Friday, September 12, 2014

New Energy

After I don't know how long running Northwood on my own and getting help only with bingos and fundraising I have to say I love having an executive. Seeing emails go out to the new coaches rather than having to compose them and forgetting that because they are new they don't know half of what I think they do. Or seeing someone else rework a schedule outline to encompass another team. Seeing so much help at the rink on launch day that I could actually stop and have a conversation. I could get used to this.

We have undergone our first expansion in a decade. Yes there will be headaches but they won't all be mine.

As a result I made the decision to help coach a team. It solves a problem but I'm really looking forward to it.

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, September 8, 2014

Minneapolis 2014

We're not grumpy, the sun was in our eyes

We took an end of the summer getaway to Minneapolis over the Labour Day weekend and had a great time. Never stepped foot in the Mall of America or even a bike shop.

What we did was find new places by not using the gps or the freeways. From the south end of town, Bloomington to be more precise, there a at east a half dozen streets the start at American Boulevard and end up downtown. I would crank up Google maps and plan out a route and then with maybe a few lines on a note in my shirt pocket we would head out. Is it slower than jumping onto I35, yes. Do you actually get to see some of the neighbourhoods and small businesses, yes.

Our first run was up Lyndale Ave. to the Lyn Lake area restaurant  It's Greek To Me, turned out to be a great choice. They were closed Sunday and Monday for the long weekend, lots of smaller places close to give the staff a break. I had roast leg of lamb and Sal had a combo with four different dishes. Parked about half a block away right on Lake Street.

Saturday we did some shopping after a quick breakfast in the hotel. We decided to try Culver's which was the only 'fast' food place we even considered. The roast beef sandwiches were very good. We finished shopping and got ready for our night out. We travelled north up Portland Ave. all the way downtown which was very calm on weekends. We had reservations for 112 Eatery at 5pm, right at opening time and parked on the street just outside the front door. The restaurant is located in an old building that has been revamped and both floors filled up fast. We shared a crab salad and scallop appetizers, Sal had a pasta dish and I had a cheesburger with brie. I found a tasty new porter, Great Lakes Breweries (Cleveland OH) "Edmund Fitzgerald'. We added desert and enjoyed our most expensive meal of the trip. Just the right portion size for the evening we had planned and very good from the app to the dessert. I still think for $9 they could have assembled mine.

We left with about 40 minutes before show time at the Guthrie Theatre and I had to use gps to find the spot just 5 blocks away. :( The building itself was amazing with a large balcony section overlooking the riverfront and the theatre we were in was red velvet everything, curtains, seats and walls. Not that musty old red velvet, new and plush. We had excellent seats in row J and were the first to sit down. Again the place filled quickly and after waiting maybe 15 minutes the show started, a comedy that had a run on and off Broadway and had won several awards including a Tony, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. It started off with a few laughs and by the end of the 2 hour performance you cared what happened to the characters. We drove back through downtown and out Portland to the hotel.

The hotel was a big surprise. We have never used the travel sites that AJ books with but decided it was time to try. I signed up with Trip Advisor and found a room for 4 nights for $362 Canadian tax in through Priceline. It was a Super 8 located right on American Boulevard about 5 minutes from the Mall of America, Ikea, Target, Kohls, REI, Best Buy and so on. It included a king bed, breakfast, 24 hour free coffee in the lobby, a fridge, microwave, and wi-fi with 4 routers to choose from and better reception than we have at home. It was quiet and clean, can't ask for much more.

Sunday we did a little more shopping after trying the Mandarin Kitchen for Dim Sum. It was insanely busy and after circling for 20 minutes looking for parking we got inside and 15 minutes later we heard they served dim sum on Mondays so we mad the choice to leave. We hit a nearby Perkins where most of the seniors residing in Minnesota were having breakfast. We were hungry by then so it did the job. It's hard to mess up omelettes and coffee.

We then headed up Lyndale again and made our way to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. A huge building with a very extensive collection of art and historic artifacts. We spent most of our visit in the Chinese collection and it was very interesting. What did people do before tv and computers? They created beautiful works of art. Some of the carvings and tapestries were enormous and so detailed. It's impossible to imagine how something so impressive could be made by hand from materials also made by hand.

Sunday night we tried to get a reservation at Pizzeria Lola but they don't take them. When we arrived we saw why, no need. A large crowd stood outside the door milling around the 5 small tables where a few lucky groups were eating. I went in and put our name in for a table. An hour wait. We decided to stick this one out. And we were so glad we did. Once inside everything sped up. Drinks arrived and then an amazing salad. I ordered the Hawaii Pie O and Sal had the Sweet Italian. Wood fired just a few feet away and had to be the best we've ever had. We planned to take a few pieces back for lunch the following day but then remembered we were going to try for dim sum again. The pieces never made it to a box. The crust is so thin it just doesn't fill you up,. Strong enough to pick up and eat but almost unnoticeable in your mouth. In honor of one of my bikes I had a Surly Furious beer and then a Surly Bender. Trip Advisor has this place ranked as the number one restaurant in Minneapolis and we would agree.

Monday was a lazy day. We got to the Mandarin Kitchen right at the 10am opening and were eating by 10:05, no crowds on this sunny morning. It wasn't the best dim sum we've ever had but was good. The crab balls were something I haven't had and Sal said she hadn't had one since her dad made them.

We had no other plans so we tried Menards and picked up a few things, then a Super Target. With nothing more planned we chilled at the hotel for a few hours. At about 3 we headed to the Normandale Community College on France Ave. and their Japanese Gardens. A very tranquil and quiet place that we had to share with 3 or 4 others. We also checked out the Wildlife Sanctuary at the far end of American Boulevard. There is a visitor center overlooking the Mississippi Valley but it was closed for the holiday. A sign said that few animals would be seen on summer afternoons especially if it was breezy. It was mid afternoon and windy. Sal did see a few small birds in a birdhouse and then an enormous squirrel, a few chipmunks and a small rabbit so she was happy.

Our last supper of the trip was at Fat Lorenzos on Lake Nokomis. Another excellent find. We shared an Artichoke dip served with garlic toast that was so much better than others we have head, not salty at all and real mozzarella and chunks of artichoke. I had a New Belgian Fat Tire beer and Picanti Grassi, a spicey penne dish with meatball and sausage in every bite. Sal had spaghetti with meatballs, well half of it anyway. The portions were very generous and very tasty. We ordered a cold hoagie for lunch on the way home and enjoyed it at our favourite roadside rest spot just outside Gran Marais, Cut Face Creek.

We stopped in Duluth for some wine and Edmund Fitzgerald to bring home. Sal drove home from the rest stop. The roads were quiet and there was no one at the border. We were second in line on the way down. Other than numerous pauses for construction it was a relaxing drive home. All in all a great long weekend before works tarts for Sal and hockey changes into high gear for me.

On the steps of the Institute of the Arts
Fat Lorenzos unmistakable paint
4 dishes in 1 at It's Greek to Me
Sweet Italian at Pizzeria Lola
Hawaii Pie-O at Pizzeria Lola
Cheesburger at 112 Eatery
Appetizers at 112 Eatery
Some assembly required dessert at 112 Eatery
Dim sum at Mandarin Kitchen
Picant Grassi at Fat Lorenzos
Spaghetti & meatballs at Fat Lorenzos