Sunday, September 27, 2015

"We Plan, God Laughs"

It's been just about four months since I left the corporate gig, and these days, I am a BUSY little bee! While I still find time more time than the average working bear to flop and laze (you might recall the "flop and laze" is pretty much the defining characteristic of my early weeks of FUNemployment), I now have quite the packed calendar. 

Four months ago, I could never have guessed that where I am now is where I would be. Oh, I had ideas...but reality was quick to remind me of the pure TRUTH of that old Yiddish Proverb, "We plan, God Laughs."

I'll let you in on a little secret. I am a burgeoning oenephile (though that is not really a secret to those who know me well). While I've imbibed in wine for many years, it's only been in the past few years that I've gotten more passionate and committed to learning the details and intricacies of the wonderful world of wine (especially those delicious sparklers!) In fact, I was SUPPOSED to begin a semester long, in-depth wine professional/sommelier certification program this fall...but my program was cancelled. I signed up for the program before I quit my job, so when the program was cancelled, I was bummed, to say the least. Sure, it's just a temporary road block and I'm exploring other programs (and keeping my eye out for this program to potentially start up in the winter), but that program was meant to be my fall anchor and provide the momentum to launch of a whole new career! Now what was I supposed to do?!

In the absence of a formal wine program at my finger tips, I decided the least I could do was visit a few new wineries, my own little independent study. I visited a Minnesota Winery (#79 on my 2015 List) called Warehouse Winery, conveniently located right here in the Twin Cities. While the space was cool, and it was fun to learn about Minnesota's cold climate grapes, including those grown in the St Croix river valley, I wasn't in love with the wines themselves. Additionally, I just returned from a brief vacation to San Francisco to visit my friends W+D and drink plenty of wine. My trip to SF included a day sojourn to Napa, where we visited not one, but 3 new-to-me California wineries (#81 on my list). We decided to focus on bubbles for the day and visited Domaine Carneros (my favorite of the 3), Chandon and Mumm. After our day of wine tastings, we even managed to score a table at Bouchon for dinner in the chichi Napa town of Yountville. Bouchon is a Thomas Keller restaurant, and I soon learned he is kind of a big deal chef. Dinner at Bouchon did not disappoint and was a great way to close out our Napa day trip.

I am also filling the void by hitting the fitness beat hard. I've always enjoyed working out, but it was something I consistently downgraded and sacrificed back in my consultant days in favor of bending over backward for demanding clients and colleagues on projects that really didn't fire me up. Well, now that I don't have that pesky JOB thing to deal with, I'm working out 5-6 days a week, and sometimes twice in one day. My workouts include OTF interval training 2-3 times a week, running 2-3 times a week (gearing up for the Medtronic TC 10 Mile race next weekend), and practicing yoga 1-3 times a week. Also, over past 6 weeks or so, have cleaned up my eating quite a bit, and am on a 40+ day streak logging my foodstuffs into MyFitnessPal. My newfound healthy habits seem to be paying off. In fact, I've lost 21 lbs since I left my career at the end of May. I haven't felt this strong and healthy in years!

Perhaps the most unexpected development is that I have a JOB(ish)! I'm currently volunteering four afternoons a week at a Title I Saint Paul public secondary school, serving as the Stage Manager for the Fall Musical production of Little Shop of Horrors. What's funny about this is that I have ZE-to the-RO experience working in any kind of theater. Thankfully, I'm an enthusiastic learner, I have plenty of experience volunteering with kids, and I'm pretty tight with the director (he was a groomsmen in our wedding). I'm learning a ton, and I even had the opportunity to meet with a professional stage manager to help me learn some of  the ropes. Essentially though, I'm an extra pair of hands to help further the efforts of a theater program that has limited resources, and I want to do the best job I can to make a positive contribution.

The most fulfilling thing about volunteering with the production so far is, of course, the kids.They are fricking awesome, and I love them. They are so passionate and fun, and it's a thrill to get to know them and share this learning experience with them. According to some of the kids, my selfie game is strong, my outfits are on fleek, I'm way younger than they thought I'd be, I'm not too annoying, I'm sort of cool, but I really cannot dance. Hey, I'll take what I can get! I also now know what "BAE" and "THOT" stand for. I'm a little behind on today's slang, but nothing like hanging out with 6th thru 12th graders to get up to speed.

So, that's where I am now. Each day, I'm growing more comfortable with living life without a storyline (Pema Chodron's words, per the link) opting instead to do my best to roll with ebbs and flows of life versus trying to commandeer and manipulate every darn little thing to my liking and resisting life's natural currents and inevitable obstacles. It's not easy, but I am happy to be learning to live in this more open-minded way, a way that acknowledges that my life's script is one of infinite fluidity, never to be set in stone. I feel more free, more empowered, and more aware of new opportunities and paths that I might have otherwise overlooked; paths that have perhaps been there all along, just waiting for me to be ready to explore more freely. And the journey continues...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Great Minnesota Get Together

Do you know what time it is? It's time for the State Fair! This is the only acceptable answer to such a question at this time of year. That is, if you're from Minnesota.

These Minnesohhhtans, they are vee-ary seeerious fair goh-ers, don'tchya know! Also known as the Great Minnesota Get Together, aka the Great Minnesota "Sweat Together" since the temps almost never fail to rise up into the 90s at the time of the fair (and this year is no exception, extra entertaining given that a week ago the temps were barely scraping the 60s), the festivities last a sweat-covered, mullet-infested, fried-and-doused-in-butter, greasy-and-gluttonous 12 days, wrapping up each year on the unofficial last day of summer, Labor Day.

Attendance is basically "required" if you live in here in MN, lest you want your state residency status revoked. At least that's what we were told when we were issued our MN driver's licences 3 years ago. Like I said, Minnesotans mean business.

Confession time - B and I purposefully opted out of the fair tradition last year. We had a lot going on getting ready for our wedding, and neither of us are big on crowds. However, this  year we wanted to regain our residency status, so we plotted out our plan to tackle the fair.

We graced the fair with our presence last Friday afternoon (before the heat and humidity rolled in, I might add!), and met up with our favorite fair-going veterans, Aaron and Heather. These two born-and-bred MN locals are seasoned pros, and we were more than happy to tag along and follow their lead.

B and I had a pretty short fair to-do list, and might I add, highly manageable for our one-and-only afternoon of planned attendance for MN State Fair 2015. It turns out many Twin Cities locals will hit up the fair multiple times (A+H are going 4!!!! times I think?!), and as such, the multi-trippers tend to have a more intricate and detailed list of "fair requirements" to complete. B and I though, we're "one and done." Multiple visits to the fair are not our jam, so we keep our list short and sweet.

Here's what we tackled:

Visit the baby animals. CHECK!
This was a key item on my list. I have an odd love for barnyard animals, and if there is a place to see barnyard animals, it's the fair. To meet this requirement, we decided to bravely visit the "Miracle of Birth Center", where the sows, heifers and ewes birth their young. I don't do "biology", so I didn't actually want to SEE a live birth, but I did want to see the brand new babies! At the time of our arrival, a sow was nearing the end (hopefully) of her labor, having birthed 17 (!!!) little piglets and counting throughout the day. Thankfully, there was a big crowd around Momma pig, so no up-close lessons on the miracle of birth were learned. BUT, we did see day-old piglets from another sow momma (below) - and I even got to pet one (squeeeee)! We also saw fleecy new little lambs (a few pictured), and baby calfs (90# at birth, whoa baby! sorry I forgot to grab a calf pic, but they were pretty adorbs too).

So much cuuute! B, do you think Timmy and Little Cloud would be cool if we got a baby lambie or piggy? It could sleep in the bathtub!

Visit Princess Kay (of the Milky Way) and her "butter bust." CHECK!
I kind of forgot about this one, so visiting Princess Kay and her literal butter bust was a late add to the checklist (thanks, Heather, for the reminder on this one). In typical Molly fashion, I didn't take a photo, so a description and a link will have to suffice. Each year at the fair, a new Dairy Princess is crowned "Princess Kay of the Milky Way". The winner and finalists sit in a frozen glass room  for all to see while a sculptor commemorates a butter bust. According to Wikipedia, sculptor Linda Christensen has been the official butter sculptor at the fair for nearly 40 years! The lucky ladies then get to keep the sculptures at the conclusion of the fair. What she does with it then, I do not know. Wrestle in it? Bathe in it? Butter a thousand baked potatoes? Bake a thousand cookies? Popcorn party? Lordy. Can you say "high cholesterol"? How about "heart attack"? Peep the link in the header above for more specs on this cray tradition, yo.

Ride a Ride. CHECK!
Ride a ride at the Minnesota State fair also happens to be #57 on my 2015 List, and I'm happy to say that I can check that one off...forever. To complete my mission, I selected the "Giant Slide" that you ride down on a potato sack type contraption. It seemed innocuous enough, and everyone, including the little kids appear so fun and fancy free gliding effortlessly and eagerly down the slide.  For my part, I screamed the whole way down. I was the only one screaming. I think I scared small children with my hollering. Also, I almost slid into the wall at the end. So, there's that.

Highly accurate reenactment of my Big Slide adventure. 

Play Midway games. CHECK!
Not surprisingly, this was a Brian-specific item on our combined list. He loves anything with a little bit of a competitive edge. We bought enough tickets for a handful of Midway games, but alas, the glory of the win would not be ours...well, Brian or mine anyway. The old hands, Aaron and Heather, nabbed a few small prizes. We played a ring toss, a ball toss and some other throwing type game, I think. Sadly, we spotted Skee-Ball after all of our tickets were spent, though I would have been happy to ante up if B had insisted. He is a former Skee-Ball Wizard, after all! (true story, apparently he was like a baby phenom or something, and once won so many tickets playing as a little kid that he commanded quite an audience!) I'm pretty sure a name candidate for B's future memoir is "I was Once a Skee-Ball Wizard."

B and A, trying to win the big bananas.

Eat all of the things.  CHECK! CHECK! CHECK!
Nothing quite says "State fair" like stuffing your face with all things fried, greasy, salted and handheld and getting wheeled out on a gurney when your clogged, buttery heart skips a few beats. Some people like to get experimental at the fair and try all the new food things that debut each year. I prefer to go for the classics, which for me include beer (just regular, not the mini donut beer), cheese curds, Corn Roast, fried pickles and Sweet Martha's Cookies. I did branch out and try a bite of Heather & Aaron's Tikka-on-a-Stikka and the Chicken Samosas from Hot Indian -- both very nom-nom-worthy! I kind of wish I had gone back for my very own Tikka. However, considering I ingested more than 2000 calories at the fair, according to MyFitnessPal, maybe it's better that I refrained. Egads!

B posing in front of Sweet Martha's. That "cone of shame" contains 15 chocolate chip cookies, and is the smallest size available. We ate all the cookies in 5 minutes flat. We are the champions.

And that, my friends, is how we earned back our MN residency cards at the State Fair. What are YOUR favorite fair attractions and foods?