March 14, 2012 Comments Off on minne

Jeepers that’s a lot of ugly.  Or, really, a lot of uglies.

Spring break.  The schedule has worked itself out to rule against a really massive road trip, but I wanted to at least get out of town for 24 hours.  The kids had gift cards.  I needed a deep fry skimmer.  Mall of America it was.

Philosophically opposed though I may be to the idea of the world’s largest mall (which it’s not anymore, I know), MoA is a perfect 24 hours getaway.  An easy 3 hour drive, cheap motels, and everyone finds at least one store that they like.  Including me, if I’m honest.  It ends up being a spendy day out, but we can usually stop at Old Navy and stock up on clothes for the kiddos, too.

All of us, of course, agree on this one.  The kids usually just end up with a bucket full of pick-a-bricks, but there’s a fair amount of lobbying as well.  I get shown a lot of potential birthday presents.  It’s beyond fun to watch the two of them. O is done pretty quickly–she went across the mall for a coffee after half an hour.  And then we sat and chatted while C scoured the rest of the store piece by piece.  90 minutes, total, which is some kind of record.

That was the biggest stop, but we managed a complete lap of all four levels.  O picked out a nice sweater at the Gap–she liked a similar one at Banana Republic better, but we both decided that she could make do with the $30 downscale version.  C picked up a few must-haves at the prank store.  Don’t accept any gum from him in the near future.  Or borrow his pen.  And I found my deep-fry skimmer, and The Art of French Baking by Ginette Mathiot.

So after a fine evening at the local Best Western, we trekked home this morning.  It was a beautiful day outside, and I don’t think I’d shut off the car all the way before the kids were headed for the playground.  I didn’t see them until almost dinner.

Which was highlighted by this lovely strawberry tart, a la TAFB. When Mathiot said the pastry crust should be 1/8″ thick I think she really meant 1/16″.  But otherwise it was pretty outstanding.  And yep, that’s a real creme patisserie holding all the berries in place.  C’s eyes lit up when he got a spoonful of that.  “Is this ice cream?” he asked.  Nope, I told him.  But I could see where the real vanilla bean and the egg yolks confused him.  There’s some work to do, here–and the financiers didn’t exactly work–but Ginette and I are planning to spend some serious time together whisking various combinations of sugar, eggs, and flour over hot things…


weekend in minne

February 6, 2011 Comments Off on weekend in minne

C looks rather excited to be at the Lego store, doesn’t he?

We’d planned a big weekend in Minneapolis last weekend, but the flu scotched that pretty quick.  I could hear K in the back of my mind, arms crossed, saying “you overplanned, tried to do too much, forgot that kids get sick.”  Yep.  Learned the lesson.

So this weekend I said that if everyone was healthy, if the weather was good, if asteroids didn’t fall on the upper midwest, we would do everything we could to get up to the Twin Cities so they could spend their Lego gift certificates.  The Cities are three hours away–exactly, so it’s an easy morning drive if there are no problems.  And there seemed to be problems, because as late as Friday night the weather guys were saying snow throughout the weekend.  So I told them we might try a quick hit, get up, get surgical, get home before things got weird.

Only something weird happened.  The logistics gods smiled upon us, and Saturday morning NOAA Weather Radio gave us the all clear–a bit of snow on Sunday, maybe?  But otherwise pretty good.  So I asked the kids if they wanted to spend the night, and maybe do something Saturday evening–and I had something in mind.  They said sure, and I got online and in twenty minutes had an instant weekend planned, reserved, and ticketed.  We piled right into the car and headed north, wasting no time and heading right to Mall of America, where we grabbed lunch and did a couple of laps, trying to find the Lego store.  We got there, and the kids spent the better part of an hour browsing, trying stuff out, and eventually loading up on plastic bricks.  C bought a whole series of impenetrably complex robots and games, while O opted for the simple tub of bricks approach–both acceptable tactics.  Once their Lego lust had been well sated, we made a few other stops–Old Navy (jeans), Williams Sonoma (meat tenderizer, scale, egg rings), and Nike (running shirt)–by which time it was late afternoon.  “Let’s hit the hotel,” I told them.  “We have a big evening ahead of us.”

“WHAT?”  they asked.  “What are we doing tonight?  Is there a sporting event?”  C really asked that.

“Yes,” I told them.  “We’re going to see curling.”  They didn’t buy it.

Actually I had two surprises for them.  As we were driving to the hotel, we went past Target Arena, and there were giant billboards congratulating Kevin Love, the Timberwolves forward who’d just been named an NBA All-Star.  “Look at that,” I said.  “Wouldn’t it be cool to go see an NBA game someday?”  They agreed.  “What about tonight?” I asked.

“NICE!!!!”  said C.  They high-fived in the back seat.  “Seriously, Dad, we’re going to a Timberwolves game?”  Absolutely, big girl.  Got the tickets right here.  Second set I’ve bought in a week.  (I didn’t tell them that).

The second surprise was that my online travel service bumped me up to their premiere status last month, meaning a whole world of nice travel discounts.  Instead of our usual Best Western accommodations, I’d found a good deal at the Westin.  Four stars, baby.  That’s O there, checking out the stylin’ surroundings.  As usual, the kids got the beds, I got the floor and the spreads, but they were n-i-c-e spreads…

We Yelped some local restaurants, and O picked the Rock Bottom Brewery for dinner.  Which, it turns out, every sports fan and theater-goer in the Twin Cities picked for dinner, too, so we ended up eating at the bar–which was a new experience for them both, but worked out tolerably well, despite a few strange looks.  The arena was just a few blocks away, so we walked over and had plenty of time to find our seats, find a couple of souvenirs (left), and start noshing.  O is wearing her new Kevin Love jersey, and is his latest and perhaps biggest fan.

The game itself was pretty good–the Nuggets started kicking the Timberwolves around early and the outcome wasn’t really ever in doubt.  But we saw some amazing dunks–mostly by Carmelo Anthony, but K. Love (as O now refers to him) got one in, too.  When she had run out to get some more fries.  We have to go to another game, now.  The nom total was pretty impressive–two tubs of fries, two cotton candies, sodas, all of this after they plowed through kids entrees for dinner.

We got back to the hotel at about 10:00, and were all in bed and more or less asleep by 10:30, with visions of slam dunks–or rather handsome California-born T-Wolves forwards–running through our minds.  We got up this morning and had our traditional breakfast in the lobby–but in this case the lobby was a bit swisher than our usual motel breakfasts.  The hotel restaurant, Bank, is the hottest table in Minneapolis right now, and it was the best part of a conference talk I gave there a few months ago.  So it was definitely on my agenda for breakfast, and the kids enjoyed the swanky surroundings and the endless buffet.  O dug through two full plates of eggs and hash browns, C opted for the fruit plate.  Both kids remembered to put their napkins in their laps, and to top it off a former student met us for coffee, full of tales of working in Switzerland and an impending marriage to an Italian.  A great morning, capped by a dip in the pool and an 11:00 departure south.

We’d thought about hitting the Spam Museum in Austin on the way, but the snow made a modest appearance and we booked home instead, where we reheated some mac’n’cheese, and I threw in a chunk of the five minute artisanal dough that I made Friday.  It was awesome, but it was also the ugliest loaf I’ve ever made, so not worth a photo.  Really, really, not worth a photo.

All in all a great weekend.  The timing couldn’t have been any better, and the only thing that we didn’t get was a T-Wolves win.  But we’ll be back, I’d guess, to see O’s new favorite athlete on the planet.  That’s him on the electronic billboard in the background, above the crowds of bar-going youth.  Or, perhaps, hockey or women’s basketball–they were advertising Lynx tickets and O was thrilled to discover that there’s a professional women’s league, much less a team so close.

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