Secrets of the Skyway: Food

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View of Marquette and 6th St from simpls counter.

Over the years, I’ve relished any opportunity to work in downtown Minneapolis, which is always such a dynamic, ever changing environment. There are those who dislike the skyway systems as “suburban” eyesores that detract from the life of the streets and contribute to a feeling of disconnection and uniformity in the city, calling them glorified hamster tubes. I can see some of those points, but, to be honest, personally, I’ve always loved the maze of indoor tunnels and the secrets that can be found in them. I find them such an idiosyncratic, quirky solution to our frigid winters and some that gives our urban scene its own character and personality. Small businesses and even art museums hide out in the skyways, as people scurry from highrise to highrise heading to business and avoiding the extreme temperatures of the outside world. The skyways do also provide quick access to street level as well, for those looking to get some fresh air on the urban sidewalks downtown.

While other cities have used the idea, Minneapolis still has the largest continuous skyway system in the world, and I have gotten a bit lost in it on several occasions. It is true, though, that their semi-private, business owned status does make them less friendly for strolling than the streets and at night, are often closed and locked at inopportune times. Still, for those drones working downtown, it allows for some interesting lunchtime explorations.

Especially in the dead of winter, when winds drop the windchill into the double digits below zero or the temperatures warm up and start dumping wet, clinging snow onto the streets, it can be reassuring to have a dry, warm place to have a bite. Here are a few of my favorite places to grab a quick bite in the skyway, whether you are just passing through downtown on the way from your home in the suburbs to campus, or you find yourself among the many workers downtown who crave something to eat. This is just for the Minneapolis skyways, by the way, as the St. Paul skyway (owned by the city as it is!) remain an unknown to me.

Cafe Patteen

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Cafe Patteen

I discovered this one some years ago, hidden inside an unassuming office block, the International Centre, which I know mostly as being just under that blue crystally looking high rise, the AT&T Tower. Serving great coffee and tea (from Mrs. Kelly’s Tea), the freshly baked breakfast items are the best here. In a hurry and need a quick breakfast before you start work or class? Pop in and grab some delicious scones (seriously, I think some of the best in the city), some quiche, banana bread, or other tasty treats fresh from the oven. They even use seasonal ingredients- in the summer, be sure to have the rhubarb scones, but it’s best to get there early, things sell out pretty quickly in the morning. Also, they only take cash, so be prepared!

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La Loma Tamales

La Loma Tamales

The downtown Minneapolis location of this great place for tamales and other authentic Mexican dishes can be found- it, too, is a popular place for the lunch crowd to snatch up a quick, tasty lunch. The combos are great, though for this one too, you should probably get there earlier rather than later, for the tamale specials in particular can sell out!

They offer some great vegetarian offers, too!

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Le Belle Crepe

La Belle Crepe

While not technically in the skyways, La Belle Crepe, a fun little creperie on Nicollet Avenue, in the Medical Arts Building, is easily accessible by skyway and it may be one of my favorite locations for lunch in downtown Minneapolis. Specializing in French and Vietnamese cusine, it has many varieties of cheap and delicious crepes and pho, and even gelato in the summer. Always a good choice for a quick meal. I’ve been meaning to try out their bahn mi as well! The punch card they have is a pretty good deal as well.

simpls

One of the newer lunch spots in the skyway, simpls specializes in sandwiches, soups, oatmeals, kombucha, and other natural treats made fresh daily . They present themselves as kind of a farmers market vibe in a convenience store format, which seems to be just what it appears. Everything I’ve had here has been delicious, if not the cheapest option. Still, now that they are open until 6:00, it makes a great option for those times when I’m working later in the afternoon and need to score some dinner. I will definitely have to try the oatmeal.

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Cocoa and Fig

Cocoa and Fig

My family would often make bets with each other, like, was it that one guy who was in that one movie who showed up in that show that we just watched? After finding out that, no, it was not that guy, payment was needed and the currency of these bets was cupcakes. Often, I would be on the receiving end of these contracts, and if I was downtown, I could fulfill them by popping into Cocoa and Fig, in the Gaviidae Common, the skyway mall right off of Nicollet named after the Latin nomenclature of the common loon. They have great pastries, often rotating based on the season but my favorite is always the salted caramel cupcakes, or anything pumpkin. Needless to say, I would sometimes make bets I knew I would lose just to have an excuse to bring back cupcakes! Hey, why should I need an excuse, anyway!

 

 

 

 

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Tattersall Distilling

Tattersall Distilling on a freezing January Saturday

Now that craft beer has pretty much taken over the Twin Cities (not that I’m complaining) a few new craft distilleries are popping up to bring locally crafted spirits to the metro. Last Saturday Lindsay and I visited a cool one, Tattersall Distilling. Lindsay has been working on her cocktail skills (both creating and drinking), so touring and sampling one of the Twin Cities preeminent local sources seemed a good idea.

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Cozy inside of Tattersall

 

The place definitely had a lot of style, integrating an elegant bar and seating area into the reclaimed industrial grit of the former historic warehouse in Northeast Minneapolis. On a Saturday, the place was quite packed. We started off at the Cocktail Room with a few cocktails to sample some of the delicious liquors produced in the distillery, the copper pipework and stills visible on the other side of the warehouse.

 

 

Lindsay and I enjoying our cocktails!

 While I am still developing my palate for liquors, the cocktails offered at Tattersall all sound delicious. I went for the Umeboshi sour (which was coincidentally just written up in the City Pages the other day)  while Lindsay had an Old Fashioned. Both were very good.

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The stills and the products (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

At this point, we were called for the afternoon tour, which took us behind the scenes of the distillery, guided by one of the founders. Passing out cool little shot glasses for everyone, he quickly poured us all a tumble of Tattersall’s vodka, which had a tasty hint of vanilla. The science and chemistry behind the distilling of the spirits and the history behind the warehouse were fascinating, and as the tour continued, more hits of the product kept coming our way. The piney bouquet of their flagship liquor, gin, as well as their fabulous orange liqueur and sour cherry liquor. Both were perfect flavors for adding to cocktails, or even just taking strait! Lindsay, having to drive after this, poured most of her samples into my glass. I was still able to pay attention to the cool stories of the distillery, though! Tattersall offers distillery tours every Saturday  at 1:00 and 3:00 for $10 (well worth it), though you are limited to purchasing just one bottle per person per day. You can also pick them up down the road at River Liquor Store on Marshall Street, though. I’d recommend it!

 

Lindsay and I picked up a bottle of gin and the sour cherry liquor for use in her home bar and I can’t wait to sample some of her creations using the new Tattersall spirits!  

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Holding up Lindsay’s bottle of Sour Cherry Liquor (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

 

Day Trip: A Winnipeg Adventure

Here I talk about some destination we in the Twin Cities can get to in less than a day’s driving in order to get a change of scenery for a bit

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Downtown Winnipeg

While some people in Minnesota go on vacations to Florida or Cancun in the middle of January, my sister and I decided to instead take our short winter trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba! We made the seven hour drive from Minneapolis to see a special concert, the Love, Lake Winnipeg concert, a tribute to Canadian folk singer Sol Sigurdson, which included one of our favorite musicians, John K. Samson of the recently disbanded Weakerthans.

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Just past the border!

I can’t think of a better long weekend escape than driving up to Winnipeg, such an interesting and fascinating city that offers a lot of fun things to visit even in the dead of winter with temperatures hovering around -2 all day(-18 celsius!). As we drove up through northern Minnesota and into North Dakota, we crossed the border with no trouble and headed north through the vast, flat prairies of the Prairie province, covered in layers of snow. It seemed snowier than we’ve had down here yet. After checking into our hotel and getting a wad of lovely Canadian currency from the ATM, we spent the rest of the day exploring downtown Winnipeg. Here are a few highlights you should check out if you visit.

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Canadian Museum for Human Rights, at twilight

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights– An amazing feat of architecture, the glistening, glassy spire of the museum towers over the banks of the Red River and affords a commanding view of the Winnipeg skyline on both sides of the river. Opened a little more than year ago, in September of 2014, this was a thought provoking, informative, and affirming museum to visit, one of the best I have visited so far on my blog. With glowing marble ramps and interactive, bilingual displays discussing human rights and Canada’s triumphs and failures throughout its history in terms of racism, sexism, gender, ableism, and labor, making me wish that the United States, and Minnesota in particular, had more to offer here. Truly an awe inspiring place.

The Forks Market

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Forks Market on a subzero morning

A cozy indoor market at the historic confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine River in a converted rail yard horse stables, the Forks Market is definitely a fun place to go for lunch, breakfast, or just to do some shopping. There’s all sorts of different quick and tasty food to grab, Sri Lankan, Chilean, Ukrainian, crepes, and  Caribbean, among others, and plenty of places to grab those needed Canadian souvenirs as well.

The Exchange District

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Stephen Juba Park, just outside the Exchange District

There are a lot of fun things to do around this well preserved historic neighborhood, including Corrientos Argentine Pizzeria, with served up some delicious Argentine-Italian style pizza. For dessert, we stopped in at a really cool place, Across the Board Game Cafe, which, for five dollars minimum for drinks/snacks, you can play an unlimited number of awesome board games. The place was hopping, I had a few local Manitoba craft beers, and missed having more of these in the Twin Cities. I’ve seen them in Winnipeg, Victoria, and Toronto and I wish they would start to catch on around here. We certainly have the market for them!

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Some highlights, via Adventure Sibs

We ended the night by heading down Ellice Avenue to the West End Cultural Centre to see the Love, Lake Winnipeg Concert, which featured four groups of Manitoban musicians from diverse genres, including John K. Samson, formerly of our favorite band, The Weakerthans, interpreting songs from a cult classic lp, The Lake Winnipeg Fisherman, by folksinger Sol Sigurdson. A handful of audience members had a coveted copy of the 1970 original, which has become a hard to come by and much sought after item! It was definitely an awesome show, supporting the Lake Winnipeg Foundation’s efforts to preserve the great lake for the future. With our tickets, everyone got a cool EP featuring the covers and mixes of the groups so that we could keep on listening to them. 

The EP features the electronic artist DJ Co-op, alt country/folk singer Jess Reimer, Scott Nolan performing with John K. Samson and Christine Fellows, the young indie rock group from Gimli, Manitoba, Mise en Scene. Energetic performers, I definitely am excited to see more of them! All in all, it was a great show and I am totally excited to make up another excuse to visit Manitoba, maybe in the summer next time so we can stop by Lake Winnipeg, and the Icelandic community of Gimli as well!

Where U Wanna Eat #1: Shuang Cheng Restaurant

Entry #1 for our Where U Wanna Eat segment!

Restaurant: Shuang Cheng

Zone: Dinkytown, 1320 4th St. SE Mpls

Hours: M-Th, 11 am to 10 pm, F-Sat, 11 am to 11 pm, Sun 12 pm to 10 pm

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Lindsay waiting to warm up inside Shuang Cheng

I mentioned Shuang Cheng Restaurant in my introduction to this U of M restaurant project, so on a very cold afternoon Lindsay and I stopped in there for lunch. Served a pot of piping hot oolong tea immediately, it was a pretty good way to warm up after the time spent in the sub zero temperatures to get there. A Dinkytown mainstay, Shuang Cheng (meaning Twin Cities) was filled with students, faculty, and local community members enjoying the inexpensive and varied lunch specials, which were quite affordable and ample, coming with rice and your choice of an appetizer.

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Our lunch specials, minus the wontons which we already devoured

We chose the cheese wontons, served super hot, and had some delicious vegetarian entrees, sesame tofu and fried bean curd with mixed vegetables in garlic sauce. Both were very good, and Shuang Cheng is definitely a good choice for vegetarians, though they offer plenty of meat and seafood dishes as well. In addition to the Chinese-American style menu, they offer a more authentic Cantonese style dishes on the always changing daily specials menu. Being a seafood lover myself, I also ordered clams in a scallion ginger sauce, which were very delicious, if a little messy! I would come back to splurge on a seafood feast for a special occasion.

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Daily Specials Menu for January 16th, 2016

I would definitely recommend visiting Shuang Cheng, especially for the lunch specials and the special menu as well. The Lunch specials are served daily 11:00 to 4:30 (except Sunday, which begins at 12:00) and run around $7! A very good choice for a lunch in between busy classes or if you just happen to be in Dinkytown.

 

 

 

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About to start up on the clams!

My First Tattoo!

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June Osaki with ink (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

So, Monday, I embarked on a new adventure and got my very first tattoo! It was a great experience and I am already considering another one! They say you can’t get just one, right?

I had talked a lot with my cousin over the years about getting a tattoo, but for various reasons, never got around to it in the past. He was a great proponent of tattoos, getting some pretty awesome ones and we talked about what I would get if or when I got a tattoo. When he put his zine together, Out of Context, among the collages he created was an archaeopteryx from one of my old dinosaur books I shared with him from when I was a kid.

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Famous archeopteryx fossil, Berlin

So, I decided that it would be cool to celebrate his creativity (and his love of tree climbing and exploring) by getting an archeopteryx backed by geologically accurate ginkgo leaves, in autumnal foliage. An archeopteryx, for those less well versed in childhood dinosaur obsession, was the “first bird,” discovered in 1897 in Jurassic formations in Germany, known as the “Urvogel.”

Finally, this year, I got my stuff together and actually strove to make this idea a reality, and I stumbled upon a great artist to put the thought on my skin, June Osaki, at Twilight Tattoos. I first encountered her work at the Creative City Market back in August and, looking at her work, her style seemed ideal for creating my idea. Working with her was great, and soon she sketched out a wonderful piece of art for my arm, advising me and making the whole process very helpful and easy! She had such helpful information and guided me through the process, as a first time tattoo getter, very nicely.

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Warmer days, Creative City Market, August 2015

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Well, it didn’t hurt that much! (Photo courtesy of Lee Burkhalter)

So, this Monday, I came into Twilight Tattoo in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood in south Minneapolis for the major part of my tattoo. Donning the Kate Beaton t-shirt my sister bought me for the occasion, I took June’s advice, got plenty of sleep and drank plenty of water and, with Lindsay and my sister to support me/watch me suffer, I sat down for the first session with June. I have to say, it was a lot easier than I had imagined, feeling like a series of light scratches. In no time at all, June got everything etched into my upper arm, so that I have officially joined the guild of tattooed librarians! It was all awesome and I can’t wait to go in to get the colors in a couple months!

If you are interested in June’s work, check out her website here!

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Finished tattoo! (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

 

Wrestlepalooza VII

 

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The Crime Fighting Feline, Wildcat! 

Last Friday, Lindsay invited me to experience something new in my explorations of the Twin Cities this new year. Neither of us have been a big fan of wrestling in any sort of way, but Lindsay’s friend Andy talked up the utter spectacle and bizarre exuberance of this ongoing professional wrestling extravaganza at First Avenue, Wrestlepalooza. In the nostalgic style of over the top personas and high drama, one would get to see such personages as Wildcat, the Crime Fighting Feline, get in each other’s grill and work the crowds. He did not exaggerate. I did find it funny that the last time I was at First Avenue, I was seeing The Mountain Goats perform their latest album, Beat the Champ, focused and inspired by the wild world of professional wrestling, so it felt appropriate to be returning to the scene to find a ring set up and a dozen eccentric fighters ready to duke it out for the entertainment of the crowd.

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Heidi Lovelace talks up her upcoming victory over the Anarchist Arik Cannon

 

For those who may not have been super into the professional wrestling world in their childhoods, myself included, there was enough action, humor, music, and titillation to go around during the proceedings. The seventh Wrestlepalooza held in Minneapolis, live music from beatboxer DJ Snuggles, the bouncy hooliganism of Madison based pop punk band Masked Intruder, and the tongue in cheek burlesque of Queenie Von Curves and Sweetpea ensured that even those with less of interest in the speedoed and musclebound fights were entertained. While temperatures plummeted outside First Avenue, large, bare chested men plummeted towards the mat to body slam their opponents.

As with any professional wrestling, the choreographed fights display clear heroes and villains, though good does not always triumph in these rings. While Heidi Lovelace defeated the Anarchist Arik Cannon, marking a victory for women in the ring, the villainous Sheik sucker punched another wrestler at the very beginning and then claimed victory over his hapless opponent, as the crowd cursed his name and he preened and postured. 

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Sheik Ariya Daivari presents his champion belt (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

One has to admit that one might not be entirely comfortable with all of the retrograde stereotypes and over the top villainy on display here, complete with rather… uncomfortable use of ethnic stereotypes (the Sheik suffered an abundance of hot dogs thrown into the ring before he put his opponent down for good with a well placed flying carpet to the torso), but then, that is probably a part of the retro appeal here. Can one laugh at a guy drinking a beer and then punching a woman, even if she then punched him the balls in return, before holding him down for the requisite three seconds, prompting him to toast a PBR in her honor and welcome more women to the arena?

The most amusing fight had to be the four man battle royale, which included a kilt wearing Trump supporter against another guy, as well as an Estonian farmer frog man and a cat man known as Wildcat, fierce in battle but easily distracted by laser pointers. Along with copious amounts of Pabst Blue Ribbon (the sponsors of the event) much fun was had.

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The crowd at First Avenue enjoys some ‘rasslin’, Wrestlepalooza 7!

 

 

New Things, New Year!

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Famed Shoe Tree on West Bank, a few weeks ago before the snow fell.

So, we’re more than one week into the new year of 2016, and I feel that this year is going to be the best year ever here on MSP-Adventure Time, so expect a lot of fun new things to appear, as well as some of the fun old things, too!

I’m looking forward to the Art Shanty Project this year, after its hiatus for 2015, after having such an awesome experience in 2014, in one of my very first blog entries. This time I’ll make sure that my phone is charged! It is a great way to celebrate and take advantage of our winter weather. I’ll be going on some awesome day trips too, so keep an eye on that as well. Lindsay and I will also be checking out this cool sounding Tattersall Distilling place in Northeast, too, so keep tuned on that! I’m excited to sample some locally crafted spirits in addition to all the beer I’ve been trying, and they say spirits warm you up a bit more! (Seriously, scientifically inaccurate, but hey, who cares?)

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Dinkydale, home of Shuang Cheng and the Land’s End Pasty Company, among others

Starting this year, I’m beginning a new restaurant segment in my blog, “Where U Wanna Eat?” where I, with my friends and loved ones, will endeavour to eat at as many of the restaurants around the University of Minnesota campus, in Dinkytown, Stadium Village, and the West Bank. I still recall stepping out of classes and grabbing some great, cheap food around the U and I’d like to see how things are changing as all of these places are in periods of great upheaval and change. Are there still good eats for the student on a budget? I aim to find out! Really, I just love eating and am looking for more excuses to hang out by the U, of course. Oh, I think I can probably skip the chains, of course (for the most part). Of course, I’ve written up some of my favorite Dinkytown restaurants before, but now its official! Expect my first review soon!

Snow and Comedy!

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Lake Minnetonka

Well, it is the first week of January, 2016, and I’ve already had some pretty awesome adventures so far! With a new and luxurious layer of snow, and some chilly temperatures, this Sunday I was able to go on a little morning cross country skiing tour on Lake Minnetonka with my sister, a relaxing and scenic way to begin the day. The lake has frozen and the snow is deep, the ice silent except for the wind. It is hard to believe that we went kayaking on these exact same waters only six weeks ago or so! It didn’t seem like winter was ever going to come, but come it has, and I am happy for it!

Under the guidance of my girlfriend, Lindsay, I’ve been checking out some more of the vibrant stand up comedy scene here in the Twin Cities. While I’ve written about my favorites in Improv at the Huge Theater, I have had less experience with the comedy scene here. On Sunday, on Lindsay’s invitation, we checked out the hilarious Boy Kisses Comedy Showcase at Universe Games on Lake Street, which has been going on for a little more than a year now, every Sunday at 7:30, all for free! What I great way to wind down a weekend!

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Boy Kisses!

Hosted by comedians Turner Barrowman and Collin Klug, this was a really fun show, one that shows a lot of signs of being a great incubator for funny people in the Twin Cities, especially with its low cost of entry (free!). So go see it while there is still room to sit! Universe Games is a cozy little game store and coffee shop that really seems to be a nice fixture in the LynLake neighborhood, dispensing games of the board, collectible card, and roleplaying type as well as coffee and tea, and crammed full of people waiting to watch some of the Twin Cities funniest people riff on a shared topic, it is great.This Sunday, the theme was the always hilarious Astrology, which led to some pretty funny (and dark) places. While Universe Games has plenty of stuff to buy for the kids (and kidults) in your life, and candy was passed out during the course of the show, it might be better idea to leave ‘em at home Sunday nights! Well, the kids, anyway, if not the kidults. It makes a great (and cheap) night out and I’m looking forward to stopping in with Lindsay on another Sunday soon!

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Crowd waiting for Jackie Kashian, January 6th, 2016

Yesterday, we saw some more great comedy at the Acme Comedy Club, among the foremost venues for stand up comedy in the country, a well deserved distinction. Tucked away in an old warehouse in the North Loop, it is a pretty atmospheric place for comedy. The North Loop, by the way, has recently been listed as one of the top 25 vacation destinations in the world by Fodors, so I am definitely hoping to spend more time here this year and the Acme is definitely one of the venues that strengthens this somewhat amusing distinction. I had been there once before, so I relished the opportunity to return with Lindsay and see some super funny stand up.

This week, the super funny Wisconsinite Jackie Kashian is in town, with her deliciously nerdy stand up, complete with great video game references and some awesome awkward childhood stories. After a few local stalwarts, the Los Angeles based comedian captivated the audience, discussing everything from depressing casinos to her penchant for treacly romance novels. I will definitely check out her podcast, Dork Forest.

You should definitely see her this week, she’s in town at the Acme until Saturday!

Universe Games, 711 W Lake St

Acme Comedy Club,  708 1st St N

Happy 2016! My Personal Top Six Adventures from 2015

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“You Are Here,” Balloons at the Northern Spark, 2015

As promised, here are my own personal favorites from my adventures throughout the Twin Cities I choose after reflecting on 2015, a busy and adventurous year in any case. In chronological order, here are my choices for a look back on the last year! I have a good feeling that the adventures of 2016 will be the best year ever!

Most Useful: Free Stuff to Do in the Twin Cities

Working at the library desk, I occasionally get questions from visitors and locals alike looking for some awesome, fun things to do in our cities on a budget, so I complied this little list. I’m hoping to add a few more as 2016 goes by!

Best Drama: Mr. Burns

I saw some pretty awesome theater this year, from The Minnesota Fringe Festival to She Kills Monsters, to the Night Alive, but my favorite was definitely Mr Burns: The Post-Electric Play at the Guthrie, back in April. While I was never much of a Simpson’s fan, I loved the premise of this show, reflecting on how contemporary popular culture might survive our current society, and the actors were great! If you ever have a chance to see a production of this show, you should definitely take advantage!

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Festive celebrations at Holi Festival 2015

Most Colorful: Holi 2015

Just as the cold, harsh Minnesota winter changes into the beginnings of the verdant spring, the University of Minnesota’s Holi Festival, the Twin Cities iteration of the Hindu festival popular in India and Nepal, is definitely something to look forward to! Great people watching, great food, great and festive music.

Biggest Adventure: Participate in an Archaeological Dig in St. Paul!

When or where else could you get a chance to help graduate students from the University of Minnesota excavate historical artifacts for evidence of marginalized populations in the history of our metro? Getting your hands into the dirt in Swede Hollow Park, looking for evidence of the immigrant populations of the 19th and 20th centuries; Swedes, Italians, or Mexicans, was such a cool thing to do!

Most Varied Open Streets MPLS: Northeast

This was a fun exploration of the awesome stuff going on in the Northeast Minneapolis neighborhoods, the artists, foodies, crafters, and other people who make these neighborhoods wonderful. Setting aside a vibrant street for a few hours during a weekend to bikes and pedestrians is such a great way to explore what is there, now that you have the on the street view. Just one of a whole series of Open Streets events throughout Minneapolis, I am really looking forward to going to more of them this summer.

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Festivities at Open Streets MPLS Northeast

Tastiest: Cookie Exchange at the Hennepin History Museum

Just as the holiday season reached its peak, and just as the first snows of winter began to filter down on the Minneapolis, this was one of my favorite new activities this year, sharing some delicious baked goods with new people and seeing some of the quirky, fun things at the hidden gem Hennepin History Museum! I’m really looking forward to seeing what else they have planned for the coming year!