal, ever present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death.”

Although the journey is challenging, Eckhart Tolle uses simple language and an easy question and answer format to guide us. A word of mouth phenomenon since its first publication, The Power of Now is one of those rare books with the power to create an experience in readers, one that can radically change their lives for the better.

The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Written in a voice that is timeless in its message of understanding, The Road Less Traveled continues to help us explore the very nature of loving relationships and leads us toward a new serenity and fullness of life. It helps us learn how to distinguish dependency from love; how to become a more sensitive parent; and ultimately how to become one’s own true self.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness. Her pioneering work uncovered a profound truth: Vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall.

Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins

Wake up and take control of your life! From the bestselling author of Inner StrengthUnlimited Power, and MONEY Master the Game, Anthony Robbins, the nation’s leader in the science of peak performance, shows you his most effective strategies and techniques for mastering your emotions, your body, your relationships, your finances, and your life.

The acknowledged expert in the psychology of change, Anthony Robbins provides a step-by-step program teaching the fundamental lessons of self-mastery that will enable you to discover your true purpose, take control of your life, and harness the forces that shape your destiny.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner

When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and that he would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad Things Happen to Good People is a classic that offers clear thinking and consolation in times of sorrow.
Since its original publication in 1981, When Bad Things Happen to Good People has brought solace and hope to millions of readers and its author has become a nationally known spiritual leader.

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

Way of the Peaceful Warrior is based on the story of Dan Millman, a world champion athlete, who journeys into realms of romance and magic, light and darkness, body, mind, and spirit. Guided by a powerful old warrior named Socrates and tempted by an elusive, playful woman named Joy, Dan is led toward a final confrontation that will deliver or destroy him. Readers join Dan as he learns to live as a peaceful warrior. This international bestseller conveys piercing truths and humorous wisdom, speaking directly to the universal quest for happiness.

Your Erroneous Zone by Wayne Dyer

If you’re plagued by guilt or worry and find yourself unwittingly falling into the same old self-destructive patterns, then you have “erroneous zones” – whole facets of your approach to life that act as barriers to your success and happiness.

Perhaps you believe that you have no control over your feelings and reactions – Dyer shows how you can take charge of yourself and manage how much you will let difficult times and people affect you. Or maybe you spend more time worrying what others think than working on what you want and need – Dyer points the way to true self-reliance. From self-image problems to over-dependence on others, Dyer gives you the tools you need to break free from negative thinking and enjoy life to the fullest.

I Am That Girl by Alexis Jones

Stop listening to that voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough. Stop worrying that you don’t have the perfect body, perfect job, perfect relationship, or perfect anything for that matter. Stop letting other people draw boundaries and limits around your life. And start living the life that you truly want (now!), the one you didn’t think you had the courage to imagine, but the one that’s absolutely possible! Including stories from thirty incredible women, Alexis has compiled everything she’s learned into one complete guide to being That Girl, the best version of you.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Think and Grow Rich is a 1937 personal development and self-help book by Napoleon Hill. The book was inspired by a suggestion from Scottish-American business magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. While its title implies that the book deals with how to attain monetary wealth, the author explains that the philosophy taught in the book can be used to help people succeed in all lines of work and to do or be almost anything they want. The book was first published during the Great Depression. At the time of Hill’s death in 1970, Think and Grow Rich had sold more than 20 million copies and by 2011 over 70 million copies had been sold worldwide. It remains the biggest seller of Napoleon Hill’s books. Business Week magazine’s Best-Seller List ranked it the sixth best-selling paperback business book 70 years after it was published. Think and Grow Rich is listed in John C. Maxwell’s A Lifetime “Must Read” Books List.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

An international bestseller with over five million copies in print, The Power of Positive Thinking has helped men and women around the world to achieve fulfillment in their lives through Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s powerful message of faith and inspiration.

In this phenomenal bestseller, “written with the sole objective of helping the reader achieve a happy, satisfying, and worthwhile life,” Dr. Peale demonstrates the power of faith in action. With the practical techniques outlined in this book, you can energize your life—and give yourself the initiative needed to carry out your ambitions and hopes.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey

One of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peoplehas captivated readers for 25 years. It has transformed the lives of Presidents and CEOs, educators and parents— in short, millions of people of all ages and occupations.

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

In the rain forests of Peru, an ancient manuscript has been discovered. Within its pages are 9 key insights into life itself — insights each human being is predicted to grasp sequentially; one insight, then another, as we move toward a completely spiritual culture on Earth. Drawing on ancient wisdom, it tells you how to make connections among the events happening in your life right now and lets you see what is going to happen to you in the years to come. The story it tells is a gripping one of adventure and discovery, but it is also a guidebook that has the power to crystallize your perceptions of why you are where you are in life and to direct your steps with a new energy and optimisim as you head into tomorrow.