Love your Small Businesses. Shop Local.

Imagine with me. You’re feeling fabulous in your brand new outfit as you walk into the first day of school. Then it happens… You look up, and standing across the atrium is your best friend in THE EXACT SAME OUTFIT. The heat creeps up your face as you freeze and think, “I’m not original at all!” You duck your head in embarassment and try to dodge away. Right at that moment your other friends point and call out, “look, they’re matching!” They gather you together as you both pretend like you think it’s funny, pose for a photo, and secretly vow to yourself that you will never wear that outfit again!

I grew up in rural Minnesota. It was a great experience, but when it came to shopping, my only options were chain stores. I still burn with embarrassment when I think back on the moments when I was dressed in the same outfit as my friends. We all shopped at the same few stores in town. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate small business as an alternative to chain. One of the things I love about small business is that it returns a sense of individualism to the shopper. Each store only has so many products, therefore they are sifting through their inventory quicker, and only so many people have each item. The products in each shop are also hand picked with passion. Most small business owners opened their shop because of a love for what they are selling.

I decided to write this blog post because J. Arthur’s Coffee of Roseville, MN recently announced that they might be closing their doors. They opened in 2008 as a private coffee shop meant to serve adults with disabilities through the company ACR Homes. In 2011 they opened their doors to the public and put an emphasis on artisan coffee with high quality products. They quickly became “the spot” for professionals who work remotely, and students from nearby Universities who want a great place to study.

It was announced to the public they would be closing in June of 2016. A few days later they let us know that they would try and last through the summer instead. I feel an immense responsibility to help save this coffee shop, as well as the other potential small businesses on the verge of closing. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Starbucks, but I can’t imagine losing this staple in the community. By supporting them, you aren’t just keeping one business afloat, but businesses from all over the Twin Cities. They source their beans from local roasters Dogwood, UP, and Roastery 7, and their tea from Tea Source. I encourage you, if you’ve been meaning to stop by J. Arthur’s, do it now to show them that you want them to stick around!
Nobody wants these beloved local businesses to close, but we see it happen everyday! So, what’s the deal?

We live in a culture based on convenience. Since it’s built into the culture around us, you don’t notice it until, well, you notice it. Now that I have “seen the light”, I’ve been challenging myself to live differently. In relation to shopping, this culture of convenience means that the businesses with the best locations and bargains win. That unfortunately means that unless we change our mindset, the chain retailers will win every time. A local business owner doesn’t have the funds to purchase the most convenient location. They don’t have the budget for buyers who can research the best products to put in the stores. They certainly can’t afford giant marketing campaigns, and they can’t and won’t start producing their products in mass quantity to keep the cost per item down.

What the locally owned shops have is far greater; quality, passion, ambiance, friendliness, and individualism.

Just this morning we went out for breakfast at an amazing local restaurant (shout out to L’Etoile Du Nord). The waitress took the time to ask us if we lived in town and went on ask and memorize each of our names. After we paid the bill, she said that she looked forward to seeing us the next time we came in, and she actually meant it. There was no rushing us out the door to fill another seat. There was no strange “pay at the table with an electronic device” option. We had great food and genuine human interaction. We loved it.

So what I want to ask is this: Do we want convenience to dictate our lives? Especially so, when it comes to supporting the local businesses in our towns?

I say no! So here’s my challenge: Choose a local store over a chain store for at least one purchase per month and see what happens. We not only have a responsibility to keep them going, but the more we shop at the locally owned stores, the more we will all realize what they actually have to offer us.

Start thinking about the places in your town where you can shop local and enjoy!

 

 

 

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5 Twin Cities Dates to go on this Summer

So you found that special someone did ya? I bet you want to take them out on some great dates too! Not to worry, I’ve done all of the creative thinking for you. All you have to do is follow the instructions below and enjoy your date. Oh, and by the way, I will expect an invite to the wedding since I am helping you out after all ;).

1. Longfellow Neighborhood Date:

Start the evening around 5pm with a stroll by Minnehaha falls, and then take a swing into Sea Salt Eatery for some great food. When you are finished eating their scrumptious sea food, drive a few miles to the Riverview Theater to catch a movie. I’m a lover of all things vintage, and this is my favorite theater in the metro because walking in is like taking a step back in time. When we took my mom there for the first time, she said that it reminded her of the theaters she grew up going to. Another reason I like it is because it’s easy on the wallet. Instead of showing the most current films, it plays the most popular movies that just exited the regular theaters. So go ahead, get your special someone some popcorn AND a soda… You can afford it ;)! Finish out the evening across the street at the charming Riverview Cafe to grab a late coffee, tea, or wine at their wine bar. You might even be able to catch some live music before or after the movie! Check Riverview’s schedule to see who is playing when you are planning to go.

2. Downtown Minneapolis Date:

I can’t get enough of the beautiful weather in the summer, so take a walk across the Stone Arch Bridge. If you have the time, consider setting up a tour of the Mill City Museum as well. When you are ready to go inside, head over to The Dakota Jazz club for an amazing dinner and to listen to some tunes. You will need to reserve your table and tickets in advance. Do this by clicking here. This will be a fun & classy evening that anyone would enjoy.

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3. Uptown Minneapolis Date:

This is a great date to have on a Saturday afternoon. Head over to Surdyk’s in North East sometime before lunch. Take a look around their their deli and cheese shop to pick out the perfect picnic spread (including at least 1 or 2 of their amazing cheeses). I recently went here with a friend and accidentally spent over $20 on cheese alone. It’s all just soooo good. Take your food to go and drive over to lake Calhoun. Rent a canoe, enjoy a paddle around the lakes, and eat your lunch together on one of the more secluded lakes for a bit of romance.

4. Stillwater, MN Date:

Take the half hour drive east to Historic Stillwater. Wander down historic Main Street together and look in all of the shops. At your scheduled departure time, head south on main street to where the riverboats are docked. Have a great dinner and enjoy the sights as you boat down the river. Surprisingly, you can get both the boat ride and dinner for only $30 a person! Book your tickets here.

 

5. Edina, MN Date:

Centennial Lakes in Edina may be man made, but it has a certain charm to it. Walk hand-in hand around the lakes, play some mini golf, and then head up the stairs to Pinstripes for dinner. To extend your evening, schedule a game of indoor bocce or bowling at Pinstripes, or relax by either one of their 2 outdoor fire pits.

 

Why You Won’t go on Vacation & Why You Probably Should

You could be in Amsterdam in eight hours. In Cape Town in sixteen. You could be scaling the Andes Mountains in Patagonia right now –while  wearing your favorite Patagonia coat. So why are you still sitting on your couch? Why haven’t you left your home state in twenty years? And why aren’t you living the crazy life you’ve always dreamed of? It’s a proven fact that people are happier when they have a vacation planned. It’s often said that a vacation gives you something to look forward to. This alone should be enough to convince you to start saving for a trip. However, it’s not always that easy, is it? If you are anything like me, practicality often gets in the way of adventure. Three of the biggest reasons people don’t take vacations is because of money, time, and flat out fear.

Addressing the “I don’t have enough money” mindset:

Have you ever put new tires before a Las Vegas getaway with friends? Or maybe a new lawn mower got in the way of that perfect getaway to Chicago. Whatever it is that stops you from saving for a vacation, it doesn’t have to take away from the exciting adventure that could await. Sometimes all it takes is a simple shift in mindset to make the unthinkable happen.

When Dan and I were first married we made very little money. I worked part-time while finishing school as Dan started his first year teaching. Our apartment was a one bedroom located in the bad part of Minneapolis. Despite that, we decided that traveling would be a priority for us. But how did we do it? We traded some things for others. So, I want to propose a question. What are the things in your life that you don’t actually need?  Consider dropping your cable to put that money aside for a trip. Do you need the newspaper when many are available to read online? Transportation is necessary, but does it have to be a 2016 model? Just start thinking about it. I could bet that most people reading this article could at least save $10 a month in a vacation fund. It’s a start!

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Addressing the “I’m too busy” mindset:

Have you ever been so busy that the thought of adding one more thing to your schedule makes you feel like you’ll break? I have, and at this point a vacation isn’t just a want, it’s a need. You can only run on low batteries for so long before they run out. If the thought of laying on the white sand beaches of Aruba is cathartic, imagine how healing it would be to actually be there. Between the two of us, Dan and I work over 130 hours a week. Add a social life to that, errands, cleaning house… etc… we aren’t left with much extra time. Our particular schedule may look different than yours, but I know that we aren’t the only ones who have only a precious few hours to spend leisurely. That’s why you need to recharge your batteries. Our lives are so busy, that if we don’t slow down from time to time, we really could break. If you have enough PTO, use some. If your parents said they would watch your kids, don’t feel guilty, take advantage of the opportunity. If you think you’ve got too much going on at work, take care of the things that need attention right away, and leave the rest for later.

 

 

Addressing the “I’m too scared” mindset:

When you are at the end of your life looking back at all you’ve done, won’t you want to reflect on all of the seized opportunities, and revel in the fact that you took control of life? In the short life I’ve already lived, I’ve learned that some of the scariest experiences in life are the best experiences. When we were in the Cayman Islands a few years back, Dan made me hold a stingray while on a snorkeling adventure. I was terrified while I watched others pick them up, but I was also jealous of the life experience they were having. He saw the wistful look in my eye and encouraged me to hold one even though I was scared. I’m thankful for the push he gave me. That will forever be one of my favorite experiences in life. What are the things you have wanted to do, but you let fear stand in the way?

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Can you see the man swimming after the stingray :D!?

 

 

If you are still struggling to justify a vacation, I will give you a few more reasons to just bite the bullet and plan the trip:

  1. It’s a chance to invest in yourself.
  2. It gives you the break you need to recharge your batteries for life.
  3. If you’re married or dating, it’s a chance to invest in your relationship.
  4. It helps you expand your interests.
  5. It opens your world view.
  6. It’s a chance to invest in your family.
  7. It’s a chance to build new relationships.
  8. It can be a spiritual experience.
  9. Because accumulating experiences is better than collecting stuff
  10. It’s a chance to give back (missions or volunteer trips)

 

 

 

  • PS, I want to give a quick shout out to my husband Dan for doing an amazing edit on this post!

 

 

Where YOU can find the BEST pizza in the Twin Cities

My love affair with pizza started in college. You move into your first apartment, don’t know how to cook, and suddenly you meet Jack. You love him instantly but wonder if there is something out there better. What are you thinking? Of course there is, because unfortunately Jack is cheap, and was found in the frozen pizza section. That’s all you could afford and that’s all you had time for at that point.

Luckily I have upgraded my tastes as I have upgraded my budget (although you will still see my freezer stocked with Jack’s Pizza at all times), and I’m on a never ending journey to find the best pizzas around.

The Twin Cities has an amazing food scene where you can find almost anything. I’m so thankful that gourmet pizza is included on that list. For me, ambiance is just as important as taste , and so listed below  are the restaurants I have thoroughly enjoyed in the metro that serve up a great atmosphere and a great pizza. The list is not in any particular order and I highly recommend you hit each place. Comment below if you think I could add to this list! We could add a part 2 to this blog if you give me more inspiration! Like I said, I am always on the hunt for the best pizza, so if it really wows me I will blog some more.

1. Roma

460 Stillwater Rd

Willernie, MN 55090

First of all, I love that this place is off the beaten track a little bit. It feels a little mom and pop-ish but classy at the same time. That is what makes it so charming in my opinion. The ambiance is made up of warm lighting, Italian decor, a beautiful bar, and a cute little deli off the dining room. They are perfect for a quiet date that shows you want to have a meaningful time without being pretentious. Our good friends introduced us to this place a couple of years back and I find myself thinking of Roma often.

They are a family run Italian place, but they also do wood-fired personal pizzas. The crust is thin and bubbles beautifully. You can get something standard if you would like, but go out on a limb and you won’t regret it. My favorite pizza there has blue cheese, prosciutto, figs, and fresh greens on top. The combination of the sweet fig and the savory prosciutto is what brings me back for more. One can rarely go wrong mixing meat (especially salty cured meat) and fruit together in the same dish. As far as price goes, you can spend a little there with pizza prices from $10-$18, or a bit more for an Italian dish.

2. Burch 

1933 Colfax Ave. S 

Minneapolis, MN 55403

  

Everyone is raving about Burch right now, and I’m raving right along with them. Their chef Isaac Becker won the James Beard Best Chef: Midwest award, and highly deserves it. Apart from Burch, he also owns 112  Eatery and Bar Lagrassa, both of which have served me some great eats. 112 was created to give the chefs of Minneapolis a place to go, so obviously the menu is fabulous and the atmosphere is understated. Their owner and head chef claims to hate concept restaurants but now owns 3. Thank goodness for that, because each serves some of the best food in our state.

When you walk into Burch it instantly feels high class. You have to valet your car because it’s Uptown and they have no parking, but that just adds to the experience. Burch reminds me of a restaurant you would find in NYC. Everything is chic and elegant but simple. Although the waiters look as if they would be cold and indifferent (because of how cool and hipster they are – it is Uptown after all) they wait your table with kindness and a vast knowledge of the menu. I can tell they really care about the food they serve.

The staples at Burch are steak, dumplings, and woodfired pizza. All of which I’ve had, and all of which were made with quality ingedients and creativity. You can obviously spend a pretty penny on their steaks, but their pizzas are reasonably priced at $12-$25 each. So don’t shy away thinking you can’t afford it. The object of my desire there is called the Coppa Cotta pizza. It has hazelnuts, smoked pork shoulder, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella balls. I mean seriously, who thinks to put hazelnuts on pizza?! They are fantastic and compliment the smokey pork shoulder well. I have yet to try their Tonno Diavolo with raw ahi tuna but in my opinion, that’s the stuff that dreams are made of. Raw fish + pizza = obsession. Your tastebuds will be amazed at the combination of flavors piled high on their soft fluffy crusts.

3. The Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen

 2515 Nicollet Ave. S

Minneapolis, MN 55404

    

Opened in the spring of 2014 on Eat street (aka Nicollet Ave.), they focus on home grown flavor and well sourced products. A catchphrase they have adopted is farm-to-table. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, baked goods, and coffee. They even hold wedding receptions in their restaurant! They were partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, and so you know the locals wanted this in the community. It did so well that they raised over $12,000 to be exact. I think it’s great to see the citizens rally around some people that have a great idea for a restaurant.

Upon opening, they did not disappoint. I am writing about them having only visited the restaurant once. That means I am very impressed. I have a lot more to try on their menu, but during my visit I ordered a lavender lemonade and the Chicken Coop pizza. I know this article is about pizza, but lavender lemonade is my new official favorite drink. They make it so the lavender doesn’t overpower, and really comes out as more of an aftertaste. Okay, now back to the pizza – The Chicken Coop features prosciutto, spinach, ricotta (REALLY good ricotta I might add), pecorino bechamel sauce, and two sunny side up eggs. I didn’t ever think of eggs on pizza, and after I had  this, I wondered why more people aren’t doing it! It’s great! The yoke and the bechamel sauce combine so well that it makes you feel like you are eating at grandma’s house. Their crusts are similar to Burch’s in the fact that they are fluffy, but there is a denseness to these that make them feel more like home. Their prices come in on the low end at $12-$16. Grab dessert at the end of your pizza dinner too, they are a cakery after all.

4. Broders’ Cucina Italiana

2308 W 50th St.

Minneapolis, MN 55410   

    

Take one step in the door and you’ll feel like you have crossed the Atlantic and landed in Italy. This restaurant has charm galore. When you first walk in, you can peruse the shelves filled with specialty Italian cooking items. Around the corner from the shop is their quaint dining room and deli. All food is ordered at the deli and you can get meats, cheese, pasta, salads, desserts, side dishes, and pizza to stay or to go. Of course, everything is fresh and hand made.

Since this article is specifically about good pizza, I will tell you why Broders’ Cucina is at the top of my list. It’s all about the meat. My favorite there is a good ole’ pepperoni and sausage. Their pizza is thin crust, with a light amount of sauce  (I hate too much sauce), piled with cheese, and topped with the best meat I have ever had on a pizza in my life. Their sausage is made in-house with high quality herbs and spices. Even though you can take your pizza to go, try and find a spot in their quaint dining room with the mural painted ceiling. Sit and enjoy your little Italy and savor their authentic flavor. The products on their shelves and the food from their kitchen is imported from Italy. You don’t get much more authentic than that.

Get their pizza by the slice for just a few dollars or order a medium or large to share. Prices for full pizzas range from $10-$20 and are shareable.

Introduction

Since I decided to start this blog on a whim today, I thought an introduction would be necessary.

My name is Brianna, and I’m a Minnesotan.

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I enjoy eating good food, being around great people, loving God, spending time with my family, and seeking out adventure in life. I have been married to my husband Dan for almost 4 years. He’s a stud of a man, that one. He is a sports fan and enjoys playing hockey and golf, is a teacher, musician, and all around good person. I will leave it at that because he is a much more private person than I, and will be mortified to read he is in my first blog post! Don’t worry honey, this is just one of the many perks (or quirks…. depending on how you look at it) that comes with being married to me!

“Why would you start a blog about Minnesota?”

Many of you are probably asking this exact question. Or possibly it’s “what qualifies you to do so?”, or even, “do you think you are such a great writer that we will all want to read what you have to say?”. I wish I were that cool, but frankly, no. This idea stemmed from my growing love of good food and good entertainment.

My husband and I were driving home one night after a fun night out with friends and I looked at him and said, “wouldn’t it be amazing to be a food critic, or a blogger? What if you could write about what you loved and people actually cared? Maybe you could even get PAID someday to do the things that you love doing?” Then I stared off into space and imagined what that world could look like. I do not think that I will get paid for doing this, but I do know that I will find great pleasure in writing about the things I love, and inviting you to explore those things with me.

“So what will this blog be about? And how often will it be posted?”

So glad you asked….

If any of you have read the amazing book, Strengths Finder, by Tom Rath; I am an INCLUDER by nature. I can’t help but pull all of you into the things I love. By being Minnesotan, and appealing to Minnesotan readers, I think you will also love what I love. So if I had to give you a list, here it is:

What to do

Where to eat

Businesses worth mentioning

Where to shop

The great outdoors

The people I love

Causes worth caring about

How to do life in Minnesota

To answer my second question. I am a wife, music director at a church, recruiter and internship coordinator for a group home (shout out to ACR Homes, woo!), and I help coordinate a local level Miss America pageant. This blog will be purely for the fun of it, so I would expect to see a post once a month!

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Stay tuned for my first OFFICIAL blog about getting outdoors in the dead of winter! It will be a fun one!