Cedar Cultural Center

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Chilly night to wait for the show! Too cold to take a proper picture, even! Cedar Cultural Center

One of the things I missed when I lived outside of the metro was the ability to go see something new and awesome every day of the week. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there was plenty to do in my college town as well, but, it must be said, not nearly the sheer variety and breadth of options available in the Twin Cities. Of course, you could say the same in regards to us and, say, NYC, but you know! Last week, I had the pleasure to join a few friends to see the guitarist Kaki King perform at the Cedar Cultural Center, a place I’ve been to a few times and been aware of since a childhood listening to the Morning Show on MPR- it is a great, intimate place to see some really cool people; this performance was no exception. I’d been introduced to Kaki King’s work by one of my friends a couple weeks before and, having listened to her music, felt it would be a great first concert to attend on my return. I was not disappointed!

After a quick and tasty meal at the Wienery next door, a little ship specializing in hot dogs and fries (including various vegan options), we queued up in the winter cold in front the Cedar and waited for the doors to open. Kaki King is not one to miss live, her dreamlike and beautiful work, The Neck is a Bridge to the Body, dazzles with a vibrancy and even a humor that I really enjoyed. The opening band, the local duo StoLyette, was also a great surprise; I really enjoyed their performance, eerie, intricate, surreal. – how many other places could you see an experimental folk duo sing intricate, ethereal songs in Russian? I will definitely be checking out their work in the future. While I’ve always enjoyed a wide variety of musical genres, it must be said that I’m not exactly the most knowledgeable person when it comes to musical forms and styles, though I’ve been trying to expand my exposure lately.

Musicians like Kaki King and StoLyette are great sounds to discover. It will be interesting to see who plays at the Cedar next; I had bought tickets to see the Mountain Goats there when they come through town in April, but due to the demand, they moved over to First Ave. Looking forward to that!

 

 

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Tea and Books

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Half Price Books, St. Paul location

This weekend, I indulged in a time honored personal tradition, one I have not had the pleasure of in too long. As I’m still getting settled into my apartment, I noticed I lacked a sufficient tea supply and still had too many books to fit on my shelves. In order to rectify this situation, I headed across the river into St. Paul to the Highland Park neighborhood, a place I frequented often when I was attending St. Catherine University, where I stopped by two of my favorite places; the TeaSource and Half Price Books. I still love going here on those cold Minnesota nights for some warming beverages and reading material, both essential to get through the winter for me!

Near the corner of Cleveland and Ford Parkway, these are my two favorite locations for each of these shops. The TeaSource is definitely my favorite place to buy tea in the Twin Cities, and the Highland Park location is my favorite of the three stores. There’s another one in St. Anthony and over in Eden Prairie as well, but the St. Paul store is the oldest and most established.

With prices averaging half of those of a certain tea seller found at the Mall of America and owned by Starbucks, TeaSource offers a far wider and higher quality selection as well, with rare varieties from China, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, and Japan you can’t find anywhere else in the states. I got some Empire Keemun, a great, inexpensive Chinese black tea, the tea that started the Opium War, specifically! In addition to selling a great variety of loose leaf teas, greens, blacks, yellows, oolongs, dark teas, from the most common, daily drinks to the rarest, seasonal varieties, the TeaSource also offers to go cups, or, even better, pots of any tea they stock. Tuesdays and Thursdays, in particular, are a great time to go, as they are Sample Days offering tasting flights of a five tea varieties, based on a particular theme. Today, for instance, is Chinese New Year Teas, all for only $3! Great for sharing, and a great way to ease into the world of tea. I’ll be writing more about the TeaSource, and Chinese New Year, later this week as well.

Less than a block from the TeaSource is my favorite Twin Cities location for that used book chain, Half Price Books. I could spend hours in there, it’s true. They always have an awesome stock of interesting texts, including comics, gaming products, cookbooks, vinyl records, just about anything you want to look for. The sale annex in the basement is also great, offering deals for a whole bunch of stuff you didn’t even know you wanted to read (and some you’d been searching for for ages) at prices beaten only by library book sales. This visit, though, I was attempting to get rid of some books, not gather more. I managed to make it out with only more new one, and I was able to dispense with a haul for $20. Nice! Usually, the prices I get for books means I just trade them in for a few new titles. Made it out pretty well this time!

Not really the most active things to do, but definitely a relaxing way to pass a cold evening after work, when I did not want to do anything else.

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TeaSource, and shops along Cleveland Avenue, Highland Park

Winter Jackets: Hot Reads for Cold Nights

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Winter Jackets set up next to self check out at East Lake branch library.

It looks like some snow is coming today, maybe? It currently seems to be doing a little freezing rain out. In any case, not too pleasant, but not unheard of in a Minnesota winter. With any luck, there will be a nice snowy covering across the city and fields, making for some nice cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, or whatever other winter activities please you most. This year, so far, has not been the best for those who enjoy the snow, unfortunately, but it’s been chilly enough to keep people indoors. What to do while waiting for the snow to pile up to enjoy? When it’s cold, grey, or slushy, and not much fun for anything? During the storm when the roads are bad and it’s best to stay home? One thing that Minnesotans have been doing for awhile is taking the time to read, of course.

As a new employee of the Hennepin County Library, I felt I should spread the word a bit about a program that’s been going on for this January and February to take advantage of just this tendency. In the free Winter Jackets adult reading program, you can go to any MELSA (Metropolitan Library Service Agency) library location to share a review of a book you’ve read this season to participate in a variety of activities and events. Here in Hennepin County, you can go for a chance to win a nifty “Read This!” travel mug to carry your hot beverage to stay warm as you commute, or read, this winter. While, as a county employee, I can’t participate this year, I managed to score one a couple years ago, and I really enjoy it! There are also going to be a variety of author events to coincide with the event. Over in St. Paul, you can even read down your library fines! Hey, I think I might still have some over there…

If you are looking for some reading suggestions, I could probably help, but this list put together by the University of Minnesota alumni association has some interesting choices, a few of which I’ve read already! Looks like a good list, I’ll have to check a couple of these titles out myself, especially with my foolhardy self challenge of two hundred books this year. Plenty of cold nights left to go, I think, but the Winter Jackets program lasts until last day of February.

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Cold night at East Lake Library!

I’m Here!

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Loring Park. I live near here now!

I’m here! It’s been about a year since I started this blog, devoted to exploring and experiencing the many things offered by the Twin Cities, and now I can say that I actually live there again! With the aid of a cadre of friends and family, I overstuffed my efficiency apartment off of Loring Park with more stuff than really fits in it and have started a new job with the Hennepin County Library. What would I think a year ago, knowing that the first anniversary would be here?

In the week since I got here, I have not yet ventured out much, though. The extent of my exploration has been the common experience, oh so unique to Minneapolis, of shopping at Target and then, too lazy to make dinner, grabbing a Chipotle. Got myself hooked up to the internet; attempted to adjust the tropical temperature of my steam heated room. Slowly trying organize the mountain of stuff I brought with me, trying to set myself up in my new environment; making decisions on what books to keep and what books must be deaccessioned for the sake of space (very difficult deliberation). There needs to be room for more, of course! After all, before one sets out on adventures, it is always wise to have a good base camp, a place to chill out and relax in a chaotic world, a point of stability in a sea of excitement. So, I’m just going to settle in here, get my stuff in order, and prepare for some cool stuff soon!

It is not as if I lived very far away, just an hour or so down the Minnesota River, but I did find myself pining for favorite restaurants, weeknight events I just couldn’t get to, and family and friends, of course. Now, I find myself in a prime location, surrounded by so much stuff, a great jumping off point for exploration anywhere in the city, particularly for a non-car owning bike rider like me. I’m within walking distance of so much awesome stuff, its a little bit overwhelming, actually. Where to start? It makes me consider the future, as well.

Just walking to and from the bus each day, passing the new, shiny apartment complexes and the weathered brick turn of the century hulks like mine, I’ve noticed things; a little free library, a game shop, a place to grab some falafel. All within a stone’s throw of my very window; what is just outside of view, waiting for me to find them? In my youth, as a born and raised suburbanite growing up on the western edge of the ‘burbs, with all of my friends and family spread throughout the metro, I have never been lived in so prime a location before, though I often enjoyed visiting my aunt’s apartment in Lowertown St. Paul or my grandparent’s in Columbia Heights. I’ve never had so much access as I do now. Now, I’m free to explore independently. Well, after I get over the shock, I guess, and get my stuff settled.

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Almost home.